Reaching your tipping point

You may be reading this and still very much feel in love with your ex-girlfriend. There may have been many signs that would indicate that the relationship is over and she wants nothing to do with you.

Yet you cannot let go. You understand intellectually that it’s just chemicals gushing through your brain, but it’s more powerful than that. Your subjective truth is more powerful than the objective truth.

So you continue to pursue her. You continue to initiate contact. You look at her pictures on Facebook. You attempt to reconnect and rekindle the flame that was lost.

You end up repeatedly tearing open the same old wounds, never allowing them to heal.

Part of you wants to move on, but a larger, stronger, part of you refuses to. It’s protesting. It’s holding on.

I can only help you once that that part of you that wants to move on has enough resolve, enough clarity and enough determination to say: enough is enough.

In order to start to recover, you must reach your tipping point.

Your tipping point is the point you reach when you realize that you cannot continue to put yourself through this pain. It is the moment you realize that no one person is worth all this pain.

Your tipping point is also the point at which you decide that you, and you alone, are responsible for your own happiness. It is not up to others or one single person to provide you with happiness. You derive happiness by taking responsibility, not by giving it away.

It is the point you give up hope, you give up fighting and only sadness remains.

You are ill-equipped to deal with grief

Grief is the normal reaction to a loss of any kind. The feelings you are having are normal and natural.

However, in a society where we are increasingly conditioned to expect instant solutions — usually pharmaceutical ones — few people know what to do with these feelings, let alone how to help others that are experiencing them.

Grief is the most neglected and misunderstood experience, often by both the griever and those around them.

—Grief Recovery Handbook

The reality is, it hurts. And only when we take the time to acknowledge — and if necessary, explore — our pain, do we reap the benefits of coming out the other end as a stronger person.

We are taught many unhelpful things about grief, some of which are even counterproductive because they fail to communicate the single most important message:

It’s okay to feel the way you feel.

Here are some of them:

1. “Don’t feel bad” — Message: If you do feel bad, that’s not okay.
2. “Replace the loss” — Message: There’s more fish in the sea, if you get hung up on this one, that’s not okay.
3. “Grieve alone” — Message: You should be able to process your grief by yourself, if not, that’s not okay.
4. “Just give it time” — Message: If you feel sad, it’s just because you haven’t waited long enough.
5. “Be strong for others” — Message: It’s not okay to be sad.
6. “Keep busy” — Message: It’s not okay to listen to your emotions.

Your friends and family are ill-prepared to help you deal with your loss

Most people around us, although well-meaning, have no successful grief recovery experiences to share. They often unintentionally encourage us to act recovered. {James:2009tm}

They don’t know what to say. Even a well-meaning friend who has had a parallel loss does not know how you feel.

  1. They’re afraid of our feelings.
  2. They try to change the subject
  3. They intellectualize
  4. They don’t hear us

 

Source: the Grief Recovery Handbook

This can be harder on you than on her

Generally, the initiator of the breakup has an easier time getting over the relationship.

If you’re reading this, more often than not, you’re not the initiator. So that will make things a bit harder on you.

The main reason has to do with breakups not coming out of the blue. The initiator, on some level, has been contemplating the breakup for a longer time. This level of preparation allows them to move on quicker.

Secondly, men are often more dependent on their partners. As a rule, men tend to have fewer ties to relatives and friends.

So while your ex-girlfriend might have a network of friends and family that are able to support her during these times, you may be much more on your own. Another reason this may be harder on you than on her.

Your pain may be rooted in old wounds you did not know about

Growing up as children we are constantly observing the world around us, absorbing it, and learning what lessons we need to learn to help us to prepare for the road ahead.

So too with attachment. We look to our parents to teach us what love looks like and how to participate in it.

What we learn at this time goes on to form an unconscious framework which determines who we fall in love with as adults.

If there was pain involved during your childhood lessons on love and attachment, you may now, as an adult, associate love with pain.

You may then seek out relationships that resemble what you learnt to be love, but in reality you’re also seeking out pain — because it’s all you know.

So too, when the relationship ends, you will not fall back on a cushion of self-acceptance and unconditional love, unless that’s the type of environment you grew up in.

Instead, you may feel scared and deeply hurt, as you did as a child.

So in effect, a relationship breakup as an adult has brought back childhood wounds you were not aware of.

Feelings disguised as facts

If you say “She is the only one I could ever love,” you feel it is true. This statement is a feeling disguised as a fact. [1]

When certain thoughts are played over and over again inside your head, the associated beliefs become deeper ingrained and the association with emotions becomes stronger.

The strength of these emotions or the familiarity of these stories have no bearing whatsoever on whether or not they represent an actual truth.

By becoming conscious of these cycles, we can break out of them.

First, through reason and empirical evidence.

Based on what we observe in the world, through our senses, we formulate a theory that is consistent with those observations, and arrive at a reasonable understanding of what is actually true.

This is how scientists have come to understand the world. Because reality is logical and consistent, we are able to observe it and formulate theories about it which can be successfully applied to the whole of reality.

We cannot arrive at truth through emotions — even though we very often think we do.

I remember a Skype conversation with my mother during my breakup. I was in a deep and dark place at the time and I called her up in tears. I could not stop crying. I remember saying about my ex-girlfriend: “Mom, she’s my soulmate.”

At the time, I “knew” this to be true. She “was” my soulmate, there wasn’t a cell in my body that doubted it.

It turned out, however, not to be the case.

I, like many others, had arrived at a supposed truth through emotion rather than reason and evidence. There was no evidence to back up my case.

“I know whether or not someone is my soulmate,“ you might say, “without needing an argument to support that claim.”

This, however, is circular logic. You know she is your soulmate. How do you know that? Well, because you know it.

The fact you feel something to be true, has no bearing on whether it is actually true.

Examine the evidence.

[1]: I Can Mend Your Broken Heart. (2016). I Can Mend Your Broken Heart. Hay House.

Distortion of Time (Infant time)

One difficult you may have experienced is that certain feelings — your longing for your ex in particular — can unexpectedly overwhelm you. It is easier to come to terms with these cases if we come to a better understanding why we feel overwhelmed.

Your longing for your ex is linked to the longing you felt as a small child for your mother. Both are governed by the same biological processes in your body and in your brain.

Feeling this longing as a grown up can bring you back to this visceral, childhood feeling. Not only that, but you may experience this feeling as the child would have.

Young children are known to have a very limited concept of time and are routinely overwhelmed by their emotions.

You too may become overwhelmed by your longing for your ex-partner and, in that moment, may lose any concept of time you may have had.

Howard Halpern from “How to break your addiction to a person” calls this longing “Attachment Hunger” and the childhood emotional state “Infant Time.” Here’s an excerpt from his book:

Since attachment hunger is an early childhood memory, when it is dominant it places you, in effect, on Infant Time, and Infant Time is a very different dimension from adult time.

These distortions in time can make you more aware of the early childhood origins of Attachment Hunger than almost any other experience.

But the paradox is that once Attachment Hunger has taken hold, you do not know that you are distorting! You need to get at least one foot on solid ground outside the Attachment Hunger state to see time in more mature perspective, and to recognize how you are misshaping it.

Like Halpern suggests, we need one foot on solid ground to see what’s going on. This is where awareness and mindfulness can help us out.

Does she really love this new guy?

Getting dumped and having your ex-girlfriend leave you for another guy is the most painful thing I have ever experience and many of the guys that have commented on this blog would probably agree with me.

One question that I’ve heard these guys ask, more often than once, is: “Does she really love this new guy?”

My answer is, perhaps, slightly surprising.

First, let’s observe the premise. After all, is this even a valid or useful question to be asking?

First of all, are you ever going to get a clear, definitive, fact-based answer to this question? Let me answer that for you: probably not. Is there, then, some type of non-fact based, non-definitive answer that you’re going to be satisfied with? Again: no, most likely not.

Second of all, we need to look at what lies at the epicenter of the question. Is it you, and your feelings? Or is it her, and her feelings? In this case it’s the latter. But we know that it’s important, during and after a breakup, to keep the focus on ourselves. It is what we know, it is what we can control. Worrying about things that are beyond out control, drive us mad.

Question every question.

Is this question on the path towards self-reflection, self-exploration and ultimately growth? Or is on the path of continued victimhood, reverence of your ex-girlfriend and the perpetuation of the pain cycle you find yourself in.

Instead, experiment with a different mindset.

Treat the question not as a question to be answered. Instead, treat the question as a feeling.

Instead of looking for the answer to whether or not she loves this guy, embrace whatever sentiment it is that you feel that led to the question in the first place.

Observe and acknowledge in yourself that right now you feel like you want to know whether or not she loves the guy. Perhaps you feel scared that you may lose her forever if she really does. Or perhaps you feel that it’s true and that knowing would give you closure.

Your question can be a feeling disguised as a question.

Embrace it as a feeling and you may find yourself no longer in need of an answer.

The Waves of Emotions

When you’re going through a breakup you’re going to be hit by waves of emotions. Waves turn out to be the perfect metaphor for several reasons. Think of yourself as swimming in the ocean and as an emotion as an approaching wave.

When you’re in the ocean and a wave approaches from out in the sea like emotions there’s not much you can do about the wave itself. It’s coming at you, it’s going to reach you, and all you have control over is how you respond, not whether or not it hits you.

If you stay calm, present and you’re looking at the right place, you can see the wave approach. If you’re still caught up in the previous wave or you’re not calm, you won’t see the next wave approach you.

You cannot fight a wave.

You can hold your breath, and dive under it, and if it wasn’t about to break, you’ll pop up on the other side. You’ll be somewhat out of breath, but you’ll have survived. This corresponds to choosing when to grieve and when not to grieve. You can only keep doing this if you maintain awareness and present-mindedness.

You can try ignoring the wave. But it will either swallow you or smack you down. Leaving you disoriented and confused. This corresponds with being emotionally unaware.

You can anticipate the wave, and float up with it as it goes up, and float down with it as it goes down. This only works if it’s not about to break. This correspond with being emotionally aware.

If it’s about to break, and you’re calm and aware, you can position yourself in order to surf the wave. Depending on how good a surfer you are and how powerful the wave is, you can successfully surf the wave. This corresponds with actively dealing and exploring your emotions.



How to stop thinking you’ll get back together

From Chaz in Mexico:

I am on a really good path to becoming a better man, we broke up two months ago after 7 years together. I am physically and mentally ok. The only problem is this hunch and gut feeling that I will end up marrying her and making my life with her. How can I stop this?

Way to go on getting on the right path.

This is a lingering feeling which I remember having. It’s the feeling that leads guys astray and makes them break no contact.

The way I recommend dealing with any emotion is one of Diversion & Immersion. Let me explain.Continue Reading

My first love left me for someone else

From Brian in the US:

I am trying so hard to stop communicating with my ex. Your articles are very helpful. I feel so “weak”. I am 45 years old and my ex was my first love. I was married for 25 years right out of high school, so when I got divorced I have never been with anyone else. My curent ex was my 2nd date, first true love, and I am suffering. The break up occured 4 months ago, when she went back to her ex, but she has never missed a day contacting me still saying I’m her best friend, she loves me, and meets for sex on occassion although her partner does not know about it. She has a lot of pride so she cant admit that she made a mistake going back to him. She calls me as soon as she gets in the car to drive to work, text me all day long, calls on her way home from work, and moves to emails when she gets home telling me good night before she gets into bed with HIM, and starts the process over. I am tortured and its my own fault. I love her more than anything. It’s killing me and hurting all area’s of my life. I guess I didnt have a questions as much as I need someone to help me. I’m truly suffering.

Hey Brian, thanks for sharing your story. There are certain factors that make a breakup extra painful:

  • The longer the relationship, generally the more painful the breakup
  • If it was your first love
  • If she leaves you for someone else
  • Not sticking to no contact
  • Your ex-girlfriend giving you a false sense of hope

You mention each and every one of these factors in your story. I’m not surprised you say you are truly suffering.

The length of your relationship, the fact it was your first one and her choices thereafter, are beyond your control. They are the starting conditions we need to accept. The other two, however: no contact and her giving you hope, are two things we can have some control over.

Your pain is understandable, but your behavior is exacerbating the situation. You need to stop listening to what she is telling you with her words and start listening to what she is telling you with her actions.

Regardless what she tells you, she’s with another man. She would have to be devoid of any emotion not to still feel some level of affection to you. But unwittingly, she’s hurting you by still showing that affection, because she’s giving you hope. She’s giving you a reason to hold on. Her action tells you that although she still cares about you, she wants to be with another man now.

Not sticking to no contact is fuelling your pain. Every interaction with her is firing up all the memories and emotions in your brain, keeping them fresh and in the foreground. Every word she says you’re over analyzing and finding reasons to be hopeful. The pain we cannot change – the suffering we can.

You need to get to your tipping point. Where you decide that no one person is worth this much pain. Where you assume that you will never get back together again. What she’s doing right now is not fair to you. If she wants to be with another man, she needs to own that decision and take responsibility for the consequences. Right now she’s being unfair to you and you need to protect yourself from that.

Regardless if there is hope for you guys in the future or not, your working assumption must be that there isn’t. Because any alternative involves being in touch with her and thinking about her. Both will exacerbate the pain you’re feeling and will continue to fuel your suffering.

You need to tell her you’re initiating no contact and that you’d like her to respect that decision. You need to be strict in this – and it’s going to be very hard. You need to start reaching out to your support network and make sure you have friends and family on standby. And lastly, you need to start exercising if you aren’t already.

All this can only happen if you reach your tipping point. If you catch yourself talking to her again. Looking for signs to be hopeful again. Realize, that only if YOU DECIDE that at some point the pain is not worth it anymore. Only when you decide to assume it will never work out again can you start on your path to recovery.

Best of luck my man, we all feel for you!