For years of my life, I marinated in heartbreak.
After my marriage and eventual divorce, I found myself lost in the world and without a plan.
I never envisioned my love story ending in divorce but that was the chapter of my life that I found myself in. It was in an unfamiliar book that I could never have imagined.
I thought that this was the end of all relationships. I was seriously contemplating moving to the Himalayas or joining a religious order. I may be laughing about it now but at one point in my life, I didn’t want to experience the same pain that I had gone through all over again.
Since that time, the good news is that I’ve climbed up from the floor and started dating again. While I had vowed off relationships, I found a way to lower the walls of my heart and give love another shot.
Loving after heartbreak is not for the faint of heart. Here are the lessons that I learned from broken love that helped me open my life to new relationships.
There can be love after heartbreak. Here’s how you do it.
1. Clean up all the things you saw in the mirror
When you are reviewing your past relationship, you may have found pieces and parts of yourself that you weren’t proud of.
Maybe there were issues that you haven’t worked on yet. Maybe there are scars that have not healed. Behaviors that were toxic. Habits that led to the previous relationship deteriorating.
Our pasts have a way of catching up with us and showing up in our current relationships. If you don’t begin to work on issues from the past, you will continue to repeat the same behavior and patterns in other relationships.
Relationships are a reflection of the work you need to do. Use your previous relationships as a way to diagnose what parts of your life you need to work on. Instead of soaking in the guilt and getting mad at yourself for the way you showed up, get the help you need to make improvements.
How to apply:
After a relationship has ended is the time for reflection, analysis, counseling, change, healing, and letting go of things you’ve been holding onto your whole life.
2. Learn from your mistakes and apply them today
You may have made many mistakes in your past relationship and thinking you’re either a failure or someone who screws up a lot. There is another way to look at relationship stumbles: learning.
The best way to use a past relationship is to figure out what didn’t work in that past relationship. Curiosity and compassion for yourself trump being critical and being harsh with yourself.
Every relationship you are in is being part of a relationship school you never signed up for. Every misstep and misguided thing that happened can help you in future relationships.
How to apply:
Instead of holding onto past mistakes and beating yourself up over it, review the past relationship and see what you can learn from it. What should you avoid in the future? What should you do more of? How do you use failed relationships to get better at future ones?
3. Become the person you want to date
Once one relationship has passed, you will go about creating elaborate lists of qualities and have very specific requirements of what you’re looking for.
You’ll visualize your perfect dream partner and insist that any new partner will not share any of the qualities of your ex. You’ll be more resistant to people you meet and be much more sensitive to red flags. You won’t want to make the same mistake the second time around.
While you may be laser-focused on finding the right person, why not switch things around and become the person you want to date? So often, we think it’s our partner who has the problems and the faults.
We think that if we could simply meet “the one”, all of our problems will go away. Unfortunately, we don’t realize that a lot of the “problems” start with us. Let us start looking into the mirror and lead with curiosity and self-reflection.
How to apply:
Instead of scrutinizing and sizing up potential partners, let’s go within and do the inner work. Let’s get the therapy and counseling that we may have been avoiding. Let’s start asking how we can be better people instead of being in perpetual search of the perfect person.
4. Remember your past doesn’t equal your future
You may believe that you’re doomed in dating and in love because of what happened. You may become cynical or bitter in dating and relationships.
For those of us who believed relationships were for life or that we had found the perfect partner, we got a rude awakening. We might see that everything we had been told or seen about relationships was more fairy-tale than reality.
Instead of giving relationships another shot, you might run far away from them. The pain of the past relationship may have jolted your life so much that you’ve sworn off relationships.
The healthier perspective is to know that bad one bad experience doesn’t mean multiple bad experiences. One bad choice doesn’t mean more bad choices. One dysfunctional relationship doesn’t mean a lifetime of dysfunctional relationships.
How to apply:
Adopt the perspective that you learn and grow from past experiences. Remember that the past only equals the future in your mind. You are wiser and have more experience today. You can create a new healthier partnership today no matter what you’ve been through in the past.
5. Let go of the old allows you to let in the new
It’s tempting to hold onto the past for a long time. You may be still angry with your ex and holding onto grudges with different partners from your past. You may still resent your ex and be upset for the way they showed up in the relationship.
As long as you’re caught up in old resentments and grudges, you’re not going to be able to move on. When your life is filled with painful thoughts and memories, you’re not going to be able to let in the new. When you’re holding to what was and what could have been, you’re not living for today.
The longer you allow the past to block you from moving, the longer you will take to actually move on. You can’t date someone new or get into a new relationship with thoughts and sentiments about former partners.
How to apply:
The key to letting go is telling a new story about that past relationship and seeing that relationships are paths of growth. Not all relationships last forever. Tell a new story about that past relationship, exhaust all the feelings and emotions about your ex, and practice forgiveness for everyone you’re still angry with.
6. Remember that the only person you can change is yourself
Every relationship we are starts off great in the beginning. The relationships that don’t work out over time begin to sour when one or both parties decide that the other person is a certain way and will not change.
Our challenge and growth in relationships come from understanding that we are the only people we can change. The goal isn’t to change people. The goal is to become more accepting of people in our lives and change ourselves.
Instead of focusing our efforts, attention, and desires on getting our partners to change, let’s turn it around.
Know that your partner is simply a reflection of the work that you need to do. Know that your partner will give you an opportunity go grow and learn about yourself. Your partner is the teacher you never wanted and the relationship is the classroom you tried to avoid.
How to apply:
What work lies ahead of you? What kind of person do you need to become? What types of behaviors are keeping you stuck and preventing you from realizing your full potential in relationships. What work are you willing to do? What change are you committed to making?
7. Let go of many wrong people to find the right one
One healthy way to think of bad relationships of the past is the elimination of people who were the wrong choices for you. Some people are lucky and hit on the right person in the beginning but others of us take a little while longer.
Just like finding the perfect job, finding the perfect partner may take a few times to get right. You land on the perfect person by going through a lot of people who are not right for you. You won’t know who’s compatible and who’s not until you are in a relationship with them.
As you pick up on character and behavior, you’ll get a better understanding of who is the perfect partner for you. On the journey, eliminate the people who are bad fits for you. Learn what red flags to look for and who to avoid in the future. Every dysfunctional and unhealthy relationship will show you the path to the right relationship.
How to apply:
You don’t have to find the right relationship right away. Not every dysfunctional relationship is bad for you. A relationship ending is not the end of the world. Shift your perspective on bad relationships and see them as a natural progression to the right fit. Bad relationships and painful endings give way to new love and more compatible partners.
Don’t quit on love even if love quits on you
The main point is here is that you can keep going even when your happily ever after ends. You can still keep going when you break up with who you thought was your life partner. You can still find love and happiness when your heart breaks.
We all don’t get it right in one shot. Not everyone finds the perfect partner in their initial relationships. Society conditions us to believe that we will find our soulmate early in life and will stick with them for the rest of our lives.
Not so. Sometimes relationships end so other relationships can begin. The journey requires constant change and improvement on your part. It requires learning, growth and self-awareness. It requires you to gather insight and wisdom about past partners. It requires you to apply your lived experience into your future dating and relationships.
Don’t give up on love just because one or multiple relationships have gone wrong. Keep taking one step forward, learning from your past, and getting better with every relationship you find yourself in.
A broken heart can be healed. You can always begin again in love.
Today is a new day.