Recently, I received a request to write about breakups. You know, just a fun, light topic for this Monday morning.
Despite the gloominess of breakups, I’m happy to write about them because heartbreak is the one vulnerable strand that ties us all together. And I’m a sucker for anything that unites people, even if the subject is depressing. That sounds kind of dark, but whatever.
Breakups are the absolute worst emotional experiences in life apart from death or no longer fitting into your favorite pair of jeans. Just because I’m married now does not mean I’ve forgotten the pit-in-your-stomach, I-refuse-to-eat-anything-but-guac breakup experience. They were the best of times, they were the worst of times.
I’m lying, they were only the worst of times.
Finding strength through breakups and being single has its benefits, but the scars exes leave behind will never fully disappear. Not to make things worse for those of you in the trenches of a breakup right now, but yeah– congratulations. You’ll have to carry this baggage with you for a very long time. It’ll get a bit lighter along the way, but all of that gunk in your heart that makes you question your lovability, withhold your trust, and fear for your future…well, those are battles you’ll be fighting even once you get married.
While I fully trust my husband, know that he loves me, and never worry that we’ll breakup, I still annoy him with requests for validation, and make up crazy scenarios in my head that would result in our demise. Clearly, this is a completely irrational way of thinking in regards my marriage, but scars from past relationships can’t always be ignored. This negative frame of mind isn’t a constant, daily battle by any means (that would be exhausting), because I’m completely aware that Aaron is an anomaly of the male species. Occasionally, however, I do have relapses of insecurity, fear of an abrupt goodbye, and poor assumptions about his intentions. My husband has done absolutely nothing to create or perpetuate these issues, but it’s nearly impossible not to accidentally project our pasts onto present relationships.
If you’re lucky like me, you’ll end up with someone who is the polar opposite of any guy you’ve ever dated, so the scars and scabs rarely become irritated. And when they do, your husband will be sensitive enough to their origin that he’ll patiently nurse you back to health. Nothing fades a scar quite like your life partner tending to it with love. Let that give you singles something to look forward to! (Ew, I still can’t figure out how to make that sentence sound normal without ending it in a preposition. Barf.)
But what do you do right now? The breakup has happened, and your knight in shining armor has not yet appeared with Neosporin and band aids. Is there a way to heal the open wound on your own?
Well, drink wine, obviously. Step one.
As the former queen of break ups (read more HERE), I’m happy to bestow on you some knowledge and advice. Let it be on the record that I personally did not apply most of this knowledge and advice when my own heart was broken. I have some serious attachment issues, plus the sometimes useful, usually damaging ability to never lose hope. If there’s one instance where losing hope really comes in handy, it’s after a breakup.
Basically, I’m a major hypocrite but I hope some of this can still help you.
The number one thing I tried and failed to do during breakups was enforce separation. Some women are really great at this. Some, but not most. No, most of us want to see if we can magically make things better by showing him what he’s missing, or want to prove that we’re cool enough to remain friends. SPOILER ALERT: THIS WILL NOT WORK.
The “still hang out” tactic works for 1/100 women. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but in the wise words of that bartender in He’s Just Not That Into You, “you are the rule, not the exception.” The odds of “still hanging out” without drama and emotional turmoil are slim to none. Especially in the case of breakups where you know deep down that it needed to happen, you’re just making things infinitely worse. Stop trying to make things work or using his “friendship” as a crutch because you don’t want to end up alone. This behavior will actually make you remain alone a lot longer than if you would just let things scab over, leaving you ready for the next guy to come along.
Time heals, as lame as it is to say, so let it do its thing. The first week will be the hardest, I promise. Then you’ll slowly get used to not interacting with that person, and eventually, you’ll stop feeling the need to. Bite the bullet. Rip off the band aid. Pull the plug. However you need to think about it, just don’t look back. Don’t make things worse by continuing to engage with someone who hurts your heart by way of toying with you, or who hurts your heart just because their presence makes you continually mourn the loss of your companionship.
The reason breakups are so sad is because you have to let go of great memories, of feeling close to another being, and of future dreams you built. If you keep holding onto those things, you’ll keep living in the state of sadness. Start the journey to happiness by saying goodbye…and meaning it.
Eventually, and I mean wayyyyy down the road when you can’t remember his smell or middle name, you can probably become friendly acquaintances with an ex. For instance, I texted one of my exes the other day just to say “Hey! Saw that you’re getting married soon! Congrats! Hope life is good!” The only reason I could do this is because it’s been 6.5 years and I probably wouldn’t have even noticed if he didn’t text me back. If you’re actively trying to convince yourself that you’re ready to be friends and hear about his new love life, then you’re not.
Also, you’re not going to be BFFs. Sorry. Be content with knowing that someday you can be friendly acquaintances who send each other vague “hope you’re well texts,” and that’s it. I’ve seen a few people become “close friends” with their ex, but there was always still a physical component to their relationship, so– no matter what they tried to convince themselves and others– they weren’t just “close friends.” I don’t make out with my close friends, okay? That’s a pretty stark divider. Don’t lie to yourself.
Let’s switch gears to a breakup tactic that I was actually pretty good at: Distraction.
I was really excellent at providing distraction for myself after a relationship ended. This was usually in the form of spending time with friends, but sometimes extended to the gym, learning how to curl my hair better, and binge-watching The Challenge on MTV. Johnny Bananas or CT?? How can a girl possibly choose??
Don’t sit in bed and eat your face off. Yes, admittedly, after some breakups, I thought this was the answer to my woes. I was wrong. I’d just end up dwelling on my ex, then dwelling on how I’d be too fat to ever attract a new mate. Call me shallow, but that’s where my mind went.
After a breakup in the summer of 2014, I skipped the whole binge-eating approach, and instead decided to go on the Chipotle diet, as well as make plans every single night after work. I lost 10lbs and spent way less time crying about my ex than I otherwise would have. I mean, it still took me six months to move on because I didn’t combine this tactic with separation, but still. On a nightly basis, I was distracted enough to feel somewhat happy, and that’s better than feeling completely miserable every second of the day. Plus I went on lots of dates with other people I met while I was out and about. And those free date meals counteracted all the money I was spending on happy hours with friends. Everything balanced out nicely.
[If you’re still trying to figure out what the Chipotle diet is, it’s just eating a giant Chipotle burrito bowl for lunch, then nothing else the rest of the day. Wine for dinner. Worked like a charm.]
So, in review, what have we learned so far?
- Drink wine
- Enforce separation
- Stay distracted
My final words of wisdom when it comes to breakups is to rewire the way you view the future. Instead of thinking to yourself, “I’ll really miss seeing him this weekend” or “I can’t believe I’ll never have his babies,” choose to think about all the exciting possibilities ahead. The next guy you’ll date could be someone who actually enjoys listening to show tunes with you! Perhaps you’ll become super successful in your career, then meet someone once you’re rolling in the dough, and won’t have to worry about being poor as newlyweds! Maybe you will have the best vacation of your life with a group of girlfriends that you would’ve otherwise missed because you were in a relationship!
Lots of good can come out of a relationship ending. Look at me! I’m happily married and get to blog about The Bachelor for a living. Life is good. Real good. If I hadn’t had my heart broken by all of those other punks, I would have ended up with someone who makes me feel only 5% of the happiness my husband makes me feel. At the time of those breakups, that 5% was the only percentage of happiness I knew– so I clung to it fiercely. Little did I know that my happiness had the capacity to multiply by 20.
Your happiness can explode in a good way, too– I promise. Hold onto that knowledge. But for now, here’s a virtual hug from me to make you feel better!