When Love Hurts

When a couple breaks up, there’s always a lot of accompanying pain. It’s essential for both partners to give into the pain. Some people try to avoid the pain through accusations or laying blame. Who’s to blame? Am I to blame? Is he or she to blame? Behind such accusations or attempts to assign the guilt lies a fantasy that it could’ve been other than it was. Or even, perhaps, that it could be turned around. Life flows forward, not backward.
— Bert Hellinger

A dear friend of mine recently recommended that I listen to Lea Thau's "Love Hurts" podcast series. I had a mini-roadtrip, so I played all 6 episodes (there's a 4-part series, then an anniversary episode, and a follow-up) along the drive from LA to San Diego last weekend. Through interviewing men she had dated, Lea was able to gain an additional sense of closure. From my perspective, this journey allowed her to lay parts of the past to rest, and heal some residual pain and heartache, which then allowed her to open her heart up again, in a different way, for love.

There's something humbling and empowering about realizing something you may have taken very personally, really had little to do with you. While there are plenty of things that can turn us off to a person, if someone breaks up with you, they're most likely doing you a favor. I say this because, at the end of the day, fighting for someone who's decided they can't or do not want to be with you, typically only leads to more heartbreak.

Not to reveal too many spoilers, but to share some of Lea's story...her last significant relationship was with her fiancé who left her when she was 8 months pregnant. As you can imagine, that would be quite a traumatic experience to come back from. She was single for 4 years after that, and then decided to create a series to investigate why she was still single. So naturally, she decided to interview her exes and ask them. Throughout the process, she asks some tough questions, and in my opinion, is able to realize that someone not wanting to date her wasn't necessarily because something was wrong with her. Most of the time, it came down to timing, location, and intensity of emotions, or lack thereof. I'd also argue that there's an intangible chemistry that may or may not have a reason for existing, but we want, or even need, it to be there in order to feel excited about someone. 

The older I get, and the more experience I have coaching individuals and couples, I continue to gain appreciation for the complexity beneath why we do what we do. Then, there's why we THINK we do what we do. It's part of the magic...there's always more to discover.

From a professional perspective, there are two points I'd like to address when love hurts:

  • What is my pain trying to tell me?
  • Where do I go when I'm in pain?

Pain is one of the strongest emotions we experience as human beings. It varies in severity, of course, and can also serve as in indicator of something we need to pay attention to. The difference between pain being an informant and motivator OR the beginning of our demise is whether we decide to grow from our pain, or empower it to cripple us.

I met a gentleman earlier this week who shared with me his experience handling his divorce. When he moved out of their family home, he established himself in his new place, and gave himself 90 days to acknowledge, sit in, and be in the grieving process. He made a promise to himself that he could be where ever he needed to for the next three months, but on the 15th of X month, he would be finished, and lay his grief to rest.

I asked him what made him decide to do that, to which he mentioned how he saw other guys he knew who, post divorce, would get wrapped up in constant partying, and destructive patterns. He saw a possible outcome, and knew he didn't want that to happen to him.

This man acknowledged and listened to his pain, and allowed a space for it to exist. He saw the detriment of other guys who avoided and attempted to numb out the pain, which unfortunately, is momentarily effective, at best, and devastating, at worse. It will feel nearly impossible at the time, and there will be days when you may question your ability to survive, but many have come before you with broken hearts, shattered lives, and have too, picked up the pieces, and perhaps have even become better because of it. How do you listen to your pain, and how do you let it define you?

Our pain also can allow us to receive great insight into who we are and how we feel about ourselves, others, and the world. If you're seeking a different experience, then looking at these beliefs will be crucial to doing so. It doesn't have to be some dramatic epiphany, but one way or another, it's part of the process. How long it takes, however, is greatly up to you.

I find transformational coaching can be particularly effective in moving through heartbreak because it focuses on taking a look at the meaning we derive from experiences we have. I've worked with enough clients to know that we can be in the same room, same family, same relationship; however, the same experience or context can mean very different things for each observer or participant. The good news is, with understanding and curiosity, we can shape we meaning we give something, and that gives us power to craft who we are, and the way we live our lives.

One of the fundamental frameworks of transformational coaching is to shift from “Why did this happen?” to “What happened, and what did I make it mean?”

Sometimes it's hard to do on our own, so that's one of the reasons the transformational coaching process can be uniquely effective in supporting individuals in healthy relationships. If we can learn and understand rather than repeatedly experience communication breakdown during conflict, we can begin to trust our ability to safeguard the quality of our connection, and health of our relationship.

When you look back (or maybe you're in it right now), is it possible to see that your pain has been a catalyst for creating something in your life that you value now, but may not have experienced otherwise? How has it prompted you to look at something, or someone differently, perhaps with more compassion, or for the better?

Remember this - there's always a choice, and the choice is yours:

Will I allow this to shut down or expand my capacity for love?

I'd love to hear from you. How have you overcome heartbreak? What served as your light at the end of the tunnel? Head over to our Facebook page, and share your story. 

If you'd like to check out the Strangers' "Love Hurts" series, you can listen to the episodes here: