We begin this piece by asking what is there to get over from? A question that only a stoic would ask. The premise that guides this line of thinking is that there are things we cannot control. And relationships are one of those things, because they don’t solely depend on one person.
Step 1: Prepare yourself for the worst
It may sound strange, but stoics prepare themselves for break ups. Not that they want break ups to happen, but they want to be able to control their emotions in case the do. Moreover, they do this through an exercise of negative visualization.
In this exercise they imagine the worst case scenario for a break up. After that, they anticipate the emotions that may arise. Surely, this is not easy, it needs to be practiced consistently, until the emotions subside. Like with everything, practice makes perfect.
Essentially, stoics are encouraged to keep their emotions in check. This is not to say that emotions are inherently bad, but like everything else they require moderation. Therefore, we can say that stoics are expected to welcome break ups with dignity. Inevitably, break ups bring suffering, because at the end of the day we are only human. So it’s absolutely normal to wish for a lifelong relationship, that’s why a break up can still be extremely devastating.
Let me tell you a story of a friend of mine. Anna (that’s not her real name) woke up one day to learn that her husband didn’t love her anymore. He asked for a divorce. Keep in mind that, Anna is one of my most stoic friends. Sadly, the initiation was shocking. When she heard the news, she sat there and cried, while her husband sat by, consoling her for hours.
After some time, she asked him about how he would like to go about the procedure (super pragmatic). So, they began discussing specifics about housing, parenting, and communicating the changes with the kids. After that, Anna asked him to wait a week until moving ahead with the separation.
We all questioned Anna, how come he doesn’t love you anymore? Why? What happened? She simply answered I don’t know. I didn’t ask, and it doesn’t matter. One-week later Anna called her husband and asked him if he was sure about his decision, to which he answered yes. At that point, Anna hung up the phone and simply started planning her new life.
All of our common friends put her under fire, but she was confident in her decision. She would say “He doesn’t love me anymore, and it doesn’t matter why. It takes two to make a marriage work. And I’ve always tried to be the best wife I can.”. It was as simple as that for her.
Step 2: Always do your best
In Anna’s last stand, we begin to learn about another principle that rules stoic reasoning from her actions. That principle is: do your best.
So imagine you’re looking for a job. A stoic would tell you: don’t look for the best job, there are multiple factors that can impact the company’s decision to hire you and you can’t control them. So be the best candidate, prepare yourself, study the company’s principles and portfolio. And dress really well! If things don’t go your way, learn that it was not meant to be.
In order to apply this last example in a relationship. Begin to notice things you could do differently to make your partner feel better. Also, acknowledge the things you should change in your own behavior to aid the relationship. All these things will have a positive impact on your bond.
On the contrary, if the break up happens, you’ll feel more at ease. Because you’ll know that: I’ve done my best. this is not on me. However, you should always remember to take full ownership, because the other person is outside your control. Essentially, this exercise is not about pointing fingers, it’s about making sure you won’t regret things you could have done better.
Step 3: Remember that the universe is just
All in all, try to remember the most important rule for Stoics: there is a just law that rules the entire universe.
This law makes sure that only the things supposed to happen, end up happening. Since this law is just, you must remember that everything that happens to you is for a greater reason. You might not believe so in the moment, but when you look back, you’ll realize that it was truly for your own good.