If you’ve been following my Breakup Series, you may be back with more questions.
Tiffany, so you’ve shown me the true side of my failing relationship. You’ve encouraged me to break it off once and for all, and I’ve done it. You said it would get better, that I would heal and would learn to love again. Well, it’s been awhile now, and I’m not seeing better days. Now what?
Now what, indeed?
The lonely car rides. The meaningless trips to the mall. The lunch dates with your friends, whom, in the hopes to cheer you up, point out all the flaws in your Ex, but really, you just don’t want to hear more about your Ex than what’s going on inside your head. You lost your appetite. Or maybe you binge eat. Somedays you don’t even care what you put into your body.
Where does it all end?
When you find yourself in a dim, empty room your hopes to live a B-O-M-B single life are dashed. Suddenly, how you envisioned yourself emerging unscathed from a breakup seems entirely unachievable as you can’t even leave your house without tearing up every few minutes.
Your daily routine is monotonous and robotic: wake up, shuffle through the day, chew on cardboard-flavoured food, curl up in your bed, sob uncontrollably, assure everyone around you that you are fine, and try to fall asleep again to wake up to a (hopefully) better day.
After all, that’s what everyone keeps telling you, isn’t it? That each day is a new and better one? Leave the past behind and pick up new opportunities?
Most people think that the speed of recovery from a breakup is similar to recovering from a medical illness. I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. Doctors can tell you when you’ll begin to recover, and, if you take your pills and undergo appropriate treatment, you’ll speed up your recovery process in a healthy manner.
However, with a breakup, there is no possible time stamp that could be generalised to everyone who wishes to know how long it will take for them to lead ‘normal’ lives once more.
Let me ask you this: what is your ideal for a normal life?
One where you are happily attached? One where you forgot who your Ex was in your life? Or one where you get to pick the direction of your life, regardless of whether or not you eventually find love again?
It all depends on how long you’re planning on dragging this out. First, take stock of your life NOW. How are you spending your days? With whom are you investing time and company? What is on your mind before you doze off at night?
Dearest one, when I decided to let go of my past relationship, I ‘objectively’ gave myself an acceptable healing period: 3 months.
Hey, three months seemed normal, doesn’t it? That was the amount of time I allowed myself to ‘grieve’ a.k.a sobbing and feeling sorry for myself, which was an unhealthy amount of time wasted. However, I found myself fighting time and time again, battling against the self-destructive monster of mixed and recurring feelings.
Long story short, my goal of recovering got an extension: it took me a whole two years to finally decide that enough was enough: I would not entertain thoughts of this old relationship anymore.
It took me two years, of pushing and pulling, of loving and denial, of recovery and regression. How long do you want to suffer?
People recover differently, at different speeds and in different methods. Don’t make my mistake of taking too long to escape this mindset. Overthinking and holding on to memories is a self-destructive vicious cycle that ends in more pain and prolonged recovery.
So, that being said, what must you do now after you have severed ties with your Ex and made a promise to put yourself first?
#1: Recovery is not the ultimate goal, but a series of milestones
First, if you have decided to work towards recovery, congratulations! This means you already have a goal in mind. Note: this goal is not the end goal, but a milestone.
In the beginning, you may be tempted to scoff at the stages of grief/post-breakup stress and try to jump right into leading a ‘new’ life. Yes, you need to have a goal in mind, but the possibility of achieving that goal under a time limit is overwhelmed by the chances of getting pulled out of the pathway.
In other words, if you set yourself a deadline to ‘get over’ somebody, you are setting yourself up for failure. Each time your lecturers give you an assignment, they would list out all the objectives for the assignment and provide you with the necessary guidelines and instructions to set you moving in the right direction. Just like this, if you wish to get over an Ex, simply setting yourself a time limit is not going to get you there. You need directions to keep you on the correct path to keep from going off topic, or, in this scenario, backtracking in response to the summons from your ‘Ex’.
Instead, set your sights on small achievements, and your success will be worthy of celebration. Little things help. Start slowly. Think short-term achievements reap long-term rewards. Just like an athlete who’s suffering a sprained ankle, you cannot immediately jump up and expect to run a marathon. You need to lay down, ice your ankle, and take tiny wobbly steps before your ankle is ready to support your weight once more, and then you can resume training.
#2: Know that the map to full recovery is in your hands
So where are these directions? In order not to stray away from the road to recovery, you need to have a way-finder, and that compass is you.
When you are using the Waze app to find the way, Waze might take you in a different direction that you had originally planned. You may not know why, but you decide to follow Waze, and in the end, you arrive at your destination much quicker than you initially expected to, all because Waze told you to avoid heavy traffic jams and congested highways.
Just like this analogy, bear in mind that not every path is a straight path when your destination is recovery. You very well will take a few wrong turns, but if you have a trustworthy navigation device at your disposal, you will eventually reach your destination.
What can you do to make sure you don’t stray further from your destination?
One important action is to delete all your cute couple pics from your phone. After all, what is out of sight is out of mind. The worst thing that could happen in the post-breakup and recovery stage is when you are happily scrolling through your picture gallery and this couple pic from three months ago pops out. This kind of thing can ruin your day. So, yes, delete the pictures from your phone, but you may keep a backup somewhere, in a pendrive or in a locked storage file. This way, you would not accidentally set your eyes on them until you are ready.
The most important takeaway from this message is to remove your Ex as a certainty in your life, as the centre of your life, or as your future. This does not mean that you should stop caring about them. You don’t think about your aunt all the time, but you still care about her. Hence, I’m not encouraging you to stop caring about your Ex, but just to stop thinking about your Ex.
Yes, it is true that in the process of moving on, you will need to sacrifice certain things, like maintaining a conversation over text, watching each others’ stories like each update is a new episode of your favourite drama, and arranging to meet up ‘to catch up’.
However, if you agree with me, it is crucial to not maintain any form of unreciprocated communication or connection with an Ex. This means that both of you should agree that talking to each other after a breakup does not mean either one wants to get back together. Give no reason for your Ex to get their hopes up. This is plain mean.
#3: The road to recovery is a journey
Why do I say this? Because I’ve lived it, I believe in it, and it is my story. But it won’t be the ending to my story. Recovering from heartache is a painful and drawn-out process, and most of the time you will be battling loneliness even in the midst of good company.
However, if you do everything in your power to keep yourself in check, soon you’ll find your mind occupied with other pleasures of life, and the thought of your Ex will just be a sweet memory from the past.
In the end, it depends on how long you want to hold yourself back. Do you want to recover fast, so that both you and your Ex can enjoy your separate lives as content individuals?
Know your worth and what you deserve. Don’t allow hunger and longing to cloud your judgement and drive you back into the arms of someone who is undeserving of your love and takes you for granted.
Don’t be like those people who post dark, emotional breakup thoughts on Twitter that scream desperate and sad. Be someone who understands their own life, emotions, and has an ultimate goal to strive for. Find something worth living for, and do not be a slave to your feelings.