Your relationship is over, but your life isn’t. I know, it feels like it’s over and you’re wandering around in your “life” that feels completely foreign to you now. You wonder if the days were always this long and if people, songs, and commercials have always been so coincidental. You wonder why people get time off for death and not breakups, or why people get arrested for breaking car windows but not hearts. Why is there no justice or reason to your pain? There is. You just can’t see it yet. And you’ll hear phrases like this over and over until you want to cut off all human interaction because you feel people truly don’t understand how you feel. Suddenly, a simple “how are you?” feels like assault and battery. You don’t believe me yet, but you’re going to get through this.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget my first big breakup. I was in a five year on and off again relationship, but the last year and a half had been pretty good. After a breakup that I thought was the end for us, we got back together. He said he was for real this time, that he had some sort of epiphany and realized how much he needed me. He tattooed my first and middle name on his back and asked what kind of gold I liked, yellow or white. We got engaged shortly after, moved in together, and started planning our wedding and life together. I knew I wanted a winter wonderland wedding, have two kids, and move down south. He didn’t know a thing about what he wanted, and instead he reverted, and he turned to alcohol to disconnect from reality. When I asked him what was going on, he only ever comforted me. One night as we lied in bed, he asked me why I worry. I told him that I just do. He asked me what I worried about. I told him everything, but mostly us. He told me to look at my ring, and to think about what that meant. He told me not to worry. The next morning on my way to work I was disturbed from a dream I had the night before. I was in our apartment and there was a giant countdown clock on the wall. I was trying to get his attention to talk to him as it was running out of time.
I came home ten hours later and he was sitting on our couch. I plopped down next to him and asked what he wanted to do for dinner. He turned to me, and I knew what he was going to say before he even said it. The look on his face made him unrecognizable. It was a look of preparation, like he was about to tell me something very carefully scripted and he was very afraid of my reaction. “I’m not in love with you anymore, and I’m leaving you.” He said he told me on a Saturday so I wouldn’t miss any work. He told me he loved me like an aunt. He told me he had been planning this for months and I should’ve known. He told me all the gifts he had been buying me lately were to make up for how much he couldn’t love me. He told me somebody was going to love me. Of course I cried and tried to fight it, but I eventually felt relief. This man can’t leave me anymore, I thought. He’s doing it now and I don’t have to keep waiting for it. He was right, somebody was going to love me, even if that was just me for now. I hugged him, let him go, and I never saw him again.
My friend came over immediately and she spent the night. She commented on how she couldn’t believe how well I was handling it. I told her, It always starts out like this. It’s the morning I dread, because then it is all real, and I live in a world I don’t know. When the sun came up I had to survive. These are the guidelines I followed.
“When you’re going through hell, keep going.” A quote from Winston Churchill that really spoke to me in my rough time. Take everything one day at a time. Keep getting out of bed. Keep putting on makeup. Keep eating three meals a day. Keep seeing your friends. Keep going to work. Keep on partying and bullshit. Think of all the things you can do now that he’s gone. I took great joy in leaving all the lights on. I started dated right away, which isn’t for everyone, but it felt good to have flowers to put in a vase as he took his time getting all his stuff out of our place. I didn’t have a wedding to save my money for anymore so instead I saved my money for a dog and a trip to Europe. Find something to motivate you and keep on going.
Quit cold turkey. Compulsion is a nasty and addicting bitch. If you feel compelled to text him and you do it, you’ll do it again and again. No contact whatsoever! It’s hard at first but it gets easier. Reward yourself for every week you go without cracking. Think of how if you crack you’ll have to start back at day one again. Tell yourself if you can make it a whole year, you can cheat and contact. (Because in a year you really won’t want to.) whenever I really fought temptation I would write over and over “I will not jeopardize my healing process, I will not contact him in any way.” I literally never cracked. I answered him when I had to regarding the apartment and then I changed my number. Let all your friends know you’re quitting cold turkey and not to share any information. If your friends can’t get with it then you might need a break from them. There’s nothing worse than beating the urge every day and then a friend innocently tells you she saw him at the bar with a girl.
Keep a journal. Write down something every day, even if it’s to announce you have nothing to write. I kept a journal for an entire year. As time passes reread what you wrote on that day the month before, and eventually two months, six months, and you’ll see for yourself that you are progressing. When you’re feeling extra negative, make yourself write five positive things that happened that day before you write anything else.
Make lists. I believe list making is the cure all for anxiety. Make a list of goals, short and long term. Make a list of swears when you’re mad, in multiple languages if you like. I like to post a picture of me all dolled up and smiling, then hashtag vulgarities in French. Make a list of all your awesome traits, and while you’re at it, make a list of why the relationship really wasn’t that great. You might be pleasantly surprised to see how long that list it.
Laugh about it. (???) Yes. Breakups can be funny. Think of the snot cry. Think of the initial phone call to your mom, like Will Farrell in Anchorman, you were trapped in a glass case of emooootion. I developed the most bizarre sense of humor through my breakups and it really did help. I liked to put on this skit with my friends anticipating my next first date: *sticking out hand to shake* “Hi my name is Erika, I’m 23, I like to play pool, my fiancé just left me, don’t mind my bruises I just had my nose done, I live with my parents again, and my psychic says we are meant to be, nice to meet you!” Score. Once you can make light of it, it makes it easier to relax a little and easier for your friends to help you.
Reflect constructively. It’s good to talk about your feelings but going around in circles may keep you stuck. Don’t analyze a particular sentence or encounter 12,457 times. Be realistic about what actually happened. After some time I understood that it wasn’t anything in particular that I said or did, it wasn’t anything in particular about me at all, it was just the simple fact that we were no longer supposed to be together. Try channeling your fretting into a fun new activity like a dance class or go for a run listening to Roman’s Revenge.
Do one big thing. Buy a plane ticket and take that trip you’ve been dreaming of. Pack up and move to a new state. Trade in your car for a new one. Sell all your furniture and start over. Go back to school. This is the time to do that one big thing that has been in the back of your mind that you never got around to in your relationship. Solidarity is liberating and can feel empowering! I went to the pet shop and bought a small dog that I had always wanted. I had never had a dog before that. It was like an episode of “I didn’t know I was pregnant,” I was a fucking mom with the swipe of a credit card. She’s my soul mate. I traded in a dog for my soul mate.
Get to know yourself. Did you know that you’re actually pretty cool? When it’s hard to trust others can you say you trust yourself? You can’t trust someone you don’t know and you can’t feel secure without trust. When you understand yourself you’ll be able to trust yourself. When you know your worth you won’t let people in your life that don’t belong. You’ll trust yourself to make better decisions and let the right people in. Get to know yourself as an individual and surround yourself with people that have values and aspirations like yours. I never had as many friends as I did when I was single after that breakup. When I look back, that time was the most fun I have ever had in my life.
Positivity. Positivity is power. Pin positive quotes on your Pinterest board. Memorize positive affirmations. Surround yourself with strong, positive people. Read breakup books and blogs to feel the community of survivors around you! You’ll soon see that a bad breakup is almost a rite of passage, almost everyone has experienced it. Accepting it for what it is and trying to move through each day in a positive manner will help get you through. When you repeat positive things you will eventually feel more positive. Know that it may not be okay today or tomorrow, but it will be okay soon. In your low roller coaster moments that feel completely intolerable, stop and tell yourself that this intense moment will pass. It will pass. It will.
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