Having your heart broken really truly blows. But — hear me out — heartbreak can actually be used in a positive way. At the beginning of my relationship with Jasper (name changed), everything was good. Amazing, even. I was riding an emotional high that made me feel like the luckiest girl ever -– never mind the fact that we had absolutely nothing in common but our love for Taco Bell. As long as I was happy, I didn’t care. And Jasper made me happy.
About a month or so into our relationship, I began to notice how we never did much of anything that I enjoyed; we always settled on activities that he wanted to do, music he wanted to listen to, and topics that he wanted to talk about. I thought to myself: “We’ll get to me, eventually. Right now I’ll enjoy him.” But he never did get around to reflecting my own needs and desires in the relationship, so I began to mold myself into what he wanted me to be, think, do. I began to listen to obscure hipster synth music and watch shitty documentaries about “art.”
I would go to these pretentious art shows with Jasper and his friends (always his friends; not once throughout our relationship did he meet any of mine). I went to his friends’ parties, went on late night rides with them and had movie nights with them, but he never showed any interest in my friends. I was immersed in his world, and he didn’t step one foot into mine. I told myself that was okay because he made me feel noticed, included, different.
Once I realized the imbalanced nature of our relationship, however, I began to have anxiety and panic attacks. This was the beginning of the end of our relationship. I questioned whether Jasper was even someone I should invest in emotionally, but I pushed those thoughts aside and kept our relationship going even though I could see that it was more trouble than what it was worth. When he finally called it quits because of our “different lifestyles,” I was heartbroken; not because I loved him, but because I depended on him for so much of my happiness. All my enjoyment and personal preferences had been suppressed to fit in with Jasper’s world. Now, I didn’t have a place in that world. I didn’t know myself anymore.
After what felt like weeks of dragging my broken self-esteem around, I finally realized enough was enough. He’s living his life without any thought of me, so why am I wasting my time giving him any thought? I decided I need to get back to the activities, pastimes, and passions that make me who I am. So, I came up with these three small steps to help me focus on myself after the breakup. I promise: they work.
1. Back To Basics
Not all relationships require lifestyle sacrifices like the ones I made; I was so insecure with my own identity that I shouldered those sacrifices and cut off parts of myself to fit in with what my partner and his group of friends thought was cool. Because I’d remodeled my likes and dislikes to fit Jasper’s, I revisited the most basic parts of my former lifestyle. I began to watch the shitty reality shows I liked before dating this “artsy” dude. I went back to eating the way I wanted and following my own schedule.
2. Distract Yourself By Organizing
I decided to reorganize my life and make a list of professional and personal goals that would motivate me to invest in my future and discover myself. I started journaling and making weekly, sometimes monthly, goals. I made sure I accomplished at least one item on my list per week (and one bigger item per month). I even got my driving license (after several failed tests…hard-won victory)! I’ve learned that setting future goals can help distract from the current heartbreak you was up to ever day; concrete tasks give you something to put all of your energy into.
3. New Hobbies And Discoveries
I found new hobbies, and in doing so, I discovered new things about myself. I became a vegan. I started writing more and found that — without all these late-night drives and flashy installation art shows to attend — I had more time to actually read the books I wanted. I learned how much I value the intellectual stimulation of reading, and how much I need time alone for contemplation. The unexpected comfort of this realization: I would have never learned these things if I had stayed in the relationship. I honestly learned to love myself more (and not take myself so seriously). I realized I could stand on my own two feet and validate my own choices and tastes simply by living in accordance with them.
Of course, now I date around and have some fun. But I don’t spend my time worrying about whether I will find that perfect person. (Plus…I’ve saved an incredible amount of money by living a simpler, single lifestyle!). I am in no way saying being in a relationship takes away these opportunities for self-discovery and financial stability. But, depending on where you are with your self-awareness, being single can be a huge help along the path to getting to know yourself. Who needs a man or a lady when you’ve got you?
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