It’s been almost three months since I broke up with my ex. Well, two months if you count what I call the “One Week of Insanity” where I backslid into the ecstasy and misery of a reunion with a person who is clearly not right for me, only to have the sense slapped back into me by a good friend who pointed out the well-known definition of insanity (hence the nomenclature). Or maybe it’s almost four months since the first time I tried, unsuccessfully, to break up with him – something I’ve only mentioned to a few people. So Hello, World! Welcome to the unfiltered version that you didn’t see on Instagram. And if we’re being really honest here, it’s been about six months since the first time “maybe this isn’t right. Maybe I should end this now” crossed my mind. Try coming back from THAT one. I did, and failed miserably.
The truth is, breakups suck, and working up the courage to actually initiate something that you know in your heart of hearts is the right thing to do is a process. You don’t just get there over night – not if you genuinely care for the person. I remember the days and moments, usually after a horrible fight, where I felt frozen; I couldn’t move my lips to bring myself to say the words that would finally end things, even when I was screaming them inside of my head; all I wanted to do was leave his apartment or send him away from mine, retreating so I could escape the tears and and the misery, the inability to express myself to someone who didn’t get me, who couldn’t make me feel safe or heard or understood.
In any event, the following
three two four six I give up months post-breakup have taught me so much about myself that I am actually grateful for the process. And while I wouldn’t wish a breakup on anyone – not even on my ex – I do appreciate that it is an excellent learning tool. Some people turn bitter or resentful, spiting the person they left/who left them, or refusing to realize that a failed relationship is a two-way street. We both bear some of the responsibility for why things didn’t work out. Others take the opportunity to work on themselves, to love themselves, and to find ways to become happy within themselves. I’ve certainly learned things and grown in ways that I wouldn’t have were it not for the agony of putting the pieces of my heart back together.
So without further ado, a few of the things I’ve learned in the last few months as I navigate heartbreak and singledom as a twenty-something in New York City:
- I AM ENOUGH
It is far better off to be happily single than unhappily coupled. The only thing that stands in the way of a single person being happily coupled is meeting the right person; for an unhappily coupled person, the things standing in the way are inertia, fear, misery, sadness, and a heart-wrenching breakup. These obstacles must be overcome just to make it to happily single, let alone happily coupled. I’d rather stay single longer until I find the right person than jump into a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship because it makes me feel better and less alone. On that note…
- There’s no arbitrary timeline for how long you should take a break from the dating scene
Even though I initiated the breakup, and in a sense, had more time to process it than my partner did because I saw it coming, I still felt like taking some time off from the dating scene. Otherwise, where’s the lesson learned? I needed to do some serious self-examining to figure out why I had stayed for so long in a relationship that was clearly toxic and that had long ago reached its expiration date. I don’t want to bring any of that baggage into a new relationship – a new relationship with both myself AND with another person. Not to mention, I was still mourning the loss of the relationship and also, my entire way of living up to that point. Not only did I lose one of the people closest to me – I also lost my routine. I lost the constant daily text exchanges, the assumed weekend plans, my dinner-and-a-movie buddy, the comfort of knowing I wouldn’t be going to sleep alone. It’s the small things that hurt the most.
- Likewise, there’s no arbitrary timeline for when you should jump back in
For me personally, I didn’t even want to think about dating anybody new for a while. The thought actually made me nauseous. It was my trip to Italy that really kicked me out of that – a good old-fashioned makeout sesh (with a hot Italian in a castle, no less) and some heavy flirting with the bartender who took your number and still texts/calls you amore mio can definitely give you that extra umph to get out there again. Because you realize – hey, there are plentyyyyy of other fish in the sea. He wasn’t the last available man on earth! Also, I didn’t want to move on until I was sure that I wouldn’t hurt somebody else by using them to fill the void or feel better about myself – I wasn’t going to treat anybody like a rebound. I think I can safely say that I am past that point, so…let the dating (swiping) begin!
- I FREAKING LOVE KICKBOXING!
No, not in the “I picture my ex’s face on the punching bag” kind of love, more in the “I feel really good and strong and energized and accomplished when I do this” kind of love. I used to take Zumba, but there’s something about kickboxing that excites me. It’s something I look forward to each week, it gives me a sense of motivation and forward-moving progress – something tangible to work on where I can see visible improvement. Plus, it’s a way of interacting with a whole new crowd – I’ve met some really friendly people who have already learned my name/remembered me when I go back, which is an awesome feeling. It’s a great way to build a new community and a new identity based around things and people that I and I alone love – nothing remotely tied to my ex or my past life and patterns.
- I’ve rediscovered ALL of the things that I loved doing but neglected during my relationship
To the same effect of finding new things I love to do, I’ve been able to rediscover so many of my favorite old things that I’d forgotten along the way! For example, I love reading – but never seemed to have the time when I was with my ex. Not anymore! Time is fully, 100% mine – no need to “check in” with someone to see if “we” already have plans (in full Ayn Rand style, I am definitely embracing the pronoun “I”). I love going to wine bars and eating fancy cheeses and enjoying happy hour wine specials – something my ex was never really into. I try out fun new bars with friends (last week I checked out the awesome cocktails at the speakeasy Death & Co. in the Lower East Side, and just last night I went to a Tim Burton-themed bar! Blog post to follow, I’m sure) and resume my weekend girls brunches.I’ve also really enjoyed exploring the city and checking out new neighborhoods. I don’t know if it was because he was a native New Yorker who knew the city and didn’t feel the need to explore, or if we were busy/lazy/got in a rut, or if it was some combination of all of the above, but I LOVE getting to know new cities. I pride myself on totally owning whatever new place I land in, of knowing the ins and outs and all of the in-betweens. Over the last 9 months during my relationship, I explored certain aspects of the city – usually music venues – but I never ventured out into Brooklyn like I’d wanted, or explored some unknown (to me) areas of Queens and Manhattan. I neglected the best part of getting to know a new city – adventuring out on day trips! We didn’t really try new restaurants, often opting for takeout or cooking at home. We didn’t really go to museums or art shows or brunches or bars with friends. I know I could have done all of those things when I was with him, but somehow, it never happened – most of my free time was spent doing something with my ex – usually tagging along to one of his music events/interviews. We got into a routine and as such, I maintained a certain level of comfort in the familiar. But now, I feel like a whole new New York has opened up to me.
- It’s okay to miss the person
I can’t stress this enough. There’s literally not a day that goes by where I don’t spend time thinking about him. I still fight the urge to text/call/email him.
There’s a reason I entered into a relationship with him – he’s a good person! Not a good person for me, necessarily, but I’ve dated/seen enough guys to know that he was quality. Now, I know what things to look for in the next person I date.
Just kidding. I could never/don’t want to erase the memories, but I need to mitigate their effect on me in the present. No better healer than time.
- Because I just left a serious relationship, I can now date “for fun”
My favorite advice blogger said that 90% of the people we meet are “undateable” for us – and of the 10% that ARE dateable, we’ll maybe start a successful relationship with 2%. The odds of meeting “the one” after going on one or two or five first dates/random encounters are actually pretty slim – so it’s silly to set expectations! This really lifts the pressure off of dating and makes it…fun again. As a result, I’ve been going out a lot and meeting a lot of new people, and it’s actually been really enjoyable. Sometimes we click and sometimes we don’t, but at this point…I don’t really care. I’m just trying to see what’s out there to get a little perspective.
- It’s okay to ask for help…
…but you need to limit the voices you listen to. Everyone is going to have an opinion. NOT everyone is going to know you and what’s best for you and what your values are. Too many voices can create chaos and confusion, ultimately leading to self-doubt and inaction. And not everyone is going to want to hear about it again and again…and again.
My favorite relationship blogger, Evan Marc Katz, writes some really insightful bi-weekly posts that honestly helped me get through my breakup. His whole concept is that good relationships are easy – if they’re not easy, they’re probably not that good. In other words, relationships require “effort” but that effort shouldn’t feel like a chore/work. You shouldn’t be fighting or “rebuilding” all the time – there’s someone out there who won’t make you “work” so hard at keeping it together. Communication shouldn’t be a struggle – there is someone out there who will “get” you better. His take on relationships ultimately helped me realize that I had made the right decision, and his whole approach on dating is really life-changing and has impacted me in more positive ways than I can count (I’m already seeing the results of implementing some of his dating advice).Lastly, a friend of mine recommended a couple of books to me a few years ago that really helped her – and I still read them from time to time. Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man and John Gray’s Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, while both slightly dated in their own way, were game changers as well (note: don’t read them if you disagree that men and women, while equal, are biologically different and as such, have different reactions/needs/capabilities/hormones).
- I’m more happy and confident in myself
At this point in life, I am who I am. Be it personality or physical characteristics, I’m not going to change much in either direction, at least at the moment. And that’s okay – someone is either going to love and accept me for all of those things, or they won’t. I won’t take offense if they don’t – we all have preferences. I usually like tall, dark, and scruffy – blondes don’t really do it for me. But I want someone who wants me because of those things. Now, instead of approaching dates wondering if the person is going to like me, I wonder if I’m going to like the person. It’s a total game changer.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I promise this blog isn’t going to turn into a personal memoir of my dating life, but every once in a while I just need to get it off my chest! Peace & Love, y’all.