Break Up + Stay Whole
You and no one you love deserves half-hearted. Part ways and start wholly healing when reeling from a breakup.
Last week a friend asked what I was ridiculously good at. I rattled off a few party tricks — I get kicks from ‘pun’-demand wordplay to make others laugh. I can hold my own when I show up anywhere alone, and the evening seldom ends without a few new, semi-formed friendships. I realized where I tip the scale is relationships. Or rather, when they fail. Indeed, I am better than the norm at forming them — whether they come from co-working out of cafes, working out, or at Broadway plays. But more so, I am tremendous at ending the romantic ones gracefully.
I have dated as much as the next New York Girl next door and I could go on about my bestie-exes like the one I introduced to his wonderful now-wife. Or the time my boyfriend ended us right after the death of a very close friend. But what is truly indicative — I have virtually no emotional scars from the men I used to call (or text) “boyfriend.”
There are only two times that this is vehemently inconvenient:
1. In cardio bootcamp class going blow for blow, I can not conjure up the face of an ex-beau I’d like to elbow
2. When I auto-play devil’s advocate when what a recently-split friend really needs is a fellow broken angel, ice cream, and empathy.
Cutting the strings from former flings, lovers and undercover jerks, though, has its perks. There are very few things in this life that can cost the amount of emotional strife like a love lost but not gone. The sooner you realize and release the tie that no longer bonds, the quicker your hands are free to create a stronger knot. One that lasts longer too… (was that a knotty joke? Who knew?)
Hopefully, this lyrical listicle below will show you four ways in which to heal your heart and safely part ways from a relationship that needs to set sail.
1. Is it Toxic? Talk It Out
Ask him in your mind, “What value do you add to me?” Write out all the ways he packs or lacks meaning in your future world. Maybe there is enough reason there to have him hold space in some way in a non-romantic-someday. Or maybe you will run into him with mutual friends or at an event. That is when it is worth it to have a talk with intention.
A warning: this conversation will never cause elation. When I tried to get an ex-BF back, I got nostalgic but he was stalling. And if he was not gung-ho about giving it another go, there was a reason. Instead of easing into it, I said to hell with it:
“Tell me you’re not in love with me.”
I needed to hear my biggest fear affirmed. And when he locked eyes with me confirming he no longer felt the same way, I nodded, turned, and trod into a dramatic sheet of rain. Yes, even the weather, mocked my pain. There was no going back after that. Call it pride, but I raged inside: “My heart will never be charity…I. will NEVER. beg someone to love me.”
Sorry, Julia, but that is not the way it works. I knew no matter how much it hurts, I would be asking for something he could not supply — like asking a vagrant if he could lend me a five.
2. Space Yourself
One of my favorite quotes is this by Steven Johnson, a physicist: “Your thoughts fill your spaces and your spaces return the favor”. Do yourself one — erase your home, work, and digital spaces of your old love. The latter is key; if he is out of websites he is out of mind. Just for now. Try ninety days. Unfollow, unfriend, block, untumbl. It is not mean, it is a means to an end to your mental and emotional suffering. If you can not bear to throw away his old t-shirt, place in a box and inconveniently push it out of view. Or do what I did if you are able, cut it up and use it to polish your table.
3. Be an Army of Some
Though I might croon the tune in karaoke, I disagree with Bon Jovi — Love isn’t a battlefield. Breakups are. If your state-of-being OK lines are compromised, regain grounded by bringing in the troops. Your best friend, mother, and therapist can all be your enlisted help in getting you through the hell. I had my friends give me a 5 minute limit to ex-talk-it-out. Then they had to change the subject. Or better yet, scenery. Go find greenery — pick apples together. Seek out your danciest friend and go watch some DJ’s spin. Aquacycle. Volunteer to go walk dogs. When the ex-texts come rolling in, don’t react and get off track. Get a distraction and a friend.
4. Take ‘You’ Time
Did I mention breakups were a war? More like a war-on-wheels with hills — ups and downs and views along the way that you strain to see and not be distracted by the fact that you could get struck at any time and spin out of control. Slow your roll and be present. Give yourself ‘gifts’ like making your bed, or Mean Girl memes, or take in a show you have always wanted to see. Show yourself how you should be loved. And eat well. Be kind to your body and your mind will follow. But beware, your ex may too…I honestly googled, “How to make someone want you back” post-breakup. I broke down the 30K results and they do not come as a surprise: exercise and move on.
The irony is if the opportunity some day presents itself for you to re-convene, you have taken the space to respond from a more clear-headed place. And if you still have a lot to say, get it out of the way in the form of a letter. Don’t hit send — keep it for yourself, tucked away on a shelf. Be selfish.
If you do the above, it will be no time at all until you happen to run into them at a holiday party. Maybe he is there with someone. Maybe he’s alone. My guess is that he’ll rattle on about some recent career successes. Perhaps you will swap platonic Facebook-worthy new ways you have been filling your days. But do not be surprised if you don’t get a rise, and the most shocking thing about your interaction is your lack of reaction. And maybe after a gin or a wine, a genuine goodwill fills you for his latest good fortunes.
Remember that every lover that comes and goes shapes and hones your experience in their path. As you redefine what it means to be fine, you are sharpening your worldview and paving the way for new relationships to shape and take form.
Originally published at alisonptugwell.squarespace.com on October 25, 2015.