I used to be addicted to the love drug. My thoughts about relationships weren’t so much about how I could grow and contribute, but more about the comfort and security I could gain. After my last breakup I had a sea change in how I viewed relationships: I realized that I could continue seeking fulfillment in relationships and fail, or I could bring fulfillment to them and succeed.
I put in a lot of hard work and began the adventure of a lifetime: Self Discovery. I came to understand that everything I had looked for in relationships was waiting to be discovered inside of me and in the dreams I created. My relationships changed forever as I discovered more about the person I was and the man I wanted to be.
Three years after my last breakup, I’m an author, a contributing writer for many self improvement sites, and a relationship coach in Albuquerque, New Mexico—and I’m happy! Because I had hope for a brighter future, I refused to continue doing less than I was capable of.
With that shift in perspective I not only changed my relationship prospects, I changed my entire life. Because I chose to respond positively to my last breakup, I found my calling, my career, and I continue to find new parts of the amazing man who I aspire to be every day.
If you’ve gone through hell in a breakup, I have some advice that will help you to convert old failures into the life of your dreams.
Focus on You—Now
My last breakup took a year to get over because of this: I focused on her. I focused on what I was missing by not being with her, and I removed myself from reality by lingering in faded memories. Then after that year, I light bulb went off: Misery is a choice!
I realized that being unhappy with my current situation was not my former partner’s fault, but my choice. Bit by bit, I took control of my thoughts and focused on what I could do to create a reality I desired. What I did was to make a plan. My inner dialogue was something like this—
“Okay Danny, you’re not happy. You weren’t happy in the relationship, so you broke up. Wake up! Take responsibility for your choices! Life is right here and it’s passing you by while you are stuck in the past. If you want to be happy with anybody, you have to be happy with yourself. So make a plan and live your dreams!”
After I got real with myself, I realized that all of my relationships had occurred for lack of a better plan. I settled for terminal relationships that left me with less because I didn’t have a dream. It took hitting rock bottom to come up with a plan that factored in my happiness and wellbeing, and to create the fulfillment I desired.
I converted my biggest relationship flop into the greatest success of my life after I recognized fault in my actions. That’s a hard thing to do these days because we’re told that nothing we do is wrong; it just is. But we do things wrong, whether we like to admit it or not, and there are consequences which affect our happiness.
For me, I placed the onus of my fulfillment on women. After the chemical high of new romance wore off and I realized they weren’t satisfying my internal needs, I resented them and we would break up. I recognized the error in placing responsibility for my fulfillment in others, and then I began the process of change.
What happens when you don’t acknowledge a failure, or a weakness?
Take the Challenger space shuttle, for example. It ended up exploding and killing all seven crew members in 1986—what happened? There was an equipment failure that was noticed but not acted upon. Something so simple as an O-ring replacement would have saved the lives of those men and women, but ground control was too focused on launching and refused to acknowledge fault in the craft. The shuttle burst in flames over the Atlantic, and what could have been a simple fix and postponement amounted to a horrific failure and loss of life.
In a similar way, people continue to crash and burn in their relationships because they are too focused on the launch and not focused enough on the preparation. It goes like this:
“Ah, the thoughts and behaviors that went into my last relationship…they didn’t have anything to do with the breakup, people just break up and that’s what happens.”
That’s the prevailing thought towards break ups these days, but it doesn’t empower us like embracing our failures does. One reason people are loath to dismiss their personal faults is because we have cultivated a culture of shame. In the culture of shame, doing something wrong means there is something wrong with you.
The Culture of Shame
Most people grow up feeling shame because of how we were raised. If we did well on a test, our parents would praise us with, “You’re so smart! Good job!” That doesn’t seem so bad, but check out the converse.
If your next test was a total bomb, that means you were deficient. Instead of failing the test because you didn’t study hard enough, now you feel as though you are the failure. You aced the last test because you were smart, Dad even said so, which means that for this test…You just weren’t smart enough. That is the essence of shame, and it usually starts with the wrong type of praise; praising the person rather than praising the work.
Because I want my kid to be a strong boy with resilience and work ethic, I will praise his effort. If he brings back an aced test, I will tell him, “ You studied your little Dowling butt off, way to go!” and he will feel awesome about the work he did. Conversely if little Dow brings back a flopped test, I will tell him, “You can always study harder and do better next time. Want to practice some algebra problems with Mom and then head to the park for some Frisbee?”
The focus is on the action, not the person. If you screw up, it doesn’t mean you are a screw up. If you failed, it doesn’t mean you are a failure, it just means that you can do better next time if you work hard. The culture of shame is something we all have to work hard to change, starting with how we respond to things that make us uncomfortable.
If you can say that you failed and make a plan to improve, you open yourself up to limitless growth in future relationships. My last breakup was the biggest failure I’ve had to date, but it also became the foundation for my greatest success when I acknowledged what it was and planned for something better.
Take ownership of your relationships
If you think you’re a human being, you’ve been had. You are actually a human being/creator, which means that you are not limited by any factor. You have the capacity to change your situation regardless of the external circumstances. What matters most is what is inside of you and how you respond to external situations. If you have a dream, then you always have a guide to help you respond positively to any situation.
My relationships failed because they weren’t part of a larger framework of success. I accepted temporary pleasure as the best that I could get, and I lacked the faith to dream of something better.
After my last breakup, I decided I’d had enough. I was tired of failed relationships and feeling empty and miserable, and I knew that I could do better if I came up with a plan.
I realized that fleeting romance hadn’t left me with much, so I aspired to create something lasting that I could share with my wife and family. Then I determined what I had to do to achieve that dream, the resources I would require, and the daily steps that would contribute to the bigger picture.
What happened after I made the dream and worked out a plan was nothing short of miraculous. Instead of pining for the affection and comfort of a temporary lover, I was motivated by my future wife and family to dig deep and work hard each day to fulfill my dream.
Everything I did after that point made sense because it was part of the bigger picture that I created. All of the sexual desire that I had been channeled creatively into improving myself and making my dreams come true.
After I discovered the power of dreams, I realized that all of my previous relationships had distracted me from the responsibility of fulfilling the dream I had yet to envision. The best thing that ever happened to me was a hard break up because it gave me room to discover my dreams.
After I made it my business to create the life I desired, I came to know more and more about the man inside of me. Instead of dumping all of my sexual energy into dead-end relationships, I channeled that energy into the adventure of self-discovery. Now I no longer seek fulfillment in other’s bodies because I know it isn’t there. Now I am not looking for the perfect woman because I am far too busy being the right man.
My worst break-up gave me the opportunity to be my own man and to live my dreams. If you aspire for greater fulfillment and lasting intimacy with a romantic partner, you can also turn your last break-up into the best thing that ever happened to you, but you’ll need a dream and a plan to make it happen.
5 tips to make it happen
If you don’t know your own self deeply and intimately, you can’t share intimacy with anyone else. You can feel good exchanging chemicals for a time, but if you don’t have intimacy to regenerate those chemicals, the feelings will fade like every other broken relationship.
So get to know yourself through journaling; you’re worth getting to know better. Make it a daily habit by spending 15-30 minutes alone with your thoughts at the beginning of each morning or at the end of each day.
Instead of relying on external inputs to determine your day, journaling allows you to determine your wants and needs internally. When you wake up there is a strong impulse to check your message and emails: deny that urge. When your day is determined by what is inside of you rather than external cues, like emails or social media, you have the power.
Our lives are the sum total of our thoughts, so it pays to know your thoughts profoundly through journaling. Write down your hopes and dreams, how you responded to others, what you want to accomplish, what thoughts have been working, what thoughts haven’t, what kind of person you want to be, who you’ve admired, and all of the little things that go up to make your important life.
Meditation is similar to journaling in that you are making time to know yourself better. But instead of keeping track of your thoughts, meditating helps you to generate new thoughts that benefit your growth. It also helps you to uncover old thoughts that had been sabotaging your progress.
As an example, I first started meditating on affirmations. I chose what type of career I wanted and what type of man I wanted to be, and then I would guide myself to feel those emotions and embody that reality.
During this process I uncovered little negative thoughts that had been so common in my inner dialogue that they blended into the background, unnoticed by my conscious mind.
After my meditation sessions I would journal the progress I made to keep track of what worked and what didn’t. Meditation and journaling go together like peas and carrots.
Another way to meditate is to set an intention and then let your mind run free. Any time your mind wanders to a worry or a to-do item, bring your attention back to your breath. Important intention-based meditations for me have been uncovering my deepest goals and dreams in family, in my career, and in my personal life.
Meditation was especially important for me to see how my actions in previous relationships were destructive. It also allows me to observe my actions in a non-judgmental way, which helps me to be realistic about what is working and what isn’t.
3-Commit to your goals
It doesn’t matter how silly or small you think your goals are, the act of visualizing, planning, following through and committing will help you prepare to tackle your greatest dreams.
My initial goals ended up not being my main dreams. It took committing to a series of smaller goals over the course of months to find enough about myself to determine the main dreams. As you commit to your plans and follow through with them without excuses, you will automatically be directed to your innermost truth.
I started my writing career by planning a small business that sold fruit smoothies. Fruit smoothies and relationship writing may seem disparate, but in committing to that seemingly silly goal I developed new passions and new insights that I was too curious not to follow through with.
Starting with the fruit smoothie shop, I had several small goals that morphed into my dream career over the course of a year. The only reason I arrived at my dream life was by following through with each goal I set. As I progressed I discovered new passions that led me to my innermost truth.
4-Follow Your Passions
This one is directly related to committing to your goals. It doesn’t matter whether you get an itch to explore 16th century quilt making or reproductive cycles of deep-sea creatures: explore.
The little nudges and tugs on your insides are your innermost truth talking. You know yourself better than you think you do, and when you pay close attention to those tiny, barely perceptible inklings, you start to trust yourself more.
As you follow your passions and commit to them, your dreams will be revealed and achieved if only you persist. The more you journal and the more you meditate, the stronger your inner voice will become and the more confident you will feel in chasing the dream.
5-Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t
I’ve discovered that the more people laugh or scoff or tell you that you can’t, the greater probability you have of succeeding. My reason for believing this is that if you have something so true to yourself and so genuinely inspiring, the very idea will have others who settle for comfort rising to defend their mediocrity.
When others tell you that you can’t, they are saying, “You think you can be better than average? Dream on!!” They say this because your big dream makes them feel guilty for giving up on their own.They don’t realize it though because that defensive process is driven by subconscious thinking. If they were conscious about the process, they’d respond positively.
So instead of becoming discouraged by the voices of magpies, let them be inspiration for your success! Every time I hear someone tell me I can’t, I am motivated to stretch my limits.I am encouraged by their fear-based responses because my progress makes them uncomfortable.
You can use your breakup as an opportunity to regret your current station in life, or, you can seize the opportunity to create the life you want to live. I chose to be a victim of my worst breakup for over a year and it was easily the worst year of my life. But looking back, I’m thankful for the opportunity to know myself better and to be the right man.
I don’t know who my wife will be, but I know after taking full responsibility for my last breakup, I’ll be proud to give her the man I have chosen to become.
I'm a relationship coach in Albuquerque, NM who specialize in lasting intimacy, sexuality, communication and overcoming porn addiction. I help people overcome limiting beliefs to build the relationships of their dreams.
I climb rocks and trees, play beach volleyball, and fall asleep to a book every night. Want to learn more about me and my work? Visit dowlingwriter.com, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter. I'd love to hear your thoughts!