I received an email from someone who is still obsessed over his ex even though they broke up long ago. Not in a “stalkerish” kind of way, but in a “I’m hurt and can’t stop thinking about her” kind of way. He cries almost daily and can’t get over the loss. According to him, she was everything he wanted in a girl.
He invested his time, energy, and emotions into the relationship, and even though it seemed to be going well, she decided to emotionally close off from him.
Eventually, they split. Since then, he has been unhappy.
The end of a relationship can be painful. It is like a death that needs to be grieved. But what happens when the grieving never ends? Was there a breakup in your life that you still haven’t gotten over? And why haven’t you gotten over it yet?
I remember when my first girlfriend dumped me. I cried right in front of her – feeling completely defeated, deflated, and rejected. She felt so bad for me, she gave us another chance. Then, a few days later she broke up with me again. For the next few weeks I was completely miserable… Lost, depressed, and feeling completely unloved.
But, in a couple of months, I was fine again. I sprung back and was almost as good as new. It wasn’t that way with my second relationship however. After she broke up with me, I went into full depression. It took me two years to recover from that.
Eventually, I met someone else and we got married. After that ended, I knew I didn’t want that same old feeling I used to get after a breakup so I decided that instead of focusing on getting her back or how awful my life was going to be without her, I focused on what I needed to nurture in me. This made a huge difference in my healing and growth.
In the past, I would invest all of my happiness into the relationship. I would also invest all of my peace, my joy, and my love. When the relationship worked, it was amazing. When it didn’t, it was devastating. It felt so polar opposite that it made me realize that I must be doing something wrong. After all, there are single people in the world that are not devastated. As a matter of fact, there are single people in the world that are quite happy!
I asked myself, “How is this possible?”
After much introspection and learning about what makes me happy and what doesn’t, I came to the realization that I depended on my partner for my happiness, my joy, my peace, and my love (and a lot more). That meant that when she wanted to go out with her friends, I felt lonely. When she listened to her favorite song alone in the car, I felt unloved. When she talked to her mom on the phone for an hour, I felt insignificant (because she wasn’t talking to me).
Everything she did that didn’t involve me I took as a message that she didn’t want me in some way. This meant that about half the time we were together, I was stressed and worried because I believed I wasn’t good enough. I also believed that if I didn’t please her and do whatever she wanted that she would leave me. If that happened, my life would be over.
After the divorce, I felt my life go down that old, familiar road of being unloved, unwanted, and worthless. But this “breakup” was different. I had done a lot of self-nurturing near the end of my marriage. I went through a lot of healing by getting rid of my judgment issues and stepping into the man I wanted to be instead of the child that had been running my life. I got sick of being so submissive and people-pleasing because it never led to eternal happiness but always led to heartbreak of some sort.
- People pleasing doesn’t work
- Withholding negative emotions doesn’t work
- Pretending nothing bothers you doesn’t work
- Being overly helpful doesn’t work
- And, especially, defining happiness as “being in a relationship” doesn’t work
All of these things lead to a bitter, sad, miserable, devastating, and massive, everlasting heartbreak. That’s if you break up. However, I can almost guarantee you will break up if you do of the above behaviors in your relationship. People-pleasing is making sure everyone is happy even at the cost of your own happiness. This will burn you out and you will eventually crack or be completely numb.
Withholding negative emotions like anger or fear just to show your partner that “everything’s okay, there’s nothing’s wrong” (hoping they won’t see anything negative so they won’t leave you) drains you as you repress what needs to be expressed. When you choose not to be honest about your emotions to your partner, you will burn out and either crack one day (or many days) or go completely numb. Hmm, I’m sensing a pattern here.
Pretending nothing bothers you is like lying to yourself. It is denial to the extreme and will only burn you out, or (can you guess?) make you completely numb. Either way, it leads to unhappiness.
Being overly helpful doesn’t work because you usually do it so that your partner will see you as something more than you are. At first, it looks like a great way to impress them non-stop. But that is unhealthy! You cannot and should not try to help someone all the time (similar to people-pleasing). It is unnatural and will eventually be seen as needy and highly dependent. Your partner will love it for the first few months but will grow tired of never experiencing the real you. Unless… they do behavior that you are enabling in some way.
In other words, if you live with an addict whose behavior you don’t like, but you continue to help them after they get drunk or high, and even clean up after them making it very easy for them to not be accountable, they will stay that way. And maybe even get worse. Overly helpful people create co-dependent relationships.
Finally, if you define being happy the same as being in a relationship, you are setting yourself up for failure. Being in a relationship is when you take big steps to not only support your partner’s happiness but also nurture yourself. This is the time you meet your needs as much as you can so that if the end comes, you aren’t left as a shell of your former self.
It’s okay to invest yourself into a relationship, but not to the point where you are so wrapped up in it that when you’re alone, you are unhappy. Happiness has to be there before the relationship begins or it will be lost every time you are alone. Happiness comes from self-nurturing and healing so that you can bring the best you possible into any relationship. If that means that you stay single a while longer so that you feel confident in your own skin, maybe that’s the step you need to take.
If you are already in a relationship, what are you doing today to treat yourself as your own best friend? If you were the healthy mom or dad that maybe you didn’t have for yourself, what would you tell you?
If I was my own healthy dad, I would tell me:
Paul, I love you and am so proud of you. People you choose to spend time with can’t always be there for you. I want you to learn to love and support yourself in every way you can so you aren’t so attached or dependent on others. I realize there are things you won’t be able to do for yourself, and that’s what makes relationships wonderful. But know that you are worthy and I love you. When you get into a relationship, remember where your heart is before you give some of it to someone else so that you’ll know what you need to take back if and when you have to part ways.
I’m sure I would say more, but this is a good start. What would you, as your own healthy mom or dad, say to you?
Your happiness should not leave with your ex. Never give that up. You can share it, but they don’t own it.
That means you honor yourself and do what you like to do. Don’t give up on your hobbies and choices in life for them, only do that if it feels right to you. Make decisions in a way where you think about what you would do if they weren’t in your life. Sure, there’ll be small compromises here and there but never compromise at the cost of what makes you happy within.
If you depend on your partner to make you happy, you put a burden on their role in the relationship. No one can make you happy, you need to bring that into the relationship or find it in you by following your own path. You can share your happiness with someone else for sure, just try not to make them the source of what brings you peace, love, joy, and fulfillment. This sets you up for failure and actually keeps you unhappy more often than not.
Happiness begins in you and stays with you as long as you let it. Don’t let it leave with someone who walks out of your life. Whenever you think you’ve found “the one” and the relationship doesn’t work, remember that you are “the one” too. Treat yourself as such because you deserve it.