This is my first time being single in nearly a decade.
Not only have I been with my husband since I was 22, I was polyamorous for many years as well so I had several loves at once. My husband and I broke up six months ago, and my boyfriend of four years and I broke up a few weeks ago. Back to back divorces basically. Now I find myself, at age 32, completely and totally alone. It’s both wonderful and awful. I can do whatever I want and no one cares what time I come home, but at the same time, no one cares what time I come home. You know?
In my new little apartment, I’ve been slowly compiling things and ideas and reframes that have helped bolster me through this time. Trying to heal. Trying to grow. Trying to access all the self-love I need. Cutting the heart string cords I had attached to these loves for so long.
Here is what has worked for me.
- Affirmations up the YANG.
Breakups can sometimes wreck the self-esteem. That internal feminist can sometimes go dormant. Maybe if I was prettier or chiller he would have stayed with me… Clearly I am unlovable… God, I’m a terrible partner and will be alone forever… I needed to cut those thoughts right out. So I put messages up all over my life: post-it on the inside of the front door, lipstick on the bathroom mirror, cell phone lock screen wallpaper. Messages full of how OK I am right now. “You are beautiful just as you are.” “You are a success.” “You are perfectly loveable.” “I fucking dig you, you amazing bitch.”
2. Date Yourself.
If you’re like me, you love date nights with your partner. I didn’t want to give that weekly indulgence up, so I’m doing it alone now. Nice bottle of wine, fancy steak, pretty outfits, mood music, makeup, you get the idea. You can even have sex with yourself by lighting a candle and wearing pretty lingerie when you rub/buzz one out. Buy some pretty underwear and a fancy new vibrator. Whatever floats your boat! That deep, romantic, saturated energy can be enjoyed alone. In fact, I highly recommend it.
3. Engage your Talents.
Do something everyday that you know you are good at. It doesn’t matter what it is, just something that you can do and think to yourself “I am the shit at this”. It could be cooking, singing in the shower, doodling starburts, it could be blowing bubbles with your chewing gum or french braiding your hair–doesn’t matter, anything. It fuels the self-esteem little by little.
4. Lean into Social-Anxiety Feels.
Our culture over-values extroversion. We see going out and meeting people and being social as healthy, and staying home alone as cause for worry. I get where this comes from, but it’s not entirely true. If you feel like staying home because the thought of putting on a happy face to see all your friends at the bar just seems like too much – go with that. I once read that (non-clinical) depression developed in humans to help us solve our problems. We need quiet, we need solitude, we need to slow down enough to process and think about what has happened or what is happening. I don’t know how much I believe this, but I want to. It helps me feel like being home and alone sometimes isn’t a sign of something being gravely wrong with me, it is just a sign of healing.**
Side note for ladies with male exes– your recent ex-boyfriend/husband is probably already dating. It’s a generalization, I know, but dudes just seem to have an easier time jumping back into the scene so soon. That can be really hard to sit with sometimes. Sometimes we think “well, I’d feel better about him dating if I was dating too.” If you go on a date for this reason, I guarantee that date will feel awful and sad and lonely. TRUST ME. Basically, try not to compete with all the tail your ex is probably plowing through. It’s so often not worth it. If you do feel like dating, or getting laid, or going on a date just to hear someone tell you you’re pretty, that’s fine too. Try your best to listen to your little voice telling you what your motives for dating are, and follow that.
** If you haven’t left the house in two weeks, you’re skipping work constantly, and haven’t showered in more days than you can remember, maybe you’ve leaned too far into solitude. In this case, call a friend and have them come to you. It might be time to join the living a little bit. Use your judgement and intuition to assess.
5. Find New Music
Break-up songs are necessary. “Going There Strong” by audiafauna is currently my open chested, tearful, fist-pump to the sky, “fuck-yes-I’m-going-to-be-ok!” song.
Here are some music suggestions to help you with your breakup:
6. Crumble On The Floor Crying, As Needed.
Fuck it. Fuck everything. It all sucks, life feels over, and you’re going to collapse on the kitchen floor in randomly triggered sobs every once in a while and I’m giving you permission to feel fine about it. Because you have to go through the “break” part of the breakup. Your love resource, future family plans, social circle, travel plans, shared apartment, routines—most of that is gone, fucked, or broken. You’re allowed to cry about it. You’re allowed to crumble. Things have changed but not all the way yet. You’re in that murky swamp of transition where you’ve left where you’ve been, but you don’t know where you’ll land yet. It’s scary and lonely and sad, and it’s only after you’ve leaned into that emptiness that you can begin to slowly rebuild your life again healthfully. Even roses need shit to grow, as they say.
7. Accept Sucking at Work.
Maybe it’s just me, but this one sometimes hurts the most. Like, I already suck at love and now I suck at work too? I’m a double failure. We forget to call a client, or we’re late to a meeting, or we write a mediocre report. Details can get lost on us when we’re in a mild state of panic/pain. Inspiration and great ideas can feel difficult to access. Our head can be so loud that it’s hard to hear the reality around us. What went wrong? Remember that terrible thing he said to you that one time? What are you going to do about having babies?
This ruminating thought process is so distracting, and sometimes feels impossible to turn off. I call this the hamster wheel– the thoughts just keep going around and around and around but take you nowhere. Give yourself a break about it, accept that you’re in a hamster wheel kind of phase and know that it won’t last forever. We can’t be perfect at work or in other areas of life right now, and that’s ok. YOU are ok, just as you are.
When you’re ready, there are two great little mind tricks to get off the hamster wheel. One of my favorites is thinking: “I can think about this bullshit in five minutes from now. Right now I’m going to think about my favorite dish to make, or being at the beach.” The second favorite mind trick of mine is to actually imagine opening the hamster cage, calling the hamster by a new made-up name, taking him off the hamster wheel, holding him in my hands and petting him and soothing him and imagining this process for as long as possible. These are temporary relief, but they work in a pinch.
8. Hide Everyone You Need To On Facebook.
Breaking up with someone in the digital age ain’t easy. In the words of Liz Lemon, “there’s just so many devices for boys to not call you on now.”
We need new rules and ideas for how to deal with the social media breakup bull shit. Here’s what I did:
- I went through my facebook friend list and “unfollowed” all the mutual friends that might potentially post pictures of my exes. This is temporary, and I’ll probably only unfollow these friends for a few months. Your friends will understand that you might not be “liking” their pictures for a few months while their posts are hidden from your timeline.
- I unfriended all the friends that are only my ex’s friends.
- I also straight up unfriended one of my exes. Not in a passive aggressive way, like in my room with a bottle of wine in my hand in front of my computer and thinking TAKE THAT JERKFACE I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY as I click the unfriend button. As much as I wanted to do it that way, I didn’t. I texted him and said, “hey, this is hard. I’m unfriending you to make things a little easier on my heart. I hope you understand.” Trust me, it’s worth it. Seeing your ex’s face or name pop up on your phone isn’t great and can come at the most inopportune times. Shield yourself in whatever way you need.
Also – if you’re like me and you’re kinda obsessive and curious, don’t just “unfollow” the ex because you can still see their page if you go directly to it— and you know your crazy ass will stalk their page too often. Just cut the (digital) cord.
9. Find a Temporary Binkie.
A binkie. A security blanket. Whatever you might call it – find one. It can literally be anything. For me right now, my binkie is Trader Joe’s Mandarin Sparkling Water. I don’t go anywhere without one. I keep a case in the back of my car at all times. Those bubbly sips fill me up and make me feel so warm and cozy and good. Plus it’s not ice cream or cigarettes or something, so I can feel healthy about my choice. But it doesn’t need to be food – it can be a crystal you wear around your neck, or a pretty stone you keep in your pocket, or even a stuffed animal from childhood that sits in your purse for a while. In a sea of change and newness, it’s a constant- a buoy to help you feel like you’re not drowning in that sea.
10. Pack A Bag.
You’re single now. Maybe you’re going on dates, maybe you’re hanging out with friends more often. Routines are perhaps interrupted these days, and it helps to be prepared. Everyday I’ve carried with me a bag packed with my makeup case, clean underwear, clean socks, and an unwrinklable work shirt because you just never know. A date might go super well and your next-day “stride of pride” could be just a little fresher. Or maybe you accidentally have a bit too much whisky while crying on the shoulder of your bestie and thusly can’t drive home even though it’s a work night. Having a little help to feel fresh and pretty the next day can lend a hand in alleviating the self-loathing that sometimes accompanies a midweek hangover.
11. Think About Your Ex From High School.
No, really. Remember how much that breakup hurt? Your adolescent brain thought it was the end of days. And now? You’re probably super over it. That pain eventually passes. Even the pain you might be in now, it will pass. You’ll get further and further away from all that you’ve been wrapped up in, and you’ll gain perspective and you’ll be happier for it.
12. Talk To Your Friends, Honestly.
This is an obvious one, but it can’t be said enough how much it helps to talk to people who know you and love you. They can remind you of your beauty, your bullshit, your love, your true self that can get a little lost in a breakup. They can support you and remind you you’re doing the right thing. For some people, this is family. For some people, this is friends. Whoever it is, go to them in all your vulnerable brokenness and lean in. They will catch you.
13. Fuck Everyone’s Advice. Even Mine.
Everyone has advice for you in a breakup. It can get annoying as hell. Several people and an emailed article from a friend told me to “Get out into nature! Fresh air! It will help!”
Fuck that. I did it and nature felt vast and cold and scary and unfamiliar and all I wanted to do was go home and hide under a warm blanket. Eventually nature will feel good again, but right now I’m trying to listen to that beautiful, tiny, little emerging voice inside that’s telling me how I need to care for myself. She got kind of quiet in the final year of my unhealthy relationship. But she’s also the one that eventually got me out of it. So let’s give her some credit, do our best to listen to her, and continue to grow stronger together. You’re your best mentor. You’ve got this.