Boundaries After A Break-up
Editor’s Note: I am consistently in awe of the grace and wisdom found in this community of women. Break-ups are some of the most painful experiences in our lives, and today, Megan writes on handling the aftermath. Megan Odegaard has an M.A. in Marital & Family Therapy from Bethel Seminary, San Diego. She is currently on staff at UCLA. You can follow her on Twitter: @meggo310. And sidenote? We have a question for you. – Lauren
“It’s called a break-up because it’s broken.” Greg Behrendt
“Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” Henry Wadswoth Longfellow
What does the word “break-up” stir up in you?
For me, it is the state of being in which emotions are raw to the core. Usually consisting of large amounts of shock, frustration, anger, and devastation. The person you thought you were going to have a beautiful life with is perhaps suddenly gone from your world. Or maybe you spent years trying to fix a problem and came up completely empty.
One thing seems universal following a break-up: You can’t help but crave that closeness again.
So what do we do? Maybe we use our circumstances to try to have a “chance” meeting. Or come up with a hundred reasons why texting or calling is a GREAT idea. At some point, we will probably resort to cyber-stalking (don’t even try to deny it!)
These things we do are an attempt to block us from the pain brought on by the loss of the relationship. The question always is looming: how long can we continue contact — and lessen the feeling of “loss” — before we have to create a boundary?
In this society of prolific communication, we can stay connected to people we perhaps shouldn’t. I mean, there are an infinite number of decisions – Do I delete this person from my Facebook, Twitter, G-Chat, YouTube, Instagram, Blogger and Tumblr accounts? And what about his mom and sister and best friend that I am also connected to?
One thing is clear — Breaking up is not so black-and-white these days. The boundaries can be very blurry.
I know for me, I have to do whatever it takes to disconnect myself from the comfort and security of connection with that person. Sometimes that means not talking for a long time or seeking out some new habits and friendships. Sometimes it means turning off facebook for awhile (because even if you delete the ex from your account… you still have 76 mutual friends that post about stuff involving the ex… ). It can turn into a daunting task.
I dated a guy once who happened to live next door. Which was amazing while we were together. Following the break-up, communication was pretty much severed. But there was a point when I realized that I took comfort in knowing every night when I came home, he was next door. Even though we weren’t really on speaking terms, and even though we both started to casually date other people, I still took comfort in his unspoken presence.
It took me almost a year to face the hard reality – Although it was easing the pain, if I ever really wanted to move on with my life, I would have to physically move apartments. Which was not ideal, because our place was great and cheap. (And I had lived there first. Not fair!) But after moving, I was instantly free from that final touch of emotional connection, and that feeling was priceless. Now having experienced some of the best years in my new place (and even successfully finding new love), I wonder what the heck took me so long.
The truth is — the longer you hold on, the longer you may be missing out on the blessings God has for you. You wouldn’t go back to a job you’d been fired from would you? (“But I really loved my job!”) And yet we find ourselves continually investing mental energy in relationships that aren’t right for us, whatever the reason may be. In one way, it could be seen as an admirable quality of perseverance. However, when it is over – truly over – no amount of negotiation, promise to change, or willpower to try harder can make something work that doesn’t. It is time to free yourself in order to be able to receive God’s best for you.
Which leads me to the next hard question – when do you have hope and when do you move on?
I wish I could answer that question for you, but I can only tell you this for certain. Knowing your identity makes all the difference in how you respond to a break-up.
What (or who) do you put your hope in? Do you seek comfort from past loves because it is easy, to assuage your own doubts of your worth? To calm your own fears of the future? Or do you embrace your calling as God’s child and trust that God is sovereign and has your best interest, even in (and especially in) this break-up?
I believe a break-up is one way God calls his children back to him. Relationships are very tangible sources of security and comfort. However, when you get so comfortable you start overlooking God’s will for your life, and what is best for you, it is possible to make a wrong turn.
“Much of the disappointment and heartache we experience is the result of our attempts to get something from relationships that we already have in Christ,” Timothy Lane & Paul David Tripp write in their book, Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. They go on to say (paraphrasing): If we seek our identity from other people, we will ride the roller coaster of their best and worst moments; we will become acutely aware of their weaknesses and failures; we will become overly critical, frustrated, disappointed, hopeless and angry because they have failed to deliver the identity we desperately seek.
However, if we remember that we are a beloved child of God, and that he has given us everything we need to be who he created us to be – we are freed up to truly love and serve others. We are free to be patient and forgiving, because we are not demanding anything in return. And we are free to mourn the loss of something special, appreciate it for the gift it was, and move on to better things for us.
So, in the face of a break-up, it is okay to be hurt, angry, and disappointed. It is okay to feel the looming pain of loss. But the sooner we embrace the appropriate boundary toward healing, the better. Even if the boundary is temporary. Even if we try one thing and have to change it. It is important to take a step away from communication for awhile and gain comfort in something besides that person. Do something you have always wanted to do, just for yourself. Take time with some great friends. Try a yoga class. Sign up for a marathon. Most importantly, seek God. It is in this place that you will find true healing, comfort and wisdom even in the midst of the most confusing relationships.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask of God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. – James 1:5
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