How To Survive A Breakup

This is my most requested blog post and I want to start it by saying…

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry you got hurt, I’m sorry things didn’t turn out as you hoped they would, I’m sorry you feel as though you’ve wasted all that time… but you didn’t. And if I could take this pain away from you, I wouldn’t.

Not because I’m cruel or because you deserve it, you won’t believe me right now, but it will make you better.

It will make you a better person, it will make you stronger, and if you let it, it can have a positive effect on every relationship from here on out. Stop looking at this as an ending, it’s just a lesson and although you can’t see it at this very moment, I promise you that this is a good thing.

Fuck eating cake and wallowing in misery listening to every sad song ever penned, you’re going to change your perspective on this and it will change your life. This break up is a gift.

For whatever reason, your relationship didn’t work out. Whether you put weeks into it or years, you will have come away learning something about yourself. There will have been highs, which by the way are not now just deleted from your story because you’ve broken up, you still own those good times, those happy memories are still yours. There will have been lows, and now rather than looking at them through the rose tinted glasses of someone who wanted to make it work, you can see them as they really were.

Take this as an opportunity to decide what you will and won’t tolerate. Maybe they put you second (or third or fourth or fifth) on their list of priorities, maybe they convinced you that you were somehow less than them, maybe they were quick to anger, or chose to stray leaving you feeling that it was because you weren’t enough, none of these things are because of you. None of these happen because you deserve them and you are lacking. These things happen because they are lacking. All of us are in some way damaged goods, no-one is perfect, we all have our demons, but the important thing is that we address them rather than hurting others. If they have been unable to do so, that is not your fault. You simply need to decide what you are willing to tolerate and what you deserve.

Would you treat someone the same way?

Imagine you were your own child and you were watching the relationship through a window, would you be proud?

If the answer to this is no, then you really need to think about why you would let it happen to yourself. Not all abuse is the physical kind, sometimes it’s just belittling someone constantly, snooping through their phone, cheating, making someone you pretend to care about feel anything less than wonderful.

Often people feel because they’ve invested time in a relationship that it has value. They’re not happy, but they would rather be with someone than no-one. I’ve been there! I can tell you with my hand on my heart that you are better off alone than with the wrong person. I truly hope that if you’re one of these people that you can see this sooner rather than later. The revelation when you suddenly realise that being alone is not the worst thing that can happen, that once you get into the swing of things it’s actually kinda great, then I don’t think you’ll settle for something less than you deserve again.

I’m not saying wait for the perfect match, because there is no such thing. There is no such thing as perfection and anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying to you or themselves. But I know for a fact that you deserve someone who makes you feel good. Someone who makes you more than you are. Someone who can find a way to make you smile when you really don’t want to. Someone who makes you feel strong, secure and loved. And they deserve the same from you. There will be arguments along the way, there will be good times and bad times, but with each one you can grow together as a couple and as people in your own right. Life isn’t a fairytale, and it’s why I wanted realistic wedding vows –

I choose you
To be yourself
loving what I know of you and trusting who you will become.
I will respect and honor you always and in all ways.
I will be here
When you feel like being quiet
When you need to speak your mind
I will listen
And I will be here
When the laughter turns to crying
Through the winning, losing and trying
We’ll be together
Because I will be here
When the mirror tells us we’re older
I will hold you
And I will be here
To watch you grow
And tell you all the things you are to me.
Remember tonight for it is the beginning of always.

I take you to be yourself. This is important. You simply cannot truly love somebody if you are intent on changing them. If you are in love with promises of who they will be one day, and how happy you’ll be one day… then you are in love with a fantasy. Which is an easy trap to fall into, but never ends well.

Crying over a breakup because you’ll never have the wedding you dreamed of together, never have the children you named in your heart, feels good because it’s a release. An outpouring of emotion is satisfying, we all need it now and again. Let yourself dive deep into it, feel every ounce of misery and wail at the top of your lungs! Then let it go, because it’s nonsense. Had these things been meant to happen, they would have happened. Don’t waste time mourning something that was only ever a fantasy. All of the good things that happened while you were together are still yours. But now you get to move on armoured with the knowledge that you won’t make the same mistakes again.

I stayed for too long with a man who made me desperately unhappy. The warning signs were there very early on, he would blow hot and cold, inviting me to a party and then half way through the night freeze me out leaving me to wonder what I might have done wrong. The following day he’d be so apologetic and make me feel like the most important person in the world. It was an addicting sort of yoyo of drama, great highs followed by miserable lows, all meant to make him feel in control. I stayed with him and he slowly undermined my confidence, made me feel that I was so lucky to be with him, that none of his friends could understand what he was doing with me (I later learned that they were saying the opposite!) so the first time he put me in hospital with his temper and made me believe it was my fault, I believed him. And the second and the third. In between he would cheat and I would leave, which would prompt huge gestures, promises and irresistible apologies. I became addicted to how loved I felt after the dark spells. Eventually, as you know, I got out. Despite having alienated me from almost all of my friends, I still had my family (despite his best efforts!) and they were patient as I put myself back together again. I started a new chapter of my life, I became a YES Woman, determined to take every opportunity life sent my way.

My confidence didn’t return over night, it was really a case of faking it ’til I made it. Silly things, like I wouldn’t wear my hair up for years because this one man had told me it was ugly. It sounds crazy now, but I was so hurt after the breakup. So hurt that none of the promises we’d made each other were going to become real, devastated that I’d wasted all that time with him. But now I’m just so grateful. So grateful that I saw the light, that I had the strength to leave and the family to support me when I did. But also for the lessons I learned. After him when I dated a guy who would put me on a pedestal only to knock me down and ignore me so I’d chase him, I brushed him off. No thanks, not again!

It made me value myself and value my time. I knew I couldn’t put up with drama again. I learned to spot warning signs quite quickly. Cancelling a date to get drunk with his friends? Next! Tried to make me feel as though I were lucky he’d consider spending time with me? Next! Jealous & wanted to go through my messages? No thanks.

I dated some truly lovely people over the years, too. People I suppose I may have ended up with if timings had been different. Not every breakup was a huge bust-up, in fact I don’t think any of the others were. But I mourned them all the same. I cried over what could have been, even while knowing it wouldn’t have worked. I learned to love single life, I loved my shoebox apartment and became very careful who was invited into it. Part of falling apart so completely meant that I could put myself back together properly and take my time.

Because you do have time.

People think they don’t. I sit across from friends cradling their cups of tea saying well I’m not getting any younger and I do want to get married… (I sit across from friends aged from 21 to 41 and beyond all saying the same, by the way) as though having a big expensive party while wearing a white dress is some sort of finish line. There is no magical Disney puff of sparkles when you say “I Do” that will fix your troubles. There is no Happy Ever After, your relationship – whatever it may be – will remain the same if you share a last name. If you marry the wrong person purely because you don’t want to consider your time together wasted, I have some bad news: You’re going to waste a lot more time and a great deal of money getting divorced. Rather than spending a year planning a wedding, spend it finding someone you adore and who more importantly adores you.

Often we learn more from our losses than we do from our wins.

You are deserving of love.

I look back with an eye-roll and a smile as I remember weeping into my mother’s arms, aged 18 having broken up with my first love. I remember vividly saying what I knew to be true – “What if I never find love again? No-one will ever love me like he did…” and she tried so valiantly not to laugh. I thought about that moment after every following breakup, because of course it’s nonsense. There will always be love in your life. You are loveable, you are loved and someone new who you don’t even know exists yet, will love you one day. Do you know how I know that?

Two reasons.

  1. Along the way you’ve gotten hurt. You feel deeply enough to have gotten this far through my ramblings, and you want to come out of the other side. You are an emotionally intelligent, kind and wonderful person.
  2. The advice my mother gave me on that very day. “Look, even serial killers fall in love and get married. You really think you’re that bad that no-one will ever love you?”

I laughed through my tears, she cuddled me, made a pot of tea and a stack of hot buttered toast, and eventually I got over it.

Time is a wonderful healer, you will feel better in the end. I used to recite this quote to myself:

Sometimes people ask me if they should “take a break” rather than breaking up.

My answer is always the same. No.

Breaks don’t work. You can’t say to someone “look, let’s hit pause and in a months time we’ll get back together and things will be better” because they won’t. That pause won’t fix anything and you’ll only end up breaking up further down the line.

That is not to say that breaks don’t work. Confusing, I know.

I took a break. We had been dating a little while and we fell into a habit of bickering and arguing about things that didn’t matter. We were both stubborn and pig headed and one day he made a decision that made it clear that I wasn’t his priority. I broke it off there and then. I wept, I partied, I dated, I travelled, we didn’t say one word to each other for a month. Just when I thought I was over him, he started sharing pictures of some new model he was seeing, I was heartbroken all over again, unfollowed him and decided I’d most certainly done the right thing. I still hadn’t heard a peep from him. A couple of weeks later I saw an article about something I knew he’d be fascinated in, and I realised with relief that my anger had gone. I missed his friendship, and sent him the link hoping it would be something of an olive branch. It turns out he was feeling the same way and was thrilled I’d reached out, immediately flew to London and we became friends again. Over lunch one day he asked if perhaps one day we might get back together, I said absolutely not, under no circumstances does getting back with an ex ever work out. And last month we got married.

It turns out that we needed the time apart to realise that we could live without each other, but that we didn’t want to. We hadn’t done it as a “break” or a punishment, each of us thought it was the end, and by the time we met again, we had each let go of our resentment. Our relationship from that moment on changed completely, we were both much more patient, more kind, and valued the other more than we had before. It mellowed us because we realised that our love for the other outweighed any trifling annoyance. We slip into old habits now and then, occasionally we have real fire fuelled, door slamming arguments, but he can always make me smile when I don’t want to and at the end of the day we only want the other to be happy.

He makes me more than I am, he encourages my work, he will find something to compliment even on my worst day, he lets me know every single day how much he loves me and I do the same for him.

I know that at the moment you feel like nothing will ever be good again, but I can faithfully swear to you, one day you will meet someone who will make you so grateful that it never worked out with anyone else.

I often quote that you should treat yourself as you would your best friend. Sit yourself down with a nice cup of tea and give yourself whatever advice you need right now. I believe you would treat a friend more gently than you treat yourself, but you can work on that. You have time.

If your friendly advice is that perhaps you were in the wrong, perhaps you should apologise well that’s fine too. We all need an honest friend in our lives, you can be that friend.

Whatever happens, I believe in you, and I know you will come through this.

I did! And I can promise you, I’m no more special than you are. I’m just a little further along the road.

All images saved from here, I hope they help you as much as they did me over the years.

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