Break-ups: 4 Cynical Tips to surviving the end of the world.
“I always believed that if I followed God and obeyed Him wholeheartedly, that I would be excused from the major hurts in life.”
Hello there traveler!
I’ll be your guide for today’s wonderful adventure through the magical land of break-ups! Having grown up in a Christian (and I’ll admit, very much homeschooled) environment, I’ve heard every conceivable piece of advice about dating and relationships.
In all my years of avid reading, podcast listening, dating panel Q&A’s, watching marriage seminars on YouTube, and “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” teenage Bible study programs, I have yet to find a single useful, non-cliché, straight-to-the-point guide to surviving a break-up.
Most of them just talk about God’s call to single-hood, or quiz you on “What kind of Christian Cat Lady are you gonna be?” Hence, this blog post.
Much like a CPR class, I hope you’re never in a position where you actually need this. And much like a CPR class, it only covers the basics and is no substitute for professional help. (Kidding, not kidding! Trust me on this one.)
sooooooo…. With no further adieu…
4 Cynical Tips to surviving a break-up:
Lemme just rip the band-aid off right from the get-go…
Number 1: “It could’ve been worse - it could have worked out!”
“Hey Guilliam! I’m breaking up with you, the issue is communication, and that’s everything that needs to be said.”
That was our last conversation.
The conversation before that we had talked about buying headphones.
The conversation before that we had talked about buying rings.
I don’t know about your break-up story/stories, but I didn’t see mine coming at all.
Fast-forward to two years later.
There has been a lot of healing, crying, venting, venting some more, cynical humor, and venting. But by the grace of God, I only think about it once or twice a day at most now. Quite a bit of progress has been made. I bring this up because the most savage, cynical, but helpful advice I have ever received was;
“I dunno man, it could’ve been worse - it could’ve worked out.”
I cried a little on the inside, but I definitely laughed. As much as I didn’t want to hear it, my “friend” was correct.
Sure, we could’ve worked it out. But here’s the thing.
In retrospect, the issues weren’t the issues.
The issues were symptoms of deeper issues.
And now, looking back, yeah…. It could’ve been worse… It could have worked out.
A lot of Christian dating culture presents this idea that a break-up is always a bad thing. That it is somehow a sign of sinful or impure living or a disregard for God’s will, but lemme drop a thought with you that you can mull over and wrestle with on your own time:
The purpose of dating is NOT marriage.
The purpose of dating is getting to know the other person, and it is better to figure out that you are incompatible, whether it’s differences in communication style (or lack thereof), attraction (or lack thereof), or emotional maturity (or lack thereof). You cannot substitute spiritual maturity for emotional maturity, communication, or attraction.
Trust me bro, it could’ve been worse… it could’ve worked out!
NUMBER 2: Disregard, Forgive, and Forget every piece of cliché dating advice.
If you’ve never been through a break-up, here are a few descriptions from people who have been through break-ups of the more emotionally traumatic nature:
“It’s like death… but worse. At least if they died I wouldn’t have to worry about running into them again at church every week.”
“I keep rewinding our last conversations and thinking ‘what-if-I-didn’t-do-this-orthat?”
“…you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.” (From C.S. Lewis)
The things that no-one talks about when it comes to a break-up is the internal dialogue, emotional “rewinding”, and by far the most unforgiving and painful experience:
Unsolicited post-breakup dating advice.
C.S. Lewis described this kind of advice this way [Bolded Emphasis mine]:
“An odd by-product of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t. Some funk it altogether. R. has been avoiding me for a week. I like best the well brought-up young men, almost boys, who walk up to me as if I were a dentist, turn very red, get it over, and then edge away to the bar as quickly as they decently can. Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in
special settlements like lepers.”
The worst part of the break-up was not so much the break-up itself. It was the “God has someone better for you!”, the “If it’s God’s will, it’ll work out.”, “What did you do wrong?”
Or my two personal favorites:
“Maybe God is calling you to a life of singleness.”
Or the ever popular,
“Maybe you should pray before you date someone next time.”
That’s especially fun and ironic if it comes from the same people who “heard from God” when you first started dating!
But back to the point: You can’t control how people react to your break-up. You can’t control what your ex says about you behind your back. You CAN, however, manage your perception of the other person, their friends, your friends, and everyone else giving you advice you never wanted or needed.
Unfortunately, 90% of people (pastors and parents included), don’t know how to deal with break-ups. They internally (or externally) freak out, and then their brains do a quick google search for “how to respond to a break-up in 20 seconds or less”, which they repeat, filter-free. It’s a knee-jerk reaction; it doesn’t justify it, but it does explain it.
No one enjoys being misunderstood, or having untrue things assumed of them, but unfortunately, that’s what we deal with after break-ups.
And whether we like it or not, this is actually a great opportunity to extend grace to the very people that should be extending grace to us.
The cycle of pain can end with us.
In the words of someone particularly good at this, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”
The best way to get through a break-up, is by making yourself forgive often….
Forgive yourself, forgive the other person, forgive the people giving you advice, forgive the people who gave you advice while you were dating/ before you were dating.
NUMBER 3: Find a healthier addiction.
There are days where you are gonna be REALLY depressed, and then days where you are gonna be okay. One of the big reasons why is because a break-up isn’t really an emotional rollercoaster…
It’s a lob-sided see-saw.
You’re always fighting the gravity, and the fear of falling, and the fear of not getting back up again. And the main reason why is because of this lovely little chemical called “Dopamine”! To over-simplify, Dopamine is the chemical that tells you “everything is gonna be okay”.
When you accomplish something you’re proud of,
When you’re in a long term relationship,
When you hug someone for longer than 10 seconds,
When you eat sugar
When you watch pornography
And when you smoke crystal meth.
(Yeah, that got real dark real quick…. But here’s the thing)
Dopamine isn’t evil, it’s just addictive.
We just lost a major source of dopamine, and we need to make sure we find a healthy replacement.
Whenever we get out of a relationship, our brain goes through withdrawals.
That’s why rebounds, stress eating, sexual addictions, drug addictions, and postrelational clingy-ness to random people is a thing!
We just want to feel okay.
It is VERY important to note though!
The issue is not your desire to feel okay, it’s where you get your dopamine.
This is why most people (including me!) will suggest getting a new hobby: go work out, write songs, go out to hang out with people (on Zoom calls), watch something that makes you laugh!
All of those things release dopamine.
I’m not gonna lie - it’s an uphill battle, which is why people tend to take the easy way out and fall into unhealthy habits, patterns, or coping mechanisms. (This is where accountability and having people in your life who force you to work out / improve yourself really helps.) However, the more you start building up healthy addictions where you can get Dopamine, the easier it gets long term.
NUMBER 4: One day at a time.
You’re gonna feel bad. That’s a given, but not all negative emotions are created equal. There are hurtful negative emotions (like rage, depression, laziness, and unforgiveness.) There are helpful negative emotions (like anger, disappointment, remorse, and sadness.) And it’s your job to ask yourself - is this emotion helping me or hurting me?
If it’s keeping me from moving on with my life - I need to get rid of it.
(For instance: No one will ever love me.)
If it’s helping me to become a better person - I allow need to allow myself to work through it.
(For instance: I am sad that she didn’t love me like I loved her.)
Bottom line: I control my emotions.But sometimes I lose my grip on my emotions, and then I feel terrible. In fact, I feel EXTRA terrible for letting my emotions get the best of me. And then the thought hits me… the really scary one that I’ve been avoiding all along.
What if this is how I’ll always feel?
“I always believed that if I followed God and obeyed Him wholeheartedly, that I would be excused from the major hurts in life.” (Quote from a friend)
One day at a time.
Just because you’re a Christian.... doesn’t mean you won’t feel pain....
Choosing to move on is the best long-term goal to have, but it’s also the hardest short term goal, because you have to make that choice
One day at a time.
I need to recognize that there isn’t a standard time frame for recovering from a break-up.
How I deal with my emotions, and what I’m feeling might surprise me, but I need to take it one day at a time.
I need to have patience with myself.
I need to form new, healthy addictions.
I need to forgive the people around me - myself included.
Most importantly, I need to remember that it could have been worse….
It could have worked out.
So I know I couldn’t possibly have covered everything, but my hope is that this starts a healthy dialogue about break-ups.
Have you been through a break-up?
What advice do YOU have for getting through a break-up?
Go ahead and share this post and add your own tip to surviving the end of the world.
Thank you for reading.