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When Heartbreak Strikes, Be a Happy Adapter

Humans, among all living organisms, have a remarkable ability to adapt.

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If Hollywood is our guide to perfect love, then most of us are falling short. So many movies have the main characters fall in love, go through some ups and downs, and then wind up living together happily ever after. In the real world, however, we break up and find new relationships, and then we sometimes repeat the formula—usually with a lot of suffering in between.

While break-ups are often heartbreaking, some people move beyond them and find themselves doing quite well. Sometimes they’re even better off than they were before the relationship.

Meanwhile, others remain stuck. They never quite get over the heartbreak. One, 10, 20 years or even a lifetime may pass, and it’s as if the tragic event just happened. They hold on tight to the sadness or anger or resentment or all three.

Whether a person has moved forward with aplomb or finds him or herself repeating the same sad story over and over years later, the reality is that both are a choice.

The good news is that the choice part means we are all capable of making one decision over another. When it comes to the aftermath of breakups, I think that most of us would prefer a life of happiness and freedom over one of sadness and resentment.

So if we find ourselves suffering, how do we choose happiness and freedom instead?

The key is to practice being a happy adapter. In other words, we accept that change is part of our lives and we learn to adapt rather than fight it. Because when we refuse to accept change—of any kind—we are choosing a path of suffering. Even positive change will create suffering. We can easily become afraid of losing what we cherish or wanting more of it or both.

Think of change as you would gravity. If you held your smartphone in the air and then dropped it, what would happen? It would come crashing down and maybe you’d even end up with a shattered screen.

How silly would it be for you to hold up your phone, let it go, and expect a different outcome? Rather, we accept gravity as principle, and we adapt our lives around it. And as result, we suffer less. In fact, we don’t even think of our lives without gravity. We don’t hold up our smartphones and wonder if they’ll fall to the ground if we lose our grip.

As far as change is concerned, however, many of us struggle accepting it as we do gravity. And because of this, we suffer more. But, like gravity, when we accept change and don’t fight it, life can go quite well.

When we’re confronted with change we’re not happy with, and we’re able to take action to potentially improve the situation, by all means, we should do our utmost rather than resign ourselves to inaction. But many changes we face are out of our control. For example, if the love our lives no longer wants to be with us, and we’ve done our best to be a good partner, then we probably won’t be able to change his or her mind.

The initial sting of a change we didn’t want or hadn’t hoped for hurts. Initially, we might tell ourselves, “I don’t like (fill in the blank with any type of suffering).” That’s a pretty normal response to a change we aren’t happy with. Another common follow up is to wonder if circumstances will get worse.

In the realm of romance, if our relationship with our boyfriend, girlfriend, or significant doesn’t work out, and there’s no reconciliation in sight, then we will suffer if we tell ourselves, “I want the relationship back,” or “I must have it back to be happy,” or “that was the best relationship I’ll ever have. Now that that train has departed another one will never take its place.”

Once the sting of change subsides, and sometimes it may take a while for this to happen, we need to ask ourselves, “How do I adapt so that my life can continue to go well no matter what?”

When it comes to heartbreak, a happy adapter response would be, “I really did like that relationship, and I miss it. But I’m sure another will come along. I am going to trust that she or he is out there. I’m going to find him or her, and I’m going to enjoy the journey, wherever it may take me.”

Being a happy adapter is available to us all. In fact, it’s part of our evolution. Humans, among all living organisms, have a remarkable ability to adapt. That’s what’s allowed us to thrive as a species for so long.

If we adopt adapting as our goal in life, we will adapt well. If our goal is to hang on to the past, we will suffer.

Our lives are in constant flux. Fighting change is a losing battle because, like gravity, change will always win. Rather than fight change, being a happy adapter is about acknowledging that flowing with life is the path to less suffering and more happiness.