EDITOR'S NOTE: He Said-She Said is a monthly advice column featuring a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: My question is to help anyone, born again and followers of Christ, who are in a similar situation as this. How should we deal with heartbreak? How do you get over the other person when there is a disadvantage that you see that person every so often (such as church or work), and you cannot escape?
HE SAID: Heartbreak is difficult and not something that is easily “gotten over,” nor should it necessarily be.
Many of us spend years searching for our lifelong spouse and once we (think we) locate “that” person, we open our heart and lives in an attempt to love and be loved. When our feelings are not reciprocated in the way we hope or want, we are heartbroken and need to take a period to heal, in our own time and in our own way.
What I have discovered through “trial and error” (a.k.a. dating) is most relationships don’t work out (surprise!), and it would be beneficial for us to learn from and learn how to manage break-ups since we may encounter them again.
For many of us, it is a day to day journey of struggle, heartache, emotions and growth. Some journeys will be easier than others and some may last longer than others (oftentimes depending upon which side of the break-up you are on). However, your journey can and will lead to peace if you refrain from holding onto bitterness, spite, envy, jealousy and anger against your former “interest.”
Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37).
We may “think” we are hurting someone by having ill feelings toward them. In reality, we are only hurting ourselves by delaying our grieving, healing, forgiving and growing process. We shouldn’t be acting or reacting like those of the world (and as we see on television reality shows), but rather living according to the instructions the Lord gives us in his Word.
The three most important things to have are faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
This passage comes from the end of the “marriage chapter” (where many marriage vows originate), and probably isn’t frequented much after a break-up. However, we are told the most important things to have are faith, hope and love, of which love is the greatest.
This doesn’t just apply to those getting married, but is also wise counsel in every situation (even heartbreaking ones), for those desiring to be married.
Have faith God has plans for you to prosper and not harm you (Jeremiah 29:11).
You may never know or understand why the break-up happened; however, God may be protecting you from this person, He may want you all to himself at this time or he may have someone better suited for you. Whatever the reason, God knows our beginning, the middle and the end and truly wants the best for us, as our Father. Have the faith to recognize it, believe it and live it.
Place your hope in God and his Spirit, not in someone else (Romans 5:5).
It may be difficult to do at times, but placing your hope in a perfect God is a better decision than giving your life to a fallible human. God continually shows this to be true in ways we can’t even fathom and hope placed in him does not disappoint. I’m not sure we can say the same about others, or ourselves.
Show love for everyone (including your “ex”) (Matthew 5:43).
Love in today’s society seems to be so fleeting and have no basis at times. The love God teaches us is neither selfish nor affected by emotions or situation, but rather loves through all things, including trials, faults and disappointments.
I have had my share of heartbreaks, but I can honestly say when all was said and done, I truly wanted what was best for the other person and I was able to pray she would find love and happiness apart from me. That is when I knew I had a grasp of what Jesus meant with regard to unconditional love.
The most difficult part, as you have mentioned, is to see your former interest around work or at church, especially if he or she is with someone else. However, when you reach that point in your healing and forgiveness process when you will want the other person to be happy even if it doesn’t include you, you will find a peace that really does transcend all (human) understanding.
This isn’t an easy process, it will take time and there is no perfect “formula,” but it all begins with releasing any negative feelings you have toward your former partner, forgiving them for whatever wrong they may have done, asking the Lord to heal you of your hurt and pain and holding onto hope, faith and love.
When the next opportunity comes around, and there will be more, you will be better equipped to handle whatever that situation holds.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalms 34:18).
SHE SAID: Maybe it’s because I came of age in the ‘80s, but Def Leppard’s “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” kept ringing in my ears the first time I read through your question. Now that has nothing to do with my answer right now. But hey, it’s a catchy intro. And it’s honest, right?
Moving on …
I remember dealing with heartbreak back in high school when a summer romance ended abruptly before the school year started back up again. It was a mutual split, but it was right before my senior year was to begin. Once school started, the boy I had dated was now “big man on campus,” as most senior males might feel as they proudly strut along the school hallways during their last year in high school. [Insert “fun” teenage eye-roll here.]
Thankfully, we didn’t have any classes together. But I would see him in passing from time to time and would hear of what new girls he was dating and what not. Yes, I was cordial and would offer a perfunctory “hello” when we crossed paths. But I also wasn’t looking for opportunities to spend extra time around him or have in-depth conversations any time soon. There was still pain lurking in my heart as a result of the break-up, and I was still healing.
Fast forward to adulthood, and I have to say that I haven’t had to be in a situation like you are describing (either a break-up with someone from a workplace setting or at a church) in a long time. But, in remembering my high school break-up, I can only imagine that it would be awkward in a setting where you could routinely bump into one another and even more so if there is still interest for one of the parties involved.
As you know, a close relationship (whether romantic or platonic) knits two people together, through time spent together, through thoughts, feelings and dreams shared via interpersonal communication and through a whole host of experiences that two may share as they do life together. Add in two people who are believers and share a strong spiritual connection, and that can give it an even deeper dimension (1 John 1:7).
So when there is a break in this type of relationship, there is always some pain associated with the tearing away of what was once bonded so closely. It’s inevitable. But I think the key is what you do with that pain in dealing with heartbreak. Do you allow it to cause you to act out and treat the other person unkindly or view him or her with utter disdain? No. Or do you stuff it away and deny that there is anything hurtful that happens to you emotionally any time you are around this person? Again, no.
Okay. So then what? Get as far away as possible, say maybe Timbuktu? Well, perhaps.
But, seriously, you must first acknowledge that this person is still your “neighbor.” So you must love him or her as yourself (Mark 12:31). I don’t think that means you go out of your way to spend time with them like you used to and try to renew the once-strong ties. But you can still be kind and loving and affirming from a healthy distance (even if you work together or go to church together).
And so I recommend first starting with prayer. We are instructed to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Now you may not view this person as an enemy, but you’re certainly not bosom buddies any longer and there is definitely a wall between you now, right? It’s a new boundary that has been erected between you as a result of the break-up, and it is emotional protection for the both of you.
Why not pray for this person as you would pray for yourself? No matter who initiated the break-up (or even if it was mutual), there is brokenness involved. And that means healing must happen for both parties.
Lord, I lift up ______ to you today. I pray that you will bring healing to _____ and use this break-up to bring _____ closer to you and glorify your name. You make all things work together for good, and I know you will do so in _______’s life as well as in mine.
Now, praying like that is easier said than done, isn’t it? Especially if you’ve experienced a painful break-up and there is anger or bitterness involved. But in order for God to heal you and work in your heart, it must be softened and it must be pliable and ready to be moved. Thus, praying for this person—as difficult as it may be at first—will help in your healing process and give you new focus (perhaps as God sees it?) in your post break-up situation.
May I also recommend that you talk with someone about how you’re feeling right now? At least for women, it is such a relief to get some of the thoughts and fears and concerns out of our heads and into the open (Galatians 6:2). Speaking aloud what you are feeling doesn’t necessarily wipe away the pain, but it can be helpful in finding the proper place for those feelings in your life going forward (they don’t have to control you or consume you). Usually moms or grandmothers or women who are friends (meaning no romantic ties whatsoever, so for men I don’t recommend confiding in someone you are romantically attracted to for this kind of a conversation … find a female who is “safe” and will be a calm and soothing presence) are great resources. Most women love to help someone else process or just listen to whatever it is that needs to be shared by someone who is hurting. I’m sure you’re already thinking of someone you know right now who could be very helpful in this regard, and perhaps she can shed some new light on your break-up or help you see the person you once dated as someone who may also be hurting and in need of healing, too.
Finally, I’d recommend giving yourself time to be alone before you jump into another relationship—and especially if you’re thinking of rebounding with someone at your workplace or your church. Have you had enough time to heal? Have you been able to hear from the Lord as to what he is trying to teach you in this moment? Or are you looking for anyone close by you can date just to make yourself feel better when you’re around the person you were dating?
Check your motives first. And don’t date someone at your workplace or church just to rub it in the face of the person you were dating. Beyond being unkind, that’s just deceitful. Hurt people hurt people. So make sure your “hurt” is dealt with appropriately and adequately before heading off in search of the next relationship.
As you heal, as you process and as you move forward, remember that God is still here in the midst of it all. He sees, he knows, he hears. And he wants to work in you in a mighty and miraculous way during all of life's circumstances and seasons—including right now as you work through the aftermath of heartbreak (Romans 8:28).
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the twenty-first century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that this column will be an encouragement to you.