Reality Check: Out of the Ashes

When good things happen, when our needs and expectations are being met, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to feel satisfied and happy.

However, when bad things happen, we’re given the delightful and very useful gift of an opportunity to build our “resilience muscles.” (It may not feel delightful at the time.)

Among the bad things that happen in many lifetimes is the breakup of a serious relationship. Even if you are the initiator of the breakup, it’s still a loss—your hopes for this relationship are not going to come true.

If you are an unwilling participant in the breakup, you may be feeling more than loss. If you perceive that you had no control over this significant change in your life, you may have lost confidence that you can control anything.

As with so much in life, what we take away from a situation has a great deal to do with how we choose to cope. It might not be welcome news at the time, but the silver lining of many painful events is that they can be full of learning opportunities.

Thus, one helpful response is, “What can I learn from this event that will help me in future?”

It would come as no surprise to learn that you’re having a little trouble identifying all of those valuable lessons. So here are a few possibilities to get you started.

You may have learned about your own wants, needs, and values. Perhaps what you really want, need, or value is different than you thought.

For example, maybe you wanted lovely things and you were in a relationship with a partner who shared that view. After acquiring everything you thought you wanted, you may have realized that you still weren’t satisfied. Perhaps having things isn’t what matters to you most of all. If so, you have learned something important about your own values.

As another example, perhaps you conflicted with your partner about the roles of other people in your lives —friends, neighbours, family. Perhaps your view is “family first” but your partner’s was, “less is good.”

It’s easy to forget how much something matters to us until it’s in jeopardy. This conflict could provide a valuable reminder about people who matter to you.

Another example: perhaps you have different views from your partner about work. For some, work is just a way to make money so you can have a happy life outside of work. For others, work brings its own intrinsic joy. If you and your partner differ, it may be hard to understand why your partner would stay at work to finish a project when you’d consider that a ridiculous choice.

Different people have different values, and it’s not essential to agree about everything to have a great relationship. If that were so, we’d only get along with clones of ourselves, and where’s the fun in that?

However, it can be important to at least know where your values and views match and where they differ.

Perhaps the most helpful lesson that can emerge out of the ashes of a broken relationship is the understanding of what a gift it is to have a great relationship. That experience and perspective can help you recognize, appreciate, and nurture a harmonious relationship when you do have one.

Have you experienced any benefits that emerged out of the ashes of a broken relationship?

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