Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How To Move On: The Do's and Don'ts

The end of a relationship is always hard, regardless of the circumstances. We are faced with all kinds of challenges: we have to start over, relearn things, change our way of thinking, not let the past consume us, stay positive, and move on.

I have always been pretty good with breakups. I never wanted to give the relationship another try, there was always a reason for it to end. The men that I have dated have mostly been lovely, but I always knew, even when we were together, that there was no real future, which I think made it easier when we said our goodbyes.  It wasn't until my last break up that I learned just how difficult it is to let go and move on. This breakup was different, because we were planning to get married. We went from making forever plans to dividing our things and moving out of our shared home.

To say it was heartbreaking is the understatement of the year. Previously, the idea of settling down evoked a feeling of panic and suffocation, but suddenly I found myself in a relationship where I was incredibly excited about building a future with someone. So, despite knowing it was necessary, my world came crashing down when we broke up. I was devastated. I lost 15 pounds, I couldn't focus on work, all of my conversations were centered around how sad I was, I took sleeping pills at night, I had panic attacks, and the crying was non stop. I cried all the time, regardless of where I, the supermarket, the side of the road. It didn't matter, my tears came and they came in abundance.

I spent a good deal of time playing everything over in my mind, thinking of what we could've done differently, wishing I had a time machine and could have a re-do. I also spent time thinking that this was a joke or a bad dream, that any minute, things would go back to normal. I am sure that I was unbearable to be around and I genuinely love and appreciate all of the people who supported me, listened to me, held me while I cried etc even though for them, it was like listening to a broken record of a bad song.

The positives, I'll say, is that I learned a lot about relationships, who I am and what I want and need, so I now have new material for my blog (something I gave up while I was otherwise engaged) but today I will discuss moving on and how to do it.

How To Move On: The Do's and Don’ts


Accept It: The first thing one needs to do to move on is accept that the relationship is over. This can be the hardest thing, because when we are so invested in something, it's hard to believe that it can just disappear. But it does. It happens. It’s horrible and excruciating, but reality. What's done is done and nothing we can do or say or promise will change that. I know it's hard, trust me, I do, but it is essential to the moving on process, Once we accept that it's over, we can begin to rebuild and reprogram our lives to suit US.

Want To: Hand and hand with acceptance is WANTING to move on. My break up was epic. We went back and forth so many times. I moved out in May, moved back in June, moved out again in August. We kept taking space but then trying to "work it out." (Talk about pointless, boring and ridiculous!) Everyone thought I was being an idiot for trying, and truthfully, I agreed with them. But still, I listened to the former "love of my life" tell me that he loved me, that he was sorry and was going to make it better. Honestly, more than anything, I wanted to believe him. I wanted to ignore the obvious fact that his actions did not match his words. But one night, I thought about it, and I realized that the only time I was unhappy was when I was with/talking about/thinking of him. Talk about a red flag and a revelation.  I realized I wasn't moving on because I hadn't wanted to give up yet. Once I realized that: the answer was obvious. Painful as it was, it's subsiding and I know that I will move on to someone who doesn't make me cry every time I think about him. In fact, the other night, I told someone that I was “happier than I’ve been in a long time,” and surprisingly realized that I actually meant it.

Mourn: Mourning kind of comes with the territory, unless you are completely devoid of emotion, in which case you shouldn't be in a relationship. Everyone mourns differently. Some retreat, some party, some sob pitifully into their pillow every night, or some do a little bit of everything. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you do something. It’s ok to not be ok all the time.

Get Angry: We need to get angry. Angry with the other person, angry with ourselves, angry with the situation, angry at something. Angry because we failed. Because that's really what a break up is, a kind of failure. (Sometimes failure is a good thing.) Failure from the other person. Failing yourself. Failure of the ability to pick the right person, to make the right choice. Whatever it is, get angry, because it's upsetting and it's definitely infuriating to know that you made a bad investment. Get angry, do it. But then let it go. There is no need for long term negativity in our lives. (Note: it’s fine to be angry at the other person, but don’t express it to them.  No good will come from it.)

Forgive: To really move on we need to forgive. We need to forgive the other person for hurting us, for disenchanting us, for whatever it is they did. We need to forgive ourselves. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes, and that's fine so long as we learn from them. Forgive yourself. Forgive your ex. And once you do, a weight will be lifted and your life will look a whole lot brighter.

Tap into your Social/Support Network: Our good friends and family are in our lives for a reason, because they love and care about us.  It's not always easy to let people be there for us, to open up, to be vulnerable. We also worry that we're being downers, and that our sadness and neediness is annoying. (It probably is.) But if they really care about us, they'll get over it, and help us through it and then turn to us when the tables are turned. Truly, that is what friends and family are for: being there for one another. So go out. Have fun. Surround yourself with people who care about and make you happy. Wallowing at home is unhealthy.

Escape: If possible, go on a vacation or weekend away. get away from the situation and the city that holds so many memories and reminders. It will help revitalize you and help you view everything more rationally and objectively.

Keep Things in Perspective: No matter how bad things are, they could be a lot worse. You could be infected with Ebola, or in a war torn country, or homeless. I know it sounds trite but if you really think about how bad things are in the world, in the grand scheme of life, a break up is not that big of a deal. On a smaller scale, think about how worse it would be to stay with a person who clearly isn't right and doesn't deserve you.

Write your ex a letter: But don't send it! There's no point, it won't change anything. The letter is for therapeutic and cathartic reasons only. They're also good for reading later to remind us how unhappy/mad we are and reiterate why we're better off now.

Make lists: Make a list of what you want in life, what you want in a partner, what you deserve, why you're better off without your ex, why you're a catch, and what you have to be grateful for. Make these lists and stick to them. You don't need to compromise yourself or your happiness. (I was anti-list for most of my life, but once I started making them, I found them to be empowering and inspiring.)

Action:  Make plans and move on with your life. Keeping busy is a great way to move on and stop thinking about your broken heart. Here are some Action Items to get you started:
  • Set a goal: Whether it be professional, a hobby, a move etc set a goal with a distinct time frame. Make sure it's something you really want so that you are motivated and excited about achieving it. Note: your goal should not be about getting back with your ex or dating someone new. It should be "you" focused.
  • Hobby: Find a new hobby, or get more involved in the things you already do for fun. Now that you have more time on your hands, fill it with something that brings you joy, or something you're passionate about.  For example, I am directing a play. I love the theatre but directing is something I've never tried before. It's challenging and time consuming but I am loving every second of it. Relish in the fact that your schedule is now completely your own, you don't have to plan around someone else.
  • Work hard: Throw yourself into your job. This is a cliche, but it's true. Not having to think about going home to your partner means that you can really focus on your job and elevate yourself higher professionally.
  • Start dating again: Don’t jump into a new relationship but get back in the saddle. It'll feel weird and unfamiliar but it gets easier. The night before my first date after my breakup, I called my mother in tears (she's used to it by now) "I never thought I'd have to go on another first date again!" I wailed down the phone. She told me to get over it and realize how lucky I was that I had options. (Which of course i ignored. who wants logic at a time like that!) I called her again afterwards, you guessed it, crying, "I don't want to go out with him again!" I said between gulps. And I didn’t but I got over the first hurdle. The subsequent dates that I’ve been on have actually been really great. I am not making any major plans, but simply enjoying myself, and happily realizing that the world didn't end just because my relationship did. On the contrary…

Give it Time: Moving on doesn't happen overnight. It's a process, sometimes one that is one step forward three steps back. It takes patience and effort. There is no rule for how long it will take, everyone is different. There is no need to rush but at the same time, you shouldn't still be mourning years later. There is no such thing as “The One” and harboring unrequited feelings is a barrier to what/who else is out there.  


Don’t reminisce: Looking through pictures, replaying old voicemails, reading old emails and texts of better times is destructive and only causes more pain. Yes, you two were happy, and cute. Yes, you had some great times, but that was then and this is now.

Don't hope for a reconciliation: If we don't want a relationship to end, it's easy and natural to fantasize about the other person showing up at our door, telling us we are the one and riding into the sunset together. And it might happen, maybe not the riding part, but the other things. But it probably won't, and we shouldn't operate on the assumption or desire that it will.

Don’t let it consume you: This can’t control your life. Nor can you let it negatively affect your future. A breakup is sad but if handled correctly should propel us forward rather than hold us back. And for a harsh reality? Ask yourself if your ex is spending time wallowing over you and your failed romance? Chances are they’re not, so why are you?

Don’t Forget: There is a lesson in everything, so make sure you’ve learned it, and don’t forget it. Equally as important is NOT forgetting the reasons why you and your ex broke up. In the event you are thinking of getting back together remember to REMEMBER what happened, and then really evaluate the situation and make sure it's the right, best, and healthiest thing for you. Breakups aren't usually an accident, so if your ex wants you back, you need a plan for how to make it work, you can't just wing it and start over. That's unrealistic and likely to fail 

Don't try and make sense of it: It's natural to try and justify things or at least rationalize them. We are conditioned to operate this way, to find meaning, but sometimes there is none. Sometimes things won't make sense, even if we really want them to. The only thing you need to know is that it happened, and it's immutable.

There is no exact recipe for moving on, you really need to do what is best for you (as long as that isn’t calling your ex crying begging for another chance. That is NOT what is best for you.) Call a friend instead. Call me. Breakups are just another opportunity. I know that is hard to wrap your head around when you’re immersed in heartbreak and uncertainty. Believe me, I do. There were some days where I forgot what happiness even felt like, but it does get better. It really does, and all of a sudden a new world opens up, one that is ours for the taking. Personally, I'm pretty excited about it. I think the best thing to do is take it day by day, step by step, and one day, you'll turn around, only to realize you've left the past in the dust, where it belongs.

*I owe a million thank yous to many of my friends and family all over the world for listening to broken records without complaining, and for helping me back up. I couldn’t have done it with you. 
**Also thanks to a person who, as of late, has made me smile daily, which is just what I needed.

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