Advice – How can I learn to heal after a breakup?

My boyfriend [29M] and I [27F] have decided to mutually split up after lockdown. We are very different people; he wants children and I don’t, for example. A lot of things in the short term have been the final nail in the coffin for me. We had a chat today and agreed that we will break up sooner rather than later. Do any of you have any tips in terms of getting over the love of your life who would be perfect if it wasn’t for one thing? Our relationship is great but then we can’t be together. How do you reconcile yourself with that? My brain hurts trying to figure it out.

Bebe, Reddit.

Dear Bebe,

I am so sorry to hear that you are in the middle of such a disorienting end to an otherwise good relationship.

Even quality relationships can end for countless different reasons. Some of them explode spectacularly over a discovery of a chance infidelity. Some of them collapse through many years of built-up and unresolved resentment. Some ends are completely irrational while others are calm transitions to something other than a romantic relationship.

And perhaps that is a potential mindset where we can first rest in, that this does not necessarily have to be a definitive end to your connection with your ex-boyfriend. Queer communities often comment on the importance of chosen family, or a group of people who are bound by choice and not necessarily by blood. For many of those chosen family members in queer communities, they happen to be former lovers or distant flings. And so, it could be possible that the end to your romantic connection with your ex-boyfriend can instead be reframed as a transition and a beginning to your platonic connection.

Another important point to make here is your perception and experience with grief and loss.

It sounds like both you and your ex-boyfriend understand logically and rationally that the breakup is necessary. But even if you and your ex-boyfriend logically agree and accept that the end is inevitable, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you and your ex-boyfriend have each come to terms with it emotionally.

And Bebe, I think it is possible that you feel a sense of regret, not for the great relationship you had with this incredibly human being, but how things could have been different if those things were different. It is very easy and also dangerous to trap yourself in that mental loop of different hypothetical scenarios. That trap is easy to fall into because it lives entirely in your own headspace, and therefore requires no change or growth from the people involved. That trap is dangerous because it really is a hypothetical disguising as reality. The trap itself is an emotional distress coping mechanism. But there are cleaner ways to recover and heal than through this mental loop.

It is important to keep in mind that this one thing isn’t just any One Thing. Along with openness of your relationship and clear emotional incompatibilities, disagreement on parenting has very little room for negotiation or change. So be kind, allow yourself to breathe through those hypotheticals, and break the loop if you can see the repeat patterns in your head.

Photo by Drew Taylor on Unsplash

And I want to come back to reframing this breakup as a transition to a new beginning.

If you feel it is necessary, many do take the time off to heal before reconnecting with their former paramours. And if it is true that everything else was perfect and this was just the one thing that didn’t work for your romantic relationship, then you can be there for each other after you’ve both healed and recovered from the pain of this breakup. And perhaps from the charred remains of your former love can rise a different but equally meaningful friendship.

I want to leave you off with a thought that the process to heal from breakup looks different for everyone. For me, I get comfy and watch my two breakup flicks: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Through those movies, I conscientiously chew on my pain through the similar pains the characters on the screen share. And it could be that your healing process can involve a reservation at a rage room (with proper safety precautions), long stomps at a local hiking trail, or multiple scream-cries into your squishiest Squishmallow.

In the meantime, make sure that you have space away from your ex-boyfriend so that each of you can heal.

I feel for your heart and I really hope that your healing process can be as fruitful as it is meaningful.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

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