Photographer Monroe Alvarez' Advice on Breakups, Cheating + Moving On



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Monroe Alvarez moves effortlessly between life as a model and life as a photographer, rapidly acquiring clients like GQ and Elle. She sat down with us to share how she’s learned to listen to her intuition (it’s usually right), what it felt like to be overcome by jealousy and mistrust when she was cheated on and the utter chaos and unpredictability of how love works. You can follow her on Instagram (@dontbeafool) and check out her work here.

HER MOST RECENT HEARTBREAK
“I actually hadn’t had my heart broken until last year. What I had thought was a broken heart wasn’t really. You know, it was young love. But once I actually had my heart broken, I was like, Okay, none of that was real. You know how people say that before you die, you see your whole life flash before your eyes? Well, I saw my whole past and future with him burn up in flames. It was the scariest thing. I got super dizzy, my feet... I couldn’t stabilize myself. I had never cried so hard in my life. I found out that he’d cheated on me, and it was so unexpected. The crazy thing is, when it actually occurred, my body knew the moment it happened. But then once I heard from a friend, I literally lost my breath. I lost sight.”

TURNING INTO SOMEONE ELSE
“I didn’t talk to him for almost two days. Then I finally gave in-- you know, because you love that person-- and I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I went over and talked to him. He was crying, but all I could see was that he’d broken that seal of trust. It turns you into someone you don’t want to be. I’m usually the girl who’s like, 'Sure, you have girls you want to hang out with, I totally trust you.' And then once that [cheating] occurred, I turned into a whole different person. I remember I spent the night in Malibu with a friend, and I knew he was at a bar. I literally got of my bed in Malibu, left the house, and came to the bar he was at in Venice, just to make sure he wasn’t doing anything. Like, that is so not me! I would never do that, you know? But I just felt sick in my stomach, and I just felt like a crazy person.”

Monroe Smile


A REUNION + AN ENGAGEMENT

“We ended up going on a trip together 3 weeks after it occurred, and it was our first time trying to spend time together again. He begged me to go, and I kept saying I didn’t want to go. Eventually, I was like, Fuck it. If I’m ever going to try this again, let’s do it. So we went to the San Juan Islands, where his family has a cabin. There was no wifi or cell service, so that was probably the best week of our whole relationship because we had no attachment to the outside world. He ended up proposing to me at the end of that week. We were on a boat, like a tow boat, sitting there. It was about midnight, and I remember thinking, If he were ever going to propose to me, I guarantee now’s the time. And the same way I’d known when he was cheating on me, I pictured the whole conversation in my head, and seconds later, it happened exactly the way I’d thought of it. So we were engaged, but it was tough for me, because I still needed to forgive my boyfriend before I could forgive my fiance. I don’t think it happened when it should have happened, and it complicated the relationship. I ended up distancing myself emotionally and physically, and seeking a way out in a way that I probably shouldn’t have. I developed feelings for my current boyfriend while I was ending the relationship with my ex. It was so dramatic.”

BOTH SIDES OF THE TABLE
“As shitty as it is to be cheated on-- I’m not proud to say it, but I’m a cheater too. Cheating is not okay, and I always told myself that cheaters are the most disgusting things in the world. Then I became one. I know I’m not a bad person, and I know why I did it: I wanted out. I needed an excuse, and I was emotionally disconnecting. So as awful as it is, I get why I did it. Once my ex cheated on me, I could relate. I couldn’t be like, 'Fuck you, I never want to speak to you again,' because I had done it before. I could understand. So I can totally mend from being cheated on, only because I can relate. I’m not proud of it.”

Monroe Legsup

BALANCING WORK + HEARTBREAK
“I pretty much didn’t work for 3 weeks. I have a flexible schedule, so I didn’t have to wake up and go to the office and deal with it. I think it’s also really good to involve yourself in work, but I think you need a couple of days to be with your friends or by yourself and cry. I remember I had a photo shoot 3 or 4 days after I found out [that he cheated on me], and I so didn’t want to go. It’s tough to balance, because you’re crying on the way to work, and once you’re there then you have to pretend everything's okay. But once I was there, my mind was off of it."

HOW SHE MENDED
“Once the whole cheating situation happened, I lost my shit for a few weeks. I had to get to a dark place in order to get back up. I think people who try to push it aside and not deal with it... I don’t think that’s healthy. I think you need to be crying every day. So I cried until I couldn’t cry any more. I was hanging out with my friends at all times because I didn’t want to be alone. I needed that love and support. I was reading a lot. I love Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss. I was spending a lot of time at the beach. And then I got to a place of doing a lot of meditating and understanding. I’ve been meditating for over 2 years now. It’s so important to me, so I want the person I’m with to be part of that as well. I always wanted my ex to do it, but he never did, so that was a disconnect. I spent a lot of time looking at why the cheating happened, because I didn’t want to get to a place of blaming, either."

MOVING ON
“Once I realized I was emotionally interested in someone else, I didn’t bring it up to my ex, because I didn’t know what it meant. It just showed me that I needed to end things with my ex. So we had a week of crying every night at dinner, like, 'Maybe we’re not meant to be together ,'  but then at the end of the conversation, we’d conclude that, no, we needed to be together. It was a week-long of that shit. And eventually I was like, It   just has to end. It has to be over. It was good at first. We stayed friends for a while, until he realized I had fallen for somebody else, and then he lost his shit. Now I don’t want to be friends with him. I thought I did for a really long time, and I supported him in a lot of ways. But the words he said to me after we’d broken up were probably the most disgusting words you could ever say to somebody. I was like, Wow, so this is who you really are. When he initially cheated on me, not once did I speak to him the way he spoke to me.”

Monroe Lookdown

TRUST YOUR BODY
“Every mistake you make, every dark time, is all for a reason. So I would never tell myself to do anything differently, I would just tell myself to trust my body, my intuition, my instinct a little more. I think I had quite a few moments when my body was telling me to get out. You get your heart and your gut and your head all confused.”

ON BEING VULNERABLE
“I probably came into this new relationship more open and more vulnerable than any other relationship. I’m more myself with him than I have been with anybody else. In my past relationships, there was always something stopping me from being my full self. With him, there are no barriers, I can just be all me. I think in my last relationship, I was intimidated by him in certain ways. He was so good with words and making himself right all the time that I would never allow myself to get in a fight with him. I’d always want to smooth things over and keep it even-keeled because I’d never win. Where with my current boyfriend, it’s not like that at all, so if anything comes up for me, I’ll bring it up. I feel a little stronger in this relationship than I did in the last one.”

WHAT SHE’S LEARNED ABOUT LOVE
“Knowing that love can’t last forever, and love can have a timeline. Every guy that I’m with, I tend to think I’ll be with that person forever. Now I look at it like, I love this person so much right now, who knows what the future is going to hold for us. And if one day one of us isn’t happy anymore, then we should respect that and go our separate ways. I think the toughest thing with exes is that as much as we’ve hurt each other, I’ll always respect that person. It's tough to say, Okay, he did this and this and this wrong, but it takes two to tango. With everything that he did wrong, I probably did things that he didn’t like either. People always hate their exes. I try not to ever hate an ex. So as shitty as it is that we don’t talk, which is probably the way it should be, I’ll always have a degree of respect for that person. If I loved that person with all my heart at one point in my life, I’ll always have a level of love for them.”

Monroe Now

RELATIONSHIPS IN HER LIFE
“My best friend Ally and her boyfriend are the cutest thing: their communication and their respect for one another, I really look up to that. But there’s not one particular relationship that I want to model my own after. I really think both partners have to have respect for each other, and to make each other a better version of themselves. And it’s so important to be yourself. If you can’t be yourself with the person that you’re with, or if you don’t respect the person that you’re with, you’re never going to have a good relationship.”

SOCIAL MEDIA
“We’ve unfollowed each other on Instagram, but you know, I’ll have friends send me screenshots, like, 'What the fuck is this?' But I feel like you can never get over that other person if they’re still in your life, even if you’re not talking, because they’re still in your consciousness. You have to disconnect in order to move forward. I do post about my relationship now, but it was really hard at first, because I was like, I don’t want to hurt him [my ex]. I didn’t want to devalue what we had just had, or be disrespectful. So it wasn’t until recently that I posted a photo.”

WHAT SHE’S UP TO
“I’ve been working on a couple of look books lately, which are super fun. I just went up to Santa Cruz with my 2 best friends and shot them for it. And then I’m shooting another one here in Venice. I’ve also been collaborating with this hotel in Nicaragua, Maderas Village. I was just there, and I had so much fun, I’ll be back in 2 weeks. When you go there, it’s all creatives that go in and out of the place: photographers, artists, musicians, super creative people. I’m stoked on that.”

HER MANTRA: AUTHENTICITY
“I think it’s really important to be your authentic self at all times. I’ve spent so many years in relationships putting myself second and saying things and doing things to please that person. As long as you’re yourself at all moments, what’s there to regret?"

Photographed by Ellen Huerta in Venice.