Leah: I recently went through a break up, during which I found myself in a position where I needed to take my own advice. I have helped my fair share of friends through break ups, but now it was my turn.
The only other major break up that I’ve been through was my divorce. It took me almost 3 years, including a full year of therapy, to fully recover from it. It was intense and ugly, and I never wanted to go through something like that again.
It also took me almost 3 years to be ready for another relationship. This relationship would be different, I thought. But when things didn’t work out for us, I felt like I had failed again. I had to remind myself that I know how to handle this in a way I could be proud of. I ended the relationship because it wasn’t healthy and I wasn’t happy, so why would I continue down that path?
Breaking up with a partner can be a dark time in your life, no matter how healthy, prepared or strong you may be. It is up to you how you will make peace with this darkness. Losing a partner often feels like losing a best friend. Our brains do this crazy thing where the only memories you seem to think of are the good ones, where the love between you was bright and warm. But it's true what they say: time will heal, and this period will eventually end.
In the meantime, here are some tried + true tips for dealing with yourself during this difficult period:
1. Write about it.
Writing has always been therapeutic for me, so whenever anything monumental happens I turn to writing as an outlet. I am a firm believer in writing as a form of therapy. Find a comfortable space – I usually like to write on the couch or outside. For me, writing is all about the setting. Make sure you are comfortable and relaxed and in a good headspace, then put pen to paper. Don’t over think about what you want to write about or what you want to get out of the writing. Let the writing take control and lead the way.
The more you make the time and space to write, the easier and more beneficial it will become.
In my writing, I like to make goals for myself with a date when I want to come back and review the goal to assess where I am. I also like to write letters to myself or to whoever is on my mind at the time.
While going through this recent break up, I wrote out all the reasons why we weren’t working together so that I could go back to that when I was having doubts to reflect and remind myself of why I was doing this. I also wrote a letter to my ex-girlfriend to find closure. As I’m writing, I am able to get everything out and down so that it isn’t just floating around in my head. It gives me clarity.
2. Talk about it.
I struggle with communicating and talking about my feelings, and this was no different in my recent ex-relationship. I struggled to communicate with her when I was feeling unsure about the relationship and where it was headed, when I was having a hard day and wanted space and time by myself. I struggled to open my mouth and tell her how I was feeling, so instead I kept it in and thought the feelings would pass.
I also struggled once the break up was official, to talk to my friends and family about it. I wanted to hide from it and avoid it. I fought through those struggles and answered the phone when my mom called to ask how it went. I fought through those struggles when I broke down and cried to my sister and opened up about how hard the break up was on me.
My goal is to recognize my weaknesses and work towards strengthening them. Instead of being hard on myself for still struggling with speaking up and communicating, I decided to start the change one step at a time. One step in the right direction is something to be proud of.
I’ve had this idea stuck in my head since my divorce that I need to be stronger than I was then, that I need to be a walking example that I learned from that experience, that I won’t let another person damage me like he did. I feel this sense of pressure to live up to my own expectations for myself. So when things didn’t work out in this recent relationship, I felt disappointed in myself for feeling all the things I was feeling. I didn’t even want to let myself feel all these things. I thought maybe they would go away if I didn’t mention how bad I was struggling to anyone. Instead, I when I opened up to my sister and talked about how I felt disappointed in myself and defeated, that was the moment I felt strength again. I felt like I was able to face myself and forgive myself, and that was the moment I was able to move forward.
Stop hiding from yourself and let yourself feel whatever feelings you’re experiencing. That is when you will discover your truest, most authentic self.
3. Be healthy.
This is important because when you're struggling, it is human nature to retreat to unhealthy, destructive behaviors.
Some of the healthy habits that I’ve found and try to turn to are going to the gym regularly, cooking new recipes and spending time in the kitchen, making the time to write or read daily, and reaching out to friends that I may have not been able to see lately.
I’ve found that when I am taking care of my body and showing it love, that it is reflected in all aspects of my life. When I feel good, I look good. When I look good, I feel confident. When I feel confident, I’m unstoppable.
4. Tap into your people.
Don’t forget, as lonely as you may feel, you are not alone. Tap into your network, your community. Lean into your friendships. Call your mom, your aunt, your cousin. There’s no shame in needing support after a break-up. Everyone has been through it and can relate.
This is also an opportune time to reinvest in the other relationships in your life that you may have been unintentionally neglecting. So much of the fulfillment you find or seek in your romantic relationships can be found in your friendships (And most importantly, yourself. But that’s another subject).
5. Schedule self-care + practice self-love.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to show yourself love during this time. No matter how things ended or why, you deserve love. Realize that you are your biggest investment, and then prove it to yourself. Every day, week, month, schedule a block of time for self-care, whatever that may look like to you. Do something for yourself that feeds your soul and nourishes your mental health.
After hearing this phrase in one of my morning guided meditations, I have repeated it to myself almost every day: "I love you, and I'm here for you." Yes, it feels weird to tell yourself "I love you." But the more you say it, the more you believe it. It actually brought me to tears the first time I said it because I realized that I had never actually verbally told myself that before. How is that possible? You remember to tell your partner "I love you" every day, but how is it that you've never spoken those words to yourself? You. Deserve. All. The. Love. Don't forget it.
6. Find new ways to spend your time.
Think about all of the time you have grown so used to spending on your ex-partner – date nights, phone calls, Netflix and chill, etc. All of those hours add up. Suddenly, you have a lot more time on your hands now that you’re single again. But rather than being intimidated by that, allow it to inspire you.
What hobby have you been thinking about taking up but never could make the time for? Book that class. Who is that one person you’ve been meaning to reach out to and catch up with? Call them. What’s the restaurant you’ve been wanting to try? Go treat yourself. Invest your time in yourself.