How to have a better break up
We’ve all been there, right? Broken up with someone you were with for years, or perhaps only a few months and it sucked. Even if you weren’t in love with them the way you were in the beginning, it sucked. Even if it was toxic, it sucked. Even if the break up was what you wanted, in some way it still sucked.
I write this as an attempt to show you breakups aren’t such a bad thing, to show you how you can learn and grow from them and to remind you of the reasons why they need to happen. I’ve included some great resources at the end and now that you’re single, or you’re about to be, you’ve got more time on your hands (sorry). This should keep you occupied for at least a day. You’re welcome.
Now let’s get a bit of context as to why and how I ended up writing this because I’m not one for surface level bullshit as I find it boring and unhelpful. If you don’t want to read this section, feel free to skip ahead to the juicy learning parts. I won’t be offended…mostly because I won’t know.
I’ve only had two serious relationships in my life, not exactly making me an expert at the ripe old age of 27. I’m not someone that needs to be in a relationship and I would only commit to someone and let them into my life if it felt special. My first relationship lasted about four years. It was healthy and loving, we hardly fought, and there was a solid period of time where I believed we’d go the distance. We eventually grew apart and stayed together far longer than we should have. The break up was hard and sad, yet necessary.
The second relationship lasted roughly a year. It was one of those relationships and consequential break ups where you learn a fuckload about yourself and life in general. The relationship was beautiful, messy, intense and consuming. There were many parts that felt incredibly special, like the connection we shared, what we wanted in life and our common interests, yet we didn’t work. The good times were incredible and the lows were the opposite.
This relationship fundamentally changed me. The toxic tendencies, the break up and how I felt once it was over, were the hardest things I have been through in my adult life. This relationship is the reason I learned so many lessons, read everything I could on relationship psychology, saw a psychologist myself and listened to many podcasts and books. It’s the reason I’m writing this very blog.
Now that time has passed, I’m grateful it happened. You don’t get the amazing feelings of love and connection without the heartbreaking, miserable ones too, which you can choose to learn from. Hopefully, by reading the rest of this post you’ll see that too.
Before we launch into the lessons, please note, going through a break up is different for everyone. The only advice I can offer here is to stop talking to your ex. For as long as they are in your life and on your social’s, they are in your head. You are still emotionally invested. They still have you when you’re talking, and you still have them. Both of you still have hope. You cannot begin to move on, seek clarity and learn any of the below when you are in contact. If you eventually want them back or if you need space to grow separately, this is still the best option for you both. I know it sucks, but it is necessary.
Okay okay onto the good bits.
Things to remember and lessons to learn
1. Something was broken
Being apart after a break up can be painful but being together wasn’t all wine and roses. Stop thinking things were better than they were because if they were so great, you’d be together making sweet love on a mountain under the stars and not reading this blog.
For whatever reason, your relationship wasn’t working. Relationships should be relatively easy – you should bring out the best in each other. If you can’t work together as a rational, mature team when things get hard, why stick around? If you both can’t provide what each other needs, what is the point?
It’s easy to keep your rose coloured glasses on, but remember the bad times existed. Things weren’t working in your relationship because happy and healthy relationships rarely result in heartbreak. You’re not together because something was broken and it wasn’t getting fixed. Even though you’ve built a life with someone or there is a special connection, on some level and probably for more reasons than one, you were unhappy and it wasn’t working. So again, what is the point in sticking around?
I know it can feel like you’ll never find another like your ex, but you will. For as long as you’re with the wrong one you’ve got zero chance of being with the right one or being happy and fulfilled alone (more on this below). Remind yourself of how the bad bits felt. The fights, the restless nights, the anxiousness, the begging and wishing for more or for a different path to take together. Remember what was broken and don’t settle for it again.
2. Love yourself first
I know it sounds cliché and you’ve heard this 100 times but here it is – you really do have to love yourself before entering a relationship with another person and expecting them to love you. This goes for partners too. When two damaged or incomplete people come together it can cause quite the shitstorm, you know? This is my longest point and I promise the rest are shorter but no less worthy.
Imagine you are a fulfilled person, who is confident in what you bring to the table. You know your strengths and weaknesses and you absolutely know what you deserve and want out of a relationship. How different would your relationship or break up have been? How different would your dating life be? As this person, would you have entered the current or recently ended relationship?
When you don’t love yourself, understand yourself and know what you want, you squash down your needs and the things you deserve. You ignore Red Flags in a relationship or dating phase. You accept poor behaviour because deep down, you believe you don’t deserve better. So you stay, and you accept the shit. Alternatively, you treat other people poorly because you have walls, want to keep them at arms length or because you don’t want to be alone. Which is often why people stay in average relationships or still seek partners even when they’re not ready.
Lonely and alone are two very different things. People that are not insecure, love themselves and their lives and you know, generally have their shit sorted – don’t treat people badly. They don’t stay in or enter unhealthy relationships. They certainly don’t accept being treated with less than what they deserve, need and want. And they know exactly what those things are. This should be your goal. Not to be in a relationship, that just comes as a nice by product.
Loving yourself impacts relationships in other ways too. Like feeling secure enough in yourself to know somebody actually wants to be with you or having your own life so that you are not clingy or dependant. It also ensures that when you do meet someone, you’re willing to be open and love them fully. Partners should be additions to your already incredible, full life. A partner then becomes something you want and not something you need in order to be happy.
Now I’m not saying you need to be perfect, because that is impossible, but you need to figure this stuff out. Find all the things you enjoy and do them, discover your best parts and divulge your unhealthy parts and work on them. Don’t wait for someone else to come along and fix them or band aid your issues and parts of your life that are lacking. Do it yourself. This can take time, but it’s time well spent. In the grand scheme of things, how long are you going to live? Spending a year or two on yourself is nothing and you are worth that time.
3. Everything happens for a reason
I know everyone has been saying this to you and if one more person tells you this you might stab them in the eye because this break up does not feel like it’s happened for a reason, it feels like HELL ON EARTH. Well, here is my experience as to why I actually believe this now.
The good parts of the second relationship made me know that I won’t settle for not having them again. I wouldn’t have known what it was like to have that strong of a connection with someone, to have that much in common. If I didn’t meet him, I wouldn’t have developed myself further, I wouldn’t have realised the parts of myself that need work, I wouldn’t have moved overseas, I wouldn’t be feeling fulfilled writing this. I wouldn’t know what I want, need and will accept from my next partner. The break up also happened so I can help my lovely friends in their relationships and break ups because I have better advice to offer than ever before. It was for a reason, and all of the above sound fabulous to me.
Your reasons might take months to pop up, but I promise they will. I couldn’t see why this break up was a good thing for me until we went six months without talking and things started to fall into place. It honestly took that long. Give it time.
Sidenote: Maybe this break up has happened so you and your ex can go your separate ways and work on yourselves apart. Maybe you’ll find each other again as better versions of yourself. But this is a maybe and you can’t live your life on maybe’s. Go on your merry way and live your best life. If you end up back together, wonderful, but don’t expect or hope for that to be the outcome of this break up. If it’s meant to be, it will be.
4. You played a role too
If you got out of a bad or unhealthy relationship, where you often blame the other person for things not working, you’ll come to learn the role you played too. Hindsight is a beautiful thing. No one is completely innocent in a relationship.
If you’re freshly single or have absolutely no insight into your own behaviour, wait a few months and you should be able to see your faults. Which are completely normal and okay to have. Learn from these so you don’t bring them into your next relationship. Do you suck at communication? Are you incredibly jealous? Did you show your partner how you felt about them? Did you spend enough time together? Did you share future plans? Did you depend on them too much? Were you a little too heavy with the salt when you cooked? It’s okay for any of these and other things to occur. It’s a learning curve. You are doing yourself and your next potential partners a disservice by not learning from them and being better.
Sidenote: If your ex cheated on you, abused you or something else terrible happened and you genuinely weren’t at fault then disregard this one and I hope you’re okay.
5. Ex’s teach you what you want and need
You know those little things that happen through a relationship that you knew weren’t right and didn’t match the life you want to lead with someone? Ex’s teach you what they are. These range from small things to larger life things. Think of them as your non-negotiables. My large non-negotiables are wanting a partner who doesn’t want marriage or kids, enjoys travel, exercise and loves music. My small wants are someone who is affectionate. Affection is how I feel and show love. If someone isn’t affectionate with me, I know I would struggle with it because I have before. Lesson learned.
Your large non-negotiables could be marriage, must want five kids and to live on a boat. Your small things could be wanting a partner that does the dishes without you asking or someone who loves goldfish the way you do. These things, among all the other things you want and need, add up to a happy relationship when you have them with the right person.
Remember the things you didn’t have with your ex so that when you start dating your next partner after you have worked on loving yourself, you’ll be aware of them. Then when you meet Derek and you think to yourself, ‘Hmmm Derek doesn’t provide me with puppies every day and that’s something I learnt I needed from my break up with Bruce. I better tell Derek I’m not interested’. You’ll then say ‘Thank you next Derek’ and not bother with a relationship that’s not providing you with what you know you need. Sometimes you need to have these toxic or incredibly hard relationships to figure it out. Without mine I wouldn’t have known this, I guess I’m lucky I got my lessons at 27 rather than 57.
P.S. Derek please sort your shit out and bring us all puppies. Thanks.
6. You cannot change people
This isn’t to say that people don’t change because they absolutely can and do all the time. Like the Tame Impala lyrics “They say people never change but that’s bullshit, they do” (Side note, Currents by Tame Impala is a great break up album).
People are capable of changing for the better – but only when they conclude to do so on their own. Even if you can see how something could help someone have a happier and healthier life. Even if you can see how much it would really fucking help your relationship (or lack of). You cannot force them to change, no matter how much you want them to or how you show them how to.
If you can’t accept people as they are when you met them, and there is no chance of change, then it’s best you’ve gone your separate ways. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink and all that.
7. Trust your gut
How many times have you done something that was the opposite of that gut instinct and then months down the track you’re like ‘ARGH I knew this would happen’? Yet time and time again we go against our gut feeling because we think, surely that’s not real I mean I feel it in my stomach and my brain thinks differently and my stomach always tells me I’m hungry even though I’m probably not. But that intuition is there for a reason. If your gut is telling you something’s not right, something’s probably not right.
Now, this isn’t to say that your gut feeling and the thoughts and fears you’ve associated with it are correct. You could have a feeling something is going on which could be correct, but your thoughts on what is going on could be incorrect. For example, you think something is wrong with your partner and you think it’s you or he’s talking to other women, but in reality, his work sucked that day and he’s stressed.
On the other end of this point – what was your gut feeling when you first met your partner or recent ex? Did you have a feeling something wasn’t right which you squashed down? Were their Red Flags from the get go that you chose to ignore? Did it start messily or did it start nicely? If it started out poorly, you probably had a gut feeling that it would end poorly, which you chose to ignore. This is the time to learn from that and not do it again when you next meet someone. As my mother always says ‘If it starts with shit, it’ll end with shit’. Wise woman.
8. There is no such thing as bad timing
There isn’t. It’s a cop out and a bad excuse for why a relationship didn’t work. If someone is meant for you, if you’ve both equally spent time on yourselves and are matching each other’s effort in the relationship – timing does not matter. As above, the caveat is that you are two whole people coming together – not two shitty halves. If you trust each other, have good communication and feel strongly for each other, timing does not matter. Even if you are halfway around the world, you make it work. FaceTime was invented for a reason. Annual leave anyone? Probably created for reasons like this.
Ask all the couples who have done distance and are still together five years down the track. If the timing always seems to be wrong, don’t blame the clock, blame the relationship. The right person at the wrong time is still the wrong person.
I really hope this helps you. Break ups aren’t all bad, even though they certainly feel it. Whether your ex or soon to be ex started as the right one and after years and years they grew to be the wrong one, or whether they were short-lived and you thought they were right – they were not. If you’re with someone again in one year or ten, please don’t settle until you learn to love yourself entirely and until you find the person that meets your needs.
Below are the resources which helped me and made me come to all of the above conclusions so PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE CAPITAL LETTERS PLEASE read and watch and listen to them because they will help you. Some of them are funny and it sounds like you need a laugh.
Daniel Sloss – Netflix Comedy Series
Daniel is a hilarious, intelligent and dark humoured Scottish Comedian. Daniel’s second episode, Jigsaw, has broken up thousands of relationships. This seems like it’s something you shouldn’t brag about but it absolutely is. He has a way of discussing how relationships should work (and break ups) and what you should expect from a partner in a funny, yet completely logical way.
One of my favourite lines is “[People in unhappy relationships are] a bunch of people who never took time to learn how to be alone, therefore never learnt how to love themselves, so they employed someone else to do it.” Find it here: https://www.netflix.com/watch
Heartbreak Ted Talk
How to overcome Heartbreak from Guy Winch, a heartbreak researcher and psychologist that will make you feel better and give you tools on how to survive this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0GQSJrpVhM
Ten Gallon Love
A tiny snippet from an Oprah TV Show which hit home hard for me and hopefully will for you about the ways people love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=in3Lt1cei1o
Love is Not Enough – Mark Manson Article.
Fuck Yes or No – Another Mark Manson Article.
How To Pick Your Life Partner – Wait but Why Article.
LOVE – Zoe Foster Blake.
Break up Boss – Zoe Fosters Blake’s App which is awesome too.
How To Address Anxiety – A Blog by me addressing how to feel less anxious!
This is a brief summary of different attachment styles every person has in a relationship. This is a psychology-based theory about how every person has different attachment styles and how to recognise them. I got DEEP into this. There are a lot of good blogs on this website if it resonates with you: http://the-love-compass.com/2013/09/17/introduction-to-attachment-styles/
Five Love Languages:
Everyone gives and receives love differently. Learning how you and how your ex/future partner give and receive love can help your relationship tenfold. There’s info on this website and a free test to find it out: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/
Guys We Fuck*d – A podcast by two American female comedians labelled the anti-slut shaming podcast and its so funny and real and makes me actually love single life a little more. Probably better for females than males but males should listen to and learn a thing or ten.
Girls Gotta Eat – Another podcast by two American comedians and they are relate-able, funny and talk (hilariously) about dating, relationships and break ups.
Life Uncut – A great podcast by two girls who were on the bachelor.
Yours in love,
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