When my husband walked out the door and never came back, I thought I would never love again. I was 22 years old and believed that marriage was forever.
How could I even think of loving anyone else when I was sure I would never stop loving him?
About three months later, I met a man. He was nice and sweet, and we seemed to have a lot in common but something was off.
I never would have admitted it at the time but really, I used this man to help me forget my pain. I had nothing to give him but my brokenness. It was a rebound relationship. We dated on and off for three years but I could never commit like he wanted me to.
As much as I tried to make things work with this new individual, there was no way I could. I just wasn’t ready. I needed to heal.
There is something about divorce or a serious breakup that makes a person feel helpless, hopeless, defenceless. The person that you gave everything to: your secrets, your body and years of your life, has rejected you. There is no greater rejection.
You need to heal and you need to grieve before you can genuinely be there for another person. For me, it took ten years before I was truly ready to marry again and give myself fully to another person.
It won’t take everyone this long but we do need to heal before we are ready to enter something new, and give it our best. During the ten years between marriages, I was in two major relationships, both of which did not work out.
For one of those relationships, I couldn’t commit. For the other relationship, I chose someone who was very deceptive and unfaithful.
One reason it is so important to heal is because if you are not emotionally healthy, you can either hurt others (like I did in the first relationship) or be hurt badly by choosing someone inappropriate (like my second relationship.)
If you have recently gone through heartbreak, there are three things you need to rebuild as a newly single person to help you heal and become whole again.
1. Cultivate your strength.
When you were in a long-term relationship, you think yourself as part of a couple. The two of you made plans together, visited together, went out for dinner together.
Other people start to think of you as part of a couple, too. Instead of just being “Sally,” you are always known as “Sally and Joe.”
You are interdependent on another. This is not a bad thing – it is a healthy part of being a couple. When it all ends, however, that unity is torn apart and you are left feeling jagged and torn, like a part of you is missing.”
But through this process, if you allow yourself, you will discover something wonderful: you are stronger than you ever thought. If you quietly listen, you will feel a hidden strength that is emerging from having to endure this terrible crisis.
There is a voice from deep within that whispers: “You will survive. You will endure.”
That feeling that you are going to fall apart and die is powerful but it is only a feeling. The truth is that you are getting stronger. In fact, even when you are still heartbroken, still devastated, you will find that you can do far more than you thought possible.
2. Use your difficult emotions as motivation
When you go through a very painful breakup, you have a lot of mixed emotions. Part of you wants to curl up in a ball and never leave the comfort of your bedroom. Another part of you feels a sense of burning indignation at the betrayal and treachery you experienced.
This anger is part of the grieving process but it also has a good side because it can mobilize you to start something new, to forge forward. It can give you the energy to be able to move on.
After my second post-divorce relationship breakup, I was so depressed that it was hard to function. For many months, I felt no anger – just sadness. I was so sad that it was difficult to get through a work day or to have a conversation with anyone.
One evening, I was visiting with a lady who was also going through a separation and moving to a new province. She told me, “You have to get in touch with your anger. It’s there but you are just hiding it with this depression. Think about what this man did to you. It should get you angry and you need that anger to move on, to get yourself motivated.”
It took a long time for her words to sink in but she was right. I stayed depressed for a few more months but then I was finally able to get in touch with my anger.
When I did, I was really angry, and it scared me. I did not like to think of myself as an angry person but it was a necessary part of the grieving process. During that angry phase, I started to think about the future.
I was working an entry-level job at the time because I thought that was all I could handle with my depression. I started to reassess my skills and knew that I needed to get back into teaching, my previous career.
I started sending out resumes and within a month, had a new job teaching High School English. I had to travel 1000 miles away to get there but what kept me motivated and strong was knowing that I had survived this breakup and therefore, I could handle this new situation.
If you have just recently survived a breakup and are feeling angry, think about how you can use your anger for something good and productive.
Maybe you can pursue a goal you left behind during the relationship, like school or a new career. Maybe you want to renew old friendships that you neglected while being with your former partner.
You are in transition right now. You have survived this experience. If you are angry, take advantage of the energy your anger gives you to pursue your dreams again.
3. Rebuild your self-worth
After a divorce or serious breakup, you must rediscover, or even discover for the first time, your worth as a human being. You are worthy, no matter who does or doesn’t decide to be with you.
Growing up, I was not affirmed by my father. In fact, his anger often led to him yelling at his family and controlling our every action. Around my father, I always felt on edge and unsure of my worth. Without the affirmation of the male figure in my life, I looked for it from other men.
If you look to a romantic partner to affirm who you are, you are in trouble because you are putting the power in their hands for whether we feel good about yourself. If your man loves you, you are happy. When that same man doesn’t love you anymore, you are devastated.
Although relationships can be wonderful, they do not determine your worth. A single person is not worth less than a married person.
You are of extreme worth right now, just as you are.
Don’t look for another man to prove it to you.
One way to rediscover your worth is to rediscover your gifts. You have gifts and talents that no one else has that are needed in this world. Think back to who you were, before you entered this relationship.
Did you give up a dream, a passion? Use this time of newly-found singlehood to renew a dream or passion that was left on the back burner.
When I went to that teaching job far up North, being in the classroom energized me. I was teaching English literature, my passion. I absolutely loved leading the students in discussions and building into their lives.
The thoughts of this man were still there, sometimes at night, but they started to fade because I was so consumed with doing my best at the tasks that were in front of me.
If you are struggling with being unable to focus on anything but your ex-partner, right now, remember who you were before – that person is still there. Do something to move towards becoming more of the person you were meant to be.
To conclude, there are three things you need to find again after a breakup. You need to find your strength again. You need to get back your motivation, and you need to rediscover (or discover for the first time) your self-worth.
Sharilee Swaity and her husband live in the woods of Central Canada. She has just written her first book, Second Marriage: An Insider’s Guide to Hope, Healing and Love. Pick up her book on Amazon here (free for 48 hours). You can also keep up with her writing on her blog, Second Marriage, here.