Last summer my world went topsy turvy. I went through a breakup.
We all go through them, and as far as I can tell, they always suck. Even under the most copacetic of circumstances, breakups are hard. To get us all in the same headspace, I want you to go on a little journey with me. You in?
Think about the last time you had your heart broken – by a friend, lover, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, sibling, parent, whatever. Have that memory at the top of your mind? Does it ache a little bit just to think about it?
I’m sorry, that was kind of a cruel exercise. Here’s a cute picture of some kissing meerkats courtesy of the San Diego Zoo’s instagram (seriously, follow @sandiegozoo – too cute).
In all seriousness though, I think heartbreak is universal. I’ve had my share (as we all have), and it never gets easier. Each time a relationship is lost, it hurts all over again…even when you know it’s for the best. My first serious breakup wasn’t with a boyfriend, but rather with a best friend. I was devastated. I lost weight, partied harder than I should have, and actually ended up breaking someone else’s heart. (At the time, having two boyfriends seemed like a good way to protect myself from future heartbreak. Spoiler – it did NOT work. Lesson learned.)
Thankfully, I’ve grown up a little bit since then, and I think I’ve gotten much better at breakups. They’re not easier – actually, I think they get harder as you get older and life becomes more complex – but I’ve picked up some healthier coping strategies. One year after successfully surviving a breakup, I present the following tactics.
- Let yourself be sad. I think this is the hardest one of all. There’s a lot of pressure to be happy and be ok, but sometimes you’re not. This is going to suck. There’s just no way around it. I called in sick to work one day last fall just to cry it out with my Netflix account – months after my actual breakup. Emotions aren’t linear and there’s no right amount of time to mourn a relationship. Cancel plans if you need to. Take a break from being the life of the party. Cut yourself some slack and let yourself wallow…for awhile.
- Get help/access your support system. Feel all the sad, but if you’re feeling like you can’t go on, can’t pull yourself out of the funk, or are engaging in any kind of self harm (including risky behavior and negative self talk) – get some support! Whether it’s a friend, family member, or mental health professional, reach out – you’re not alone. In fact, even if you do know you’re going to be ok, reach out anyway. Lean on the other relationships in your life – everyone’s been there on some level. You might be surprised at how happy other people are to just be there for you.
- Set parameters for your relationship with your ex. Figure out how much contact you do or don’t want with this person. Draw the lines where you need them and respect the lines that the other person needs. It may feel weird, and it certainly won’t be easy, but defining those “lines” for yourself will make it much easier for both of you. Sure they will evolve over time, but check in and be clear about that evolution. Getting drunk and going home with an ex is not an “evolution,” it’s a recipe for disaster. Set parameters around social media too. Checking his facebook profile every hour isn’t going to help you move on with your life.
- Set non-relationship goals. Many of us get caught up in the narrative that we’re supposed to find the One, get married, and live happily ever after. When that doesn’t happen, it can feel like we’ve failed. News flash: You didn’t fail, and that narrative is kind of bullshit (and viciously propagated by our carefully curated social media lives). My antidote to failure (even though this is NOT failure), is a new goal. Please, for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT make your goal about your love life. Pick a goal that requires only you. Maybe it’s a great time to learn Spanish, play the guitar, run a 5K, or knock it out of the park at work. If you’re super ambitious like me, your new goal will be to keep a house plant alive for a full year. Not even kidding.
- Make decisions about your life. While breakups are really shitty, they are a natural pivot point. It’s a good time to reflect and change the things in your life that aren’t bringing you joy. Don’t feel like you have to do it overnight, but be open to making big changes. I moved in with roommates post-breakup (truly awesome ones too!), but months later I was still uncomfortable in my new world. Over Thanksgiving, my parents suggested I get my own place. It hadn’t occurred to me before, but it was like a light bulb went off! I had put my life on hold because I felt so unmoored by the breakup. I was drifting along. Getting my own apartment – while a scary financial decision – felt like the stake in the ground of my life as an independent person. “This is my life, I belong here.” Don’t put off big decisions waiting for someone else to come along. Move abroad, adopt a dog, get your very own Costco membership- just stop waiting to decide until you get into a new relationship. The waiting will make you nuts, and you’ll have to consider what someone else wants. Embrace the freedom.
So that’s what I’ve got folks. That’s how I navigated the dark waters of my own breakup. It was tough, but I can honestly tell you that today I am in love with everything about my life. Yes, I am absolutely terrified of getting my heart broken again (that shit HURTS), but I’m more open than I’ve ever been. Every single time, the love, growth, strength and experience I’ve gained from opening my heart has been worth the pain of breaking it. I hope you’ve all felt the same.
Enough about me. What about you? Want to share your best advice on recovering from a broken heart? Want to share your breakup story? Hit me with some of that untapped wisdom!