We met in university. Became friends. Eventually started dating and fell in love. We were each other’s best friend. He was my first text in the morning, and my last before bed. When we entered the working world, we got first dibs on each other’s vacation time. We took trips everywhere from New York City to Honolulu, sharing memories scattered around the world. It was six years of bliss.
Everything was great—until it wasn’t.
I’m not quite sure when the cracks started to appear. But they were there. And then one day—after nine years of friendship, six years as a couple—we broke up. I was 28 years old, thinking I’d be married soon, and now? I felt alone.
This was me a few months ago. And it sucked. In those immediate hours, days, weeks and even months post-breakup, I couldn’t quiet my inner voice that kept asking, “What if this doesn’t happen for me again?”
Girl. Listen to me: that voice? It’s a liar.
I know that everyone copes differently, and I’m not here to give you advice on how to get over your ex or whether or not you should download Tinder. That’s a whole other article. What I can do is tell you what helped me realign my focus in the weeks following my breakup, and if you’re going through the same thing (sorry, girl), then maybe this can help.
All those things you’ve been putting off? Do them now
I was already actively saving and very close to paying off my student loans while in my relationship, but let’s face it, being in a couple made me a bit lazy. When your life is mapped out and you think your future will look a certain way, there isn’t as much impetus to aggressively tackle you things, because you’re focused on us things. But all that goes out the window with a breakup. It’s just you right now.
In the first couple weeks after my breakup, I paid off the rest of my student loans and credit card debt, went to the bank and came up with an aggressive savings and investment plan that best suited me and my financial goals. Y’all, the relief, coupled with how proud I felt, was huge. I was euphoric.
If you’re in the midst of a breakup, you will have plenty of stressful, overwhelming days. If you can eliminate some things off your life’s to-do list, it can make those days that much easier.
Listen to your gut
One of the most difficult things to process after my breakup was feeling like I had to “start over.” When you’re on a path to a very specific life scenario for so long, a detour can feel devastating.
Look, it can be hard when it seems like everyone around you is paired up, and it feels like you’re left behind—but that’s the time to focus on creating the best life for you. One of the best pieces of advice I received after my breakup came from a good friend. I had just told her about how I had a pit in my stomach because of the anxiety of starting over. All she replied with was, “so don’t.”
There is no correct timeline for all of this. You will know when it’s time to get back out there. In the meantime, replace When is it going to be my turn? with What do I want my life to look like when it is my turn? If you haven’t truthfully dealt with how you’re feeling and worked hard to make improvements where possible, believe me, entering into a relationship, let alone marriage, is the last thing you should be doing. Your worry doesn’t need to be about when, it should be about making sure you’re the best version of you for that moment.
Pick your team
Not only are you dealing with the loss of your significant other, but you might also be dealing with the loss of your shared apartment if you lived together, family that you’ve become close with during your relationship, and even (let’s be real, sometimes especially) pets.
For me, one of the most difficult things to figure out was who got custody of our mutual friends. Knowing each other for almost 10 years, and being a couple for more than half that, we had acquired a lot of people between us. Was I now going to lose all these friendships, too? Were people going to take sides? I had to be a grown up, sit these friends down and have mildly awkward conversations about how I hoped that our friendships would remain intact. Some did, and others grew distant. It wasn’t ideal, but it was my reality. I took comfort knowing that I did what I could to ease the situation for myself.
Say “yes” to change
If you’re dealing with a breakup, I don’t need to tell you that your life is transforming. Everything is in flux right now; from your larger life plans all the way down to your daily routines. Like now I only have to buy one bag of kettle corn, instead of two, when I go to the grocery store. OK, maybe I still buy two, but now I don’t have to share (silver linings?). The goal is to stop feeling like you’re at the mercy of the changing landscape of your life, and to take charge of it.
You’re afraid that you have too much free time now? Sign up for a class that you’ve always wanted to take. You’ll learn new things and get to meet new people. I signed up for a fitness class at my old university with a friend, and the sheer fact that I was in a different environment at least two days a week felt like a boost to my system. Not to mention that exercise does wonders for your mental and physical health, but it’s a simple fact: taking care of yourself feels good. Want a change of scenery? Take a trip to that place you’ve always dreamed about. Three days after my breakup, I booked a group trip to Italy. It was completely spontaneous, totally out of my comfort zone, and most importantly, it gave me something to look forward to. Do you feel like a failure? Ask to take on more responsibility at work. The new challenge will keep your mind busy, and when (yes, when) you start excelling at it, your confidence in yourself will return.
Change begets change. If we let ourselves relax, and accept that it can be a good thing, we’ll see transformations that we never imagined possible.
Look, I don’t really know if I’m “over it” yet, and frankly, I don’t think that’s the point. Breakups suck. They force you to reevaluate everything you thought you knew. You’re sad, confused, angry, and have to continue living your life. It’s a lot. But if you’re gentle with yourself, and take your time, it will get better. Use this as a reminder that everything you’re feeling is valid and real—but it will pass. You will make it through to the other side, where more joy and love than you can imagine awaits. Promise.
Then maybe we can figure out if we should download Tinder or not.
This piece was originally published on Nov. 9, 2017.
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