Break-ups can hurt you pretty badly. They usually come with varying amounts of pain and sadness, depending on the length and nature of the relationship, but I think I can safely say that as long as there were feelings involved, break-ups hurt. After some time has passed, you either move on or you come to that awful, sinking realisation that you made a huge mistake. As hurt as you were (or still are), you hurt someone too. You couldn’t see it before, but you definitely see it now. And so it becomes even harder to get on with your life, because regret tastes like all the bitter pills you had to swallow while you were sick – only worse. You want a second chance, you want to do it all over again or you just want to put things right.
How do you do that?
Do you remember when you were young and you did something really horrible, like eat two more cookies than you were supposed to or break your mother’s favourite cup? I’m sure you do. Then you felt bad about it (or at least you were made to feel bad) and said you were sorry to whoever it was that you upset. After that, the sun started shining, the birds started chirping, and the leprechauns started dancing again. All was well!
So as children, every time we made a mistake, we thought all we had to do was say we were sorry and mean it. And we thought that was enough to make things right again. It was just that simple. Then we grew up and we realised that sometimes, or even most of the time, an apology doesn’t quite cut it anymore. More often than not, no matter how sorry you are and how many times you say you’re sorry, things don’t quite go back to the way they were.
‘Human beings are incredibly selfish and proud. Our first instinct is to always assign blame, or to try to make it seem like we didn’t have that big a part to play.’
This is especially so when it comes to relationships. You make a mistake, everything starts to fall apart, and before you know it all you’re left with is one huge broken mess that you have no idea how to fix.
Of course you shouldn’t throw yourself off a cliff to atone for your wrongdoings. If you’re at the stage where you’re trying to make up for a mistake you made (which is probably why you’re reading this in the first place), it only gets better from here. Really, it does. The problem with most of us is that often, we struggle to admit we screwed up. Let’s face it – who likes admitting they were wrong?
Human beings are incredibly selfish and proud. Our first instinct is to always assign blame, or to try to make it seem like we didn’t have that big a part to play. But it’s okay to screw up. Making mistakes is kind of a worldwide phenomenon. Old or young, fat or thin, Pokemon Go player or not – we all make mistakes. It’s as inevitable as us dying someday. It’s absolutely important that we acknowledge the fact that we did something wrong, and admit it. Why do I say that? Well, it’s the only way that we can actually mean the apologies that we offer to the people we’ve wronged. Apologies are tricky. It’s hard enough figuring out how to do it, but before we can even think about that, we need to make sure we mean every single word we say. Right down to the bottom of our hearts.
Okay, so now you know how wrong you were. You’re extremely sorry, you apologised and you could not have been more sincere. But for some reason, your apology wasn’t accepted. You’re back to asking, what am I supposed to do?
The answer is straightforward: nothing.
‘Healing doesn’t happen overnight. It takes an indefinite amount of time.’
You don’t do anything because there really isn’t anything you can do. You did what you had to do by apologising, but whether the other person accepts your apology is a different story altogether. Don’t say things like “If you’re not going to forgive me, then to hell with you!”
We need to understand that apologies can’t be shoved down anybody’s throats. After all, doesn’t it seem ridiculous to decide whether or not we get to be forgiven by the people that we hurt? So give the other person time and space to accept your apology. Healing doesn’t happen overnight. It takes an indefinite amount of time. Don’t expect the apology to magically make the pain disappear and repair the bonds that were broken immediately. People will come around eventually. If they don’t, then that’s just too bad for us. Don’t be too hard on yourself – you can’t take back whatever you said or change whatever you did. The best you can do is to try and make amends, and make sure you don’t hurt another person like that again.
Some of us just want to apologise and leave it as that. Some of us, upon realising how much we screwed up, want a second chance, and we hope that the apology is the first step towards that. I do believe that everybody deserves a second chance.
But I also believe that it isn’t up to us to decide. It’s the prerogative of the people that we’ve hurt to give us the second chance we want. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to get to try again. Usually we don’t. Don’t push it, because not everyone is willing to revisit the past. We have to come to terms with that. But also don’t forget that just because you didn’t get a second chance, it doesn’t mean you weren’t forgiven. For some people, the past is just too painful and they’d rather not go back. So they might be able to forgive you, but things will never ever be the same way again. Don’t hold it against them.
‘But also don’t forget that just because you didn’t get a second chance, it doesn’t mean you weren’t forgiven.’
Also, remember that getting back together isn’t always the best idea.
Sure, you made a mistake, but there must be plenty of other reasons why the relationship ended. At this point, everything might still be too raw and it’s just too hard to picture someone else in your life. I can just hear you wailing, “But I don’t want anyone else!” Now, don’t be silly. It might take awhile, but someone is going to come along and turn your world upside-down (in a good way) again. I mean, just look at Jennifer Aniston. As if her messy divorce from Brad Pitt wasn’t bad enough, she had to endure a string of failed relationships over the next few years. Did she give up on love? No! Eventually, she met the love of her life, Justin Theroux, in 2011 and they got married in 2015. Just like sweet ol’ Jen, you will love again.
There is a rather poignant scene in Season 4 of Orange Is The New Black, where the prison guard, Healy, discovers one of the inmates, Lolly, is trying to build a time machine. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, Lolly is basically off her rocker. What Healy says to her in that scene though, is something I think perfectly encapsulates what I’m about to tell you next:
“Lolly, everyone wants to go back in time sometimes. To go back to the moment when everything was still possible, before they made a wrong turn so that they could go on the right path. But it’s not possible. All we can do is make the most of right now.”
So don’t fall into what I call the Time Warp Trap, because it can suck you in faster than quicksand, and no one will know how to save you. I’ve been there, so I know what I’m talking about.
Don’t hold on to your mistakes – you’ve already made your peace by apologising. Don’t lie in bed at night thinking about all the what-ifs and what-could-have-beens. What’s the point? JUST GO TO SLEEP ALREADY. When you fall into the Time Warp Trap, you’re landing yourself right back onto square one. Don’t pursue that second chance relentlessly and find all ways and means to get back what you lost. Because once a thing is well and truly gone, it’s gone forever. Some mistakes are irreversible. There’s no way you can change what happened in the past. You made your choices back then; now live with them. Move on.
The sun hasn’t stopped shining, has it? And the birds have been chirping all this while you know, you’ve just been too sad to notice them. As for the leprechauns, well – they’re still dancing with their pots of gold. You might have to look a little harder to spot them though.