By Carmen and Dr Lim Poh Ann
As the credits roll, hero and heroine ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Hollywood often feeds us with scenarios of unending bliss, the ideal we dream of in our relationships.
But any relationship can turn sour. When our love interest suddenly drops a bombshell, our hopes are shattered. Our ‘forever in love’ dream has turned overnight into a nightmare. No more Valentines or anniversaries to celebrate. Broken, dejected, bitter, angry and alone, we become wounded people.
Now let’s explore different break-up scenarios below.
Pei Gin’s case: Wedding bells which fail to ring
“So, when can I hear the wedding bells? I am looking forward to your big day,” Sashir enthused over the phone, eager to see Pei Gin in her wedding gown.
“Sashir…it’s all over. He’s just not that into me anymore,” Pei Gin answered with a heavy heart.
Everyone who was anticipating this wedding expressed shock and dismay. After all, Keith and Pei Gin seemed to complement each other so well. Like a match made in heaven, they said.
Lily’s case: Missing out on Mr. Nice Guy and Mr. Right
It was an intermittent long-distance relationship. Two hearts smitten by the love bug found it easy to endure tiring long-haul flights.
Joe was a terrific guy who just knew how to make Lily laugh. But she couldn’t see their future together. Joe was more like a Mr. Nice Guy but not her Mr. Right. It was difficult to end their two-year-old relationship. But she knew the longer they kept it going, the deeper the hurt will be eventually. So she decided to break up.
After that gloomy September, Lily met Caleb through a mutual friend. They started dating but after nine months, Caleb dropped a bombshell. She later discovered that her best friend had charmed and lured him away from her. Lily’s heart was torn because he had fitted her Mr. Right’s criteria.
Will time heal these wounds? Is it possible to live without his or her love? Can those who are hurt remain positive, upbeat and move on in life?
Virginia Satir, a renowned author and psychotherapist once wrote, “Life is not the way it is supposed to be. It is the way it is.” And very often, life is made of hurtful realities.
Thus, the first step towards emotional healing is to accept reality. Pei Gin had to accept the fact that her partner could no longer see them together as an item. Life still has to go on with or without Keith, she told herself.
Hiding behind a calm façade and cheering herself up through movies and parties did little to assuage her wounded psyche.
By accepting reality, Pei Gin could then open her heart to other potential men at her workplace, social and church circles. There are many “fishes” swimming out there in a sea of exciting possibilities. It’s not the end of the world. Probably, she and Keith are better off as good friends than being a couple.
Managing your emotions
Bitter against her best friend who snatched her lover away, Lily easily succumbed to fits of rage.
But she realised she must overcome these reckless emotions before they controlled her. The root of bitterness must be dealt with as it hindered her relationship with others (Hebrews 12:15).
Lily not only asked God to help her to forgive but also sought to reconcile with her best friend (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Whenever bitterness welled up within her, she would pause to catch her breath; and then she focused her thoughts on the things which were pure and honourable (Philippians 4:8).
Our Choices Matter
As time passed, both Pei Gin and Lily learned that the pain of failed relationships will destroy them if they did nothing about it.
The world will not stop for their misery. Eugene O Neill, a playwright, once wrote: “Man is born broken. He lives by mending. Grace is the glue.”
God gives us the capacity to choose. Our choices will determine the outcome. If we choose to be like flotsam in the sea of sadness, we will end up feeling miserable. However, if we choose to remain positive, we will gravitate towards joy and wisdom, and become the person God intends us to be.
Gradually, Pei Gin and Lily worked through the pain. They came to apprehend that it was easier to break up before marriage than to deal with an acrimonious divorce later.
Ultimately, it is our attitude that will make or break us, not what has happened to us. We cannot change the past. We can never predict the future. But there is one thing we can do: choose to adopt the right attitude as we live in the present.
“Everything can be taken from a man but the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way.”
(Victor Frankl, famous psychiatrist and author of Man's Search for Meaning)
By adopting the right attitude, Victor Frankl managed to overcome despair in the harsh Nazi concentration camps. He argued that man’s experience of a happy life depended on his ability to create meaning in his life.
Alone is not lonely
After the break-up, Pei Gin and Lily had plenty of alone times. Initially, they missed that special someone with whom they could dine, walk or watch the flicks together. But it was in these moments of solitude that they could spend more time on the 3P’s - pause, ponder and pray. Pause and think about life lessons. Ponder on their future plans. Pray to overcome their heartaches by God’s grace and strength.
In fact, Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16). Being alone can be positive. We can enjoy many things even when we’re alone. Some of us like lazing around on a balmy Saturday afternoons alone with a good book and a cuppa. Aloneness is unlike loneliness when we feel down and out.
The 7S’s Strategies
Successive disappointing relationships have enabled Lily to draw out some strategies to manage heartache. It’s called the 7S’s strategies.
1. Stop thinking about the past and live life anew.
2. Seek God earnestly in prayer and devotion.
3. Speak to trustworthy friends.
4. Serve in areas where you can contribute, especially in voluntary work.
5. Smile more and expect the world to smile back at you (you’ll never know when that smile might meet his wink and approving eyes).
6. Sleep well to enhance your mood and complexion.
7. Show love to the needy--you’ll never know how much you can brighten someone else’s day.
God’s grace is sufficient for us. It is when we are weak that His strength is manifested in us (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
So do not cling on to despair. As Helen Keller puts it: “Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”