You don’t understand why.
It was going so well.
You were there for him during tough times. He said he’d protect you and keep you safe.
He was part of your life, and you were part of his.
Now he’s saying he doesn’t feel the same way anymore?
How can love turn off just like that?
Maybe he’s seeing another woman. There has to be some explanation.
You aren’t going to rest until you figure this out. You are prepared to do whatever it takes to fix it.
You are going to fight for this relationship…
Because that’s what love does.
An Arrow Through the Heart
Nothing is more painful than seeing the man you love walk away from you.
It’s excruciating. It feels like an arrow straight through the heart.
The pain is compounded by the way your mind replays that scene.
He walked away from you once, but in your memory he walks away from you over and over again, causing fresh pain every time.
There’s a Buddhist parable that expresses this.
In the parable, a person gets struck by an arrow. Searing pain shoots through their body.
But the pain isn’t over. A second arrow hits, even more painful than the first.
That second arrow is their reaction to what just happened. “Why did this happen to me? I don’t deserve this. This is unfair!”
The person suffers twice, both from the original pain and from their reaction to the pain.
In life, we can’t control whether we get hit by the first arrow.
But we can control the second.
The Story You Tell Yourself
If I were to design the most painful story ever invented about a breakup, the kind of story that puts barbs on that second arrow, this might be it:
Once upon a time, a man and a woman were in love. Everything was wonderful. They were about to live out their happily ever after. But then something horrible happened…
The woman made a mistake. An unforgivable mistake that she didn’t even know she made.
She lost his love because she wasn’t good enough. She wasn’t attractive enough to keep his interest. She failed at making him happy.
He felt so repelled by her that he fell in love with the next woman who crossed his path, a woman as beautiful and sweet as a Disney princess.
Now his ex spends her days fruitlessly trying to win him back, growing old and haggard, while he lives happily ever after with his rightful love.
Awful story, right??
Good thing it’s fiction!
That’s not the kind of story you (or anyone else) would want to tell about a breakup.
Why make a bad experience even worse by telling yourself that you’re responsible for losing him?
So many women ask me what they did wrong to push their ex away.
They’re convinced that the love they lost was priceless. They’re willing to humble themselves and beg for forgiveness if it might change his mind.
They feel that their entire life depends on righting this wrong. If they don’t get him back, they’ll never be happy again.
That’s an excruciating second arrow.
Tell Yourself a Better Story
If you are suffering from a breakup, I urge you to look with fresh eyes at the meaning you’ve made of the experience. Are you jabbing yourself with another arrow?
Breakups hurt. That wound needs care and attention to heal.
One way you can start the healing process is by telling a healing story about what happened.
Imagine you’re a storyteller. Write down the tale of a man (your ex) and a woman (you), as if it were a fable that happened to someone else.
When you’re finished, re-read it. Ask yourself:
“Is this a story that helps me or a story that hurts me? Am I piercing my own heart with that second arrow, or am I healing my wound?”
Now, if you’d had a choice, you would have chosen to stay in that relationship forever.
But you didn’t have that choice.
A relationship is made of two people, and it ceases to exist when one person wants out.
But you still do have one choice:
The choice to decide what this event means to you.
You can tell yourself that this means you’ll never be happy, you lost the one man who could ever love you, all the investment you put into him was wasted, and you’re too broken and old to ever fall in love again.
You could tell yourself that…
But why would you?
You could equally tell yourself that you don’t want to be with a man who doesn’t love you the same way you love him. You could tell yourself that mistakes happen in relationships; if he can’t forgive you for not being perfect, the relationship was doomed anyway.
You could tell yourself that you have a huge heart, you’ll love again, and you’ll use this experience to be wiser the next time around.
Sure, maybe that’s just a story…
But it’s a story that heals the hurt.