My last break-up involved ending a relationship that lasted four years, and naturally the first thing I did was call my best friend to relay the news. She made all the right sympathetic noises and immediately arranged to come and see me the following evening, and we started to sift through the wreckage over cocktails. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that she was holding something back, and eventually, after a long and hesitant pause, it came:
“I knew. Last time you came to visit me, I just knew you were going to break up with him.”
This admission was like a wake-up call – if someone on the outside had seen the reality of my failing relationship before I had, what else had I been blind to? The next few months were a whirlwind of answers to that question as I slowly realised how many compromises I had become resigned to making as I got used to thinking as a ‘we.’ Two years on I’m back to thinking as a ‘me,’ and I have a much stronger hold over my life goals and what I’m willing to give up for another person. Break-ups are messy and complicated and recovery is never a straight road, but here are a few things that helped me detox from the relationship and get myself back on track.
Initiate a Social Media Lockdown
However a break-up happens there’ll always be a part of you that misses them in the short-term, and when you don’t want them to know this the instant solution is to go through their social media profiles. PSA: not once since the dawn of Facebook has this ever helped anyone. Best case scenario, they won’t have posted at all, and worst case you’ll be left wondering who they were with at that restaurant the checked in at, or why they were photographed having so much fun on a night out without you. Obsessing over what they might be doing is just distracting yourself from what you’re doing, so hide them from your timeline, unfollow or unfriend – do whatever you have to do to keep them out of your mind. How someone else is getting over you is none of your business.
Prioritise Your Single Self
I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, but the best piece of advice I can give to anyone coming out of a long relationship is to just be single, for as long as it takes to heal and reassess your priorities. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking there’s a certain way you have to behave during this time; the beauty of being single is that you don’t owe anyone anything, and as long as you’re not hurting anyone you don’t have to justify your choices to anybody but yourself. Whether you take a three month vow of celibacy or indulge in the hook-ups you couldn’t have before, all that matters if that you do things on your own terms.
Be Inspired By Your Heroes
Nothing helps you figure out where you want to be better than following the adventures of people who inspire you. I always think you can tell a lot about someone by the people or things they idolise – it reveals the kind of behaviours, personality traits and outlooks they value in themselves and others. It doesn’t matter if your hero is a Twitter icon, a family member or a work colleague whose job you want 5 years from now; get in touch with them, learn from them, and soak up all their good vibes. Right now I’m obsessed with Emma Gannon’s blog Girl Lost in the City, the wearetravelgirls‘ Instagram account and anything by Mindy Kaling.
Make an Anti-Goals List
Every article I’ve ever read on getting over a break up, handling a quarter-life crisis or kick-starting your new year has had the same piece of advice in it; make a list of your goals and what you want to achieve. This is great if you know exactly what you want, but when I came out of a four year relationship I felt like I barely knew who I was, never mind what I wanted to achieve in the next year; this advice just made me feel like a giant failure. What I had learned however, were some things I definitely didn’t want. So once your rose-tinted glasses have fallen away, gather up all the compromises you made, all your newly discovered deal-breakers, and get them down on paper.
Spend Time with People Who Know and Love You
Seriously, these people are the best and they deserve to be told that. Most people in long-term relationships slip into a ‘couple bubble’ and I was just as guilty as anyone; when I became single I realised how much my time spent with friends and family had eroded as I prioritised my boyfriend more and more. Luckily these people will still be there for you when you emerge from your bubble, and I promise you they will be your medication. There’s nothing that can restore you better than being around people who know you better than you know yourself, and who love you unconditionally.
Learn the Hard Lesson
The hardest pill to swallow when you’re getting over someone is that, if your dreams and ambitions weren’t aligned from the start, you were probably always doomed to break up or otherwise spend a lifetime resenting each other for everything you had to give up. That damn ‘love conquers all’ mantra would have you believe that the person you love is the most important thing in the world, and choosing them can only lead to happiness – but it’s a lie.
The harsh truth is that while small compromises are a necessary part of any healthy relationship, big compromises will only make you both miserable in the long run. Heidi Priebe wrote a fantastic article in which she tells us that the best way to find a rewarding relationship is simply to do what we love, and through that we will attract people with similar world views who will push us to be the best versions of ourselves.
Recovering from a break up is a grieving process, and you’ll be grieving not just for the person you’ve had to let go of but for a whole life you thought might be yours. Take your time and do your grieving, but come out of the other side with your mojo rebuilt and ready to take on the world. Because that life you lost? It wasn’t even the one you wanted anyway.
– Kate Moxon