After a breakup, cry your eyes out—but don’t forget these existential truths.
Six weeks after my relationship with “Liam” ended, I was still crying every day. I cried sitting in front of my morning bread basket, remembering what used to feel like to eat breakfast together. I cried while making lunch, yearning to have someone to cook for and share all of this delicious, wholesome food with. I cried looking up at the sky at night, reminiscing about all the nights we were in each other’s arms star-gazing. I cried driving home in the evening, wishing he was there waiting to cuddle with me.
But more than the crying, I found myself constantly troubled by these questions:
- Could there have been a different outcome for us?
- Is there a way to never feel this pain of separation again?
- How do I find the courage to open my heart after this?
These remained my inquiries for the following four months. It took me that long to get over the pain. But even during the worst of it, beneath my daily tears, I became aware of certain realities that would slowly come to comfort me.
- The nature of relationship is change. Every attempt to keep it fixed is futile.
We cannot force a relationship to stay the same any more than we can force clouds in the sky to remain in their current shape, or water in a river to stand still. Even when a couple has been together for years, the relationship itself will have evolved through many stages.
When two people come together, their relationship forms a third entity with an intelligence of its own. Just like a tree needing water, air, and sunlight to grow, a relationship needs attention, love, and commitment from both partners to flourish. We can nourish the relationship with our time and energy. We can nurture it by caring, making compromises, and expressing more of our best selves. But we cannot completely control the outcome.
Sometimes the innate intelligence of the relationship asserts that two people grow in two different directions. There was a point when I thought it was over for Liam and me, we’d already said our goodbyes and gone separate ways. But life pushed us back together once more; we met again and continued dating. That second chance makes me realize that if there are still things to be learned, the relationship will continue. And when all the lessons are done, we must move on. Life already has another plan.
- The value of a relationship isn’t measured by its length, but by whether it makes us more loving, wise, and courageous.
I now see relationships as an invitation for self-discovery, co-creation, and spiritual growth. Once a relationship has served its purpose, it still lives on but may take a different form. The couple may move into a deeper, more intimate phase, or become friends and colleagues instead of romantic partners.
Neither outcome is good nor bad. Once we understand the purpose of a relationship, we can be grateful for the opportunities it’s given us to grow. A relationship’s end does not mean it has failed. It does not mean anything is wrong. Sometimes, a completion simply means the relationship fulfilled its purpose and has now evolved to the next phase.
When we misunderstand this, breakups and separations become causes for suffering: We blame ourselves and our ex-partners, feel resentful, angry, or victimized. We then fear entering new relationships again. This is so unnecessary.
Though lasting only a few months, my relationship with Liam taught me what commitment really is and how important it is to me. I learned that commitment didn’t meant vowing to be exclusive over a long period of time, but instead promising to nurture and cultivate the relationship entity and give it as much priority as I gave my own needs.
Understanding the purpose of our relationship didn’t stop me from feeling sad for months. However, I knew our parting was the right thing to do. While our togetherness was beautiful and memorable, the breakup got us both more aligned with our truth and our fullest expressions.
- Separation is an illusion. We’re only separated on the surface.
The month after our breakup, I wrote Liam countless letters, most of which remained unsent. As I sat at my desk with tears rolling, I knew that the intelligence animating my brain and hands was also the energy that ran through the tree outside my window, the sap that carried nutrients to the tiniest leaves. It was the same energy that animated Liam, moved his arms and legs, powered his thoughts and actions, wherever he was in that moment.
I was never separated from him and never will be. There is only one energy. We are that energy. We can’t separate from it even if we tried.
Relationships may end, physical forms may change, but Love lives on. Attraction may come and go, feelings of connection may ebb and flow, just like waves on the surface of the ocean; but Love is the steady, unchanging ocean floor. Love is who we really are. When we are in a relationship, we serve as mirrors reflecting back to each other the Love that we truly are.
The love Liam and I felt in each other’s presence is still here, whether we’re physically together, broken up but still in touch, or never speak to each other again.
Even while mourning the ephemeral nature of the world of form, we can remember that Love always holds us. This gives us the emotional resilience we need to open our hearts, dive in, take risks, reveal ourselves.
What if we could understand who we truly are and get in touch with our innate emotional resilience? What is there to be afraid of? What would be possible for us?
No matter how uncomfortable, heart-rending, or desolate our feelings are in the moment, they always pass. Knowing this, I allowed myself to feel the depths of my sadness and to bawl my eyes out as often as I needed to. I had no idea when the pain would end, I had no control over the timing, but I knew with absolute certainty, “This too shall pass.” And it did.
One day, after all those months of crying, I happened to be on top of the highest mountain on a Japanese island. Before my eyes lay mountain ranges, clouds, low-lying islands, the ocean, cities, the vastness of the sky. In that moment, I felt the entire universe inside me. I realized I hadn’t been lacking anything. With or without Liam, I remained whole and complete. Nothing was missing.
Emily Nature helps smart people have joyful, delicious relationships with themselves and with others.