It’s crazy how much heartbreak can feel like physical, tangible pain.
At least, that was my experience when I went through my first breakup. I was the one who was broken up with, and I wondered if I’d ever find anyone better, if I’d ever be more attracted to someone, if I would ever truly be happy with anyone else.
The short answer? Yes. Looking back now, I can see that the breakup was for the best and that there was someone much better for me out there — but at the time, it just felt like there was a hole in my chest that would never be filled.
Although no breakup is enjoyable, I truly believe that the absolute worst and most painful breakups are the ones that are unexpected, leaving you blindsided because you felt like God told you that you should marry your now-ex.
What if They’re My One and Only?
In a BYU devotional, Dr. Thomas B. Holman said:
“Let me make two things clear about what is meant by “the right person.” First, movies, plays, and fiction sometimes lead us astray with the idea there is a “one and only” somewhere out there with whom we made a covenant to marry in the premortal existence. We think finding a mate is simply a matter of waiting for “some enchanted evening,” locking eyes with someone “across a crowded room,” heading off hand-in-hand to the closest temple—probably singing the rest of the score from South Pacific—and then living happily ever after. No matter how romantic this idea is, it is not supported by prophetic counsel. President Spencer W. Kimball said this:
“Soul mates” are fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price. [“Marriage and Divorce,” in Speeches of the Year, 1976 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1977), 146]
Evidently, seeking a mate is not a matter of waiting for your “one and only” to walk by and grab you.
So it’s clear that there is no “perfect” person for us, and there’s comfort in that. If you’re broken up with (or even if you’re the one to end things), you can rest assured knowing that there is someone with whom you can be eternally happy. Your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend isn’t your one shot at a happy life, and you can move forward knowing that things will work out even without them.
But Why Did We Receive Conflicting Revelation?
I honestly believe that one of God’s greatest gifts to us is allowing us and trusting us to choose whom we marry. Eternity is a long time and being able to choose the person we spend it with is the most wonderful, sacred blessing — but even if there aren’t soulmates, there may be one person you want to spend forever with.
But what if they don’t feel like they’re supposed to spend it with you?
Elder Uchtdorf said, in a 2009 CES fireside, “I think I fell in love with my wife, Harriet, from the first moment I saw her. Nevertheless, had she decided to marry someone else, I believe I would have met and fallen in love with someone else. I am eternally grateful that this didn’t happen, but I don’t believe she was my one chance at happiness in this life, nor was I hers.”
One of the things that stood out to me most in this snippet from Elder Uchtdorf’s talk was his use of the phrase, ” . . . had she decided to marry someone else” (emphasis added). The Lord trusts us to decide whom we will marry!
I think sometimes using the line, “Well, God told me we shouldn’t get married” can be a cop-out. It’s easier than expressing our own feelings or saying that we don’t want to be with someone. However, people may also erroneously assume that if they don’t receive a sign from Heaven, God must be telling them that the person they’re dating isn’t right for them. Yet in reality, if you don’t get a bad feeling, God is likely saying that it’s okay to marry the person you’d like to marry.
That being said, I also remember a wonderful tidbit of wisdom my step-mother once shared with me. My sister had recently been broken up with and was devastated. She felt like God condoned her and her boyfriend’s relationship, but her boyfriend felt that God was telling them to break up. When I asked my step-mom about that (“How can two people asking the same question get two different answers from God?”) she thoughtfully replied, “Well, sometimes you might be right for someone, but they aren’t right for you — and vice versa.”
Exercising Our Own Free Will
In the majority of cases, though, so long as a person and their significant other are both trying their best to follow God’s commandments and keep their covenants, God will allow them to marry whom they want. Similarly, I believe that God doesn’t want to command us in all things — He wants us to make our own decisions, especially regarding the person we choose to spend forever with.
In fact, the Lord even informs us in the Doctrine and Covenants:
“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward” (D&C 58:26-28).
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t ask God if the person that we love is acceptable to marry — we should! But perhaps we should also realize that God trusts us to make good decisions, and as long as we don’t feel bad about something, He wants us to exercise the agency He so lovingly gave us.