Regret. Resentment. Bitterness. Frustration. Anger. Unfinished conversations. Unanswered questions. Unmet expectations. Emotional roller coasters. Constant reminders. The inability to move forward.
Any of those things ring true about one of your break ups? Put down the voodoo doll and the pins, you’re in good company.
Break ups are painful no matter who initiates them. They just are. But when the emotions linger? What then? How do you move on from the anger and resentment towards your ex? People talk about letting go and forgiving, but how do you do that–especially when you’re not always given the opportunity to have the last word? How do you stop dwelling on the million little ways you were hurt so you can heal and trust someone again?
SingleRoots Writers Say…
For wise counsel, we asked some of our SingleRoots alumni writers to weigh in on the matter. Here’s what they had to say:
“I never really thought I had a problem with forgiveness. After a lengthy on-again, off-again co-dependent relationship that should’ve ended long before either one of us had the gumption to do so, she broke up with me and started dating someone else pretty quickly. To say I struggled with my anger towards her was an understatement. I was angry about the things we said to each other when it ended and the things we didn’t say to each other along the way. I harbored a lot of resentment for a long time and tried to prove to myself that I was over her by going out on as many dates as possible. After I made several disrespectful comments about women, a buddy of mine sat me down and told me it was time to deal with my emotions–something a guy like me never welcomes. He suggested that I write her a long letter saying everything I had wished I’d said but didn’t, put it in an envelope, and once finished, I should bury it in my old journals. I thought it was a ridiculous idea at first, but finally one day, I saw a picture of her on Facebook and I seethed with anger, so I sat down and wrote it. It was extremely cathartic for me to process all of these emotions I’d tried to ignore or suppress. After four pages, I folded it up, placed it in an envelope, and stored it in a box of old journals. I then spent some time in prayer asking for forgiveness for not forgiving her. In the weeks that followed, I spent a lot of time in the Psalms–a book that’s great for praying through your emotions. Eventually, I realized the anger and resentment was replaced with truly hoping the best for her. I can only credit that to the Holy Spirit because my heart was so tainted and filled with anything but mercy towards her. Forgiveness is indeed supernatural, but in my experience, it comes from a heart that’s tired of being angry and bitter.”
:: John, author of Single Men in the Church: Absent Without Leave
“After a bitter breakup in my late twenties, I remember getting advice from a single friend about being resilient in relationships. When we are mired in the loss and grief of a relationship, we focus on what we wanted now and how that has escaped us. We fixate on how we’ve been wronged and hurt, rather than looking to why it needed to end and what good lies ahead. That ability to bounce back is resilience, and it is a key component to moving forward rather than backwards relationally. Another tip is to change your perspective by reading scripture and hanging out with happily single friends.”
:: Brooke Corcoran, author of What a Difference a Decade Makes: Thoughts on Waiting for Your Spouse
“I was bad about this. I kept text messages, pictures, notes, Facebook friendships, etc with the intention to reflect on the good times, but often ended up stoking the fire of resentment. Don’t do what I did. Remove those things from your life. Talk about it with one or two close friends whose intentions are to help you move past it, not wallow in anger or self-pity. Pray with them and pray daily about it for peace and to find fulfillment and delight in the Lord above all.”
:: W. Brandon Howard, author of What I Learned from Attending (Yet Another) Wedding
Explore the Topic Further…
For further discussion on how to move past previous relationships, check out these posts:
Honoring God While I Wait – “I got into a relationship about a year after I came to Christ, and the signs were already blaringly clear that it would not be a God-honoring one. Yet, I went ahead because I was desperate—desperate to be loved, to be pursued, to feel like I wasn’t invisible.”
Learning to Keep Moving While I Wait – “’No,’ she said. I was walking to class during the build-up to finals week. ‘I decided I’m not interested anymore. We should stay friends.’ I was walking to my car after a third ‘no,’ my only consolation the fact that the buildings around me looked nice and the coffee was pretty good. Three times I thought I was looking at a sure thing. Three times I was shown I wasn’t. And each time I was left wondering ‘Why?’ but also ‘When?’”
When You Feel Like You’re Moving Backwards Instead of Forward – “I thought I had built the framework for a dating relationship, only to see it fall apart piece by piece. Sometimes it feels like all that’s left to do is give up, get some brown burlap clothes, and find a nice hermit cave. You know the kind—the ones where the moss doesn’t fall off and you don’t find yourself with a grumpy bear as a roommate.”