Many moons ago, in a land far away…I was married. To say it feels like I’m telling the story of someone else, but it was me…a much younger 25 year-old me. While we had been together five years prior to our wedding, the marriage part kind of freaked me out. Upon checking into our hotel on our honeymoon, the bellman addressed me by my married name, “…Mrs. Smith?” I began to hyperventilate. There were many reasons for this, but essentially I was just too young. So four months, a move to Atlanta, and a big 250-person wedding later, we separated and eventually divorced. But that was not the hardest breakup in my life.
Fast forward four years to the relationship, with the guy I was truly mad about for the first time in my life. It was ending. It wasn’t just ending, it was dismantling, disintegrating into a big pile of yuck. We shared a home, a cat, a cross-country move, intense passion and a life for two years. We had reached the point of, “what are we doing?” “Are we getting married at some point?” “Will we have children in the next few years?” His answer was no. This time, he was too young. I couldn’t blame him, but at the time I wanted to scratch his eyes out and slash the tires on his Land Rover. Instead I ended up on a girlfriend’s couch for a month in fetal position.
Have you been there?
I was always the one who left relationships so enduring a breakup had always been challenging, but tolerable. But when you’re dumped it’s a whole other dimension. Regardless of what side you’re on, there are a few survival techniques for managing the knee-buckling breakup with integrity and presence.
1. Cry your eyes out: Anytime, anywhere, unabashedly. The sooner you surrender to the grief and feel it, the more cleansed you’ll feel. Even though the person is still alive, you are literally experiencing a loss of someone in your life. Grieve it, let people know what you’re going through, and ask for the time and space to mourn this loss.
2. Surround yourself with support: Let’s face it, it feels good to initially surround yourself with salted caramel ice-cream and people who want to place a bounty on this person’s head for doing you wrong. Yet as you emerge from the cave and move through the grieving process what you really need is support. Avoid the “I told you so.” people. Surround yourself with people and things which nourish and support you. Make a list of these things which nourish you. Create a support system of close friends who ‘get’ you and can be your 911. Don’t be shy to seek the objectivity of a professional. Again this is a loss in your life, a vacancy which needs to be healed.
3. Invest in yourself: So much of the time we come away from a breakup with the self-esteem of Eeyore. This is the time to return to your interests and passions. Rediscover the beauty within you, the gifts you bring to this world. There is a silver-lining here and it’s called freedom! Take that road trip with your friends or even a party-of-one adventure. Remember how your ex thought a weekend road trip to Santa Barbara would be ‘boring’. Carpe Diem!
4. Get clear: Nothing twists the knife more than for your ex to text you a month later at 1am. “Missing you…” “What are you doing?…” “Are you up?…” These are all invitations to embark on a very murky swim through the sludgey swamp of ‘trying again’. It’s tricky because there may really be ‘something’ there, but this is a time for you to get crystal clear on what you want for your life and align with it. It will feel like you’re Superman with kryptonite, but remember the most important relationship you’ll ever have is the one with yourself. Honor you first!
5. Don’t be friends…yet: Give yourselves some time to grieve on both ends. It’s going to be some time before you’re able to climb to the higher ground of objectivity and even ask yourself is this a person you want to befriend. Time will tell, but don’t rush it until then.
6. 86 the rebound: Date when you’re ready rather than ‘dating for distraction’. It doesn’t feel good for either party when you’re out on a date pining for someone else to call you. See items 2 & 3 before embarking on the ultimately frustrating, rebound relationship.
7. Empowerment: One of my takeaways from that awful breakup was that if I could get through that, I could get through anything. It was seriously that bad! Take the process day by day. I kept telling myself, “Today will hurt slightly less than yesterday.” and it did..eventually. Now any challenge I encounter in my life, I gain strength from that period of fetal-position and say to myself, “I got through that, I can get through this.”
Following these steps, you will get through this breakup. And I can personally tell you there is so much waiting for you on the other side of it. It was through that breakup when I coined the phrase, “Emptiness is the space reserved for the spectacular to join you.” I wish you the spectacular soon!