For those of you in long-term relationships, it's hard to truly appreciate the struggles of your single friends. You no longer have to go on a million awful first dates, and you're past the point of having to try hard to impress your boyfriend or girlfriend. Everything is great... until it isn't. If you find yourself without a significant other for the first time in a long time, you may not know how to deal with being newly single. It makes sense — you've been in a relationship for what feels like forever, and all of the sudden you're being thrown back into the sometimes scary world of dating. I'm sure you've already heard at least one dating horror story this year, and we're barely a week in.
So, how do you deal with your new single status? Whether you were dumped, you did the dumping, or the breakup was mutual, you'll need to know how to cope with the imminent emotions and impending uncomfortable conversations. I talked to two relationship experts about how to handle this chapter in your life coming to an end, and how to go on to find your own happily ever after — single or not.
1. Give Yourself A Chance To Grieve
When someone has been a part of your life for a long time, suddenly losing them can be overwhelming. "Give yourself adequate time to grieve the loss," says dating and relationship coach Monica Parikh of School of Love NYC. "You will feel a lot of emotions: sadness, anger, disbelief, denial, and even relief. Feel your feelings — don't worry, the 'bad' ones will pass."
Healing takes time, so utilize your support system while you're dealing with the breakup. Relationship and wellness coach Shula Melamed, MA MPH says that it's important to be aware of any desire to avoid your responsibilities or push people away. You may find that it feels easier to isolate yourself from friends and family members, especially if they were also close to your ex. If you are struggling to talk to your loved ones, reaching out to a therapist or coach is another option.
2. Be Proactive And Protect Your Feelings
Your friends and family may not know how to address the breakup around you, especially if they have gotten used to you being in a relationship. "If talking or hearing about your ex is painful, let people know," says Parikh. Telling others that you'd rather not discuss your ex will help you to move on. There are other ways to prevent thoughts about your ex from getting you down. Parikh advises against contacting your ex, and suggests limiting time on social media, as well. In addition to blocking or muting your ex, it can be healthy to stay off social media in general.
If you have photos, sentimental gifts, or other keepsakes that have to do with your ex — or if they left items at your place before the breakup — put it all in the back of your closet so you don't have to see it or deal with it until you're ready. If you don't think you'll ever want any of it, just throw it away. Doing your best to cut down on reminders of the relationship immediately after the breakup can make the first few weeks a little bit easier.
3. Look At Being Single As An Opportunity
When you're going through a breakup, looking for a silver lining is probably the last thing on your mind. But if you're open to the idea, being single for the first time in a while can actually help you to differentiate between "wanting" a partner and "needing" one, according to Parikh. "Use this time wisely," she says. "Build important relationship skills, like learning to set boundaries and developing your non-negotiables for future relationships." If thoughts of your ex's cargo shorts still keep you up at night, you can make it a rule not to go out with anyone who wears them. Or, you know, replace the cargo shorts example with a more serious concern. It's up to you. You don't need to focus on jumping back into the dating scene right away, but using the breakup as a lesson for the future will give you purpose.
The initial weeks and months after your relationship ends can be a scary time, but think of it instead as a chance to get back in touch with your amazing and wonderful self. "Approach this new phase of your life and some of the uncertainties that come with it from a place of curiosity and potential rather than fear," says Melamed. "Take what you learned from the last relationship to create a great next one."
Wherever your story takes you, remember that you are your own hero.
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