Dealing With a Painful Breakup? Here's Why You Should Be Thankful for It

Joe Donan

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They just broke the news to you: They can't go on any longer. Your relationship is over. What you thought would be your "happily ever after" is now no more than a distant dream, an illusion of a future that won't come to pass. You have just been dumped, and with that, your fairytale comes to an end.

So, what choice do you have after someone breaks up with you? Well, you deal with it. Plain and simple. In my case, the breakup with Mary left me devastated, and not just for a few days. I missed her really bad for at least a couple of years afterward.

But what about Mary? Don’t think it was easy for her. Breaking up with someone is a hard pill to swallow for both parties. Mary felt tremendous guilt over the breakup. She knew she had smashed my heart to pieces, but there was nothing else she could do. I wasn’t the person she wanted by her side anymore, so she had to do it, and painful as it was for the both of us, it was also necessary.

Can you imagine what would have happened if she had allowed the whole thing to continue? The result would have been two very unhappy people being together, one looking for an exit route but too afraid to leave because the other one needed her desperately to go on. That doesn’t sound like a relationship. It sounds like a growing cancerous tumor.

So yeah, Mary had to pick her poison. Me, I had to man up and deal with it.

The liberating side of a breakup

But hey, in the end, facing the music is not the only thing you should do after an ugly breakup. You have to make sure that, whatever it was that didn’t work, doesn’t happen again in the future. You need to understand where things went wrong. In other words, you have to learn a lesson or two from your own mistakes. In my case, the lesson was simple: Happiness is not to be found in love.

I distinctly remember getting up one day, sitting down on a couch, and grabbing a pen and paper. Thinking to myself I’m never, ever, going to go through this again,” I started writing down every reason I could think of for the failure of my latest romantic relationship.

I discovered that there were, indeed, many things that were wrong with me, not only as a boyfriend but as a person in general. Opening my eyes to this first realization felt liberating, invigorating, and empowering. In fact, it became the first step into changing who I was back then, into the person I am today.

Little by little, day by day, I took steps to overcome my insecurities and expand my working ambitions. I stopped complaining, and I started to focus on what I really enjoy doing. I also invested in my personal growth, improved upon my social skills, and began setting realistic and feasible goals. In other words, I did all I could to stop being an underachiever.

I discovered happiness isn’t something that can be bestowed upon. It’s something you have to earn through constant efforts, all directed to the fulfillment of your life’s personal project, whatever it may be. And most importantly, I learned that you don’t need anyone else to be happy. I’m aware it sounds selfish, but trust me, it isn’t. When you realize you can be happy by yourself, then being with someone else becomes a matter of choice, not a necessity.

And guess what? Eventually, I started a new relationship with the woman who is now my wife. A relationship I began as someone who was contented with his life and where it was going.

I chose a wonderful person I could share my happiness with, instead of someone to demand it from; and I’m really pleased to say that my wife also understands and practices this principle. As a result, we’re both happy, as we work together, every day, to enjoy life to the fullest, with its ups and downs, and through thick and thin; all without losing sight of our goals and dreams.

In short: We’re both happy with each other, not because of each other.

When the storm is over, everlasting love is be found

I'm happy to say that I married a responsible woman, an amazingly-gifted artist, a book lover, a great teacher, a family-oriented girl, a loving parent, a sweet kisser, a creative thinker, a good advisor, a great cook, a self-taught dressmaker, an entrepreneur, and my very best friend.

So, what happened to Mary? In all honesty, I have no idea. I haven't seen her in nearly a decade nor have I had news of her in a long time. I hope she’s doing fine, though. After all, her decision to leave is one of the best things that could ever happen to me.

You see, the whole experience made me a much better person. If I hadn’t met Mary, I would still be a needy manbaby. I would have never learned this important life lesson, and I would have ruined my relationship with my wife by now.

In hindsight, the breakup with Mary, albeit painful, was a real blessing. It made me sink to the lowest point in the history of my own immaturity, from which I rose as a much healthier person, emotionally speaking. And now that I’m looking back, I’m glad it happened. You see, after hitting rock bottom, the only way to go is up. And up I went.

Bottom line

Remember: The fact that you don't have a partner doesn't mean that you're an incomplete person. It merely means that you're yet to find yourself. That's when you realize your happiness is your responsibility, and not someone else's. That's when you discover your well-being is in your hands, and therefore you're the one who decides how to spend their days: either joyfully or miserably.

Understanding this is the key to finding a life partner: By coming to terms with yourself and the fact that you're single, you learn to enjoy it. And when you learn to be happy by yourself, love knocks on your door, right when you least expect it. That's what I've learned from one of the most painful—yet most significant—experiences in my entire life.

So, Mary, if you’re reading this, thank you.

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Salvadoran writer, father, husband, educator, and artisan. I write about love and relationships, family, life lessons, and personal growth.

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