Iconery Founder Ivka Adam's Advice on Breakups, Marriage + Meditation



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Ivka Adam believes life is too short for fake jewelry. As the founder of Iconery, an online destination for fine jewelry, she is on a mission to support fine jewelry designers and revolutionize the way fine jewelry is discovered. When she’s not thinking about jewelry or 3D printing, you can find her on the trail or summiting mountains – she’s summited Kilimanjaro and does Mt. Whitney every year! You can follow Ivka on Instagram @caivka and @theiconery.

HER FIRST HEARTBREAK
“We fell in love so hard, but there was something in me telling me that I shouldn’t be with him. I didn’t know what it was, so it was so heartbreaking because we didn’t understand why I was feeling this way. We would break up and I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. We would see each other and it was the most heart wrenching experience. I’ve boiled it down to this: the hardest part about a breakup is when you don’t understand why it has to happen. If they broke up with you - why they didn’t like you. Or if you broke up with them - why it didn’t work out. So I always try to get to a place where there’s some sort of understanding. Once I have something I can hold onto from an understanding standpoint, I can then heal from that point on.”

GETTING TO AN UNDERSTANDING
“The first time we broke up was four or five months in. And then we just kept coming back together for four years. We had so much chemistry and he took care of me so well. I had come from a previous relationship that was verbally abusive. I thought it was me and that I could fix it. I did Allison Armstrong’s Understanding Men program and I went to a bunch of her courses like the Queen Course. Allison Armstrong makes sense of men. I read all of the books by John Gray, the author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. It took a lot to realize that relationship was unhealthy, but ultimately the work I did has now made me a better friend and girlfriend.”

AN AHA MOMENT
“I realized in my relationship he would say little, tiny white lies. They were always miniscule things, but I couldn’t figure out why that was part of his nature. My sister got married in 2010 and at that point we had been together for almost four years. I remember standing up at the altar as a bridesmaid. My sister sang a song by Colbie Caillat to her husband while my dad played guitar. I remember looking out and seeing my ex in the back row not engaged in what was happening. I realized, oh wait, I don’t have this. I don’t have what my sister has. And that’s really ultimately what helped me make the decision to break up with him.”

RELATIONSHIP MATCHING
“One of the things that I do to help mend is I spend time with my friends who are in really beautiful couple relationships to absorb what it looks like. It helps me remember that supportive partnership exists out there and I don’t need to settle. It can be heartbreaking to watch all these happy couples, but I just remember that that’s the end goal.”

FAMILY MATTERS
“One Sunday before we broke up, he was supposed to go to my parents’ to pick up my Mom’s blue sapphire. It was going to be made into an engagement ring for me. But he was hungover and he texted my mom to postpone till Wednesday. My parents were stunned, ‘We’re about to give you something to marry our daughter, this is unbelievable.’ My mom called me and said, 'I just want to let you know this happened, no judgment.' The next week I was talking with my friends at work and one of my friends who is in a great relationship said 'That’s not what you’re supposed to experience.' I know they always say not to tell friends that you shouldn’t be with someone, but I believe that you should tell them once and then let it go. Who better to tell you? When we broke up, my parents said, ‘We were going to be supportive but we were preparing ourselves for an eventual divorce.’ That was horrible to hear.”

DIFFICULT TO CUT IT OFF
“When I called my mom and told her that I was thinking of breaking up with him, she was supportive. She said, ‘He is going to want to get on a plane and fly up [to see you].’ We were long-distance at the time—I was in the Bay Area and he was in Southern California. She prepped me, and sure enough he tried to do that. If I hadn’t been prepped I would have given in, but since I was prepared I said no and we just cut it off. We didn’t talk for months. We had such a pull to each other that we then ended up talking six months later. We saw each other off and on for the next four months. When I would come down and visit my parents in Orange County, I would sneak out and see him. It wasn’t until I met my next boyfriend that I was able to move on. I think it always takes meeting someone else. They say you have to love yourself and be a complete whole person before you’re ready for the next relationship, but ultimately if your desire is to be in a relationship you’re not really a complete person until you meet your partner. There’s something that is unfulfilled.”

HER MOST RECENT HEARTBREAK
“He was the first boyfriend who felt like my buddy. At the time I was killing it in my career as a VP of Marketing at a fast-growing e-commerce company in LA and I was having such a blast. But then I decided to start a company, and I went from having everything figured out—we even had a ring picked out—to not. When I took this big risk, he started freaking out. He couldn’t handle it. He couldn’t understand why I’d put my life’s savings into a startup. He thought I was being careless and impractical, when in reality I had never been so sure of myself. Everything in my career had prepared me for this next step—I had the experience, connections, and just enough savings—and I had discovered a huge inefficiency in an $80B market that I could solve. I moved in with him and his roommates to save money, which was stressful. He didn’t understand why I didn’t want to be a ‘mid-level marketing manager’ in someone else’ company. I had always wanted to do a startup and felt like this was my chance. It was too much for him to handle. It just drove him crazy. His family didn’t understand either. I was so calculated about everything I was doing - it wasn’t really a big risk. But in February, the week before Valentine’s Day, he asked for a break. He said, ‘Stick around as long as you need to figure out where you’re going to go.’ But he didn’t help me figure out where to go and he didn’t even help me pack. He went out on Valentine’s Day with his guy friends. So I packed up my stuff by myself. And the next morning I drove down to Irvine and I moved in with my parents. They were super supportive, and I was super thankful for the opportunity - when do you ever have that opportunity to spend that kind of time with your parents? - but that was really hard."

FAMILY TIME 

“My parents have been together since my mom was 20 and my sister has been with her husband since she was 20. So neither of them have been through breakups. They don’t really know what to say when I go through them. It wasn’t until I moved in with my parents after the last breakup that I started to have a true adult relationship with them. But I was pretty raw and honest with them about what I needed from them. Ultimately I’m grateful that the startup and breakup led to this special time with my parents.”

FROM BREAK TO BREAK UP
“His main reason for the break was to focus on his career. A lot of what I was doing - living my dream and feeling compelled to solve a big problem - was really confronting for him. I was fine taking a break because I supported him figuring it out. Doing all the work I had done understanding men, I knew that a guy can’t think about a relationship until they’ve figured out their career. If they can’t provide, they don’t have the mental capacity for someone. So I agreed to be on this break. It was very vague. He didn’t really reach out to me. I was initiating contact and being super supportive and eventually I was like, fuck this. I hate this. I can’t be your rock and my rock. This doesn’t give me any room to feel feminine and part of a partnership. So I broke up with him. Fortunately that same month my startup got funding and I was able to resume my life in LA. When you set out to accomplish huge scary goals, that’s when you see who your friends are. It happened when I decided to climb Kilimanjaro and when I decided to do a startup. There are those who will get excited with you and support you, and those who will question why you’re ‘being so crazy and risky.' Let those people go.”

MAKING MEMORIES
“I don’t need a relationship, but I would love to be with someone right now so that he could know me as I go through this journey of building a company. I would love to look back in five years, and hear him say, “I remember when you were going through this [building a startup]!” I am really proud of myself and proud of the work I’ve done and I’d love to share those memories. It was gut-wrenching to go through a breakup while starting a company, but the most difficult times are what send me back to meditation and spirituality.”

TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION
“I learned TM when I was 4 and I have most of the advanced techiques and have even spent a month in Thailand on a meditation retreat. Both of my parents are teachers. It has been the constant in my life and most of my boyfriends have learned. I do meditation retreats when I’m going through tough times, and especially after each breakup. The breakups remind me to go back into self.”

THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
“I have a mantra which has no meaning. My program is about an hour, but the basic practice is 20 minutes. Meditating for 20 minutes is like getting an hour and a half of rest. Being an entrepreneur, I feel the pressure of working 24/7. You’re not supposed to take weekends off. But that’s not efficient or productive. Meditation allows me to gain deep rest and clarity, plus it makes me a million times more efficient than writing a couple of emails. I meditate nearly every day. I try to spend time around other meditators. It’s a huge part of my life and it’s important to me that I’m with someone who also meditates.”

IDEAL RELATIONSHIP
“I feel like you spend so much time thinking about what you want your ideal person to be like, but you have to boil it down. I want a companion. I love guys who are really into their own hobbies and who can open up my eyes to a new world. I love when I’m learning new things from a guy. That’s why I love dating. I can go on any date and enjoy it. People are fascinating. I want someone who can handle me being such a strong woman, and is not confronted by me being a CEO and making decisions all the time - but at the same time, who can let me be feminine. That takes a really strong man, and maybe an older man. I remember when I was 24 I filled out my first Match profile and my age range was only up to 30. This guy who was 41 messaged me and was like, look, I’m not in your age range, and I’m not hitting on you. But just so you know, the things you’re looking for, you’re not going to find unless you’re dating a man is in his late thirties or early forties.”

FILTERING FOR RESILIENCE
“What’s key is finding people who have been through a lot. I went through significant difficulties early on so I naturally gravitate towards similar people. I look for this depth and resilience whether it’s hiring new employees or dating new guys. Someone who has really struggled doesn’t sweat the small stuff and can handle tough situations when they arise. I was at a conference last year and Dave Morin was giving advice to someone standing by me. The girl asked him what he looks for in hiring a person. And I was compelled to jump in. I said ‘Look for people who have been through a lot. Because those are the people who have found themselves. They have depth, maturity, resilience and can handle immense pressure.’ Dave said, ‘Yes! Exactly what she said.’”

WHAT KEEPS HER HEART OPEN
“The only way to get to what you want is to keep your heart open, so that’s what keeps my heart open. I also really try to feel the pain and know that it’s temporary and that it’s making me stronger. It just means there’s something better on the other side. I have so much respect for people who have gone through a lot.”

HER INTENTION: FAITH
“Remember that it’s all going to work out. My intention these days is one step at a time, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Have faith that it will all work out. It will work out in whatever way it needs to. With respect to relationships, I know there is someone I will eventually meet, and for whatever reason it’s not right now.