It’s common for tons of questions to run through our heads in the aftermath of a breakup. The Who, What, Where, When, Why, and Hows can dominate our thoughts and create an almost catatonic effect if we let them. It’s possible that for the first week or two this is your mind/body’s way of telling you what it needs: Just a little bit of time to sit back, absorb the blow, and recharge. There’s certainly nothing wrong with taking a brief time-out. But if time continues to pass and nothing has changed, then it’s time to become more proactive.
Unfortunately, while it might seem productive, constantly asking ourselves questions is also one of the least effective strategies to feeling better. While we all have our own greatest hits list of break up questions, one of the most common is some version of “How did this happen?”
It’s almost as if we ask ourselves enough times we will eventually stumble upon the right answer, providing us with the relief we’ve been searching for — but we won’t. And, any sound breakup advice will state this fact. Monday morning quarterbacking doesn’t work in the NFL and it doesn’t work with a breakup. In fact, asking “How did this happen?” only makes us feel worse.
Because underneath each question is a statement. In general, the statement underneath “How did this happen?” is some version of “This should not have happened!” or “I didn’t want this to happen!.” The harsh reality is that it did happen. Continuing to ask yourself how it happened only serves as a distractor from reality. And, if you try to avoid or reject reality, you will always lose.
We don’t have to like it, but if we want to stop being zombies and rejoin the living, then our focus should be on working to accept, not approve, this loss. This shift in thinking will not take away the pain of a breakup (nothing in the immediate aftermath will), but it will help reduce the intensity.