3 Ways A Breakup Can Make You A Better Person

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Breaking up is a horribly painful experience, whether it's with someone you've only been dating for a little while or with a spouse you've been married to for years. I rank it up there in terms of stress with those other biggies — losing your job, moving, and so on. You're likely to lose sleep, eat more or less, feel angry and sad (maybe at the same time), and wonder why this had to happen to you.

Some people have even more drastic experiences, like questioning their existing view of the universe, or quitting going to church, or starting to go to church if they’ve not gone before. A few people feel such grief they abuse themselves, either physically or, more commonly, mentally and emotionally. They despair of ever having a good relationship, and they tell themselves over and over and over that they’re no good, unlucky, defective, whatever.

There's no doubt about it – breaking up is super tough. It has many, many negative aspects.

But is there a flip side?

Are there positive aspects to breaking up with someone? And I don't just mean getting out of a negative or abusive relationship, which certainly is a positive thing to do, even though it is also terribly stressful and confusing. No, I mean are there positive aspects of getting dumped by someone you love? Or by breaking up with someone you care about but who just isn't the right person for you?

The answer is yes.

One big, positive thing about a breakup is that it's a wake up call. It shocks you out of your comfortable life and all the assumptions you were making every day, about yourself and other people. But mostly about yourself. Perhaps you thought you were an amazing lover, a fantastic boyfriend, a great catch. Well, maybe a little dose of humility will do you good.

Let's pause for a moment to discuss humility. Don't confuse it with humiliation, because they aren't the same thing at all, even if they sound similar. Humility means having a realistic view of yourself and your place in the world. Humiliation is degradation and wallowing in self pity and is not about having a realistic view of yourself. So skip the humiliation, if you can, and try to take a look at yourself as a person and as a partner.

You may have some hints from the breakup itself as to the reasons for it. Take a look at your own behavior and see where you were to blame. Perhaps you have some character defects — ego, pride, fearfulness, anger, jealousy — that made your recent relationship a rough ride. Don't just think about this — write it down. Get some paper and make two columns. Put your positive character aspects in one column and your negative ones in the other. Try to balance them out and don't just list one wimpy good thing and a hundred bad ones. That's humiliation, and it doesn’t help you at all.

Resolve to work on improving some of those character flaws. If they're serious — like uncontrolled anger and rage — seek professional help. Local hospitals or community centers offer anger management classes that can teach you strategies to defuse your anger.

Another way a breakup can help you, paradoxically, is by taking away the other person you've been obsessed with and giving you a chance to focus on yourself. Sure, making that list of positive and negative aspects is one way of focusing on yourself. But I'm talking about something different.

One of the best things you can do after a breakup is to get a life, to put it bluntly. What that means is to go out and have fun, learn some new things, join some sort of club or take some classes. Forget about defining yourself through a relationship for a while. Forget about trying to impress and attract other people for a while. Focus on you. Get out and enjoy your life.

Take that woodworking class you always wanted to take but never got around to. Sign up for art classes at night school or on the weekend. Join the sailing club, hiking club, chess club or whatever you like! Having fun and enjoying life will do plenty for you. It will help you let go of your breakup and it will remind you that you’re a good, fun, interesting, happy person whether or not you are in a relationship.

Paradoxically, that's the sort of thing that makes you more attractive to other people anyway! The person who isn't trying to meet someone usually does.

So that's really two things that go together. A breakup can force you to get a life, to have more fun, and to let go of the obsessive need to be in a relationship right now. It can help you learn that you can be happy while you're single, and if you can't, then you won't be happy when you're in a relationship, either.

And the second bit there is that by forcing you to let go and improve your life, a breakup can help you relax and become more attractive to others, and that’s a good thing for the future.

Let me review the three positives:

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  1. A breakup gives you the opportunity to humbly take a look at yourself and see what you might want to work on.
  2. A breakup reminds you that you don’t have to be in a relationship to be happy and enjoy your life.
  3. A breakup gives you that chance to join a club, take a class, have an adventure, take a trip – all things that will make you a more interesting and attractive person overall.

Now that you see the positive side of your breakup, get up and out there!