Be it two years or two months, the end of a ‘relationship’ can feel like a loss. You not only mourn what you had, but also what you could have had; which, in my opinion is even worse – because lets keep it real, these are usually rose tinted fantasies.
My twenties felt like a never ending emotional rollercoaster ride that saw me ricochet my way from one disastrous encounter to another. By 30 I thought I’d figured it out (as much as you can). I’d waved goodbye to bad boys and worked on my self-esteem issues and began to really understand what I wanted and needed from a relationship. Subsequently I become so much more relaxed about dating, because I knew I wasn’t going to settle for the first guy that took me for dinner and paid me a few complements. Which is why when a very brief dalliance came to an end I wondered why it hit me so hard. I couldn’t understand why I needed time to ‘grieve’ and wished I could simply pick myself up, dust myself off and get back in the game. So in typical amerleyo.com style I’m sharing my (cringe worthy) experience of the five stages of break-up grief. There is also some sound advice from relationship coaches Vicki & Selena from Project Love on how to navigate each stage and heal post break-up, so you don’t have to follow in my footsteps…
Tinder, happ’n, Bumble bring it on! Trying to convince myself that I’m totally fine, saw me jump right back in the dating saddle. I completely blocked out any feelings of sadness, disappointment, and annoyance (anyone else wonder if the universe has it in for them!?). I also shot down any negative feedback from friends re ‘Mr happn’s’ behaviour. I didn’t want to believe he was anything other than the genuine, open, honest person I thought he was at the beginning. So I put it down to bad timing and pushed down my feelings with too much alcohol, an abundance of chocolate and a string of dates.
- This is a normal reaction to avoid the pain of the break up, which can be too overwhelming to deal with. Rather than numbing the uncomfortable stuff with alcohol and dating, open up to a good friend about how you’re feeling. Be honest about what’s hard and what you’re struggling with and let yourself feel what you’re feeling, because feeling is healing.
- Take a break from anything dating related and enjoy spending time with the people that you love.
‘You can’t just come into my life, make me feel special and then disappear’, said the Instagram meme that opened the flood gates, as I transitioned from denial into sadness. I know it’s a tad pathetic, since what we had was so incredibly brief, but, he made me feel like I was enough just the way I am. This spoke to the part of me that has always found it hard to accept myself, the part of me that strives for perfection, finds faults when there are none and often belives they are unworthy of love (why, I don’t bloody know). When he decided to get back together with his ex it confirmed all the negative self beliefs I’d thought I had a handle on, but were clearly laying in wait in the recesses of my mind.
I felt an overwhelming sadness about missing out on getting to know him better, for the experiences we could have had. When I realised this, I knew that things weren’t going to progress with the new Tinder guy I’d gone on a few dates with, because, though he was nice I missed Mr happn. So I had the cringe worthy its not you, its me chat and I moped around for days crying at the drop of a hat.
- Let yourself mope around, put on your old tracksuit bottoms, cry and sulk. But give yourself a time limit – how long do you need, three days? Tell a couple of friends that you need three days to mope and you can have all the sympathy in the world. However, after that, they have full permission to pull you out of it!
‘What’s wrong with you, do you have absolutely no self respect? How on earth could you be so weak as to fall for someone who is in love with someone else!?’ Is all I could think once the tears dried up. When he first told me he had spoken to his ex, and was subsequently confused, I quickly and (semi) easily wished him luck and said goodbye. When he text a couple of days later my resolve weakened. He was technically still single, what’s the harm in talking to each other I rationalised. Well the harm came when eight weeks later they were back together and my feelings had grown. I mean, seriously I’m not a teenager, I could have predicted the outcome, yet I ran into the situation like a moth to a flame.
The perfectionist in me loves this stage, it’s where I get free rein to ‘bash’ myself for how foolish I’ve been. But once I was done being annoyed at myself, I then became irritated at (supportive) friends who’d ask, ‘do you actually even like him?’. ‘Of course I do!’, was my response, but I could see how they might wonder. I had even questioned that myself. Did I like him because he had ‘liked’ me? Or because we had a strong attraction for one another or did I actually like him (as a person)? I thought long and hard about it – to which you may ask why? If it’s over, does it even matter? Well to me it did, no point wasting time pining over someone you actually only lusted after or simply liked the idea of. So I analysed my feelings, I reread our messages (note to self; delete them!) and I came to the conclusion that yes – I had feelings for him. So back I went to being angry with myself for not protecting my heart from being stamped on while he was happy with someone else. This was peppered with moments of resentment directed at him – because when I found out it wasn’t the first time he’d broken up with his girlfriend, met someone else and then gone back to her; it made me question whether the whole thing had just been some thrill seeking game. It was then that I truly processed that I deserve better.
- Anger can be a really useful emotion when used in the right way, it can give you an amazing sense of clarity and it represents a shift in perspective, that yes, he still had feelings for his ex and so isn’t available for a relationship. That clarity can be empowering!
- In this stage, the part of the brain that regulates emotions, memory and decision making is activated but your serotonin levels (which controls obsessive-compulsive thoughts) are low, so re-reading his messages and hating that he’s happy with someone else are both normal reactions (as would be stalking his facebook page!).
- Disconnect from social media and go cold turkey by deleting his emails / texts and remove any trace of him (e.g his old Tshirt). Then get out in nature, preferably on a sunny day – it will calm you down and the sunlight will boost your serotonin levels.
As I walked around my local grocery store in my pyjamas, throwing the ingredients to the yummiest rice crispy squares ever (6 Cadbury Caramels and 1.5 bags of marshmallows melted and mixed with Rice Krispies) in my basket, it dawned on me that I had reached a new low. This was something other than sadness. I felt numb, I had little energy, didn’t want to exercise (even though I’d been training 6 days a week for the last 7 months) and it felt like a chore to speak to, or socialise with friends. I wasn’t angry anymore, I simply felt defeated by ‘love’, and was convinced it would never happen for me (hence the comfort food). How could I have such a strong connection with someone so quickly and it not work out?! So, with all these disappointments whirling around in my head what had started as me feeling sad and angry about the end of a ‘relationship’, had subsequently spiraled into something bigger (that had nothing to do with him). Will I ever meet the right person? Am I really unlovable? Will having a family be an option for me? etc. I didn’t have the answers, which left me feeling hopeless.
- Be very gentle with yourself and give yourself time to mourn the end of a relationship. Eat the comfort food, watch a film, have a hot bath and journal about how you feel. Be extremely compassionate with yourself. It feels much bigger than him because it is! It’s not really about him but what he represents – that meeting someone you have a connection with is possible. Just because it ended with him, doesn’t mean that it will always end like this with someone else. The past doesn’t equal the future.
- Reframe this rejection and see it as a redirection to something better and be grateful to him as you’re now one step closer to finding the person who would be right for you, who is fully available and ready for a relationship with you.
It is what it is, has become my mantra. I could waste time thinking about him, what could have been, wondering if he missed me as I do him or I can mend my heart by closing the chapter. I liked him, he liked me (albeit not enough), and now it’s over. Of course I hate not getting what I want, but I have been forced to accept that in life things don’t always pan out the way we’d like. Do I wish things had turned out differently? Yes. However, I have to move on for my own sake. Now I try to remind myself that if I met him, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that I will meet someone I like as much, if not more and who reciprocates my feelings.
- This phase is all about new beginnings which means closing this chapter to enter into a new one. Ask yourself the following and write down the answers in a journal
○ What were the highs from this relationship
○ What were the lows?
○ What were the most important lessons I’ve learnt from this relationship?
- Now draw a line under the page (literally and metaphorically) and start a new page in your journal, entitled “The future”
○ Think about how you want to feel when you’re rooted in a happy and healthy relationship?
- Then do one thing that will have you feeling this way in the next week or so, put it in your diary and treat it like a date with someone you love, because that love of your life is you.
Want to learn more about yourself and yearn to get off the emotional rollercoaster you’re on? Try Project Love, it truly helped open my eyes to where I was going ‘wrong’ and led me on a path to learning to love myself. Give it a go and get £10 off their amazing 30 day course with my discount code ‘amerleyolove’