Alas, the expiration date on my current relationship has come to pass.
This is NOT a pity party – in fact, it is the exact OPPOSITE.
You know those relationships where at one point you both brought out the most shining, aspirational version of each other but after many months of bickering and fault-finding it escalates to not only highlighting but inspiring the worst parts of each other to come out? Yeah, that. That’s what happened this time.
Now it might be the fact that I’ve quasi-successfully made it out of my twenties and am now a solid “early thirties” person, but this time I’ve got that perspective that all of my previous breakups lacked. I don’t find myself pining, wondering “what if”, thinking “if only -this- -that-“, or even desperately trying to find someone else to fill the void left behind by his absence. In fact, I don’t even feel a void.
I have advice for you. This advice may be coming from my “I’m in my thirties now so I know pretty much everything” high horse, but I’m hopeful that it can be helpful to someone out there in a rut after a breakup. Perhaps 19-year-old Jessie could have saved herself a lot of grief (and notebooks full of horrible angsty teenage poetry) had she read this post.
I present to you, the three stages of ending a relationship:
Step 1: Breakup
Do it – just rip the band-aid off. Get it over quickly to avoid any further suffering for any party involved. This won’t be easy to do or even to recognize that it should be done but the best thing I’ve found in this most recent ending is this: Are we making each other happy? If not, have we talked about it openly? After talking about it, have we both genuinely given it our best to make the other partner happy?
Happiness and communication are key. Something I’m learning through my HR endeavors at my 9-5 is called a Performance Improvement Plan – what applies here are the steps taken. 1. Communicate the issue, 2. Give the opportunity for improvement, 3. Explain the outcomes of what will happen if the improvements are/are not made, 4. Measure the success of the improvement, 5. Carry out said outcomes established from step 3. Of course none of this takes into consideration the immense (usually illogical) role the heart plays in things like this. I realize it’s very difficult to walk away from someone who once had the ability to make you happier than a kitten riding a unicorn, but you have got to consider what makes you happy NOW and how much your happiness is worth.
Step 2. Shake up
Once you’ve given yourself some time to heal a bit (be sure you don’t over-indulge in the “me time” and become a hermit!) it’s time for some change. Sometimes a serious relationship can reduce a person to half of an equation, take away one component of the equation and that other part doesn’t make sense on its own. Your job now is to try anything and everything to find something that helps define you outside of the “relationship equation.”
In the words of the great rock band, the Cars, “don’t let nobody pick your fun, shake it up.” Get out in the great wide world and TRY THINGS. Do ALL THE THINGS. Take dance lessons, go on solo picnics, start birding, read the collective works of Shakespeare, try dating sites, go vegetarian, or if you’re religious, perhaps try a new place of worship!
Now, these are all of the things that people who were/are in steady situations regardless of their partners can say with ease. In my situation I had moved in with my partner (only 4 months before), asked my employer if I could go down to 32 hours a week since my partner didn’t ask for rent (and I could use that extra day to work on my domination plans), had JUST been in a car accident that totaled my car, and I had been focusing on helping him achieve his goals because they were greater at the time. “Shake up” in my situation meant “Holy sh*t, I’ve got to find a place, buy a car, figure out how to pay for those things, and DAMMIT where did MY dreams go???”
So, your “shake up” will look different than mine (hopefully!) but it’s an exploratory phase that you need to embrace wholeheartedly.
Step 3: Make up
NOT WITH YOUR EX!!! Make up your mind, after you’ve shaken things up, where you’re going next. Hopefully through shedding your “one part of an equation” identity then trying to find possible alternative you’s, it’s time to get to the bottom of who you will be now. What goals do you have for the next year? Three years? Ten years? How can YOU empower yourself to achieve them? If you want to share that experience with a partner, what do they look like? What qualities do they possess? What are the absolute deal-breakers that you’re prepared to walk away from should they come up?
Make up your mind (of course, knowing that you’re allowed to change it at any time) to give yourself a purpose and a direction to head into. Make up a list of your favorite qualities about YOURSELF that you never want to lose to the “relationship equation” again. Keep that list handy at all times to remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be – adjust as-needed, but be sure not to give up the good things.
You’ll get through this. Millions of people do this every day. And millions of people find true love every day. And millions of people adopt shelter animals every day (ok, maybe not millions, but if you’re looking to shake up – perhaps rescuing a furry companion is a good idea?).