When you’re in the middle of a heartbreak, the last thing you want is a bunch of people telling you how much better off you are. You know your ex was wrong for you, but you don’t want to admit it (just in case you end up working things out). You know you have all this time to focus on yourself now, but all you want to do is curl up and binge-watch Netflix from midnight until dawn. You know that your old friends are still there for you, but you also know what they’re going to say – so you don’t really want to deal with it.
Well, sorry to be yet another one of “those guys”, but… I’m about to tell you all the great things about getting dumped.
I’m not saying you should go out of your way to leave a happy relationship, and I’m definitely not saying that you should go around dumping people just to make their lives better. No, instead, I’d like to focus on the good things that come along with the painful parts, the ways the pain is worth it, and why heartbreak is actually a necessary part of the human experience.
Ready? Let’s dig in.
1. It reminds you to be realistic.
I think we all had dreams of a fairy tale love when we were younger. Some of the earliest childhood movies often center around it, actually. (Thanks, Disney.) When we get to dating age, many of us have entirely unrealistic expectations about love, life, and the world in general… And heartbreak helps you remember that it’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows.
It’s not the most fun part of a romantic relationship, at least not usually. I don’t believe I’ve met anyone who actually gets pleasure from being the dumper or the dumpee. (I’m sure they exist, but I tend to avoid those people, I guess.) It helps us appreciate the beauty of the good parts of love, by reminding us that it’s not always like that. It reminds us that life is a game of averages – and even though it sucks to lose, you can’t fully appreciate your wins until you do.
2. It provides contrast.
It’s almost like heartache is specifically designed to take up all the space in your heart that the love previously filled. The longer and stronger your bond with your ex, the more pain you’re going to feel when it’s over. In some cases, this can be downright catastrophic – no one wants to go from all to nothing in an instant.
But sadness and anger have their place, just like happiness and passion. You can’t really understand how much love you truly had until you’ve lost it and hit the pits of despair. Sure, it hurts. Sure, it’s embarrassing sometimes. Sure, sometimes you just want to crawl in a hole. I totally understand.
But there is an upside to hitting rock bottom: You’ve got nowhere to go but up. When you’re at your lowest, remember that things can’t stay bad forever, just like they can’t stay good forever. Life requires balance, and things will turn back around to your favor someday. Just try to be patient!
3. It forces you to reevaluate your priorities.
If your ex was a huge part of your life, as she probably was (otherwise you wouldn’t be feeling this heartache now), it’s completely normal to feel lost. Even the most well-intentioned among us may fall into the trap of planning our lives around someone else’s involvement in it. In fact, it’s good, to a certain degree. If neither you or your partner picture your future together, there’s probably a reason. But when one person pictures the other, and the other pictures freedom, heartbreak happens.
You may have heard before that break-ups are a time to “discover yourself”. That’s definitely true, but some of the things you’ll be discovering are going to hurt even more than the break-up did. Maybe you explore your mind and you find some thoughts that scare you. Maybe you examine your ex’s accusations and you find that you weren’t really that great of a girlfriend after all. Maybe you explore your kitchen and polish off every single piece of chocolate and pastry you can find – hey, I’ve been there before, too.
The important thing isn’t necessarily that you find all the answers, but that you evaluate the direction your life is going, and compare it to where you’d like it to be going. Think of the things you want to fix, and decide which ones are worthy of your attention right now. Just make sure you’re not trying just to get her back – you should be trying to fix yourself for your own benefit.
4. It tests your strength and your will.
Everyone loves a good challenge, right? Even if your heartbreak feels like the worst hardship on the face of the earth (which is probably an exaggeration in the first place), the way you handle this hardship tells a lot about who you are as a person, as well as helping shape your resilience in the rest of your life.
OK, so right in the middle of a heartache isn’t exactly the time you want to be challenged. I get it. But think about it this way: Your overall strength is an average, not a statistic. Some days, you’re going to be disappointed with your life, and yourself. Other days, you’re going to push through and get better. It’s a numbers game, so the more days you push forward, the stronger you’ll be. On the days you’re not doing so great, remind yourself of how far you’ve come, and be your own hero.
5. It teaches you self-reliance.
When you get out of a long-term or codependent relationship, it can be really difficult to remember what you were like B.G. (before girlfriend). The heartbreak you go through after the relationship ends reminds you that it doesn’t matter if it would be easier with someone else in the picture – you don’t need anyone else to complete you. You got this – always have, always will.
I know not everyone seeks to be as independent as possible, and I’m sure total self-reliance is probably not entirely healthy. Humans are, by nature, social creatures, and I’m definitely not saying that you should become a hermit. But once you embrace your self-reliance as a blessing, rather than a curse, you’re already well on your way to greater happiness.
6. It makes room for someone new.
You know that feeling when it’s almost as if there’s a giant hole in the middle of your chest, like the person who just broke up with you literally walked right through you and took some pieces on their way out? Well, the truth is, she didn’t leave that hole there. That hole was there long before she came around, and it’ll still be there long after your next relationship ends. You just didn’t realize the hole was there because she was there distracting you.
Humans aren’t, by nature, lifelong partners. Sure, inevitably there will probably be one special relationship that lasts for the rest of your life – but you can’t actually plan for that. People break up and fall in love again every single day, and with as many people as there are in the world, the person who walks away isn’t the ending to your story. You write your story, and she just gave you permission to re-cast your sidekick.
In most cases, each time you fall in love is going to be better than the last. You’re older, wiser, and more experienced each time. You’ve loved, you’ve lost, and you’ve learned to love again. You’ve gotten better at choosing partners, because you don’t want to repeat past mistakes. You’ve learned things about yourself, so you’re a better partner, too. Think of how much you loved that person you thought was perfect – and think of how much more you’ll love the one who’s even better.