How do you come to terms with your feelings after a break up?
July 28, 2013 5:49 AM   Subscribe

I've just broken up with someone I still love after a very tumultuous year and am struggling with feelings of shame. What ways can you suggest to deal with these feelings and come to terms with what has happened?

I've had a very tumultuous year due to a relationship (yes the one mentioned in my previous posts, he decided he didn't want children and didn't want to loose me) and ended it yesterday. I feel really stupid and ashamed that it's gone on for so long. As intellectually I could see things that weren't ideal, yet other things were fantastic. Emotionally I wasn't ready to let go and unfortunately with my personality I can't force myself to let go if I'm not ready. It had been even harder because he is an inherrently good person and I love him. Also I used to push people away as I was afraid of being hurt, so I wanted to make sure I wasn't just overeacting to little things in an attempt to push him away.

I've felt incredibly confused, ashamed due to behaviour that isn't normal for me, and stessed. I feel bad because I've had to learn to reach out and talk to other people as otherwise it would have been too much for me to handle, but then I feel bad for talking to people about it because I was worried I'd bore or irritate them. Although I'm a bit sad and down at the moment, I know I've done the right thing. Deep down I feel much happier, settled and content at the moment. It's like I'd been in a fun house with a moving floor for the past year, I'd gotten used to the unstable nature of it so didn't notice it so much. All of a sudden the floor has stopped moving and I can see how much I'd been struggling to maintain my balance. It's a wonderful feeling at the moment as I can see myself again and the tension has gone from my shoulders.

Anyway what I want to know is how to deal with the aftermath. What things have you done that have helped you get back on track and rediscover yourself after a hard time? I've never been in a situation like this, I've spent my entire life controlling my emotions with my intellect and have never found myself in a situation where my heart ruled my head and I lost my stability. So I'm at a loss as to how to address it and come to terms with it. How do I deal with my feelings of shame? I'm ashamed of myself and how I've behaved. I feel ashamed that I discussed it so much with other people, even though I know I wouldn't have been able to cope if I'd not reached out for help and that learning how to reach out has been a very valuble lesson that I'm grateful for. I'm ashamed that it took so long for me to finally be able to bring an end to it.

I'm planning on starting up my exercise again, so I'll be going to the gym and starting an exercise class. I'm also going to re-start going to art class in part for the social aspect and as a way to get back to myself. I'm planning a deep clean of my home and will be putting some of the momentos of my time with him away in a box somewhere. We split on good terms and I hope that in the future we can be friends, however I know that I need some time apart from him so won't be seeing him outside of work. I want to lose some weight so have got lots of healthy food in the house so I won't be turning to junk food. I'm already trying to think of the positive, wonderful lessons I've learnt and am going to be spending time today with my Dad and then chatting to a friend and my Mum later tonight. But I'm sure there's more stuff I can do and would love to hear other peoples experiences, advice and ideas.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! to Human Relations (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Exercise, creative endeavors, social life, deep cleaning, no contact outside work ... sounds like you've got it covered, the only thing you left out is time. This happened yesterday. Be ok with the tumult for a while, its natural, proof that you're human.
posted by headnsouth at 6:16 AM on July 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: With kindness (and fully aware that it's MetaFilter SOP): consider therapy. You're a mid-thirties woman who wants children but has had difficulty forming relationships that might help you achieve this critical life goal. The new-hobbies-and-habits stuff is excellent (and will help you meet others), but don't let it distract you from doing the difficult work that could lead to so much life enrichment and enjoyment.
posted by carmicha at 6:25 AM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for your advice. Just to clarify I don't want children, the person I was with said he wanted them but then told me that he was 95% of the way to not wanting children. I am looking into therapy, however it might not be possible for me to have therapy due to the costs involved. I will however be contacting relate to book an appointment and see if they'll do a reduced fee.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 6:36 AM on July 28, 2013

Best answer: Okay - you say that you've had a pattern of letting your intellect win out over your emotions. And you also say that you feel "shame" for "acting out of character."

But reading what you say you actually did for this behavior - meaning, giving someone a decent chance because you had faith in him - doesn't really seem like something I'd be ashamed about. So maybe the idea is that the reason this feels "out of character" for you is because it's the first time your emotions had more of an upper hand, and it only feels "wrong" because it is different. It be one thing if your ex was manipulative or was lying to you, or even worse, WASN't lying to you but you still hung in there - but it sounds like he really gave it a shot, and you gave it an honest shot based on what he told you, and...that really isn't a bad thing.

So this may just feel uncomfortable for you because it is different for you, and it may only feel different because it is a side of your character you haven't used before. And - how cool is it that you get to discover a whole new aspect of your character that you haven't used before?

In short - part of why you're hurting right now may be because you've grown a bit, and there's no growth without growing pains. Or, at least, that could be something to remind yourself of, to help you get more comfortable with what you're feeling now.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:50 AM on July 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a firm believer that it's a bad idea to make a decision if you aren't 100% sure it's what you want to do. You waited until you were sure and ready to move forward; that's a good thing. If you had convinced yourself to end it before you were completely ready you would always wonder if you'd really made the right decision.
posted by something something at 7:12 AM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I am looking into therapy, however it might not be possible for me to have therapy due to the costs involved.

Please don't let this stop you. Do you live in a city or other relatively populated area? Is there a graduate school near you? There are generally many resources for folks who can't afford to pay $50, $100, $150/hour fees to see a therapist. I, for example, pay $10 per session for mine, and she is amazing and brilliant. Look for low-cost resources; the center where my therapist works is staffed with folks doing their post-graduate work in the field. This doesn't mean that you'll have to see someone young, either; my therapist is in her early fifties.

There is no need to feel ashamed about turning to others for support when you are going through a hard time. It's okay to be lost and overwhelmed and in pain when you've gone through something so difficult. Shame, however, is rarely useful. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy that will suck you down and keep you trapped in a vortex of blackness, because all shame needs to stay alive is the power of your own mind.

When you feel shame creeping in, take a moment to breathe, center yourself, and look at it. Acknowledge that you feel it without dwelling on it. Remind yourself that, as you said, deep down you feel good. You know that you did the right thing, even if it took longer than you feel it should have. And here's the thing: took longer by whose standards? You are the one who lived this, not anyone else. Ease up on yourself; you are your harshest judge. Keep your heart open, even though it hurts, and don't force yourself to come up with a rationalization or explanation for everything that happened all at once.

It's a wonderful feeling at the moment as I can see myself again and the tension has gone from my shoulders.

Trust yourself. Don't punish yourself for doing something that made you feel like this.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 7:21 AM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of the benefits of therapy (and apologies for misconstruing who did/didn't want children above), is that it gives you a means of getting past times when you're churning cycles of redundant thoughts and emotions through your head, especially feelings like shame. You can write down the insight/issues and remind yourself that you deal with this stuff Tuesdays at 3:00 or whatever. It's both taking action and regrouping. You might find that helpful in general, but especially if you will still see your ex at work and plan to complete your writing project together (if those details from your previous questions are still accurate).
posted by carmicha at 7:43 AM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Excersicing, pursuing hobbies, seeing family, going no contact. You are doing all the right things. Consider seeing a therapist maybe? I saw a therapist recently for a different issue and she told me something that I'm trying to live by. "You are already have enough sadness. Why add to it by looking in the rear view mirror and beating yourself up about something in the past that you can't change. It won't help you live your life going forward." I also think you should start dating again soon. I think it's better to start earlier than you think you're ready. It can be a good distraction and you might find someone who you like who's compatible.

Also, I don't know if this helps, but try to realize this is incredibly common. You can love someone with all your heart and still be incompatible on fundamental issues. It's really important that in a life partner you have someone who agrees with you about the biggies-kids, religion, sex, money. You were smart enough to recognize this, so be proud of yourself. So many people get locked into bad marriages because they didn't have your courage. The only thing I would recommend isscreening dates for these issues as early as you can to avoid getting to attached to those with incompatible life goals.

Finally, one last story. The other day, I was screwing around on my Facebook and I saw the profile of my first real boyfriend. Believe me that was a painful breakup, but we were really incompatible. Well, guess what? He has a wife who seems to adore, a son, a house, and he's turned his favorite hobby (something I was incompatible with) into a business he runs with his wife. I adore my husband and have a rewarding job, a nice house, and good friends. I thought to myself. Wow, if I'd known how happy we'd end up, I would have walked away from that breakup whistling instead of crying incessantly for a month. What I mean to say is that this is a breakup (maybe even a very painful breakup), everybody goes through it and makes it through to the other side. If you can really believe that, you'll be a lot happier.
posted by bananafish at 8:41 AM on July 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for your fantastic advice. It's all meant a lot to me and has helped me a lot. Reading the things you've said have helped me to see that I've been handling the last several months the best way I knew how and that experiencing my emotions more strongly isn't a bad thing. I know I'll get there eventually. I've already contacted my friend and art teacher and will be starting back at art class on Tuesday. I've got meditation group tomorrow so I can chat to my friends there and I'll be going to the gym on Wednesday, Thursday will be cleaning and Friday is riding lesson time so I have plenty to keep myself occupied with :-)

Thank you again for all your wonderful advice.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 2:36 PM on July 28, 2013

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