Break Up Advice: 9 Things I've Learned

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Break-ups suck. There, I said it.

While dating in my 20s after my first big relationship ended, I had my fair share of "break-ups" but when you've only been seeing someone for a few weeks, or a couple of months it doesn't usually have the same intense ramifications of the break up of a long term relationship. Sure, you're sad and it hurts and it sucks, but in my experience I was able to dust myself back off and keep moving forward. Sometimes the ghosts of those relationships would pop back up, but it mostly felt manageable.

With everyone I dated and subsequently broke up with, I learned things about myself and what I was looking for in a relationship. And then I took those things with me into the next encounter or person I dated. 

With my most recent ex, our break up hit me hard -- because for a long time I believed he was "the one". I thought he was the person that I had been looking for, and that everything that I had learned had led me to him. It was a difficult thing to come to terms with and hit me hard.

By the end I knew that it was time for me to move forward and I've spent the last 9 months working on healing and re-establishing who I am, and what I want in a relationship. And while I know our break up was the right thing, I still have moments of intense sadness. In those moments, these are some things I've learned along the way.

1. Random things will make you sad

"Oh hi new season of the show we used to watch together"
"Weird -- I know the people in those photos and those were taken in my old house"

After a break up there, are times when you'll expect to be sad (When you find a photo of the two of you, their birthday, a song you both loved comes on, when an acquaintance asks about them, when you decide to write a post giving break up advice...) And then sometimes the sad break up feelings surprise the heck out of you at the most random, mundane moments - like when Netflix releases the newest season of your favourite show, or you catch a glimpse of a photo of them on a friend's social media stream, or when you pass someone wearing their favourite fragrance in the street. 

It's ok.
You're totally normal.
And it's really ok to feel the sad feelings.

2. You're going to have awkward conversations

...With people who don't know you've broken up, or when friends run into your ex or catch something they post on social media. It's going to be uncomfortable and may cause some sadness, but these moments will decrease over time.

3. People will take their side

This usually comes in the form of their friends and family members, but sometimes you'll be surprised by the people you thought fell into "mutual" territory. You could be ignored, deleted and/or blocked. Do your best not to take it personally.

4. You lose more than just the partner

To be totally honest, losing my partner's family ranked high as one of the really tough things about our break up. They became part of my family and I felt very thankful to have them in my life. We shared a lot of really great memories on holidays, vacations and at random family dinners and they provided me with a lot of love and support. Last Christmas was so hard because it was the first one I wouldn't be spending with them in 4 years. A friend recently wrote an article about maintaining relationships with with your ex's family, which I found interesting, but it hasn't been an experience that I've encountered so far.

5. Having support is key

Whether that be your best friend, your trusted aunt, a therapist or any combination of these people, having support while you're going through this tough time is absolutely key. It's so tough and there are a lot of emotions to process and logistics to sort out, but you don't have to do it alone. Talk to someone and let them be there for you when you need to cry or vent or pack up your belongings to move to your new place. I was very thankful to have incredible support from my friends and therapist while I was going through my break up. It helped me to feel less alone and allowed me to process everything that I was feeling and working through in a very safe way.

6. Months later you'll have more clarity

In the moment, it's so hard to recognize this and not feel anything but sad. But the days will get easier, especially if you practice good self care and surround yourself with an awesome team. Your gut will tell you that you've made the right decision, even if it didn't feel easy at the time.

7. Once you're out of the woods, you'll hopefully be able to reflect on the good things you had

We always remember the beginnings and endings, but when it comes to relationships I feel like it's so easy for us to ruminate on the not-so-great things, especially at the end. There will come a day when you'll hopefully be able to reflect on the great memories, the laughs you shared or at least the positive things you gained from the relationship (even if they don't involve the person directly). I recently came across some photos of my ex and I, along with some cards and while they made me sad on one hand, I was also able to smile and remember some good feelings from those moments in our time together.

8. One day you're not going to think about them

And you'll realize it and feel strange.

This person was a daily fixture interwoven into your life for the duration of your relationship, and suddenly they don't even cross your mind and aren't a part of your life anymore. You'll start to have more and more of these days.

9. You probably won't be able to be friends

Some former couples defy this and manage to have healthy friendships, but after you break up with someone you'll probably realize one of 3 things:
  1. You have nothing to be friends about. Your relationship started in flirtation and dating, went on to be a partnership and after it's over there isn't really a reason for you to stay connected. 
  2. They're not a good person and you don't want them in your life at all.
  3. It's just too difficult for one or both of you.
This could change and evolve over time, but being friends with an ex can be really, really hard.

If you're going through a break up, give yourself some grace, surround yourself with some awesome people to support you and continue to practice self kindness. I don't really want to give you cliched advice like "it's going to make you stronger" -- but it's kinda true. You'll get to the other side and realize new things about yourself, who you want to be in a partnership and the kind of partner you want to be with.

The feelings I've had following this break up have continued to surprise me, but I'm proud of the growth I've felt along the way. I haven't felt paralyzed by my thoughts or feelings, but instead it's been an opportunity to reflect, re-evaluate and do my best to take care of myself.


Kelsey said...

Thank you for this post! I just recently went through a break up. No rhyme or reason for it. It was absolutely devastating. :( I'm still working through it, but reading other views on this is very helpful!

Trish C said...

Thanks for writing this all down. It helps to remember when you have a "moment". Along the Netflix new season line, I'd started watching a show with an ex and couldn't bring myself to watch the remainder of the series for almost a year, but I got there.

And I've been able to maintain a friendship with a different ex, we're in year 4. We're business partners and all of the awesome stuff about him is why he's such a great business partner, and all the personal stuff that didn't work isn't mine to deal with anymore. He's moved on and is doing very well, I'm super happy for him and I believe when I meet my next someone, he'll be happy for me too.

Anonymous said...

This was exactly what I needed to read. ❤️My former fiancĂ© and I had been together 4 years and it's been almost 5 months apart and I still feel a lot of emotion on it. Thank you for such an authentic and deeply needed post!

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