For a few months after I broke up with my ex, I had this constant feeling that something was missing. I was always sad, always lonely and always wanting to talk to him, even though I knew it was the last thing I should do.
I lay in bed, sifting through old photos of us. I listened to depressing music while I looked out the window on my rainy bus ride to school. I swear it was like I was starring in one of those bleak Lifetime movies. You know the ones.
You really hope to have an uplifting ending, but it just never comes. Maybe I was a bit dramatic. But it was my first real love and my first real breakup, so cut me some slack.
I was living in a dorm with five other girls at the time, and they were always there to hear my complaints and watch my theatrical sulking. They constantly told me all I needed was to “go out and have fun” and “meet someone new.”
My naive, 18-year-old self thought they were right. It made perfect sense. If I was missing a boy, all I needed to do was find a new one. Genius.
This was my first mistake. From this point on, I was dedicated to filling my void with a new face. To be quite honest, I didn't really care whose face it was. I was on the most superficial hunt of all superficial hunts for what I thought was happiness.
Fast-forward a few failed hookups and way too much partying. About four months later, I was right back in the midst of my Lifetime movie. Surprise, surprise: I was (dare I say it) even sadder than I was when my breakup was fresh.
But I couldn't for the life of me understand what I was doing wrong. Then, one day, I sat down and asked myself, what exactly had I been doing those past four months? Well, to be honest, I had been doing everything in my power to simply not be single.
Saying this out loud forced me to face the reality of my situation. No wonder I was still so hung up on my ex: I had never really given myself time to get over him. Instead, I was spending my days feeding off anyone who would give me even a little attention.
I was somehow making myself believe this was happiness. This realization quickly led to another very important question: Why? Why was I so adamant on immediately finding someone new, instead of letting myself feel what I needed to feel?
I traced my way back to that one small piece of advice: Find someone new. I had heard it from every friend, read it in every article and watched it in every chick flick. When you break up with one boyfriend, you go out and immediately get yourself another.
While this may be a solution for some people, it can also cause a lot of harm if you're doing it for the wrong reasons (like I was).
There is an endless list of reasons why people believe they need to hop back onto the relationship horse right away. One is the sheer societal pressure that comes with being “the only single one.” It always seems like right when you and your SO break up, everyone around you is finding love, getting engaged and popping out babies left and right.
It's easy to be fooled into thinking these people's happiness is coming from the fact that they're no longer single. What you need to understand is this: These people aren't happy just because they are in relationships; they're happy because they've found their lobster (for all you "Friends" fans out there). Don't mix up actual love with the idea of being in love.
Another thing you may run into post-breakup is fear. I've known an astounding number of people who have found one partner after another because they're afraid of being alone. This leads to relationships of convenience, instead of real, loving partnerships.
I think one of the most common reasons people throw themselves into superficial relationships is the idea of “winning the breakup.” After a breakup, you always want to be the one who wins.
You want to be the one who looks better the next time you run into one another. You want to be the one who posts more photos while having fun at huge parties. But most of all, you want to be the one who moves on first.
So many people live by this idealism. They will literally date anyone just to show their ex they won by moving on first. This is an extremely unhealthy and vicious cycle that will lead to a path of consistently sh*tty relationships with people, once again out of convenience. You will just never allow yourself to be single.
I soon realized I was poisoning myself with a mixture of these things in an attempt to feel happy again. In reality, I felt more like a trash can of unwanted emotions.
Luckily, I figured this out before I got caught up in that vicious cycle. I found my way out by deciding to simply be single for a while.
FYI, it's much easier said than done. This is especially true when we live in a society that tells us being single is pathetic and unfavorable. With all of these factors staring me in the face, I knew it wouldn't be an easy task.
Yet, I knew it was something I needed to do. I believe that you need time – especially when you are still young – to get to know yourself as a person. The better you know yourself, the easier it will be to know what you want from your future partner.
You can also sleep better at night, knowing you are no longer lowering your standards. Being content with your single self means that when you do get into a relationship, it will be for the right reasons.
I know, I know: That was cliched as hell. But it's the truth. Breakups are hard, and pushing yourself into something you just aren't ready for only makes things harder.
Take some time to find yourself and make yourself happy after a breakup. Don't spend your time trying to make your ex jealous or trying to “win the breakup.”
Just be content with who you are on your own. When the time is right, the perfect relationship will find you.