Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
by Aliza Chudnow
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Originally published in Jayplay Magazine
All it took was one phone call two summers ago for senior Lindsay Ward to know what was coming. She had been dating her boyfriend for nine months, and this phone call was going to end it all. At the beginning of their relationship, they always got along and enjoyed spending time outdoors together. But soon, Ward’s then-boyfriend became distant and started acting differently toward her. It was apparent that something in their relationship wasn’t the same, and at the beginning of July came that phone call she was dreading. “I was in Dallas for the summer, and he was back in Kansas. Every time we talked he acted different. I wasn’t sure what was up with him, and the thought of him cheating on me even began to cross my mind,” Ward said. “He hadn’t talked to me in four days, and when he finally did, he initiated the breakup.”
College is a time to explore mature romantic relationships, so when one ends, it can be extremely painful. After Ward’s breakup, she could not fully grasp why things ended how they did. “My first thought was, ‘What did I do wrong?’” Ward says. “After all the good experiences we shared, I just couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to be with me anymore.” A licensed clinical marriage and family therapist, Joyce Thompson, says it’s normal for people to experience these feelings, but the most important thing to acknowledge after a bad breakup is what the relationship really meant to you. Was it true love, or do you just miss the companionship? “I always tell my clients not to run away from their feelings,” Thompson says. “Figure out what it is that went wrong and what triggered the breakup first, then re-examine yourself and what you have learned.”
Once summer ended and Ward was back at KU, she realized that she was back in the environment where she always hung out with her ex. Being at school brought back a lot of old feelings she had for him and made it even harder to move on. “It was awkward going to all the places where we hung out together, and made me unhappy to see all of his friends,” Ward said. “I felt insecure not having him there with me anymore.”
Five Steps to Overcoming a Painful Breakup
- Accept the loss: Come to terms with the fact that the relationship is over.
- Distance yourself: Cut all contact with your ex.
- Grieve the loss: Don’t deny any of the emotions that you are feeling. It is okay to be sad over a breakup. Learn to let your emotions out now, so they don’t come back and haunt you in the future.
- Focus on yourself:Take time to get to know yourself and what makes you happy.
- Learn from the experience:Take responsibility for your actions in the relationship and learn what you do and don’t want in your next one.
After breakups, moments of insecurity and sadness happen. Thompson says it is extremely important to surround yourself with trusted friends who will be there for you when you are having a hard time dealing with these feelings. For Ward, having friends who offered moral support really helped her sort through her emotions. During that school year, she lived in a house with 12 other girls and became close to many of her roommates. When she was upset, there was always someone to talk to and there were people who empathized with Ward’s situation. “Through my friends’ support and witnessing similar experiences that they went through, helped me realize that my breakup was for the best,” Ward said. “Instead of focusing on him all the time I was able to focus on myself.”
Breanna Brown, a senior from Wichita, had a similar experience. She was dating her boyfriend of almost two years when one night, out of the blue, he sent her a Facebook message to tell her he had cheated on her. “It was like he was trying to get me to break up with him,” Brown says. “And it worked. I was devastated; for weeks I was really emotional and irritable.”
The next couple of weeks consisted of Brown trying to contact him and work it out, but after awhile she realized if she wanted to move on, she had to cut all ties and stop communicating with him all together. “Every time I thought about him, I would try to divert my attention to something else,” Brown says.
Relationship Counselor Linda Stiles believes that although it is important to stay busy after a breakup, it is also essential to honor the need to heal and not ignore any unwanted feelings. “Although difficult, working through a breakup can also be very healing,” Stiles said. “Every experience provides some kind of growth opportunity. The more we learn from each experience, the better our future relationships can be.” It may have taken a while, but now, both Ward and Brown are happily dating other people. After meeting their current boyfriends, who make them feel happy and confident being themselves, they realized that it is never okay to settle for someone who doesn’t make them feel their best. “I now understand why I was unhappy and know that I never deserved to feel that way,” Ward says. “From my past relationship, I learned that nobody deserves to be with someone who doesn’t completely love and cherish them.”
Stiles Counseling Services
7240 W. 98th Ter., Bldg. 8, Ste. 150
Overland Park, KS 66212