I’m certainly in no place to give relationship advice: two major relationships failed — knee-deep and wading my way through the remnants of that last one. But I think it’s fair to say any relationship advice, even from trained professionals, should be taken with a grain of salt. So, this isn’t relationship advice, this is break-up advice.
I’m going to share my experience; maybe you have something to gain from it. Maybe you can find comfort in knowing you’re not alone in your experience. Maybe it will serve as an amusing peer into my misfortune and misery. Or maybe you just accidentally clicked onto Atypical Female thinking it was some kind of feminist porn site.
No matter the cause, you’re here now. Stay a while, get comfortable.
Breaking up. Ughhhhh.
As a blogger I can’t help but roll my eyes at such a lame topic. But after going through such a traumatizing one, it seems an unavoidable subject when I start brainstorming ideas — seriously. I start writing about Global Warming and somehow end up describing how shitty of a person my ex was. At this point I feel like it’s necessary to dispel these demons. So here it goes:
Every time I think I have a handle on life, a shit grenade lands at my feet.
LIFE: “Hey Ali, you are getting your independent life together. Working, about to graduate school and get that dream career started. But wait there’s more! Introducing your dream man, complete with a six-pack and a smile that could melt ice.”
ALI: “Wow, this seems too good to be true!”
LIFE: “Yeah… about that. Go f*** yourself.”
In the last few months — from the break-up to the reintroduction into sanity, single life and dating — I’ve discovered a lot of helpful things that I feel compelled to share.
Before I get to my advice I feel I must make the distinction of this break-up. I’ve had my fair share, some easier than others. But never have I experienced one like this. When I call it a break-up, I am generically labeling my gut-wrenching heart break.
A Knott’s Berry Farm worthy roller coaster complete with a free-fall, loopty-loop and a little bit of that vomit that comes up in your mouth that you choke down, but nevertheless, leaves that horrendous taste — yep, that kind of break-up.
The relationship ended on a high-note of misogynistic resentment on his end, and just pure resentment on mine.
And in the apocalyptic devastation left of my life I found the hardest part was finding the truth in my reflection upon the relationship. Because I internalized everything and refused to talk about it with anyone.
Which leads to my piece of advice numero uno.
Advice No. 1: Talk to someone. Anyone.
All I could do for months was blame myself for “letting” the relationship fall apart; that I should have done or said things differently. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about what had happened or what I was going through because — que the lame cliché — no one could possibly understand how I felt.
And what I felt was overwhelming responsibility for everything that had gone wrong.
It seems that there are two ends of the spectrum: those who refuse to take any self-responsibility and those who take all of the blame and internalize that guilt until it obliterates their heart with jaw-clenching anxiety. I am the latter.
The mind is a fickle friend; more like foe. Having someone to talk to, whether it’s a loved one, a friend or a therapist can do wonders for alleviating all that stored up cray-cray.
Believe it or not, my biggest shoulder to cry on was my ex-husband. He was so helpful and supportive. It reminded me that there are truly good men out there.
Talking about my experience and getting others perspective (and comfort) really helped me to face the truth.
My truth being that I was so angry with myself; angry that I didn’t have more respect for little ol’ me. I should have put me first. I was mad at my own foolishness.
And I was angry that I let myself feel so damn responsible. Because everything was not my fault. Far from it. I couldn’t face the things that were out of my control; that I couldn’t make him want to try and couldn’t make him love me. He just stopped, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. We both recognized the relationship was failing but I was alone in my efforts to mend it. And to let myself feel all of the guilt wasn’t right. I had to stop spiraling and needed to start taking care of myself.
It took time for this to happen; to heal and realize that I was going to be okay. But that time did pass, and the tears and pain began to fade. And along with time there is also another helpful tip.
Advice No. 2: Get as far away as you can.
If it’s possible, it really helps to not be in proximity to that person.
All of the times you’ll be tempted to see your ex — or slash their tires… will be impossible if you are living in another city or state. You don’t have to drive past all of your spots and have that fun little knife-to-the-chest reminder.
It also helps to pick somewhere near family or friends. Having a strong support system, even if you don’t think you need it, is always helpful.
If you’re a lone wolf, then maybe do something crazy and fun; pick a new city that you’ve always wanted to live in. Nothing helps to distract you like being somewhere new, loving where you are and making your own little spots.
Advice No. 3: Let the fun of being single take hold.
Stop thinking about being alone and lonely. Start thinking about you.
What do you want to do this week? Today? This very second? Go. Do. It.
I’ve garnered the essence of a badass boss; stocked full on sass and wit and fresh out of any fucks to give.
I’ve become a free-spirit. Whatever I want, I’m doing it.
I go where I want; see who I want; eat what I want; drink what I want; wear what I want, all without any passive aggressive judgement or thought for any one’s preference.
If I want to go see a movie by myself and eat an entire bucket of extra-buttered popcorn and saddle bag of chocolate, I’m doing that shamelessly.
If I want to go out dancing, then I’ma channel that inner Shakira and hit the club with those hips that don’t lie.
(Spider-Man has some serious moves I might borrow… just sayin’).
So here I am, in all my glory. 29-years-old, single, ready to mingle — or whatevs. Which leads to the next bit of advice.
Advice No. 4: Date when you are ready
This is entirely based on you. Don’t listen to others judgement on what’s too soon or that you need to get back out there. I do have some tips for when you reach that point.
I jumped back in the game pretty quickly and there were some definite pros and cons to doing that.
It helped me get out and have fun. I was tired of feeling sad and bad all of the time.
It reminded me that I am my own person and I bring many desirable attributes to the table. Plus, a compliment here and there never hurts.
In all honesty, you will probably find yourself playing the comparison game: how does this date measure up to the ex. And that is helpful to no one. At first, I did this and I took that as a sign that I wasn’t ready.
But I was ready. I was just doing one thing wrong: I was looking for something. Looking to fill the void. Because when something breaks, just buy another one to replace it, right? It is so innate to just want things fixed. But that is not dating.
That mindset had to change.
I stopped seeing it as dating and started seeing it as something simple and laid back. It was just meeting new people and learning their story over drinks. No pressure. Just being myself and unapologetic about who I was.
Don’t try to fit into some mold that you think your date wants.
If you are using a dating app set your standards high. Only meet dates who are hitting several of the check marks. Most likely it will be a dud anyway. I rarely meet someone I am compelled to see a second time. But I have here and there, and believe it or not, I’ve actually made a few good friends through it.
So, keep things light, standards high and expectations low. Like, real low.
Now that we’ve got your mindset and libido in check, here’s my last bit of advice.
Advice No. 5: Volunteer
Nothing helps to get you out of your own neurotic head space and the self-pity/self-loathing cycle than doing some volunteer work.
A dose of perspective is like a spoonful of sugar when you are reminded that there are much worse circumstances in the world than what you’re going through. Plus, helping others always makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Finding volunteer work is as easy as downloading an app these days. Literally. There are tons of apps that help you find the kind of volunteer work you’d like to do. From helping out at the local fire departments and homeless shelters to working at the public library, set your filters with what you prefer, your location and baddabing baddaboom.
Go be a better person.
You have to help yourself.
The pain of losing a partner, the person you thought you’d have by your side for the rest of your life… there just doesn’t seem to be words appropriate to describe that experience. Just know you are not alone, and you will get through it. But only you can get yourself through it.
If you are going through a bout of heartbreak I hope that my experience and my tips have meant something to you. And now that your done reading it, get your ass up and get out. Go volunteer, see a movie, grab a drink with your friends, visit your family, read a good book and watch lots and lots of comedy specials on Netflix.
Don’t ruin anymore of that perfectly applied mascara. You are a boss. And you don’t need to prove that to anyone else except yourself.
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