How To Survive A Breakup  When They Break You

First let me be clear, you will survive no matter what.

Everything shall pass.

After a breakup you wish your ex well because you love them, but that too shall pass. First you are in denial. You want, deep inside, everything to go back as it was before. You don’t say it out loud. Maybe with your friends you act like you know it’s over. But there’s always some hope because it’s the first stage: denial. 

Breakup Denial

Then when you open your eyes to find out the love of your life can live (and wants to live) without you, maybe you will realize that you don’t want everything to be like it was before. One day you look back and see it wasn’t so great. Maybe you were happy, but if they left there was something that wasn’t okay. Maybe this person wasn’t ready to commit or maybe you were struggling and you didn’t see it. 

If your ex left you because they met someone else, let’s get to the angry stage already. 

But here is the important thing: stop with the illusion. Accept the fact that this person is going to live without you. And that you need to focus (this is really hard at first) on you. Only you. What can you do? What do you want? That’s a hard one if the breakup wasn’t your decision. It will be hard to focus on you, because you still want to understand the other.

Focus On You

Anger can fill your heart, your words, your mind. You are angry because they left you. They didn’t want to share with you, laugh with you, build a life with you…and that’s okay. You are in the next stage. If you have some issues try to work them out. Go to therapy, meditate, find yourself. Everyone has issues – this doesn’t justify someone leaving you, but you have to take this opportunity to work things out with yourself. 

You need to take the anger and make it work for you. Destroy letters, or punch your bed. Burn a pile of photos of the two of you together (in a safe manner, please), but then you need to transform the anger into something else. Run, paint, write, take photos…be creative and explore this anger for your own sake. This feeling is for you to grow up and build a better version of yourself.

This is about you. Only you. When you are in a couple, everything, EVERYTHING, is about two. You plan, you share, you live with that person and many times, we forget about ourselves. This precise moment in your life is only about you. Learn about what you like, what you want to learn, how you want to live and how you’d like to experiment. Find out who you are alone. Learn to enjoy the time with yourself, with no friends, no date, no family. You can be whole, you can feel loved, alone.

After anger, there it comes. Sadness. To tell you the truth I was sad before I was mad, but that’s just me. Well, you will cry, a lot. You will feel a hole in your chest: that’s loss. When you lose someone there’s this hole in your heart. It’s ok. Watch movies that make you cry, cry at a sunset, cry on the subway (been there), cry alone and with a friend. Hug a lot, hugging makes you happier. Don’t think about your ex so you can feel pain. Burst into tears when it’s inevitable, but don’t enjoy the suffering. Don’t feed the thoughts about the happy times. Go with the flow. 

You Will Cry A Lot

And also, I didn’t mention this before: LET GO. You can’t conquer the breakup until you let go. You have to stop talking, stop all communication. You can call it whatever you want. “We had to see each other because of the house, and the stuff…” You can fool everyone but yourself. If you don’t stop the communication, the process can be longer. It could take many months or years of your life. So it’s better to start right away.

After anger, after you use all the bad words you know in every language to describe your “stupid, f**king” ex, you will feel free. Because you’ve cried, you’ve cursed. Now a sense of liberation starts to grow deep inside and you find out that in a day you didn’t think about it for 10 hours. 

After Anger In A Breakup

The first days you will think about it all the time. Then everyday. Then some days. And it will vanish, and then you will have the memories of that relationship far away in the past. And the nights with anxiety, the nights crying alone in a big bed, will be over. The moments when you see a couple and curse the universe will be over. 

And maybe, when you see this cool person looking at you, maybe you will look at him/her, and start talking and find out: there are plenty of interesting people around. You just have to be ready.

Also, you may want to check out: what to remind yourself of when you’re missing your ex, how to survive the heartbreak of a broken engagement, and how to find the silver lining amidst pain.

Science Of Heartbreak

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.

Three Ways My Breakup Brought Me Closer To My True Self

My experience with monogamous partnership is that sometimes we can lose our sense of ourselves in the relationship. Often, we begin to compromise who we are, what we desire, and our goals for our life when we take someone else’s desires, dreams, and goals into consideration. While my breakup with my first long-term boyfriend of four years was a heart-breaking experience, I now look back and see that it was a necessary step in discovering who I was without his influence in my life.

Here are three ways my breakup brought me closer to myself:

1. I was able to tap into my feminine strength and ability to stand up for myself.

Sometimes when we’re in a partnership (especially with a masculine person), we can tend to defer to them to make decisions, stand up for us, and overall be our ‘protector’. Once I found myself without that person to lean on as an energetic crutch, I was able to rise up into my own power and strength as a strong female.

2. I learned how to emotionally regulate myself.

Since there was no one else to be there for me in intimate moments of crisis, I learned what I needed to manage my emotions. I turned to breathwork and sat in silence. I took myself on nature walks and began to paint more often. In those moments when at one time I felt bored, lonely, or unwell because I didn’t have someone by me, I was able to fill myself back up and tend to my heart.

3. I had time and space to learn what my body loved and didn’t love in sex.

When in a partnership it’s easy to fall into sexual patterns where we are more concerned with our partner’s pleasure than our own. Having time and space to explore my own body without someone else to think of made my understanding of what turned me on, what type of touch my body responds best to, and what type of stimulation my body loved the most so much more easier.

Finding ourselves single can become an amazing opportunity to embrace our ability to tend to ourselves in ways we didn’t know how before. Our feminine strength has room to grow when we’re not influenced by another person, and this power then radiates to the rest of our lives. For me, my breakup was a blessing in disguise as I now know who I am on a much deeper level than ever before.

Six Women On What It’s Like Being Single During Coronavirus

What does it feel like to be single during coronavirus? How do you stay sane? What happens to dating?

6 women share glimpses of solo lockdown life:

“I had a few late night phone calls. These truly filled me with a giddiness I hadn’t felt since high school when Jason P. from history class and I would talk ~after hours~. The calls lasted anywhere from 90 minutes to four hours, generally with at least an entire bottle of wine consumed in the duration. These phone dates were super fun and it made me wish dating apps were just modern versions of 1-800 numbers (let’s call them….1-900 numbers). I think talking on the phone is a dying art and when it’s done well, is extremely hot. Does that make me sound one million years old?”

-Alison Roman, of NYT fame, recounts her experiences with dating during lockdown

“When you’re a single black woman and you’re always handling things, people think, ‘Oh she’s got it. She’s good.” So now that I’m at home, all of my friends that have their families, their husbands, their boyfriends – they’re immersed in that. And I understand, but I’ve always shown up for the weddings, the baby showers, the christenings. It’s five or six of them and one of me. Who’s checking for me?”

-Felicia on the mixed feelings she has about being alone during lockdown in Jersey

“I feel like in all of the news they just keep saying it’s not that bad…just stay on the couch with your family and play board games and get to know your spouse. What about those of us that are finding ourselves now stuck inside, with no social life, no social interaction, no dating options?”

-Monica shares how she’s coping with quarantine on her own

“You are alone for the duration of this, and that duration is uncertain. And that doesn’t take away from being very comfortable being a single woman. It’s just adding on new feelings that I was not experiencing before the pandemic.”

-Shani shares her thoughts on self isolation with NPR

“This weekend, I was supposed to get married. I don’t know which is the harder pill to swallow: the fact that I called off my wedding long before COVID-19 became our reality, or the notion that if I hadn’t, I would have been thrown headfirst into the logistical and emotional nightmare of postponing a wedding to an unknown date in the future.”

-Kelly on why starting over feels impossible to her during lockdown

If you’re struggling with flying solo, know that you’re not alone. You might want to check out these things to do if you’re single during lockdown and our podcast episode on the same subject.

P.S. If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, our app Mend guides you through heartbreak day by day. You can also sign up for our free class on “Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus.”

Why Are You Afraid Of Losing Him When He’s Not Afraid Of Losing You?

There was an instant connection. You laughed with so many, but with this one, it was different. Talking 5 minutes with him made you feel more alive than anything – and no label of what you officially were or weren’t could ever change that.

And he felt it, too. The way he looked at you, how tenderly he listened, the way he just got you.

But not too long into your magic, things started to turn. He started appreciating you less and less in a million different ways. He stopped appreciating your love, your connection, and all the ways you loved him. You felt it – you felt him slowly getting swayed as more people tried to get his attention. You felt him pushing you away. You felt him not really being afraid of losing you – because he knew that eventually, you would always take him back.

You never, ever have to feel like that.

Be with someone who is afraid of losing you – because without you, nothing is quite as beautiful. Be with someone who appreciates all of you. Be with someone who would never, ever risk losing what you have because they know that it comes once in a lifetime. Be with someone who recognizes extraordinary love, who sees you, all of you, someone who chooses you every single day.

Be with someone who you don’t just have intense eye contact with, because it’s not about how he looks at you, it’s not about how he touches you, it’s about how he shows you he cares, it’s about the decisions he makes every day. Like when you’re not there, when he feels on top of the world, when he can get anyone he wants but still chooses you. You deserve someone who knows what they have and would never feel the need to explore any ‘options’ because in their heart they know they don’t really have another option.

Someone who has you in their heart so much that they know that none of those “options” will ever truly satisfy him, make him feel inspired, alive or understood.

I know he made you feel something no else made you feel before. And he probably felt it, too. But I also know that someone who isn’t putting in the effort that you need from them, isn’t afraid of losing you. Someone who loves you hard and then pushes you away when you’re not convenient anymore, is not afraid to lose you. Someone who tells you beautiful, heartfelt things and promises but somehow always ends up breaking your heart, is not afraid of losing you.

So why are you afraid of losing him?

Be with someone who deserves all of you. Be with someone who would never risk losing you. Be with someone who executes his love – with actions, effort, patience – someone who appreciates you in a million little different ways. Someone who you frustrate the hell out of and then they stop to gaze at you because they think, this is the problem I want to have.

You had something special, and this is why you are so afraid to lose him. I know. But a real connection is never lost, and you should never, ever hold on to someone who only wants to be there when it’s good for him. You never, ever have to convince or inspire anyone to choose you, and you can’t lose a person who you never really had.

Wait for the guy who will get it. Wait for the guy who will do everything that it takes to be with you. Wait for the guy who thinks about you, listens to you, who takes his time to do things right. There will be that guy, a more extraordinary guy, and when you meet him, you will understand why it didn’t work out with the last one.

And above all, don’t ever be afraid to lose anyone who is not afraid to lose you.

Also, you may be interested in checking out: how to know when you’ve waited long enough for someone to commit, how to get over an ex and one of our most popular Love Is Like A Plant podcast episodes: what to do when someone won’t commit.

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.

Emotional Minimalism: Declutter Your Heart

Emotional minimalism allows you to be intentional with your thoughts and the way you fill the space in your time and in your life. Right after a breakup, it can be tempting to distract yourself with too many commitments by drowning in work or outings. An overloaded schedule is an overwhelmed and neglected heart. However, we can often wobble between wanting to do everything to wanting to do nothing at all. If you’re experiencing the latter, what’s crowding and cluttering your heart might be emotions you can’t seem to process and overthinking the breakup. In both cases, we can help you create space in your schedule and life so that it can be filled by the right person or thing at the right time.

Here are some tips on how to declutter your heart:

Set Boundaries

Boundaries involve being firm about doing more of what makes your life better and less of makes your life worse. Boundaries take self-discipline. Examples of good boundaries include no contact with your ex, making sure you set aside a half hour every day for your hobby or Mend monument, and sleeping for 6-9 hours. Sometimes heartbreak makes you want to sleep for 12 hours, which is fine once or twice but making it a habit will make you feel lousy. Also, instead of overloading your schedule with work or social outings, say no sometimes. This creates space in your life by opening up your schedule.

On the contrast, if your heart is cluttered by spending too much time alone and constantly replaying the breakup over and over again, make sure you get out and socialize sometimes and find a hobby that channels your energy. This creates space by clearing out rumination and negative thought processes. The important thing is to have some alone time, but not too much alone time, and setting boundaries will help you find the right balance!

Solitude

Once you’ve set boundaries, you’ve created intentional space in your life and heart. This space doesn’t need to be filled. Allow it to exist without clutter (distractions). To embrace emotional minimalism, be intentional about this alone time and let this space be whatever it needs to be. It will be filled with the right thing at the right time. At first, that might mean doing nothing, staring into space, taking a walk, doing your daily Mend training, reading, or taking a nap. It might be a different thing every day. You’ll know what you need to do when the time comes, but don’t think you need to do anything. This is your time to just simply be alone. Get in touch with you. Check in with yourself. Alone time is very important for mending. Creating this space allows it to be filled with the right person at the right time.

Silence

Many people listen to music or podcasts on the way to work, or during work, on the way home from work, and then watch television. Students walk around campus with their headphones on, then go to the gym with their headphones on, do homework with headphones on, and then come home and watch YouTube videos with their headphones on. We’re very in touch with the outside world, but not very in touch with ourselves. So many of us feel the need to fill silence from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed because it has been ingrained in our society that it’s a waste of time or it is “awkward.”

When going through a breakup, it is important to check in with yourself, and that’s hard to do when you don’t have any time for silence. Declutter your mind by minimizing the distractions. It can definitely be uncomfortable at first. Start by walking to class without your headphones, turning off the radio on the way to work, or noticing the moments you already spend in silence, like maybe your morning routine. Silence always has a way of revealing what’s on our hearts. By learning to sit with silence occasionally during the day, it will be less daunting when all those thoughts you’ve been ignoring come flooding in when you try to go to sleep. Silence will also train you to choose which thoughts are welcome and which thoughts you need to send away because they will only cause you pain

When you create a balance between silence and solitude vs. work and socializing, you will find that you feel more in touch with yourself and that you’re better able to control your thoughts and how you spend your time. Emotional minimalism will definitely teach you to be more intentional about creating space to allow your heart to breathe and mend.

Sometimes You Need to Let Things Go

I think life happens in seasons.

Some seasons are for work. Some for adventure. Some for friendship. Some for love.

And some for letting go.

As with most seasons, the transition from one to another isn’t always necessarily apparent. But, there’s always that one day—the first hot day after a long winter; the first crisp fall morning after a hot summer; the first snow of the year; the first fully blossomed tree in the spring…there’s always a day when you can just feel the certain, subtle end of one season and beginning of another.

At least on a personal level, this feels like the start of the season of letting go.

It’s very possible to have limitless amounts of love and passion—but time and energy will always be finite resources. Naturally, if we are holding on to things we love and/or feel passionate about but must let go of, we are expending our limited time and energy on the inevitable dissipation of something.

So, there’s a choice, then…

Resist the inevitable, or let go with love.

Feel sharp pain now, or deeper pain later.

Which will you choose?

Letting go is an act of faith. Faith that you can strip away the net of comfort and still be caught when you fall. Faith in the things you can’t prove. Faith that your gut is leading you in the right direction. Faith that if you love something or someone, sometimes the best thing you can do is let it go.

If you’re thinking about letting go of someone or something, that probably means you need to. You must trust your gut about things like this.

No matter how much it hurts, how wrong it feels in your head or heart, or how much easier it is to choose the route of immediate pleasure over long-term values…you’ll know when it’s time to let go.

And when you finally make that decision, please know you’re not alone.

You’re not the first person on the planet who’s found a great love and lost it. Or found a dream job and got let go. Or started a company and had it fail.

There have been plenty others before you, and plenty more will come.

This is the thing about letting go—while almost always bittersweet and seemingly impossible, once you let go of the people and things that no longer belong in your life–either by choice or force—you create a whole lot of amazing space for exactly the right things to emerge in your life.

It’s kind of like throwing a party at a club—when you know Beyonce is coming and you try to fill the club with random people and bells and whistles so it would look full when she came. And then you know what happens? She shows up, takes one look, and turns around saying, “Nope, too crowded.”

If you want something magnificent, stop letting mediocre things take up your limited space and energy. If you want to find a great job, do indispensable work and find a team who fully love the work you do. If you want to find a great love, stop letting unavailable people take a piece of your heart. If you want to save to move to a new city, stop dropping $200 a weekend on drinks at bars.

Make decisions that align with who you are as a person, and how you deeply desire to spend your limited time and energy during your life.

This is the season of getting rid of anything that doesn’t serve me, fill me with love and joy, or feel—on a cellular level—like the ultimate right thing to do.

This is the season of letting go.

And all I can do while I’m in it is understand that letting go wouldn’t be necessary if I wasn’t clearing a space for bigger, more love-filled, more available opportunities to assume that space instead.

So, what will you let go of?

Get closure on making the incomplete, complete.

And then?

Just wait and see—magic happens when you let it.

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 2018. Who knows what is coming around the corner. That’s the most exciting part.

5 Things Single People Can Do More Easily During The Holidays

This time of year is all about parties, family get-togethers, engagements, and celebrations. It can be hard to show up to all of these events alone and authentically in the holiday spirit.

However, when you’re single during the holidays, there are actually many benefits. Remember that people who are coupled up definitely endure their own stresses.

So if you’re feeling blue about not having someone to share the holiday season with, don’t fret. We’re here to show you the bright side.

1) Go The Events You Want

There’ll be no arguments about whose family you’re going to spend the holidays with or which company party to attend. You can do exactly what you want with whoever you want, and you can mix and mingle on your own terms. 

2) Meet Someone New

Between the parties, hustle and bustle, and goodwill that’s in the air, the holidays are prime time to meet new people. It’s easier to strike up conversations and the parties and events also mean an abundance of opportunities to meet new friends and potential love interests for 2018.

3) Shine The Spotlight On Yourself

The holidays are an ideal time to catch up on all those things you said you wanted to do this year, but didn’t have time to do yet. The extra time off gives you time to recharge, pamper yourself, and think about your wants, needs, and goals.

4) Devote Time To Family, Friends, And Those In Need

Just because you’re single doesn’t mean you have to feel unloved. And the best way to get that holiday glow is to show love and appreciation to others. Use this time to have deeper conversations, laugh, and show gratitude to the people you have around you.

5) Travel

Being in a relationship usually comes with obligations around the holidays. Sometimes, your own needs can get left to the bottom of the pile. If you’re single, you have the freedom to go and do something completely different. Ever wanted to redecorate your home or plan a spontaneous yoga retreat vacation? Now you can without the input of someone else.

Being happy during the holidays isn’t dependent on whether you’re in a relationship or not. So focus on all the people you do have around you and the freedom you have to create some amazing holiday memories. And the best part is that it’s all on your terms!

Love, Like the Journey for the “Perfect Body”, is Not a Fairytale

The American way is to love a fairytale. Everything wrapped up in a beautiful bow with a happy ending + equal parts of sappy and cute on the way to the dreamy Ever After. I mean, who doesn’t visualize themselves as a Disney princess at one point in their life and measure every guy you’re with against a Prince Charming ideal?

The problem with this is, well, it’s fiction. Not to mention, it doesn’t prepare you for the bad and the ugly that comes with reality in relationships. It is supposed to be “in sickness and in health” not just sunny days and rainbows.

The main issues I have overcome in my love life have been setting realistic expectations for a partner, recognizing that some things simply have an expiration date without anything drastic happening to end it, and that forgiveness is imperative to move forward from any and all challenges.

Setting Realistic Expectations

Realistic expectations for me include eradicating your concept of the “perfect” partner – it doesn’t exist – all the while, accepting that there will be ebbs and flows to your relationship as you grow and change. 

Another major issue is to compare anyone to the “goods” from previous relationships. Leave those in the past where they belong. Every single person and pair of people will coexist and relate to one another differently. You can’t expect a partner to bring with them all of the things you loved about past partners, and comparison is always a dangerous game. 

If you feel like your expectations aren’t being met, sit down and discuss it openly, asking your partner to first listen and then talk through your feelings. I ask this of my clients as well; I encourage them to approach me when they think they are missing something in their healthy living program or in my services.

Not All Relationships Are Forever

A relationship doesn’t have to crash and burn to end. No one has to be purely at fault either. This is an issue for so many people because this can lead to the feeling like you don’t have closure, that you could still work on things because it wasn’t “awful,” or there’s always that “what if” feeling and pull to stay for the good times. 

Closure also shouldn’t come solely when you move on to the next person either. Mentally and emotionally wrap up the relationship and address and readdress the reasons why it ended. Ask yourself if there was more good than bad or indifferent. I did this with someone with whom I was happy with, but didn’t share the same view of the future with me and wasn’t as communicative as I’d like. I needed more emoting, I needed more of my love language. They were a great person, but not my person.

Forgiveness = Forever 

If you can be in a relationship where you genuinely forgive your partner for things, you are ahead of the curve. Resentment and lack of closure when it comes to disagreements will fester and can destroy your respect for one another, will continually interrupt your physical and emotional connection, and can permanently damage your ability to effectively communicate with one another. 

In my relationship, we may fight or disagree, and sometimes we say things we don’t mean, but, we always sit down and talk through it, hug and touch, listen and learn, then move on and thrive knowing that we communicated through it, not around it.

A Different Kind of Heartbreak: Moving Out Of New York City

I like to think that I have multiple hearts. They belong to my family, my friends, grilled cheese sandwiches, all types of M&Ms, and one is dedicated to New York City.

When I was three years old, I visited New York for the first time. I was a fish out of water as a little girl from Dallas, Texas wearing my first “real” winter coat. It was then my love affair with the Big Apple began. I told my parents that I would eventually live there. And I spent the next 18 years trying.

Right before graduating the University of Maryland, I landed a job in Soho. It was absolutely surreal. I had done it. 18 years of working towards a dream – the studying, the internships, the interviews – and it had all paid off.

I quickly moved into a 650 square foot converted 3-bedroom apartment. My room’s dimensions were 6’2″x10″, my closet was in the hallway, and one of my roommates had to walk through my bedroom to get to hers. But I was here. I was living in Manhattan.

The next four years were spent falling deeper and deeper in love. I went to almost every tourist attraction twice. I could recite subway stops by heart. I ate at every hot, new restaurant I could afford. I subscribed to New York Magazine to read about upcoming concerts or the latest Broadway shows, or even more restaurants to save up for. I spent Christmas Eves in mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and summers in Central Park bumping around a volleyball. It was a magical and unforgettable time in my life.

My work as a freelance TV Producer led me to meet my fiancé – a Brit living in London. We spent 10 months across an ocean from one another before my heart could take it no longer. We had decided we would move to the States eventually to raise children, and I would move to London in the years before.

The decision to move to London was a tough one. I was flooded with mixed emotions. I was leaving family and friends but they were already making plans to come visit, and of course I’d be able to Skype back home as much as possible. But following my heart also meant leaving a heart behind. A heart of mine that couldn’t answer texts or Facetime or hop on a plane over the pond. I had to break up with my first love and I knew that my new city would never be able to fill the void of my old one.

The wood floors and elevator in our new flat made the inside feel just like my Manhattan apartment, but I had no protection outside the walls. London was different. The bright lights were gone. The locals spoke a different English to mine, and constantly corrected me as if I was doing something wrong. There was no hazelnut coffee offered at the local coffee shop with the same man smiling at me behind the counter. The Tube lines confused me and I always felt lost – in more ways than one. It was one of the most difficult and confusing times in my life.

How could one of my hearts be so solid and another so frail?

I chose to New York-ify London as much as I could. I found my favorite coffee shop, shoemaker, tailor, and an American diner for those days I was really homesick. I researched all of London’s up and coming restaurants, kicked a soccer ball around in the park in the summer, and subscribed to Game Pass to watch my Cowboys on Sundays. Slowly, London was and still is becoming not just where I live, but my home.

I still sit on my couch and reminisce about New York, a place my mother now refers to as “Carrie’s city”. I regularly miss it and all that’s part of it greatly. Because, to me, New York does has it all: A restaurant solely dedicated to how many ways you can serve a meatball. Beach volleyball on a pier in Tribeca. A hotel where you can hold the door for Susan Sarandon going to lunch, have a ping pong game with a fresh pint in the biergarten, and party until 4am while dipping your feet in the rooftop pool!

But of all the wonderful things that New York houses, there’s one thing it doesn’t. And now he has my heart.

Do you have a story of a different kind of heartbreak? Submit it to hello@letsmend.com.

How My Failed Engagement Shaped My Career

Sometimes change happens gradually over time, and other times it sneaks up and knocks the wind out of you suddenly.

My breakup story is the sudden kind. I can remember the day — no, the moment — everything changed. When I realized the person I was about to marry was someone I barely recognized. And almost in that same moment, my life became one that no longer made sense to me.

I look back and can honestly tell you that I wanted to be married. That I wanted the husband, the house, the dog and the career. When much of that was ripped out from under me, I had to face reality.

False Ideas About Happiness

First, I needed to take a step back and understand why I had wanted those things in the first place. It was there, in my motivations, that I found the problem. I had defined my success as a person by my major accomplishments. I had foolishly based my happiness on the expectations of others. On accomplishments that I thought others would be proud of (or envy me for). This included getting married, buying a home and having a covetable career.

I felt like a failure when I called off my wedding. When I sold my engagement ring. And when I moved out of my house. I was crushed by this feeling that I had screwed up my life.

Hitting the Reset Button

Even though I was feeling suffocated by these “failures,” I realized something — square one is a decent place to start a new life. I was no longer obligated to anyone else. The financial burden of a mortgage was soon wiped away. If the reset button had been hit in almost every other area of my life, why not my career as well?

Yes, I was proud of my career accomplishments. I worked at a great agency, my co-workers loved me and I was good at my job. But I never felt fulfilled. All I wanted was the type of job where I could feel like I provided value to my community. Where I could harness my passions to benefit the lives of others.

Dreams of going back to school for nutrition had played in my mind for years, but I never acted on them. The house. The wedding. Those things had been more important. So I continued to work, rather than head back to school.

But things changed. And I was left with a big choice to make in the midst of chaos.

Facing Fears When Courage Is Lacking

The problem with making major life decisions, like going back to school, is that they require some serious steam to be propelled ahead. Still reeling from the detonation of my relationship, there were days when I didn’t even have the energy (or appetite) to feed myself properly. Days when I couldn’t focus at work and barely checked anything off my to-do list. Days when I drove around with my radio at impossibly loud levels because hearing myself think was too painful.

So how do you find the momentum and courage to change your life when you can barely function?

1. Accept that there are bad days. Some days, eating a meal that doesn’t come from the McDonald’s drive-thru will be an accomplishment. Give yourself those days, free of guilt. On another day, you can take steps toward your new future. Today, make it through.

2. Break it down into incredibly small steps. When I was in particularly rough shape, I made a goal to work out. And so my therapist and I broke it down into tedious little steps. One day, find a gym bag. Another day, pack it. Next day, set the bag by the door. Day after that, take it out to my car when I leave for work. This same theory can apply to bigger things. One day, spend one hour researching nutrition schools, and so on from there.

3. Worry less about which direction you’re moving, and more about the progress you’re making. There were many moments where I caught myself worrying that by going back to school, I was regressing or moving backward with my life. I had this house, career and adult life that was being traded in for an apartment, part-time job and college. When I was able to stop worrying so much about the status quo and what others would think of me, I was able to see that the positive changes I was making truly are propelling my life in a beautiful new direction.

4. Journal your experience. There’s something wonderfully cathartic about writing down your thoughts. For some reason, things appear clearer and more manageable on paper. You can also make a point to end each writing session with a positive thought. It can be something small, like mentioning how you sat outside in the sunshine for a few minutes. Even stopping to think about a seemingly insignificant detail of your day will have a positive impact on your mood.

A breakup is just one chapter, not your entire story. In the end, you have one life, complete with every experience that shapes who you are. You don’t move backward — you progress and grow. So make the most of the time you’ve been given. I challenge you to find the courage to use this hardship in a way that propels you ahead.

Why You Should Trust Your Intuition

A few weeks ago a client of mine called in tears, revealing she’d just discovered her boyfriend/soon-to-be fiancé, had been cheating on her. I listened closely, pouring love through the phone as I shared her pain. And then she said, after a good nose blow, “And you know what Jamie, I knew it.”

“You knew he was cheating?!?” I exclaimed.

“No, though there were definitely signs I ignored,” she said slowly. “I knew deep down he wasn’t the one for me but I just kept telling myself I was supposed to be with him.”

She went on to explain her unhappiness over the last 4 years. She detailed his habitual pulling away, his belittling comments, and her constant desire for more connection and deeper intimacy.

“I kept telling myself that my dissatisfaction was helping me grow; that somewhere there was a lesson to learn. I spent so many nights searching for gratitude; just one thing to be grateful for in our relationship and often I could only come up with, ‘No relationship is perfect and really, it’s not THAT bad. He loves to cook and makes a good living. It could be so much worse.’ And yet even that left me with a sick feeling in my gut. My body knew and I just couldn’t face the truth.”

Oh how common this is: Brilliant women ignoring what their body knows for fear of the truth. They stay in toxic relationships, unfulfilling careers, and lackluster friendships under the guise of growth, thinking they’re learning something through their struggle.

Crazy thing is, the actual growth is listening to your body, trusting her, speaking your truth and getting out. That’s the lesson that needs learning.

We’ve all done this. I too thought my unhappiness in my marriage was a sign of something I needed to learn within the marriage. We are women with incredible capacity who are used to working hard. We get off on it. And so we stay in unsatisfying relationships being more comfortable with struggle than with ease and joy. In fact, ease and joy can be terrifying, especially if our motto is, “if it’s not hard it’s not worth it.” When struggle is a badge of honor it’s all too easy to justify staying in unhealthy relationships as much needed “lessons” to help us change and grow.

Don’t get me wrong. Recognizing, interpreting, and voicing the truth that lives within your body is not easy either. It takes major ovaries to trust yourself and, as I see it, is one of the toughest lessons to learn.

The good thing is, we know you’re tough. You’ve shown it by staying in an unsatisfying relationship for years hoping that in honor of your struggle, some sort of golden insight will appear to guide your relationship to the perfect love promise land.

Here’s the deal. You know it’s time to go when you hear yourself saying:

“This is teaching me a lesson.”

“My pain is helping me grow.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“But our relationship has such potential.”

No honey, it’s the wisdom within you that has the potential, not the relationship.

The lesson you are now meant to learn is to trust the tight, fluttering ball in the pit of your stomach that tells you that, no matter what your old stories of loneliness and abandonment say, it’s just not right.

Be gentle with yourself through this process. Recognizing the wisdom in your body to voice the truth inside takes time and patience.

The good thing, is you don’t have to tough it out in your relationship any longer. That lesson has been learned. It’s time to ease into this new one.

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.

Post-Breakup Trips Five Menders Have Taken

At Mend, we believe that a change of scenery is a great cure for heartbreak. Whether you’re going to a neighboring city or heading across the globe, traveling can help you beat those post-breakup blues! Today, five Menders are sharing how their adventures helped them.

“I’m going to Boston tomorrow. That’s where I went to school, and that was a place where I really flourished and grew. I’m going to get a break from LA because I’ve never really known LA without my ex since I met him as soon as I moved here. I’m going to Boston to both remind myself who I was before him and also connect with people in a place where I knew I was happy.”

-Akanksha, Mender

“After my ex and I split, I booked a solo trip to the Sonoran Desert Preserve outside of Phoenix to clear my head. I was able to hike for miles without seeing anyone, lay by the pool and journal, and think about what I value and what I really need out of a relationship next time. Travel is always my go-to for mending. There’s something about being out of your element that makes you feel both vulnerable and strong. It reminds you that there is so much out there to see and do, and so many more people in the world you’ve yet to meet.”

-Jenna, Mender

“I went to Vegas, Denver, Palm Springs, and Lake Arrowhead. I’m road-tripping Big Sur next week with my dad. Thailand in May and Seychelles in October!”

-Alexa, Mender

“After one particular breakup, I made it a point to visit all the places that reminded me of my ex — Missouri (where he was born), San Diego (where he was stationed in the Navy), and Chicago (his favorite city). I visited these places with either friends or family and made some incredible memories. Now, when I think of those places, I no longer associate them with my ex. Instead, I remember the amazing times I spent there with the people I love most.”

-Kate, Team Mend

“I’ve been on so many post-breakup trips…big and small. When I was younger, these trips weren’t extravagant. Sometimes it just meant taking a new bus route to a new neighborhood, or taking the train to a different stop and walking a new street. In recent years, I’ve taken more adventurous trips after breakups, including to Japan and Mexico. But the idea is still the same. I find a change of scenery is really helpful when you’re stuck in cyclical thinking patterns – the newness forces you to focus on what’s in front of you, instead of what’s in your head. That’s such a relief after a breakup.”

-Elle, Team Mend

How Oliver Sacks’ Book ‘Gratitude’ Helped Me through My Breakup

I want to be sad. I want to lumber through my house, brush my teeth, and forget about parking tickets and people. I want to focus on my body and protect my heart — with muscle.

Since the breakup, I have been going to the gym almost every day. I added an extra gym day to the week and added another set to every workout. I am lifting more on every machine. I refuse to say “heartbroken” because the word sounds mawkish. I am pierced up — septum and nostril piercings adorn my nose — and I have been fake-tanning a bit more than usual.

As I write this, I am on vacation in Florida with my family. I keep wandering away from them to walk on the beach alone. Spring Break tweenagers and straight couples pass by. I do not say “morose” or “shattered,” but here on the edge of the Atlantic, these words seem closer to real life. I feel it in my body, a lead weight I’m carrying around, and it’s him.

I miss having a second set of eyes on the world and a different set of thoughts to compare mine to. My ex was always more perceptive than me, more street smart. Where I see cynicism and dark portents, he would see kids in matching bathing suits playing in the surf and hot daddies walking down the beach. He allowed the world to be what it was without any absurd and heavy projection. I’m a writer, so everything becomes a reflection of myself. It’s a form of self-aggrandizement that makes me the main character in my inner narrative — and makes dating a storyteller a terrible idea.

My ex-boyfriend wasn’t like me. He commented on hot guys and loved video games and got excited about people he thought were interesting and genuine. He probably would not admit this to anyone, least of all himself, but he fostered a kind of joy for the world that I admired, and am now trying to learn for myself. It was one quality about him that I loved — one of many.

There are dozens of articles on the Internet that tell you how to handle a breakup. Many list “what to do” or “what not to do” with cute illustrations and infographics. These always seem reductive to me because I do not believe such a personal thing can be reduced to a set of rules that inevitably reflect someone else’s bias, some other writer’s experience. No two breakups happen the same way, and mistakes you make in one might not be mistakes in another.

Therefore, I think the only way to write about breakups and to offer advice is to tell one’s own story, completely personal and applicable only to oneself, and see if anyone else gets something out of it. And that’s what I’ll attempt to do.

My breakup is a story riddled with mistakes, most of them I made while I was still a boyfriend. In fact, the worst mistakes I’ve ever made with men occurred while I was still with them — acts of selfishness and cruelty, a cutting remark at the edge of the bed, a blatant lie. I don’t know if it’s possible to make mistakes in the course of a breakup — or, if I’m being honest, in life in general. 

When you’re newly single, people expect you to stumble home drunk. We pardon you if you start crying at the prologue of a book. You are given a few bad nights, a few sad fucks. If you turn to hard drugs, there are ways out of that, but regardless if you’re having Netflix binges or meth binges, you will still have to learn to help yourself. 

No one else will get you out of a pit — no one else can. On a lifelong scale, the concept of “mistakes” becomes useless. People inevitably fuck up, and our fuck-ups sometimes change our lives, but if you live to be eighty then you survived them, and if you don’t, you didn’t. There’s little point in regretting errors. My breakup has been a process of letting go of regrets — regret for moving to L.A. and leaving him behind, regret for fights we had and things I said, regret for various mistakes I have made — and moving forward.

This post was originally titled “How To Heal From A Gay Breakup,” but I don’t know how to heal from a gay breakup. I do not have any sure methods for finding peace with the man you used to love, or still do. If it ended badly, with emotional or physical violence, I cannot begin to encapsulate that pain into words, and it would be a disservice to guys experiencing it for me to try to do so. Mine didn’t end violently, and neither of us have the luxury of hating each other, so I can’t speak to that. I encourage you to find a support group and to talk about it to somebody, because the only thing worse than suffering is suffering alone.

Here’s what has helped me. I recently read a book called Gratitude by the author and clinician Oliver Sacks, published posthumously. Gratitude is four essays that Sacks wrote during the final few years of his life. The fourth and last one, “Sabbath,” was written two weeks before his death of terminal cancer.

It was a death he saw coming and, as a medical writer, one he faced with the only tools he knew to fight with — pen and paper. At the age of 81 and facing a painful final few months, Sacks writes, “I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.”

That is an intercourse I want to have in life. To a grander extent, that is the purpose of this blog and of everything I do.

His essay “My Own Life” closes with this sentiment: “Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

I read it on the beach. When I put it down, I was crying. As I write this, I am still crying, thumbing through this little book filled with black and white photographs of the author that his partner Billy took. I want that kind of love, a furious and defiant gay love that publishes books posthumously and holds on till the end. I didn’t want that kind of love when I started dating my ex, and wouldn’t have admitted that I wanted it during most of our relationship. 

But now, three months after its close, I will concede on something that I never told him. I want a partner. This rabble-rousing, piggy homo with penchants for political discussion and dirty darkrooms wants, to his surprise, someone to share these things with. Who knew?

I have been trying to get him back. I even drove back across the country, from California to Georgia, to try and fix it, and was prepared to do everything I could to do so, even if that meant doing the M-Word — monogamy — and putting my crazy fantasies to rest. In a city like Los Angeles, where I could indulge every perversion imaginable, I was ready to trade every one for one night with him in the bed we used to share, and to some degree I still am. But he has moved on, and hardly seems to notice I’m back. My efforts to fix things have been met with something worse than hard refusal — apathy.

I was going to propose. I had a ring, which I sent back. I was going to take him on a walk down one of the wooded trails on my parents’ farm last Thanksgiving, which he was planning to spend with me and my family. I was going to casually reach over and put something in his hand and drop on one knee in the dirt. Two weeks before I was to fly back home, he called me in the early afternoon. The first thing he said was, “Alex, I’ve made a decision. I want us to break up.”

In the rough three (almost four) months that followed, which have seen me fall into a bad depression, I have come to understand more fully his reasons for ending things and have even admitted that he made the right decision. I have also made a too-late effort to fight for us. I have not once thought about gratitude.

Maybe gratitude comes at the tail end of the healing process, once you’ve put aside anger and resentment. I cannot say that I am fully there yet — seeing him downtown still ruins my night — but I am grateful for the time I spent with him and for the ways he changed me.

And while we’re on the subject, I am grateful for all my exes and past relationships, even the ones that ended badly, with shouting matches and shoving. It is common for us to talk about “lessons” when discussing painful experiences, and I suppose deriving lessons from life is a good way to live. But even without “lessons” or a way to quantify experience into something useful, I am thankful simply for having nights that were not spent alone, for feeling my heart flutter a few times, and for having the opportunity to check myself in the mirror and check my breath before meeting guys I liked.

I could not imagine being in Oliver Sacks’ shoes and letting go of these things, which are surely life’s greatest treasures. If I was going to die soon, the only lasting sentiment I could conjure from my time on earth, the only advice I could give those I would leave behind, is to enjoy those moments of intimacy and excitement that others give you. Be thankful for them, and try to remember them — forget the rest. And love yourself more than anyone else.

That last sentiment is one I have been struggling to follow lately, but I’m getting there. If you are dealing with a breakup, go read Oliver Sacks’ last book, Gratitude. Find a routine, whether it’s a job, gym regimen, or the practice of making bonbons every Wednesday. My routine has been heavily reliant on the gym and tanning salon, and my shoulders feel it. My skin feels it. I’m planning a Prince Albert piercing soon.

A shallow fixation on my body may not be the healthiest way to recover, but it keeps away the drugs and the loneliness and gives me a chance to see my gym buddy and best friend every night, who ask me how I am doing. The regulars of my gym have become side characters in my story of getting back to a better place: the Russian tank who can lift max weight on every machine with one arm, the bearded and tatted stud who disappeared for a few months (we fantasize it was jail time), the friendly manager with breast implants, and even the obnoxious, incessant whistler who pretends that the whole gym is captivated at the spectacle of his workout. I’m their friend with the septum piercing, a pup without an owner, the sad homo who wanders through the weights, head down.

I’m looking up a little more these days. I’ll be okay.

The One Piece Of Dating Advice I’d Give My Younger Self

A few days after my birthday, my 23 year old friend asked newly 32 year old me if I could give her one piece of dating advice. What would it be?

Without hesitation, I told her to just do whatever the hell she wants.

And I hope she took it to heart, because I really, really meant it. And I really, really hope you hear me too.

You cannot force lessons or growth; not on yourself, and certainly not onto others. You have to go through your process. We learn by a series of successes and failures what does and doesn’t work for us. And over time, that alters our tastes and our desires. Ideally in a way that becomes progressively deeper, and meaningful, and healthier. But more often than not, your path won’t be linear. And you’ll instinctively fault yourself for not learning sooner.

So you’ll pretend to care less than you do. You’ll pretend to be less invested than you are. You might lie and say you know things won’t work out, when the truth is, you want them to. You might force yourself into a box, under the thumb of an ever-changing dating rule book.

But after an (unspecified, unique-to-you number of) knock-down drag outs, you’ll realize that the people who are meant to fit will fit with the real you. Some learn this after first or second round; some have to touch the fire a few (hundred) times before they see how hot it burns.

And it’ll hurt. It’s raw, and revealing, and it’ll really, really hurt. But it means you’re in the process of repair. Pain is an intrinsic part of evolution.

So what then?

Be okay with being hurt. Don’t be ashamed of it. Just do whatever the hell you want, and feel whatever the hell you feel. Say what you need to say. Live the width of your happiness, and your anger, and your sorrow… and above all else, your love. Love unabashedly, unconditionally, authentically, and without fear.

If someone doesn’t appreciate you, or is in any degree repelled by you loving them – then take comfort in knowing that person isn’t right for you. And yes, maybe you could have delayed that reality by concealing yourself, or playing the game… but eventually, you would be right back where you are now. The mask would itch, and you or he or she would rip it off.

Learning who and what and how to love can be a messy process.

But know that all the heartaches and mistakes, if learned from, will better your ability to love yourself and love others. And the better you learn and love yourself, the better able you will be to learn and love the right person.

So instead of focusing on how to make something work, or how to make someone care; and instead of worrying about this colloquial, imagined (full of shit) ticking-clock…focus rather on the ways that love, both good and bad, helps you grow.  

Experiencing unrequited, or toxic, or lost, or failed, or untimely love can shape you like no other. Positively, if you let it. 

So when things fall apart, take time to reflect on how that situation changed you for the better. 

 Look at what you learned: All the qualities you’ll one day hope are emulated in the “right” person.  All the boundaries you formed from the downfalls and douchebags. 

Your rock bottom is so much lower now. 

Your threshold is so much greater. 

Look at how much better you know and accept yourself, for having gone on and gone through — and why?  

Because, without fear of foolishness – you felt whatever the hell you felt, and did whatever the hell you wanted to do.

I Admit It: I’m A Sentimental Hoarder

Ok. I admit it. I’m a sentimental hoarder. That took me a long time to realize. You’d think I would have figured it out when I stopped being able to shove things in the box in my closet that held everything from the condom wrapper from when I lost my virginity and the hundreds of letters to exes that I never sent to the pen that I used when I signed my first lease and an ice cream spoon that I don’t even remember the sentiment behind.

Although I’d be a very good candidate for Queer Eye, it wasn’t the memory box that brought to light my toxic need to hold onto the past, it was a showing for an apartment.

So, before I admit one of the crazier things I’ve done in my life, let me give a little back story. 

It’s nothing huge or enlightening or monumentally romantic…it was just a girl; a girl I loved who chose to stop loving me back. 

Now, I’m going to say the shallow horrible truth that we’ve all felt at one point or another and have always been too nervous to share with a crowd – I only loved her when she stopped loving me. 

Come on, admit it. We all have that person. The one we conveniently kept around for years because even though we broke their hearts time and time again, they stayed. It fed our ego, made us feel memorable. 

Even if we didn’t do it consciously, we threw back that big glass of ego boosting love like a cold beer during a real bad hangover. 

You may not even know you’ve had a person like that – chances are, if you called things off with them, you’ll never realize they were your self-esteem boosting medication, because they never truly mattered. 

That sounds horrible doesn’t it? I mean, we’re talking about real people here, with real feelings. 

Well, guilty as charged. I was one of those chronic people-users, until this one particular girl shed light on my horrible grotesque rat hole of insecurities that I had been so desperately trying to keep closed. 

It had been about 2 years of back and forth. I would reach out, see her for a couple weeks, and disappear. Then she’d drunkenly call and text me for weeks after saying I was the only one she’d ever love. 

Eventually, I’d get bored with my life, play into her feelings, and repeat. You’d think I wouldn’t be surprised when she began to pull away, but you’d be wrong. I was utterly shocked. 

I call it PESD – post empowerment stress disorder. She adored me and that empowered me, so the second she was gone, the rat hole that I’d kept covered up for years began to uncover itself. 

And the only way I could make sense of all those fearful emotions was simple at the time, “I can’t lose her because I love her.” Wrong again. 

What I should’ve said was, “She gave me the attention that poured dirt on top of my rat hole; she put me on a pedestal. But now that she can see my flaws, that means I have to see them too. Whoa. I sure as hell don’t like that.” 

So, in the midst of my desperate and unflattering attempts to gain her admiration back, she left. Just like that, she packed her bags and moved across the country without so much as a text goodbye. 

As I’m sure you can imagine, I went insane. I actually thought about flying to New York to ask her to marry me. MARRY ME! (I know what you’re thinking and, yes, I have since been going to therapy.)

Luckily, either the small amount of logical thinking I had left, or my bank account, convinced me to not do that. 

Instead, I did something less, but nonetheless, crazy. I set up a showing at the apartment she’d just moved out of. I was sure I needed closure. 

We’d had no form of goodbye, so I thought seeing her empty apartment and bidding my dramatic farewells would heal me. I needed some sort of ritualistic way to let go; to gain my power back. 

Now, I would love to tell a grand story of how a stranger said something oddly philosophical to me that made me turn around that day, that made me realize I was still desperately trying to cover that damn rat hole. But it’s a much less interesting story. 

I woke up the day of the showing and decided to go grocery shopping, and it wasn’t until 15 minutes after the appointment time that I remembered I had even scheduled it. I didn’t laugh or cry or have a come-to-Jesus moment. 

I just shrugged my shoulders and proudly wrote in my diary that I didn’t do that crazy thing I said I would do. And as I wrote, I began to realize that I didn’t feel bad about not being able to say goodbye, I just felt bad that she had seen my rat hole and decided to leave. 

She had seen the horribly selfish part of me that only I knew existed, that was a result of my chronic need to deny and cover up my deeply rooted insecurities. 

I began to realize that I had held on to all of these memories and souvenirs and feelings because, on the contrary, I in fact didn’t want to feel. I was so scared of losing who I was in those moments because I hadn’t yet felt them or made sense of them. 

All of these feelings and dramatic attempts to hold onto the past were really just my own messy way of covering up some pretty ugly truths. 

So, I threw it all out – the condom wrapper, the letters, the pen, everything but the spoon. I kept that damn spoon. Because it has no meaning, and I think that’s kind of the point.

Why They Wouldn’t Commit

Commitment is a tricky concept. It seems simple enough, you choose to be committed to someone, to marry them, and spend the rest of your lives together, but it’s much more nuanced than that.

My divorced parents are both in long-term committed relationships, but neither is married to their partner. Some people look at their situations and think “if they were truly committed they’d be married by now.” This setup, however, works for them. I’ve seen them weather plenty of storms, cohabitate, and share every piece of their lives with one another, and marriage doesn’t seem to be at the center of commitment for them. But that’s my parents, that’s their idea of commitment.

What’s important to keep in mind about commitment is that every person does it their own way. This is probably the first hurdle the get past when it comes to understanding someone’s commitment to a relationship, or lack thereof. If you aren’t aligned with your partner on what commitment looks like for your relationship than this could definitely lead to a commitment-related breakup. If you want marriage and they want long-term cohabitation, you may butt heads often about each other’s commitment to the relationship.

According to the Interdependence Theory, no matter which way it’s displayed, commitment boils down to three major factors: satisfaction, alternatives, and investment. Satisfaction means there are benefits and low costs to the partner. Alternatives means that there isn’t a better option for getting needs met. And lastly, investment, well that’s exactly what it sounds like, how much you have invested in the partner. So, a decline in satisfaction and an increase in alternatives could affect someone’s desire to commit. It kind of makes sense then that in the age of dating apps commitment feels hard to come by.

Another research study found that “expected satisfaction was a stronger predictor of relationship commitment, maintenance behaviors, and/or divorce than was current satisfaction.” Sometimes even though the current situation isn’t rosy, we hold onto an imagined brighter future together and that’s what keeps us committed to the relationship.

Now that we understand some of the factors at play for commitment, the most important to consider is that commitment is a choice. It’s not something that happens to you, it’s something you choose to do. While this research can definitely shed a light on what drives someone’s decision to commit, ultimately it’s their choice to do so or not.

You might not get clear answers from your ex as to whether their lack of commitment was due to the factors outlined in the Interdependence Theory or maybe it was that their definition of commitment wasn’t aligned with yours. Either way, what you can hold onto for closure is that commitment is an action and your ex didn’t choose it. And now that you have a clearer idea of what leads people to commit, you can start defining what your ideal commitment looks like. Having that very clear in your mind will definitely help you when you’re ready to get back out there and find a new partner.

Science Of Heartbreak

When You Know You Don’t Make Them Happy Anymore

Have you ever felt like you were slowly drifting apart from a friend or a significant other? It’s one of the worst feelings in the world because it’s not actually over yet, nothing actually happened. If it were over, you would know, and then you could begin taking steps to accept it and heal from it. But no. It’s like they started to get to know you, and then once they did, they decided they don’t like you anymore. What do you even say? When would you even bring it up? That is if you bring it up. Maybe you can’t even bear to say anything for fear that that actually would end things.

You’ve already developed an attachment to your partner where you find their approval to be rewarding, so your first instinct might be to try and make things better by doing what you can to avoid having that conversation. You’ll try to fit their mold of the perfect partner or friend, to be everything they wanted. But in doing that, you lose yourself. You become less you and more of what you think they want you to be. You don’t fight them when they express opinions that bewilder you. You don’t speak up when they cross your boundaries. You act like it’s no big deal that they forgot your birthday, didn’t come to your graduation, didn’t congratulate you on your job offer or promotion, and literally never ask you anything about you. 

When this doesn’t work, it almost doesn’t seem fair. Despite all your efforts, why are they still unhappy? When someone you’re attached to disapproves of you, or withdraws prior approval, you feel anxious, concerned, and scared of the unknown. To stifle yourself so much for someone else and realize it’s still not enough for them, that’s heartbreaking. Not only does this not help your relationship, it breaks your relationship with yourself.

Instead, if you are in a place where you think you don’t make them happy anymore, tell them. I know it’s a risk because you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you could break up, but staying together can be just as heartbreaking. Being alone is sometimes a better option than being in a relationship where you feel alone. You need to assess your needs, not just theirs. Are your social, emotional, and physical needs being met? You can pretend that everything is fine for months, even years, and still nothing could get better, but it will hurt more the longer you let it go on. There is no good time to say you feel unloved or like your partner isn’t happy. The perfect moment won’t come. It’s something you’ll probably have to rip it off like a band-aid.

Healthy relationships require you to be true to yourself, to feel accepted for who you are, not who you pretend to be, and to accept your partner for who they truly are, not who you want them to be. They also require openness when feeling distant, and honesty when drifting apart. The best option is to honestly and thoroughly assess if this relationship is growing you as a person or not, ask your partner to do so as well, and then discuss. If you’re both trying to hide unhappiness, then your relationship becomes a facade for two broken hearts. It’s actually pretty normal to be in a broken relationship simply because staying together is more comfortable than letting them go. It’s understandable. It’s what you’re used to. That doesn’t mean it’s fair to either of you. 

It’s much better to lose someone you’re dating than to lose yourself. Be true to who you are. Stand by your beliefs and convictions. Never, ever, lessen yourself to appease others. Be relentlessly you, and don’t apologize for it. Be so you that you radiate. Be so you that you glow. This requires you being honest about how you feel and what you need and don’t need in your life right now, and something you don’t need is people who don’t see your worth.

If you don’t make your partner happy anymore, that’s fine. It hurts, but you will be fine. Love shouldn’t feel like you are walking on eggshells. You shouldn’t have to feel constantly afraid of offending them. By letting go of that tension, by letting go of the need to please others, by letting go of trying to be the perfect partner all the time, you can be perfectly you. And then you can start to heal. We’ll help you to pick up all the broken pieces because you deserve a whole heart.

10 Influential Women From History Share Their Take On Heartbreak

In honor of International Women’s Day, We gathered some quotes from some of the most influential women in history and the modern-day so our menders can be empowered by their wisdom, leadership, and ability to create incredible things out of adversity and heartbreak. Here are some words that can help you mend, from some amazing women that have gone or will go down in history for their contributions to the world.

Frida Kahlo

She was a prolific Mexican artist who explored pain, passion, race, gender, class, and postcolonialism in her art. Her life and art later became more involved with politics, and she is now considered a Chicano, feminist and LGBT icon.

On overcoming heartbreak from a tumultuous relationship:

“There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the train the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.”

“I am that clumsy human, always loving, loving, loving. And loving. And never leaving.”

“I think that little by little I’ll be able to solve my problems and survive.”

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”

“Perhaps it is expected that I should lament about how I have suffered living with a man like Diego. But I do not think that the banks of a river suffer because they let the river flow, nor does the earth suffer because of the rains, nor does the atom suffer for letting its energy escape. To my way of thinking, everything has its natural compensation.”

Jane Austen

She was an author who provided social commentary on the English gentry of the 18th century. She critiqued female dependence on marriage with humor and irony, and though her novels were successful while she was alive, they were published anonymously.

On the importance of social support:

“The composure of mind with which I have brought myself at present to consider the matter, the consolation that I have been willing to admit, have been the effect of constant and painful exertion; they did not spring up of themselves; they did not occur to relieve my spirits at first. No, Marianne. Then, if I had not been bound to silence, perhaps nothing could have kept me entirely—not even what I owed to my dearest friends—from openly showing that I was very unhappy.”

“Elinor, in spite of every occasional doubt of Willoughby’s constancy, could not witness the rapture of delightful expectation which filled the whole soul and beamed in the eyes of Marianne, without feeling how blank was her own prospect, how cheerless her own state of mind in the comparison, and how gladly she would engage in the solicitude of Marianne’s situation to have the same animating object in view, the same possibility of hope.”

“Friendship is surely the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.”

Whitney Wolfe Herd

She was a co-founder of Tinder before starting Bumble, which is changing the world by changing dating. She was a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree and has worked with legislators to make unsolicited dick pics illegal.

On creating Mend monuments:

“They say that the greatest companies in the world come out of someone’s personal heartbreak.”

“Don’t let something hurtful from your past hold you back from what you want to do. Be brave.”

Anne Frank

She died at the age of 15 as a Jewish victim of the Holocaust. While hiding for two years before being discovered, she kept a diary that has touched the hearts of people throughout the world by revealing her hope and persistence.

On gratitude and resilience:

“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.”

“It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”

“I know what I want, I have a goal, an opinion, I have a religion and love. Let me be myself and then I am satisfied. I know that I’m a woman, a woman with inward strength and plenty of courage.”

Oprah Winfrey

She was born in poverty and rose to become the richest African American in history. She’s a media executive, talk show host, and producer that has been ranked as the greatest African American philanthropist in American history and the most influential woman in the world. 

On personal growth:

“Think about any attachments that are depleting your emotional reserves. Consider letting them go.”

“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”

“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.”

“Pushing against the need to forgive is like spreading poison in your veins. Surrender to the hurt, loss, resentment, and disappointment. Accept the truth. It did happen and now it’s done. Make a decision to meet the pain as it rises within you and allow it to pass right through. Give yourself permission to let go of the past and step out of your history, into the now. Forgive, and set yourself free.”

Mother Teresa

She was a Roman Catholic nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity and devoted her life to serving the poor, lonely, and vulnerable. She was canonized as a Saint for her work in Calcutta and many other countries and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

On spreading love always:

“The success of love is in the loving – it is not in the result of loving. Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done.”

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.”

“There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”

Jane Goodall

She changed the way the world interacts with and views animals by being the first person to closely study chimpanzees. She famously taught us about their human-like qualities: they create and use tools, they engage in war, and they experience heartbreak over loss.

On finding solace in nature:

“Chimpanzees have given me so much. The long hours spent with them in the forest have enriched my life beyond measure. What I have learned from them has shaped my understanding of human behavior, of our place in nature.”

“I think the most important thing is to keep active and to hope that your mind stays active.”

Michelle Obama

She is an attorney, author, philanthropist, and former First Lady of the United States. She used this position to influence fellow politicians and began campaigns to fight childhood obesity, childhood hunger, education of young girls worldwide, and empowerment of young girls.

On going through hard times:

“You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.”

“Do not bring people in your life who weigh you down, and trust your instincts. Good relationships feel good. They feel right. They don’t hurt. They’re not painful. That’s not just with somebody you want to marry, but it’s with the friends you choose. It’s with the people you surround yourself with.”

“When you are struggling, and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember something that my husband and I have talked about since we first started this journey nearly a decade ago—something that has carried us through every moment in this White House and every moment of our lives—and that is the power of hope. The belief that something better is always possible if you’re willing to work for it and fight for it.”

Hua Mulan

She was a Chinese warrior who dressed up as a man to take her father’s place in the army and fight for her country. The following quotes are from the film Mulan.

On fighting inner battles (rather than ignoring them):

“The General Hua you see before you is actually terrified of battle. I had been afraid and hiding all along. But I never thought my fear and hiding would cause the loss of the most important friend in my life. His departure lets me understand fleeing from the endless battles only makes us lose even more!”

“Someone once said, go too far from home and you will lose your roots. Kill too many people and you will forget yourself. If you die in battle, your life will sink into the ground like rain and vanish without a trace. If at that time, you fall in love with someone, hope will blossom again from the earth and embrace life with passion. Wentai, thank you.”

Gloria Steinem

She’s a social-political activist and a leader of the feminist movement. She founded “Ms” magazine and Women’s Action Alliance information center.

On letting go of the familiar and embracing growth:

“The art of life is not controlling what happens to us but using what happens to us.”

“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn but to unlearn.”

“Once we give up searching for approval we often find it easier to earn respect.”

The Pain of Heartbreak Won’t Go Away Unless It’s Felt

Pain that comes from heartbreak comes with so much emptiness and intensity, and we have the choice to let it damage us or make us stronger, but either way, the pain demands to be felt. It’s like our hearts are enduring a very difficult workout. Nothing about it is easy. Workouts never are. They are painful but we push through and exercise to become healthier, stronger human beings. But as with any exercise, this pain has the potential to damage us if we don’t use proper form and technique.

In her mend story, Carilyn P. described her heartbreak pain, writing: “‘Sister Miriam, everything hurts: my brain, my body, my heart—my whole being!’ She paused, then said, ‘That’s because you loved with your whole being.’”

When we love someone with everything we have, everything we have hurts. It means everything we have is going through the mending exercise with us. Not only will our hearts get stronger, but also our bodies and our brains, unless we choose to be damaged instead. Either way, the pain demands to be felt.

People approach the pain in very different ways. Some may try to distract themselves so they don’t focus on it, some may pretend it doesn’t exist, and some may face it head-on. Many people will try to keep busy with obligations and commitments to get their mind off of the breakup, which is only helpful to an extent. While it is certainly good to try new things, get out there, and start living again, the purpose of this shouldn’t be to overload your schedule with obligations in order to not face the pain. The fact of the matter is that even if you distract yourself or lie to yourself about it, at the end of the day, literally, when you are in bed with nothing to distract you from being alone in silence with your thoughts, it will slap you in the face to give you a hard wake up call, because it demands to be felt. Constantly distracting or deceiving yourself is merely prolonging the pain, because the truth will always reveal itself loud and clear when you’re alone and in silence.

Be honest about the pain that you feel. It will not go away until it has been properly felt because it is there to make you stronger and if you don’t let it, then it will damage you. The pain must be felt in order for you to move on. So, how do you feel it in a healthy way?

Basking in your pain can be done either in a productive way or a non-productive way. It’s productive if you focus on reflection, purging, or growth. When you’re hurting, you’re allowed to feel sad and let yourself cry, but you’re discouraged from essentially forcing yourself to hurt and cry. This means that you’re going to wake up in the morning crying some days and that’s extremely healthy. Get it out, because that pain demands to be felt. However, much of the pain we feel is self-inflicted, for example:

1. Having hypothetical conversations with your ex or others about how it should have gone and what you should have said or done.
2. Thinking about what went wrong and why and how come you were not enough.
3. Stalking an ex’s social media and getting sad.
4. Reviewing old photos and text messages reminiscing on the good times and bad times you wish you could redo.
5. Holding onto things they gave us, which unfortunately includes the really good memories.

You see, these are all things we can avoid. These are all unnecessary pains that damage us rather than make us stronger. We have the power to not ruminate over these things. A general guideline is that rumination is wallowing that goes too far. Wallowing is good, healthy, productive, even. But rumination is the opposite. It is merely a way for us to prolong the pain by thinking too long and too hard about our heartbreak.

Wallowing is productive. Wallowing is allowing yourself to feel the pain that demands to be felt in a healthy way that makes you stronger. It is crying when you need to cry, seeking comfort in ice cream or friends or movies or all of the above. But when you continue to find reasons to cry, when you specifically pursue thought processes you know are damaging, is when you’re letting it go too far. That would be rumination.

“Suffering is the fire that refines the gold that is your character.” – Matthew Kelly

Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between productive pain and non-productive pain but we hope this helps you to understand how to make the pain less damaging and more transformative. Mending is a very hard process but you will come out of it stronger. As Elle mentioned in this article about what she learned from 9 breakups, set boundaries on your wallowing time, such as a specific day or time frame. Allow your emotions to let you grow. This can’t be done if you are denying they exist or distracting yourself with a million obligations to hide the pain. The pain must be felt.

Why It’s Important to Own Your Baggage

Some parts of a breakup stay with us for the long-term, and unfortunately, it’s usually the negative stuff that sticks around. Often whatever we felt went wrong in the relationship materializes into baggage that we carry with us from relationship to relationship. With each new relationship we might drop some baggage and pick up another, or just add on to what we were already carrying. And it. gets. heavy.

We’re big believers of the importance of owning your baggage. When you give yourself the time and opportunity to reflect on your baggage, you’re able to start the process of releasing it. But that requires that you own it first.

Because we know how transformative it is to own your baggage, we wanted to encourage Menders to do the same. That’s why we launched the Own Your Baggage contest, as a way to remind you that owning your baggage doesn’t have to be a bad thing and could actually be quite healing. We all have baggage and shouldn’t feel any shame about it, which is why Team Mend shared their own baggage to kick things off.

Each response has shown us that you too are committed to owning your baggage. We’re sharing a few entries below, and hope it encourages you to know that you aren’t alone in working through baggage.

“That I am too much. That somehow my personality is too big or I’m too outgoing or too independent for someone to be comfortable with.”

– Christy B.

“That I’m not worth the love I receive. That every relationship will be like the last, and the fear of being in this perpetual cycle of bad relationships.”

– Nicole W.

“That my divorce means I’m ‘damaged goods’ and unwanted.”

– Cindy N.

“What if I never learn how to commit for real?”

– Jon M.

“That the next woman I fall in love with is going to hurt me more than the last.”

– Angeline A.

“Fear of abandonment, and trust issues. Also honesty with how I’m feeling.”

– Chris K.

“That I will never be as important to someone as their ex was.” 

– Zena W.

“I feel like I missed my ‘window’ to be in a relationship, and now I’m too old to be considered eligible.”

– Julia A.

“I fear that being honest about my feelings makes me unattractive to women, so I feel pressure to always present myself as if nothing is bothering me and I’m now afraid of committing to just one person, because I cannot handle the heartbreak of losing them if I have no one else.”

– Chris M.

If you haven’t entered the contest yet, click here to share your baggage.

Six Life-Changing Lessons I Learned After We Broke Up

For some of us, a breakup seems like this terrifying experience that will change us forever, ruin us for future partners, and make us think that we don’t deserve to find true love.

I feared those same things. Until I went through a breakup. It’s much harder when you’ve never been through it before and when the relationship has lasted for years.

They say these are the moments we all need to go through as they help us learn, grow, move on, get to know ourselves better, and improve ourselves. That’s exactly what happened to me.

After a short mourning period (we’re all allowed to that, of course), it hit me: I was liberated.

When someone breaks up with us, we usually see it as a form of rejection. But what if we look at it as showing us we’re not a good fit for each other and making a space for something better?

That’s just one of the many deep but positive realizations I came to after we broke up. Let me share more.

If you’re going through the same and are reading this now, maybe you’ll allow these lessons to reach you faster.

1. There is life outside the relationship.

I’m guilty of forgetting that. When you’ve been with one person for so long, things change, that person isn’t the same one you fell in love with either. But you’re part of the relationship now and fail to open your eyes for what’s outside of it. Or at least that’s what happened to me.

The fear of being alone is a result of not knowing what to do with your time or how to meet new people. Perhaps you’ve never taken enough time alone to deeply develop your identity as an individual, not a couple. But once you’re put in that situation, you learn as you go and it’s a beautiful journey.

I now smile more, socialize, travel, have hobbies, do sports, and work on myself. All of that has introduced me to a whole new world I hadn’t seen for years.

2. It’s not personal.

When a relationship ends, you blame yourself first. You try to figure out what went wrong and start thinking about what you could have done differently. When you can’t find answers, you start blaming the other person. But that doesn’t help either.

After some time, you eventually find peace as you realize it’s not about you or about them, it’s about how you two fit together. If there’s no balance, it’s much better for each person in the relationship to go their own way.

Once you accept that and see how much it makes sense, you will forgive the other person and yourself and will let go of the blame and guilt.

3. It wasn’t true love, but it’s out there.

One of the next big life lessons I learned after a lot of contemplating, comparing myself to others, going back to the past, and getting discouraged by being negative about the future, is that this wasn’t true love. Because if it was, it would last.

That doesn’t mean I’m doomed. True love is out there and whoever broke up with you only made room for the right person to enter your life. So thank them and stay positive.

4. You now know what you don’t want in a relationship.

That’s important and there was no way you’d know if your heart wasn’t broken.

This breakup led to you analyzing what went wrong and what you don’t want to experience again. You’re now aware of the traits in a partner that you can’t live with and will make sure the next person who enters your life and heart doesn’t have any of the traits your ex showed at the end of the relationship.

5. Communication can make or break a couple.

Want one thing to focus on to improve your relationship? Be honest, be direct, ask, and answer.

Because without that, you end up guessing what the other person is thinking or feeling, dropping hints, expecting, and having regrets, and never really knowing what’s going on in your partner’s mind until you ask and discuss it.

6. The pain goes away.

When you’re hurt, you think it will never get better. Until some time has passed (that period is different for all of us) and you see light at the end of the tunnel. You realize you have the strength to move on. You take your lessons, put a smile on your face, and suddenly feel like a big burden has been lifted off your shoulders.

That’s the act of letting go and it happens naturally. Once it does, you’re open to exploring a new world of opportunities and never looking back.

You also build resilience to more pain in the future. There will be more challenging experiences but having faith in the healing process and trusting your abilities to get over it will help you tremendously.

A breakup isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can turn into a life-changing period in your journey that prepares you for what comes next. And that’s a better version of yourself, new people, more experience, and a stronger mindset.

Why I Broke My No Contact Rule

Nearly two months ago, my long-distance boyfriend and I broke up. On the surface, it was due to distance. He’s in graduate school in LA while I live on the East Coast. While he initiated the breakup, I felt somewhat helpless to fight the decision and I didn’t fully disagree with it. The relationship was becoming difficult to maintain, overly expensive, and my anxiety about our future was taking its toll.

I typically have many bad habits when it comes to post-breakup life, with social media being the worst of them. But if there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s that I never text or call an ex. It’s a rule that I strongly maintain. My thinking is that if an ex wants to talk to me, then he can do it himself.

This morning I woke up, checked my phone, and I broke my rule.

I texted my ex today because I was worried he may have been in Thousand Oaks, CA at the time of the Borderline Bar & Grill mass shooting. I sent the text from my apartment in Pittsburgh, PA, less than a mile away from the Tree of Life Synagogue. The mass shooting in my neighborhood was just 12 days ago.

I knew he was most likely not in Thousand Oaks last night, just like I’m sure he knew I most likely wasn’t at Tree of Life 12 days ago. But still, I was worried and wanted him to know I was thinking of his safety. It’s a lonely feeling when someone doesn’t reach out to you during a moment of extreme crisis. I first learned this not 12 days ago, but 11.5 years ago when I was a freshman at Virginia Tech. The mass shooting at my school began just feet away from my dorm room while I accidentally slept through my alarm.

Our conversation this morning was quick; I didn’t even say hello. I cut to the chase and basically had him confirm that there was no reason for him to be at a country bar the night before. When his name appeared in reply on my screen, I felt a dizzying relief. It wasn’t until I saw his name that I realized how worried I had been.

He confirmed, seemed to genuinely thank me, and then quickly apologized for not texting me after the Pittsburgh shooting. He said he didn’t know if it was his place anymore and was afraid that by reaching out, he would somehow make the day even worse.

Let this all sink in for a moment. We live in an age where you can text someone to make sure they’re safe from a mass shooting in their neighborhood – only to have them apologize for not calling you during the mass shooting in your neighborhood.

Talking to him today was difficult. I ended up crying, which I haven’t done in weeks. We didn’t say much, but of course, I overanalyzed. I’m afraid that the last text I sent came off as aggressive and angry, but I meant it as genuine and heartfelt. I was emotional, relieved to see that he was okay. I would’ve phrased things differently now having all day to rethink my words.

Today’s emotions remind me why I have my no-text rules. But we live in a dark time where normal rules and barriers need to be set aside. I am not angry with my ex for not reaching out when the shootings in Pittsburgh happened. There are no guidelines for how to behave and communicate during these seemingly endless crises.

Deep down, both of us knew neither person was in true mortal danger in either city. But these mass shootings, that I had so naively thought would never happen again after Virginia Tech, serve to remind us that nothing is guaranteed. While these heartbreaking mass shootings become increasingly more common, we shouldn’t have to worry if it’s our place or not to reach out. We shouldn’t have to fear about whether sending that first text will make us seem weak to the other person. And we shouldn’t have to have a guidebook on how to cope with these disasters. So it’s my advice that if you need the peace of mind then break your rules, check on the people who matter to you, even if they’re no longer actively in your life. Breakup barriers be damned. Life is too short.

When You Feel Like Going Back To Your Ex, Read This

After a breakup, the weekends are the hardest. While your friends are out enjoying every minute of their days sans work, you can’t pry yourself out of bed. Now that your mind isn’t occupied with work responsibilities, you have all this free time and you’re tempted to text your ex.

It’s definitely not the first time you’ve battled this urge. Maybe you’ve even given in to the impulse a time or two in the past. But this time you don’t want to. You’re done trying again. If only you could resist the temptation. If only you could stick to your self-imposed no contact rule. You know that reaching out won’t change anything. And you know that giving it a third (or fourth) try won’t make the relationship successful. So how do you stay away, for good this time?

Withdrawal Is Normal

First, you have to acknowledge that the longing to reach out to your ex is normal. You’re not alone. Science says that a breakup can feel a lot like withdrawal for addicts, so it’s perfectly normal that you’re wanting to contact your ex. Forgive yourself for wanting to talk to or go back to your ex. Don’t waste your time beating yourself up over this.

Take Stock

What’s important is that you start differentiating what draws you back. If you take stock of the relationship, and the cons far outweigh the pros, chances are you’re going back to your ex out of loneliness. If you realize it’s loneliness that pushes you into the arms of an ex, you can find productive ways to fill the empty time when it sets in. Maybe you want to try a new hobby, or perhaps it’s a good time to meet up with friends you haven’t seen in a while. Figure out what comfort your ex brings you that you can give to yourself.

Get To The Root Of It

When the urge creeps in to run back to your ex, it’s a great opportunity to analyze what you are actually missing from them. It’ll help you create a better game plan for yourself as you work to get through the heartbreak. Give yourself the space to gain a new perspective and use that to build a life that’s fulfilling all on your own.

Surviving The Heartbreak of A Broken Engagement

Breaking off an engagement is painful. At this stage, wedding plans are probably underway and all of your loved ones know about your upcoming nuptials. Unlike with other breakups, when you call off an engagement there are logistics to manage. On top of figuring out who’s going to call the vendors to cancel (and fight to get deposits back), you also have to come up with a way to break the news to friends and family–all the while dealing with an enormous heartbreak.

What is most important to remember throughout all of this is that you are not a failure. When engagements don’t pan out, people often feel like they have somehow failed by not being able to see the relationship through. Thinking this way will not serve you as you heal, and it won’t bring you any sense of closure to lay the burden on your shoulders. And also, it’s just not true.

It may not seem so right now, but you’re in a better place having that relationship end now then after exchanging “I do’s.” If you’re finding it difficult to cope with the aftermath of your broken engagement, here are some tips that will get you on the path to healing.

The Logistics

Once the wedding has been called off there are a few things to consider, like who’s calling the vendors and telling friends and family. Draft a master list of everyone that needs to be contacted and decide with your ex who’s going to handle what.

Remember, when you share the news with loved ones, you don’t have to divulge the details of what happened in the relationship, you just have to inform them that the wedding has been called off. Perhaps an announcement on the Facebook group (if you made one for your wedding) or a mass email would do the trick. Keep it simple and to the point.

The Detox

Now it’s time to rid your life of all reminders of your ex. Whether it’s unfriending your ex on social media, deleting their number, or getting rid of their stuff that’s still at your place, you want to get on top of this. You don’t want your ex’s posts popping up on your newsfeed every day and you’ll be much more successful at not contacting your ex if their number isn’t stored in your phone.

You also want your home to be a peaceful sanctuary where you can work on your healing, and framed photos of you and your ex from your last vacation will not set the right mood. Redecorate your bedroom to be all your own and fill your home with things that make you happy!

The Healing

Your journey to getting through this heartbreak has already started by detoxing, but there are other ways you can support yourself during this difficult time. Seek out a therapist so you can engage in healthy dialogue as you work through the heartbreak. Prioritizing your self care will help alleviate the stress that comes with a broken engagement. The Mend app will allow you to check in with yourself every day and remind you that you’re not alone. Lean into resources for healing, you don’t have to go through this alone.

The New Beginnings

Start to build your new life. Focus on the activities that light you up. Learn a new skill or start a new side hustle. Take up a new workout class or train for a marathon. Use Pinterest to curate a post-breakup bucket list of things you want to see or accomplish as you build your new life, and then actually do them! Take full advantage of this time you have for yourself and create the life you’ve always dreamed of. As you start mending, you realize how resilient you are and that gives you a renewed sense of power. Channel that in all that you do from this point forward.

Six Ways To Get Over Your Ex

You probably clicked this article hoping to find the magic pill for getting over your ex. Maybe you were together for years, maybe just a few months, but either way, it has ended and you find yourself completely lost. You have no idea how to move forward. You can barely process that the relationship is over and now you have to figure out how to get over your ex. We’ve been there. And the first thing I’ll say is, the magic pill doesn’t exist.

Your feelings, however complicated, confusing, frustrating, or sad they may be, are valid. They matter and tending to them is the first order of business. At Mend, we’re all about doing the work, which is why I’m going to share some steps to take post-breakup that will help you get on the mend.

One thing we make sure to stress is that everyone’s journey is unique. These tips aren’t intended to be milestones to reach by certain time frames. They are just tools to have in your pocket as you mend your broken heart, no matter how long that takes.

Now, if you’re ready to do the work, here are some tips to help you get over your ex.

Let it out.

After a breakup it can be tempting to throw yourself full throttle into activities that will keep you busy enough that you won’t have to deal with your emotions. By doing this you’re only prolonging the suffering. You need to let yourself mourn the breakup. There is nothing wrong with crying it out. By acknowledging your emotions you can deal with them in the moment so that you can eventually release them. If you mask the hurt by hiding away your real feelings means you’re carrying those feelings with you the whole time and you’re never really letting go.

No contact.

This one is undoubtedly the most challenging, especially when you’re used to talking to your ex as part of your everyday routine. Cutting contact is about more than avoiding getting looped back into a relationship with your ex. Sarah McLaughlin, a San Francisco-based therapist specializing in women’s mental health, shared with us that she believes in space post-breakup. In her #howimend interview, she shared that she’s even gone no contact for years with some exes. That time with no contact allows you to sort through your feelings without the influence of your ex’s presence in your life.

Lean on a support system.

Now more than ever you need the love and support of your family and friends. Don’t go through this alone, your loved ones want to see you happy and if they know they can support you in any way, they’ll do it. You also have Mend! Our audio trainings will always be there to get your through your current emotions and we’ll give you the space to vent through a daily journal practice. You can also join Mender’s Club, our private Facebook group where our community of Menders support each other through heartbreak.

Freshen up your space.

First, you’ll want to clear out anything that reminds you of your ex. Then take the time to truly make your home your sanctuary. Use these hygge tips to cozy up your home post-breakup. You will instantly feel more at ease.

Find some healthy habits.

Whether it’s Barry’s Bootcamp class or an at-home yoga routine, you’ll want to start adding activities to your routine that will be good for you. This isn’t about getting a revenge body, it’s about taking care of yourself because true healing only happens when you prioritize yourself. Plus, the release of endorphins you get from a workout will definitely elevate your mood.

Take time with nature.

Something as simple as taking your dog for a walk at a local park or sitting near the ocean can do wonders for your mood. Nature has a way of healing us. Researchers studied its effects by having a group stare at an image of natural scenery and the control group look at a concrete roof. Only 40 seconds of staring at the natural scenery triggered their brains into a more relaxed state. Put the digital devices down for a bit and just enjoy some fresh air.

Remember, mending a broken heart has no defined timeline. Do the work at your own pace, and never forget that Mend is always here to help you on your journey.

How to Know When You’ve Waited Long Enough for Them to Commit

Have you ever been in a relationship, or maybe you’re currently in one, where the issues in the relationship leave you feeling anxious and insecure?

You’ve invested so much of your time and energy into this relationship, in fact you love this person. You have an amazing connection and believe you’re great for each other, but the issues aren’t going away and it’s really wearing on your patience and self-esteem?

Maybe they’re going through a tough separation or divorce or still trying to heal from the end of their marriage. Whatever they’re going through, maybe it’s occupying them physically and emotionally to a point where you’re really frustrated at the lack of consistent emotional availability and lack of commitment…and you’re wondering if the relationship is going to work out.

And you’re wondering: How long should you wait for them to commit? And how do you know when you’ve waited long enough?

This is a very personal question – meaning there is no cut and dry answer to this, no specific figure or length of time that I can offer you because knowing whether you’ve waited long enough depends on your values. And values are highly personal.

But the short answer is: you know you’ve waited long enough when you’ve spent more than you’re willing to spend.

You know you’ve waited long enough when the cost of waiting becomes greater than what you’re waiting for.

And what that means is, knowing when you’ve waited long enough depends on what truly matters to you.

Assuming you want to be happy in a long-term relationship with the man you’re dating, you need to know whether you’re compatible enough to grow together instead of growing apart. This means that you need to both share a vision for the kind of life and relationship that you want, and you need to know that your needs and requirements will be met. Otherwise, you’re not going to be happy in the relationship long-term.

Ask yourself: how does it make you feel to wait? What are you feeling while you’re waiting? And how long do you want to keep feeling that way? Or put another way: what is it costing you to wait? And how long do you want to keep paying that price?

Also, check in with your attitudes about love, relationships, and dating. What do you ultimately want in a deeply fulfilling relationship? Are you unconsciously settling for less than what you really want?

Sometimes people settle for less than what they really want because they don’t believe that they can get what they really want. But the thing is when you settle for less, you get less.

So ask yourself: how much do you value your time?

It’s like waiting to be seated at a restaurant. Except dating and relationships are much higher stakes. When you’re waiting to be seated at a restaurant, it’s costing you a bit of your time and comfort. Maybe you’re getting hungry while waiting. Maybe you have to wait outside in cold weather. And the most you’ll wait is probably 45 minutes. Maybe an hour and a half if you really want to dine there.

But in dating and relationships, if you’re feeling anxious waiting for something to happen, you’re not only paying with your time, you’re also paying with your emotional well-being. And you’re paying with the opportunity to otherwise meet someone else who is wonderful and ready and available to commit to you right now.

Every opportunity comes at a cost.

This is not about viewing relationships as transactions. But the discomfort and frustration from waiting precisely comes from your needs not being met. And as long as your needs are not being met, you’re not going to feel happy or fulfilled or secure in the relationship.

So how long you’re willing to wait for them to meet your needs depends on the value you put on your time, the value you put on your needs, and your sense of urgency around having those needs met.

What If You’re in Love? Does Your Relationship Have a Chance?

They love you. You love them. You have an amazing connection.

You probably are perfect for each other if we’re talking about the love and connection you have.

Except, there is a difference between being in love and being ready for a relationship.

You can be deeply in love with each other, have an amazing connection, but not be ready for a committed relationship.

Because being ready for a relationship entails a number of things, including being emotionally available for a new relationship.

And if they’re not emotionally available for a relationship with you because, for example, they still have feelings for an ex (even if they might rationalize those feelings with thoughts like “It’ll never work out between me and my ex,”), the fact that they still have feelings for an ex undermines the long-term viability of your relationship.

Because as long as they still have feelings for an ex, you’re going to feel insecure. And if you feel insecure, you’re not going to feel safe going into deeper levels of involvement, intimacy, and commitment with them.

And if you don’t feel safe going into deeper levels of involvement, intimacy, and commitment with them, then you’re not going to be able to have a fulfilling long-term relationship.

Should You Wait?

Here’s my honest opinion — I don’t believe in waiting.

Your time is way too valuable. Your life and dreams are too valuable to wait for anybody unless they are moving heaven and Earth to be with you and to make the changes necessary to meet your needs.

But even then, they would have to be pretty close to resolving any issues.

But if they are being passive about it (waiting for someone else to do something instead of taking being proactive), dragging their feet or making excuses, there’s no way you should wait.

You have a dream inside of you for the kind of life and relationship that you really want. And the longer you wait, the longer you delay that dream. If someone really cares about co-creating that dream with you, they will do what’s necessary to make it happen. They will take conscious, meaningful action to make it happen, and not just talk about it.  And if they really care about moving on with their life and moving on from their previous relationship, they will do what’s necessary to move on.  They’ll tie up loose ends and create appropriate boundaries, regardless of whether they’re in a relationship or not.

And if they don’t, then that’s a good sign that they weren’t committed to moving on in the first place.

But it all comes down to you and what you value. We are always empowered with choice.  But that power comes with responsibility – and it’s not always comfortable.  Having the deeply fulfilling, long-term committed relationship that you want is worth the short-term discomfort of saying no to waiting.

Why You Might Want to Throw A Divorce Party

You may or may not be familiar with the concept of a divorce party. It’s a very rapidly growing trend, and, in many ways, for good reason.  The idea is simple: you celebrate your wedding as the start of a new part of your life with someone, so why not celebrate a divorce as another new beginning? Some people think it is like celebrating a death in the family, but in many cases, a divorce is the best thing for all parties and can be a very positive thing as people grow and move on. Celebrating a fresh start is certainly nothing to scoff at!

There are no rules for throwing a divorce party. The details are up to the host’s taste. You can go the more serious route and allow the party to reflect the maturity you’ve gained over the years. Welcome guests with savory foods, tasty treats, and maybe even set up a mobile cocktail bar with divorce-themed drinks. You could also opt for a fun and flirty celebration where you play some sex-themed games à la bachelorette party. Whichever direction you choose, a divorce party should be about confidence and about celebrating breaking away from perhaps a less than ideal situation.

One thing to note is that the theme (or fun) of the party should never revolve around the other person involved in the divorce. Choosing to highlight the other half of the relationship might not be constructive. The purpose of the party is to celebrate independence and empowerment, not to rehash old wounds.

There are lots of reasons why this kind of celebration is a good idea and they depend on the type of people involved and the type of marriage. Many of us are guilty of needing closure after the end of a relationship. We need to officially finish something before we can really start anything else. Marriage starts with so much energy, so it’s very sad, and perhaps not healthy, to just let that end without any kind of celebration. By looking back fondly at the good bits, it can help close that chapter for you so you can move forward.

For those lucky people that manage to break up and still remain friends, a divorce party can be a great way to celebrate the good times with friends and family. It allows them to make a clear statement to those people that both parties treasure their friendships and hope to carry them on regardless of the marriage’s end. This is an ideal situation to throw a joint divorce party.

In reality, by the time some admit their marriage is ending things have gotten pretty bad in their relationship, so the majority of divorce parties will be one partner or the other having a party on their own. This kind of party can be about celebrating a fresh start and having a little look back at some good times. But it can also be about being free from an unhealthy relationship. Some people come out of marriages after 10, 15, 20+ years and as such have very little idea of what lays ahead as a single, independent person. A divorce party can be a great time stamp for starting new. It’s a great way to show friends and family they are ready for the world and ready to embrace whatever it has to offer. 

There are, of course, some cases where a party might not be such a good idea, which is why if you want to throw someone else a divorce party, it is always a good idea to check in with them first. You don’t want to surprise anyone with a divorce party, as some marriages may have ended in a lot of hurt for one party and a surprise of this nature could do more harm for them than good.

There is no doubt that for a lot of people a divorce party can be a very healthy thing to do. Whether it is a fun and funky party with drinks and some naughty party games or it’s a more toned down celebration of independence, it is an idea worth exploring as you look to move on from that part of your life.

Why I Decided Not To Move Back Home After My Breakup

At 23, I found myself living in the other side of the planet in Manila, Philippines, trying to pick up the pieces of a failed relationship. I was the one to break it off, but that doesn’t mean that it was easy. It was actually very hard and disappointing. When I told people that I wanted to stay in Manila one more year, many looked at me as if they had just seen Tom Hanks walking in the middle of High Street with a Hello Kitty costume.

They could not understand why. After all, I had moved to Manila to be with him so why should I stay there without him? They argued that I needed a change of setting, a new beginning in a place that brought me no memories of my relationship with the man who I had truly felt was the love of my life and the most incredible human being who ever set foot on the planet (yes, I did tell him once that his hair was sacred).

Through the course of my life, fate has taken me to many places. At 15, I moved from Madrid to Rome, I spent three months in London and Paris, I did an internship in Chile, I studied abroad in the US and after graduating I found myself googling Hong Kong to see where it was located. In Hong Kong, I met Mr. Love who worked in Manila and eventually decided to move there, to the land of jeepneys, halo-halo, and where it’s so hot that I could fry an egg on the asphalt.

Living abroad has taught me that home is where the heart is, but the heart is not only in one place. It is in a lot of different places at the same time. It is in my favorite coffee shop in Rome. It is in my best friends Bibi and Fran back home and the new friends that I made along the way. It is in Discovery Bay, an island off Hong Kong where I lived for a month. 

Of course, some people or things own bigger pieces of our hearts than others. My ex-boyfriend owned a big piece, but I never let him own it all. It would have destroyed our relationship and it would have destroyed me. In order to have successful relationships, you need closeness but you also need separateness and independence. Basically, you better have your own, wonderful life. If your life is a gorgeous chocolate cake, your partner should be the cherry on the top, not the whole chocolate cake.

It is utterly wrong to allow someone to become the center of your whole universe and the source of all your needs. My needs are fulfilled by a lot of different sources, so despite the many tears shed and the pain, deep down his loss did not feel like the end of the world. I chose to see it as a new beginning full of growth, hope, and exciting possibilities. My heart was safe because I had never lost it. So many things and people owned bits and pieces of it.

The loss of him only meant the loss of a piece. In Manila, I have built a life that I hold very dear. I have a job that has given me a lot and a group of friends that I consider family. Oh, and I have the possibility to fly to exotic places and eat scorpions and fried crickets. I will leave Manila in one year but I am not leaving yet. It would break my heart to do it. One of the precious things I had is irremediably lost, but it is for the better and incredible things await.

Ten Things You Gain From A Breakup

Breakups…we’ve all been there. They’re the worst. Literally, the worst. You cry for days, maybe weeks, you eat your way through all the ice cream in the freezer, all while watching sappy rom-coms. Well, at least that’s what breakups seem like, right?

Breakups usually happen for a reason—things just weren’t working. You had different future goals, you couldn’t stand his family, she didn’t support your dreams, you couldn’t trust him, or maybe you were just bored. Regardless of the reason, losing the person you shared your life with is far from easy.

Along with losing a partner, people so often lose themselves while in relationships. Whether losing hope, your friends, or losing sight of what you wanted, being with the wrong person can strip you of the things that make you, you. If the relationship was long-term, or an unhealthy one, coming back from the disaster you once called your “relationship” can be particularly difficult. Or maybe not.

What if breakups were different? What if breakups were actually a good thing? They tend to carry such a negative connotation, but things can be different. What if, rather than focusing on the loss, you focused on what you’ve gained? What if focusing on the positive aspects of a breakup can help you heal? What if focusing on the journey can help you move forward? You can decide that.

Consider these 10 things you can gain throughout your breakup journey.

Perspective

The break-up journey is all about perspective. It’s possible that what you lost wasn’t meant for you, so let it go. Cut your losses and focus on a healthy recovery. Walk away from the doors that have been shut and open your heart to the new opportunities you will be provided.

Freedom

Breakups can be freeing and should be seen as an opportunity to grow—an opportunity to nurture your soul and create an even stronger version of yourself. Take advantage of this solo time, and truly embrace living life for you and only you.

Find Yourself

As I mentioned before, we sometimes get lost in our relationships. Take the time to rediscover who you are. Learn to have fun again. Remember what it’s like to live without the negative emotions that come with an unhealthy relationship. Rediscover your passions, embark on new adventures, and open your heart for the love that you deserve.

Love Yourself

Love comes in all shapes and sizes, but the most valuable love is self-love. Once you can fully, completely, and unconditionally love yourself, maybe then you’ll feel ready to welcome in new love.

Take Your Power Back

One of the things that sometimes gets lost in a relationship is power. This can be the most disheartening loss because along with power comes your voice. Don’t allow anyone to treat you poorly. Demand respect and kindness from others. Remember that you are worthy, and you deserve to be heard. Take your power back.

Lessons Learned

Breakups can be painful, so be sure to value the lessons learned from that pain. Discover what caused that pain, and what red flags were associated with it. Once you have that down, you’ll know how to avoid it in the future. This can save you from a great deal of future heartbreak.

Consider Your Needs

Think of what you want and what you are looking for in a future partner. We learn what we want by trial and error, so consider what it is that you need to be happy and fulfilled in a relationship. At this point, you should definitely know what you don’t want, so take note of that.

Reconnect With Your Loved Ones

Rekindle your friendships. Spend time with your family. Reconnect with your social network and allow them to support you in your time of need. There’s nothing better than having the people you love most by your side to make you smile.

Explore

Take this time to explore yourself and explore the world around you. Relationships can sometimes trap us in a tiny box of unpleasant expectations and monotony. Utilize your post-breakup time to break free of the tedious lifestyle you once lived and seek safe experiences with little to no boundaries. Embrace your freedom and do things that will make you feel alive. The world is your oyster, so take a bite.

Remember Your Strength

If you can make it through a shitty relationship, you can make it through anything. Remember how strong you are. Remember how much you can and have already accomplished. Remember what makes you so incredible and so special. Remember what makes you, you.

Five Things I Learned About Relationships From Filming My Own

Josephine Decker and I fell in love September 2011. Intense, all-consuming, physical, mental, emotional, it was all-encompassing. Down the rabbit hole we went. She was smart, talented, outgoing, motivated, gorgeous, funny, generous—the perfect partner. Losing myself in another person was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. Until it became one of the worst.
 

We had both been dealing with that thorny moment when your love for someone turns into hard reality—and after a few fights, we decided we would deal with the complications arising in our relationship by making a short film. The first time we had sex was a catastrophe. Immediately we were thrust into the conversation of whether or not we were going to be parents. A difficult talk for any couple, it became doubly so when we decided to record it on film. Just days after this painful moment we re-enacted it for the camera. Our close friend and talented cinematographer, Ashley Connor, came to our aid. Shot and edited in two weeks, the short film was called “Madonna Mia Violenta.” It was as rough and raw as the subject matter. At the premiere some loved it, some were grossed out, some cried, and some even referred to it as a “sex tape.” And from there we were hooked.

Still in love and inspired by the success of the short, we decided to keep filming. Deeper and more real were the watchwords. With full hearts, we set about creating a film about a couple that was genuinely in love. In an aggressive and ill-advised form of art therapy, we were soon filming the most heavenly and harrowing parts of our relationship. In the blush of first love, the critic is an unwelcome guest and we certainly learned this as our love crumbled. Whereas most films would end on this note, we continued to film for five long years and uncovered even deeper revelations about who we were as ex-lovers and more importantly, as people.

The film was eventually called “Flames.” Eighty-four minutes long, it took six years and mountains of blood, sweat, and tears. It premiered at Tribeca in 2017 and has shown all over the world.

Six years of constant editing and reexamination of my character defects. Cutting, cutting, cutting through hundreds of hours of footage. It was shameful to watch myself being a horrible person, being a mediocre human, being just another schmuck for so many years. Editing this film changed not only the way I view myself, but also how I act in the world. 

I’ll be frank, I cheated on Josephine. It was a one-night-stand with an ex-girlfriend. The dissolution of trust that followed afterward was one of the main factors that lead to our relationship deteriorating. Since our breakup, Josephine and I have gone on to be in long-term happy relationships. I have been with my girlfriend for over 5 years. The excruciating process of making “Flames” was one I would never repeat, but it has made me a better friend and partner to my current girlfriend. I’m definitely not the best boyfriend in the world, but I try on a daily basis not to be the worst either.

Here are five takeaways I have learned in those five years.

1. Listen To Her

When my girlfriend says something, even if I’m busy, I take a moment, turn, face her, and listen. If I’m not present, if I’m trying to talk over her, if I’m distracted, then how can I hope to have a quality relationship? I was a horrible listener with Josephine. I have tried hard to change that in my current relationship.

2. Talk When It’s My Turn

After listening and doing my best to understand her point, then it is my moment. I have a responsibility to share what is really going on with me. When I tell her my feelings, then we can discuss the roots of where they come from. After that, it becomes intimate, collaborative, and even fun!

3. Therapy Works

I was skeptical at first. I didn’t see why we had to pay someone to help us talk to each other when we could just sit down and do it ourselves. Through gentle persuasion, I was shown that there was much I had to learn about communication. My girlfriend and I have been to a few different therapists over the years and they have helped us immensely.

4. Include Her

One of the hardest things about making “Flames” was staying in my current relationship while working with Josephine. I give my girlfriend an enormous amount of credit for sticking by me while I worked through my issues with my ex. This is more than anyone should ask of their partner, but courageously, she hung in there and we are better for it. We have co-written a feature script together called “Lean” and will be shooting it this year. Our partnership is stronger when we include each other in our projects. I won’t be working on a film without her ever again.

5. Gifts

Shoes! Purses! Jewels! Who doesn’t love the finery of life!? But more importantly, I have learned to try to think of what she really wants. Often a gift doesn’t mean a new piece for her wardrobe, but rather a trip to a cat cafe, reading her a bedtime story, or going for a romantic dinner. Gifts of time and experience tend to be the most appreciated. When I put my own agenda aside and try to truly consider what would make her happy, I find that it gives me greater joy to see her delight.

Like I said, I’m not a perfect boyfriend, but because of “Flames”, I’m a hell of a lot better today than I was then.

An Open Letter To The Boy Who Cheated

I want to start by saying that I love you so much. Being with you has been one of the greatest adventures of my life and I will always hold you in my heart.

I’m sorry that things didn’t work out the way we wanted them to. We both tried our best, but at the end of the day, trust was broken and there really isn’t much we can do. I hope you know that despite everything, I don’t regret being with you, nor do I regret giving you a second chance after what you did.

I know you meant it when you said you were sorry and I know you tried your best to make things right. I truly appreciate your effort. I am so honored to have been a part of your life at all. You gave me so much even when you had little to give. You were patient and kind and never stopped trying to make me happy. You’ve taught me to be a better, more understanding, and more open minded person. You gave me a love that I will always remember and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I know I wasn’t always easy to be with. I have a tendency to get emotional and jealous and insecure, but you stuck with me anyway. I’m sorry if I ever did anything to hurt you or make you believe that I didn’t love you with everything I had. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and I’m sorry if I wasn’t always the best at showing it. Maybe that’s why you did what you did. You must have suffered some sort of discontent or else you wouldn’t have felt it necessary to cheat.

I shared my family, my friends, and my home with you. I shared my whole self with you. I let you see me when I was vulnerable and scared and I let my walls down for you. Still, you chose someone else over me. I wanted so badly to be angry with you because I thought it would make it easier for me to leave, but in all honesty, I’m not angry. Although, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt. You hurt me in a way I would never want anyone else to experience. But I forgive you. And I will always care about you. However, I will always have it in the back of my mind that I was not good enough, and I sincerely hope that one day you will find someone who is.

As much as I would love to work things out, I could never subject you to a life with someone you are not fully content with. You deserve to be with someone you can choose everyday–not just when things are easy. You deserve to be with someone you can be honest with when you have a problem instead of seeking comfort in someone else. Clearly, I am not that person.

And I’m sure you can understand that I deserve better, too. I deserve someone who will fight for me. Someone who will choose me and be loyal to me regardless of the hardships we may face in our relationship. I deserve to have a peace of mind in knowing that my partner will not betray my trust. Thinking about a future without you absolutely breaks my heart. We’ve been through so much together. Zero to 100, we used to say.

Through the ups and downs and everything in between. Seeing you when you had nothing and being there through all your victories showed me what an incredibly hard working individual you are and I am so proud of how far you’ve come. Still, it hurts knowing that I will not be around to share in your success. It hurts knowing that someone else will be there pushing you forward and helping you along the way. But everyone who enters your life has a purpose in it and I guess I must have already served mine.

So for now, I think I need to let you go. You have such big things ahead of you and I know you will get far. It’s not fair for me to hold you here while I try to figure out what I need. I know you can’t be my friend for obvious reasons, and though it hurts me to not have you around, I need to respect the fact that you need time and space. Maybe I do, too. Again, I want you to know that I am not angry or bitter. I still love you very much and I am so thankful for all of our little adventures. I hope that one day we can come to a point where neither of us is hurting and we can truly be friends.

Until then, I wish you the best. You’re in my heart.

More Advice:

Love Is Like A Plant Episode: Why We Cheat + What To Do About It

Ask Stef: My Ex (Who Cheated On Me) Wants To Get Coffee. Should I Go?

Seven Alternative Ways To Mend A Broken Heart

If you feel like you’ve tried just about everything to heal, it can be frustrating. But don’t give up! We’ve put together a list of unique and alternative ways to mend a broken heart.

Flower Mandalas Use

1. Flower Mandalas

Buddhist monks use mandalas as a way to practice non-attachment. The idea is to create mandalas with intention and care, and then mindfully destroy them to symbolize letting go.

Sage Use

2. Burning Sage

Sage burning is one of the oldest methods to cleanse a person or space. The Latin word for sage, ‘Salvia,’ derives from the word ‘to heal.’ You can burn sage in your home or any other place in need of a good cleanse.  Before lighting the sage, take a moment to think deeply about what you want to heal and how you want to feel after.

Moon Use

3. New Moon Ceremony

A New Moon marks the beginning of a new cycle and a fresh start. It’s a perfect time to envision the positive energy you want to bring into your life. You can do this alone or with friends. If you do this with friends, you magnify the power of your intentions and strengthen your network of support.

Aromatherapy Use

4. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is great for treating stress and anxiety. You can incorporate aromatherapy into your skincare routine or enjoy it in a relaxing bath.

Ved Use

5. Ayurvedic Medicine

In the Ayurvedic tradition, the belief is that illness is a state of imbalance within the body’s systems. That imbalance can be remedied by reading the pulse and observing the tongue. A combination of nutrition counseling, massage, natural medications, meditation is used to address physical and emotional ailments. The tradition has been practiced for over 5,000 years in India.

Feng Shui Use

6. Feng Shui

Feng shui is the ancient Chinese practice of arranging the home or work environment to promote health, happiness, and prosperity. Whether it’s the position of your bed or the color of your wall, feng shui is used to determine the best way to promote positive energy.

Reiki Use

7. Reiki

Reiki is an ancient Tibetan healing system where a practitioner carries out light hand placements to channel healing energy. It’s commonly used to treat emotional and mental distress as well as chronic and acute physical pain.

We hope these unique ways of healing help you mend!

Letter From A Mender: An Apology Letter To Myself

You are an amazing, beautiful soul inside and out and there is literally no one else in the world like you. You light up a room with your genuine smile. You make heads turn when you walk into a room with your subtle beauty and grace. People are attracted to your light and kindness because they know it’s authentic. People are drawn to your eyes because you see the best in everyone…you see the depths of their soul with no judgment; only empathy, compassion and love and they know they are safe with you. People are drawn to your lips because you speak words of truth and wisdom far beyond your years. People are drawn to your mind because you have a curiosity and hunger for knowledge and can have deep, intelligent, soul-searching conversations without fear of judgment. People are drawn to your body because they see the strength and discipline you have instilled from years of yoga, hiking, and living an active lifestyle (and let’s be honest, you have great genes too).

Most importantly, people are drawn to your heart because you have a rare one and are an empath through and through. You love unconditionally and resiliently. You choose to love each and every day, even when others don’t reciprocate. You feel and acknowledge all your emotions fully and deeply. You aren’t afraid to be vulnerable because you are courageous. You love with an unapologetic fervor like you’ve never been hurt before. You try your hardest to bestow empathy, compassion, and forgiveness upon those who have wronged you because you don’t harbor ill will against anyone. You radiate with positivity despite the demons you battle in your head because you know that you are not your thoughts. You are self-aware and acknowledge that you are a work in progress and forever on a path of self-discovery. You have a hunger and zest for life that is refreshing and contagious.

I apologize for letting other people get in the way of your greatness and your dreams because their dreams were too small. For dimming your light because their light was but a shadow. For stunting your growth because they were lost. For holding you back from your full potential and living your best life because they weren’t ready. For stealing your joy because they were unhappy with themselves. For discounting your emotions and dismissing your feelings because they weren’t emotionally available. For not appreciating you in all your beauty and glory. For not treasuring you for the rare jewel that you are. For not reciprocating the love that you so freely and deeply gave. For making you feel foolish when you were trying to be silly and have fun. For making you question your self-worth. For filling your mind with self-doubt and even hatred towards yourself. For making you feel like you were not enough (good enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, fun enough, etc.). For making you feel like you were not whole in and of yourself.

You didn’t deserve any of this, and for that, I’m so sorry for the pain you are going through. You didn’t deserve any of this because they didn’t deserve you. But this is the world we live in and these are the lessons life teaches you to prepare you and mold you to be your best self. Take heart because there are people who see beyond the walls you’ve built up to protect the beauty and innocence of your soul. Lean on them for support for they will help you find yourself again.

Some people come into your life because they see in you that which they lack in themselves. And maybe they needed you more at that very point in their lives than you will ever know…to teach them what love is and how deep it can be. So you give and they take. And once they’re done taking, you are left depleted…an unrecognizable shell of your former self, so they give the very love they took from you to someone else. But you are a warrior, a survivor. You are resilient. And you will be reminded again of your greatness and that no one else is more deserving of your love than yourself. So you will fill up once again what so many have taken from you, and you will be whole.

Five Ways I’m Making It Through The Holidays Post-Breakup

Christmas is a magical time. It’s when loved ones come together to enjoy the merriment and people are actually happy, although this year has been a little different for me.

A few weeks before the holiday season began, my relationship came to an end. It’s been a heartbreaking yet curious experience. While people are putting up Christmas trees and glugging down mulled wine, I’ve been starting a new chapter, and trying to not act like a Scrooge.

At first, I was anxious and apprehensive. Who’s going to help me pick out those awkward Christmas jumpers? What am I going to tell people at every Christmas event? Who am going to kiss at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve? I turned my questions to other people. Are others going through the same ordeal I am? If they are, how can I help them?

I found solace in researching the science behind breakups. It turns out that it’s totally normal for relationships to end at this time of year. Yes, those Sam Smith songs on the radio are no coincidence, my friend. In fact, this is this the season for heartbreak. Facebook status data suggests that this is the season you are most likely to see a major peak in breakups.

Why? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s the optimum time to draw strength from the people around you, or with the new year around the corner, maybe it’s a chance for a fresh start.

Whatever the reason, if you’re in this group you’re not alone. You are in good company. You are going to make it through the next few months, Christmas, and the new year!

It’s important to acknowledge that this holiday season will be different, but it’s an opportunity for you to form new traditions and memories. If you find yourself stuck, here are five ideas that may give you some comfort.

1. Focus On Giving

You may find that you have more time on your hands over the next few months. Your attention is the best gift you can give someone during the holiday season. Whether it’s volunteering at the local homeless shelter or helping an elderly person pack their shopping bag, many people could use a friendly shoulder to lean on at this time of year. Be that person and watch what starts to happen to your holiday spirit. I’ve found comfort in helping those in need by offering my time at a local shelter that serves hot meals to people who are less fortunate. It’s a small gesture but has the potential to make a big impact on someone’s life.

2. Be Festive

Smile. Bake pies to take to work. Write holiday cards. Wear silly jumpers. Get into the season. Don’t wait around for the season to get into you. Heck, I took 200 homemade samosas to work and the response was so uplifting.

3. Treat Yourself

Whether you’ve been wearing the same broken shoe for months and need to replace it, or if you want to enroll in that cooking class that starts in the new year, do it and do it now. You are worth every penny. There’s no time like the holiday season for you to do so.

4. Reconnect With Family & Friends

Your family isn’t perfect but their love and support are unconditional. Nothing else matters besides love. Go through old photo albums and relive funny memories with them. Enjoy the time you have with them because who knows when you’ll get busy again. I’ve been going to a lot of musicals with my family. It seems as though it’s the new tradition this holiday season – I hope it sticks!

5. Plan Ahead

However tempting it may be, don’t isolate yourself. Make plans for the days ahead. It’s crucial that you do this proactively. Take some time to think about what you want to do and who you want to do it with. Make a list. It’s such a gratifying process.

Remember, you have the unique opportunity to shift your focus to the people you care about, and most importantly, who care about you. Your happiness is the only thing worth fighting for.

Where Does The Love Go When You Break Up?

The heartbroken aren’t suffering from a disease that can’t be cured — the heartbroken are the strongest most beautiful misunderstood group. They have loved and lost, been alone and grown.

They search for many answers, especially: “Where does our love go when we break up?” — humans crave closure. Love doesn’t go away. It doesn’t have feet. It can’t run. Those feelings created, molded for that one person,  don’t disappear overnight. They seem to be left lingering in the air — nowhere to go. The love is left in a directionless way hoping to find its way back to its original owners, but more often it doesn’t make it and you are left heartbroken — feeling lost, wandering to get back home.

You invested time, emotion & energy into this soul. But remember there is a bond between you and this person that is unique, that is unlike anyone else — and that love will always be there, not just in you, but in them as well.

What if they have moved on you might ask? You feel hurt, you feel like this person must be better than you, you start to tear yourself apart piece by piece. Let me stop your self-abuse right now. No one can compete with the love you two had.

That new person who you think replaced you — didn’t. You can’t be replaced; there will always be only one you. They might try to replicate what you two had, but there is only one original Starry Night and you’ll always be the masterpiece he foolishly left behind.

Don’t think that when he hears that song you sung in the car together or smells that perfume you used to wear, or finds those letters you gave that their heart doesn’t flutter, that their mind doesn’t race back to your smile, to all the jokes and adventures you went on — or even simpler when they look at nature and see a sunflower that they don’t think of how you radiated in their eyes — they do.

You are missed, just as you are missing them.

Believe and know that you are enough. Love lost is not love failed. I look at you and I don’t see someone heartbroken, or obsessed. I see someone who loves selflessly and that’s the most breathtaking love from the purest soul. You put someone first before yourself. But now it’s your turn to tuck that love into the back of your heart and move forward. I know you’re in pain, I know you love them and guess what? They love you too.

Sometimes we selfishly break each other because time wasn’t on our side, or maybe there is another complicated reason for the way your heart broke.

Whatever happened, remember you are loved, you are beautiful, inside and out — keep that heart on your sleeve. Go live, really live. There is so much to see in this world than just those eyes you crave.

You’ll find a new love that surpasses the one who broke you.

Finding a soulmate is beautiful but finding yourself is life changing.

Perhaps loving someone has nothing to do with being with them forever, but caring about them forever. A Selfless love.

And remember if someone asks: “Where does love go when you break up?” I say the relationship, the friendship might end, but true love never dies, never leaves. It stays living underneath it all.

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.

To The Girl Who Needs To Fall Back In Love With Herself

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” ― John Lennon

You’re going to be more than okay.

It’s very normal to abandon yourself in a toxic love in the effort to keep the relationship. And that’s usually when we start to fall out of love with ourselves. When this happens we hand over our whole self-worth and significance to another person, and before we know it our mood and happiness becomes entirely dependent on them.

When that relationship ends we don’t know how to live, let alone how to be happy without them. The truth is you’re going to be more than okay – there is so much light and happiness ahead if you chose to let go, and fall back in love with yourself.

Stop fighting the old.

Don’t try to understand why the person did what they did. You can spend years analyzing and still never know. Why they did it is not important. What’s important is the right now. The new.

Trying to fight the old is a battle you will never win because your wasting all your energy that you can be using to build the new, to innovate the life you actually want to live.

Refuse to entertain your old pain.

The pain I felt when my ex betrayed me will always be a part of me because it shaped me and taught me much more than a happily ever after ever could.

Some love isn’t the kind that results in the fusing of two lives into one, but instead can give you new life, a life that has more love than you have ever seen. Understand that some love is meant to change your life rather than give you someone to grow old with.

Learn to let go.

You cannot move forward with your life with one foot on the brakes. Sometimes we don’t want to let go of our pain because it’s the only thing still attaching us to our ex – let go of your pain and you let go of our ex, sometimes we’re not ready for that.

I held on to the hurt for a long time. But the energy it took to hang on to the past was holding me back from living my life fully. When your heart is broken open, new light gets in. Embrace it.

Forgive.

I know that heartbreak feels like a stab wound to the heart, but understand that someone can be madly in love with you and still not be ready. Forgive them. Someone’s past, their demons, whatever the reason is, some people are not ready for love and happiness and will push you away.

Understand that they haven’t done the work to be ready and you cannot convince or inspire anyone to do the work, you are only responsible for yourself.

Love them from afar.

When someone touches your heart, they will infinitely be there. But when your mood became entirely dependent on them, it becomes a toxic relationship and you lose the love for yourself. Don’t be frustrated if you still love them, just be sure to love them from afar.

Understand your worth.

The first step to falling back in love with yourself is understanding what you are and are not willing to compromise on. Never abandon yourself in the effort to keep someone or something.

Don’t regret anything.

Mistakes are inevitable in a life worth living. As long as you learn from them, mistakes are very important. They teach you exactly what you want and who you want to be.

Maybe you fought with your ex too much, maybe you argued with them at inopportune times. But your anger was fueled by your passion and emotions for them. You cared. You loved them. Don’t regret it.

All that pain and frustration shaped you.

You cried, you laughed, you were alive, and that changed your life. All that pain produced understandings that have created a new level of living.

You now have a chance to be happier than you have ever been before – you can realize everything that is holding you back and create a life that you want to live.

Learn to love your edges.

You loved your ex’s edges, all their roughness. Their imperfections were perfect to you. Why can’t you do that for yourself? There’s nothing you loved more than holding their hand and whispering words of reassurance in their ear, because you knew they weren’t broken, they were just bent. Do that for yourself. Love those gory bits, grow into your own wrongness.

Crave more from yourself.

You confronted your ex a lot. You craved more from them – you had opinions and big dreams for the future, you wanted the best for them.

You never let them get away with slacking on their talents – do the same for yourself. There is a more extraordinary love out there that you would never know if it didn’t end it with the last one. But the extraordinary has to start with you – fall back in love with yourself and let everybody else come searching for you.

The Trauma Of This Breakup Has Been A Gift

I was standing at the local lumber yard the other day waiting to order a chopped up 1 x 4 and could not ignore the heightening sense of insecurity. It wasn’t the upcoming lumber order; I don’t think anyone thought I worked in construction. It was just me. Standing there. A single woman embarking on her own household project to build some shelves.

I have been wading around lately in a lot of emotions only now seeing the light of day after my breakup. Lots of anger, at my ex, but also at myself for staying in a relationship that had stopped being kind to me years before. And lots of inspecting. A memory will come up or a thought and I will stop and say, “well that’s interesting. I am feeling really pissed right now when I think about that. I wonder why…” or “That comment reminds me of the way I felt when I was little. What is that about?” It is why I feel so strongly about holding off on starting to date again. This feels like the meat of it. The work that hopefully will help guide me toward a healthier relationship in the future.

Which takes us back to the lumber yard. Although my fiercely independent self is slightly ashamed to admit it, there was something about being in a relationship that made me feel complete. It made me feel enough. Whole. Which is likely why I stayed for as long as I did. Because to let go of that relationship meant to let go of my wholeness. This might explain why there was always an unease at being single in the past. A rush to find someone and be okay. Even if I was alone in line, there was someone at home and that was pacifying.

The trauma of this breakup has been a gift, really. It has allowed me to see how much of myself was hiding behind my skirt, afraid to come out and take up space. And finally when I was not performing for the sake of peace in the home, or shrinking to fit into the miniature space left over for me in the relationship, I got a glimpse at what had been waiting. And she is awesome.

I have a photo on my fridge of me from my second grade photo day. It reminds me how much of that second grader is still inside me and still waiting for the safety and assurance that didn’t come when I was young. I think somewhere along the line I never learned that I was wonderful, just as I was. The message got skewed and my little brain got only, “perform and be rewarded” or “you’re dramatic and often too much, but sometimes great.” 

The shipwreck of my former relationship continues to offer up lots of knowledge amidst the wreckage. And it’s helpful to stay mindful of the often untrue messages written within. For example, “You don’t know HOW to build shelves.” And the feeling that if ONLY I was dating someone he would be doing this. But the shelves were measured, built and painted, by my two hands alone. They hold my tea and spices and a growing sense that I am bigger than the little box I have tried to fit myself in to qualify as girlfriend material. That there is a beautiful, welcoming world out there for all of me.

How I Deal With The Spiral Of Post-Divorce Insomnia

My insomnia started the day my husband moved out of our apartment. Even though technically we were still together, with plans to see a therapist to get us back on track, it hit me hard. 

From the moment he was no longer sleeping next to me I became “haunted.” I am not sure what the possession is that has taken over me, but it’s been to some degree every night for over a year now. I know it to be a year because the message that we were over hit me on his birthday, when he told me not to see him and celebrate, which was a year ago.

I have researched and tried every type of way to relieve it: a fulfilling job, long hour days, three hours of mixed martial arts training five days a week, heavy partying, tea, meditation, therapy, hypnosis, zzzquil, melatonin, valerian root and weighted blankets. Some of these items create a level of relief when mixed together in different concoctions, others do nothing.

There is no happy, fluffy, rainbow way to have insomnia. It feels like a type of mental possession. It’s a beast. Those who don’t have it cannot comprehend, and those who do have it completely understand. I have tried over and over again to explain what it feels like in the deepest moments of the spiral – my tireless mind and lonely body – but nothing really has captured it until this piece. 

It’s not a poem or sonnet. It’s not a short story or ramble It’s the exact flow of thoughts in my head written out as I think of them. I literally just wrote the order of everything popping into my head in hopes of using it to examine myself, but also to reach out to others who might feel alone. It’s important because the insomnia cycle is the loneliest moment in the world, where you feel crazy and desperately want out. Here is what I wrote:

Today is the date
Today is the date
Today is the date
Today is the date
This is repeating in my head
Today is the date
Today is the date
It’s 12:23am and I can’t forget this date
It’s still half my passwords and such
Today is the date
Today is the date
The one who completed my heart was born
I’m wishing you a happy birthday alone in a whisper
Today is the date
Today is the date
I should be showering you with glorious love and presents
Around 5 years of marriage but now I’m so far from you
Today is the date
Today is the date
A year ago you ended everything
And you have no clue how much I loved you
Today is the date
Today is the date
Last time you told me you weren’t worth seeing
But I was ready to make the big drive down with your gift
Today is the date
Today is the date
I’ll think of you quietly as I walk down new sidewalks
And try not to remember our divorce appointment coming up
Today is the date
Today is the date
I need to decide what to do about you now
Today is the date

When you are in this spiral, do something…anything. Not moving is the worst thing you can do. When it starts, like food poisoning, you know that you have a few more hours to go, but embrace it. Know that it will end. Be prepared. Self medicate with SOMETHING! Take crayons and draw your favorite movie character. Try five push ups, even if that’s all you can do, great. 

You need to do something, because again, like food poisoning, when you eat dry crackers it gets a little worse, but then it gets a heck of a lot better. Same for insomnia. Doing five push ups makes you feel hopeless and silly, but wow, you expelled a little bit of energy positively and stopped feeding the beast. Great again.

Also prevention is better than a cure. I recommend making up a bedtime concoction of things. I take a sleep aid pill around 8/8:30pm, walk into a room with an already made bed, play some bedtime stories. I alternate between the Sleep With Me Podcast or a free sleep guided meditation. To top it off, I pull up a security blanket to hold or cuddle, and when it gets colder out, a weighted blanket. Do not be embarrassed by your ritual. You are the most important person, and if something works for you, then it’s perfect.

Mend is a great community, and I want to say thank you to the entire team involved and for allowing me to give back after all you have given to me.

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. 

How Heartbreak Brought Me Home To Myself, Inch By Inch

I wake up at seven fifteen every morning no matter when I go to sleep at night. A light turns on inside of me and I cannot ignore it. I cannot roll over. I cannot not think about everything. 

I get up and go on walks before anyone else is awake, slip out the front door and for July it’s cold and wet and strange in California. 

Early morning hours do not feel real. I talk to myself and work out the kinks and notice people smoking early cigarettes in the alleyway behind their homes. I feel like I am traveling on a plane of time parallel to reality. I am inch by inch crawling out of a deep grave.

California reminds me of someone I once was and someone I once wanted to be. But I don’t really know her anymore. They say you can never go home again, but I don’t know if that’s true. She is always here for me. 

A few blocks from the house I find a park and run up and down the stairs until I almost throw up and that feels good and right. When I was little my mother used to take me to this park, she’d chase me up these stairs and I have intense memories of how large everything felt then.

I read an essay this morning that I’d written shortly after we met about letting people go and understanding the passage of time. It’s like I knew more back then and learned less as the months peeled away. 

It’s strange how happiness and safety can alter our perception of reality, and more so how we are led to believe they could be permanent. You get glitter in your eyes and can’t see straight sometimes.

It was raining this morning when I left the house and I could catch my reflection beside palm trees in the puddles near the park. I don’t always recognize myself anymore but it’s nice to be reminded we are made up of things like limbs and heartbeats and hard stares. 

I pray at night now which I never did much of before unless someone I loved was dying. I feel like I’ve been living closer to the edges of myself than ever before, testing to see where the ground wears out. Inch by inch.

I Built A Home For Two And Then We Broke Up

A few years ago, I met a man who ended up changing my life in ways I never could have imagined. The more time we spent together, the more I got hooked, all without even realizing it. It was as if one day I woke up and my physical body craved the mere presence of his. Just his company sent me into happiness-overload. 

He was the only man, who I saw romantically, who created a desire within myself for self-improvement. His love for what he did made me want to better myself. I wanted to be impressive. For myself. And for him. I remember wanting so badly to be amazing in all facets so he would fall head-over-heels for me.

Fueled by that desire, I packed up my belongings and moved out of my parent’s home. I wanted to show him that I was an independent woman who could support herself. I wanted to show him how sexy I was by being able to hold my own. While unloading supplies in my new kitchen, I fantasized about the meals I would cook him, despite the fact that I abhorred cooking. I even went so far as to purchase the most adorable apron I could find. I left specifically chosen nooks in my home empty, leaving those spaces reserved for him to one day add his own touches. I wanted him to make my home just as much his as it was mine. Everything I did, I did for him.

And things were great while they lasted. I loved him. My only fault was not telling him. I was the most selfless of lovers, but I loved in an inauthentic way; never opening up meant I never had to let myself become vulnerable. We never talked about our feelings or what intentions we had for one another. I enjoyed his company so much and I didn’t want to rock the boat by looking too interested or too available. I didn’t want him to feel as if the chase was over. So instead I played it cool, even a little cold, so that I wouldn’t blow my cover. So that he wouldn’t know just how exquisite I thought he was. 

One week before my birthday, we got into an argument. We had been dating each other for over a year and I was bothered about not having an official title. I brought the concern up while we were being playful, laying in bed, and his reaction was not what I had expected. With eyes rolled and evidently annoyed, he shut down my proposal. “I hate titles Jessica. I don’t see anyone but you. I’m a good guy. I don’t do anything. Titles complicate things.” His adamance for not being boyfriend and girlfriend confused me. Shouldn’t he want to call me his girlfriend? Isn’t he proud of me? Am I wasting my time? Am I getting played by the man I love? I should have confronted him and asked these questions, but I was afraid of them being true so I suppressed my feelings of disappointment and betrayal and remained silent. He assured me I’d feel better after dinner. At the restaurant, we ordered for one because I didn’t have an appetite. On our way back to the car, he stopped me in my tracks and hugged me long and hard, but I was already detached by then and his touch left me devoid of feelings.

The painful truth was that I wanted to be with him, but his intention was to remain casual. I felt like nothing more than a glorified booty call. While he slept that night, I laid wide-eyed, knowing I had to take some type of action. I got dressed and left his house without saying goodbye or kissing his forehead as I always did before leaving. My disappointment had turned into anger and I didn’t know how to handle the situation other than in a passive-aggressive way. On my way home, I remember feeling as if I hated him. Before falling asleep, I was relieved to be in my own bed and glad to be away from him. I slept peacefully, feeling triumphant even. 

And the next morning, he never came after me. He never did. Not one call. Not even a birthday wish. He quickly moved on and I made the decision that I was not going to let that kill me despite the deep pain I felt. I was to move on with my life and hoped that one day I would be able to look back at my time with him as a period of growth instead of one of regret.

I suddenly found myself home alone. I no longer had him around to share my dinners and nights with. The home I had built for him – for us – was now just mine. And instead of a home, it felt more like a parasite, sucking the life out of me. I thought that he would be the great love of my life, but my bare walls reminded me that I was wrong. Every day I woke to him not by my side, I’d cry. I’d cry that loud, ugly-faced cry. I was worried for myself and prayed that the day I was able to find peace would come quickly. Shortly after, the tears would dry, I would get out of bed and carry on with my day.

Concerned about my wellbeing, my dearest of friends forced me to go with her to yoga, in the hopes I’d find solace in the practice, or that it would take my mind off of my heartbreak. One day at the end of a rather emotional yoga class, while laying in savasana, my teacher instructed that everyone rest their palms up for receiving. She asked that we imagine that our palms were cups being filled with grace sprinkling down from all around us and then said, “Whatever the present is, accept it as if you had chosen it.” I nearly cried out loud with desperation. How was I to believe that all the pain I was enduring from his absence was what I wanted? How was I to believe that this was happening for me and not to me? How was I going to end up a stronger person? Impossible, I initially thought. 

And then a switched turned on: this heartbreak wasn’t going anywhere. I could either sulk in sadness or I could accept it and trust that things will work out – that things will be better. I had never been a keen believer in the idea of fate, but suddenly I found myself hoping that maybe this was all supposed to happen. Maybe there was a reason for everything.

I’m always amazed by the ways in which the body can heal. Whether it be a deep gash or burn or tear, the body, given enough time, heals itself. I believe that goes for our minds as well. And in order for my emotional health to improve, I began to take care of it. I had been trying so hard to win the affection of another, I had ignored myself. I didn’t even know myself. 

It took me going through that very low low to realize that I needed to care for myself. So with the same adoration and attention I had given him, I began to bestow care upon myself. And the first step was to make my home mine. I got rid of my old bedding and went on a home goods shopping spree. I added my own decor and made my space lively. I added more books to my shelves. Fresh flowers. Candles. I filled in the empty spaces I had left for him. That apron, tag still attached, is collecting dust who knows where. I still don’t cook. I upgraded my sound system and sometimes, at night, I turn up the music and have a dance party of my own. And that makes me happy. I’ve finally welcomed myself home with very loving arms.

Survival Mode And Back to Work

Today I went back to work. I held in my tears until lunch, after four excruciatingly long hours. Progress. Today I recognized what I had lost in this relationship – the pride in being me, in being sexy and strong. I am excited to rediscover these things.

Last night he and I snuggled. We have every night since we broke up. We spend the days awkwardly dancing around each other, trying to orient this new half-dead relationship where we are no longer a team. We use first names now, don’t call each other during the day, don’t eat dinner together. But at night we hold each other for dear life. 

It is the clinging that gets me, that shatters the composure. Because it just makes it so clear that we are terrified. That this is one final piece that we will have to let go of. He is looking for a new place and I recognize that he has to go, that this tip-toeing we’re doing is not helping the healing process, that we’re in a holding pattern. But the sad, fearful side of me is okay with that, wants to fill whatever tank there may be to get me through the loneliest of upcoming nights. 

Last night I woke up in the night and just stared at his arm wrapped around me. I stared at his hand and fingernails and the papery texture of his skin alit in the moonlight. I believe I was trying to burn it into my memory, making myself believe that it was real for so long and in a short amount of time, will be no longer. 

Two days ago every single thing made me cry. No dinners together, no drives, no trips to the co-op, no backup with my family, no laughing and silliness and support. No future. Today those are all there, in a lower frequency in the background. Now it is just ALONE. That is the word that brings the tears. Alone in my bed, alone in the apartment, alone in my stories, alone in my dinners, alone in my life. No more papery skin and protection throughout the night. Just me. With all the fears and worries. That is where I am. I don’t know if I weigh the beauty of having him for a few more days, just so I can sleep, just so I can pretend enough to let his arms feel like they always have and not a vestige of a fading relationship, against what this all will be like when he is gone, if it will be worth it.

Know This: A Broken Heart Is an Open Heart

“A broken heart is not the same as sadness. Sadness occurs when the heart is stone cold and lifeless. On the contrary, there is an unbelievable amount of vitality in a broken heart.” -Elizabeth Lesser

“I love you but I’m not in love with you” was the line my first boyfriend used when he broke up with me. I was twenty-two.

We were only together six months but I cried over him for a solid year, thinking a few parallel thoughts: “If I were thinner and prettier he would’ve been in love with me,“ “How could he not be in love with me, I’m HILARIOUS,” and “I’m never doing this love thing again. It hurts way too much.”

Even letting myself fall in love was a big deal. I’d always kept people at a distance—friends and family included—because I didn’t want to be that vulnerable and I didn’t want to feel that much.

Letting people in meant they might see things they didn’t like or see the things about me that I didn’t like. Being that open left way too much up to chance. I much preferred to control the situation.

And so, when I let myself fall in love for the first time, I did it with strong boundaries drawn. I monitored the nice things I did for him to make sure I wasn’t going overboard. I checked in with myself frequently to make sure I wasn’t “losing myself” and was careful not to give him “too many” compliments.

At the time, I thought my approach was very mature. I wasn’t going to be one of those girls who loses her mind and goes gaga for some undeserving dude.

I would let myself love him, just not too much.

Looking back now, I was in full-blown defensive mode driven by a deep need to protect my heart from any harm. I’m a mighty deep feeler and, like most humans, quite a sensitive soul, so loving someone just felt like way too much feeling for my delicate system to handle.

A few years later I met my now ex-husband. He was kind and generous and, as my grandmother said, “He felt like an old shoe.” And so again, I let myself fall in love. A logical, rational, “we make sense together” kind of love.

I was better with the compliments and did my best to love him through the little things. A home cooked meal, a hug and kiss every night when he walked in the door, a risotto tartlet from the farmer’s market to show I was thinking about him.

And yet, I didn’t let him in in. I chose him because he was safe to love. I chose him because he would never ask for my whole heart, for my fullest capacity to love. He had no need to see the deeper, darker parts of me that were desperately seeking light, and I had zero interest in showing him.

At the time, I really thought I loved him as much as I could. And I did, for the time and place we shared together. I loved him more than I had ever loved anyone, which felt enormous and vulnerable.

I’d often have this recurring nightmare where something would happen to him and I’d be left all alone, bereft and broken. I was terrified by the dream, scared out of my mind not by the thought of losing him but by having to feel bereft and broken.

And then one day, he left. And my heart, for the first time in my life, broke open and all I could do was feel.

In the weeks and months following our separation, my heartbreak brought me face to face with more pain and more love than I had ever known.

At times I thought I might break under the strain of their combined weight.

While shedding horizontal tears that ricocheted off my glasses and ran down my face, as I watched my marriage and home crumble before me, I was able to muster more love for myself and for my pain than I ever could have, for either of us, during our marriage.

When he left, the wall around my heart came tumbling down. The ice melted off the inner chambers of my soul. The doors to my ability to love swung open, inviting me to feel into those tender places so long ignored.

It is true. I did not love my ex-husband to my fullest capacity because up until my heart broke open, I could not love myself to such capacity.

I was too busy protecting myself from my pain, my needs, his pain, his needs that I walked right past the love that is possible between two people when they open their hearts to one another.

Know this: A broken heart is an open heart.

It is in the breaking, when our hearts are peeled back on themselves, that our truths have passage to come in and out.

If we’re lucky, our hearts will break over and over again to reveal new ways of being, of thinking, and of loving.

Each break allows our hearts to heal bigger than the time before.

Yes, there is pain every time we’re cracked open. Immeasurable pain. And with each break, each sting of pain, our hearts are able to expand and strengthen our capacity to love more and more and more.

What To Read After Your Breakup: The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements is a wisdom-filled book that is basically a prescription for how to live your best life and have healthy, harmonious relationships. It’s also a great resource if you’re struggling to walk away from a relationship where you’re not being treated with the love and respect you deserve.

Written by Don Miguel Ruiz, the insights that he shares in this book come from the ancient Toltec wisdom of the native people of Southern Mexico. The Toltec were said to be ‘people of knowledge’ including scientists and artists who created a society to explore and conserve the traditional spiritual knowledge and practices of their ancestors.

Here are the Four Agreements:

Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t make assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

These four codes really get to the heart of many emotional struggles we face on a daily basis and behaviors that seem impossible to break. But Ruiz writes in such a profound yet simple way that every other page seems to create a huge “aha” moment. 

When it comes to relationships particularly, ‘don’t take anything personally’ and ‘don’t make assumptions’ are great agreements to pay particular attention to. So often in love, dating and relationships we place so much emphasis on what people think of us and their opinions – this applies to life in general too, of course, and can feel incredibly emotionally debilitating.

Not making assumptions is also a transformative agreement because it shows you how and why communication is the key to successful relationships and being able to express what you need and want can ultimately help to eliminate heartbreak, confusion and drama.

The following quote is simple but yet immensely powerful when it comes to healing from a relationship that isn’t right for you:

“If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.”

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below if you’re struggling in this type of relationship. Does this quote give you strength to walk away?

A Letter From My Inner Voice To My Ex

I love you so much.

I spent what feels like a lifetime with you. You will always be more than just a blip on the radar that is my life. I don’t actually remember life before you. But as hard as it is to say goodbye, I know deep deep down that it’s for the best. I should’ve never had to beg you to say you loved me and I shouldn’t have only dreamt about magical dates and adventures because I deserved them. I deserved them then and I deserve them now.

I’m sorry for hurting you because the moment I walked away you realized what you were losing. I’m sorry that you can’t see the light at the end of your tunnel yet but I made this decision for me and me, alone. Through our relationship I suffered enough looking for the love and affection I deserve. You had all the time in the world to show me this and you can’t come back now that I have made such a difficult decision. I don’t deserve that. I deserved my own fairytale and passion and I still deserve it now more than ever.

Please don’t contact me and make this any harder than it already is. Leave me. Leave me and let me have my chance at happiness. Leave me and let me find something that I always knew I deserved deep down inside. My heart might be broken and weak, but my inner voice? She is shinning through. She is screaming at me to put one foot in front of the other and allow amazing things to come my way. She knows how much I’m hurting and she knows all about the roller coaster I am on right now and that I can’t get off, but she also knows I’m going to make it. She is being strong for me when I can’t be. She knows you had your chance and my heart gave you every opportunity to grab it and make it better when it was bad but you didn’t.

Even if I allowed you back in my life she would know that it isn’t right and I can’t do that to her. She carries all my scars and stories and she knows all that I am worth and I can never let her down. I won’t let her down.

So when the next wave of painful emotions comes crashing down I’m going to be there with her and we are going to get back up and put one foot in front of the other, bringing us closer to where my happiness lies. She can see it, and I won’t let her down.

Kind Regards,

Christel Olmesdahl

How I Found Happiness at Rock Bottom

We’ve been conditioned to think that love is something outside of us and that we can’t feel love unless we have the relationship with the other. But the truth is that if we don’t have a relationship with ourselves first, then we can’t create a real connection with others.

It is only from a place of wholeness and completeness that we have the capacity to create a healthy relationship with another person. Our path to wholeness is the path of self-love, which is why self-love is the opposite of selfish. If we can’t love ourselves and have not connected to the love within, then we are not able to give and receive love from others in a healthy way.

Oftentimes, we’re left feeling incomplete and we want someone or something to fill us up, fill the void or be our other half. When we enter into relationships from this place of lack, it’s not sustainable so happiness won’t last and sometimes the relationships can’t last. This is where codependent patterns hatch, leaving both people in the relationship feeling like a victim rather than empowered individuals who are stronger together in the partnership. We must build everything in our lives on love, not lack or needing–which is fear and when we build from a place of fear, it crumbles.

I spent most of my life looking to the love outside of myself completely disconnected from me and unaware that I had all I needed inside of me. I desperately wanted to feel that love from someone else–and when I got it, it was never enough because I was not giving it to myself. I was stuck in codependent patterns that kept me feeling like a victim when in truth, I had the power to change it all when I became willing.

I stepped onto my of self-love in my rockbottom breakup three years ago and I became willing to listen to the spiritual teachings and created a consistent daily practice of prayer and meditation to apply the wisdom and experience its transformational power in my own life. My commitment and devotion to my practice–to myself, finally, was the beginning of a radical awakening I had not even anticipated. The impetus for beginning my meditation practice and having the willingness to connect with my spirit and the messages that the universe was trying to give me–was to simply break free from my suffering and maybe get the relationship I wanted–but I had no idea I was about to blast through my fears, find happiness within myself, and discover my mission on the planet. The path of self-love is the path of self-knowledge.

When I began to recognize my fear-based patterns and released them in my meditations, connecting daily with myself and going within to feel the love, I cleared the blocks to my wholeness and realized that nothing outside of me could make me feel whole or even make me feel bad–I was responsible for my feelings and I could choose to see love instead instead of all of my fear-based perceptions. My relationships skyrocketed to a whole new level and I could now experience freedom and deep connection.

Every relationship is a mirror of our internal space–our thoughts, beliefs and the relationship we have with ourselves. If we’re spending time with people who drain us or aren’t giving us the love we want, it’s our responsibility to look within and see where we are lacking self-love. Self-love also looks like taking actions that best serve us, so it’s helpful to create healthy boundaries, walk away from toxic relationships, say no sometimes, and be more assertive rather than “too nice”. Love does not sacrifice, choose conflict over peace, put yourself last, and it does not please others in order to be loved and accepted. Love takes courageous action on behalf of our truth, our heart’s desires and it honors who we really are rather than ignoring or pushing it aside.

Relationships are spiritual assignments given to us to show us where we have an opportunity to grow and expand more fully into who we really are. They hold up a mirror for us to see the way we might be treating ourselves. What we withhold from ourselves, we withhold from others and what we give to ourselves we give to others. When we practice self-love, everyone wins and we slowly dismantle painful patterns in relationships and within ourselves that kept us stuck and playing small.

On the other side of our fears and limiting patterns is our true, authentic self. As we process and release these old ideas we clear the blocks to who we really are and there is no greater reward or success than living in our truth, our fullness and our freedom.

I’ll leave you with this last thought: Save yourself. Be your own knight in shining armor and create your own life. Not because the man of your dreams doesn’t exist. But because he can only exist if you save yourself first.

What Will You Discover After a Breakup?

Sometimes the end of a relationship rips a hole in you so big that you’re not sure if anything is going to fill it again. Something has been torn from you.

Before a certain someone came along, you were living just fine. But now that they’re gone, you wonder if you can survive without them. You feel weak. A dull pain, or maybe a sharp one, throbs in your heart, that organ that does its job pumping blood and oxygen every day and you rarely notice it.

You feel it now, don’t you? In your chest? It’s still doing its job, but it’s labored and deliberate.

The cloudy days are your favorite because that’s the outer world expressing how you feel inside- gray, cold, dank.

You grasp onto anything that keeps the trace memory of a dead relationship somewhat alive, reliving conversations in your mind, wondering what you could have done differently, and telling yourself you did the best you could.

Maybe you did.

You can try alcohol, but that’s short lived. You can try a rebound relationship, but that’ll probably get messy, and hurtful, and sad, spreading the pain like a cancer. There’s nothing lonelier than being with someone while thinking of, and longing for, another.

Sometimes the oddest things, the most unexpected things, bring us comfort. After one of the worst breakups of my life- Okay, I’ll call it THE worst breakup- I learned to command a starship.

That’s right.

I had missed Star Trek: Enterprise in 2001 when it aired since I’d spent several years not watching television. I discovered it one night on Netflix after already barreling through Firefly and The Walking Dead. I decided to give it a chance.

I’m glad I did. The characters, their lives and interactions, were compelling. And it is of course a space adventure.

And that’s the point I want to make here. Because of that show, I was able to connect with something from my childhood that brought me comfort and joy. It helped transport me, if only for a few hours a night, to a time before romantic relationships even existed to me.

I watched so much Star Trek that summer that I seriously could’ve commanded my own vessel. I could’ve raised shields, fired the photonic torpedoes, and gave the order to take the ship to warp.

Not long after I began watching Enterprise, I listened to a podcast called The Mental Illness Happy Hour. Host Paul Gilmartin said that when his depression is especially kicking his ass, he finds World War II or serial killer documentaries to be soothing. He doesn’t know why. They just are.

And I had been doing the same thing. Except for me, it was intergalactic adventures.

So, if you’re struggling, I hope you’ll follow your intuition wherever it takes you to find comfort. Maybe, you’ll pick up a long-forgotten hobby, the joy of writing, or playing a neglected musical instrument.

Maybe you’ll decide to take a cooking class, or study martial arts, or connect with something from a simpler time. A time before your breakup. A time before your relationship.

We can’t go back in time. That’s not possible. But I believe there are lessons there that can help us. And learning from them may bring us some joy in the present that we can take with us into the future.

I rediscovered my love of space adventures and of writing posts like the one you’re reading.

What will you discover?

Four Reasons Why You Should Garden After A Breakup

Gardening and being out in nature can be an amazing way to heal. Due to its many benefits, gardens are now popping up in prison yards, retirement and veteran homes and troubled youth programs. Gardening is even used in many places as a type of extension of therapy for people with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. It can also be something we can bring into our own lives to help heal heartbreak.

Here are four reasons why you should try gardening after a breakup:

1) Looking after plants gives us a sense of responsibility

Having to care for plants and being responsible for their growth is a great way to shift the focus, look outside of ourselves and respect other living things. It makes us appreciate how amazing nature can be.

2) Gardening shows us that we can all be nurturers

Going through heartbreak can leave us feeling inadequate, incomplete and even incapable. Gardening and caring for plants and nature brings home the fact that we are all capable; no matter what flaws we believe we might have.

3) It’s relaxing

Flowers are beautiful to look at. They signify life, beauty, uniqueness and colour. They have no emotions or conflict and being around them and caring for them allows us to connect to that carefree energy. There’s nothing else to worry about when you’re so immersed. Plus the actual act of weeding, trimming, sowing and sweeping can be meditative and soothing. Many people say that gardening helps them suddenly find new perspectives.

4) Being around plants and flowers reminds us that nothing stays the same

So often we don’t want things to change and we get fixated on how things used to be; particularly during heartbreak. But being in nature can remind us that things aren’t supposed to stay the same and to embrace change with more ease. Flowers have their season of bloom and then they die so that new seeds can be planted. It can be a great reminder to live in the moment, be open to change and to know that things often happen exactly the way they’re supposed to in accordance with nature.

As they say, “keep calm and garden on.”

How I Handle The Not-So-Rosy Days Of Singledom

As someone who has written an abundance of blog posts and articles about breakups and how to heal from them over the past 3 years, it would be wrong of me to portray the idea that the single life, although hugely fulfilling in many ways, is always empowering and rosy.

I really believe that so many of us are sad and lonely are times but don’t want to admit it. (That can actually be true when single and in a relationship too.)

Many people have remarked that as a coach who has a reputation for helping people with matters of the heart, why aren’t I in a relationship? Shouldn’t it be effortless for me? Surely I know ‘how’ to date perfectly? My response is always truthful and it’s no different from many other single women out there. I just haven’t met the right person yet.

I walk my talk in the sense that I have firm boundaries and I’m 100% clear on my wants and needs. 3 years of being single has given me that time to reflect and regroup and I’m not prepared to settle for something and someone that’s not fully aligned. And I’m ok with that. I’ve met some great guys and enjoyed the whole dating experience.

There are bad days though. Behind the scenes of my work where my passion is to help inspire, heal and uplift others on the daily, there have been other things going on that if I’m honest, have held me back from enjoying life at it’s fullest and finding a relationship. Over the past 18 months I’ve been dealing with multiple autoimmune illnesses, spent days at a time in bed and gone through numerous major food elimination protocols that haven’t worked. The accumulation of all of this has meant my quality of life has been quite the shadow of what it was when I was at the ‘peak’ of my singledom.

This post isn’t to whine and dwell about my health – I’m not a believer in that – but I do believe in being open about struggle. It’s what connects us and makes us feel less alone. Being single during this time has felt hard because it would often be so nice to just have someone to talk to, to take my mind off it and feel like part of a ‘team’. To share my experience with and to immerse myself in their life too. When you’re going through something alone it can feel all-consuming. Maybe it isn’t health for someone else reading this – maybe you’re going through a rough time in your job, within your family, perhaps some kind of loss. Maybe you just feel low.

Let’s call a spade a spade! Being single during those times can be hard.

However at the same time, this personal experience has also taught me even more about the importance of life, love, relationships and wellbeing. On the bad days, I allow myself to feel sad but on the flip side of that, it helps me get even more clear on what I do want. I journal, I meditate, I listen to my body, I create, I read, I use it as fuel. I see this as even more opportunity to know what it means to truly take care of yourself, what makes you happy and how important that’s going to be in or out of a relationship.

The truth is, a relationship would be nice-to-have and I’m fine with admitting that, but it wouldn’t ‘fix’ everything. It will come when the time is right and I’m open to that. Staying open, despite what’s going on means that you don’t have to stress about the when or the how. You just have to believe and trust.

Something else that also helps is to be grateful for the tiniest things. That weekend with family, a phone call with a friend, a beautiful walk in nature, gorgeous hot pink nail polish even! Keeping gratitude at the forefront of your mind is a serious life tonic. As my own life has been stripped back in many ways, I now see the joy and pleasure in those things I previously took for granted.

So if there’s any piece of advice I have for those bad days, it’s to firstly be ok with it. Don’t dwell but just be ok with feeling it. Be upset, angry, sad, lonely. Feel it and feel through it. Focus on your self-care. I know we hear so much about it and it can all sound a bit trite or like another platitude that gets thrown around, but it’s said so many times for good reason. Figure out what self-care is for you. Have gratitude for everyone or every little thing that makes you happy, smile or feel good. Feel proud about how much inner resilience you’re creating right now, even through the hot (or sometimes, not so hot) mess!

And then trust and believe that the right person is out there. They’ll show up exactly when they need to and your only job meanwhile is to be ok with where you are and live life to it’s fullest, whatever that means for you right now.

Breakup Advice from My Dog (She Is Not Certified to Give Anyone Advice About Anything)

Oftentimes, when I’m feeling a way about something I look over at my dog and become unreasonably jealous of her life. She never has to wake up early, she’s always cute, and on the rare occasion that she acts like an idiot she has the whole “dog” thing going for her, so I can’t really blame her.

Whenever I’m going through problems in my relationship I become especially jealous. Dogs never have to deal with romantic relationships and the bullshit that comes with them, and while I wish I could just adopt their “bag ‘em and tag ‘em” philosophy (I think that’s actually a fishing term?), I can’t. I’m a human that gets involved in relationships with other humans, and sometimes they end in heartache. Throughout my most recent breakup, my dog has unknowingly offered the greatest advice anyone has yet, just by being her.

1. Eat food and drink water. This seems like pretty common, staying alive-type knowledge, but I know that for me, basic self-care like feeding my body fuel in the form of calories and hydration is one of the first things that go right out the window when I’m grieving. So eat something, anything, even if it’s just pizza Combos, because it doesn’t have to be healthy/good/technically food,—just keep your blood sugar high enough to keep you from making any really bad decisions (crazy haircut).

2. Sleep. Make a nice little nest, watch the shittiest movies, and sleep it off, because the sadness/anger/remorse/anger/sadness/Googling 1990’s Madonna lyrics roller coaster can be really exhausting.

3. Go outside. Pull yourself out of bed, put even the bare minimum amount of clothing on that won’t get you arrested (they don’t even have to be clean!) and go outside. You don’t have to shit out there, just get out of your apartment for even one minute and breathe some fresh air, you can always go right back in.

4. Strrrrrrretch. Whenever I’ve shared with people that my clinical depression has led me to new lows, it’s been my experience that at least one asshole will offer me the infinitely profound wisdom of “move a muscle, change a feeling” or however the saying goes (I’ve never actually listened to the entire thing as my brain automatically defaults to an “ERNT ERNT ERNT, abort, leave this conversation, this guy doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about and clearly thinks depression is just being super bummed that they ran out of French toast sticks at the drive through this morning”, sound.) If you feel that your life has little to no meaning and you worry that you may hurt yourself or someone else, please seek guidance from a professional. It really, REALLY helps. If the thought of changing from your sweatpants into shorts is too much, resulting in a pair of uneven sweat-shorts that you managed to cut while still lying down because you’re “done with love and seriously, just FUCK EVERYTHING!”, maybe just find some yoga on the Internet? Or not?

5. Fake it ‘till you make it. You know when you tell your dog to sit sometimes and they’re like “ok, here I go, I’m sitting, give me food!!!” but when you look down you see that their ass is kind of hovering just off the ground in an attempt to get away with something? Well you get to do that for a little while! If you have a personal day, take it. If you’re like me and don’t have them, just keep showing up, do what you need to do to get your job done, then go home and repeat steps 1-4 until you start to feel better/cannot stomach another spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar.

If this advice isn’t helpful you can also try getting sprayed by a skunk, as she seems to enjoy that too.

Learning Not to Give Until You’re Gone

I recently reread the children’s classic, The Giving Tree. Different than I remembered, it is so melancholy. It hit much closer to home than it ever had in the past.

I’m trudging my way through a breakup right now – aren’t we all though, in some way? It was pretty serious. The worst I’ve been through to date, at least. After nearly three years, a shared apartment, a cross-country move, and a ring design where a family diamond was about to be nestled, we were finally honest enough—I guess I should say HE was finally honest enough, to admit that he didn’t ever want children. If I recall correctly, his exact words were “If I’m not hungry now, how should I know if I’ll want pizza later?” Let’s be clear on one thing, my future offspring are going to be quirky, no doubt, but they are not pizza. 

The more I’ve dissected the words, actions, looks and feelings; I’ve realized the pizza-babies were not our demise. I had been dulling myself. I was under valued, under appreciated and used up. I was the Giving Tree. I gave and gave and took care of everything and made sure that his needs were met, and he was happy, satisfied, fulfilled and at peace. Meanwhile, he, knowingly or unknowingly, took my apples, my branches and my trunk, leaving the tattered, used, scraps of my soul, of my heart, of me. I can’t blame him. I gave it all willingly – everything down to my last shred of self worth. 

I think for a long time I believed that I had to prove myself as a lover and as a partner. I gave to prove I was worth being with. I gave in return for companionship because I believed that was necessary. The more I gave away, the more that was true. There is a lot of talk recently about settling, or not settling more appropriately. For me, and maybe for some of you, I felt like I was the one who was being ‘settled on’. I think for many of us it is about not being afraid to admit what we are worth and what will keep us whole. 

In the weeks since the break up and the break down, I’ve had the people who are closest to me in my life say things like, “You’re back!” and “I’m so glad you’re here again!” as if I just returned from a 3 year trek through the most remote parts of Northern Russia. Had I known, had I understood that I was living in a wasteland, holding together fractured pieces of myself with “good enough” plans and hopes that he would change and dreams (who am I kidding, I had thrown dreams out the window long ago), I would have been sprinting as fast as I could to get back.

Isn’t that always the worst? When others see you so clearly from the outside but you’re too close, too deep, too lost to make sense of it. Nevertheless, here I am – back – and learning that every apple given needs some water on the roots and sunshine on the leaves in return; learning that no two people need to settle on each other. I’m relieved that I didn’t get what I thought I deserved.

More than ever now, I don’t think I believe in soul mates and Mr. Right and one true love. I have hope that another person exists who will enhance the very best parts of me. And with that person, I will thrive, shine brightly and challenge myself daily to show off that sparkle a little more. There is someone out there who I will give to, not because he asks or expects it, but because he builds me up so completely and gives me so much that I have a surplus to share. I don’t have to be reduced to a withering stump again, and knowing that helps me grow and rebuild. Believing that is helping me to mend.

Backsliding: What It Means And Why We Do It

I am a serial backslider. For those of you who don’t know, backsliding is the act of going back to an ex after a breakup. It is incredibly self-destructive, yet such a difficult habit to quit.

For a long time, I convinced myself that I was doing this because I genuinely saw potential in that person and there was a real possibility of a future with them. But over time, I’ve become much more self-aware and I now realize that I do this simply because I get lonely. I’m not proud of it, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve never done it. 

I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve reached out to an ex just because a new relationship didn’t work out. That’s because it’s easier to seek comfort in someone you’ve already had than try to find someone new, when in reality we shouldn’t be seeking comfort in anyone but ourselves anyway.

Deep down, I know that I don’t really miss that person. I just need a distraction from the heartbreak I’m currently in. So why go back to old heartbreaks to avoid new ones? Because the old heartbreak is a pain you’ve learned to control. You may not realize it but the reason you go back to your ex is because in the back of your mind, you’ve already accepted that it’s over and there’s no risk of getting hurt again. Therefore, you are creating a false sense of security. A comfort zone. My inherent thought is “if they had feelings for me before, maybe it can work out again.” Spoiler: it won’t.

I know this because I’ve been on both sides of backsliding. Although it’s a toxic habit that I’ve learned to overcome, I know that my exes have reached out to me for the same reason. It’s not because they miss me. It’s because they just got their hearts broken and they need a temporary place to drop their burden. I’ve learned that I can’t be that person and I, in turn, can’t expect anyone to be that person for me. No matter how badly someone treats you, no one deserves to be used as a safety net. It only causes more hurt and confusion.

This is especially the case if the person on the receiving end of backsliding is the one who got their heart broken in the first place. They’re the ones who needed to pick themselves up and heal, all while carrying the weight of a million unanswered questions. So when they finally get to a good place and their past resurfaces, it can stir up a lot of unresolved feelings. 

We all deserve so much more than that. We deserve to move on and be better versions of ourselves. We deserve to be with people who genuinely want us to be happy. We deserve to be at peace.

So the next time you think about reaching out to an ex, ask yourself this: Do I really miss you or did I just get used to thinking about you when I’m lonely?

How Divorce Helped Me Learn To Be Present

When my plans for life dissolved around me, I learned to be content right where I was.

There’s a line in the classic musical “Hello Dolly” that really resonates with me: “I have always been a woman who arranges things, like furniture and daffodils and lives.”

The inimitable Barbra Streisand, who plays Dolly Levi, goes on to list all the different things she could arrange and services she renders. Passing her card out to every passerby on the street. 

This is me. I love the hustle. I love planning. When a friend needs a job or an apartment I’m the first to step in to help: “Just leave everything to me.”  I plan trips, parties, events, podcasts that never get off the ground, and my life. I like having a plan for my life: graduate school, buy a house, kids.

But about two months ago all my planning ground to a screeching halt. My husband decided our marriage was over. In the end, I agree with the decision, but the upheaval of all our plans was a blow to this type-A arranger of things.

In the weeks that followed I would tell people about the split and a slew of questions would follow:

“Will you stay in Reno?”

“Where will you live?”

“Are you still going to graduate school?”

“What was he thinking?”

“Are we still doing that big camping trip in Lassen this August?”

“How will you manage to have kids before your ovaries dry up?”

Ok, no one asked me that last one. But the answer to every one of those questions for a time was “I don’t know.”

Everything was in flux. Nothing was planned because there was no way to know what I was going to be feeling from one minute to the next.

And for a planner this was absolutely terrifying.

It’s been two months and things are falling into place, but the process has taught me how to stay present. I don’t know when I’m going to have kids, but I’m loving being with my goddaughter and holding her little hands as she toddles around a picnic blanket. I don’t know if I’ll stay in Reno, but I’m here now and I’m making great friends and getting to know this quirky big little city.

We did cancel the trip to Lassen; but I let my friends step up and plan numerous other camping trips and excursions. I’m taking a break and letting things happen. I’m letting go of things I would’ve controlled before. I’m spending more time just being and less time planning to be at some point in the future.

I started casually dating; not looking for someone who checks all my boxes. Instead of sizing people up by what they might add to my life as a partner, I spent time with people I simply enjoy being around. The end. I get to like them just for exactly who they are — no plans, no agenda, maybe no tomorrow. Just right now.

It’s not easy letting go and staying present. It took months of therapy before the divorce to be emotionally stable enough to be proactive and take care of myself. I had to do the work — and it’s paying off.

In addition to therapy, here are a few more resources I’ve found helpful for repairing my heart and leaning into mindfulness during my divorce:

Mend  — It’s been great hearing how what I’m feeling/going through is perfectly normal and getting hands-on suggestions for dealing with all the feels.

The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown — This book is not directly related to a breakup but as we work toward wholeheartedness in general it helps with all relationships, past, present and future. This is a 6.5 hour audio book, so it’s perfect for your next super long car trip.

Journaling — I’ve always been a writer and getting my thoughts and feelings down on paper has helped ground me and bring me into the present.

It’s still very much a journey. Some days I’m full of hope and joy and other days I’m a puddle of tears on my bed — and that’s ok. In each moment I find ways to enjoy what I have, feel my feelings and take the next step forward.

Making Up My Own Rules To Mark The End Of My Marriage

We need culturally appropriate rituals for divorce.

Two months ago my husband of almost 11 years told me he didn’t want to be married anymore. Things had been rough for years and despite trying to leave him on multiple occasions I was still surprised by the news.

After a day or two of crying and lots of real talk with friends, I began moving forward. I downloaded Mend, started seeing a therapist, tried meditating and continued to lean on great friends.

This was all great, but I got to wondering — what do I do about social media? I’ve built a name for myself, under my married name. Who am I now?

I immediately unfriended and blocked my ex-husband. I changed my name to my first and middle. But these subtle changes went unnoticed by most.

For every other major life event we announce it. We celebrate the bittersweet transitions in life with cake, flowers and parties. Births, deaths, graduations, weddings, new jobs, job losses. Everything gets posted and celebrated or grieved. Except breakups.

A coworker from several jobs ago recently changed her name on Facebook to her first and middle, just like mine. Seriously, we have the same middle name. In the past I wouldn’t have thought about it, but now I know, and I reached out to tell her my story. She told me hers. We can see each other now — while the rest of social media posts about their new babies, engagements and anniversaries. 

There’s still so much shame and stigma around a “failed” marriage. I didn’t fail. I tried everything. I read all the books. We spent thousands on therapy. We gave it everything — and it’s ok that it’s over. I want to celebrate the hard work I did and the exciting new chapter I’m starting.

I threw myself a little “the divorce is finalized” party at my favorite brewery. A friend got me a beautiful bouquet in honor of the event.

So I got dressed up, did my make up, went down to the courthouse with a friend who’s very good with a camera and we did a photoshoot. I even threw my (super cheap) wedding band into the Truckee river, per Reno tradition.

I posted a picture of me on Instagram announcing the split. Some people expressed surprise, some sadness, most support. One recent acquaintance reached out to tell me he’s been divorced and he was here for me. So we got lunch and compared stories.

It’s like divorced people are this secret society of broken people. Except, we’re all broken and most of us have experienced major life-changing losses — why is divorce so taboo? Why do we have to be subtle about this?

Why don’t we have any culturally appropriate rituals to mark this transition?

I’m making up my own rules. I’m still sad. Today I broke down thinking about the loss and the unknowns I’m facing; but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a time to celebrate, to mark the occasion with flowers and photos.

You’ll Be You Again Too, and It Will Feel Fabulous

It has been 11 months since I wrote this.

I was devastated by sadness and loss and couldn’t see how or why it had happened to me.

For the first 3 months, I burned candles constantly knowing that when they burned out, I might feel a bit better because more time had passed. I spent what little money I had on new sexy underwear, new comfortable jeans, new stylish shoes. I figured that even though I felt horrible, I might as well try to look good and feel good. It worked.

For the next 3 months, I lit the candles every morning and extinguished them every evening, knowing that I was already better and didn’t need them burning continually.

The anger towards my ex eventually subsided and evolved into pity, where it remains today.

The 3 months after that found me moving to a new state and starting a new life, with no need for candles. I love my new apartment, my new neighbours, my new city, and my new job. It doesn’t just feel new, it feels right.

It will be exactly 12 months after my partner of 12 years told me that he didn’t love me any more that I will have a date with a very interesting guy who just might be interested in me. In these 12 months, I’ve already had a fun fling and an unexpected love affair , so I’m ready for something that could be a bit more.

Whether or not I date this new interesting man doesn’t matter as much as the fact that there are more men in the world that I will meet. I might date them, I might marry them, or I might do neither, but it shows that I have not given up on love. I will no longer allow the fact that I once loved someone that stopped loving me to affect my self-worth.

Last week, I went to my lawyer’s office one last time and sat in the waiting room remembering my frantic state during that first visit months ago. A nervous woman sat down across from me, clearly distraught and scared, exactly how I had once felt myself. I rose slowly, gathering my papers to take to my lawyer’s office, and paused at the woman’s chair. ‘It gets better’, I said. ‘I promise. I’m finally me again and happy. You’ll be you again too, and it will feel fabulous.’ She whispered her thanks as I followed my lawyer back to her office and signed off on the end of a chapter and started my new life.

The Beginner’s Guide To Self Love

There is no single recipe to mend a broken heart, but it all starts with self-love.

Experiencing a breakup is like getting punched in the stomach. A sense of nausea and heartache floods the body, making you want to take cover, crawl into the fetal position and cry. I remember my heart and soul vanished into thin air… leaving me numb and lifeless inside.

I have had a few heartbreaks, and each one feels unique. However, one common thread is the ‘transformation hangover’—the feeling you left your previous identity behind and are now in search of a new self. During a heart-wrenching break up, the transformational hangover hits hard. You wake up one morning without your partner or your ‘normal’ routine, friends might have shifted, your bed might feel different and being in your own skin doesn’t feel as comfortable. Panic and anxiety cloud your vision, and stability and clarity seem like distant landmarks.

My world felt unstable. Unsure of who I was, what I wanted, and what I valued out of a partner and life, I constantly scanned my environment, searching for some form of comfort. I realized this sensation was normal given I was used to relying on my boyfriend to fill that role. My cellphone became my best friend yet also my worst enemy. I clung to my phone to fill that void, hoping to feel some external support and attention. My hangover caused me to feel insecure. I was free falling, and no one was there to catch me. My mind entered victim mode where I questioned my own inner conviction. I couldn’t think, feel or even be for myself.

It wasn’t until I experienced a few break ups that I learned what my mind and body needed to recovery from my hangover and move on with my life. I was the only one who could catch myself from free falling. I had to stop wallowing in my emotions and start showering myself with self-love. When I spent energy strengthening my inner foundation, I was able to knock my victim-thinking to the curb and start to consciously create my life. When you know who you are and feel strong from the inside out, you feel unstoppable. You have fostered love for yourself and your own life. The need for external feedback vanishes because you have the vision and passion to live your own meaningful and abundant life. I no longer needed to feel loved and comforted by the world around me because I fostered my own internal affection and stability.

Follow this recipe to cure your transformation hangover. Shower yourself with self-love and you will re-ignite the light and fire that is still burning inside of you. Learn how to land flat on your feet and shine brighter than ever before.

• Breathe and release.
Find mindful moments in your day to breathe deeply and acknowledge what you are feeling and thinking. Breakups are a painful time and an opportunity for you to release your energy and clouded thoughts. Allow yourself to cry, and breathe in your emotions, then let them go. Understand that your emotions do not define you, but pass through you like the wind.

• Surround yourself with love.
Organize your schedule so that you can spend time around people, activities and environments that make you feel good. Discover what makes you smile and do these activities at least once every day. Bring joy and fulfillment back into your life with purpose.

• Express yourself.
Make sure you are expressing yourself by journaling, talking to someone, painting, making music or dancing—find ways to let your creative juices flow. Using creativity to direct your energy is a perfect way to make you feel productive during a time when you might not feel inspired.

• Sweat it out.
Exercise is the perfect way to stimulate natural endorphins in your body and get the blood flowing. Use this time as an opportunity to try fun new exercise classes or create an inspiring playlist and go for a run. Get yourself moving and sweating. It’s like taking an automatic happy pill!

• Be kind to yourself.
You are in a transition period. It can be tough to know what to do next since everything feels new. Trust yourself that you can do no wrong. Don’t allow those inner critic voices to put you down. Fill your mind with positive thoughts that help foster that sense of inner love and appreciation.

Follow this recipe to mend your heart. Over time, you will feel a deeper sense of love for yourself and your life. Give your self some lovin’, and you will become unstoppable.

The Truth About Mending After A Friendship Breakup

Friend breakups are incredibly painful, yet highly underrated. A lot of people don’t realize that losing a friend can hurt just as badly as losing a significant other.

In my experience, friendship breakups typically happen in one of two ways. There’s either a falling out, where harsh words are exchanged and both parties walk away or you simply grow apart, which can happen for a number of reasons. 

Having experienced both kinds of friend breakups, I can honestly say that the former is easier to deal with. At least you know it’s over. Growing apart from someone you care about is a different kind of torture. It’s a long, drawn-out process of canceled plans, unanswered text messages, and wondering what the other person is up to without knowing how to ask.

I often think back to my sophomore year of high school, when I began to grow apart from my middle school best friend, Abigail. We never fought. We just started heading in different directions until it was too late to turn around and go back to how it used to be. I still think of her sometimes and I hope she thinks of me.

Then, I think back to my senior year of high school, when a petty fight led to me losing some of my best friends. We hurt each other and it was intentional. I don’t think of them so much.

That’s not to say that every fight will eventually lead to friend breakup. Sometimes, fights can even make a friendship stronger. I’ve learned that these are the kinds of friendships that are worth holding on to. It is only when we expose the darkest parts of ourselves to people that we truly learn who is willing to stay in our lives. To meet someone who can see your flaws and forgive your mistakes is a gift and should be treated as such. But just a fair warning: too many fights can be a sign of a toxic relationship and only you can decide when enough is enough.

I honestly thought that friend breakups would happen less as I got older. But the truth is, they will never really stop. After high school, I realized that the best way to learn who your real friends are is to see who makes an effort to spend time with you when they’re not forced to see you in class. As adults, we have our own schedules, our own jobs, new friends, different hobbies, and so on. But those who genuinely care will make time to see you.

As you get older, though, friend breakups happen more quietly. People walk away without letting the other know. We stop answering each other’s phone calls. We cancel plans. We forget to catch up. And then one day, you realize that the person you used to call your friend doesn’t exist anymore. You have become entirely different people and there is too much time and space between you to try and bridge the gap.

I’ve learned that although it hurts to lose these people, it’s also a blessing to have had them in the first place. But, if you lost them at all, then they really weren’t meant to stay in your life because relationships (platonic or otherwise) are a two-way street. They cannot thrive if one person gives more than they receive. As with romantic relationships, self-love should always come first and staying in someone’s life when they don’t value you the way you deserve is a heartbreak in itself. 

I’ve learned to be at peace with losing certain friends because I realize that some people just don’t have room for me in their life or vice versa. What’s important is tending to the relationships that you do have that are worth fighting for. In the long run, those are the ones that will serve you best.

So to the friends I’ve lost, I hope you’re doing well. Maybe we can catch up someday.

Leaving My World to Return to Myself: Travel Reflections

As if taunting me that my days here are numbered, I find myself alone on the train today, for the first time since I got to Holland last year. My sister never lets me “go astray” at any time during my stay here, trying to be the mother bear that she is.

This entire European adventure, if I may say, has been one of domestication, wonderment, and introspection. I arrived here in November at 28 years, too young to be an executive back home, too old to be irresponsible. I took a quasi-hiatus from my job in Manila as an executive director of a large non-profit trade organisation after several years of working non-stop with all my heart. At some point something snapped. I realised, we only need enough passion to fuel us lest it burns us.

So I went to Europe. To babysit. I have babysat my few-days-short-of-one-year old nephew, baby J, for two months. There have been days when I wondered what I was doing home alone and attending to a baby when I’m in, of all places, Europe! I have been home at my sister’s house, most days, Monday to Friday. Five. Long. Days. 

Imagine coming from a routine of 8-5 everyday, oftentimes 8-8, managing large events and assignments and meeting important people in the local IT industry, with barely 10 other people to help me run it all. I had become a check-email-in-bed-in-the-morning-and-at-night person. Now I have to follow the schedule of a baby who sleeps on me, wakes up on me, cries on me, and basically needs looking after 24/7. I was used to setting my own schedule and even getting other people to follow it. Now, a baby dictates my day.

On this trip, I did some things for the first time in my life, like spending Christmas and New Year outside my beloved country. Let me say that again: I spent Christmas outside my beloved Philippines. Do you know what that means? That’s the only place in the world where the Christmas season runs for three months. Also, I wiped sh#t from my nephew’s ass. 

But the alone time, the time spent away from the world, from the noises of the world, from the heat of the sun, from the home country I’ve known all my life, from the urges of doing something exciting and new or writing that extra email at work, that was what has been hard. The mundanity, the banality was so thick at first it suffocated me. I needed to turn my tendencies off, tame the corporate creature I had become, and silence my inner noises to be able to hear the breathing of the sleeping baby in my arms. 

It wasn’t all hard though. I also just marveled at the efficiency of Holland, specifically how the trains are connected between cities and across countries. How cheap it is, relatively, to travel to another country on a road trip. How all the train schedules are updated real-time online and it is necessary to check this before heading out of your house for the day. How it makes everyone plan ahead, but makes them tolerant and understanding as well in events of train disturbance.

I marveled at all of these European cities — Cologne, Nuremberg, Munich, Salzburg, Lucerne, Grindelwald, Geneva, Paris, and Brugge — in that order through an eight-day European road trip. I saw people’s different motivations to travel, the younger ones always looking for themselves. I also met Filipino families living in these foreign lands and realised that, wherever you are in the world, you’re kind of inclined to go back to who you are, and you try to find who you are in wherever you are.

I saw Paris for the first time, and for some reason, I felt lonelier than I already was. It was so beautiful and romantic. It’s not for going solo. I heard Silent Night sung in its original version in Salzburg and it compensated for the type of Christmas celebration I was missing out on back home. I walked inside the walls of the old Roman Empire and just idled on the steps of the Pantheon like an unemployed Roman. I wrote down my daily musings — 68 days in all — in a blog called reflectionsofanearly30.blogspot.com. Just being able to fight through the everyday struggle to write and finally complete that blog, I already felt accomplished. I knew I was changed.

Above all, I learned to slow down and let things happen just as babies eat and live without knowing how. I learned to appreciate the life that my parents gave me. I learned to believe in myself as steadfastly as the Alps stood on its feet.

I am going back home to Manila soon. But did I get the answers I set out to find on this trip? Did I even have questions in my head in the first place? I had this feeling, this little feeling in my heart, this unexplainable unnameable feeling, that I needed this trip, not because of the glamour Europe would provide, but…to eat, to pray, to love, to experience these very basic longings of my soul as Elizabeth Gilbert had. As I neared 30, I needed a trip to nourish my soul, to reflect, to see things from a different point of view, and to see family life through the perspective of my sister, her husband, and my nephew.

I wanted to know if this family life was what I wanted for myself. I am weak, like every else, when I hear stories of my batch mates getting married and posting pictures of their kids, and I melt in my heart and secretly long and wish for the time it would be my turn. And admitting that is hard enough. I needed and wanted to find the answers for myself: Do you want to have a family? If so, start now. Do you want to stay career-focused? Move on now.

I am going back home, probably still with the same questions I had in the first place. But I know some have been answered. I knew it was time to take the next step, even if that means a leap of faith. As this hiatus began with a decision, so must I come back to my homeland and make a decision — a choice to steer myself to more creative things in life, to keep on traveling and writing, to stay true to myself, to prepare me for the imminent decade of the 30s. It’s still a process, and forever will be a process. But I know I am farther from the place where I was two months ago. If anything, I have renewed something within, something that makes me excited now to go back home. To see home. To feel home. To experience home. Anew.

How I Got Over My Breakup Abroad And How You Can Too

After dating a great guy for a year, our seemingly idyllic relationship crumbled under the reality that he would soon be moving away. And so, with the tossing of a grad cap, we were over, and I was catching a flight to Italy to begin studying abroad.

The first few weeks were horrible, I won’t lie. However, those short weeks passed and soon I was on my way to Italy, ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Here are the 6 reasons I got over my breakup abroad, and why you will too:

1. Travel is the best distraction

Traveling often required super busy days. My schedule was jam-packed between studying in the mornings, exploring a new city after class, and planning weekend trips outside of Florence. I didn’t have time to dwell, I was too busy soaking up the wonders around me! It is impossible to be unhappy when you are exploring places you’ve been ogling over for months.

2. Distance (both literal and figurative)

9 hour time differences, international phone plans, and 6,000 miles between myself and my ex made it impossible to see each other, and much more difficult to communicate, which is so important for setting post-relationship boundaries.

3. Learn to be alone, and love it

When you are in a relationship, you are never really alone. Your significant other is always just a text, phone call, or distance away, which is one of the hardest things to adjust to in the aftermath. Not having that additional source of support can be hard, but traveling will teach you how to achieve happiness on your own. I quickly grew accustomed to eating, exploring, and enjoying time with just myself.

4. Out with the old, in with the new

After a breakup it can feel like your ex’s ghost is everywhere. You put on a shirt and remember it was their favorite on you, you see a movie trailer and think, “Oh, _____ would love this,” you pass by your “special” place. Going somewhere completely fresh helps to eliminate this, because everywhere you go will be unique and uncharted.

5. Date yourself

I was so excited to visit Paris, BUT, since it is one of the most romantic cities in the world, I was worried that its charm would leave me feeling lonely. However, I fully embraced dating myself. I fell in love with the city, all the while treating myself to delicious meals I didn’t have to share, spending all the time I wanted staring at art, and choosing my own itinerary.

6. There are plenty of men in the world

One of the best parts of traveling abroad is meeting people from all over the world. Sexy accents? Great dance moves? Men who dress well? You name it and you will find it! Staring at beautiful European men day after day definitely cured my break up blues. Even if you aren’t ready to get out in the dating world just yet, a little window-shopping doesn’t hurt!

So get on out there and plan a trip. If you can’t go as far away as Europe, even a weekend getaway will be a perfect escape.

Why a Marathon Is Easier Than Moving On

For most healthy adults, physically moving on is much easier in comparison to mentally moving on. Although most people don’t understand why I run as far as I do, and it can be a literal pain in the ass, most days it’s easier to deal with than my emotional baggage.

I used to get exhausted just thinking about putting one foot in front of the other at a consistent pace. So when my manager suggested I try a half marathon last year, I thought he was crazy. For a girl who could barely run more than a mile, 13.1 seemed impossible. But after 16 weeks of hot, grueling training, I did it. I finished my first half marathon without stopping or walking. It challenged my body physically but more importantly taught me a mental strength I didn’t even know I had. Some how I convinced myself to just keep going.

Last year was also emotionally challenging. My friends and family will tell you that I’m a confident, outgoing and self-assured woman. They know they can count on me to be there for them when things fall apart. They will tell you I can be stubborn, have a quick tongue and hate to ask for help. I do my best to see the glass half full, make others laugh and always keep a smile on my face. From the outside I appear strong and assertive but for the last three years, on the inside I’ve been ripping at the seams. It makes me mad and sad admitting I’ve been recovering from a mentally and physically abusive relationship. How does someone so “strong” admit they were so weak?

I can talk and write about anything but when it comes to topics like domestic violence and conversations like #whyileft I couldn’t seem to put my story into words. I spent a lot of time blaming myself for allowing someone like that to come into my life. Someone who I had loved so deeply, yet made me feel so small. Someone who would one night drunkenly punch me in the leg during an argument because I tried to stop him from leaving. Someone who put his hands around my neck because I took his cellphone out of his hand and blamed me for provoking him. Someone who needed to be escorted out of my apartment by the police New Years Eve and still try to come back up after they left. Someone who continued to bully me by writing a scathing 10-page hate letter calling me a “shit head” and that I only worked well with men because I have “big tits.” Someone who would still harass me, two years later, by posting pictures on social media of places around my office and apartment. Someone who would make me feel completely and totally insecure.

I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself that my situation wasn’t that bad, to keep looking forward and I would eventually move past it. Friends and family wanted to help but even they were at a loss. I spent a few months in therapy trying to piece together where I went wrong only to realize I needed to stop blaming myself. I found solace in writing but running was my saving grace.

It was the one thing I could do for myself, just me against me, to sort things out in my head for a while. I chose to physically beat myself up before ever mentally beating myself up again. That’s why I made the crazy decision to sign up for my first marathon in March. And it’s even harder to believe that the race is now only two weeks away.

Completing this race not only proves I have the physical strength to run 26.2 miles but the mental strength to get through the emotional marathon I’ve put myself through for the last two years. There are a lot of things we tell ourselves we are not capable of and at times, can’t imagine we will ever get through. By running this marathon, I’m freeing myself of the fear that’s held me back for so long and ready to celebrate this physical and deeply emotional victory on October 19th. Come hell or high water, I will finish that fucking marathon.

How Exercise Helped Me Curb Negative Self Talk

Negative self talk nearly ruined my life. I’m not being dramatic, I’m just being honest.

It’s like having a perverted sense of humility: “they’re only giving you compliments because they want something,” you tell yourself, or “they haven’t seen you fail yet,” or “they don’t know some key fact that invalidates you,” or “they’re just being nice (insincere)”. “You only got the grades because you got lucky”, or “the professor just liked you.” And so on. It’s the opposite of the Midas effect, where every good thing you touch turns to dust.

The strangest part, in my experience, is that I didn’t know this was a habit I had formed. Not when I was depressed, or anxious, or sabotaging my romantic relationship because I felt unworthy of great love. And that’s precisely the fuel and the fire of it: you are not aware the things you tell yourself are lies, so you believe them. This causes you to feel inferior to pond scum, which makes you do things that confirm your worthlessness. Cognition and emotion affect each other in both directionsFrom there it’s rinse and repeat, basically.

I had no idea I was giving myself a toxic emotional IV drip of negative self-talk. And I did this for years. 

On a whim last year, I decided to make fitness a serious hobby. My motivations were shallow: I wanted to feel better, and I envied the endorphin-induced glow I saw in 6am runners and obsessive yogis. If I had known how hard it would be, I probably never would have gotten started. But therein lies the magic: sometimes naivete is your friend. 

When my motivation started to sputter a few weeks in, I felt mystified as to how so many people stay committed. So, as with most things in my life, I went on a research binge. I found that over and over, athletes affirm how important it is to acknowledge and celebrate your each and every step. I wanted to reject this on grounds of sheer corniness, but I was desperate to make the habit stick. I couldn’t afford not to try.

I thanked myself for every set of jump lunges that made me want to scream profanities. I cheered myself on for every few seconds I gained in a plank hold. I repeated positive affirmations in my head. It felt incredibly unnatural, but for the first time in so many years, I took moments to be proud of what I’d done. I literally congratulated myself in my head each time I did something hard – a radical departure from years of never feeling my efforts measured up.

Late one night, several months into my new habit, understanding swept me like a tidal wave. In no other aspects of my life did I ever make deliberate attempts to be proud of what I was, as I was. To decide I was good enough. What would happen… if I did? My body felt electric at the thought, the understanding was so strange and so new.

I definitely don’t have this all figured out. But as someone who has mostly recovered from the feedback loop of self-induced suffering, I am completely aware that anyone struggling with this issue who happens to read this will default to the assumption that speaking positively to themselves, as I describe here, would be to lie to themselves. 

As desperately as I want to shake anyone who believes that and plead with them not to buy into that idea, I know that this change must happen on its own time. And that’s okay – that’s part of the journey. I have faith that you will have an exit ramp, a moment of clarity that shatters the glass ceiling you’ve built yourself; but there’s probably no great way to predict what your exit ramp will be. 

Mine happened to involve grungy sneakers and a lot of cheesy pop music playlists, and I’m still working at it. But yours? It could be anything. I only hope you’ll take heart that it’s there.

What I Learned from an Audit of My Exes

Yesterday I got to thinking. I was taking a bath and reflecting on all of the men I have dated in my life. I thought about the four year relationship, about the one year, about the months-long ones in college, about the series of Ok Cupid dates I went on before I met my ex…and I had this somewhat troubling realization. In my ex audit, I realized that each relationship I was in, I wanted to be out of; that somehow I lose myself in these relationships and my voice goes with it.

This is relevant because last week someone sent me the name of a man they wanted to set me up with. This has happened several times since the breakup. Each time I have been adamant that I am not ready. And I’m not. But this guy plays the guitar. And I do too. And I was thinking it might be nice to just get together and play. As friends. 

And so, obviously, I googled him. And he’s cute, in a rugged professional gardner (which he is) kind of way. But almost instantaneously I was off, careening down this emotional spiral with a large burly hunk of anxiety as my wingman. And my fears were so objectively irrational. What if he liked me and then we started dating and then I was stuck. Again. What if we started dating and then we had the same issues I had in my last relationship and I had wasted time dating him. What if he was boring or snored or was a vegan. All of these before even communicating with him!

In some ways, I spent the last several years trying to get out of my last relationship…and the one before it…and the one before that. Reading Huffington Post articles and blogs about relationships that are doomed and trying to compensate for the sinking feeling in my gut by burying myself in self help books. My capacity for breaking up goes away after the first or second date (during which time I have a shameless ability to just drop off and not contact the person) and then I just ride it out until it is very near unbearable.

I figure I can view this in one of two ways. The first is that it doesn’t bode well for future relationships if I’ve become afraid of even spending time with men. The second, and more realistic, is that I am in the middle of recalibrating. It’s too soon, maybe even to play guitar with a cute boy. And there’s work to be done on learning how I can reclaim my voice so that I will never again find myself in a relationship where I am not treated well, where I am not getting my needs met, where I feel stuck and where I am unable to initiate a frank discussion and if need be, walk away.

Why You Must Learn to Let Go

“The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings.” – Ralph Blum

About a year ago, I remember feeling very distraught over the relationship I was in because I knew it was going awry. I had sworn to myself that that relationship was what I wanted, but I spent most of my days unhappy. One day, during a particularly emotional yoga session, I excused myself to use the restroom, and there on the walls of that restroom, painted in a big beautiful font were the words, “Just Let Go.”

As strange as it may sound, I felt as if I had found myself in the exact place I was supposed to be, reading the exact words I needed. I listened to the words and immediately felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. I was ready to let go of the unhappiness I had willingly allowed to burden me for so long.

And sometimes, thats all we really need: the strength and courage to just let go. To be light. And to be open to all of the good life has to offer.

Here are some helpful thoughts on letting go . . . 

“All pain passes eventually. It will be easier if I help them pass by being mindful. I can’t always control what happens to me, but I can control how I respond to it.” 

– 10 Steps on moving on from a past relationship peacefully. (tinybuddha.com)

“You can’t change the past; you can only learn and grow from it. Dwelling in the “coulda-woulda-shoulda” world is like staying on the same page of the same chapter in your book, afraid of what the next chapter may bring.”

– Yoga instructor Kathryn talks on how change after a relationship is a good thing. (mindbodygreen.com)

“Moving on is sometimes the only way to develop new, empowering relationships. Starting anew, empty-handed and full-hearted, you can build fresher, stronger, more supportive relationships—important relationships that allow you to have fun and be happy and contribute beyond yourself. These are the meaningful relationships we all need.”

– Authors Joshua and Ryan of Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life discuss the importance of letting go of a relationship that doesn’t serve you. (theminimalists.com)

To Everyone Who Still Talks to Their Ex

You are not a corner store.

Do not let him come to you at four in the morning in a drunken stupor asking for something sweet. You are more than a candy bar craving. Tell him there is a food market down the street.

Do not feel bad when you let him in any way, but I want you to know that this phone call will feel like bricks tied to your face. This late-night walk is not the beginning of anything new. This study break will remind you of your first date. Do not get your hopes up. Try your hardest to talk about the weather and rent.

Do not delve into everything you miss about him and the way his fingers are still laced through your life. Say you’ve kissed five different guys…and one girl. Say you are moving to Spain. Say your internet is shitty when you hang up Skype too quickly, about to cry. Do not call back.

Spend the rest of your night drinking wine with your roommate reclaiming your happiness. Tell yourself you are Tim Tebow in the end zone. You are Beyonce. You are Miley Cyrus twerking up against a metal pole.

Send him a message first thing in the morning. Pretend this is normal again. Click through prom pictures until you realize five hours have passed and there is still no text back.

Cry. Hard.

Curse everyone who told you love is patient. Pound your pillow until you cannot tell the feathers from your fists. Drink the rest of the wine by yourself. Wonder if in another universe you’re still on that bridge together. Cry again. Harder.

Drunk dial him and say that you always had to fake it, that you never want to talk to again, that you hate the way you never stopped loving him and you still wear the bracelet he gave you.

You are going to feel alone for a very long time. It will be months before you delete his number from your phone. Sometimes you will still sleep with his flannel as a blanket. None of this will feel like healing. In fact, on the best days, it will feel like you keep peeling back skin only to find the same thing underneath.

Keep digging. You are more than a bad night. You are more than the best boy you ever had.

You are not a corner store. You are the coffee shop you start going to months later. You are the smile you give to the barista when he asks for your number. 

You are the simple response: “Hold the sugar today.” I promise you are better off this way.

Saying Goodbye To That Other Life

There is a card on my refrigerator, given to me by a dear friend right after my breakup, that says, “Hang in there. It is astonishing how short a time it can take for very wonderful things to happen.” The past month has been a testament to how true this is.

A month ago I was despairing. I was more than three years into a job that usually held new attorneys for a year or two and had well surpassed burnout status. I was living in the same apartment that my boyfriend (basically fiance) of three years had moved out of two months before. A mausoleum, despite all my efforts at making it my own.

And so small was our city that every time I left my house, I was nearly guaranteed to either run into my ex or someone affiliated with him. Then. Then, I received an email from a friend and colleague of mine who I had told about the breakup and that I was thinking about moving back to the Bay. She had received a job notification from a friend for a great public interest organization and urged me to apply. I did. I had an interview a week later and two days later was offered the job. Then the house hunt. In one month I managed to acquire a job doing the impact litigation I have been yearning for and an absolutely awesome apartment in what has become a very desirable part of the Bay Area. The sweet amazing universe. I am simply saturated with gratitude. I am also certain that this experience, of things falling into place exactly as they should, is not unique to me.

I have started a new chapter of my life. I am thrilled and excited and certain about this. But of course, there are parts of that last section that have stuck with me. When I was conducting the walk-through of my apartment before leaving Sacramento, my landlord offered me time to just walk-around. “Say goodbye” she said. I took her up on her offer. And as I paced the empty rooms, I had the most profound sense that I was walking head-on into my future and away from the life I had envisioned. It was a sliding doors moment.

I am still amazed at how real that other life feels. How real that other Deborah feels. How I can almost imagine driving back to Sacramento and having it there, like I never left. My ex gardening in the back, our apartment full of projects and stacks of things we had never found a home for.

Cheryl Strayed captures this feeling so beautifully. She said, “I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”

So I salute it. From Oakland. I honor its existence in some other realm and turn back to the life I’m leading now. This new chapter. In its beautiful infancy.

The Year of Letting My Hair Loose

Last year, one of my favorite people in the world walked up to me mid-party, tapped me on the head, and said, “Este es el año del despeluque!” (“This year, you learn to let your hair loose!”)

I can’t tell if it happened because that stayed with me or if she simply just saw it coming, but it was the year that I truly let it all go. It was a year of chaos. A year full of questions that surfaced with no intention of being answered.

I felt lost most of the time. I felt deranged in moments, but I felt alone more than anything. When you take a long, suspicious look into the mirror and you have 2 inches of hair (all around) staring back at you, things look intense. I got lucky. I was the only thing that fit in the frame, and so out of sheer circumstance, I began to focus on myself.

I don’t know how, but something withered away—some top enamel coat. With the gradual fading of this coat, I started feeling different. I learned to say the things I was thinking, to wear the hair that I was given, to write whatever was there, and to go for what I wanted. I stopped explaining why I wanted to be an artist and instead I started being one. I explored the ins and outs of everything, unfiltered.

I was speaking to an old friend this weekend about the shame and discomfort that came along with this unleashing. I made so many mistakes, so many things outside of the things I wanted, but it all helped me figure out with certainty the list of things that I didn’t want.

In the unleashing of one’s self, you start to see new corners. You start to notice the things that you do to keep from getting hurt, from being judged… the things we do to be liked. And when you see them for the first time, I have to admit it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to think how hard we try to not be ourselves, and how much hope goes into every move we make. You also become aware of how slim the odds are that you will always get the approval you are so desperately pining over.

Funnily enough, when the new year hit I asked my fairy Godmother what this year’s theme was and she said, “Curiosity.” At first, what she said didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me. What do you mean? I’ve been curious all year! 

But as I stopped to think about it, I realized that that wasn’t entirely true. The last year was about awareness: the awareness that I was wrong about a lot of things, the awareness of anger when things don’t go as planned. I ran into the dark, hair flowing behind me, drumbeats banging at my chest, and eyes wide-opened. I jumped. I braced myself for the scars I knew I’d get. I cringed ahead of time for the rules I knew I’d break, and all the while, despite the fear of getting caught, I learned to let the music play for the adventures that I knew I’d find.

But now that I knew who I was, it was time to focus on what I needed. Wait a second…needed? What did I need? Is it different?

Curiosity makes sense now. After you run frantically into the night, wailing at the moon, letting feelings float about you, there will come a time to settle down and listen. Discovering what one feels requires that one overlooks the rules one believes to be true, fears one believes to be fact, and agreements one made a long time ago that don’t make sense anymore. And now that I have the answer to that, it’s time to refocus on a new one: “What do I need?”

I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but this year, I began to see some clarity and light. With each month that this year has offered, I have moved forward, always stumbling a bit here and there, but also completely owning my way. I get frustrated sometimes because it’s a process, not a switch that flicks on or off. I wish I knew better, but in so many ways I am gradually getting to that version of myself that really knows better, and is constantly doing better. As the year comes to an end, I look back and realize that I don’t have to brace myself half as much. I’ve learned when to slow down and enjoy or when to pivot quickly and get out of the way.

The curiosity of “What do I need?” led me this year. My friend was right.

And though I still don’t know where I’m headed with this clearer sense of self, I stick to Bowie who said, “I don’t know where I’m going, but I promise it won’t be boring.”

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.

The Silver Lining to Heartbreak

I’ve been thinking about heartbreak.

At 57, it would not have been possible to have escaped the experience. And at 57, it would have been foolish not to have recovered, given all my good fortune.

What then does recovery feel like? Very physical. I think they call it heartbreak for a reason. Some linkage we haven’t yet named must break. Rupture. Bleed or tear.

Remember? Remember waking up in the morning, that brief minute before the new reality hits? Remember driving and you miss the turn and a motorcycle policeman pulls you over and you want to say, “But I couldn’t pay attention to the lane. Your ticket is water on a drowning woman?” Remember the endless attempts of your mind to rework the puzzle, to forcibly and logically unpick the sadness?

Maybe that’s only me. There are so many possible responses.

And then remember what it feels like as you get better. Over is the wrong word. You can’t get over it, it’s too high. Nor under, too deep. All the Motown songs apply. So you put one painful foot in front of the next, and then the day comes when you think to yourself, “Wait. That didn’t hurt so much.” And you wonder how you missed the beginning of better.

I find it’s also true that the real hurt never disappears altogether. Like the ankle ligaments I tore at 25, the blond rugby player from New Zealand still owns a small sore place inside me. If I could put a finger onto the realm of past loves, I’d feel a little crackle.

I saw him at my 25th college reunion. He told me I looked happy. I wasn’t, in the way he thought, as I was on the way to the end of my marriage. I was just happy to see him and not mind. And, as you can imagine, the New Zealand rugby player who became a cardiologist was not the worst pain. He’s just an avatar of the experience.

Heartbreak, once you move through, is like a video of fireworks. It’s in front of you, recognized, but you feel from a distance. When your heart first breaks, it hurts like a toothache, right up close to where you know what you are. As you get better, something comes between your locus of self and the pain.

I wonder what it is. I wonder what that layer of salvation is made of? Felt. Honey. Other substances of comfort and solace. Something smooth but not slick, very thin but not narrow. Like breath.

So what to do, if it’s going to get better, but you can’t snap your fingers? Slog along?

Just try to avoid more harm.

If your heart is broken, watch out for traffic cops. Be careful when you back up your car. Send all the thank you notes, invite anyone who might be offended by exclusion, keep your feet warm. Kiss only the right boys — I could have saved myself months of anxiety if I’d avoided subsequent athletes.

Do yourself no more harm. And then the sorrow you now feel will become something you cuddle up to. Because it will be a sign that you let yourself be vulnerable, that you weren’t the jerk, that you invested. There should be no shame in having been foolish, only in having been cruel.

Maybe that imagined substance that eventually sheaths the tracks of sorrow is our real silver lining. Nothing at all to do with clouds.

My Five Pillars Of Finding Love

“Hey I gained weight and you cut your hair!”

This was the opening line from a first, and last, date I had with a guy years ago. We met one rainy afternoon on a MUNI bus in San Francisco and instantly connected over our agreement of the not-so-sunny disposition of the bus driver. We parted ways at Van Ness & Sacramento St, but before I left he popped the question, “Can I get your phone number?” I obliged and he called within two days. He explained that he was heading to his brother’s wedding in India and would be there for the next five weeks, but he’d love to meet for drinks once he was back. I shrugged a “sure” into the phone and really didn’t give it much thought beyond that.

You see, I wasn’t instantly ga-ga over this guy. In fact, I hadn’t been ga-ga over anyone since I’d ended a relationship four years previously. But I believed I would be if the right person came along. So until then, I convinced myself I was having ‘fun’. At times it really was, but most of the time it was like eating a glazed donut: looks fantastic on the outside, but not much substance beyond the first bite.

I was a bit surprised when five weeks later the guy actually called to set up a date. That Friday evening came around and I was exhausted from the week, but I rallied, ”because you never know…” I got to the bar and was welcomed with his winning line.

It was true I had cut my hair, but at least it looked good. He, on the other hand, had gained 30lbs, shaved his head, and was wearing tight white jeans. Short story, short, the date ended quickly, more because he began a soliloquy about how great we were going to be together and how much I was going to fall in love with him. My quick exit that evening yielded many unreturned phone calls until I guess he finally got the hint that a ‘we’ was never going to be.

Pillar #1: Coming Home

I have many more delightful stories where that came from and I bet you do too. It still took me a good four years to realize why this kept happening. I was putting myself out there but not investing within. I was kind of like that glazed donut myself. Building a business took all my time and energy. I wasn’t nourishing, honoring, or even seeing myself the way that I should have been. I ventured home on a journey to my core.

Coming home means to invest in ourselves. Rather than seeking, we find what and who we inherently are. As this connection builds we begin to create a relationship with our true spirit which is honestly the most important relationship we’ll ever have in our entire lives.

A giving, honoring, honest connection with ourselves naturally teaches us who to be in a relationship with others. This connection to our higher self helps us build a belief that, no matter what, nothing can support us and no one can love us more than we can of ourselves. When that kind of love is built from within, it glows out into the world. And what does that kind of love attract? Real love.

Pillar #2: Making A List & Checking It Twice

Once I found love within myself, I realized there was no way I was going to sabotage that. It wasn’t worth the betrayal. So I decided to get clear. What did I want in a relationship? I’d never asked myself that before. Before, each penny into the wishing well was a free fall into the abyss. Now that I had myself as my plus-one I had really upped the ante!

We get to decide what we want. This is our life, not someone else’s, we get to make the decisions and a relationship is no exception. Whether single or married for 30 years, we can always make “the list”.

Make a list right now of all the characteristics you want in a relationship…not in a person, but a relationship.

Here’s a sample of what’s on mine:

-Communication
-Joy
-Integrity
-Passion
-Support

Get the idea? This list is the one you invisibly carry in your back pocket. Bring it on every date until you’re certain that the other person wants the same things. If they do, great! Then there is a foundation for you both to build upon. If not, then say farewell. If they’re not sure, buh-bye! You are ready to board this train. Why would you wait around for someone who isn’t?

After that, think about all those worthless characteristics you don’t want in a relationship..again not the person, but the relationship. You know, the ones that made you run like hell or cry for months.

Again, here’s a sample:

-Jealousy
-Dishonestly
-Withholding
-Narcissism
-Belching in public….(ok that’s not really a characteristic)

Getting the picture? You want to remind yourself of the things you simply will not tolerate in your life. Again, if you’ve done the self-love work, you’re not going to want to betray that gorgeous beauty within anymore. So keep this list handy and if one or more of these characteristics begin to show up on the 3rd date, 3rd month, 3rd year…ask yourself why you are there and be brutally honest with your answers.

If you give permission to these characteristics they will begin to chip away at the relationship you truly want. And worse? It will chip away at something so precious and divine, your shining god-given spirit.

Pillar #3: Look Present-able

Man or woman, do not ever go on a first date without feeling and looking your best. It may seem superficial, but first impressions are important. Be honest, when you went on that blind date and the guy showed up in a stained t-shirt, unshaven, and dirty hair and was preoccupied with work, were you really intrigued and wanting to see him again?

Unless it’s Ryan Gosling in that t-shirt, you probably just wanted to leave him a few bucks for some razors and detergent, then find the next cab home. Most of us who are living our potential aren’t looking for potential in other people. If that guy or gal shows up fully present, shining from the inside-out, do your absolute best in meeting them eye-to-eye. Remember, you are a gift so why not look the part?

Pillar #4: Be Open to the Package

This may sound contradictory to the previous point but it’s not. For example. When I finally began to love me, made my lists, shouted out to the universe, “Yo! Bring it!” I got this mind’s eye picture of a guy who lived north of the GG Bridge, six feet tall, and sandy blonde hair. I thought to myself, “hmm.” I was open.

When he finally appeared in real life six months later and explained he was just out of divorce and had a 2-year-old daughter, I…was open…When I realized his life at the time was a 3-ring circus…I was still open.

Wondering why I didn’t flee in the other direction? Because we both had our lists of good and bad. And when we compared notes, we were a match. I knew we could build a firm foundation that would hold us when things got a little shaky. Plus he was red-hot cute and his t-shirt wasn’t even stained!

Pillar #5: Gratitude & Acceptance

Once we arrive at the relationship, it’s so important to have gratitude and nourish it. Also, gain the acceptance that there is perfection within the imperfect.

In my relationship which is now reaching the 10-year mark, small frustrations abound. Picking up stray socks or playing the all-knowing swami locating the whereabouts of keys, backpacks, homework, sunglasses, and wallets. We love, we get on each others’ nerves and we love some more. It’s a good thing communication was on both our lists! But as we sit down at the dinner table with our now, 11-year-old daughter I’m grateful in my heart for the sweet family we’ve cultivated over the years and the love we hold for each other.

Whether you’re single or in a slumping relationship put these pillars into place. Come to the table with yourself and the other person. See each other clearly, see your wants in a relationship clearly, be each other’s gift, practice gratitude, and acceptance. And never, ever settle for the guy in tight white jeans….unless of course, that’s your thing!

​”We are stardust, we are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” -Joni Mitchell

Don’t Spend Your Life With Someone Who Doesn’t Choose You

Yesterday morning, my (now ex-) boyfriend drove to my house and broke up with me. And it absolutely sucks. After close to a year-and-a-half of loving someone and supporting him through his career failures, ups and downs, fun vacations, cuddles, and a couple fights, it’s just over and he can’t be my #mcm anymore. And that’s a hard thing to accept.

Part of me has an especially hard time accepting it because as of a week ago (and even Saturday night right before bed), it was all him saying some “I love you’s” and me saying the “I believe in you’s” and all sorts of things that don’t make sense in the face of a breakup. All I know is that he went to Mexico for a week for work, things didn’t pan out as we’d hoped, and the morning after he landed back home, he drove to my house to break my heart and then left his keys to my place.

And it is heartbreaking. It’s absolutely horrible that all the hard work and effort I put into making a relationship work (especially with someone who was gone for nearly half the relationship playing professional golf mini-tours) was just tossed aside. And the reasons for the breakup were selfish.. and they were sad – not pathetic, but actually sad in that I feel for him and care about him.

I don’t blame my ex-boyfriend for needing to find himself at 27 years of age. He’s at a crossroads in his life, and he does need to figure it out for himself. I, fortunately enough, know who I am, and it’s kind of a relief because I can’t be constantly supporting someone and giving someone my energy who doesn’t believe in himself and turns on me when things get hard. But I still believe in him, and I still support him. I want him to do well and to succeed, and I told him that.

It’s weird that things like that don’t change – the support and love and care you have for someone – but it helps me feel better knowing that I put it all out there and only told him the truth. I can’t say the same for the person I dated, but that’s something out of my control.

And things have been hard. And now I can be selfish. And I can look back and realize that the relationship wasn’t right. And I can realize that there are things that were great about it, but that overall, I deserved much better. I deserve happiness and someone who will be silly with me without caring what other people think.

So, fellow single people of the world, I hope you’ll join me in realizing that maybe your most recent breakup was the best thing that ever happened to you. You shouldn’t spend half your relationship on Google, looking up articles about communication and why your boyfriend won’t let down his walls even though he says he’s over past relationships (which, when you really listen to yourself and your gut, you know he wasn’t). You shouldn’t tolerate someone calling you “weird” or telling you that you “read too much.”

Someone shouldn’t inhibit your growth; the person you are choosing to love should encourage it. And love is a choice. That’s how my relationship lasted as long as it did – because I chose my ex-boyfriend day-in and day-out even when I knew I shouldn’t or didn’t want to. Because I was committed to us and to make it work. And him ending it and pushing away the person who believed in him the most (and still does believe in him) was his choice.

Don’t ever spend your life with someone who doesn’t choose you and doesn’t listen to you. Time is the most valuable thing you can give someone, so don’t spend it on someone who doesn’t have the same life perspective as you. If you’re an optimist, don’t date a pessimist; you’ll end up having to defend your optimism instead of embracing it.

Or worse, you’ll end up becoming pessimistic and lose yourself and what makes you special. Don’t ignore the red flags. Don’t ever let someone take your inner-light away from you. Defending yourself for just being your silly, loving, goofy self is exhausting. Don’t let him call you weird and tell you that you read too much or that you’re not part of his family (even though you spent Mother’s Day at his parents’ house without him because he was away at golf and even though you’ve been included in, essentially, every family event for the last year-and-a-half and have met most of his family). Don’t take on his failures as your own if he doesn’t reciprocate – even if that’s what you do in love. Don’t ignore your gut. If you were Googling articles like “am I happy” or “how to know it’s time to break up” just 7 months into your relationship, don’t stick around. Trust me. It won’t get better, but you can go find someone who is a better fit.

And when he breaks up with you, embrace it. Because you know you should’ve done it months ago. God puts people in your life for a reason and when that person has contributed all he can to your life, it’s time for bigger and better things. Reach out to your friends and your family. My dad, my mom, my brother, and my closest friends have been incredible in the last 24 hours and have reminded me just how special I really am.

And I am. And it’s hard to think that I might’ve forgotten that along the way in the last year-and-a-half. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? You should be with someone who reminds you just how special you are – day in and day out. I never forgot that. I loved and supported my boyfriend and told him how amazing he was all the time. And I just forgot to tell myself those things when he didn’t.

The Pink Dress

It hits me at 6:32, two minutes after I wake up. For two whole minutes it was like it hadn’t happened. I cry until 9, muffling my sounds with a pillow and wondering if my roommate can hear, yet feeling some comfort that I’m not completely alone. I scroll through the photos on my phone from the last 9 months. I’m thankful (for the first time) that I’ve lost so many phones and my gallery doesn’t go back 3 years. So much happiness is in these photos and yet I see the sadness in the most recent ones; the heavy, anxious, nauseating sadness that comes from getting back together and realizing it still isn’t working.

I snap up, strip my bed and say to myself: ‘You aren’t getting back in bed today.’ (But I do, that afternoon, without sheets.) I catch a glimpse of mascara on my pillowcase from earlier that week when I cried while rehearsing our break up — I knew it was coming and I was preparing for battle. I whispered in the dark for hours, going through all the things you might say, though I didn’t expect your ultimate line. I hadn’t rehearsed for ‘I’m not in love with you.’

I throw the pillowcase down and make my way to my car outside so that I can call you in privacy. You pick up and my questions spill out: ‘Do you mean it?’ ‘Is this forever?’ ‘When did you stop loving me?’ I reach a low point: ‘Do you believe people can fall in and out of love?’ I mumble about a Gwyneth Paltrow interview where she said she has fallen in and out of love throughout her marriage. ‘I think it was Vogue. Or Vanity Fair.’ You’re pained at my desperation: ‘Ellen, stop. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with you. I am moving on. I will move on and find someone else. You will also move on and find someone else.’ Someone else. You don’t want me. You want someone else. I hang up and fling the door open, gasping for air. I call my Mom, she picks up and I cry as she sits there patiently, listening and knowing.

Days later, I unpack the bags you gave me the night we broke up. One bag with clothes. One bag with my toothbrush, books and an eyeliner you had tried to sharpen for me with a knife because I had forgotten my sharpener. I pause. Why would you have tried so hard to sharpen it if you didn’t love me? I throw it away and start to hang the clothes in my closet. I linger on the pink dress because it still smells like you. I wore that dress to the ballet that we giggled through just last month. I bought that dress because you told me I never wore pink. I hated wearing pink. For a split second, I see all of that for what it is. I feel angry at you for wanting me to wear it and I feel angry at myself for wearing it. I realize then that at some point, the dress will smell like my closet again, and I will no longer think about you or the ballet when I smell it. I put it away in the furthest corner, knowing that it will be out of rotation; it will take some time for you to seep out and for me to come back in.

How I Healed My Heart After Sexual Abuse

I didn’t tell anyone I had been sexually abused as a seven year old, until I was 23. And I didn’t start grieving, feeling and letting go of the abuse until I was 33.

I knew my lack of relationships was probably related to the abuse. The fact that at 33 I had never been on more than a second date, or kissed a man sober, was undeniable. I knew I needed to heal those painful experiences, I just didn’t know how to. For years I was ashamed of my lack of boyfriends; the lack of attention from men, and how deeply immature I felt about sex and men.

In my process of healing at 33, I began maturing very consciously, such that I could clearly see the energetic patterns holding me into my deep fear of love, and the simple choices I needed to make to heal.

More than just reversing the effects of my abuse, deeply healing this kind of abuse has given me profound insight into the process of healing, and of creating relationships.

The kind of relationships that women create once they start healing this kind of abuse, is awe-inspiring.

The clients, colleagues and friends of mine that have had to face these kinds of deep fears and issues, have created some of the most deeply intimate and successful relationships.

I attribute the co-creation of my marriage in so many ways, to healing process I both experienced and learnt during my masters of spiritual psychology.

And I attribute the deep intimacy I experience in my marriage, to the depth of this healing.

I can’t explain how I see and facilitate this healing process in an email, however I can offer you a few keys that have served me.

Key 1. I am responsible for how I relate to my past

That is a hard pill to swallow. I’m not going to lie. But at some point we have to admit that we are no longer being abused. The abuse has stopped. And we MUST stop relating to ourselves as abused.

Key 2. I must take responsibility for what I want in the future

My healing was found in taking responsibility for the experience I wanted now, and in the future.

I wanted an intimate relationship with a husband that adored and supported me.

I wanted to love, support and adore myself.

And so the path that has worked for me is what I am now calling the technology of forgiveness. Which starts with forgiving your abuser – but is is profoundly more about forgiving yourself.

Key 3. If I want to heal, I need to forgive

I forgive myself for buying into the misbelief that it was my fault.
I forgive myself for buying into the misbelief that I am dirty, wrong, tainted, broken, or damaged.
I forgive myself for judging myself as unlovable, unprecious, unworthy.

Key 4. Healing starts with feeling your feelings

Your emotions are your energy-in-motion. They are simply your unconscious energetic patterns begging to be heard and released. Welcome them. Embrace them. Love them.

When that small hurt child within comes up searching and needing your love – give yourself the time, the love and the deep compassion you deserve.

We must be the love and the caring that we are crying out for. In my experience that is why we as humans are given challenges like this. To find the love beyond that that we are given. To find the love within.

It is easier said than done.

But it is possible. And the rewards are so rich. I am profoundly grateful for my journey because of what I have found within, and within my marriage, as a result.

Key 5. Reach out to another

In my experience, my healing started when I began talking about this to another.

And it is my professional opinion that healing is simply just much more possible with the support of another.

Get a qualified friend. A mentor. A therapist. A coach.

If you relate to this…I want you to know that there is an intimate, connected, loving life waiting for you. You would not be reading this unless you were ready to begin to heal.

Whatever form your healing journey takes, I send you my light and my support.

If They Don’t Appreciate You By Now, They Never Will

When it’s good for them, they’re all about it. They’ll make plans to see you and even put in the effort that you need from them for phone calls and dates. They’ll surprise you with your favorite treat from the bakery downtown simply because and tell you things that send chills up your spine.

For a moment there, everything is perfect – exciting and comforting, peaceful and so satisfying. You’re in heaven; everything feels so right.

But like every other time before, your blissful reverie quickly turns sour. Things turn dark so fast that you don’t even have time to think, only to feel how hurt you are. And once again, you’re left in the exact same place as you were before: wondering how the hell you let this happen again, how you ended up exactly where you promised yourself you would never be again.

You curse yourself for falling for it again. You despise this toxic cycle, and you don’t know who you hate more – them, or yourself for allowing them to treat you this way.

You never, ever have to feel like that.

You go back because you care, you go back because you think this time will be different. You go back because you subconsciously think you have to prove something, win their heart, impress them. You think, if I just have a little more time, they will realize that I’m The One, that I’m one of a kind, that life isn’t the same without me, that no one can love them better.

No. You never, ever have to convince anyone to choose you, to see you, to appreciate you. If they don’t appreciate you by now, they are never going to appreciate you. And if they don’t appreciate you, you should never waste a moment of energy on them again.

You might like the challenge, you might like the thrill, the chase; you see someone who appears to be untamable and you want to be the one to tame them, you want to be the one they change for. But don’t forget that you are dealing with a person who will always teeter between two personalities, no matter who they are with. That other facet of their personality, the unstable one, it will always be there, and you will always be left second-guessing yourself, doubting how special you are, always needing to prove something. You don’t want that. You don’t need that.

Because someone who plays games isn’t sure about what they want, always loves themselves more and isn’t the person for you. I know you have special moments, and they feel it, too. I know you have a connection and I know that when they want to be, they are so sweet and caring, loyal, and unguarded. But that’s only on the days when it’s convenient for them.

Leave your life open for someone who deserves it. Someone who’s reliable and consistently good to you. Someone who still keeps you on your toes, but in the best possible way. Someone who from the first day you meet feels something special and can’t help but want to be next to you – on their worst days, on their best days, and everywhere in between. Someone who looks at you like you’re magic and wants to be tamed by you. Someone who lifts you up, and keeps lifting you up. Someone who will never stop appreciating you because they will never risk losing you.

I know you might feel lost right now. You might be scared. You might be terrified of letting them fully go, no matter how fed up you are. But I promise you, there’s so much more. That spark you feel isn’t worth the pain. Don’t ever be afraid to let go because you’re just making room for someone new, someone better. Real love. Someone who will appreciate you.

Don’t settle for anything less than you deserve. Nothing less than knowing, with all your heart, that they cherish you.

What It Feels Like When Someone Never Fully Chooses You

I spent too long getting hurt by you, a complicated man who stayed with me but never fully chose me.

You kept me in limbo. One day it was all love; the kissing, the staying up all night talking, my favorite breakfast in bed; the trips, and gifts, the being there, the words that made all my senses come to life. And most significantly, you made me feel like my heart was safe. But before long, you showed your other side. My blissful reverie was quickly shattered as you became distant and unsure.

As you made me feel safe enough to lower my shield; my heart was fully exposed to your darkness. The lies stung that much more. The broken promises left scars that much deeper. Your harsh words felt like poison. Actually, you did poison me. When you decided you needed space, you wouldn’t think twice about it. You wouldn’t hesitate to not reply, turn off your phone, leave me hanging. You would abandon me without a thought. You didn’t care about how many tears I cried.

You drove me down the darkest of paths as I would stay up all night wondering what you were feeling, what you were doing, and if there was someone you liked more.

You left me knowing true heartache and pain that ran through my entire body, to my heart, up to my head, where traces of it leaked out through my eyes. I was forced to taste my pain over and over again.

And when you decided you needed me again, because I was the only person who understood you, you wouldn’t think twice about showing me your “good” side. You wouldn’t stop calling and writing. You spoke sweet words of reassurance knowing it would make my heart melt. “I need you,” you said, “I can’t live without you.” And so you pulled me back in.

You knew I loved your wrongness, all those parts of you that you hate. I wiped your tears away as you spoke about your dad, I kissed your edges, I loved all your roughness. You only showed those parts of yourself to me because you knew I loved all of you. I always tried to make you a better man. And for a while, I did. But your other side always seemed to win.

And so you used my heart and my love. And I took your abuse for far too long.

But rest assured that the last time you hurt me was the final time. When I told you goodbye, just know that I meant it.

Yeah, don’t think I don’t know about those girls you contacted. I felt when you would wonder if there was another woman out there who was easier to love, and who could love you better. You’re going to say it didn’t mean anything – yeah, I know that already, too.

Then you’re going to say that you did it for validation; it was your ego, or because you’re broken, or scared, or whatever twisted excuse you have to justify it.

But the bottom line is, I don’t care what the reason was. I’m done hearing your excuses. And yeah, maybe you are broken. Maybe you are scared. But guess what, even when you broke me I never betrayed you. We’re all scared in some way. But when you love someone, you don’t do things that will hurt them, period.

I know you’re full of regret. I know you’ll be all, “but baby I love you so much, I can’t live without you.” Maybe you should have thought about that, about me, the girl who you claim to love when you were going behind my back, breaking promises, lying, shutting me out.

You’re going to say that our connection is once in a lifetime. You’re going to say that you know in your heart you will never give all of you like that to anyone else. I know that already. But baby your talk is so cheap. Your promises mean nothing to me and neither do your intentions. It’s always the same old tune with you. I take you back, you’re amazing for a while, then you hurt me all over again.

I know in the end you are the one who will suffer the most, but I can’t pick up the pieces anymore. I gave you too many chances to count. And now, even though I loved you with every fiber of my being, even though it breaks my heart, I need to say goodbye.

I can’t believe it took me so long to realize this but, you simply don’t deserve me.

For Those Of You Who Never Got Your Closure

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all your tears, your pain, that agonizing pain that almost broke you. I’m sorry that they made you question your worth. No one should make you feel like that. I’m sorry for their compulsive need to put you down and control you. I’m sorry that they used you to feel good about themselves, spun you around in their manipulation, and you started to question yourself, like maybe somehow you were responsible for what happened.

I’m sorry for all those sleepless nights where you heartbrokenly asked, “Why?”

I’m sorry you never got the apology that you so undeniably deserve.

I know you’re looking for answers, for a reason why the person did what they did. I know you can’t understand it because you could never treat anyone like that, let alone the person that you love. “Maybe they didn’t love me,” you started to think. But you have to understand that when you’re dealing with a broken person, there is no logic. You also have to understand that when you’re dealing with a selfish person, their needs will always come first.

Why they did it is not important. Don’t even try to understand why they did what they did. You can spend years analyzing and still never know. They probably don’t even know themselves why they did it.

And suppose that they did say everything that you want to hear, would that really change anything? Would that change what they did, the person that they are, and likely will always be?

The real closure is knowing that what’s important is the right now. The new. Trying to fight the old is a battle you will never win because you’re wasting all your energy that can be used to build the new, to innovate the life you actually want to live. The energy it’s taking to hang on to the past is holding you back from living your life fully.

No, you didn’t deserve it. You didn’t deserve any of it. But the closure that you need lies in the truth, the truth about what you do deserve. You deserve someone who thinks about you, about your needs, and not just on the days when it’s good for them or when you’re convenient. You deserve someone who shows you that they care, someone who wants to be there through everything. Someone who knows that even though you’re so strong and can make it on your own, they want to fight your battles with you, because you are a part of them and they wouldn’t want it any other way.

Don’t ever spend time thinking about a person who doesn’t think about you. Don’t ever search for answers and an apology from a person who’s too broken or narcissistic to give them to you in the first place. You don’t want a person like that and you don’t want that in your life. Don’t ever look back with regrets because everything happens for a reason and it’s made you, you.

I know you loved them. I know how much it hurts. I know that your connection isn’t easily forgotten. But I also know that there is a more extraordinary love out there, a love that will never break you, a love that you would never know if it didn’t end with the last one. But love has to start with you. It has to start with you realizing that no one should make you feel like you have to compete for their attention and earn their love. It has to start with you realizing that you deserve so much better. And when they do decide to come back to you, and they will, you have to be strong enough to not get sucked back in.

There will be someone who will give you everything that you deserve, and you will be finally, finally free to receive that.

Enough Is Enough: Signs You Are In An Abusive Relationship

It took me four years to finally break free from a dangerously abusive relationship, but I had such a breakthrough, it changed my life forever.  If I had the courage and knowledge that I have now, back then, I would have left after the first physical fight.

Being in an abusive relationship can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter your age, background, or environment. How many times will you ask yourself when enough is enough before you change something?

I’m not saying it’s easy, but you have to tell yourself that breaking free is the only way for things to change. You deserve to be happy and treated with respect.

If you experience any of these signs frequently, design a plan of action and leave, before it gets worse. Because quite frankly, things will not get better.

1. If your partner has a bad temper, because he/she had a bad day, or is stressed and lets it out on you.

2. If your partner drinks a lot, or occasionally drinks, and gets aggressive; it’s a ticking time bomb.

3. If your partner raised his hand against you once, they’ll do it again, And if he/she does it to you, what makes you think, he/she wouldn’t hurt your children (if any) or your pets?

4. If your partner mentally abuses you, like calling you names and putting you down.

5. If your partner tells you what to wear and what not to wear.

6. If your partner picks fights with you, just to be in control.

7. If your partner forces you to have sex and doesn’t take “No” for an answer.

8. If your partner destroys your belongings. Cell phones, laptops, clothes, or passport for example.

9. If your partner is rude to your friends and parents and pressures you not to talk to them about your relationship.

10. If your partner denies that anything ever happened, but promises not to ever do it again.

If some of this sounds familiar, pack your bags, and seek support from your friends and family. If kids are involved, get a restraining order and a lawyer. It’s not just your life that matters, but it’s also the lives of your children. If you are not married and don’t have any kids, you can still file a restraining order. If you don’t have any place to go, you can call the domestic violence hotline 1−800−799−7233 (in the US) for further assistance, help to find shelter and legal help. And if you are in immediate danger in the US, call 911 right away.

Six Steps I Took To Make It Through Soul Shattering Heartbreak

Feel through the soul-shattering pain. Sit in the mess and hurt of it all.

It took me a long time to finally connect with myself emotionally.

When I was finally open, I became an invitation to love once again. And after falling hard for someone, very quickly I was left in pieces on the floor, yet again.

The only wisdom I have gathered thus far has been to be with myself. To commit to being single and cultivating a newfound relationship with myself. To rediscover who I was emotionally, compassionately, and gently.

This takes a ton of time and energy. Because with heartache and heartbreak, there are so much baggage and unworked emotions. I couldn’t bear the thought of carrying it all into the next relationship I entered.

Here are some insights that may be powerful for you to consider:

1) Feel it all.

It’s so easy to just distract. Using others to avoid the self. But the richness of life is found in the depths of our emotions.

Sadness, pain, all of it, is part of the experience. Dulling it with sex, drugs, alcohol or television dulls the message that our emotions tell us.

Sit in the shit and really understand what these sensations are in your body. Uncover what they mean, what the message is, and what the learning is.

2) Fill the space.

This might seem contradictory to above, but yes, go ahead and have moments where you are completely distracted. The healthiest ways would be the activities that are physical and bring you into the present moment: yoga, sports, walking, hiking, nature, water. Any of the things that get your mind and soul to take a break. Also, music, movies, books, and games.

Sometimes it helps to realize that though you’re heartbroken, the sadness and pain is NOT a constant in your day and life.

We literally have to DO sadness with our physiology, self-talk, mental focus, and so on. And when we’re doing things that take us back to the moment, we find that we can still shift our state and experience joy, laughter, and warmth.

3) Focus on yourself. 

Go ahead and take yourself somewhere nice. Be good to yourself every single week. Maybe bring a journal with you. Get into the thoughts in your head. Find things that you enjoy doing regardless of what others think.

Discover the freedom of being, doing, and having exactly what you want specifically because you want it.

Can you feel complete and whole on your own?

4) Ask for support.

Be with people who love and support you. People who are really good listeners. People who will support you in any and all of the above without judging.

People who know when to give you space and know when to help get your mind off it.

5) Invest in yourself.

Put time and energy into yourself. Explore passions you’ve left behind. Try things that you’ve always made excuses to keep shelved. Maybe learn a new language, art, skill. Educate yourself.

As you become an even better version of yourself for yourself, the bonus is you become a much more interesting friend and future mate.

6) Learn how to love yourself.

Ultimately, all of the above is about self-acceptance, self-love, and self-worth. When you are powerful, passionate, and purposeful independently, you realize you don’t need anybody to feel complete.

And coming from a place of independent happiness, satisfaction and meaning is like transporting to another planet. You step into a world filled with so much opportunity and possibility.

When you love yourself and you meet ‘the one’ or the ‘next one,’ you are more likely to attract someone similar to you: someone who is happy in their own skin.

And I believe when two people who have really done their work come together, magic happens in real life. Conversations are illuminating. The connection is profound. And the partnership is incredible!

I personally took these 6 steps and have been in the most inspiring relationships for almost two years now. Our connection is beyond anything I’ve experienced.

The level of honesty is uncomfortable at times but so respectful and it challenges us to grow to new levels. We honour and support each other’s visions and are aligned in our values.

Now it’s your turn.

Accept The Loss And Let Yourself Drown In It

I’m writing this on the plane from SFO to PDX. Getting to airports and planes are a pain, but there’s always something peaceful about being strapped into my seat, 30,000 feet up in the air, with my fate already decided for me and out of my control. My body, heart, and mind are completely exhausted, and I’d love nothing more than to fall into my bed and cry out all my feelings until there’s nothing left but numbness and a mascara-smeared, snotted up pillow.

Because that’s step number one: accepting the loss and letting yourself drown in it.

Up until now, I hadn’t completely accepted the breakup, even though I knew that hoping for a different outcome would only be setting myself up for disappointment. I didn’t want to heal yet because I still missed him so much, or maybe it was just the memories. I went to San Francisco anyway and had the most wonderful and bittersweet last moments with him, a week that ended with my heart breaking all over again.

The state of our hearts is important. It leaks into everything we do, and it shows in the energy we release into the world. I can physically feel my heart when it’s full and strong and pouring out cheer and good vibes to everyone around me, from Lyft drivers to my best friends. At times, I feel obligated to always be positive, happy, and excited about everything, but it gets tiring when I don’t feel the same inside. When I’m heartbroken I just need to take a little break in order to be whole again, and that’s okay. Currently, I feel like someone has shattered a glass chandelier in my chest and the shards are stabbing me to death. But I’ll still smile as I pass TSA.

For now, I’ll let myself be sad. I feel hurt, alone, disappointed, unlovable, and empty. I’ll lay alone in the dark in bed with a tissue box and run through all the things that could have gone differently. I’ll remember kissing him in the woods and ordering sushi in bed and how much admiration I had (still have) for him and the way he always did the dishes.

I’ll own this sadness, force ALL of it up to the surface until I don’t have any left. Eventually, I’ll realize that no amount of tears will bring him back, and there are bigger and better things for me to do. Carrying around heartache around gets heavy, and it’ll be time to let go. I don’t want to waste any more time moping over a relationship that he probably doesn’t even think about.

My brain will be so tired of thinking about him I’ll just start wondering about what Kanye will tweet next instead. I’ll remember all the amazing people and food I have in my life, and start thinking about traveling again. Once I hit that point, I will on my way toward healing. I’m really not there yet, but it all starts with acceptance so I’ll start there.

When You Can’t Let Them Go, But You Can’t Take Them Back

That’s the worst isn’t it – when you find a person in this life who just gets you so completely, not a day goes by that this person doesn’t cross your mind and your soul feels alive, but for whatever reason, you can’t take them back?

Maybe they did something you can’t forgive. Maybe you’ve tried to forgive but you just couldn’t forget. Maybe it got too toxic, too difficult. Maybe the timing was just always off. Maybe you were both just too young, too stubborn, too complicated.

Maybe before you even knew what was happening, it happened all at once – fireworks combusting, leaving you both burned and confused.

Whatever the reason was, they hurt you badly. They shattered your trust. You’re still so angry and you can still feel that excruciating pain in your chest and in your throat, the kind that leaves your whole heart, soul and body aching. You don’t want to think about it. You want to move on. And you’ve tried – you’ve gotten close to people, you’ve liked them so much. You’ve met so many amazing, beautiful people, people that aren’t toxic for you, people that would never hurt you, people that truly love you…

And you’ve gotten so close to moving on, but for some reason, something is always off…

You can’t understand why that one person, with all their flaws and edges and demons, has captured your heart so profoundly that you can’t seem to let go. You can’t understand why a person who’s so imperfect made you feel something so perfect, something no one else made you feel before.

Yeah, you’ve heard it all: You cannot move forward with your life with one foot on the brakes. People don’t change. Everything happens for a reason. You get it. You know. You know when someone is selfish, when someone has destroyed you and your happiness once – they will always, always do it again. And so you keep living your life, knowing you can’t them back, but also knowing you can’t let them go.

Knowing that there’s that one person out there in this crazy life who you connected with so strongly and so genuinely. A person who will talk to you till the sun comes up, who will hold your hand when it’s damp, because you get nervous when you get vulnerable. A person who will wipe your tears away as your walls come down that you spent years crafting. A person who you didn’t just hang out with, but played. Like two little kids again seeing the world for the first time; and all your fears were gone.

But the same person who multiplied all the good in life, was also the same person who almost broke you. So you keep living, keep moving, never stopping, never wanting to admit that when they left, you lost a part of yourself, too.

Chances are, you both have scars that have never fully healed and likely will never fully heal. Not that you regret any of it. Because meeting them, has changed you forever, and it’s made you, you.

When They Come Back to You, Please Don’t Take Them Back

It will be amazing at first. A rush of emotions, a sense of peace and satisfaction – all at the same time. They will give you a feeling that no one else could so far. All your senses will come to life. Your soul will feel alive again – like a little kid again seeing the world for the first time.

For the first time in a very long time, you will feel whole. You’ll feel like life makes sense again.

But before you know what is happening, it will happen all at once – that other facet of their personality, the one that almost broke you, it will show up. It will always show up. It will leave you confused, burnt, and worst of all, worst of all it will make you feel trapped, angry at yourself for allowing this to happen again. You never, ever have to feel like that.

Please, don’t forget about all the nights you cried till you had no tears left. Don’t ever forget about why you broke up. Don’t forget about how they spun you around in their toxicity and drowned you in all their issues.

Don’t ever forget about that pain, that excruciating pain they caused that left you so torn that you felt helpless. Don’t ever forget that someone who cares about, loves you, will never ever do anything to hurt you. And say they do love you, say they do care, then that is even worse. That means they will always love themselves more. That means that they still haven’t worked out their issues and until they have, you will always be their emotional punching bag.

They will always use you to feel good because you are amazing and strong and they know you love them so much – they know you will always take them back.

When they left, you knew somewhere in your heart that it was actually the most positive thing. You knew subconsciously that you were lucky that this person was no longer a part of your life because you opened yourself up for someone new, someone better, a more extraordinary love, someone who deserves you. Someone who always lifts you up, and not just on the days when they’re in a good mood, when it’s convenient for them.

You deserve someone who doesn’t give you internal conflicts. Someone who never leaves when things get hard, when life becomes complicated when you’re lost and confused and aren’t sure of what to do next. Someone who never leaves when you get caught in the rain, someone who never gets swayed no matter how many people are trying to get their attention because in their heart they know that what they have with you comes once in a lifetime.

I know you love them, and I know that they may have even lifted you up when you were doubting yourself. I know they were your best friend. I know that you told them all about your past, about all the people that hurt you. About all the things you did that you’re ashamed of, all the things you don’t like about yourself, all the things that make you, you – and they wiped away your tears and kissed those parts of yourself that you’ve never shown to anyone.

They loved your heart and this is why it’s so hard not to take them back. You had something special, and that connection will always be there. I know.

But I also know that they wanted things their way – that when you started to challenge them, that’s when the problems started. I know that after all was said and done, they left you broken. I know that you broke up for a reason. I know about all the pain they caused you, about all the lies and all the times you hated yourself for putting up with their toxicity.

So when they come back, and they will, please remember all of this. Because I promise you when someone is selfish, when someone has destroyed you and your happiness once, they will always, always do it again.

Leave your life open for a love that you deserve – I promise you, it’s out there.

Also, why we’re quick to forgive our exes, why a true partner will weather the storm with you, and 4 questions you should ask yourself if an ex wants to get back together.

Remember that if they don’t appreciate you by now, they might never appreciate you the way you deserve to be appreciated.

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.

I Finally Had The Courage To End A Relationship That Was Done

In the last year, I’ve done some amazing things for myself, some life-changing things. I’ll tell you one. I finally got out of a relationship that had long past run its course. I say finally because that’s exactly what it was: my decision to breakup was final. I quit returning. I quit justifying. I quit having hope and expecting change and I quit waiting for love to reappear. The latter took the most courage. 

In a sense, I had to give up and give myself over to the fear that had been preventing me from ending my relationship for so long. This was the fear of losing my best friend, of being alone, of having no distraction, of having no one to love. God knows I was expressing almost zero love to myself during that time.

My weight had plummeted to a hundred pounds and as sad as that is, what devastated me more was that I hadn’t even noticed. In retrospect, I am not surprised by my own blindness. It was convenient. It was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to avoid looking at myself, and that is the only thing any unhealthy, co-dependent, and consuming relationship has going for itself. It distracts you from your own chaos and drama, from your own personal torture and breakdown. 

This is obvious to me now. It’s obvious that my preoccupation with a half-assed relationship was strategic. It’s obvious that my romantic upset was a coverup, a distraction I fed into because it took the attention off my own spiraling, off my own reality, the reality that I had forgotten how to give love to myself.

My fear of this, of all there was for me to learn, is what made the dysfunction in my relationship so compelling. So attractive. So compulsive. So, of course, I latched onto it. What I latched onto as if it were a savior was the thought process that if I could give all my energy to “us” instead, and remain both furious and depleted by my efforts, I wouldn’t have to discover all it might take to “fix” myself. I wouldn’t have to discover and then honor all it was going take for me to love myself again. All it was going to take to change my life. 

The gravity of this need overwhelmed me. Because hidden beneath all my pain was the purest want of all, the want to become the highest vision of myself. And I was avoiding this because I knew that that vision would call upon the very honesty I was resisting, the honesty that if I wanted to become the greatest person I could be, I was going to have to leave my relationship. I was going to have to take on life on my own.

Last year when I left my relationship, I wasn’t ready. I was desperate. This surprised me. Because I always thought that when you are ready to leave that would be the time you would. Not true. I don’t believe you’re ever ready to breakup. There just never is a good time. When I left my relationship, it was actually the worst time, in that it was a time of many interviews, interviews that would determine not only my next step but my future. 

I needed my presentation, my focus, my livelihood to be bolstered by a love I didn’t yet have. Not from myself. Not from a boyfriend. It was also a time that I had been envisioning, that I imagined if I’d ever manage to get myself to that it would be filled with happiness and confidence and celebration. And yet, I could hardly celebrate my progress or arrival at all. 

What I remember most is crying over lunch and dinner. I remember the nausea in the morning when I woke and realized I was alone, that no one would be calling to wish me luck. At the time, I didn’t feel like there was anything for me to celebrate. Only, there was. It’s just that it was hard to. It’s hard to celebrate yourself closing in on your dreams when the very thing which has consumed your heart has vanished. So, no. You will never be prepared for heartache. You just have to plunge in and figure out how to breakthrough.

What facilitated my breakthrough was that, once I left my relationship, I finally stopped engaging. I finally quit reaching out with hope. I didn’t even respond when he turned back up promising me love either. Keeping my word was a remarkable feat. It felt like an achievement, like the first move I could be proud of in a very long time. 

Because the thing is honoring my word, honoring my intuition, had been my greatest resistance and that resistance was always at the forefront of my mind, overwhelming me with shame and fear. Fear that sabotaging myself had become sewn into the fabric of my character, a trait which I could not strip myself of or overturn. Fear that emotional laziness had become my new default and that that default would keep me trapped in relationships that were already breaking my heart. 

When I was still in my relationship this is what panicked me. My weakness and consent. Because knowing that you are slipping out of your own control, knowing that this is not where your heart belongs and choosing to stay anyways, to wait it out, is a death sentence. What happens is, at a certain point, you will stop believing in your own ability to care for yourself, to watch out for yourself, to do what is right for you and your well-being first and foremost.

This is what you need to understand: committing yourself to any relationship that has gotten you feeling so unhappy, so panicked and intimated by your own desperation, will deplete you of the very love you need from yourself. Do not take this gamble. Do not wait till you have plummeted to a hundred pounds like me. Do not wait till a doctor calls you anorexic and says he cannot help you. Do not wait for a convenience that will never come. 

When you remain imprisoned by your own fear, when you are so haunted by your future as a single person that you stay in a relationship that has already run its course, you set yourself up to fall entirely out of love with yourself. No one worth having is worth falling out of love with yourself for.

How I Learned to Stop Picking the Wrong Partner

When you’re young, schools warn you about all types of addictions: smoking, drugs and alcohol, but they never caution about the most dangerous addiction of all: people. 

During and after college, I very much became somewhat of a love addict. A constant hunger for adoration and validation tortured me for years. I gave years of my life to the wrong people—people who didn’t actually deserve me.

Now that I’ve gotten over my addiction, and have been single for some time, my best friends have made looking for a boyfriend easier by giving me love-changing advice. I’m better equipped to scope out the one who will stick by my side, no matter what, and treat me as a loving equal.

With the hopes that you avoid learning love lessons the hard way, here’s the advice that has helped me.

“If he can’t handle dealing with minor relationship issues, he will fail to tackle the big ones.”

My best friend made it clear to me that if your partner is unable to communicate with you when fixing small problems in your relationship, he most likely won’t be able to handle larger matters in the future. 

For instance, I was having fights with my boyfriend at the time about spending more time together. Instead of voicing his feelings, he hid them, and wasn’t willing to work through them. As a result of this, the relationship failed. Now when I look for a partner, I try to find someone who is open to communication, making compromises, and fixing problems as a unit.

A similar situation took place with a different ex. I asked to be driven to the airport, and he retorted that “that didn’t sound fun.” His answer was a major red flag because when you’re in love with someone you do those “not-so fun” tasks for him or her—not because you enjoy them, but to show that you care.

If your boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t want to do things like drive you to the airport now, he or she most likely won’t want to pick up your children from daycare later. The right partner will be unconditionally supportive of you because that is simply what good partners do.

In the same vein, it’s critical to remember that relationships are two-way streets. If you want a long-lasting relationship, you have to put in the work. Reciprocate appreciation, and show time and time again that you are in it for the long haul. If your partner is not doing these things in return, and making you a priority, then you shouldn’t be with that person.

“You are crazy, and if he doesn’t love that about you, then he doesn’t deserve you.”

“Accepting” should definitely be on the top of your checklist when seeking out good qualities in a partner. One night I asked my best friend if she thought I was coo coo for Cocoa Puffs for texting my partner more than usual. She replied that I was, but that my innocent bursts of insanity are what make me me. She said “You are crazy, and if he doesn’t love that about you, then he doesn’t deserve you.” She was right.

The old saying goes that “if you can’t handle someone at their worst, then you don’t deserve them at their best.” This statement bears truth in relationships. If you tend to sweat the small stuff in life, like me, it would be beneficial to seek out someone who will reassure you that everything is going to be okay. 

Steer clear of people who constantly judge you, and put you down just because you are a bit of a worry wart. Forego people who are not understanding, and fall only into the arms of those willing to catch you.

“Sometimes your heart needs to go on a diet.”

Sometimes love needs to be cut out of your life like a bad fat. It’s very important to take time for yourself, particularly after a relationship ends. In order to effectively love again, you have to make sure that all the pieces of your heart are glued back together first. If you don’t, then you will be unfairly giving someone a broken, incomplete love instead of the healthy love he or she deserves. 

I’ve definitely been guilty of jumping from one sinking ship to the next, but relationships shouldn’t be escapes or distractions. They are supposed to be selfless connections. 

Sometimes it’s absolutely necessary to step back from the dating world and take a break. Doing so will potentially help you heal and grow in both life and love. So, go ahead and take a seat on the bench. Give that heart of yours a break until you’re ready to get back out there.

How I’m Dealing with Being Alone after a Long Marriage

“Should a seeker not find a companion who is better or equal, let them resolutely pursue a solitary course.” – The Buddha

Finding yourself alone after being in a long relationship and learning how to deal with loneliness can be challenging. Many people end up staying in less than satisfactory relationships because of their fear of being alone. 

I’m sure that was one reason my own marriage lasted so long. I’m dealing with being alone quite well considering I was with someone from the age of 22. The idea of being alone can be terrifying, but a loveless marriage or relationship can leave you more lonely than when you are actually alone.

I’m lucky enough to be one of those people who has always loved my own company. Even as a child I preferred to do my own thing and I absolutely enjoy quiet. Not everyone may be the same way, and it’s okay if you feel uncomfortable being alone at first. Don’t judge yourself for that, just accept yourself as you are – after all, that is all we can do.

I’m continuing to work on myself, but more importantly, I have mindfulness in my life. Part of my practice requires that I accept solitude and that I continue to discover more about myself. I guess my practice is what makes me enjoy the solitude – actually, it’s more than enjoyment. I absolutely need it.

Sometimes being alone is more difficult, like on weekends when everyone else is out and about with their partner. It’s at these times that I find practicing mindfulness helps. I tend to do a formal practice, like self compassion meditation or I just sit with the thoughts. If you sit with the feelings arising and you get emotional, that’s fine. Crying is a healthy expression, not a sign of disaster or weakness.

Being alone is not the same as being lonely. Being alone can be just what is needed if you have the courage to embrace the opportunity to be with yourself. Working on ourselves is the only job we have to do in this life: it’s what brings full self acceptance and self knowledge.

This week I’ve set myself the challenge to go to the movies alone. I used to think it was strange that people would go to the movies alone. But looking back, how judgmental was I? So this week I’m off to see Life, the film based on James Dean, my childhood hero, and I’ll be on my own.

Why It’s Not Fair to Say I Have Bad Taste in Men

“Danielle has bad taste in men.”

This was a popular refrain amongst my friends and acquaintances in my twenties. I’d cock my head, cutely shrug and smile, playing it up for the extra laugh. I’d even announce it myself. Take ownership of it. “Ugh, I’m the worst, why do I pick terrible men!” Insert dramatic sigh, romance novel cover style with my hand draped over my forehead and my eyes closed.

The truth was that I only picked one truly bad one. One. The majority of stories I have now of past break-up experiences can be chalked up to immaturity (on the part of the guy and me), bad timing, miscommunication, feelings that weren’t reciprocated and just plain old differences in character that led to a congenial parting of ways. And the one bad ex in question was the first guy I ever seriously dated. So along with not choosing wisely back then, I was in the midst of trying to figure out how everything worked in an adult relationship.

The problem with using this “has bad taste” as a recurring joke or a label is that it’s demoralizing. It insinuates that you haven’t grown or can’t grow beyond a poor choice (or choices) you’ve made. Are we all so infallible that we get to brand people with this negative distinction?

Think about how it’s considered snarky and funny it is to say out loud at cocktail parties, as in, “Oh my gosh, you just date the WORST people, don’t you?” But what if you said the same thing pertaining to other questionable life choices, as if any one choice was the one thing to define you:

“Hey, remember when you called your ex a bunch of times before your wedding? You always do terrible things to your husband, don’t you?”

“What about that time you accepted a job at a place that bounced your paychecks, you always make AWFUL career choices.”

No one “always” does anything. And if someone has had a string of unsavory partners maybe they’re working through issues of past abuse or low self esteem and anxiety and you’re not exactly being a great friend by knocking it down to what you think is a cute little joke about having bad taste. When have any of us ever had perfect taste in any aspect of life? If you think you have, take a look at your haircut in your eighth grade yearbook and have yourself a seat.

Sometimes it seems that it’s not enough that we evolve in our personal lives, because there’s always some insensitive person who thinks it’s fun to remind us of past mistakes. And there are times when a mistake was a lesson. A big one. One that got us to where we are now, growth that may not have happened without some failed attempts to get it right.

Don’t let someone’s crap attempt at humor make you feel like you’re not worth more than any so-called bad choices. Don’t allow them to hold those instances up as if they should be emblazoned on your forehead everywhere you go so people know you once dated a guy who cheated, as if that therefore indicates that you’re damaged forever in the land of relationships. You don’t need to accept – or even smile at – their narrow description of you as a person. No one thing defines us. Ever.

So stop apologizing for being human and not always making the right decision.

And get yourself some new friends.

Don’t Blame Anyone But Your Partner for Cheating

Note: I am aware that people of all genders cheat and get cheated on. Since I am a heterosexual female, I am writing from my own perspective.

Ever been cheated on? The betrayal hurts right in your gut. It feels like you want to scream and cry and hit something. It doesn’t make sense, but the betrayal is so visceral that you feel like questioning everything while simultaneously screaming, “Why did you do this to us!?!” It makes you wonder if your partner ever loved you, or if anything they said was ever true.

No one ever knows how they’ll react to being cheated on before it happens. We may believe that we’d leave straight away, but that remains to be seen until it actually happens. We may have suspected infidelity for months. We may be on the verge of breakdown, wondering if we’re crazy and if all of those late nights at the office meant something more. Once the truth appears and our worst fears are realized, it’s hard to tell how we’ll actually act.

We might think we’ll leave him with no trace, but that is often easier said than done. Will we go over to the other woman’s house and set her lawn on fire? We might certainly feel like it. Will we forgive? Does he even want forgiveness? Was it a one-time drunken mistake or a years-long romantic affair? Did he lie a lot? There are so many potential situations and reasons why men have affairs.

After the initial gut-punch of shock, it’s easy to start thinking about the other participant in the action — the other woman. Who is she? Did she know about me? Why would anyone tear up my family? Does he love her?

If he promises he doesn’t love her and it was “just a fling,” we might feel hope, as though his affections haven’t been transferred once and for all, away from us.

Then, with enough consideration and mental gymnastics, sometimes we transfer fault over to her. The other woman isn’t always in front of us, and unless we caught them together, she’s often a construct, an idea. Sometimes she is so very real to us — our best friend, or our sister. Sometimes she’s a random woman from a bar. Sometimes we feel compelled to seek her out and tell her who we are and see what her reaction is. Is she prettier, smarter, better off than us? Why was he interested in her? Does she have something I don’t? There are so many questions.

Whoever she was, often we take the responsibility off our spouse’s shoulders and spread it around like fertilizer. Some of it even lands on us and we think, “maybe I didn’t give him enough sex,” or “I’ve been distant lately, maybe this is my fault.” It’s so easy to internalize cheating and make it somehow our fault. If we’re particularly lacking in a healthy support system, our so-called friends may actually say “well, it’s your fault — you’ve gotten frumpy.” Ouch. No matter what anyone says, the truth is likely not as vicious as the thoughts that race through our own heads about ourselves.

If our spouse wants to reconcile, we may want so desperately to believe that his pleas for forgiveness are genuine and that he would never do it again. We would love to believe that he really was temporarily insane and this other nasty siren was the reason why. We want to think that it can’t happen again — and that the other woman was an isolated case. So we pack up the blame neatly and send it over to her, telling ourselves that she must be the real culprit. After all, how could anyone parachute into another woman’s family like that?

The problem with blaming the other woman for our spouse’s infidelity is that it keeps us stuck. Since we’ve subtly shifted the blame away from the person who was supposed to care about us, who promised to be faithful and never cheat, we remove his ability to show us who he is. Good or bad, angel or demon, we take his responsibility away. If we delude ourselves into believing that he was helpless in the face of a seductress, he can neither take full responsibility and repair the relationship, nor can he own it and ride off into the sunset. We’ve given his power away without his consent. After all, he was the adult who made the decision to stray.

An argument exists that if no one got involved in long term relationships that it would “solve infidelity” and no one would be able to cheat. This is a silly notion, since it leaves out the possibility that the other person involved could have been lied to entirely — he could have never told her he was married, or told her that you were a demon. The other woman, after all, is just a woman. It’s easy to believe that a man’s marriage is “nearly over” and his wife “starves him for attention.” It is also relatively uncommon for a man to announce to his mistress that he’s perfectly happy with his wife and he really just wants to get his rocks off with different people under the veil of secrecy.

That’s why placing blame on the other woman misses the point. If we keep blaming her, someone outside the marriage, the hard work of change is just that much harder. If he could be seduced by this magical creature, couldn’t he be seduced by any magical creature that comes along at any time? If he asks for forgiveness, we can’t give it to him unless he takes full responsibility. Your spouse was the one who went outside the boundaries of marriage. The blame lies squarely with him. Admitting this opens up the possibility to move forward — whether that means forgiveness or separation. A proper delegation of responsibility means that clarity is within reach.

How Mindfulness Makes My Bad Days Less Painful

It’s been one of those days today. You know, the kind that starts out well and spirals into mixed up feelings and emotions.

No point in me asking you if you’ve ever had a day like that because if you’re human, you will have had good days and bad days. It’s just life and it’s all just thoughts spiraling out of control, creating your new reality. 

However, I’ve been on this mindfulness journey for over a year. Surely I should have all this sorted by now. Every day should be calm and peaceful, but it isn’t. I’ve been emotional and angry one minute, sad the next and I don’t think I can even say the rest.

On days like this, I always fall back on mindfulness teachings and even some of the great Buddhist teachings I have been exposed to over the years. 

Tonight I was lucky to take part in an online teaching given by Choden, who was a monk and now delivers mindfulness training. Choden explained that the “trademark” of mindfulness as taught by the Mindfulness Association is kindness and acceptance. Exactly what I needed to hear tonight because once again I spent the day being unkind and intolerable of my thoughts and feelings.

So how do you turn it around and go from having a really “bad” day to an “ok” or “good” day?

I think the most powerful teaching has to do with understanding what judgment or unmet desire we’re fighting against. We always want things that give us pleasure or make us happy, so when we get something that is not what we want, we become unhappy, angry or frustrated. Recognizing why you are feeling a particular way makes it easier to understand and end unproductive inner dialogue.

The storytelling in our minds can be so destructive. Mine is always trying to work out why someone did or didn’t say something, or why they did or didn’t do something. Usually I am way off the mark, but spend all day in my head trying to work it out. Sound familiar? 

The easiest thing to do is to recognize that you’re trying to understand something that is unknowable and let it go. That’s where meditation is so useful, and after my bad day, I was so lucky tonight to have a guided meditation that focused exactly on this.

Acceptance just means stopping the war inside instead of trying to change whatever is going on, as well as not becoming too involved with the thoughts. Choden’s example of this was: “like inviting a troubled friend in for a tea, listening with kindness and just being there, giving your friend room to say what needs to be said.” 

That is exactly what we all need to be doing more. Less battling with our own thoughts or circumstances that can’t be changed, and more quiet listening with kindness and acceptance. Maybe then we can all have fewer “bad” days and more “great” days.

What Happens When You Find an Unsent Letter to Your Ex

A red spiral-bound notebook is what you use to take notes, write reminders, etc. Leafing through the pages to find a space that didn’t have chicken scratch all over it, you notice a folded up piece of paper tucked away.

Upon opening that piece of paper, you immediately wished you hadn’t.

Don’t panic. Instead of slumping over into the fetal position clutching at your heart like you’re having Angina, just try to walk it off. Do jazz hands. Something to try to diffuse the energy that is upon you.

DON’T READ IT. I REPEAT….DON’T READ IT.

Okay, so you read it. It isn’t the end of the world. You relive those feelings briefly and then can go back to your busy day.

Now you’re crying. Fuck. Are there any customers around? No. You’re in the clear. Okay. Do that thing where you pucker your lips and breathe in and out super audibly until you can gather yourself because right now you look like a little kid who dropped her ice cream cone.

Don’t get angry. Things happen for a reason, so getting mad about it won’t solve anything. Just continue with those jazz hands and you should be fine in no time.

Don’t text him. Don’t text him. Don’t text him. Don’t text him. Your last conversation didn’t go well. Don’t text him. Don’t text him. You have him as “DON’T DO IT” in your phone for a reason. Don’t text him. Don’t text him.

Don’t get mad at yourself. Understand that feelings aren’t always kind. The sad/bad/mad ones always seem to hit you at the worst possible time. It isn’t your fault, you’re a human being. Learn to live in the present, feel what you’re feeling, and then get back to your day.

Don’t read the Beatrix Potter book you mentioned in the letter, that you lug around everywhere, because that will probably just make you more depressed.

Eat something. That’s what you were trying to do in the first place, and maybe it’ll make you feel a little better.

Don’t let it affect your work. Even though work is extremely stressful as it is, and you’re overwhelmed over things you shouldn’t be, don’t let it push you over the edge. At least wait until you get home to have a full mental breakdown.

And last but not least:

Know that everything is going to work itself out. This situation is crazy. Anyone who is reading this won’t really understand the situation because it isn’t something you’d want to completely broadcast over the internet. There are many facets to what happened, and to why you are this way about this whole thing.

Everything is temporary. This sinking feeling in the pit of your gut will go away eventually. You’ll stop being crazy over this guy, eventually. You’ll stop tearing up when things like this happen, or when you hear a song that reminds you of him. You’ll stop feeling so hurt eventually, and eventually, you’ll stop writing about him.

5 Ways I’ve Learned to Break Up Better

I am not naive. I also know that no relationship is black and white, and each one consists of nuances unique to the couple. Any point you get to past “friendly dating” means there are intense emotional strings that tie two people together. Breaking up is one of the most difficult things to do in life, no matter what kind of emotional disposition either person had in or before the relationship.

A person usually comes to the point of wanting to break up when they don’t see a real future for the relationship. He may see the girl as “bad for him.” She may see him as “too clingy” or having no real potential to start a family. To be frank, it doesn’t matter who in the relationship feels this way, because as soon as those thoughts creep in it can be legitimate grounds for a breakup.

I don’t presume to be able to write a full-fledged “breakup guide” but I can try to help a little bit. If you’re feeling stuck and need some help taking the first step, here are some ways to break up compassionately.

1. Do not procrastinate.

Do not drag out a relationship because you are looking forward to that Valentine’s Day date or going to see that big concert together (or, you know, prom). Critical relationship events are worth more than that. That kind of thinking will only serve to damage the two of you and it forces you to endure high stress a little bit longer. Sure, breakups cause more immediate pain, but it is far better than long term speculation and stress caused by suspense and inaction.

2. Don’t confuse false hope for kindness.

Do not give the person you are with any false hope. Don’t say “maybe sometime in the future” or “I just need some time.” Allow the person to simply move on; time to adjust and try to rebuild his/her life. Most importantly, don’t say “I love you” during a breakup to try to console him or her. You don’t, or you won’t forever, and that’s okay.

3. Off-again/on-again relationships suck.

You can’t “ween a person off of you.” It’s the ultimate form of holding someone in suspense, and I’m pretty sure should be classified as torture. Am I saying you can never ever get back with that person? No. You never really know what will happen in your life. But don’t count on it. Sometimes, like Summer and Tom from (500) Days of Summer, it’s just not meant to be. Instead, when you’re ready, open up space in your life to let new relationships develop organically.

4. You may not be able to salvage the friendship.

I’m so sorry. As important as this person was to you, breakups are often the self-destruct button for a friendship, no matter how close you two were before the relationship. This is often an unavoidable consequence of a breakup, and there’s usually nothing you can do about it. Breakups come with a price, and this is it.

5. Avoid rebound relationships.

Rebound relationships make a lot of people mad. They make your ex mad, they make you mad, and the person you got with will probably feel led on. Have you ever heard a happily married person say, “I married a person I was in a rebound relationship with?”

No? Me neither.

I know it’s tough, but eventually you will move on. Just like with a death or injury, the pain subsides eventually. Time passes, people change, and you eventually find the person you’ll find true happiness with.

When Your Ex Hacks Your Account

He was tall, gorgeous and older than me. I fell for him right out of college. He spoke of love, marriage, children he wanted to have with me. He took my virginity and gave me my first orgasm. In fact, he once gave me 11 in a row, but even with that feat, he doesn’t deserve to be fondly remembered. I was naïve, believed everything he said and in love for the first time, but he was even more skilled at lying, cheating and grand gestures of apology than he was in bed.

After a couple of years of stupidly maintaining this emotionally abusive relationship, I finally developed the strength I needed to walk away. With whatever was left of my damaged confidence and shattered inexperienced heart, I extricated myself from his painful grasp. Many months later, I was uploading dozens of pictures to my Snapfish account from a recent trip and noticed a recently added album on my account homepage. I didn’t recognize the cover photo and it was titled “DR.” Confused, I clicked on it and hundreds of thumbnails popped up on my screen. 

“What is this…” I murmured to myself as I began to scroll. Landscape. Landscape. Beach. Ocean. And then five pictures in, there it was. Along with a sharp punch to my pancreas. A picture of my ex-boyfriend with his arms around a girl. Smiling at the camera. A romantic vacation? A honeymoon? What was this? Why was it in my account? Had he logged into my account and purposely done this? Had he remembered my password after all this time? 

WHY?

I couldn’t breathe. My body was at war with itself, somewhere in-between an internal free fall sensation coupled with wanting to vomit everything I’d ever eaten. I could feel my eyes welling up as I hesitantly put my hand back to click on the next picture.

“NO!”

I physically jumped back from the screen and paced around my room. I am not a masochist. I will not sit here and look at a thousand pictures of him with some other girl. I refuse. I fought the urge to cry and instead looked at the contact information on the side of my account page, picked up my phone and dialed customer service.

“Hello, and thank you for calling Snapfish customer service!” a bright voice chirped in my ear. “How can I be of assistance today?” “Hi, this is Danielle Sepulveres, and there is an album that was uploaded to my account that I did NOT authorize!” The girl’s voice was now distinctly more timid up against my ranting tone. “Um, I’m not sure what your customer service issue is?” “Well, I don’t know! Is this normal? Should I just expect UNAUTHORIZED PHOTO ALBUMS popping up arbitrarily all over the place like it’s no big deal?! It’s a big deal! What kind of business are you running here? I want it OFF my page!” I was shrieking now. There was a long pause and then the customer service rep cleared her throat.

“Umm, you can just delete it, Miss Sepulveres? And then maybe change your password as an added measure,” she offered. I closed my eyes. My face was on fire, and I quickly imagined her laughing and regaling her friends with my idiocy at happy hour that night. Of course I could delete it. What a total raving lunatic this woman must think I am.

“Oh. Well, um, you see that it doesn’t happen again!” I replied sternly, my bravado gone, and I shook my head at my ridiculous lack of common sense.

I hung up and eyed my computer. Then I pounced. Before I could even second guess myself, I deleted the album and changed my password. But I was still shaken.

Mechanically, I picked up my phone again and called one of my best friends. “Hi! How are you?” Jen answered sounding happy to hear from me and I promptly burst into tears. “He logged into my Snapfish account and uploaded an album of him and some girl on vacation!” I sobbed. “It’s like, 800 pictures of him on a beach with some girl! And Snapfish thinks I’m crazy!”

She knew exactly who I meant. “What an asshole! You just looked through all those pictures of him?”

“No.” I sniffled. “Once I realized what it was, I deleted it. I only saw a couple pictures. So I’m just assuming. And who takes 800 pictures?! Was it a honeymoon? Oh God, I’m gonna throw up.”

“Wait, but you deleted it?” she persisted. “You didn’t look at it?”

“No, I didn’t look at it, I just told you.”

“I’m so proud of you! You finally took the trash out!”

“Wait, what?” I asked.

“He always got off on making you feel bad, and you let him. You’re no longer giving him that power. You deleted him!”

I could feel myself nodding. “You’re right, a year ago I would have tortured myself by looking at every single one.”

“See? You’re fine now. You were just surprised. That’s all,” she said.

A few minutes later, we hung up and I sat back down in my desk chair lost in thought. Then, I opened my bottom desk drawer, dug under a pile of folders to pull out a wooden box containing the last remnants of that toxic relationship — a few notes, cards and a candid photo a friend had taken. We were on a staircase, me with my head thrown back laughing, arms around his neck, him smiling with his head dipped down towards me, arms encircling my waist. Now it had all the significance of a stock photo in the frame bins at TJ Maxx.

I took it and the rest of the contents of the box and carried it down the hall to the kitchen and garbage can. If I was really going to take out the trash, I might as well be thorough about it.

The 5 Wake Up Calls I Got from My Breakup

I was slightly stunned last week when I realized that it’s been nearly three years since the end of my most serious relationship. That breakup ripped me up in the worst possible way. I’ve never felt quite so adrift as I did in the weeks and months that followed. But as horrible life events often are, my breakup was a learning experience. At the risk of sounding trite, I learned about myself and about love from its aftermath. Here’s what I’ve taken away:

“The One” does not exist.

For years I hung onto the idea that there was a single person out there for everyone. I think it comes from being raised in a family with two happily-married parents, with happily married grandparents and aunts and uncles. In addition, pop culture was also a guiding force in my firm belief in The One. For a very long time, I believed that my then-boyfriend was The One. And when that relationship ended, I felt utterly shattered because that’s not what’s supposed to happen. I worried whether I was wrong about him being my person, or that I may never find another one.

After a lot of reflection and dating, I’ve realized that The One is a myth. There will always be people who are so compatible that you believe that the two of you were made for one another. And for some people, that feeling comes only once in a lifetime. Some people find it multiple times. Some people never find it, or perhaps aren’t interested in romance. I truly believe that my ex-boyfriend was The One for me from the ages 17 through 27. But after that, we were no longer compatible. I now believe I’ll get to experience love again.

Sometimes the best thing to do is tear down everything and start fresh.

After our final fight, I left and found a flat for me and my two cats. I had almost no furniture because I’d sold most of my shitty second-hand stuff when I’d moved in with my boyfriend. So I spent many, many nights in an empty flat feeling alone, bereft and sorry for myself.

After some wallowing, I started filling my flat and my life. I took a full-time job, which ultimately led to work that I really enjoy.  I bought the furniture and household items that I actually liked. I spent time with my friends and made new mates. I started exploring new interests. I did some online dating and had a series of incredible experiences there.

I would never have done those things if my relationship hadn’t derailed. I never would have needed to buy new things or meet new people. Although it sucked at the time, stripping that floundering relationship from my life made room and space for things that have made me feel happier and more “me” than ever before.

Fear of failure is worse than actual failure.

I’m a very anxious person. For years one of my biggest fears was that my relationship with my partner would end. Even when our relationship was good, I would sometimes lie awake at night picturing how awful it would be if we broke up.  When we eventually did, it was like a nightmare had come true. Only it wasn’t as awful as I’d imagined it would be.

Don’t get me wrong – it was pretty fucking brutal. But it wasn’t as all-consuming as the scenario my very active imagination had created. I managed to deal with it, survive, and thrive.

When I’m about to take a risk or I feel scared about something, I reassure myself that fear is worse than actually failing. This realization has helped dramatically with my anxiety, and it’s not just a cliche that I placate myself with. I know it to be true because I survived a breakup that was once my worst fear.

A partner is not a financial plan.

I did a very dumb thing during the course of my relationship. There were many moments when I should have been planning for my future, and I’d brush away those scary thoughts about superannuation and mortgages and let Future Vanessa deal with them.  I thought that my relationship would last forever, and I thought that meant I’d be set for life. My partner worked hard and had a well-paying job. He knew what he wanted from his career and I was happy to just go along with that, getting away with working part-time because he earned enough to take care of the bigger, scarier expenses.

Then we broke up and I realized I was screwed financially. I’d always been good with my money, but I’d never earned much. I’d saved some cash, but I never thought to put anything into my superannuation or worry about my financial future. My plan for the future was to let my boyfriend take care of it. I’m ashamed to admit it, but that’s the truth.

I paid dearly for that error. But after some panicking and nervous crying, I got my butt into gear. I took on a full-time job to better support myself. I opened a dedicated savings account. I put money into superannuation. I started researching investments and cutting my discretionary spending, and now I’m in a much more comfortable financial position.

If I wind up on my own for good, I’ll be set up to take care of myself. And if I do end up getting married down the track, I’m coming into that union with a solid foundation and the knowledge that I’ve got my own back.

A relationship’s success isn’t measured in its duration.

For a long time, I nursed a deep wound caused by the feeling that I’d failed. I felt that because we’d broken up, my relationship with my boyfriend was all terrible and all wrong. I tortured myself thinking about all our happy memories and tainting them with the idea that they were somehow flawed because we had broken up.

I had an epiphany while watching How I Met Your Mother. In the final episode, where Barney and Robin reveal that they are getting divorced after a few years of marriage, Robin mentions that their marriage hadn’t failed, but rather that it was a successful marriage that only lasted three years. That hit me so hard because it’s really true. Not all wonderful, successful, and important relationships last forever. And not all long-term relationships are successful. For so much of our time together, my relationship with my ex was awesomely fun, romantic, and nurturing. I felt supported and truly happy. And that isn’t tainted by the fact that our relationship didn’t last. It was what was right for us for a portion of our lives, but after that, we were no longer compatible. It happens, and it doesn’t make me or my ex a failure.

How I Re-Wrote My Past after My Divorce

After my divorce I avoided places and people that I closely associated with my past. It felt uncomfortable thinking about going to these places or speaking to people that knew us both. I also felt a little embarrassed every time I explained my divorce story.

I dreaded going back to Cyprus, where we had lived for years and two of my children were born. The first time I went back on my own was not a good experience – I felt very out of place and the memories were overwhelming and negative. I couldn’t bring myself to think anything good about my time in Cyprus.

Of course as time passes we learn to adjust to our new life, and we settle and life goes on. But to truly move on, to really let go of the past, you must do the work. You have to go deep inside and explore, which requires us to question and get to know everything within ourselves.

Time can be a healer or it can just cover up what we don’t want to see. Being a mindfulness practitioner gives me no choice but to explore my mind and the stories I tell myself. So when I feel something unpleasant, mindfulness forces me to explore what’s behind it, which can be a difficult process. But it’s liberating when you get through it.

The next time I went to Cyprus things were different. I noticed that places had changed and yet they were still very familiar. I started to feel happy as memories of my children growing up there came back to me: seeing their school, the beach they played on. I even felt happy to remember being with my ex-husband.

Because the truth is that back then, everything was as it was supposed to be. And now everything is as it is supposed to be. It’s not sad to look back at the past just because there were some unhappy times because there were equally, if not more, happy times.

What’s changed is that I am now able to relate to the past in a different way. I’ve let go of the anger and replaced it with a sense of joy for my new freedom. I guess I’m grateful for the chance to live how I want without having to consider someone else. I am grateful for the new life I am living, the opportunities that now lay ahead and for all the new people I meet.

The past is what it was, which is equally as important as the present because without fully experiencing the past, you can not be fully aware of the possibilities in every moment.

So I re-wrote my past by changing how I relate to it. I respect it for what it taught me, for giving me the chance to have a beautiful family and for the strength it helped me build within myself. Now I wonder, how could I possibly have seen that in a negative way?

What I Learned After Losing 225 Pounds And My Wife

For years, my marriage had been loveless. When I look back on my personal journal entries from this period, it was a very dark time in my life. I had decided that I was going to stick it out until my youngest daughter turned 18. I was literally counting down the days (it was over 5,000 at the time) until then knowing that I had to hang on. 

My wife was completely unaffectionate and ignored all romantic and physical advances. I thought there was something wrong with me. But  I was resolute. I had two beautiful daughters with her. I had lost 225 pounds for myself, but in the back of my mind, I thought it would also save my marriage. We had been through so much and come so far that I couldn’t just give up on us.

In a moment of anger, a line was crossed and it became evident that the time had come to end the marriage. To stay together, I finally realized, was becoming worse for my children than leaving. At first, I was humiliated by the separation. I felt like a failure. I slept more because I didn’t want to be awake. I poured myself into my work and hobbies to avoid dealing with the reality of my divorce.

At some point, I think we both realized that we didn’t love each other and that didn’t mean there was something wrong with me or something wrong with her. We just weren’t meant to be together. The truth is that we didn’t fight very often. Most of our friends were shocked to hear we were getting divorced.

I was only able to start to accept what had happened by adopting a Stoic mindset (the indifference to pleasure or pain), and realizing that I had to make the best of a bad situation and rise above the circumstances. 

Once I accepted it, I was able to move on to a role as co-parent with my ex-wife.  My ex and I have found tools to make interaction with each other easier. We use a shared Google calendar to communicate events and drop-off times. We are able to text and talk about 95% of the time without issue or concern. 

We both love our children, but she and I were like pickles and ice cream. I love pickles and I could single handedly kill a half-gallon of ice cream. They are both incredible and delicious. But put them together and no one would order that in a restaurant. Some combinations just don’t work, but that doesn’t speak to the worth of the individuals. I want her to find happiness in whatever form that is for her.

Enough time has passed that, honestly, I feel very little when I think of her or interact with her. We had both fallen so far out of love that there was very little emotional fallout after the final decision was made to split. It’s hard – part of me wonders how my life would be different if I’d met someone from day one who truly loved me as opposed to someone who just loved the life and children I provided. Would I have stayed obese? Would I have wallowed in self-pity? Prior to our divorce, I struggled for so many years with feelings of being trapped. I was gripped with thoughts of suicide and misery and my life was at 50% of what it is today. 

After the divorce, my work wasn’t over. Shortly thereafter, I also lost my father. He was only 68.

I sat down with a counselor and we worked through everything, starting from my youth. I realized that all my life I had allowed my goal of perfection to become a mechanism that had kept me from being able to forgive myself for my mistakes. I read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, which changed my life. I continued working on embracing a Stoic philosophy, which allowed me to find a way to move past the mistakes and trials of my past and find self-love and forgiveness.

Writing was another invaluable tool. I have always kept a journal and I am an aspiring writer. It’s also my greatest form of therapy. Getting my feelings onto a page not only makes them seem more “real” but it also allows me to sit back and be (more) objective about my problems. Have you ever noticed that you can give great advice to someone else going through the same exact problem you’re going through, and yet you struggle to pull the trigger and execute your own advice? Writing my problems down and then reading them either later or the next day allowed me to almost see my problems from the perspective of a neutral third party, giving me the clarity and mindfulness I needed in order to act.

Dating after divorce was complicated on two levels:

First, it was weird dating again because I was used to being married.

Second, it was the first time I was getting out there not being morbidly obese.

It took me some time to transition. The first time I was set up on a blind date, she walked in and my jaw hit the floor. She was gorgeous, so there was absolutely no way she’d be interested in me. I was (and in some cases still am) “fat in the head.” A funny thing happened, though – she thought I was handsome and funny and interesting and she stuck around for quite a while. We had a very successful relationship that ended only because she did not want to be a step-mom (which is kind of a package deal with me now).

It also took me a while to learn how to date again. Dating has changed so much since I was married: apps like Tinder make it easy to meet multiple people a week, which I did at first. I was trying to find my dating legs and I don’t think there’s any harm in doing that because I was upfront about it. 

My encouragement to others, especially after a long relationship, is to take some time to learn about yourself before you get into anything serious. Date a lot; meet a lot of people (not to say you should sleep with a lot of people!). Find out what you like and what you don’t. That being said, don’t get too specific. I am against ideal mate profiles because I think they limit us too much. It’s okay to have deal-breakers (e.g. I won’t date a heavy drug user), but don’t be so specific that you end up looking for a 5’6” redhead who likes Coldplay and knows how to play the harmonica.

To move on and date successfully, I’ve had to learn one very important thing: I AM NOT BROKEN. Everyone comes into relationships with a history, not just you. We are shaped by our histories inasmuch as they make us the people we are today. And if you aren’t okay with the person you are now, you shouldn’t be dating in the first place. Accept your ‘mistakes’ (I would guess many of your mistakes weren’t mistakes in the first place) and love forward.

If you sometimes feel broken too, let me say this: please seek help. Talk to someoneEspecially if you think you don’t need to.

Four Ways I Helped Myself Heal After a Breakup

Everyone deals with breakups differently, but here are 5 ways I helped myself after my breakup. I hope they may inspire or encourage you on your own journey.

1) Letting family and friends double as therapists 

For some people, family and friends are going to be the most important aspect in getting over your break-up. They will be the best support system you can ever ask for. They will tell you the truth—even if it hurts—and be there to wipe the tears. What is amazing about confiding in family and friends is that their advice is always coming from a desire to help you.

In a relationship, we tend to have our love blinders on. We sometimes block out the bad things and make excuses for our significant other. Our family and friends can rip off those love blinders and help us realize our self-worth and what we truly deserve in a relationship. I have found a whole new respect for my family and friends. They have continually been there for me while I’ve ranted and cried (never once giving me the impression that they were bored of hearing the same old thing). During a time where it seems like your world is crumbling, your support system will be there to mend back together those broken bits and pieces to make you feel whole again.

2) Doing a little spring cleaning

This means physically and mentally. If you’ve been in a long term relationship, then you probably have tons of kissing pictures hanging around your place, and little trinkets from your travels together. Advice: take it all, every last bit, and toss it in a huge bin ($8 at Target, you’re welcome). Place that bin in the garage and never look at it again (or at least until you’re ready). Personally, my room was like a shrine to my relationship. When it ended, the second I got rid of everything that reminded me of him (and even spent the time to do a little re-decorating), it made me feel liberated. Also, it helped to not have physical reminders of our relationship taunting me in my own personal space.

The spring cleaning philosophy extends to your head, too. Social media plays a huge part in our daily lives and allows us to know what our friends are doing on the regular. If you have your ex on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc… DELETE THEM. I know this is easier said than done. Trust me, I do. It took me a month and a half to finally pull the plug, but it has been one of the best ways for me to move on. You know the phrase “out of sight, out of mind?” That’s what I’m getting at.

When going through a breakup it’s normal to be constantly thinking about our ex. What are they doing every day? Who are they hanging out with? Are they thinking about me? It becomes a constant mind game of confusing and open-ended questions. Curiosity is normal, but when these thoughts turn into an obsession, there’s a problem. If you’re connected in any way online, then you are bound to check what they’re up to and get upset that they are doing things that you both used to do together. The only way to avoid these feelings is to not give them the opportunity to arise.

3) Focusing on my happiness

I hate the phrase “focus on yourself,” because it seems superficial and selfish. Instead, “focus on your happiness.” When in a relationship, it’s easy to lose ourselves. We begin to make our decisions based on the happiness of others instead of our own. This becomes an issue because if we are so busy making someone ELSE happy… because then who is making us happy? We have to make happiness for ourselves, and breakups are a brilliant reminder of that. 

Personally, my happiness comes from friends and enjoying new experiences. Since my breakup, I have been to Vegas (so cliché for a newly single girl, I know), been going out with my friends, and focusing on my blog. My ex-boyfriend didn’t like doing any of these things so I had sacrificed some of my happiness in order to appease his. Now I see that that wasn’t okay. Why do we limit ourselves in order to please others? Rediscover the person you were before the relationship. This is a time where it’s perfectly acceptable to make ourselves the priority instead of others.

4) Holding out hope

There is someone out there for everyone! A breakup does not mean you are going to be single forever. It means the universe has something bigger and better in store for you. What I have realized most deeply is the need to trust the timing of your life. There is a reason for everything! Even though I felt as if my life was over (so dramatic, I know), I never once doubted that there wasn’t someone better out there for me. Being hopeful is the best thing you can do right now for yourself. When you’re feeling skeptical that you’ll find someone, remember this: even the weirdest people in the world find lovers! There really is a lid for every pot. Constantly remind yourself that this breakup happened for a reason. From here, all we can do is choose to use it as a learning experience.

Why I’m No Longer Grasping For Love

Today I wake to all the normal things. The headache and the emails that he’s been writing me. The morning, he says, is when he’s most connected to his emotions, when he cries and realizes that I am gone.

This morning he is sitting in the shadows of his room. It is raining, he tells me, and he’s been reading John Muir, a book I’ve given him. You’ve always known so well what my taste is, he writes. You’ve always known what would make me happy. I read this twice and think about men and bravery, that the bravest act is sometimes as simple as the admission of regret, the realization that you are sorry or, if you are not, the capacity to say that, too. Instead, he writes to me about himself. His taste, his happiness. What about my own? I wonder. Will he ever be brave enough to say sorry for pushing me away? No. He could never show up that bravely for me, and he would never indulge me in the selfless act of apology, let alone remorse.

His email makes me think of all I’ve ever done for him, and all I ever wanted to do. It is a reminder that, of course, I knew what his taste was, because I was always paying attention. That, of course, I wanted to give him the world, all those things that were just out of his reach. Like John Muir. I didn’t want him borrowing books from a library. I wanted him to own them. I wanted him to feel the difference: to say, this is mine. I wanted him to have something he could return to, something he could love and not hand back.

And to think that, amongst all this desire of mine to see that he was comfortably looked out for, I somehow taught him to push me away. How can the wonder of love evolve into a habit so smug, so robbed of its original intention?

My sister says that my relationship with him reminds her of the cycle of abuse. You’re in phase three, she tells me: Reconciliation. But you’ve spun this wheel before. 

She’s right. I’ve been dancing in circles for awhile. That’s the confusing thing. For so much of our relationship, I haven’t been so much in love as I have been grasping for it.

Why do we do this? Why do we try to pull together something that isn’t there? For too long I reached into emptiness, imagining the grandiosity I’d come to touch would redeem me from this pathetic period of my life where I tried to lead myself blindly back into a love that had gone amiss. But nothing was left for me to reclaim. Nothing could have satisfied the feeling I held within me of all that had gone missing from our relationship.

His emails, of course, are triggering this reflection in me. But what surprises me most is how I can look back right now without grief or even nostalgia. Maybe that’s because I’ve already grieved. I grieved the relationship while I was in it. That’s why I had been crying all the time, sobbing, overwhelmed by the love we no longer inspired in each other.

Didn’t he, on some level, know that?

That I had been crying because I knew these emails would inevitably be sent to me. Because I knew that some of us only understand what we have in the moments that accumulate after it is gone. After it will never be ours again. After it refuses to return to us even as we flatter and beg.

Didn’t he know that our love was the kind you have to disappear from? Didn’t he suspect that I would eventually have to cut myself off completely from him? I always knew.

I knew that eventually I would acknowledge that staying with him had become a type of emotional abuse which I, for so long, had rationalized irresponsibly. I knew that I’d be writing this story and that he would be the man to kill off every pipe dream of mine, every tendency toward romantic adventure, and leave me aching.

I knew this story would be the last of its kind, too. That inevitably I’d outgrow the harm wrapped up in loving a man who is not brave enough to honor what he has when he has it or to say sorry once he has minimized it, taken it for granted, and turned it away.

Sometimes we set ourselves up for lessons because we just don’t believe that everything can be learnt in the shadows of our apartment, from a single book, all alone. John Muir says we never know where we must go, nor the guides we are to get— not people, storms, guardian angels, nor sheep.

Sometimes it’s not that we are even being pushed away, it’s that we are being guided toward a miracle we are yet to realize or understand. Maybe he didn’t push me out of his life. Maybe he slowly then suddenly gave me the space I need if I am to live and triumph. 

And triumph, I am. I am no longer grasping. I am no longer spinning my wheels. I am letting him go without a reply.

How Making a Post-Breakup Bucket List Changed My Life

It was just after my 29th birthday. I was going through a horrific breakup, had moved back in with my parents and started a new job that was beneath my skill level – taken in an attempt to repair my now destroyed relationship. I was depressed and feeling sorry for myself. I spent as much time as I could either sleeping or partying with friends, trying to numb everything.

A new friend from work told me turning 30 was hard for her, and that creating a list of things she wanted to accomplish before her birthday really helped her cope. I didn’t really have the same feelings about turning 30, but I was looking for any distraction from myself. So I started making a list.

I told my brother and sister-in-law about it the night after I finished writing it. My brother was determined to cross something off my list right then and there, despite it being his birthday dinner. We finished eating a fantastic lobster dinner, and then promptly shot-gunned a beer. Only 29 to go!

Having something to really focus on that I was excited about helped me. I wasn’t solely focused on my breakup and feelings of betrayal, but something positive and fun. My friends were no longer dragging my ass out of bed; instead, they were planning with me and helping cross things off my list. When my best friend saw that I had added “keep a plant alive for 6 months” to my list, she dropped off “the easiest plant to keep alive ever.” I was barely able to keep that thing green, but I did it. My other friend, a teacher, signed me up to help out with field trips for her class when I said I wanted to volunteer with kids.

I got a call from my best friend from university who is now living out West. She wanted to help with my list, and suggested I go out to visit her, a trip I had been promising to make for 3 years. We planned out what items on my list we could cross off, and the next day I booked my flights. In those 2 weeks I did multi-day hikes and spent a week camping with zero cell reception while hiking a mountain.

And then something started to happen. I felt myself opening up more. I started doing things that weren’t even on my list. I started to pull those around me closer, encouraging them to run alongside me as I crossed things off. Things I always wanted to do and hadn’t, or hadn’t done in a long time and had been meaning to do again but made excuses. I picked up my camera again, a long forgotten hobby. I was grabbing my life by the horns and steering it into the direction I wanted. 

And the more I said yes to things, the easier saying yes became. When asked by an almost-stranger if I would go to a concert because they had an extra ticket, I agreed. I entered a bowling tournament despite not having bowled since my 10th birthday. If someone wanted to join me, great! If not, I wasn’t afraid to venture on my own. 

And then asking became easier:  I asked a boy I was talking to on Tinder if he wanted to go skydiving on our first date, even though we had never met. I flew across the country just to see Motley Crue in concert.  I hiked to the top of a mountain in the middle of the night just to watch the sunrise.

I’ve always made excuses, mostly that I didn’t have time or resources. But when I think about it, what a load! I had just decided my desires weren’t a priority. 

I had done the resolution thing to no avail. “I’ll lose 15 pounds,” “get into shape,” “give up caffeine.” I was never able to accomplish any of them because I lacked the motivation to do them. I like drinking coffee and hate going to the gym. The only reason why I ever made those my resolutions was because I thought I should. I never actually wanted to do them, when I think about it.

With my 30 Things List, I was very specific and it was from top to bottom things I WANTED to do. It made planning for those things almost as fun as crossing them off. And crossing them off was the most fulfilling thing I had ever done.

So, how did it change my life?

I stopped settling. I no longer gave the time to things that I didn’t absolutely want to say yes to. It was either 100% “Fuck yes!” or it was no.

I left that job that wasn’t challenging. 

I stopped dating boys I didn’t really care about just to fill my days.

I started focusing on spending time with my family and friends.

I traveled. 

I planned out my free time to do things I wanted to do.

I am proud of myself and had the best year of my life accomplishing what I had set out to do: to get out of my comfort zone and start saying yes to myself before anyone or anything else. And now, I am no longer working off a list, but following my heart, fully and completely, for the first time ever. 

The truth? I never finished my list. I got to 27. But I am more than okay with that. 

How I Recovered after Putting All My Eggs in One Basket

The ability to surprise yourself is a wonderful gift.

To realize that you’re capable of taking on challenges – of going through hell, and coming out the other side in one piece- is remarkable.

I recently went through a really hard break up. I’d moved across the country to New Mexico to be with a man that I thought I would marry. Instead, after two years of sharing a house and dogs – a life together- we decided to part ways.

I was devastated.

I was far from home and had made the cardinal mistake of putting all of my eggs in one basket – I had few friends that were mine and not ours, I hadn’t developed many hobbies independent of him. Essentially I’d fully and whole-heartedly intertwined my life with someone else’s, and when the relationship ended, I was left with pieces.

I moved out of our house into a small apartment with a girl I met on Craigslist, a stranger. I refused to hang anything on the walls, so wary of settling into anything after such a big upheaval. The only furniture I owned was a couch, which I traded with a friend for a bed.

Those first few weeks on my own were some of the hardest in my life. I remember a month after moving out boasting to a friend that I knew things were getting better because I’d moved the Cheezit box from under my bed covers to the bedside table. Things were looking up.

I reference this time in my life because it was a pivotal moment for me. Before this turning point, my life had been smooth sailing. I’d gotten into college easily, my first job came quickly after graduation. The move across the country was challenging, but even I didn’t pick the location – I went along with my boyfriend at the time.

The months following that break up ended up being some of the best of my life. I became close with my new Craigslist roommate and years later would stand up in her wedding in Boston. I started making my own friends. I went on dates.

I’d always wanted to live in a big city, but never thought it would happen for me. All of a sudden, I had this window of opportunity where I was completely untethered. After a few months of interviews, I got a job in Chicago. I sold my few possessions in Albuquerque, put my dog Lily in the car, and drove to the midwest.

Moving to Chicago by myself was terrifying. I only knew one person, my closest friend from my childhood. I’d never ridden public transport before and had no idea how the buses and trains worked.

Just like I learned to adjust to life on my own in Albuquerque, I adjusted to city life. I liked my job, I made a bunch of new friends. And I was so unbelievably proud of myself for having made the choice to live in a big city.

Now, 6 years later, another huge change is underway. One of the biggest reasons I knew I could do this trip (aside from having Nate with me of course) is that breakup. Despite all of the pain and discomfort, I proved to myself I could do hard things. I showed myself how capable I was after having the rug pulled out from under me, with almost no friends, nowhere to live, and virtually no possessions. I was okay. I survived.

When I moved to Chicago, I had similar fears. But I was okay. I survived again.

And now I’m here, on a plane 30,000 feet above Ecuador thousands of miles from family and friends. Again, I have virtually no possessions. Again I have nowhere to live. But I’m okay. I survived.

Regardless of how this trip goes, I’ve already succeeded. I’ve proved to myself that I can set a lofty goal and stick to it. I’ve proved to myself that I can withstand the loss of my beloved stuff. I can say goodbye…over and over and over again.

Aside from the self-confidence this gives me, it also ignites a new and awesome question:

What else am I capable of?

Forty Signs You’re Over Your Ex

Going through a breakup is like surviving a car accident. Sometimes it’s a fender bender that can be easily fixed. But sometimes it’s a harrowing accident that leaves your heart completely totaled.

Regardless of the severity of your emotional injuries, breakups can be brutal and life-changing. And we have to go through them alone.

But after enough time, the most excruciating pain — which you thought would never end — starts to subside.

Every day, you think of your ex less and less. Eventually, you no longer think of him or her at all. You’ve licked your wounds and rehabilitated yourself. You’ve stopped focusing on the mess you’ve left; you think of your new goals instead.

Then, one day, you lay your head on your pillow at night and realize that, by some miracle, your ex is absent from your thoughts.

While you were busy living your life, love’s splinter finally fell out. And suddenly, you’re aware of all of the signs that mean you’re completely over your ex.

1. You can look at couples without wanting to die inside.

2. You’re perfectly content with coming home to yourself.

3. You look at a photo of your ex and see a familiar face, at most — NOT the love of your life.

4. You stop obsessively checking certain social media pages.

5. You’re genuinely happy when your ex moves on and finds someone else.

6. You no longer fantasize about getting back together. Instead, you now envision your wedding day with a mystery groom or bride.

7. The hurt is gone, and you make yourself happy every day (It turns out that having no feelings can be the best feeling).

8. You don’t cry yourself to sleep anymore.

9. Your ex isn’t on your mind when you wake up and go to sleep.

10. The memories you have of your relationship are like honey after the bees have left the hive: You can experience their sweetness without being stung.

11. You’re not waiting for a text that will never come.

12. You find the actual journey in movies and stories more exciting than the “happy ending.”

13. You acknowledge that it’s okay to get a little sad sometimes that this person is no longer in your life, but you’re no longer distressed by the thought.

14. You see a little piece of a boyfriend/girlfriend in everyone during your day (that guy who smiles at you when he hands you a newspaper every morning is your morning beau; you’re smitten when the 7-Eleven cashier wishes you a good night).

15. You’re open to finding a new partner, but you’re in no rush.

16. You feel strong. You’ve survived all five stages of grief, so you feel like Hercules after he conquered his 12 labors. You’ve done your time, and you know you can do anything you set your mind to.

17. You focus more on your career, hobbies, family and friends than on finding love.

18. Activities are no longer distractions, because you’re not thinking about your ex anymore. They’re things you love to do for the sake of doing them.

19. You can listen to both breakup and love songs without getting teary-eyed.

20. You’re hopeful instead of resentful.

21. When something amazing or crazy happens to you, your ex isn’t the first person you think to call.

22. You cuddle pillows without pretending they’re your ex.

23. You’ve accepted that it’s better to be single and happy than in a relationship and miserable.

24. Your eyes don’t light up when you say or hear your ex’s name. If you mention your former love at all, it’s like you’re describing a distant friend.

25. Your ex becomes more and more of a ghost in your mind; your past together becomes less and less real.

26. No couple costumes come to mind when you think of Halloween.

27. In fact, you’re fine with being single for the holidays.

28. You no longer think of the cinema as a minefield for couples. You go with your friends, siblings, cousins or alone.

29. Romantic movies are fair game again. You’re no longer Elle Woods throwing chocolate and screaming “LIAR” at every cheesy scene.

30. You’d rather throw yourself into your work instead of the arms of a rebound.

31. You stop caring how big her boobs are or how big his d*ck is. You’d rather find the right person instead of the right package.

32. You stop making excuses to contact your past love. If your Wii stops working you call Nintendo, not your ex.

33. If your ex still has some of your possessions that aren’t particularly valuable, you forget about them.

34. Items you kept for sentimental reasons become only objects. Your three-year-anniversary necklace is now just another piece of jewelry.

35. A car with the same color as your ex’s is now just a car.

36. When you get lonely, you don’t mope; you fight through it. You hold your own hand and grab your own ass.

37. You’re actually relieved you don’t have to buy a present for a long time.

38. You daydream about what your future partner will be like.

39. You realize two people can love each other and still be in an unhealthy relationship. Fire can fall in love with ice, but that union isn’t sustainable. Some people have to be loved from a distance, and that’s okay.

40. You believe in true love again, but you know that your ex wasn’t yours.