“This doesn’t feel right anymore.” I can’t remember if those were the exact words, but we all know that, said in any relationship context this means, “We should break up.” We’re familiar with what follows: tears, arguing, and eventually saying goodbye. I’ve been through breakups before, and despite being consistently frugal throughout my adult life, the desire to spend money to fix how I was feeling was overwhelming. I knew spending money would make me feel worse, so instead, I sought support from my friends and family in the immediate days after the breakup.
Reflecting on my instinct to spend money, I concluded that it was only natural to feel like this as we mostly use money to solve our problems. We get hungry, so we buy and eat food. We get cold, so we buy clothes. We need to sleep well, so we buy or rent a home. It’s only natural to believe that since money can take away our feelings of hunger, cold, and other discomforts, that it can also take away feelings of sadness and grief. One of the best things I did was to accept that the tears would continue for a while and that time really would help me heal. As we all know, waiting for time to pass feels painfully slow if we don’t take action and make plans. It’s quite common to get a haircut, buy a new closet of clothes, or go out and get drunk with friends. If you know that those things help you, then embrace them. For me, though, this most recent breakup felt different — so only a different approach would do. Here’s what helped me get through after the end of a six-year relationship with a guy I had been living with for 18 months.
1. Food audit
Since we lived together, we’d added new spices and ingredients to our cupboard for our batch cooking routine. He bought some items that I wouldn’t have used before we lived together, so each time I saw them I was reminded of him. I took on the challenge of finding ways to use them up so I could remove emotional triggers. What I didn’t realize is that by doing so, I started to enjoy the outcome. By the time I finished a spice, I’d formed a new and happier association with it. Had I just thrown it out, I’d have missed this great opportunity to work through my pain and also embrace my frugality by not wasting it.
2. A new uplifting show
The new series of Queer Eye was not only a great distraction but it was the ideal show to remind me of the importance of self-care. Helping people transform on the inside as well as on the outside was a helpful reminder that I could do the same. Thanks to the Fab 5, I have made avocado & grapefruit salad, I no longer wash my hair daily, I use wooden hangers in my closet, and I wear sunscreen every day. I also follow Bobby Berk for inspiration on home decor to help refresh my environment.
3. Stick to commitments
Whether they are regular Japanese classes or semi-regular cafe meet-ups with a friend, keeping your commitments will not only ensure you get outside once in a while, but it also helps sustain some normality in what feels like a tumultuous time. No, it’s not normal for you to break up from a long-term relationship, but making everything else normal can be a helpful lesson that life goes on — with or without you being your best self. You may find you break down in tears at a dinner party (like I did) but you’re also surrounded by friends who help remind you how many people love you for who you are.
4. Pick up a journal and write.
Even if you’re not a natural writer, the number of thoughts and reflections you will have during this period of change can be overwhelming. If you’re struggling to start, try what I did: write down all of the things that annoyed you about your ex and be honest and uncensored. Once those writing juices start flowing, you’ll be amazed at how it can transform your thinking. You’ll start focussing on how much more positive your life will be without them and you’ll also have a helpful list of what you’re not willing to tolerate in your next relationship. Read this article on hacking heartbreak. I got the tip about writing a list of things that annoyed me about my ex from this article and it helped me kickstart some action to deal with the grief of breakups. This article also helps to show the value that can be found in acknowledging what you loved about the person and recognizing that those traits aren’t unique to that person. The article is both uplifting and practical because it draws on research on the psychology of relationships.
5. Replace your bedsheets
Okay, so this one requires some money. It’s not essential for everyone but can be helpful if you were living with your ex. I found this to be one material possession that kept bringing back good and bad memories. We had so many deep and meaningful conversations in bed that it was hard to detach from that and move on. It’s hard to realize the impact of your bed on your bedroom and for me, sharing my apartment with my sister means that my bedroom is where I spend most of my me time. The new bedsheets marked the start of the next chapter of my life and kept me optimistic about what happens next.
6. Simplify your routine to prioritize sleep
I have this awful pattern of not sleeping for the first days after a breakup. Couple that with working as a tennis umpire at Wimbledon in the two weeks after a breakup (which is what happened to me recently) and you have a recipe for an exhausted, emotional wreck of a person. I work full time and use my annual leave to work as an umpire (a hobby I love) so I had to return to work straight after Wimbledon. Since maintaining concentration is essential to be a successful tennis umpire, I had no choice but to keep my life simple for those two weeks and focus on getting to bed as early as I could and allowing myself to sleep in. I didn’t meet up with friends but luckily had the social support of other umpires in the immediate aftermath of my breakup. Making my routine simple: sleep, eat, umpire, sleep meant that I could get through those days when I would struggle to get up in the morning.
Maureen writes on personal finance for millennials. In 2017, she released her first book: Your Money, Your 20s. Since releasing her book, she has written several online courses on money management and investing. She is a big fan of index funds and started investing in the stock market aged 22. Since then she has invested in peer-to-peer lending, renewable energy, and crowdcube businesses. You can read more of her work at The Life-Life Balance.
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