Why You Should Become Self-Involved after a Breakup

We spend our lives looking for answers, and at no time are we more desperate to discover these answers than in the wake of a breakup.

We expect the answers to relieve us, so we question everything that happened. Why would the person we loved ever let us go?  We study our past, the minutiae of our relationship, and we beg to know what went wrong and how we could have avoided it.

The thing is – relief doesn’t just depend upon our receiving answers, relief depends upon the quality of our questions. It depends upon focusing the questions inward. Knowing why X did Y to us will not give us the relief we so desperately expect it to. Because, you see, the questions surrounding our ex—their intentions, behavior, and thinking—aren’t actually the source of our pain.

Our pain is a pain we bring upon ourselves through our own misplaced questioning. The pain of our own wrong asking. It is the pain of avoidance. The pain of our own inflicting. This is what devastates us: our tendency to hunt down answers to the least empowering and pertinent questions.

In the wake of our breakup, the pain we are experiencing is created by the uncertainty surrounding our own whys and our prolonging that discovery. This is what is so exhausting: expecting relief to come to us “if-only” we could know the reason X did Y.

This is what pains us: having that answer, only to feel no substantial alleviation in return. So, what do we do? We begin hunting down big enough questions. We invest our energy and our understanding in what can actually make a difference in our own lives, motives, intentions, histories, needs, wants, and behaviors.

To lead ourselves into a different kind of future, into a greater one, we have to give-up resolving the questions surrounding the whys of an ex and begin taking up interest in our own whys alone.

How do we start answering those questions that center within our own being ? We start by becoming more self-involved. You read me right. Consider this a hall pass. After a breakup, our recovery depends upon the extent of our own self-involvement.

I’m telling you, you’ve got to become the expert of your own heart.

In the wake of a breakup, the relationship you must take up next is a relationship with yourself: you’ve got to answer your own whys.

Like, why was this particular person in your life? Was there an initial void you imagined the relationship might fill up and replace? Where did that void come from? In the beginning, what were you hoping love would relieve you of?

Often times, we aren’t dating what compliments us but what is convenient for us. Knowing this, though, is not enough. We have to understand why we’ve been seeking convenience.

You have to ask questions directed inward, like what was your relationship giving you? What did it take away? Having had this relationship, what do you now know about life and people, about love and yourself and your capacity to give? These are important questions, and their answers will make a dramatic difference to your experience of pain and your purpose, in the future, when seeking out greater love.

Your breakup is calling you. Do not ignore it. Your own why is a requirement to moving on and, better yet, moving upward. It’s what a breakup is all about. It’s about giving yourself time to be self-interested. That’s why it happens: so you can become more deeply involved with your own heart.

I Finally Had The Courage To End A Relationship That Was Done

In the last year, I’ve done some amazing things for myself, some life-changing things. I’ll tell you one. I finally got out of a relationship that had long past run its course. I say finally because that’s exactly what it was: my decision to breakup was final. I quit returning. I quit justifying. I quit having hope and expecting change and I quit waiting for love to reappear. The latter took the most courage. 

In a sense, I had to give up and give myself over to the fear that had been preventing me from ending my relationship for so long. This was the fear of losing my best friend, of being alone, of having no distraction, of having no one to love. God knows I was expressing almost zero love to myself during that time.

My weight had plummeted to a hundred pounds and as sad as that is, what devastated me more was that I hadn’t even noticed. In retrospect, I am not surprised by my own blindness. It was convenient. It was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to avoid looking at myself, and that is the only thing any unhealthy, co-dependent, and consuming relationship has going for itself. It distracts you from your own chaos and drama, from your own personal torture and breakdown. 

This is obvious to me now. It’s obvious that my preoccupation with a half-assed relationship was strategic. It’s obvious that my romantic upset was a coverup, a distraction I fed into because it took the attention off my own spiraling, off my own reality, the reality that I had forgotten how to give love to myself.

My fear of this, of all there was for me to learn, is what made the dysfunction in my relationship so compelling. So attractive. So compulsive. So, of course, I latched onto it. What I latched onto as if it were a savior was the thought process that if I could give all my energy to “us” instead, and remain both furious and depleted by my efforts, I wouldn’t have to discover all it might take to “fix” myself. I wouldn’t have to discover and then honor all it was going take for me to love myself again. All it was going to take to change my life. 

The gravity of this need overwhelmed me. Because hidden beneath all my pain was the purest want of all, the want to become the highest vision of myself. And I was avoiding this because I knew that that vision would call upon the very honesty I was resisting, the honesty that if I wanted to become the greatest person I could be, I was going to have to leave my relationship. I was going to have to take on life on my own.

Last year when I left my relationship, I wasn’t ready. I was desperate. This surprised me. Because I always thought that when you are ready to leave that would be the time you would. Not true. I don’t believe you’re ever ready to breakup. There just never is a good time. When I left my relationship, it was actually the worst time, in that it was a time of many interviews, interviews that would determine not only my next step but my future. 

I needed my presentation, my focus, my livelihood to be bolstered by a love I didn’t yet have. Not from myself. Not from a boyfriend. It was also a time that I had been envisioning, that I imagined if I’d ever manage to get myself to that it would be filled with happiness and confidence and celebration. And yet, I could hardly celebrate my progress or arrival at all. 

What I remember most is crying over lunch and dinner. I remember the nausea in the morning when I woke and realized I was alone, that no one would be calling to wish me luck. At the time, I didn’t feel like there was anything for me to celebrate. Only, there was. It’s just that it was hard to. It’s hard to celebrate yourself closing in on your dreams when the very thing which has consumed your heart has vanished. So, no. You will never be prepared for heartache. You just have to plunge in and figure out how to breakthrough.

What facilitated my breakthrough was that, once I left my relationship, I finally stopped engaging. I finally quit reaching out with hope. I didn’t even respond when he turned back up promising me love either. Keeping my word was a remarkable feat. It felt like an achievement, like the first move I could be proud of in a very long time. 

Because the thing is honoring my word, honoring my intuition, had been my greatest resistance and that resistance was always at the forefront of my mind, overwhelming me with shame and fear. Fear that sabotaging myself had become sewn into the fabric of my character, a trait which I could not strip myself of or overturn. Fear that emotional laziness had become my new default and that that default would keep me trapped in relationships that were already breaking my heart. 

When I was still in my relationship this is what panicked me. My weakness and consent. Because knowing that you are slipping out of your own control, knowing that this is not where your heart belongs and choosing to stay anyways, to wait it out, is a death sentence. What happens is, at a certain point, you will stop believing in your own ability to care for yourself, to watch out for yourself, to do what is right for you and your well-being first and foremost.

This is what you need to understand: committing yourself to any relationship that has gotten you feeling so unhappy, so panicked and intimated by your own desperation, will deplete you of the very love you need from yourself. Do not take this gamble. Do not wait till you have plummeted to a hundred pounds like me. Do not wait till a doctor calls you anorexic and says he cannot help you. Do not wait for a convenience that will never come. 

When you remain imprisoned by your own fear, when you are so haunted by your future as a single person that you stay in a relationship that has already run its course, you set yourself up to fall entirely out of love with yourself. No one worth having is worth falling out of love with yourself for.

Why I’m No Longer Grasping For Love

Today I wake to all the normal things. The headache and the emails that he’s been writing me. The morning, he says, is when he’s most connected to his emotions, when he cries and realizes that I am gone.

This morning he is sitting in the shadows of his room. It is raining, he tells me, and he’s been reading John Muir, a book I’ve given him. You’ve always known so well what my taste is, he writes. You’ve always known what would make me happy. I read this twice and think about men and bravery, that the bravest act is sometimes as simple as the admission of regret, the realization that you are sorry or, if you are not, the capacity to say that, too. Instead, he writes to me about himself. His taste, his happiness. What about my own? I wonder. Will he ever be brave enough to say sorry for pushing me away? No. He could never show up that bravely for me, and he would never indulge me in the selfless act of apology, let alone remorse.

His email makes me think of all I’ve ever done for him, and all I ever wanted to do. It is a reminder that, of course, I knew what his taste was, because I was always paying attention. That, of course, I wanted to give him the world, all those things that were just out of his reach. Like John Muir. I didn’t want him borrowing books from a library. I wanted him to own them. I wanted him to feel the difference: to say, this is mine. I wanted him to have something he could return to, something he could love and not hand back.

And to think that, amongst all this desire of mine to see that he was comfortably looked out for, I somehow taught him to push me away. How can the wonder of love evolve into a habit so smug, so robbed of its original intention?

My sister says that my relationship with him reminds her of the cycle of abuse. You’re in phase three, she tells me: Reconciliation. But you’ve spun this wheel before. 

She’s right. I’ve been dancing in circles for awhile. That’s the confusing thing. For so much of our relationship, I haven’t been so much in love as I have been grasping for it.

Why do we do this? Why do we try to pull together something that isn’t there? For too long I reached into emptiness, imagining the grandiosity I’d come to touch would redeem me from this pathetic period of my life where I tried to lead myself blindly back into a love that had gone amiss. But nothing was left for me to reclaim. Nothing could have satisfied the feeling I held within me of all that had gone missing from our relationship.

His emails, of course, are triggering this reflection in me. But what surprises me most is how I can look back right now without grief or even nostalgia. Maybe that’s because I’ve already grieved. I grieved the relationship while I was in it. That’s why I had been crying all the time, sobbing, overwhelmed by the love we no longer inspired in each other.

Didn’t he, on some level, know that?

That I had been crying because I knew these emails would inevitably be sent to me. Because I knew that some of us only understand what we have in the moments that accumulate after it is gone. After it will never be ours again. After it refuses to return to us even as we flatter and beg.

Didn’t he know that our love was the kind you have to disappear from? Didn’t he suspect that I would eventually have to cut myself off completely from him? I always knew.

I knew that eventually I would acknowledge that staying with him had become a type of emotional abuse which I, for so long, had rationalized irresponsibly. I knew that I’d be writing this story and that he would be the man to kill off every pipe dream of mine, every tendency toward romantic adventure, and leave me aching.

I knew this story would be the last of its kind, too. That inevitably I’d outgrow the harm wrapped up in loving a man who is not brave enough to honor what he has when he has it or to say sorry once he has minimized it, taken it for granted, and turned it away.

Sometimes we set ourselves up for lessons because we just don’t believe that everything can be learnt in the shadows of our apartment, from a single book, all alone. John Muir says we never know where we must go, nor the guides we are to get— not people, storms, guardian angels, nor sheep.

Sometimes it’s not that we are even being pushed away, it’s that we are being guided toward a miracle we are yet to realize or understand. Maybe he didn’t push me out of his life. Maybe he slowly then suddenly gave me the space I need if I am to live and triumph. 

And triumph, I am. I am no longer grasping. I am no longer spinning my wheels. I am letting him go without a reply.