Biiiiiiiiig breath. That’s me talking to myself right now. I’ve dreaded this post, and I’ve also thought about it pretty much every day since the day I broke up with my ex-boyfriend. But, to be totally upfront right now, this is not about him or the details of the breakup. It’s no one’s business, including my own at this point. I know this is a highly requested, and possibly even necessary, post. My poor digital consultant who puts together my analytics report every month has to put the top 30 search terms… for the past year there have been 25 iterations of “break up” and his name. During our monthly calls, we just skip right past the page at this point!
I specifically titled this post “going through a break up” because it’s not something that happens in one day. It’s a process (leading up, the actual break up, and the recovery). And that’s a huge reason why it took me so long to buckle down and write this post. I’m probably not even going to edit it because I don’t want to re-read it; so expect a long-winded and probably winding post here.
Since the day I mentioned the breakup, I’ve been getting daily emails/DMs about how to get through a breakup. For the first few months, I barely could respond because every message served as a reminder. I may have gone two hours without thinking about it, and then I’d get a DM about it (nice or not) and I would sink again. When I say every day, I mean every day. Sometimes hourly. After a while, I just didn’t feel qualified to talk about it, and I wasn’t sure if I could say anything without just doing a typed-word-explosion-of-anger. But now, I’m in a place where it’s a closed chapter. There have been ups and downs, but overall, (and here’s the craziest part!), I’d say it was one of the best things to happen to me.
Did it suck? Yes. Was I so sick for weeks that I could barely eat? Unfortunately. Did I feel like I would ever recover? For a while, no.
Breaking up has to be one of the worst feelings. Even if you want to and even if it’s the right thing to do, it doesn’t feel good. Though it’s an emotional thing, it manifests in such a (literal) gutwrenching way. I understood why they call it a broken heart. You feel like you’re breaking. I wouldn’t wish it on the worst of my enemies. If you’ve been through a breakup, you know what I mean.
Before I go through my advice, I have to share a little disclaimer first. If you’re in the weeds of it (like you’re about to break up or you just broke up/were broken up with), it won’t matter what I say or what anyone else says. You just kind of have to experience it. No one else can do it for you; you have to buck up and get through it. I know that sounds kind of mean, but if there was some magic solution, I’m sure someone would have invented it already and retired to a private island. You just have to get through it. Even if I tell you it’ll get better (and it will), it won’t feel like it. But I’ll say it anyway😉, it gets better!
Remember how I said I’ve been getting messages and emails daily asking for advice on how to get through a breakup? Well, it means a lot of people experience breaking up at some point in their lives, maybe (probably) even multiple times. Anyone who has had or is in a second relationship has gone through a breakup. It might not have been an explosive breakup, but at some point, that first relationship ended. Even though I was frustrated at times by the constant reminder of my breakup from the emails, I eventually found solace in knowing how many people experienced it. EVERYONE experiences it. And if they haven’t experienced it yet, there’s a good chance they will. Be there for your friends when they go through a breakup and know that your friends will likely be a great shoulder to cry on too.
When I felt so physically ill from the breakup, I was able to envision (even if I couldn’t actually see) a light at the end of the tunnel knowing that my friends, my sister, my mom, had all gone through breakups and all came out alive on the other end. It was a good reminder and essentially even a mantra at times: “They survived, and I will too.”
I didn’t respond to the breakup emails at the beginning (my one exception to my otherwise strict “respond to everyone” rule). But when I eventually started responding, the only thing I’d write was to encourage the girl to take it one day at a time. Don’t think about tomorrow; don’t worry about next week; don’t look down the road to six months from now. Focus on the day, and getting through it. I kept myself busy, as opposed to wallowing in it, and would just get through every appointment, every meeting, every phone call knowing if I could just get to the night, I could go to sleep and wake up in a new day.
With that said, it gets easier over time. As I mentioned, it won’t feel like it, but it does. I guess this kind of goes back to that first point. But it starts to get easier over time. Because you’re taking things a day at a time, you won’t notice the change until a few weeks in; you’ll realize you went through a full day without crying, or without venting to a friend, or without being overcome with anger. It’s like losing weight in that sense. You don’t notice the small ounces shrinking away, but one day, those pants you have sitting in the special spot in your closet fit perfectly. It doesn’t happen overnight. You will notice it when you least expect it, too. For me, I noticed it when I eventually did feel sad. I’d think, “Well I’m sad now, but I definitely wasn’t feeling sad for the past week, and I didn’t even realize it!”
This is something that I don’t think I would have necessarily done had I not been living a (somewhat) public life. And that is, I didn’t sink into the temptation of airing dirty laundry on social media. Social media can be TOXIC during a breakup. Whether you’re stalking photos or using your Instagram captions as a substitute for therapy. Keep your head above the water and don’t succumb. First of all, it’s not a good look for anyone. (I think we all have one friend who used Facebook to drag someone through the mud and it’s kind of like watching a train wreck.) Beyond that though, it’s downright unhealthy. It won’t allow you to truly rise above it and get through the breakup. Instead of moving forward, you’ll spiral downward. Think of Dory’s famous words: “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” If you see something that enrages you (been there!), stick to the high road. Doing anything else won’t help you move on. And that’s the end goal: moving on.
While you’re keeping your head above the water and not getting stuck in the quicksand of negativity, focus on the positive. The biggest realization for me was that you have to know what doesn’t work to know what does. For me, I knew what didn’t work. It didn’t mean that everything didn’t work; I wouldn’t have been in the relationship in the first place if somethings weren’t great. But the breakup happened for a reason; something isn’t working. It might not be evident right from the start though, especially if you weren’t the one to initiate the breakup. You’ll have to be honest with yourself to dissect what wasn’t working. I didn’t even realize some of the problems until I was with someone where there wasn’t an issue where there once was one!
No relationship is going to be perfect (because we’re perfectly imperfect), but you’ll have certain priorities that are dealbreakers. I think we like to think of dealbreakers in the superficial sense (not tall enough! teeth aren’t straight enough! doesn’t wear the style I like!). In reality, I think the dealbreakers are those things that end relationships– and you won’t know those until you’re shoulder-deep into one. Maybe it’s a different stance on family values. Maybe it’s how you’re spoken to. Maybe it’s the person’s (un)willingness to compromise. There are endless options here, and it’ll be different for everyone (and frankly every relationship).
For every relationship that doesn’t work out, you’re one step closer to finding one that does work. Don’t let the fear of breaking up or getting hurt stop you from opening your heart to someone new. There’s so much pressure to find THE ONE, and I actually believe there should be more emphasis on being okay with finding NOT THE ONEs. When you know what doesn’t work, it makes the good ones that much better.