“Even in the loneliest moments I have been there for myself.” ~Sanober Khan
Last year, I decided to leave my boyfriend, who I had a loving and wonderful relationship with. I left for logistical reasons. I didn’t like the city I lived in or my job. But my boyfriend was happy there, so he stayed and I left.
The world doesn’t prepare you for a broken heart. There aren’t benefits you can apply for when the person who’s been beside you for years one day isn’t. The reality is that unless you’re married, people understand your feelings for a moment when you tell them about your breakup, but not much longer after the moment passes.
I will be so bold and compare losing a partner to losing a family member. Growing out of your teens and into your twenties is a big transition. And when you date someone through that time, they play a crucial part in that growth.
This is what happened to me. I became a “falsely independent” adult woman. What I mean by falsely is that you feel independent, but really, you’ve just replaced your family, and any person you grew up leaning on, with a partner. And when that partner is gone, it’s time to start adulthood all over again. For me, it starts here.
When you’re single, no one notices if you’ve eaten that day. Nobody tells you to come to bed when you’re staying up late working on a project. Nobody notices if you’ve worn the same sweater three days in a row, or if you need to trim your bangs.
One day, months after my breakup, I woke up hungry and tired, wearing the same old clothes, and had hair hanging in my face. I realized then it was time to grow up and be my own partner.
In the last year of being single, I’ve figured out a few ways to be the kindest, most loving partner to yourself that you can be.
Invest in Your Friendships
When in a happy and healthy relationship, we tend to let old or potential friendships fall by the wayside.
Just make sure, like in any successful relationship, to give as much as you receive from your loving friends.
Sometimes the best type of friend will let you vent for hours about your broken heart or the fifteen different guys you’re trying to date at the same time, but make sure you spend time listening to him or her as well. They might have a lot to say too, even if you feel like you’re going through more.
When you find out that you and a new coworker have a mutual interest in running, and they say, “We should go running sometime,” instead of saying “For sure!” and then never giving it a second thought, take out your phone, type their phone number into it, and take them up on the offer.
Make New Memories in Old Places
For a long time, I had an impossible time walking around the city. It felt like my ex and I had kissed on every corner, shared a meal at every adorable café, taken a photo with every monument, biked around every park… brutal.
I started going out of my way to make new memories in these same spots. I took an oddball tinder date to that adorable café, and for some reason, it’s easier to think of his eyebrow ring than old memories with my ex.
I went to that same park with three friends. We drank ciders and played “Never have I ever.”
That corner we kissed at for the first time? That’s now the finish line where I set my new PB for a 5k. Walking around the city has never been more peaceful.
Give Yourself Cry Space
This might be the most important thing I’ve learned in one year of mourning a relationship. Even a strong, independent woman like myself has a secret heart under my ribcage that is made up entirely of mush.
It doesn’t matter if people understand how significant your breakup is. If it hurts you to think about it, then you need to let yourself cry, scream, pout, watch sad movies, listen to sad songs (and “our” songs), or stay in bed for a day.
Have you been feeling sad, but burying it away and going through the motions of your day? Bad idea. Those sad feelings accumulate, and they will eventually come pouring out of you, and most likely at a really inconvenient time. Like when you’re at work. Or when you’re in the middle of giving a presentation. Or when you’re on a date with someone new. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ve just lost the most significant person in your life. Your best friend. Your confidant. The one you thought was “the one.” You’re allowed to cry about it. Not only for the first week, but for as long as it takes.
Throw Yourself into a Hobby
Possibly the greatest benefit of breaking up with somebody is all of the free time you gain. You no longer spend hours and hours gazing into your loved one’s eyes, talking about nothing. Now is the time to gear up, get out, and start all things you’ve been meaning to start.
Don’t know where to start? I like running. This year I ran a marathon. I also learned how to surf, learned a language, took up hip-hop dancing, read more books, and tried kickboxing.
I know it’s tempting, but don’t make drinking or smoking your new hobby. Yes, it numbs that shattered heart of yours, but it isn’t benefiting anybody, especially not beautiful you. Plus, you likely won’t meet as many people at a bar as you will surfing at the beach.
My ex-boyfriend supported and loved me unconditionally, and he was vocal about it. It’s been tough for me to get used to radio silence when I say things to myself like “I did really bad at work today” or “I look so ugly in these clothes” or “I can’t sign up for that race. I’m not good enough at running.”
In these moments, my partner used to chime in and make me feel like a million bucks. But that’s my job now. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but hey, no one has to know. I give myself pep talks in public bathrooms, I write notes in my iPhone, I ask friends to compliment me if I need it. Trust me, it helps.
My ex-boyfriend and I worked, lived, and spent our free time together. I had probably an average of twenty minutes per day when I was out of arm’s reach from him.
I have never been a “touchy” or “huggy” person. But in the last year of being single, I have become the cuddliest person around. I will take any opportunity to hold a hand, give a hug, or link arms with the person I’m walking beside.
Don’t feel bad about this. You’re not strange. Humans need physical touch. Skin-to-skin contact can bring premature, dying babies back to life. Science says that if we go for long periods of time without being touched by a fellow human, it will negatively affect our mood, confidence, and physical health. Don’t be afraid to ask for a hug. If you feel like you need one, you probably do.
We live in a world where we are asked to get over trauma quickly. When I left my ex at the airport last year, I knew it would be hard. But I didn’t know it would be so hard, for so long.
There is no rulebook on how to be okay after a breakup. But if we can make a nest in life where we feel okay enough to get outside, get social, and get close to others, then there is a chance we will be okay, and we might even find love again. And even if we don’t, then at least we’ve fallen in love with ourselves.