“Getting over a past relationship is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point to move forward.” ~C.S. Lewis
I recently stumbled into a clothing store where everything was full of life and color, until I saw the sales clerk.
She had obviously been crying. I perused the merchandise and hesitatingly asked her a question about an item. Tears welled up in her eyes and she said, “I’m sorry, I’m so overwhelmed. My boyfriend just broke up with me.”
I wasn’t prepared for that answer, but as I looked at her more closely I saw my former self in her eyes.
I had, in fact, been that same heartbroken girl a few years back. I can still picture my ex-boyfriend standing in his driveway just before the July 4th holiday, me with tears in my eyes. He simply said, “I’m sorry, I can’t be what you want” and got into his car to drive off to the beach.
Talk about devastation. I felt paralyzed, thinking, who will love me now? How can I continue life without being part of a relationship? What is my status?
It took a while, but I did manage to get through that hurt. Here are some of the small steps that I took to learn how to love my life, regardless of being single or in a relationship.
Give yourself a period to grieve, and then set an alarm to get moving again.
Just like the sales clerk, I cried until my eyes were blurry. I refused to see my friends and family, and I sent every phone call straight to voicemail. I even stopped eating because I lost my appetite.
That was okay for the first three days, but then I looked at myself in the mirror and decided that it was time to start functioning again. So, I literally set an alarm clock and chose the date and time that I would pick myself up off of my couch and return to the land of the living.
Obviously, relationships take time to heal and we have every right to mourn their endings, but once the grief consumes us to the point that we lose productivity, there is a danger of it leading into a much darker place, or even a depression.
So when that alarm went off I got up, took a shower, got dressed, and decided that even if I simply made it to the grocery store that day, or took a walk in the park, it was better for me than sitting home to sulk.
Of course, I still had bouts of tears and got down at times, but at least I was out of a place where I would solely focus on my pain. After a while my grief was still there, but it began to lessen.
Find a cause that captures your heart and throw yourself into helping.
I always wanted to adopt a dog, so I sought out a pet rescue organization online and adopted my very own dog. She was a handful, and the first week alone she broke out of her crate, howled all night long, and needed to be walked every fifteen minutes.
I was exhausted, but prioritizing her needs above mine forced me to stop concentrating on my problems. Occasionally, I sent the rescue organization photos to show how well she was progressing, and they asked me to write an article for their newsletter.
Before I knew it, I was volunteering my marketing skills to post Facebook and Twitter updates about adoption events, collecting old bed sheets and towels for other animals in need, and advising other families on pet rescue. To this day, that is the cause that captured my heart and helped me to become a passionate advocate of pet rescue.
Be open to the power of saying “yes.”
As much as I was embarrassed at my newfound single status, I wondered what would happen if I decided to embrace the break-up as if I had chosen it. Then I made a decision to accept social invitations and say “yes” whenever possible.
I had a blast that summer! My days and nights were full of activities ranging from dog park meet-ups to planning an art exhibition, learning to plant flower boxes, and doing country karaoke at a local dive bar. Suddenly, I loved the power and thrill of saying “yes,” because I never knew where it would lead.
A couple of years later, my neighbor invited me and seven of her friends (none of whom I knew) on a girls weekend trip. I said “sure, what the heck?” That same weekend I ended up meeting my current boyfriend, and I eventually relocated from Boston to Miami.
Now we live together with his children and my rescue dog is our family pet. If you have a little faith in the unknown and are open to saying yes, you never know what path it can take you down.
Take your ego out of your hurt to make an “I” statement.
Oftentimes, at the end of relationships we over-analyze them, letting our egos get in the way, and asking ourselves, “What could I have done to make him/her stay?” or “What qualities didn’t I have that he/she wanted?”
Try writing every question down that you still have about the relationship. Then re-phrase it from your point-of-view. For example, my ex-boyfriend said, “I can’t be what you want,” so I wrote down “Can he be what I want in a boyfriend?”
Doing so made it so obvious to me that we fell into a relationship where we were simply going with the flow. I realized that I wanted a partner who was seeking a long-term commitment and wasn’t afraid to verbalize that up-front.
In changing my outlook on my past relationship I eventually got to spend time getting to know and falling in love with my own life. Regardless of if I am single or with a partner, my relationship status no longer defines me, and that is freeing.
Happy woman in the rain image via Shutterstock