What Getting Dumped Says About You

Breakups are bad enough. Getting broken up with — that’s another monster entirely. Getting dumped comes in many forms — outright rejection, being left, being cheated on, being broken up with. “Heartache” is a pathetic term. Better than heart-ache is heart-death. “Ache” implies slow, deep, and dull. “Death” is violent, consuming, and paralyzing. Heartache is a relational migraine without Advil. Getting dumped is a relational burn victim without anesthesia.

Things You Say to You

Danger is on every side of being dumped. One of the greatest dangers is believing that a breakup says something about our value; about our intrinsic worth.

“The greatest challenge of being dumped is to grieve well, while not being overwhelmed by hopelessness.”

The greatest challenge in being dumped is not to heal; it is not to get over it; it is not to be content with singleness. Such burdens are placed on us by well-meaning, misguided advisors. The greatest challenge of being dumped is to grieve well, while not being overwhelmed and indoctrinated by the voices that deafen us to hope, to light, to God. The greatest challenge of being dumped is to welcome our emotions as real and insurmountable, and to face all hatred and bitterness, toward self and others, with joyful defiance.

Here are five deafening voices we need to defy when we’ve been dumped.

1. You’re unlovable.

“They were right to dump you.”
“You’re ugly.”
“You’re insufficient.”

We take metaphorical sharp objects and jab ourselves until we’re too numb to cry. “I’m fat.” “I’m not funny enough.” “I’m not good enough.” We compare ourselves to others. We look at all of the perfect 10s — the eloquent, successful, well-dressed, well-groomed, well-off, well-behaved, beautiful people around us — and we look in the mirror and give ourselves a number: “4. I’m a solid 4.” Therefore, unlovable.

2. There’s no one else like them.

“No one can make me feel the way they did.”
“They were perfect.”

After getting dumped, everything reminds us of the ex. That tree. “They loved trees.” This book. “They pretended to read books.” Everything. They’re now an emotional intruder — by their unwelcome departure they have made themselves unwelcome ghosts in our hearts.

3. You’ll be alone forever.

“I’ll feel this way forever.”
“I fail every time. And it’s all my fault.”

Even more frightening than being dumped is the prospect of being alone forever. The logic feels fairly simple. “Of course,” you think, “If I’m unlovable, no one will love me.” If someone as great as your ex would dump you, then everybody worth being with will inevitably do the same — so the voices say.

4. You will feel this way forever.

“I lost my shot at being happy.”
“Nothing can overturn this feeling.”

There is no bodily location of the despair. More like someone tied a searing hot anchor to every internal organ. No sunlight can come in. Hope is hedged out. Being broken up with is like getting dropped in a maze, and always ending up at the same wall: rejection. You submitted your request for love to the universe, only to be returned with bright red block letters: DENIED.

5. God is punishing me.

“If I had only established better boundaries . . . ”
“If we had only prayed more, God might have . . . ”
“God, next time, I’ll do better.”

“Like a bomb, being dumped can create a ringing in our ears, so that we cannot hear the voices of those who love us.”

It’s simple. Worse people than you have great marriages. And better people than you are single, who don’t want to be. Your present marital status cannot be calculated or causally related to your behavior. It is an obvious mistake to think that the feelings of rejection offer you clarity into the mathematical equation that God uses to determine your circumstances.

But that truth may not sink in for weeks, or months, or years. For those whose sin weighs on them, who know with friendly familiarity the voice of the accuser, it feels impossible to disbelieve the lie: “God is punishing me for sin.”

Things God Says to You

Being broken up with can have the same effect as a bomb — it can create a ringing in our ears, so that we cannot hear the voices of those who love us; even God himself. But just because it’s hard to hear, that doesn’t mean the love isn’t there. Here are five truths to revive your hearts from the haze of being dumped.

1. Love isn’t about being a 10.

Christian dating does not escape the 1–10 scale thinking. “Is she a 6 or a 7?” But we are shooting ourselves in the foot with this type of thinking. Dating that assumes the goal is to get the very best person to love you has a relational shelf life of maybe a year or two.

The truth is, the only thing we have to offer is love. That’s it. And the only thing a potential partner can offer is love. And what greater love is there than the love of Christ (John 15:13)? The love of God liberates us from shallow and plastic mockeries of intimacy. Sometimes this means that breakups are even more difficult (something deeper is at stake). Even so, the good news of God’s deep love for us inverses the weight of lost superficial dating relationships.

We will go insane nit-picking through partners. When life is lived between 1 and 10, there is no room for God’s grace. Dating done best is dating between two people who show “no partiality to princes, nor regards the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of his hands” (Job 34:19).

2. You are loved.

It’s not that you don’t feel loved right now — it goes further than that. You feel unloveable. How do you receive the love of God when someone has thrown a rejection bomb into your heart, closed the hatch, and broken off the key?

First things first: Lean into those people who have made the love of God most tangible to you. It’s easy to spiritualize the getting-dumped-recovery-process, so that what looks like relying on God is actually just isolating yourself from love. Prayer, Bible reading, and spiritual disciplines are great, but you need people to help heal what’s broken inside of you.

It’s not unspiritual to need the love of friends and family to heal — in fact, it is the way God made you: “Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Lean into those who love you. I won’t ask you to believe you are loved, because I don’t know your story, your childhood, or your deepest feelings of pain and betrayal. But accepting God’s love after a breakup comes from accepting God’s gift of community: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

The command to love one another is not just a command. It’s also something we receive, and in which we can rest when we need others to carry us into God’s love for us in Christ.

3. Your circumstances are not random.

If we strain to glimpse through the cracks of heart-death for just a moment, we can see others who have been heartbroken, who end up praising God, even within the year. Many people who have been dumped are so thankful years down the road. It’s almost impossible to imagine that you’ll ever be thankful for being dumped. But the reality of God’s sovereignty always trumps the terrifying myth of “The one that got away.” With God, there’s never one who gets away. Unrequited love is God’s protection, his plan, his care.

“Lean into those people who have made the love of God most tangible to you.”

The psalmist wonders: “Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?” (Psalm 77:8). Now, don’t move too quickly to the next verse. Rest here. Cry with the psalmist. You’re allowed to stay on verse 8 for a time. We don’t know how long it took him to move past verse 8. It may have been months. But eventually, there was a time when the cloud lifted from his eyes: “Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High’” (Psalm 77:10).

He remembers: “Last time I was in trouble, God had a purpose, and the ability to bring me up from the bog.” Circumstances are ordained, and they are malleable in God’s hand — in his never-leaving, never-forsaking love.

4. You will be okay.

When it comes to getting dumped, our hearts feel the threat of open and violent exile — of shame, of regret, of deflation and defeat. We want that person back. Or, we want the guarantee that we will get something better. At the rock bottom of all of rejection’s disappointments is this: We will receive no guarantee. To speak a word of peaceful assurance to all who have been dumped is to utter a bald faced lie.

We have one promise from God about our future: He has not yet given us today the grace we need for tomorrow. Full stop. You don’t have it. You can’t tap into it. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22–23).

Don’t underestimate the difficulty of today’s wrestling with being dumped. Today requires your full attention. Thoughts of tomorrow will keep you stuck in bed, stuck watching TV, stuck inside, stuck binge eating (and worse, purging). Tomorrow is a weight too difficult for you to carry today. “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).

You will be okay. You’ll have what you need. Today. Anybody offering you more is offering more than God. There is sober, but real peace in that kind of provision.

5. Heartbreak enables you to love.

Jesus’s own love is bound up with his suffering — “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). The suffering of Christ because of his love for us is his glory.

Heartache is often experienced as a sign that life is spiraling downward toward destruction and death. Yet, even with no assurance about the future, we know that it signifies glory in you. Do you hurt because of unrequited love? You are being transformed into the image of the glory of God (2 Corinthians 3:18). You now have a special insight into the heart of God for sinners.

Injuries Make Us Someone New

A breakup can be like getting hit with shrapnel — much like Tony Starke, the Iron Man. He’s hit with a dirty bomb in Iraq and has sharp pieces of metal lodged in his chest. They’re too close to his heart to be surgically removed, but can’t be left alone either, or they’ll kill him. His only choice: Move into a new phase of existence — with a magnet in his chest, which keeps the shrapnel away from his heart.

“God’s resurrection life will sustain you when you feel crushed, defeated, and hopeless.”

A breakup can be like that. It’s often more than a scar. We’re left walking with pieces of us stolen and gone, and other pieces weighing us down, unrelentingly coming back to our mind. “I can’t stop thinking about them.” Yeah, you got hit by a dirty bomb. The surgery is impossible. Healing might not be in going back, but in becoming something new.

God is in control. His love has not ceased to be what guides your life, your heart, your circumstances. Though you feel the sting of death in your soul, God’s resurrection life is what sustains you when you feel crushed, defeated, and hopeless. Your life and your heart are not ultimately in your hands. They never were, and that’s terrifyingly beautiful news.

(@paulcmaxwell) is a Ph.D. student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and philosophy professor at Moody Bible Institute. He writes more at his blog, and pretends to like coffee.