Last week during my radio show, I received a question from a listener – I'll call her Stacy. Stacy's question went like this:
"My boyfriend recently broke up with me because he
was not ready for a relationship that will lead to marriage at this
point in his life, although he loves me very much, and I am the woman
who has the qualities he is looking for. How do I deal with the pain
and what should I do if I love him very much too?"
My first on-air comment in response to Stacy's question was "Ouch!"
There's no way around it, this situation hurts. Badly. It's hard to
imagine a greater pain in the universe than heartache, and when it
grips you, everything in your world – physically, emotionally,
mentally, spiritually – has the tendency to come crashing down upon
After experiencing the agony of a breakup, especially if it wasn't
"mutual," a person has to give him- or herself LOTS of time to journey
towards healing. There's certainly no quick fix for heart wounds.
In many ways I really related to what Stacy was going through and I'm
sure many of you can as well. Following are some of the words of advice
we shared with her on the air that day.
Lack of Commitment = No Lack of Head & Heart Ache
Stacy's boyfriend did the right thing. If he isn't spiritually,
emotionally and financially ready (or at least almost ready) for
marriage, then he shouldn't be in a relationship. Countless couples
today have come to the same realization that Stacy's boyfriend did -
that they are not yet ready for marriage – and yet they remain
indefinitely in the dead-end relationship. Some stay because they are
afraid of the prospect of being alone, others have become so
comfortable with where the relationship stands that they see no reason
for change, and still others stay because they fear the pain that
accompanies a separation or breakup.
As hard as it seems to imagine, there are far worse things than
having a boyfriend or girlfriend break up with you. The pain and
confusion of a going-nowhere relationship without signs of long-term
commitment is, in the long run, far worse.
If your boyfriend or girlfriend comes to the realization that he or she
is not ready for a relationship, not ready for commitment, and thus not
ready for marriage, then be thankful for the honesty that accompanies
that decision, and move on.
Cut Off All Communication
This is tough medicine to swallow, but during the initial phases of
a breakup, if you are truly and honestly trying to "break up" and
separate emotionally from a person, then the "we can keep in touch and
be just friends now" line will not help you or the other person.
In order to heal and move on, you'll need to cut off communication
during the initial breakup phase. You both need time and space, and
lots of it, so that your hearts can heal. Mutually agree to no phone
calling, emailing, text-messaging, letter-writing, meeting for coffee
every once in a while – and stick to your resolution.
As waves of missing the person, loneliness, grief, and a cascade of
other emotions rise and fall within you, the temptation to contact the
other person will be strong. "Maybe we need more closure;" "I just need
to find out what he is thinking this week;" "I only want to make sure
she is okay;" "But I forgot to tell him this before we parted ways;"
etc., etc., etc…. The more you give in and stay in touch with one
another, the more you will prolong the healing process.
"The pain of breaking up is like removing a splinter," a friend
once told me. "The faster you remove it, even if it's initially
painful, the quicker the healing process will be."
You'll also need accountability to hold you to these goals, because
believe me, when he or she calls and leaves tear-filled voicemails
wanting to talk about things, it will be incredibly hard not to return the call or message.
You Need a Buddy
Staying at home on the couch with a box of Kleenex and watching Friends
re-runs or spending hours with your Playstation 2 is not going to help
you heal and move on from a breakup. It's okay to do that for the
initial 48 hours, but after that, you need to get your mind off your
heartache. You'll need to force yourself to get out of the house, meet
with friends and family, and do stuff together. It will be a healthy reminder that life will go on, even when it doesn't feel like it.
Some time ago I went through a breakup and felt like my entire world
was crashing down on me. All I wanted to do was sit at home and mope.
One of my girlfriends literally saved me during those initial
post-breakup weeks. She made me go out to dinner with her to talk and
check in on how I was doing. She cornered me after Mass to talk. She
called me frequently just to say hi and check in. On top of all that,
she even obtained two free tickets through her work to a pre-season NFL
game so that the two of us could attend together. She didn't even know
the name of the three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback we had
tickets to see play, but she knew I was a football fanatic so it would
be fun for me. It turned out to be the perfect outing to get my mind
off my heartache – the two of us had a blast together. And my
girlfriend now knows who Tom Brady is.
In addition to having a buddy to get out and do stuff with, you also
need someone who can be your confidant – the friend to talk to and
listen to. If you've been in a dating relationship, you have become
accustomed to having that person to share all the highs and lows, big
stuff and small stuff, of your daily life with. After a breakup, all of
a sudden that person is not there anymore to hear about your day and
comfort and console or rejoice and laugh with you over the stuff of
life. You need a friend or sibling who can be that for you.
Thank God for Unanswered Prayers
As I already mentioned briefly, there are worse things in life than
the heartache associated with breaking off a dating relationship, or
even breaking off an engagement. It would be much worse to find out after
getting married that your spouse has commitment issues, communication
issues, or unresolved conflicts or issues from the past, that you find
hard to now live with.
Garth Brooks sings a song called "Unanswered Prayers" that talks
about how grateful we can be that God prevents us from stepping into a
major pitfall sometimes. In light of the big picture of life, if a guy
or girl who can't commit to marriage or to you has broken up with you,
as hard and excruciatingly painful as that may be, thank God for His
mercy and grace that is protecting you from what, ultimately, is a
dead-end road for you.
Ask God for the grace of perseverance, and the faith to believe that,
in His time, your Heavenly Father will lead you to the one who is
ready, willing and able to make a lifelong commitment to you. It is
with this person that you want to walk side by side the path to Heaven.