For every ex-boyfriend, there’s a shoe box. You know the one. It usually gets shoved to the back of the closet or under the bed. Out of sight and out of mind. Full of little mementos and trinkets, notes and cards left over from the relationship. Sometimes it’s heavy, best reserved for that Manolo box. Sometimes it’s light and you stumble upon it months or years later wondering why it ever got a box in the first place.
Granted, none of us are strangers to this, myself included. And while I rarely share much of my very personal life here on This Time Tomorrow (for privacy sake), I do think there’s something interesting I’ve learned about dating in your 30s and I wanted to share it today: it gets exponentially more complicated, both when it’s good and when it’s winding down. As some of you may remember if you’re a longtime reader here, you know my boyfriend of 4 years and I broke up before I moved to NYC 2 years ago and I’ve had a few subsequent relationships and breakups since then, the details of which I won’t be going into today because, well, I have too much respect for myself and for them to do that.
What I would love to do today though, is share what’s helped me through my previous breakups, in hopes that it helps someone else bounce back. Because the reality is this: you will bounce back. You’ll learn so much about yourself in the process (and be a better person for it!). And there’s nothing better than clarity, especially when it comes to understanding what it is you want out of life and a potential partner, not just another shoe box.
So! Without further adieu…
Give yourself permission to be sad. It’s obvious, sure. And it gets included in every “How to Get Over The Breakup” post. But I think what put it into perspective for me recently, was when a friend gave me some advice on the matter: “We have a tendency to extend the least amount of grace to ourselves. To expect ourselves to be superhuman. You’ll learn so much and experience so many beautiful things if you free yourself from the expectation of perfection.”
So go ahead, be sad. Cry about it. Indulge in movies and songs that pull at those heart strings. And cry about it some more if you want. The two important things to remember are this: 1.) don’t be ashamed about it and 2.) give yourself a time period. A weekend, a week, whatever it is. And really feel it during that time, don’t hold back. Once that time period is up though, hold yourself to it and start getting things back on track. You’ll notice if you were really going through the motions of that grieving period, your system is probably drained and ready for a change of pace anyway.
Write it out, but don’t text it. I’ve always been a big believer in journaling and writing things out when I’m going through something big, good or bad. But I’ve also been guilty of perhaps texting when I shouldn’t have. My remedy? I’ll write a really long, nothing-held-back, no prisoners, email. Uncensored. Unedited. Raw. And more often than not, the very process of writing it out makes me feel infinitely better. And I never send it to them. Because it’s already served it’s therapeutic purpose at that point — it’s off my chest. One big thing to remember is to NEVER put in an email address in the to: field. Even if it remains an email draft the entire time, the last thing you need is a slip of the mouse sending that email off to your ex, or god forbid, anyone else for that matter.
Avoid the rebound game. We’re all guilty of this. It’s easy to think that the best way to get over someone is to find someone new. Of course, it may seem that way, at least for the sake of a distraction, but I think the older I get, the more I realize I can’t patch a bandaid on matters of the heart. If you don’t really allow yourself some time to focus on YOU, you’ll end up in a cycle of some of the same decisions as before, without really understanding why you’re making them. Spend time with friends. Spend time alone. Spend time learning how to code. I don’t care what you do, but please avoid jumping back in because you feel like it will fill some void. The truth is: it won’t fill anything until you fill it yourself.
Evaluate what YOU want. And that brings us to my next point. What do YOU WANT? Lately, I’ve had a number of close girlfriends go through breakups and it’s really interesting to evaluate how women talk about relationships and breakups in general, myself included. We spend so much time analyzing and talking about the things that went wrong, where things broke down or how either party could have done more (and don’t get me started on text evaluating).
What we don’t spend enough time doing is asking each other, “What do you actually WANT from him or from another potential partner in general?” “What makes you happy in a relationship?” “What do you want out of life and how does another person fit into it?” It’s easy when you’re wrapped up in someone else, to lose sight of some of the things you once held very near and dear to your heart, and don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with compromise, as long as it doesn’t come at the cost of either person giving up on something integral to their being. Because the right person will never ask you to give up on that. They’ll be the first person there rooting you on. And when it comes to our friends, we should remind each other of that.
Volunteer. I’ll preface this with the following: by all means, you should definitely exercise, eat well (with the occasional Ben & Jerry’s binge), travel, spend time doing the things that you love doing. But if you can, I really do think volunteering on top of all that, will get you back on that horse we call life. And it comes down to perspective. When you can lose sight of your own problems and focus on someone else and their situation, and hopefully bring about a positive impact for them, you start to realize how fleeting some problems are, including the ache you might feel in your heart at that moment. Give back. You’ll be amazed by what it gives back to you.
Focus on the BIG picture: goals and aspirations. Perhaps this goes without saying, but refocusing on big goals and plans is sometimes the best way to reboot your outlook. Remind yourself of all the things you want to accomplish this year. The next 5 years. And start prioritizing those moves. It’ll reopen doors within yourself that you might have been ignoring, walking past or perhaps giving up on prematurely. Start small, if you need to. But build out a plan and take some time to celebrate checking items off that list. Before you know it, it won’t be a matter of distracting yourself or just staying busy for the sake of staying busy. It’ll be YOU getting back to YOU. And that’s fucking awesome.
And there you have it! I’d love to hear from you guys though — what have you done during previous breakups to help you get over them?