A breakup can be the start of a new chapter in your life

Relationships are usually not planned. Two people take to each other, start spending time together and begin to see themselves as a couple. Anything can happen to the equation along the way - it may get better, fizzle out, or end abruptly.

Dr Shyamala Vatsa

Your intense liking for someone is something you can never explain. You might put together a bunch of nice things about your boyfriend or girlfriend to account for it,  but you know deep down that it doesn’t quite explain why you care so much for this person. You like being around each other, find lots to talk and laugh about, and you like mostly the same music, books, movies and people. All’s well in your world and you feel great. And you expect what you share to last for ever.

It doesn’t always work out that way. Breakups happen. Every relationship does not end in a wedding ceremony or at a Registrar’s office. Besides, you weren’t really planning to marry, were you? All you knew is that you liked this person and were having fun. So when you hear “I think I need space” from your special person you know it may be the prelude to a breakup. If this is your first breakup you could get desperately unhappy and be so preoccupied with memories and anniversaries that you might let everything else slide. Friends, family, grades, food, gym – everything takes a back seat to mourning. For mourning it is, no less than grief at a loved one’s death. The relationship has just died and you are devastated.

How come you didn’t see it coming? There must have been hints; something like this does not happen without a build-up. If you had started dating at say 16 or 17, and are now maybe 20 or 21, you could have simply grown into different people with much less in common than you did when you first met. Or one of you adjusted and adapted a lot more than the other, but the strain began to tell only much later. Perhaps your girlfriend has found herself more comfortable with someone else. That does not mean you have fallen short, it’s just that her needs have changed.

It is actually completely fair on her part to let you know she’s confused and needs space to work things out for herself. Eventually a frank talk is called for where you either sort things out and take your relationship to a higher level, or decide to part ways. Hurt is inevitable if you split, but that’s a risk you run every time you stick your neck out for something you want. You might want to hibernate in your shell for a short time until you heal a bit, but you eventually have to move on.

You’ll soon find things working out better than you ever imagined if only you see that there are lots of nice people out there. You need to get to know more people as friends before you think of a permanent sort of relationship. More importantly, you’ll get to know yourself through these interactions and understand people better. You’ll find it easier, when it comes to the crunch, to commit yourself to a serious relationship like marriage in the future.

What do you do if you’ve been through a break-up and are terribly depressed and tearful even after several months? This is beyond sadness and can slowly destroy you. If your break-up has messed up everything else, like your physical health, school work, your regular social life, etc., chances are you’ve let yourself slide into depression. Even your best friends don’t know how to comfort you anymore. This is when you might need to consider getting help from a mental health professional, and perhaps medication, if the depressive episode is too intense and has gone on for too long.

In our country many parents do not accept their sons or daughters getting into relationships. They prefer to arrange marriages for them when they think the time is right. And many youngsters find this acceptable because they are comfortable with the people and mores of their communities and trust their parents’ choice.

Some people put relationships on the back burner as something to be thought of after they achieve career goals. Why not? It’s silly to acquire a boyfriend or girlfriend just because everybody else is dating and you feel under pressure. That sort of relationship is fake and will ultimately bring only grief.

Relationships are usually not planned. Two people take to each other, start spending time together and begin to see themselves as a couple. Anything can happen to the equation along the way - it may get better, fizzle out, or end abruptly. Unrealistic expectations are the cause of most break-ups as the two people involved don’t really know each other as well as they think they do. Why, people don’t even know themselves as well as they think they do, let alone know what to expect from another complex human being!

In any event, a break-up is just that: the end of a relationship that initially held promise but didn’t turn out the way it was expected to.  It is only an experience, a chapter in the book of your life, not a yardstick to measure your worth.

Dr Shyamala Vatsa is a Bangalore-based psychiatrist who has been practicing for over twenty years. If you have any comments or queries you would like to share, please write to her at
White Swan Foundation