One of the (if not THE) most prominent reasons I hear from people about why they’ve stopped dating, or approach it with brutal skepticism, is that they have been hurt so much in the past that they simply do not trust people anymore – or trust that finding happiness is even a possibility.
The problem with this mindset, as one can imagine, is that it leads to a path of self-sabotage and self-fulfilling prophecies. We either stop putting ourselves out there in the first place, which reinforces our idea that it’s impossible to meet people (save the fact that we’re doing nothing to meet them…), or, we look for every single tiny thing that could pose an issue down the road, and call it a dealbreaker.
Defense mechanisms to avoid the pain of heartbreak.
What’s required here is self-reflection and a shift in perspective that can keep you moving forward through life’s changes and challenges. Here are five ways to go about this:
Research how your brain’s chemistry works
I’m going to suck the romance out of dating for a second, and hit you with the factual reality that love and feelings are results of changes in your brain chemistry that directly affect your emotions. A surge in dopamine levels, for example, help you feel affection and a strong bond to the person that you’re dating.
Here’s the rub – when you understand scientifically what’s happening inside of your brain, it helps you keep your perspective when being flooded with chemical releases (literally). You can pause and say to yourself: “I know what’s happening here, and therefore I can better navigate the waters because I’m not getting lost in the storm.”
Continue to enjoy the feeling and enjoy the ride – but this mindset will allow you to keep your head about you when making lifestyle choices that affect your long-term path, when you’ve only just met someone that has your chemistry running wild.
As the old saying goes: Follow your heart, but take your brain with you.
Build a sturdy foundation for your own life
Not only is this a recurring theme in my writing, it’s the the very foundation for an entire book that I wrote.
Picture the difference between a floating buoy in the water, and an anchor. When a storm hits (let’s say, a chemical storm of dopamine), how will the two different objects be affected?
The buoy will be thrown around and left at the mercy of the storm. It may find itself in a completely different part of the ocean and have no choice but to follow the tides. Someone whose life is completely dependent on the path of their significant other, or their relationship, will find themselves in this position.
We must anchor ourselves in our own life before we enter into a relationship, because this is the only way to remain sturdy and steadfast in our path. Yes, we need to compromise. Yes, we need to be flexible. Yes, we need to grow and evolve as we progress in life – but a complete upheaval of our existence for another person puts our emotional well-being in jeopardy, as we trust another person with it.
Not every relationship is going to work out, and if you’re the buoy, a breakup will leave you lost and confused. But, if you’re the anchor, you will float back to your position after being shaken up a bit, and have a much easier time readjusting.
Don’t avoid feelings, embrace them
Too many people walk around with apathy on their chest as a badge of honor. Our society is teaching us that strength means to stop caring about other people. We are flooded with posts on social media about people who are “done” or “not trying anymore” or are “just doing me”…and we are supposed to believe this is actually positive?
The only thing being accomplished by pretending like we don’t have feelings or emotions, is a loss of identity, compassion, and community.
If you want to minimize your risk of heartbreak, you need to feel more, not less. Why? Because it’s going to allow you to learn about yourself more – to keep feelings in perspective – to understand how to best handle disappointment and challenges based on who you are as a person.
If you close your eyes when you walk into the woods, it doesn’t change the fact that you still end up deep into the woods. The only thing that changes is that when you open your eyes, you won’t have any idea how to get back out again. Embracing and feeling the good and bad in life will help you develop into a person that can handle it all more effectively.
Be completely honest with yourself from the beginning
How many times have you entered into a relationship with the sneaking feeling that maybe…just maybe…this person wasn’t exactly right for you?
I have heard it a million times: People ignore red flags and warning signs because continuing on their current path is easier than breaking it off and starting over. The problem with that, though, is some of these small things eventually become big things, and the relationship ends anyway. Only now, it happened after a year instead of a month, and the pain is much more intense and drawn out.
Do not get into a relationship simply for the sake of being in one – there are plenty of happy single people, and plenty of lonely taken people. Your relationship status does not dictate your level of happiness. Another reason why I wrote Unlocking Love: To emphasize the importance of being happy and fulfilled in life, regardless of your relationship status.
If you can see that things aren’t right early on – you have the ability (and responsibility) to be open and honest about it before either of you waste too much time. In the long run, it’s better for you both.
Keep things in perspective
Last, but certainly not least – the importance of keeping your circumstances in perspective. Odds are, the breakup you’re going through, is not your first. The person who disappointed you, is not the only one. The pain you’re feeling, is familiar. But – you have a 100% success rate of getting through your hard times.
You found someone you clicked with once, twice, three times – or more – it will happen again. Life may remove people from your circles, but it also adds new ones, and often we forget this.
We forget this because we are lost in our emotions and feel like the world is crumbling around us; but it’s not. A relationship may end, the path we thought our life was on may come to a screeching halt, but we can and will find happiness again.
You need to stay strong during your low points so you can fully embrace and appreciate your high points. You need to find a balance in your own life of enjoying the present, but understanding that the decisions you make now, affect the world you wake up in tomorrow.
The ways our brains function and the dynamics of human relationships are perhaps the two most important things that we can take into consideration when creating happiness in our own lives, yet, we spend so little time learning about it. We aren’t taught how to pursue happiness in school, or how to build inter-personal relationships with each other, or how to recover after a disappointment or a breakup.
Life is a constant fluctuation of shifting circumstances that swirl around you on a daily basis. If we want to create and maintain happiness in the storm; we’ve got to be the anchor.