You Can Only Connect the Dots Looking Backwards

bestself divorce healing Mar 15, 2021

After a long-term relationship, you gain a powerful piece of perspective that would have been impossible to attain while you were in the thick of it.  Steve Jobs famously said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

The ability to start connecting the dots is one of the most powerful gifts you will have in your breakup or divorce.  Connecting the dots leads to greater self-awareness and decision making during your healing process. 

My boyfriend of almost two years moved out just over a week ago.  We broke up over seven weeks ago and it took him some time to find a new apartment and physically move.  I had several weeks to mentally adjust to the eventuality that I would live here alone, but I wasn’t able to fully process all of the important emotions until he actually left.

There’s this incredible gift we are able to tap into once the relationship has physically distanced.  I think we each need physical, emotional, and intellectual space for ourselves in order to truly tap into the perspective we’re able to find on the other side of a relationship’s end.  As I now look back on our relationship, I am able to see much more clearly the fundamental issues we had between us. 

For him and I, we have continued to remain friendly through this entire breakup process.  Neither of us cheated or deceived each other.  There wasn’t disrespect or extensive fighting between us.  We simply came to a point where we both realized that our values weren’t aligned for the long term and we want very different things in life.

Should we have known this from the very beginning?  Yes, probably. 

Do I regret spending even one minute with him in this relationship?  Absolutely not.

My perspective gain has been that I realized he came into my life to help me learn things that I wasn’t paying attention to, or not fully tapping into, as strengths within myself.  He helped me tap into my creativity, my entrepreneurial capabilities, and we really had so much fun together on many levels.  He’s one of my favorite people to laugh with, and now that we lived together for weeks during a breakup, he’s someone I’ve cried with extensively too. 

While we’re not meant to be romantically involved for the long term, I am starting to connect the dots on the role he’s played in my life.  It’s only been a short time after our physical breakup, but it’s already happening because I am paying attention and actively putting energy into connecting the dots looking backwards.

In divorce, a jarring and traumatic moment can be the physical separation.  You moved into a new house, your ex stayed, or the other way around.  Whatever it is, when you physically separate from your spouse, the initial emotional focus tends to be on grief, sadness, pain, devastation, and loss.  These are important emotions to really feel.  Don’t push them away, you have to feel them. 

On the other side of these dark emotions, you will have the opportunity to tap into the gift of perspective, of connecting the dots, and beginning to grow out of your divorce.  If you’re feeling as though this perspective gain has not quite entered your mind or heart, purposefully look for it now that you’re on the other side of the breakup. 

One tool I use with clients is list-making, which is both simple and effective. 

Grab a notebook or open your laptop. 

Create three columns, 1) What I miss most, 2) What I miss least, and, 3) What I have now that I couldn’t have before the relationship ended. 

Without editing or judging, set a timer for 25 minutes and free-write in each column.  Once you’re finished, save the list somewhere safe and leave it overnight, or for a couple days.  Deliberately come back to it.  Circle at least one item you listed in each column and set another timer for 25 minutes to journal about each item.  Again, no editing or judging your thoughts, this is all about you and no one else ever has to read this. 

If you’re struggling to fully process and begin connecting the dots after your breakup, take some time to reflect, make lists, and start connecting the dots.  Gifts of healing are all around you, even in the midst of sadness and devastating loss.  It’s up to you to actively work through the emotions and gain the perspective that will keep you moving forward.

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