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A heart that hurts is a heart that works.
October 15, 2010 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Turning a corner in the breakup process. How do I stay grounded while my heart catches up with my head?

I'm not going to post the whole back story, doesn't really matter and you can read through my previous questions if you want the details, it's all there in a couple of waaaay tl;dr questions. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed in the details, so I'm mostly leaving them out here, I can fill in gaps if need be.

LTR gay couple, first relationship so some rose-coloured glasses inexperience going on. But lots of love and growing up together. He got emotionally involved with someone else, and we both realized we couldn't fight for each other any more, that we didn't work despite how much we love each other.

2 months go by, and they've been hard but I know we made the right decision. Realizing how much better off I am out of the relationship, and all the ways I buried parts of myself and denied myself. I'm standing straighter, not smoking (6 weeks!). Work is going great, and I'm making a strong effort to be social.

I haven't really been able to express the following to anyone in a way that doesn't sound sad, but: I feel so much that this a great turning point, a maturation. I feel ready to take on so much in my life now, because I know in the final balance I'm all I can count on, so I better get out there and make it happen.

So my head is mostly in these great optimistic places, but my heart is still owie. I know this will take time, and that just because I've made a breakthrough doesn't mean the pain will go away. And I'm not only grieving the loss of the relationship, but really the significant loss of innocence in my life, as well as the growing pains of growing up.

So I've really got two questions for this stage in my life:

1) How can I encourage my heart to catch up to my head? I know this is not entirely possible, so when I'm feeling low how can I remind myself that it's natural and will heal in time?

2) How can I avoid taking on too much? I want to do everything right now, throw myself into work, meet new friends, eat healthy, work out, find a great new apartment, manage my finances properly, dress better, etc etc etc... The list is endless and I know I'll burn myself out if I try to take on too much.

All I was focused on for weeks was getting myself to work, and not smoking. That was all I could handle. I'm nearing the end of a wonderful period of retreat, and when I get back to my life I want to hit the ground running. But I don't know how to make sure I don't crash and burn, and hold on the surprising amount of protective self confidence I've had since this all went down.
posted by Ceci n'est pas un sockpuppet to Human Relations (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
In regards to 1), when you're feeling low, remind yourself of all the wonderful changes you're making. It's true, there's no speedy way to make the pain go away, but if you treat that pain as you have been: valid, but necessary to move on, you'll give yourself the time that is the only solution.

On 2) Choose one or Maybe two things to focus on for a few weeks. Which ones feel most important or seem like they'd be easiest to implement? Choose those and go for them. Also, some of them can be combined - ask a friend to help you shop for new clothes or do a communal shopping/cooking/eating day where you both come out with lots of healthy leftovers for the week. Good luck, and congrats on the not smoking and other good changes!
posted by ldthomps at 1:03 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Time. Time. Time. Sorry. It takes time.

You are doing GREAT. Pause and give yourself the credit you deserve for all your hard work.

As for all the things you want to do, take that slow as well. Make a list and focus on one new thing at a time, like you did with smoking. It takes quite a while to establish habits, but if you can stay focused on one item at a time, you won't get too overwhelmed.

Take and enjoy this time to know and love yourself alone. Eventually, it will all come in handy so that in your next relationship you won't be burying or denying yourself anything!
posted by motsque at 1:07 PM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Suspend judgment on people, places and things, and mostly with your self. Exercise some discipline with regards to this. It's going to be a rollercoaster and that's not a bad thing. Things are going to hurt, they're going to suck, but there might be something good about the process, like self-reliance and a deeper peace with the self. Escapes like smoking, acting out, working too hard, probably in the long run, aren't going to do you any good. So the moral is there's a little bit of good and a little bit of bad in everything. Lost love is a beautiful thing, don't forget we all have experiences with it, talking about it is good, and if you believe that something better is in store for you, that will come true. There are no failures.

I think I've suggested this before, but if you begin to obsess, write down five parts of your life that your obsession with this person is drawing attention away from, whether it's family, work, etc. and then write five things you can do for each part, and then if you can, do those things.
posted by phaedon at 2:46 PM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


My main advice would be to re-read your own post to yourself, maybe out loud, because motsque is right -- you're doing great.

1) How can I encourage my heart to catch up to my head? I know this is not entirely possible, so when I'm feeling low how can I remind myself that it's natural and will heal in time?

There's no way you could have been feeling just fine this soon after the end of a 5-year relationship and the first relationship in your life. So, give yourself some permission to feel however you feel. Angry, sad, lonely, whatever. But this is really important: keep these feelings reasonably contained. Obviously don't let them interfere with your job, and don't let them go on too long. (I know, easier said than done. I have received this advice before and tried to follow it, but I wish I had focused more on the "don't let this go on too long" part and not too much on the "give yourself permission to feel bad" part.)

I remember your 2 prior posts about this relationship. Remember: this relationship ended for its own reasons that are specific to that time and situation in your life. And it wasn't your fault at all. It isn't determinative of what dating/relationships/love/sex/romance will be like for you in the future. You can also be confident you ended it at the right time in the right way for the right reasons. Not that you've said otherwise -- I don't think you have -- but it's worth remembering and giving yourself credit for.

2) How can I avoid taking on too much? I want to do everything right now, throw myself into work, meet new friends, eat healthy, work out, find a great new apartment, manage my finances properly, dress better, etc etc etc... The list is endless and I know I'll burn myself out if I try to take on too much.

This almost doesn't seem like a "problem to be solved." Or you have the basis for a great answer to the job interview question, "What is your greatest weakness?" I'm too passionate and motivated about getting done everything I need to get done, so sometimes I have trouble prioritizing and not overdoing it! If that's one of your main challenges in dealing with this breakup, consider yourself very lucky.
posted by John Cohen at 4:10 PM on October 15, 2010


Recognise that the hurt will come in waves. You're in the ebb of the first wave. Another will come along shortly. It will be less intense, but it may feel like a step backwards. It is not. Efforts on your part to avoid the painful bits will just prolong them. Let the next wave come, and the next. Ride it out. Honour it. Let your heart and head be out of sync for a while. They are adjusting to a major change in your life, and they will find each other again.

Check in with yourself regularly to avoid taking on too much. Your energy will ebb and flow with those waves of hurt. Be gentle with yourself.

Take on the items on your list that you have energy for. Recognise the progress you have made and reward yourself for it. Avoid black and white thinking: aim to manage your finances better rather than "properly," to eat healthier rather than "healthy." It is easy to burn out when your aim is perfection; less so when your aim is to drink 2 more glasses of water per day. Speed up and slow down as appropriate based on the energy you have that week. Consider that slowing down is not an indication of failure; it is an indication that you are caring for yourself.
posted by heatherann at 5:59 PM on October 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


1) How can I encourage my heart to catch up to my head? I know this is not entirely possible, so when I'm feeling low how can I remind myself that it's natural and will heal in time?

-9 months out and I am finally fully relieved to be out of the situation. What helped me was going to see a professional to get everything out. I learned that I had to force myself to talk about everything...all the emotions...all the pain....all the anger. My head was completely ready to be done, but my heart was still reeling with pain and anger and sheer disappointment. The biggest advice I could get for this is to talk it out with a professional, NOT your friends. Also, a journal helped. One of the activities she had me do was write a quick paragraph every day on how I was feeling, no matter the emotion. It really helped to get it all out...sorry if that is a hackneyed bit of advice.



2) How can I avoid taking on too much? I want to do everything right now, throw myself into work, meet new friends, eat healthy, work out, find a great new apartment, manage my finances properly, dress better, etc etc etc... The list is endless and I know I'll burn myself out if I try to take on too much.

-This idea of doing everything right now mimics that of manic behavior. Your need to take part in everything could be a sign that you don't want to fully deal with everything. I did the same thing. I dug my nose in to work and when there was a lull for 2 months after 5 months of the breakup, I FELT the breakup all over again because I did not deal with the issues when they first happened. My advice is to actually take nothing on at all. Deal with the pain and the owie...the quicker you face them, the faster they will go away. I still find myself extremely angry about things that happened, lies that were said, money that was stolen...so I know I myself am not fully healed....but I have taken time out to deal with it.
posted by penguingrl at 11:33 PM on November 13, 2010


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