6 Opportunities You Gain by Going Through a Breakup
Breakups are hard. It doesn’t matter if ending it was the right choice, if the split was a long time coming, or if you’ve lost a friend instead of a romantic partner— whatever the details, cutting your connection to another person feels bad.
This, in itself, is not news. Because breaking up is such a universal experience, the stories around it never get old. As a society, we’ve obsessed over vulnerable breakup songs and gotten lost in the on-screen sagas of broken-hearted protagonists. We’ve even created standard rituals for grieving our former partners, including drunken nights out with friends and sobbing into tubs of ice cream.
In the midst of a breakup, it’s hard to see anything beyond the loss. Grieving is painful, and every action seems to trigger the memory of a relationship that doesn’t exist anymore. But, even in the worst endings, there are flashes of hope. Because here’s the thing: breakups clear the way for Future You. Each step along the path to healing helps you grow stronger, wiser, and happier. In that sense, breaking up gives us six valuable gifts:
- A moment to reflect
If a relationship ends because of a character flaw on your part, consider it a flashing neon sign begging you to look inward. When I was 20, my best friend of 5 years told me that I didn’t ask about her life and her struggles enough. She explained that when we talked, I was self-centered and judgmental. As she shared her frustration, I realized that she was right: I had become a subpar friend in the years since we’d moved apart. I made a conscious effort to work on myself after that and, while it was too late to save that particular friendship, I made sure that issue never cost me another relationship.
- A chance to birth your awesomeness
On the flip side, you might realize that without someone else monopolizing your time and energy, you are suddenly able to embrace your best self. One of my ex-girlfriends was a little clingy — she’d text me all through the work day and show up announced once I was home from work. When we finally ended things, I found time to take business classes and join a dance studio. I spent months crying over her, but when I finally dried my eyes, I found a freedom that I hadn’t even known I was missing.
- Experience to inform what you’re looking for
The end of a relationship is the perfect time to ask yourself, What do I want in a partner (or friend)? Because you’ve just come out of something that didn’t work, you have fresh insight to what should be different next time. Do you need more attention? Better communication? One of my friends realized a pattern after a series of failed relationships and found that she wanted to move into a non-monogamous dating model. That insight became her guiding star as she continued dating. She’s now happily married to someone who gets her values and needs.
- Space to start fresh
Digging deeper into patterns, if you see a theme in why your relationships end, it can spark a huge overhaul. My therapist recently helped me see that many of my friendships from my early 20s crumbled as I grew older because I hadn’t built them on the right foundations. So now I’m making an effort to prioritize different values in my friendships, which means at 33, I’m learning how to make friends all over again.
One of the most amazing things about breakups is that almost all of us have been through them. In that sense you’re never alone: someone else will always understand how you feel. A few years back, a friend of mine broke up with her girlfriend in the same week that my own relationship ended. The two of us grew close as we experienced all of the stages of grief in tandem, and then we stayed close as we jumped back into the dating pool. While I would never want to go through that breakup again, I am grateful that it created an opportunity for a good friendship to become an amazing one.
- A new creative depth
There’s no question that heartache fuels artists: Marina Abramović and Ulay, Adele, Sylvia Plath, and Fleetwood Mac all created masterpieces because of painful breakups. No matter the medium, heartbreak creates a well of deep creativity that allows artists to continue finding new ways to explore an age-old topic. Some of my most popular writing comes from the vulnerability and honesty of examining how my own relationships ended. I find that breakups create a well of emotions that I can tap into if I’m just willing to go deep enough.
It’s true that something significant is lost when a relationship ends, but it’s important to acknowledge that when it’s all said and done, there’s usually a net gain. When I look back on all of my failed friendships and romantic relationships, I see that I grew through each of them. That growth has given me the skills necessary to blossom into the best version of myself and build healthy, long lasting relationships. Thanks to my previous breakups, I know that should all of my current relationships end, I’d come out okay on the other side. And, in the same situation, so would you. 🖤