Why Being Single At Christmas Is Not The End Of The World

Lately, it’s become a trend to have someone on your arm for the Christmas season. Ice skating, Christmas shopping and watching Home Alone *actually* alone are not really things anyone wants to do. 

They want date nights on Stephen’s Day and they want their New Years Kiss to be their forever.

Sure, there is something to be said for having a little romance at the most magical time of year but at the end of the day there’s one thing I can promise you:

Your Christmas won’t be any worse if you’re spending it solo.

For one thing, it’s one less present to worry about right?

In today’s society things, like this are being far too hyped up and stressed over.

It’s time we remembered what Christmas really is about, and for everyone that is different.

Christmas isn’t really my thing, I won’t lie. It’s too traditional, somehow too restrictive. Coming from a really mixed family, step brother and half sisters living on the other side of the world, a traditional family Christmas has never been something I fully understood and that’s honestly the way I like it. 

We are messy and all over the place and my seasons of Christmas are never really the same. Having to spend Christmas, or even worse, worry over Christmas about how your “other half” is doing or how they are spending Christmas is not what you need to be doing while celebrating the happiest season of the year.

If you’re single this Christmas embrace it.

Don’t blush when people ask who your New Years Kiss will be and don’t be embarrassed explaining to your family that, “No mum it will be just me there for dinner AGAIN this year, no don’t worry I’m not sad about it. We can end this call now okay.” 

Embrace it, love with what you have while you can.  There are not many years in your life when you are so free at such a time of the year, so make the most of it. If you’re a family kind of person, why not really get into the spirit of things and go home for a long break. 

Sometimes we get so caught up in our day to day lives that we forget we actually don’t really know what might be going on in our family’s lives anymore. And Christmas is the perfect time to rekindle that connection that blood holds. Find out their latest fears, loves, secrets. Even the people closest to us are always changing and sometimes with family your mind is still seeing the version of them you knew for so long, or maybe you’re only allowing them to see a certain version of you. Take this Christmas to break those habits and open yourself up again. These are the people who have loved you from day one, don’t forget that.

The love you receive on Christmas doesn’t always have to be romantic, this love is permanent, this love is life lasting. This love is just as worthy of your attention.

And if you’re not a family person, or you simply detest the season, don’t stress. It is only as traditional as you make it and when it comes down to it is only another day of the year. Someone once told me, ”Christmas is an ideal, Christmas can be whatever you want it to be.” So if Christmas for you is running away, then do just that. Book a flight, a train, rent a car and take a trip. Experience Christmas in a different culture, a different country, a new place. You don’t always have to follow the well-known path, and you can make your own alone.

Take the time and give it to yourself. That is the best Christmas present you could ever receive.

So as we quickly approach the so-called “cuffing” season, pride yourself on being single. Relish in your untainted independence.

Reminisce about the last 12 months and prepare yourself for the New Year. Who knows what is coming around the corner. That’s the most exciting part.

When Your World Revolves Around Your Depressed Partner

We had been together for three and a half years. When we first met, he was going through a difficult time. He had depression, he was grieving one of his parents, he was struggling to get a job, and had major trust and communication issues from both his childhood and previous ex-girlfriends. I was his friend first, and very soon after became his one support. It was inevitable that we fell in love.

For two years, I helped him through his depression, I helped him open up and learn to trust and communicate again. Even though I was managing my own stresses and workload, I devoted my day and all my free time to him. I taught him how to eat more nutritious food, would encourage him to go for daily walks with me. He flourished, and in his happiness, I mistook my happiness and the success of our relationship. 

After two years, he was a changed man. Everyone saw it; his friends, family, everyone who knew it commended me for the positive change I had brought to his life. Meanwhile, I was buckling under the stress and responsibility of part-time studies, earning a living, keeping his mental health afloat, cooking him two meals a day, and actually also carrying the majority of the financial burden.

We began to fight. Consciously or unconsciously I started resenting him for having to carry the weight of our entire relationship by myself. I was hurt and lashed out when he wasn’t able to think of me, make sacrifices for me, put me first, and essentially love me the way I loved him. He started to draw away from me, hating that my anger would erupt at the drop of a hat. Eventually, he’d had enough, and he left.

In the beginning I couldn’t understand it. I had done everything right. My whole world had revolved around him. How was I still not good enough? Why did he not want me anymore? I went from anger at him for not choosing me, to anger at myself for not getting it right. It was all my fault. I shouldn’t have snapped at him, I should’ve, I would’ve, I could’ve… none of it helped.

It took me a long time to build a life in which I was the centre of my universe again. It took even longer to admit that letting him become the centre of mine contributed to the end of our relationship. It takes two to make a relationship work, but I can’t help thinking, if I had known better, if our relationship could have been more equal, then maybe things wouldn’t have ended the way they did.

Although the pain of this heartbreak felt like it would break me in the beginning, I am grateful for the lesson I took away from it; it was one I definitely needed to learn. I’ve learned to love myself, and know that I should never lose myself, my needs, or my life, even for the one I love. Relationships need balance. As much as I thought I could, you can’t love someone enough for the both of you. And you should never, ever beg someone to love you the way you love them. This is a lesson I hope to take with me, and still believe that I will fall in love again. This time, I will find someone who will love me the way I deserve to be loved.

A True Partner Will Weather the Storms with You

We had been fighting. Every tiny provocation, that would typically not even get acknowledged, would cause a weeklong raging argument. Every word that came out of his mouth was one tiny little snowflake that would fall on top of the snowy mountain and cause an avalanche. When I responded in this way, his first instinct was to ignore me and hope that these overwhelming negative emotions I had would subside. After a couple days of not really talking to each other, they would. But then the next snowflake would fall, and it would start all over again.

He was unhappy, I was unhappy. I do not know why we stayed together. I would break up with him, and then a couple hours later feel so alone that I would apologize and ask him to take me back. As all of this was happening, and as I type this, I realize that this behavior gets you the label of “crazy girlfriend”. 

However, looking back, the way I acted makes sense. During this time, one of my parents had severe health problems that could have taken him away from me at any second; my roommate was taking out her own problems on me; my semester academically was tremendously challenging; I was in financial trouble. Every chapter of my life was going awry.

Throughout all of this, I did not realize it, but I completely withdrew from my support network. When my close friends would call or ask to hang out, I could always come up with a reason why I would not be able to make it. The one person who was always there, even though I would never communicate what was actually going on, was my partner.

But after months of this, he had enough. We had been in one of our typical weeklong arguments and I broke up with him. This time it was only minutes later that I called him back and said I was sorry. But he had had enough. He told me everything that I would have told a friend to say to their significant other. “I love you but I cannot be in this relationship anymore.” “Every little thing I do sets you off and I can’t be with you if everything I do makes you miserable.”

Hearing this broke my heart. I felt pain throughout my whole body and could feel my heart pounding as he spoke those words to me. I felt like I could not breathe and I did not know how to act or what to do. The next couple of days consisted of me reliving every beautiful memory we had shared on repeat, every time feeling a rush of pain when one of those thoughts crossed my through my mind. I felt it all. Regret. Nostalgia. Distraught. Remorse.

Looking back, now that I am starting to heal, I like to believe that I can see what happened clearer. I can think about it almost without pain. I should have been honest. I should have at least given him a chance. But no one’s life is perfect, and everyone goes through periods where everything seems to be going wrong. I wish I could go back and tell the person I was then what I know now. But I can’t.

I don’t leave this experience with regrets though. I leave with an incredibly important lesson that I would not have known if it had not been for this event. You cannot rely completely on your partner for support. You cannot expect someone to be there for you if you do not tell them what is going on and how you are feeling. Yes, they might completely let you down. But you never know when there will be that one person that will help you rise back up again. Now that I’m better equipped to be vulnerable, I look forward to meeting that person one day and weathering the storms of life together.

Why My Long Distance Breakup Has Been So Hard

I did it. It took me a year but I did it – I got a job offer in his city while maintaining my current position in a city 10 hours away from him by car. It was the only thing I put my foot down about in our relationship: I wasn’t moving without a job offer.

After endless travel, coffee meetings, cover letters and interviews, I finally received two offers. I never expected he would choose this time to throw in the towel on our 2+ year relationship once I finally accomplished my (our) goal.

Every decision I’d made over the latter half of our relationship had been with him in mind, someone I didn’t see every day, or even weekly. Sometimes I only saw him monthly for a few days.

And that’s why long distance breakups are uniquely difficult. You’ve given this person a permanent space in your thoughts even when they’re not physically present. Good luck turning that off once it’s over. It takes time.

After the breakup, you begin to feel silly for thinking it ever could have worked. Long distance almost never works – seriously,  how many couples do you know who have tried it and failed? But you thought you were the exception. When you tell your friends and family, you imagine them thinking, ‘I figured it wouldn’t work.’

There are perhaps two silver linings which also serve to make long distance breakups uniquely hard:

First, often the relationship doesn’t end for any dramatic reason other than that long distance isn’t sustainable permanently and requires one or both parties to make major changes in their lives outside of the relationship. And they may or may not be ready or motivated to make those changes. That feels unfair when there was so much love.

Second, probably neither party will attempt a long distance relationship again, ever. Think of how much love and attraction there must have been to give such a crazy thing a shot in the first place.

As for me, I was willing to make the necessary changes. I was ready to move and start our life together. But the stakes felt too high for him. He balked at me changing my life for the relationship, and wouldn’t even admit it until the 11th hour.

Love is a choice. I chose him again and again, and I just wish he would’ve chosen me when it truly counted.

I did the thing. I found a job, learned to navigate a strange city, had a plan.

I did the thing. He’s the one who couldn’t.

A Letter To All The Other Women My Ex Hurt

I want to say that I’m sorry that he hurt you. I’m sorry if he didn’t choose you. I’m sorry he didn’t fight for you like you deserve. I now join your rankings. Whether that be a moment of celebration or a moment met with open arms, I didn’t get his love either. 

I won’t lie, I hated a lot of you. He could never let you all go and there were reminders of each pretty face throughout our entire relationship. He kept you all on a string, close enough in reach but far enough to let you know that he was “sorry and valued your friendship but didn’t want to be with you.” 

You were all beautiful and intimidating to me because he made you feel special too and I know you felt his magic. While our Instagram photos painted a different picture, one that wasn’t marred with insecurities, reassurance of a partnership (that wasn’t really a partnership), and a knowledge that I was second best. 

I’m sorry if those pictures hurt you and I’m sorry if I relished in that hurt because I had finally been “chosen.” I thought I deserved him when I waited it out while he slept with other people; I put in the time, effort and tears, and I damn well was going to let the world know he was mine. I made you all to be my enemies because I had to know that he chose me and I had to be the best. I had to make him see why it didn’t work with all of you. 

In the end, it didn’t matter. I tried until I was blue in the face. I loved him with every fiber of my being, I admitted when I was wrong, I made allowances for behavior that I typically wouldn’t tolerate and I became lesser for someone who couldn’t see my worth or yours. 

A part of me will always love him and believe in him because I wanted the fairy tale with him. Like you all did. But let me remind you, fairytales aren’t real life. While we all can slay our own dragons, we still want to be with someone who we know would defend us to the end, without hesitation. Fairy tales aren’t filled with action, they are filled with words. And we all deserve so much more than words.

Dealing With Addiction As A Couple

Addiction affects more people than most Americans realize. It can shape itself in various ways and can revolve around so many different things. Dealing with a partner’s addictions can be tough for both people in the relationship; it’s always painful to see someone you love suffering. You never want them to feel alone, but if it’s something you’ve never dealt with before, you might feel lost. If your loved one suffers from addiction, here is what you can do to help them, and yourself.

Treatment Options

Luckily, today there are more options when it comes to addiction treatment than ever before. There is, of course, the classic 12-step model, but also other self-help groups that revolve around education and mutual support. If your loved one is uncomfortable around groups, you might suggest psychotherapy as a solution. This is especially effective when family and loved ones participate to support your loved one.

Withdrawal may be intimidating to face, but there are medications and focused supports for the symptoms. Behavioral therapy is an option, usually in conjunction with another treatment, to help your loved one refocus and develop healthy behaviors. Your significant other could opt for inpatient or outpatient therapy.

Managing Finances

Many of those who suffer from addiction may also find themselves in a poor financial state. It’s important to tackle this strain together to figure out what you can do to get back on track. Start by assessing your situation and creating a financial plan. Begin by creating a monthly budget together. You need to decide what absolutely must be paid, what you can cut, and what you can use to pay down any debt.

Getting out of debt is no easy feat. Assess the rates of any credit cards you and your loved one hold, and see if you can get lower interest elsewhere. Tally up your debt and see what you need to pay monthly to recover as quickly as possible. Talk as a couple about what you should pay down first, the debt with the highest interest rate, or the smallest debt? Once you have a plan set up, make sure you monitor it closely. It will take work, but you can accomplish your goals together.


Part of the healing process may include taking part in your loved one’s treatment. By being present, not only can you tend to the wounds that addiction has caused between you, you may be able to help your loved one stay on the path of recovery. Often, addiction can cause a person to withdraw completely from all relationships. It’s imperative for the relationship to survive that you both find ways to reconnect. This is going to be a difficult time for you both. Taking your loved one’s side and giving them support can help them overcome these hurdles.

Re-create happy memories you had together before addiction and show each other how thankful you are to be in each other’s lives. When there is a confrontation, or if you feel your partner withdrawing, discuss it immediately. Be as open with each other as possible. Now is not the time to hold back or withhold love.

Handling Separation

No matter how hard we try, sometimes the best option is to leave. You may feel unsafe, or that you have tried everything, and your partner refuses to get the help they need. If you have tried everything you can think of, including counseling together, but there are no positive changes, then you need to put yourself first. Sometimes, the hurt we suffer cannot be overcome. Even if we forgive, the trauma does not disappear. You may still love your partner fiercely, but you need to find and focus on your own happiness. The first part of letting go and handling the separation is acceptance. You tried to be what they needed, but now you must focus on your own needs.

This is a difficult period. No one can deny that. However, with the right support, you and your significant other can come out stronger because of it. Work together, love each other, and do your best to find health.

Are You Experiencing These Symptoms Of A Bad Relationship?

Bad relationships are something we all have found ourselves in once, twice, maybe three or more times in our lives.

There is never one way to have a bad relationship, but the symptoms are typically the same. You are sad more often than not, the arguments are frequent (sometimes every day or multiple times a day), abuse is present (emotionally, physically, or sexually), you don’t feel like yourself, you feel depleted, you feel undervalued, you feel disrespected, you feel alone. Everything that should not be present in a healthy relationship rears its ugly, toxic head in a bad relationship.

Left behind in the wake of a bad relationship is a scarred, lesser, somewhat unrecognizable version of yourself. After so much time spent in a situation where you’ve lost your worth, you still question it even though the person is gone. You find it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You find it hard to believe you can ever be loved again. Getting over a bad relationship takes a lot of self-reflection, relearning how to be alone, and reconnecting with your sense of self. Trust me, I’ve been there a few times before I told myself I had to do better since I now knew better.

It’s a process to mend after a bad relationship, but here are some tips to get you started: 

1. Identify What Made the Bad Relationship Negative

“Whenever your energy is off balance, go inward, make room for pain to pass through but ask clarity as an exchange. Peace is often found in the chaos.”

— Malanda Jean-Claude

While it is not good to dwell, it is healthy to reflect on the areas of the relationship that were fragile, toxic, and/or negative. Because life and love are cyclical, it helps to isolate time toward reflection so that you avoid repeating the same pattern in your relationships again and again. For people that jump from partner to partner, missing out on that time will lead them to repeat the same damaging habits and wonder why the same shit keeps happening to them. Nothing just happens to you. You are in control of your world, including the people and the behaviors you allow in it.

Isolate yourself, dig deep, write it down, cry it out – purge the relationship as best you can. At the end of that, own up to the shit that you brought to the table. Often times, during breakups, especially following bad relationships, people like to place all of the blame onto their former partners because it’s easier to find fault in others than own up to your own mistakes and shortcomings. It takes two to tango. Being honest with yourself in those reflective moments will teach you a lot about the areas you need to work on before entering new relationships and help you to come to terms with some of your own flaws and damaging behaviors.

2. Acknowledge the Love Lost as a Lesson Learned

Endings get a bad reputation. When relationships end, there is an assumption that what has happened needs to look and feel like a tragedy, a loss as painful as death. And in a way, there is some sadness, grief, and pain that you must endure. And you will mourn because of it. However, I’ve learned that emotions don’t have to be placed in the good or bad category, negative or positive. Sadness will happen, but that doesn’t make it inherently bad.

Instead of allowing your breakup to loom over your head like a storm cloud, accept it for what it truly means. This ending isn’t an ending at all. It’s a beginning. You are new. You are free to fulfill your true purpose and flourish into the best version of yourself. Unfortunately, that person isn’t included. The silver lining is that you can’t grow without going through things or holding onto people who no longer align with the version of you that you are becoming.

Breakups can be happy endings too.

3. Stick to Your Standards and Construct Healthy Boundaries

Admittedly, “boundaries” is a word that I hear thrown around a lot. Either in the form of advice (like I’m trying to give now) or reaffirmed as a fundamental foundational structure that is necessary for all facets of life. But where and how do you get them? I didn’t have a clue. I would see the effects of what not remaining close or loyal to boundaries did to me and my relationships but wouldn’t rush to change them or dismiss the people who impeded on my peace whether intentionally or unintentionally. Either way, I had no real follow-through.

Through trial and error, I’ve learned that no matter how big or how small a boundary I have might be, they still matter. Sometimes you won’t realize you even have a boundary until it’s crossed, and you feel the need to communicate it to your partner. Something as simple as being blatantly ignored might be a boundary (it is for me), and if it’s disrespected, say something. I was great with explaining my boundaries and why an action hurt me, but I wasn’t great at executing follow-through, which meant bad habits didn’t die and a chain of disrespect surely did follow. I’ve since learned that there can be no exceptions to my rules, especially once they’ve been explicitly stated and when it seems like the person who claims to love me doesn’t respect that, I gotta keep it moving.

You should never have to lower yourself in exchange for love. Walk into your real self and what you absolutely will not tolerate from other people. Do so every time, without compromise.

4. Moving On vs. Moving Forward

When it comes to getting over a breakup, I believe we should forget the whole mindset of moving on. Moving on implies that in order to truly be over someone or get over a relationship, you have to move past them. And while I believe that you can move forward with your life, I don’t think you can move on. There will never be a time, no matter how many years have passed or how many scars have healed, that you won’t think about that person. You loved them, you probably still do. You haven’t failed to move forward just because those facts still ring true.

Adopt the approach of moving forward with your life. Take your life one day at a time, forgive yourself, and realize that missing someone who played such a significant role in your life (no matter how shitty the relationship) is going to happen. That doesn’t make you any less successful in your journey and your intention of moving forward with your life.

5. Lean Into The Loneliness 

“How do you find self-love? You dig. You isolate and you ache from being lonely. You heal. You accept, you look in the mirror and see God. Lonely will find you, don’t fight that. It builds you where no one else can. Pain is nature’s tough love, it passes through. Let it.”

— Malanda Jean-Claude

Make time for yourself and indulge in the things that you love. Treat yourself to a spa day to pamper yourself, get fit, go shopping, find yourself in new chapters of books – do whatever it is you enjoy and do lots of it. Surround yourself with people you love and adore.

Take life a day at a time. The past is what it is and the future is what it will be. Focus on the here and now, because the present is all we are truly promised at the end of the day.

Why Being With A Woman Who Can’t Love You Is Lonelier Than Being Alone

I have recently undergone my first breakup. If I am honest, it has been a long time coming. We have been in an on-and-off relationship for three and a half years, and it has now just become too painful. And I still love her more than life itself.

We started dating at university. Lets call her M. M had recently found out her last boyfriend had cheated on her. It destroyed her. I remember waking up one morning to see a missed call at 2 a.m. from M. This was a surprise, as although we were friends, a call like that was a big deal. So, I met with her for coffee the next day, and she told me what had happened. We spent more and more time together, and it was not long before we started  hooking up. 

I will never forget the first time we kissed. She was clear from the start; she was not in a place to be in a relationship, and this was merely a friends with benefits arrangement. I was still a virgin and not great at  figuring out my emotions, so I thought the arrangement was a pretty good deal for now. Then we started having sex. Interestingly, even though we both wanted it, she was reluctant to because she felt my first time should be with someone who is special. Well, we eventually had sex anyway. 

Suddenly (in my eyes at least), she said to me that she liked me, and that she wanted to be together officially. I was not sure what to do, which in itself should have told me something. I was also 20, lonely, having sex for the first time, and kind of liked this girl. So I said yes, and we started dating. 

Looking back now, I shudder. She was the perfect girlfriend. She was so in love; that  infatuation, honeymoon, complete devotion kind of love. And I was this little shit who was not brave enough to confront my emotions. I was not brave enough to actually look into myself and see if I actually loved this girl with my whole heart. And so I strung her along. I remember so many conversations, about how I just didn’t seem to  care, how I seemed distant, how I didn’t respond to messages. It is with so much irony that I found myself on the other side of those conversations 3 years later, but more on that later.

It did not take long for us to have problems. Some fights were her overreacting to things, as strong feelings have you do from time to time. Some were me being an insensitive dick; not listening to her, not taking her side. But we started the cycle of breaking up and getting back together.

We both came to the relationship with our own baggage. M, craving the validation of men, and definitely not over her ex’s infidelity. I brought my extremely low self-esteem, insecurities about my body, and my extreme repression of my emotions. These fed into each other perfectly. We would break up, begin to confront our issues, and then one of us would cave. Sometimes it would be me, sometimes it would be her. After a few weeks, we would be back together. Looking back, I am not sure when her feelings for me began to dull, or when mine began to run so deep. In our gaps she saw other people while I, with my low self-esteem, went on few dates which, no surprises, went nowhere. And I would always be there for her when those guys let her down. 

When I write it out like that, I really do seem a limp, sorry figure. And then there was one big incident, which shook me to my core. It involved the guy she was seeing at the time, and it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with. I remember literally shaking while she told me about what happened. But, to my surprise, I was able to completely put aside how I felt at the time and just be there for her, and have my focus completely on what she needed at the time. To this day, I am proud of how I handled that situation.

That might have been the turning point for me, or maybe it was before that and the event just made things clearer. That was over a year ago, and since then, I have been all in. I have loved M completely. Unfortunately I could not see, or would not see, that she no longer was.

And so began my year of devotion. And now, I was on the other side, expressing how I felt she just was not connected. And how I wanted more than anything to connect with her.

And it was a few months later that she would cheat on me while she was away. This time, we were actually “on” when she slept with the other guy. I say “on” because it seems like the only right way to describe the shadow of a relationship we were in. I suspected it long before I knew. I can usually read M so well. And eventually I confirmed my suspicions by reading her messages. Twice. That was a turning point for me, I was becoming disgusted with the person I was being.

We started seeing each other again when she got back, but that was hardly the end of it. M had arranged with this guy to come and meet her and spend the weekend. And, she still went through with it. I nearly lost my mind that week he was here.

And coming to the present, M is away again. This time there were no boundaries set before she left. The communication was strained, and I began spiraling. Eventually, she said these words to me “… I can’t be your partner”. That was what I needed to hear. I don’t want to be with you. That changed everything.

Writing this out, there are so many things that missed. There are so many signs, I just chose not to see them and clung desperately to my illusions. I am not assigning blame for anything that happened. There is so much that I have left out, because how can you accurately write out three years of an intimate connection between two people.

For every transgression or betrayal one did, the other had their own. I have forgiven M for everything, while thankfully having scraped together enough self-worth to say that I need time and space to heal.

I dearly hope that one day, I can be part of her life again. At the same time, I am scared of the real possibility that I try too soon, and start the whole cycle again. The one thing I have to fight this is the knowledge that, deep down, she does not want to be with me. There is a quote from somewhere (Grey’s Anatomy) that I will paraphrase: “Being with a woman who can’t love you back is way lonelier than being alone”.

At the end of it all, I cannot help but be so thankful. This amazing person fought through all the bullshit I put up at the start to show me what love was. And I am so grateful that I eventually learned to love with my whole heart.

So now it is time for me to work on myself. All that bullshit that helped hide what was really happening. My low self-esteem, my insecurities about my body, my belief that no one will ever find me sexually attractive (that has to be wrong by statistics alone).

Although I think writing this all out is a sign that I have already taken the first steps. And still, I love M from the bottom of my heart. I know that will fade with time, but a little piece will always be there. I know she has her own demons to fight, and I support her completely in fighting those, even though for the time being that support is only thoughts and prayers. She is an absolutely amazing, wonderful person, and I have faith she will be fine.

And M, if you ever read this, I love you. Now and always.

Why I Broke Up With My Soul Mate

Hearing other people’s breakup stories makes us feel less alone, offers different perspectives and illustrates the many nuances of heartbreak. Here are 3 favorites we have been sharing and talking about at Mend HQ.

Why I Ended A Happy Relationship, by Haley Nahman

“It’s easy to misconstrue reluctance to leave as desire to stay. Especially when the source of our itch feels frustratingly nebulous and capable of destroying something precious. It doesn’t help that, as women, we’re constantly fed the notion that we ought to hold on to something good. To listen to everyone but ourselves.”

We love Haley’s piece because it talks about something that many Menders are working through: why, even when something seems good or even perfect, it doesn’t mean that the relationship is right. She demonstrates that the catalyst for a breakup doesn’t have to be dramatic or sudden and that ultimately, trusting your own intuition is where the truth of what you really want resides. Even if leaving is more painful (at first) than staying.

You can read the rest of Haley’s story here.

The 12 Hour Goodbye That Started Everything, by Miriam Johnson

“Hearts and minds can be as opaque as a rain forest; only small pieces of them are ever visible. And I realized this, too: You can’t contain the people you love. You can’t contain your own love, either.”

This next article beautifully depicts how relationships aren’t as transparent as we might think; especially when we get too immersed. Breakups are often not about rejecting someone, but usually more about a disconnection to ourselves in some way. Our job isn’t to find the answer. It’s to honor what that relationship and person ignited in us.

You can read the rest of Miriam’s story here.

Why I Broke Up With The Man Who Seemed To Be My Soul Mate, by Elizabeth Cavanaugh 

“At this juncture, we had to acknowledge what we had both sensed from the beginning. That, despite the outward appearance of sharing so much, our core values and future visions diverged profoundly. In fact, once we stopped looking so intensely at each other, we knew that the subtle discomfort we had felt sprung from our trying to hang on tight while heading in entirely different directions.”

This piece talks about how, even when we think we’ve met our soulmate, we may also have to listen to that inner nudge that it’s run its course. Sometimes, two people are meant to meet, have an experience together and then move on. It’s that special experience that served a purpose we should be grateful for.

You can read the rest of Elizabeth’s story here.

Have you read a story that you’ve really loved recently? If you feel inspired to share your own story with us, please email us at hello@letsmend.com. 

What Falling Out Of Love Feels Like

Have you ever tried to fall out of love?

Sometimes, it feels like it’s working. It feels possible. Like when you’re sitting in a greasy spoon diner with your friends at 2am ordering fries. And you’re laughing until your stomach hurts. Earlier that night, you were at a house, meeting new people and drinking cheap red wine. You were immersed in conversation. You were curious about these strangers, and they were curious about you. You learned about tennis rules and this new restaurant downtown. You felt fine. There was no appendage missing. On your way out, you caught a reflection of yourself in the hallway mirror and thought, “Oh, this is me falling out of love.”

And then there’s the first date. You’re nervous. You can’t get your hair to cooperate. It’s too soon, you think. But you go. He’s there at the table already, and he’s handsome. You take a deep breath and sit down, and the conversation just flows effortlessly. You order a second cocktail. What, you like everything bagels too? What, you went to that show too? What, you also played the violin growing up? Clearly it’s not that hard to meet someone new. You make plans for the second date before the check comes. You walk home and you think “Oh, this is me falling out of love.”

But then, in a seemingly innocuous moment, a song comes on the radio. You freeze. You turn it up, and pull the car over. It wasn’t “your song.” It wasn’t even a song about love. But it was a song you listened to together, in those early days, when everything was perfect. The free fall stops. You’re suspended into air, your limbs flailing. You make your way into an upright position and you realize it’s not going to be that simple to fall out of love. It’s an ebb and flow. It’s going to come in starts and stops. But at least you know it’s possible.

The Letter I’ll Never Send to My Ex

I forgive myself. It was difficult to stop ‘what if’-ing about what we could have been if I had just acted differently that one night in Amsterdam or if I had just thought more carefully about my words the night we fought on the street. If I had just given you more space on the weekends or if I had just tried harder to accept friends of yours that I didn’t like. I know I said I was sorry, but I’ve realized now that I didn’t need to be sorry about anything. It was an empty, desperate apology to try to bring our relationship back to life.

I accept what happened. I suffered for months because I kept telling myself that we met before we should have. I told myself, ‘It was just bad timing.’ I thought everything would have been perfect had I met you a year, two years or five years from now.

The truth, though, is that it isn’t tragic. It wasn’t bad timing. It was because of our relationship that we saw these things about ourselves and now have the opportunity to grow. I do believe we brought out the best in each other. But we also brought out the worst in each other — the insecurities, the issues and the baggage. And it wasn’t just my baggage, even though at the time it felt like it was.

Now, I’ve been forced to reflect on where I need to grow. It has been painful, but I see it as a gift and I’m taking this time to learn about myself. And it’s the right thing for me. I see that now.

I’ve let go. To me, letting go means that I’m letting go of wanting the relationship we had. As much as I wished it would just go back to the way it was, I finally had to be honest with myself: ‘the way it was’ isn’t exactly what I want. ‘The way it was,’ although incredible most of the time, was punctuated more and more frequently with anxiety for both of us.

I want you to know that I’m very thankful for the many lessons that our relationship taught me. I will cherish the time we spent together.

I just wanted these thoughts to exist somewhere outside of my head so that I can make room for other thoughts.

The Pain of Someone Not Being Sure About You

Will Ferrell movies usually don’t move me to tears, and on the rare occasion they do, they are usually tears of joy.

But two years ago, I found myself unable to stomach my dinner or the movie The Campaign as I was flying the eleven hours from San Francisco to Frankfurt. At some point, I ran from my seat to the bathroom, where I wept uncontrollably.

The culprit? Well, the week earlier I had flown from New York to San Francisco to see a boy. It had been an on-again, off-again kind of thing since college, and we had picked up again at a point when it finally seemed like it could materialize into something more. We were older, possibly wiser, but most importantly at a point in our lives where we could dictate where we wanted to live and work.

We spent a great first three days together – it felt like we were rediscovering our college selves again. But on the fourth day, I wanted to get his thoughts on our future together before I left, and it was that night when I discovered that all our history and transatlantic text messaging whilst I was working abroad, all of that, was smoke and mirrors.

He didn’t want commitment, he wasn’t ready, he didn’t know. No matter how I tried to explain myself or sell the idea, the same words kept slapping me in the face – “I just don’t know.” And on that ungraceful note, he dropped me off at the airport the next morning where I proceeded to my boarding gate, settled into my seat, and mourned the loss of everything all the way from San Francisco to Frankfurt to Abuja.

Until that point, I had prided myself on being good at breakups. It never took me more than a week to get over any relationship, even those which spanned years. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about the people I had dated, but rationally there never seemed like a point to wasting energy over a lost cause, so I would always will myself to move on. I never expected this, a short casual long-distance quasi-relationship, to be the one that got to me.

But it took me months. My unhappiness was written plainly all over my face, there was no use denying it to friends. Nothing seemed pleasurable anymore. Out of habit, I kept thinking that through sheer force of will I could inject some lightness into my existence, but the next day I would wake up feeling exactly the same, or worse.

About eight months into this grieving process, on the day I was flying out for a four-week project in Sierra Leone and Malawi – my longest work trip yet – my best friend called me to say she was accepted to grad school and was moving out of the apartment we had shared for four years.

I felt numb. I didn’t know how to process everything that was swirling around me.

I arrived in Freetown that night feeling absolutely defeated mentally, physically, and emotionally. After a harrowing boat ride from the airport to the city, it was all I could do to crawl into bed and pray I didn’t get devoured by mosquitos.

The next morning I walked into breakfast and saw the most gorgeous sunrise I’ve ever seen in my life. Freetown is a hilly city, and from the hotel vantage point I could see the full horizon on the Atlantic Ocean, radiant and glittering orange.

When a bad breakup happens, sometimes we can’t simply will ourselves to feel differently, no matter how much we need it or how much we try. Looking out at the horizon that morning, I realized it was time to simply live with all my complicated feelings about this breakup, this guy, and everything else happening around me. I couldn’t change any of it. There was no guarantee that tomorrow was going to be a better day, or a brighter day, or any of those things quotes on Pinterest say. All that was certain was that tomorrow was a day, and I wanted to meet it.

And somehow it was that acceptance of my own powerlessness, rather than powerfulness, that helped me find myself again.

I’m Finally Giving Myself Space to Feel

My boyfriend (now ex) of three and a half years and I broke up four months ago. The period of time that has followed has been one of the most emotionally painful in my 27 years. He was my home –and my closest friend– in a city 1,100 miles from my family. We had more intellectual and physical chemistry than I have experienced with anyone.

When we broke up, I realized that it wasn’t just our relationship that was broken. As I stepped back, I realized I had let my life spin out of control in the past two years as I tried to balance work, graduate school, personal relationships, and recovery from a significant back injury. When my relationship ended, I was mentally, physically, and emotionally devastated – I felt likeI was broken too. And I became determined to do everything I could to get back on track.

After our breakup, I threw myself into recovery mode. The day we broke up, I repainted my bedroom and rearranged my furniture for a change of scenery. Soon after that, I bought new sheets and towels.

Then I set out to process everything. I filled an entire journal with my anger, relief, frustration, sadness, acceptance, and gratitude. I examined the roles we each played in our relationship’s demise, and sought lessons. I listed reasons it was right to break up: toxicity, inability to meet each other’s needs, communication problems. I talked with close friends, and sought counseling.

And I kept busy. I planned four months’ worth of weekend trips and visits with friends and family. I also made a conscious effort to eat, sleep, exercise, and rediscover my own interests.

In short, I did everything I thought I needed to do to recover.

Last Friday, I awoke with a clear and calm mind for the first time since our breakup. I started getting ready for the day, checked email, showered, and dressed. And then, in the midst of getting ready, I broke down. I sat on my couch and cried in a way that I haven’t in a long time – with sobs that reverberated through my entire body. I felt, in every way, the entirety of the loss I had experienced.

I also felt release. For so many months, I had used structure and activity to propel myself forward. I had also allowed myself to feel many emotions while assessing what had transpired. But I hadn’t been able to do the thing I needed to do most to start healing: I hadn’t been able to give myself space to feel without analyzing or rationalizing.

Since last Friday, I’ve broken down a few more times. And each time, I have experienced greater release and renewal. In finally connecting with the depth of my grief, I have begun to heal. I have let my grief wash over me, and I have started to have much greater certainty that I will be – that I am – well.

I know other feelings will come and go in the coming days. I may feel rage, gratitude, happiness, or devastating sadness, and those feelings may overtake me when I don’t expect them. But I also know now that by allowing myself the space I need to feel – without analysis or judgment – I will be restored.

When You Move On Too Quickly Without Asking “Why”

It was four months till my landlord finally took care of the ants in my studio apartment. The slow crawl to the leaky kitchen sink was indicative of not only her neglect, but also my own. I was three months out of a relationship and hadn’t even stopped to think why I had left the comfort of being in someone else’s arms every night for the last five years.

My family had told me that I was going down a dead end road. I was almost 30 and “He was not financially stable as an actor.” My feelings were that “He was a good person.” I felt that that was enough to get through anything, but I kept judging myself based on the fear I had of what our future would look like. This led to a quarterly argument resulting in resentment and a continuous dismissal of sexual vibrations. And so he stopped feeling confident, and I started feeling depressed. Instead of working on it like an adult, I ran away.

I immediately found an unsafe neighborhood to live in, in a building that didn’t allow my 15 pound emotional support Corgie named Maude. I somehow thought that the change would be temporary, but it was a full-time reality, and loneliness started creeping in every night through tear fests of doom, while my ex-boyfriend started moving on, and rightfully so. 

I thought I had gotten unstuck by getting out. I even found a new company to work at and I went off to Australia for a vacation, thinking I’d give myself a fresh start when I got back. My thought was that in changing everything, I’d have the time to dream, reflect, and think about what I wanted. But with change came a lack of personal space to do just that.

What I learned was that I had moved too quickly without thinking about the ‘why’ of what I was doing. The new job was essentially the old job that I had before, without the stuff that I actually liked doing. It was a replacement, but not a solution. A bandaid. And so, the bandaid came off when I was laid off because I wasn’t a good fit for the role. In a way, I was slightly relieved because I was trying to fit my square self into a round gaping hole. And in taking the new role, I was already resorting to old habits. Staying up late. Working unreasonable hours. Not giving myself mental breaks to go outside and take in some Vitamin D or drink a green juice.

I started a new, stable, non-stressful job a few weeks later, and while the layoff only lasted a week, it made me realize I needed to be in an environment where I could talk to people. Right now, if it’s a job that will actually give me some mental space and no work after work, it’s a job I can do for now. And I should be ok with that. Because a job I do for now is not forever. And a job I do for now can give me the freedom to think about later.

How Grief Rewired Me For Love

According to Psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ theory, there are five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It’s been two months since my father died, one year since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), and one and a half years since I said goodbye to my five-year relationship. Each of these things I’ve been grieving have blurred together so much so that the timelines have become warped. I’m sure there’s a grief distinction between all three — but I haven’t felt it. Instead, I’m completely numb. And so I thought about those five stages and I decided to map out each one because the intersectionality of it all deserves my undo attention.

One. Saying goodbye to the man I once thought I’d marry.

For three years of the five I was with my ex, I felt I had lost who I was, yet stayed in the relationship because I was too afraid of being alone. He didn’t share my drive to work hard and do good. He was just good. It stifled me —but it stifled me because I was waiting for him to fill a side of me that I had not yet developed in myself. I just WANTED to do good and I hadn’t done it yet, so being with him made me feel like I was being held back from doing that. In reality, I had to take responsibility for the fact that I had not taken any action to fulfill my own dreams. So when I left, it was time to delve into a lot of resentments and issues I had with myself.

I missed the feeling of deep connection that I had lost — companionship had become reduced to regular brunches, farting in bed, and Netflix. I was in denial that the relationship was ending when I got a studio apartment, leaving my keepsakes with him because this would just be “temporary.” The anger came from knowing he’d be living in a home we created together, with a new girlfriend, at a rent that was beyond unimaginable in Los Angeles and I had to let it go. I tried to bargain the sharing of our three cats and dog—even the plants. I bargained with myself, resorting to intimacy with other men as “deserved time to explore.” When I explored it too deeply, I fell into a deep depression because I was denying what I was truly missing — unconditional kindness that he had so generously given me, but I had yet to give myself. I started accepting that I had a problem: that the undoing of that relationship wasn’t just his fault, but mine as well — and that’s when I lost mobility in my legs.

Two. I got diagnosed with MS within 10 months of being broken up with and the disastrous unraveling of two other flings.

The mind-body connection was undeniable, but the denial of the disease itself had been lingering for two years prior. The body aches, fatigue, the tingling in my legs and arms, the loss of memory, the migraines — it all seemed like aging. And then one day, I woke up with a numb arm, my legs collapsing underneath me. I had vertigo for the next four weeks. All this was triggered not only by the break-up of the five-year relationship but also the unsuccessful attempts to date two people at once. I was angry at myself for letting the desire to be wanted take over my judgment—my ability to listen to my heart. I let these people I was dating get to my mind so much so that it waged mechanical warfare within my synapses.

I was in such denial that I even went into a job interview having to rely on leaning against a wall to hold me up. I bargained with the doctors to find me a nonexistent cure as soon as possible —there was no way I would let my disease progress to a point where I had to live the rest of my life in a wheelchair. I even went through Whole Foods aisles thinking that homeopathic medicine was the answer and I bought all of it – mushrooms, Tumeric, Vitamin D, Ignatia. I pitied myself: “No one is going to ever want to me.” And that led to a deep disassociation from my body.

At this point, I was leaning on the support of so many friends and loved ones that the only option to keep going was to express my needs and connect with others. I called every person with MS who had been sent my way through the referrals of friends and I talked to each and every one of them about their symptoms, life plans, fears, and dreams. It didn’t look so dark ahead for them, so I accepted that that could be my fate too. Then, within seven months of being diagnosed, I found out my father had stage four prostate cancer, on top of his Parkinson’s.

Three. When a parent starts dying, perspective shifts like a Rubik’s cube.

Realities became clearer and more uncomfortable last December, shifting each day as if it was some sort of victory – getting a hospital bed for $150, finding a hospice nurse to visit for free, and each time he picked up the phone or called, knowing he made it one more day. It made me feel like my time was coming. Everything looked like death — even the slow wobble of my dog’s gait— or the dark mole on my leg — or my friend’s cancerous breast once a double D, now removed. I started waking up as if nothing was left for me, like I was falling into a chasm of darkness, with little expectation of anyone lifting me out. That grief was painfully never-ending, synonymous with life itself. There were waves, with some good and bad days. When the pizza flyer guy reminded me of my father, I stood on the sidewalk and cried—realizing the grief from a life lost is similar to the grief of a love lost. It’s confusing; it hits you randomly throughout the day — from the groceries you buy, to the pair of unmatched socks, or the poems you read, the lanes you change on the freeway— these moments all intersect to tell you the love is either gone forever or always with you.

There was an instinct to prolong my dad’s life. What I know now is that that was a selfish act on my part, an act as selfish as me staying in the five-year relationship that wasn’t working. I was holding onto people, thinking that without them I was nothing. And that wasn’t the case.

As I try to rebuild myself after all this, I remind myself to be gentle–to hold my thoughts and body as I would hold a baby. There’s no need for me to rush back to work and do 100%, but there is a need for me to stay in my body and feel my feelings all the way. It takes strength and a level of vulnerability required of being in a relationship. The compassion with which I must learn to treat myself is exactly how I want a future partner to treat me, and that is a gift to see — that for the first time I am available to give myself the kindness that I wasn’t giving myself before, and that eventually, I will be able to pass it onto someone else. For now, I practice it with friends—I recognize where and when love is needed and I deliver, present for them and myself.

No matter what level of grief I’m in, I’m trusting that I’m safe. I don’t necessarily have to follow Kübler-Ross’ timeline to justify how much or how little I’m feeling. This grief can be up and down, and each stage may happen all at once. As long as I’m willing to be taken care of when I need it – as long as I can pause and love myself when in the deepest darkness, I’ll be okay.

Before all this grief, I was hardwired to compare and despair, focusing on my needs only. Many of us do that as if it’s a survival tactic–to know where we are on the food chain of life. As much as I want to compare myself to everyone who is getting married and having kids and building families, this grief is letting me experience the growth I need to be full enough for myself, a companion, and a community. It’s time to strengthen my neural pathways so that they’re rewired to receive nurturing love and care with an open heart. I’m accepting that where I am is where I need to be.

Why I’m Avoiding Calling It a Date and Why I Should Stop

I’m having the hardest time not obsessing over the fact that Tom just liked my Instagram photo of me as a child wearing a tiger costume. That obviously means he thinks our kids would be cute, right? All I want to do is see if he’d be interested in going to get almond milk lattes, but then he’ll think we’re friendzoning our already-existing friendship. Almond milk sets more of a “professional, co-working” tone doesn’t it? How do I make it clear that, yes, I’m interested in seeing if our friendship is perhaps something more?

I prefer the ambiguous approach. Let’s see if our mutual interests in mental health, gender, urban gardening and bees will lead to making out, right? And then if the making out seems pretty cool without bad breath, we can go to the other stuff a few weeks later? Seems reasonable.

The reason why I can’t call it a date is that I typically sabotage it. I make it about creating a relationship when a date is really a getting-to-know-you dance. We waltz about, understanding our world perspectives, what we like and hate, what our future goals are, how we want to feel with each other, and if we even like being around each other, until we finally decide that maybe we can take it into the sexy massage incense candle time moments. That waltz is so crucial to creating healthy boundaries. Instead I’ve typically jumped into the relationship pool too soon, desperate for connection. But really, there’s no need to rush it like it’s some kind of Slip n’ Slide, all wet and wild.

The idea of getting to know someone is so much less pressure-filled if we don’t call these things dates, right? A “date” sounds like it has to be written down on a calendar, with set times and ideas of the coolest places to meet. I mean, that is typically what a date on any calendar looks like, if you’re a busy person with a life of some kind.

Instead, if a “date” is called a “hangout session,” (like those group meetups at the mall when you’re in seventh grade), you don’t typically have the mindset of needing to tell your life story, which usually, by the way, doesn’t lead to anything beyond one date. Instead, it usually leads to one person not responding to the other’s internet messages and comments for fear of seeming like they like the other person, then the other person feeling rejected and losing hope and running away from any further interaction ever again, which is a little extreme, but it happens.

I’d rather casually get to know someone through really light conversation, asking about favorite foods, hobbies, and health care regimens. Maybe these conversations take place over a brunch or tea or a picnic or at a mini-golf course or some sort of creative collaborative gathering where people paint ceramics or something.

But “hanging out” is for high school students, my therapist says. Hanging out is for people that don’t take romance seriously. It doesn’t serve either person to keep it casual. Interactions need not be equated to summer attire at the office. I’m struggling though. Why can’t it just work out naturally, the stars aligning at just the right moment to let me know, that no, I’m not going to be alone forever?

Of course, things don’t always coincidentally happen and you don’t always get to decide whom you’re going to meet next. So, maybe being intentional and calling a date a date is actually a good thing, despite the fact I have so much resistance towards it. If you pick very specific places to spend your time in, where your interests have time to steep and soak, you’re more likely to enjoy yourself. If you visualize and dream up what you’d like out of a partner and how you want to feel when you’re with that person, you’re more likely to find the mate who aligns with your values. When you plan out how you’d like to take each stage to the next level, putting more thought into every step, the more likely you are to not “give in” to your whims. The more likely you are to stay true to yourself, and take your own idea of romance seriously.

My dating plan keeps me in check. It makes sure that I get to know someone before I get intimate, emotionally and physically. And it’s not like I tell anyone about it, except you, of course. No, I keep it in my back pocket. It’s like my self check-in. It’s a “Hey, how are you? I’m here to make sure you’re not going to go too insane over that Instagram photo “heart” from so-and-so.” And then I breathe…and I realize that obsessing and worrying over someone else’s actions isn’t serving me. The only actions I can control are my own. And what works for controlling my actions, as much as I hate to say it, is calling dates dates, and creating dating plans because I’m a free spirit. If I don’t reign myself in, I’ll do too much of what I want, without thinking of the consequences. And even if you’re not a free spirit like me, a dating plan is still a good idea. What does your dating plan look like? What does your ideal date look like? Set your intentions and you’ll most likely get what you want back.

What to Do When Your Man Picker Is Off

Nick hadn’t called yet. It was the day we said we were going flamenco dancing, but we hadn’t set the exact details. The sun was setting. Maybe he’d call in 10 minutes. 20. 30. I sat by the phone and ignored all my friends who asked to go see “Catch Me If You Can” (ironic title considering my situation). By the time it was midnight, the date wasn’t happening and I wondered if I’d made up the interaction in my head. He didn’t call for days after that. I obsessed over him for months. I even offered to take a train ride to see him in Santa Barbara. He didn’t respond. I wanted the unavailable guy who would never want me, the man who played the disappearing game. This pattern repeated itself over and over again throughout college. I adored the charismatic, flirtatious guys who had that creative spark. We’d collaborate on a project, get giggly, and then I’d assume we were meant to be together. So I’d text. Way too often. I thought their responses back meant love. Wouldn’t you think so too if a guy had your favorite childhood game, Go Fish, shipped to your house on your birthday? Gestures like that confused me, because they were coupled with neglect. One day, they’d stop the responses and fall off the map altogether. Maybe I was too needy. Maybe these men were bad for me anyways. But ultimately, my man picker was off and I had no idea why.

The tricky part of an initial possible flirtation is understanding if the person you’re fawning over is actually a good person. People may be decent humans, but they might have too many psychological issues that they haven’t worked out yet, so they could be far from becoming good partners. I’m a magnet for the men who are still working their stuff out. The men who want to be coddled, loved, babied. The ones who maybe didn’t get what they needed from their parents, so they look for it in me. I’ll be honest, I do the same exact thing: I pine for the man who will disappear because that’s what my father did, and so, subconsciously, I look to fix that pattern. I want to heal my familial wounds through my relationships, which ultimately doesn’t happen, which then leads me to resenting the men I date for being what they can’t be. That’s what makes my picker totally off – not the men, but me. I’m like an oven that always seems to burn food even when set at the right temperature and right time.

So what do I do to make sure I don’t burn through my sanity? How do I reset my vibrations? I have to start with myself. I just completed 90 days without any contact with men. It’s been eye-opening seeing what it’s like to not ask for attention from men who are clearly bad for me. In that time, good, nice men wanted to ask me out. I still haven’t gone on dates with them, because I’m still figuring out what I want. But so far, my picker is looking a lot more open to seeing character over looks and kindness over sexual energy. It’s leading me to people who seem different from the men I picked before. But I’m also still working on resisting the men who are attracted to me and seem to exhibit those qualities I used to be drawn to. That resistance takes self-control and courage. It takes an ability to say no, and to stand by my decisions. So far, knowing what I used to be attracted to, and being able to be conscious of it enough to discourage it, is a huge sign of growth. Asking myself questions in those moments helps, like:

Why do I want the attention of that not-so-great person?
What feelings am I avoiding right now?
Why do I escape myself through other humans?
What am I not loving about myself right now that I seem to think I can find in someone else?
Why am I pushing away the attention of that nice person?
Why do I want so badly to fix the qualities of this person and my parents when it’s not in my control?

And this is not a survey I can get done in ten minutes. These are moments of pause and awareness throughout my day-to-day that I sometimes have to answer three times in a row in order to remind myself that I come first, before I open myself up to another relationship. This is not selfish— it’s self-preservation.

Your man picker may be off, but just as the brain is plastic, you can reset and rewire what’s broken. Think about the patterns you’ve seen in the characteristics of whom you’ve been attracted to. Observe how you played a part in the dysfunction of that relationship, and write down what qualities you’d like in a person now. Then, create a dating plan, outlining out not only your standards for a good partner, but also how you want your dates to progress over time. You may find that sticking by a plan and your own rules will allow you to pause, think about whom you’re attracting, and get on a better path towards healthier relationships. It has certainly helped me stop things before they got started, and I know it will eventually help me find a compatible partner. You too can observe what’s not working, then rewire it. You have the power to change your patterns, and it starts with changing the relationship you have with yourself.

I Don’t Want to Feel Pain

A while back, I had my first breakup.

I went above and beyond to make her happy. I thought that I had the purest, most trustworthy person in the world. Our relationship even reached a level to where I had started planing an incredible, surprise proposal party, where I would ask her to be my life partner. Suddenly and out of the blue, without any explanation, she told me that she did not want our relationship to move forward. She made it simple, using simple words. It’s a strange feeling to lose someone when you did all you could for that person. Strange. And it was not easy to go through.

I had been planning a marriage proposal and she was planning to break up. The night she ended things, I couldn’t sleep. My mind was confused, my chest was full of negative energy and it continued to get even worse the more I tried to decipher the situation.

The days after the breakup, answers started appearing and I realized that she really never had been ready to commit, and I, somehow, had been blind to that.

Even after coming to terms that our relationship would not flourish, I was still left feeling a mix of love and anger. It’s like making lemonade and then adding sugar and salt; A taste you don’t want to try. I didn’t feel ready to talk to anyone so I just went on a run. I ran alone, the salty fragrant winds hit my face gently. While running, I noticed the negative energy being removed from my heart and slowly my mind, too, was getting cleaner.

I sweat like I never sweat before and stopped when I felt tired. I sat and told myself ‘Don’t think about your broken heart right now. Just forget about it for a few minutes.’ I went back home and had a nice deep sleep.

My heart started to heal after every run. But even after that progress, I was still checking her Facebook and other social media accounts. ‘Why do I still care? Does she still have a place in my heart?’

I wrote down how I felt and tried to understand why. I tried to figure out what love is. After hours of writing, I reached a point where I understood that love can’t have a standard or static definition, but that it involves very complicated feelings and takes the shape of one’s personality.

Love can be changed if you actually want to change it. I ended by asking myself in a loud voice, ‘Do you want to feel this pain and do you want to stay loving this person?’ I replied in an even louder voice, ‘No. I don’t want to feel pain. I just want to move on and let her move on with no one to blame.’

That was the last question I asked myself and I was left feeling a sense of relief upon answering it.

Still, an empty space took shape in my heart and I was lonely. There were times I wanted to call her so that she could fill in that space, but I knew it was not healthy for the both of us. Instead, I replaced the space with social activities in order to avoid being alone. I went to the gym with friends. I even surprised myself when I started getting interested in others.

When looking back at my experience, I discovered the three steps which helped me mend:

1. Remove all negative energy by doing some type of physical activity, preferrably in an open area and outdoors.

2. Understand your actual feelings and truthfully examine the relationship you were in. Then ask yourself, out loud, what you really want in a relationship and in love.

3. Replace any feelings of emptiness by doing more social activities that your enjoy.

One day the right person will come into your life.

I’d Be Lying If I Said I Was over It

I’ve always been petrified of getting hurt, so I mask my vulnerability with hyper-independence. I’ve been alone for so long that I’ve become accustomed to thriving by myself. So I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen when he sat next to me on the plane that day. Something about him made me feel comfortable. So I opened up. I was cracked wide open.

Things with him were different. We were equals. We were vastly different, but complemented and supported each other in every way. We were open. For the first and only time, I allowed someone to know every nook and cranny of my personality. Even the dark, gritty, covered-in-cobwebs side of me that rarely sees the light of day. I loved completely and utterly unconditionally. And I (very timidly) allowed myself to be deliriously happy.

The whole time, I had this tiny voice in my head telling me it was too good to be true. I kept telling it to ‘Fuck Off’ and tried to stifle the questions and trust in the feelings I was having.

And then something changed. Out of the blue. Like a rug was pulled out from under me and I tumbled down and down and down into a dark hole. No explanation. No closure.

Dizzying. Confused. Hurt. Broken.

This is why I don’t open up, I told myself.

This is why I can’t trust anyone with my heart, I told myself.

This is why I’d rather be single for the rest of my life than to subject my heart to be so mishandled, I told myself.

I still tell myself.

It’s been a really long time since things ended and I’d be lying if I said I was over it. The experience has affected everything in how I approach the idea of relationships and dating. It’s been so long that I feel silly talking about it with friends. The walls came tumbling down, and were built up twice as fast and twice as thick.

I’m still not really sure where to go from here…but I’m doing my best to move forward, albeit slowly. Blindly picking up the pieces of my broken heart with the hopes that one day it will be complete enough to love again.

Ending a Relationship That Seemed Perfect But Felt Wrong

Am I broken?

It’s the question I asked after my first date with her, rushing back to my car to break down and cry. It’s the question I asked when I looked in her eyes, trying to feel what I knew she felt. I asked it when she’d leave, and instead of missing her instantly, I’d breathe a sigh of relief. I asked it the night I rushed to the club to meet her, determined to push through the feeling in my gut begging me to end it. I asked it when the feeling wouldn’t go away. I asked it when we broke up, then got back together, then broke up again.

Am I broken?

She was everything I’d ever wanted. Smart, beautiful, kind, warm-hearted, and best of all, she wanted me. She fell for me. And yet, as clearly as I could see all of these wonderful things, I couldn’t shake the twist in my belly. The knot the size of a basketball that formed every time we went out, every time we talked to each other. Every time she’d tell me how happy she was. Every time she’d ask if I was happy too.

Am I broken?

I couldn’t understand it. For years, I’d fallen for girls who hadn’t fallen for me. It rarely fazed me; they were well within their right to say no, and they were doing us both a favor by not pretending. But all I had ever wanted was for someone to fall for me, for once. Someone to want as much as I did to get swept up in the joyous swell of a blossoming love. I’d finally found someone like that…and for the first time, I was on the other side of it. It felt like she wanted something I couldn’t give her. Every kiss felt like a lie. A lie I was telling both her and myself.

Am I broken?

I searched and searched for a tangible, logical reason that I wasn’t happy. I found nothing, and that only made me feel worse about myself. I went to therapy. Started anti-depressants. Tried talking more, talking less. Having more sex, having less sex. I tried everything I could think of to fix myself. Why couldn’t that knot just untie itself? Why couldn’t that little voice, telling me that “this wasn’t right” and “you don’t feel what she feels,” just shut the hell up and let me be happy?

Am I broken?

Eventually, the stress and anxiety of constantly fighting with myself became too much to bear. I had to end this relationship; a relationship that seemed so perfect for me on the surface, but felt so wrong inside. She had so many questions I couldn’t answer. Why? What did she do wrong? Was I lying the whole time? How could I do this to her? That night, I cried like I’d never cried before. Had I made a mistake? Had I just given away the best thing that had ever happened to me? I feared I’d never have an answer, and as it turns out, I was right. I played the entire relationship over and over in my head, trying to pinpoint what I was doing wrong, to no avail.

That was about 2 years ago. Since then, things have changed. I took a professional leap I’d needed to take for some time, I’m in the process of moving across the country to Los Angeles, and I feel excited for the future again for the first time in a long time. But the questions still creep in every once in a while, when I’m sad or lonely. Wondering what went wrong. Wondering if I’ll ever be able to think about her without that old knot showing up again. Wishing I could go back and just…feel…different. I realize now, though, that I can’t go back. Time only moves forward. Looking back doesn’t help anything. I’d’ve given anything for that relationship to have worked, but, for reasons the universe refuses to share with me, it just didn’t. I don’t have the answers, and probably I never will, but maybe that’s okay. Maybe I don’t need the answers.

Maybe I’m not broken. Maybe I just need to stop believing I am.

What I Learned When I Contracted Herpes After a Breakup

I was very sad after the break up. It was the kind of sadness that swallows all the light inside until you feel hollow. I stopped eating, smiling, enjoying life, and most of all, I stopped being me.

I can’t remember what triggered moving on – time most likely – but eventually I’d had enough of feeling like a ghost. Dating seemed to be a natural way to move on. It had been several months after all.

I was surprised how easy it was to make that leap and accept a date with a new person. I wasn’t asked out much in high school…ever actually. Suddenly I noticed the attention at my gigs (I was in a band), and now that I was single, I flirted back.

This was my first heartbreak, so I had no concept of how to move on, how to deal with the pain and rejection, or how to ask for support from family and friends. But I was eager for something new. I had a tendency to run from my problems, so I ran straight from them into the arms of some cute guy.

It was fun at first. I went on a couple dates, moved way too fast, and witnessed all of them evaporate as abruptly as they’d started, which in turn left me lonely and sad all over again. It wasn’t the type of sadness that comes from breaking up because I didn’t have a real relationship with any of these guys. Instead, it was the type of sadness that comes from within when you don’t recognize yourself. Pieces of me were pushed so far down that I couldn’t even hear their faint cries.

I practiced safe sex for the most part, requesting a condom from the guy in addition to being on birth control pills. But several weeks after one rendezvous with a guy that cancelled on our next date and never called back, I noticed an uncomfortable burn down there. It only got worse until I knew it was too painful to be some “normal” ailment. Something was wrong with my body, my habits and my mindset. The pain was telling me to stop and face the truth.

The doctor asked me to come in to hear my test results. I knew they’d be positive, but it still made my stomach sink to hear the word. Herpes. I nodded and released a sigh. Well, shit. I really fucked this one up, didn’t I?

She educated me about the virus. It’s likely it won’t affect me being able to have sex, or even giving it to anyone else if I have safe sex, but I have to face the fact that I have it, and I must be honest with any future partners. The most staggering part about herpes is that I have to acknowledge it forever.

Weeks passed and I was a mess. My best friend and roommate knew something was wrong, and eventually I confessed to her with choked words and tears. She comforted me, and I realized in a big way how receiving it was to have someone know.

I didn’t, however, tell anyone that I started seeing. I made sure to be safe on my end, but I never gave them the choice to abstain from sex with me because I feared rejection. With all the stigma surrounding the virus, I felt overwhelmingly unwanted and worthless. Still, it was unfair to keep that information from a sexual partner. I know that now.

Eventually I got the courage to share the truth with a guy I was really starting to care for. I didn’t want to lie to myself anymore and I didn’t want to lie to him. I wanted an honest and compassionate relationship, so I opened up and spoke my truth, awaiting rejection, fearing disgust, and ready to cry. But he accepted it well. It wasn’t even a big deal in his eyes. I was still worth it.

We ended up not being right for each other, but I am so grateful for what we had because a lot of me healed that day I told him. He showed me that I was worth loving. I’ve never forgotten it, and since then, I have decided to try my hardest to keep that love going by accepting everything about myself that might seem unworthy, broken, ugly, etc. Maybe someone else will accept everything about me too, but, in the event they don’t, I want to make sure that I have my back at all times.

The truth is, this “loving yourself first” thing is not easy. That’s why I’ve been in therapy diving deep into my experiences and discovering myself. Luckily, things like heartbreak, depression and even contracting herpes, are like mirrors that ask us to be responsible for ourselves and our own well being.

The key is to welcome the mirrors and to see them as gifts. You can even yell at them, “Bring it on! I’m ready! Show me whatcha got!” It never hurts to have a warrior attitude. But when you see your reflection in there, also be kind and say hello. Get the help you need, and don’t feel like you have to approach it alone. Your reflection is yours and only yours, and you are absolutely worth fighting for.

The Last Time I Saw You

When I walk through New York I almost feel a piece of him is somewhere, wedged in between the bricks of the building in front of me, or floating in the thick air I take into my lungs. Maybe I’m about to step on a piece of gum he chewed years ago. Maybe I’ll run into him at Whole Foods buying organic produce. His hair probably won’t stick up as much as it does now, but I’ll recognize his eyes, and the way his eyebrows bend down as if they’re tired.

I think of him when I’m in New York because he came here years ago to record. I remember talking to him on the phone as he walked through the Virgin Mega Store, amazed at the selection and never dreaming he would once have his music sold there, or that it would eventually close its doors. I wonder if I could find the studio he recorded in. I wonder if the paneling of the room is still as soft and velvety as it looked in pictures or if it’s now threadbare and faded.

I still remember the last time I saw him. It had been a year since we’d last spoken and I went to a concert he was playing. I wanted to see him one last time before I started a new phase in my life. There was no expectation or intention. I had cut off a foot of my hair, and he didn’t recognize me until I took off my sunglasses. Suddenly, a light went off. 

A s soon as I could feel the pull, I turned around and walked away.  I could feel his eyes burning into the small of my back as I made my way through the crowd. He wanted to ask me why I cut my hair, if I had a new boyfriend, why I hadn’t responded to his last email and if I had gotten a car for my birthday. Maybe he had a million questions, or maybe he had none, but there he was. 

I remember walking up a set of stairs, and I looked back once, just once, before I turned around and disappeared into the crowd. I will never forget the look on his face, but I have long forgotten the heartbreak of that relationship.  I can sometimes remember the pain, but it’s hazy and difficult to grasp. It’s like the jar on the top shelf that you can’t quite reach, no matter how many times or how high you jump.

What Do You Do When They Come Back?

When the end had come, finally come, nothing felt worse in my entire life. Having to see him with the new girl all the time, yet seeing him stare at me. None of it made sense then and none of it makes sense now, nearly five years later. For some reason this person in particular was able to affect me in a way no one else had and I still can’t figure out what my attachment was.

Yes, he was attractive and smart, and he could be fun. I loved how much he talked to me and seemed to rely on my advice and respected my intelligence. But he also had a dark side, a mean side that I would only discover one horrible night with those damaging, cutting words.

It took time, but eventually the scar on my heart healed over to the point where he did not affect me at all. I never thought about him much, certainly never saw him, and he went on with his life with her, and I went on with my life without him. I had heard he’d had a baby but I knew nothing else.

Then one day, after four long years of absolutely no contact, I received a Facebook request to be his friend. You have got to be kidding me, I thought. My immediate reaction was to delete the request. I found it odd, this request. Not only because of the way things ended and the time away, but because he was still in a relationship. He found my profile even though it was private, and we were never even Facebook friends back then. What did he want?

Given my curious nature, I decided to accept the request. Let him see how fabulous my life is without him! For months on end he randomly liked some of my photos, yet never said a word. Why friend someone if you aren’t going to say anything? It was absurd.

I think many of us have this fantasy that the person who broke our heart will come back and admit they were wrong, or at the very least acknowledge the hurt and apologize. I think we all long to hear someone we loved tell us “I always loved you and I’m sorry the way things ended.”

But it was not to be. He never said a word and, after nearly eight months, I commented on a photo he posted of his toddler. Random emailing ensued over several months, and it felt so familiar. He was happy for me, happy I was doing well, and said my life looked pretty amazing now. Yes! Mission accomplished!

Could we ever be friends? Like we were before? Minus the intimacy? I had appreciated his friendship so much and writing to him from time to time felt so natural. Until recently. 

He has made it clear he wants my friendship, for what reason I do not know. We do not even live in the same country anymore. He is not interested in me in any other way, but our last conversation turned from sunny to shady in a quick way and brought me back, however briefly, to the darkness. We talked about the past. He claimed not to remember really anything that had happened except that during the time we were arguing he was hooking up with other people and admitted that he had never considered me more than a “friend with benefits”.

I don’t know what makes me more angry; the fact that he would say such a thing to again hurt me, or the fact that he’s a damnable liar and I have almost two years of journal entries to prove my case. If he truly wanted to be my friend, why would he jeopardize that with his insensitive, cruel comments?

The tears, which had long ago stopped flowing, started to flow again. I felt guilty, like a fool. Why do I allow people in my life who hurt me? What does that say about me? I should have known better! I had only remembered the positive and tried to see him as a good person, the one I once knew. 

My friends tell me to delete him from Facebook and for good from my life. I will. When I’m ready. It will be soon, that’s for sure. I’m disappointed in myself for letting him not only cut me once, nearly five years ago, but again. I must use it as a tool though, to learn from. He doesn’t deserve my friendship. He never did.