Every time I’ve gone through a breakup (either with a romantic partner or a friend), that ridiculously clichéd old song goes through my mind:
Breaking up is so freaking hard to do.
Pardon my morbid analogy, but I’ve likened breaking up to having a limb ripped off. It hurts so badly, whether you’re the breaker-upper or the broken-up-with.
These people are a huge part of our lives, and we grew and changed and shifted a lot as a result of such intensely close relationships. Our entire identities have become entangled with them, and sometimes we barely even know who we are without them.
Like a limb being ripped off. (Sorry, again.)
And in those moments while you’re going through it, it’s so tempting to want to rush right past it. Wallow briefly in the anger or the pain. Then distract, distract, distract.
I’ve been there a few times. And I’ve watched my friends go through it.
So, in the name of growth and self-understanding, I propose a different strategy. I propose we glean as many lessons from this life-changing moment as possible.
Ask yourself these 5 breakup questions
1. How do you want to be remembered by them? At your best, you likely want to be remembered fondly, as someone who has enriched their life. Act accordingly from this moment forward.
2. How do you want to remember them? The more you can foster memories that will reinforce lessons learned, the healthier you will be.
3. What is the greatest lesson you’ve taken from this relationship? Perhaps you’ve learned to have stronger boundaries. Perhaps you’ve learned to soften your heart.
4. How have you grown over the course of knowing them? Whether the relationship was one month or 10 years, your time together has had an impact on you.
5. How have you seen them grow? As someone who has cared for them deeply, you have observed this other person closely. In some domains, you know more about their growth than anyone else.
If you are so blessed that we can have a “conscious uncoupling” (a la Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin), perhaps you could discuss the answers to these questions directly with your ex-partner or ex-friend.
But even in the absence of such a conversation, you can explicitly ask yourself these questions as you move through the breakup. Then reflect on them again after the breakup and perhaps revisit them years later.
No matter how we feel about our exes now, they have been an integral part of our development. Make the most of it. Transmute the pain into gold.
Can you think of any more questions you’d ask yourself when going through a breakup? —Sara