My boyfriend broke up with me in the last week of the last term of journalism school and it was ugly. I received his text message on a Sunday evening, and I spent a better part of the night crying over the phone to my best friend. The tears flowed long after the goodnights were exchanged.
I tried pulling myself together for class on Monday, but a simple question like “how was your weekend” triggered another round of tears. I must have looked like a wreck, walking around campus with swollen eyes and tissues balled up in my fists.
Questions like, “Why would he do this to me?” and “What did I do wrong?” went through my mind. In my eyes, I had been nothing but the sweetest girlfriend any person could hope to have. I remembered every single birthday and anniversary, and was always ready to lend him an ear whenever he was feeling down.
But the reality was, we were not suited for each other. We both had different life goals, and had different ways of pursuing them. I had plans of working and travelling overseas, while he was quite happy to continue living in New Zealand. I was irritated by what I felt was a lack of ambition and direction on his part, while he found me spoilt and over-reliant on people.
Unfortunately, I was blind to our differences. I was a young and naïve 23-year-old who could not see anything beyond the tip of my nose. So I got angry when things did not work out. I thought I was unlucky in love, and that happiness was meant for other people.
You see, a year before I started this relationship, I had just got out of another relationship which had ended when I found out my then-boyfriend had been unfaithful to me. By the time he called it quits, I was exhausted, angry, and sick and tired of being hurt. I wanted to re-arrange his face as if it was a Mr Potato Head toy, and at one point, I even flew to Australia to visit friends and family simply because I couldn’t bear to be in the same country as he was.
No wonder author Greg Behrendt of It’s Called A Breakup Because It’s Broken said, “Being brokenhearted is like having broken ribs. On the outside it looks like nothing is wrong, but every breath hurts.”
Are you in a similar situation as I was? Let me share a few tips that I hope you’ll find useful.
1) Take Your Pain To God
I can’t even begin to tell you how many nights I had spent face down on my bed and all I could offer God between my tears was a simple, “Dear God. . .”, but couldn’t find the strength to finish my prayer.
I’ll also be honest and admit it was the pain of the breakup which forced me to look to God. C.S. Lewis said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pain. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Likewise, my pain was God’s way of pulling me back to Him. So I turned to Him and cried my heart out like I would to my earthly father in times of sadness.
I found great comfort in Psalm 147:3, in which the psalmist declares, “He [God] heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” When I felt like I was truly alone after my latest breakup, I was also comforted by John 16:32, which described Jesus’ loneliness and His full assurance that God was with Him. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home,” He told his disciples. “You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”
Don’t be tempted to go for quick fixes like a strong drink, alternative medicine, or the arms of another person. They can not only be risky, but also leave you feeling even more vulnerable.
Rather, go for true healing: God, the Master Healer, is near to the brokenhearted, and is more than able to nurse your broken heart back to wholeness.
2) Remember You Are Loved By God
The days following the breakup process were most challenging. I felt that I was unattractive, that I didn’t matter, and that I was a pawn in someone’s chess game. I wanted to eat potato chips all day long and wallow in my misery. Negative thoughts became my constant companion, invading my head with ideas like, “If only I was prettier, smarter, held a glamorous job . . .”
One day, as I was busy lamenting to God about how unloved I felt, I felt God say to me, “But you’ve forgotten. I love you”. That was a pretty big revelation for me. While I grew up singing Sunday school songs such as “Jesus Loves Me”, I never really understood just how much He loves me. But at that moment, in my weakest, and probably my ugliest (let’s face it, I was in my pyjamas with my messy bed hair, and snivelling away like a broken dam), I felt a calm assurance that Jesus still loves me. In that instant, all the thoughts of inadequacy and the insecurities I felt since the breakup went away.
Can I encourage you not to define yourself by your breakup, and see yourself the way God sees you? Your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend might have failed to appreciate your worth, but to God, you are precious and honored (Isaiah 43:4), you are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10), and you are His workmanship, created to do good things (Ephesians 2:10).
Remember who you are in Christ, and that you are greatly loved by God (Ephesians 2:4).
3) Look Forward To The Future
It can be tempting to reminisce about your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, but this can hinder you from moving forward. I deleted every text message and email, and threw out every present my ex-boyfriend gave me. But I hung on to a Peter Rabbit stuffed toy, because I just could not bear to give the wee rabbit away. And I also found myself listening to songs with breakup themes—on repeat.
The Bible tells us to forget what lies behind, and to press on towards what is ahead (Philippians 3:13). So I forced myself to stop dwelling on the past, and used the time to re-prioritize my commitments. I decided to spend more time with God, and to look forward to the start of my working life as a journalist.
I also started thanking God for the breakup. “You knew all along this relationship would eventually end,” I told God, “You hold my world in Your hands”. It was comforting to know that God foresaw the breakup (Psalm 139:16), and had allowed it to happen, because He had better things in store for me. At that point, I didn’t know what the “better things” were, but I blindly clung on to His promises knowing He is God and He cares.
4) Count Your Blessings
Time crawled to a standstill when I was working through my breakup. The days were long, and the nights even longer. People say time heals all wounds, but time seemed to pass too slowly for me.
During this difficult transition period, I found it useful to keep myself busy. I kept busy by counting my blessings, and that was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be.
When I had a boyfriend, it was so easy to be grateful for life, and to feel blessed. “Thank you God for a boyfriend, for family, for friends who love me.” But when it was taken away (the boyfriend, not the family and friends), I had to make a conscientious effort to be thankful for the little things.
I kept a diary listing the things I was grateful for on a daily basis. I thanked God for being able to go to the movies with my friends, lunch and dinners with my family, a new skirt (if I had gone shopping that day). For me, having to count my blessings stopped me from reverting into a state of anger, bitterness, and resentment.
It can seem like a bit of a cliché to be told to count your blessings but Bible says we are to “give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for us in Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It doesn’t mean we have to start jumping in joy, telling everyone how glad our partner has broken up with us; for me, it meant maintaining an attitude of gratitude and quietly thanking God for being with me during the difficult time.
5) Forgive The Other Party
I’ll be absolutely honest with you and admit that I did not want to forgive my ex-boyfriend. Forgiving him felt like I was giving him a jail-free card, and really, why should I give him that privilege?
Then I remembered a conversation I had with God while praying over a scholarship which would allow me to work in a Beijing newspaper for three months. I was telling God how much I really, really wanted the scholarship, and God said, “But you must first forgive your ex-boyfriend.” No way was I doing that, I replied. But the Holy Spirit reminded me of Mark 11:25, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
I resented the idea of having to forgive my ex-boyfriend, but I knew it had to be done.
I didn’t exactly rush out with my arms wide open, ready to hug my ex-boyfriend with a warm embrace, telling him I had forgiven him. For me, forgiving him meant I had to slowly let go of any resentment I had harbored towards him in my heart. I knew I couldn’t call myself a Christian if I couldn’t find it within myself to forgive someone who had hurt me.
I was glad I forgave him because a few weeks later, I received an email offering me the scholarship to Beijing. I believe God was testing me and building my character at the same time. He wanted me to forgive others as He has forgiven me (Matthew 6:14), love my enemies (Luke 6:27), and to bless those who hurt me (Luke 6:28).
Breakups are hard, messy, and take a big toll on your emotions. The good news is, these dark nights will not last forever. You’ll get through them, even if it’s hard to see past the current pain at the moment.
But remember, God loves you and cares for you. Missionary Frank Laubach once said, “Christ is interested in every trifle, because He loves us more intimately than a mother loves her babe.”