How to Not Be Bitter After a Break-up
Sonia and Julian met through a mutual friend. They had seen each other at a number of different events around town. They even ran into one other a time or two while running errands, but since they hadn't officially met, they didn't speak.
They officially met through Sonia’s best friend. Several months after their initial meeting, anyone who saw the couple would have thought they were desperately in love and quickly heading to the altar to exchange their vows. On the evening of their sixth month anniversary, Julian called shortly before he was supposed to pick Sonia up for their date.
Initially Sonia wasn’t surprised. Things had really picked up for Julian at work, and it seemed he frequently needed to cancel dates, postpone outings or pick her up a little later than originally planned. However, this time, he simply let her know that the relationship wasn’t working for him. Then he hung up. Just like that, their relationship was over.
Sonia was devastated and heartbroken. She became a bitter lonely woman who never got over that break-up, but things didn’t have to end that way.
The Structure of a Break-Up
It is virtually impossible for anyone on the dating scene to avoid the pain of a break-up. Though each break-up is as unique as the individuals in the relationship, every break-up goes through similar phases:
Phase 1: Shock
Shock can be defined as “a sudden or violent disturbance of the mind, emotions, or sensibilities”. People who are in this phase of the break-up can be heard saying things like, “I just can’t believe it” or “This can’t be happening.”
Phase 2: Feelings of Betrayal
After getting over the initial shock of the break-up, one usually feels betrayed. Reality sets in and the individual realizes that the person they trusted the most was not worthy of that trust. That person also can’t help but wonder if the one who betrayed them shared intimate details of the relationship with others.
Phase 3: Hurt/Tears
Once the magnitude of the betrayal hits home, the individual is assaulted by hurt feelings that often result in tears. One may seek solace in memories – caressing little gifts that were received, looking at old pictures, reviewing notes or cards or emails with sentimental messages. Each memory stings a little less when they remember that the person who gave those “precious” gifts, meant nothing by them.
Phase 4: Anger
After the tears are gone, anger makes an entrance. Anger is a normal human emotion and the appropriate response when someone has been hurt. Anger can drive a person to make necessary changes in their life or it can lead to bitterness.
Phase 5: Bitterness
This phase is really quite unnecessary. Bitterness is nothing more than anger that goes unchecked, anger that is allowed to fester and boil. Becoming bitter after a break-up can have an adverse effect on future relationships because when a person meets someone new, he or she automatically assumes that the relationship – no matter how wonderful it seems – is doomed to fail based on their previous experience. When the relationship does fail, they feel they have proved themselves right.
Tips to Avoid Bitterness
There’s absolutely no way to bypass the shock, feelings of betrayal, hurt, tears and anger that follow a break-up; each of those phases is a natural part of the healing process and should not be overlooked. However, bitterness is completely avoidable if a person follows the following four tips.
1. Be Completely Honest
When Sonia took a step back and looked at her relationship with Julian objectively, she had to admit that there were a number of red flags she chose to ignore. She should have suspected that there were problems in her relationship when Julian habitually cancelled or postponed their dates for no apparent reason. In addition to that, she realized that she'd never met any of his friends and they never went far from her home.
Sometimes the truth is staring a person in the face, but they refuse to believe it. They believe that if they love someone, they’ll look past their faults and look to the heart of who that person is. If they would be honest and look at the relationship for what it was rather than what they wanted it to be, they may come to realize that the break-up saved them a great deal of unnecessary heartache.
2. Stop Talking About It
After being "dumped" – especially for no good reason – the person who was rejected wants to talk about it to anyone who will listen. It could be an honest attempt at helping to gain clarity and understanding about what happened. Maybe it’s away to garner sympathy. Perhaps one endeavors to warn others not to get involved with a heartbreaker.
Whatever the motive – whether intentional or unintentional – repeating what happened over and over again does not help. It is the equivalent of removing bandages from a severe wound every couple of minutes to see how the wound is healing. The wound will never heal if it is not covered. Cover up what happened. Though it may sound harsh, release it and let it go; bury it in the dirt and let it stay dead. Repeating what happened keeps it alive continues to fuel the feelings of anger and lead one deeper and deeper to bitterness.
3. Chalk It up to Experience
Life is one huge classroom and experience is the teacher. The most profound way to guard against bitterness is to ask, “What did I learn from this situation?” Every experience, every relationship, every break-up has lessons hidden deep in them. Focusing on the negativity only leaves room for bitterness. However, taking the lessons learned to heart and applying what was learned to the next relationship shows signs of great maturity.
4. Don’t Internalize It
It is very difficult not to take a break-up personal, but it’s important to understand that one should not internalize what happened. The person who ended the relationship did so because that’s what they did. It’s a waste of time to ask, “What did I do wrong?” Someone who is true to himself or herself should not have to worry about pleasing other people. It is not a good idea to allow a break-up, whether anticipated or unexpected, to color one’s perspective and cause them to change who they are in order to fit other people’s expectations.
Please note that the aforementioned tips are not to be an antidote for pain: every break-up is painful. The tips are meant to help people guard their hearts and keep from becoming bitter after a break-up.
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