When I first started dating, I believed breakups were events where you had perfect clarity and confidence. I still believe that (mostly). It's the illusion that such clarity is achieved quickly and easily that's changed.
I've re-experienced this truth recently, as my last relationships ended. Though we both knew it was coming for a while, it took nearly two months for the day to arrive when I got on a plane, collected my stuff from LA, and we kissed goodbye.
Yes, I'm aware there's particular irony here, given the exuberance with which I described that "forever C+C" in 9 Tech Tips for Long Distance Dating: A Tinder Success Story. Let's just say, things sometimes change in ways you don't expect. That article published right as we started talking about removing the plus between our initials.
Here are nine ways I've learned to keep experiencing addition in the "after math." (And for those who are concerned, yes: Corey's approved this article.)
1) Talk about what you'll miss.
I was seriously dreading that "last" conversation. While I wanted to process together in a way that honored our relationship, I was also averse to falling into a trap common to many "recently-not" couples: Conversations that go around and around -- simply because they're dealing in circular emotion, which only heals with time.
I wanted our experience to be different. We struggled a bit at first. But, when Corey asked what I'll miss the most, he up-leveled the entire conversation. I came away grateful for having shared my life with someone for whom I so deeply cared.
2) Thank friends for being what they are: Everything.
I'm not much of a phone talker, but there's nothing like a good text. Even better? Quality time. With my friends, I'm blessed with both. Over the course of those few months, I was grateful for supportive individuals who walked the line between intellect and emotion with me, delivering truth and love. Wine, letters, emails, pictures, coffee, texts. Together, I think we walked the Stanford Dish at least a dozen times.
Breakups are times you find out if you've invested enough in others. And when you find out you have, the Golden Rule is golden.
3) Focus on you -- and realize it doesn't have to exclude the other person.
This might be a challenge more common to women, but Corey's feelings and well-being were at first bigger concerns for me than my own. He'd just moved. He'd just started a new job. They were important, life-influencing transitions.
When I realized the impact that singular focus was having on me, I re-framed: How could I care for him and care for myself? In our conversations, Corey extended me that same reciprocity; it's how we're able to support each other as we both grieved.
4) ... And then stop.
While prioritizing oneself during a breakup is important, so is staying involved in others' lives. I wasn't the only one navigating life this summer, and that was both refreshing and valuable to remember. To support those whom I call family was a gift for all involved, and helped me keep my life in perspective.
5) Keep your routine.
In chaotic times, reminders of consistency help us feel normal. For me, that means roasting coffee beans at night, so I can go all Chemex on them in the morning. The same goes for standard wake up times (the PhD-approved key to good nights' sleep), going to the gym, and making my bed every day. I also made wearing especially nice outfits a priority. Our emotions respond to external stimulus, so quick-start confident action accordingly. Do (and dress) in ways that will help you feel how you want to feel.
Sleep, sprinting, weight lifting, clean eating. These things are my lifeblood. They're my 3 Life Secrets to Thriving.
6) And make a few strategic external changes.
The last time I had a major breakup, I swapped my waist-length locks for an A-line bob. (I'd just gotten back from Paris, France.) This time around, I decided to do things in the reverse: I grew my hair 18 inches... all in one day.
Two of three women want to change their appearance after a relationship ends, and one of four changes her hairstyle, according to breakup research. For me, extensions represent an extension of hope into the future. There's also the simple fact that, hey, I've wanted to do this for a while. Why not?
7) Let it hurt.
Corey and I are doing the right thing moving forward separately, and I know both of our lives will continue to be good. But when I think about him sitting alone in his apartment after I left, and me sitting in an obscure coffee shop waiting for my Uber, I have to allow the tears.
Logically, things were simple. Emotionally, they were more complex, and may be for a while. That's okay.
8) And then move forward.
Like most of life, love is an accrual of the daily decisions we make. It's also a reflection of the value we assign to things: Relationships, objects, jobs. This is something I'm reminding myself: To move forward intentionally, knowing my choices and actions influence my feelings forward.
I don't believe in the concept of "The One," but I do deeply believe that we attract to ourselves people similar to who we are. That's something to hold on to.
9) Let it be what it is: A moment in time.
It's easy to globalize breakup emotions, and eternalize them onto unrelated events -- past and future. Give yourself the gift of presence. Of simplicity. Don't try to learn lessons too early. Take each moment as it comes. Enjoy being single.
Relationships end; it's the risk you take whenever one starts. Chances are, you've been here before, and you could be here again.
Concluding the eulogy
I've loved you, Corey. Thank you for loving me. It helped me reconnect with parts of myself that I thought might have died in my divorce: The vulnerability, the part that's delicate, the parts that trust. Thank you for letting me love you and learn alongside of you even as we part ways.
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