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Gay Breakups: When the Rainbow Ends

Introduction

“It just hit me out of the blue when Mike left me. We hadn’t really been together all that long, but I thought I’d finally found my true soul mate. Now it’s over and I feel totally rejected, like nobody’s ever going to want me again. It’s so hard finding a decent guy and now I have to start all over again; I don’t know if I can. I feel like a failure at relationships. I just don’t know what to do.” –Eric

“Steve and I broke up after eight years together. The house feels so empty without him and the pain can be so unbearable at times. The loneliness is the worst part for me and it’s like there’s this big hole inside of me, this nagging hurt that won’t go away. I think about him all the time and wonder if I’m ever going to get over him. I’ve never felt more alone and confused in my life.” –Josh

The ending of a relationship, for whatever reason, can be one of the most painful experiences that we can go through. Having made ourselves vulnerable by opening our hearts to another and loving him to the fullest capacity almost feels spiritual; now it’s been replaced with a crushing sense of loss and emptiness that feels quite devastating. The length of time together, the quality of the relationship, and the level of emotional investment in it all determine the intensity of the grief experienced when you and your lover part ways.

This article will explore the grieving process involved with relationship breakups and offer tips and strategies for facilitating your grief to move you toward healing so you can start your life over on better footing.

The Grieving Experience

The experience of breaking up with a boyfriend or partner can be likened to a death, with layer upon layer of losses resulting. Not only is his absent physical presence felt as a loss, but other losses like hopes, dreams, expectations, identity, security, and trust compound and complicate your adjustment. Life as you know it has been shaken and your vision for your future has been altered. You experience a roller-coaster of emotions. It’s common to feel rejected, abandoned, insecure, powerless, and hopeless. Confusion and feeling a sense of failure and regret are common, as well as varying degrees of anger, depression, and guilt. You might even become preoccupied with your ex-lover, obsessing about him and thinking constantly about your life together and what he might be doing now.

In her book, “Healing A Broken Heart”(1997), Nancy Joy Carroll, ED.D outlines four stages of relationship loss that are common in the aftermath of a breakup. They include the following:

Stage 1: Shock & Denial: This usually occurs immediately after the split-up. You might feel numb, believe that this can’t be happening and minimize the reality of the situation. You feel sad, angry, confused, and might blame yourself.

Stage 2: Despair: You begin to see that the ending is inevitable and experience profound sadness, loneliness, depression, and impaired concentration. You might try to bargain with your partner to try to convince him to give the relationship another chance. You idealize your partner. You feel unlovable, wondering if you can make it on your own, and feel a loss of identity.

Stage 3: Detachment: Anger becomes more pronounced and you begin to hold your partner more responsible for the relationship split. This stage is particularly helpful as your anger helps to create some distance for you from him and you’re not as enmeshed.

Stage 4: Recovery: In this final stage, you come to an acceptance of the loss and learn to “let go”, redefining yourself as a single man again and feel more empowered to cultivate new experiences and opportunities for personal growth.

Tips Along the Grief Path

You are going through a major shift in your identity. Be patient and kind with yourself as you journey through the grieving process. Keep these tips in mind as you forage through the pain you’re experiencing to prevent any blocks or impediments along the path of healing. It can be a rocky road, but staying focused and conscious will promote a smoother and more successful transition to the “new you.”

Additional Healing Tips & Strategies

Conclusion

Breaking up is hard to do, as an old song once put it. Realize that your pain is a tribute to the significance that this relationship held for you and that you are a survivor. How you choose to deal with the breakup will impact the direction of your life and how soon you will be able to rebuild your life. Identify healthy outlets that you can channel your feelings toward, pinpoint potential blocks that could get in the way of your healing process, and allow yourself to be open to love again when you’re ready. A new beginning with opportunity and possibility awaits you on the other side of the rainbow.

Reference: Carroll, Nancy Joy. Healing A Broken Heart: A Recovery Handbook for Relationship Loss. Brentwood, TN: Life Skills Publications, 1997.

© 2005 Brian L. Rzepczynski

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Brian Rzepczynski, Certified Personal Life Coach, is The Gay Love Coach: “I work with gay men who are ready to create a road map that will lead them to find and build a lasting partnership with Mr. Right.” To sign up for the FREE Gay Love Coach Newsletter filled with dating and relationship tips and skills for gay singles and couples, as well as to check out current coaching groups, programs, and teleclasses, please visit www.TheGayLoveCoach.com.
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