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When we say goodbye: A personal guide to moving on from a break-up

When we say goodbye: A personal guide to moving on from a break-up

A man sits with his head in his hands

I have a rich history of getting emotionally attached to people, pets, things and certain memories. When things change and I need to part ways with a loved one, I usually panic until I figure out the best way to handle the situation. There are some things that helped me move on from a break-up.

Finish that difficult conversation

When bad things happen, my emotions tend to lag. My brain processes the situation fast while my heart stays shocked.

It’s a coping mechanism for someone who is used to taking care of situations. So I do what’s necessary. I listen, I ask questions, I plead, I share my thoughts, whatever is necessary to help me piece together the narrative that my mind can comprehend. Then, inevitably, I walk away.

I walk away when one of us is resolved that parting ways is the best course of action. You cannot do anything if one of you no longer wants to be part of a two-some. Begging is futile.

I remember this difficult conversation with an ex who confessed that he fell in love with a charming artist he met at a party while I was on a brief trip abroad. Their souls connected and so did their dicks. In fact, during our conversation the guy’s cum was probably still dripping from his ass. Yeah, it was that recent.

I didn’t see it coming so I was in complete shock.

There was something different about him, I noticed soon as I arrived from the airport. It was subtle. Only someone who knows him well would feel the shift in his attention or his feelings for me. I was mad but still in control of my emotions when I asked for details.

So I listened and asked him what he wanted to do with us. I remember telling him calmly that I love him and I don’t want to lose him. Yet there he was, looking serious and sorry, but also obviously in cloud nine over this new guy. What else is there to do, right? So we said goodbye.

Not all of my break-ups ended with a postmortem. Some connections just faded. Some didn’t have the opportunity to verbalize the changes or the reasons.

For some there will always be questions that will remain unanswered. I create my own alternative narratives to fill in the gaps. I may not be able to verify the truth of my own imagined narrative but at least I have something.

Cry big time

As soon as my emotions catch-up, I bawl. Sweat, snot, spit and tears flow until I am dehydrated. So I make sure that I have a pitcher of water beside me when this is happening.

I cry in the moment. Get to feel everything. Anger. Pain. Frustration. There is that tendency to feel some physical pain on my chest. Sometimes I feel like my breathing cannot catch-up. I cry like I am performing surgery on myself — taking away that tumor inside that’s eating me up. I cut, dig, pull, scrape.

One crying session is usually not enough. As much as I want to be over and done with it in one go, that doesn’t happen. So I sleep.

Grief comes in waves. I ride them. I know I need to. When I wake up or a memory triggers the next wave, I give in. Sometimes my tear ducts are dry already and I am still wailing. So I do it under the shower.

After those big waves, there are the small ones where you start missing him, are tempted to contact him, etc. I still want to cry but somehow I can’t. So I watch movies and videos that will definitely make my tears flow. Usually the father-and-son themes do it for me. This is still part of the metaphorical surgical procedure of taking out that pain.

Move out and move away

I tried a few rituals to ease break-up pain. It depends on the dynamics of my relationship or the break-up.

I unfollowed him on all social networks; deleted his number; changed my number; collected all photos in one folder and stored it in an external hard drive or just deleted everything; broke a few flower pots in a safe space; exercised vigorously; returned the clothes he left in my apartment; moved far away from the zip code of his home; wrote him letters that I never sent.

Certain attachments hurt us. In break-ups, we need to detach. Cut the string that ties you to him. Emotions and memories will linger. Expect that. But it doesn’t mean that you cannot be happier or love another.

There was a stage in my life where I coped by going into new relationships soon after. I don’t think it’s bad but the only thing that I needed to be clear about was if this was a byproduct of a process of moving on or if this new relationship was an escape . Was I running away from my grief by flooding myself with the euphoria of new romance? Several times I had to stop and check.

After my last break-up, I was cautious about trying again. It’s been seven years since I had a serious relationship. I am over him but the trauma of pain was harder to get over. Am I ready to start this cycle over again?

Imagine a new life after your break-up

We write our own book on goodbyes. Sadly, it’s never easy. We have to figure out what works for us.

This is where knowing ourselves better comes in handy. Our sensitivity to our emotions and thoughts; our relentless probing of our own answers to difficult life questions will open the windows of our soul. We cannot rely on other people’s experiences or their timeline for being OK as the barometer to measure our own progress.

This is your life, you have your own pace.

When we say goodbye, we are ushered to new hellos. There is always an exchange, a trade-off, whether we like it or not. When we say goodbye to our ex, we also say goodbye to the life we created with him – the pets and friends you shared, the routine you developed together, the future ‘us’ you both imagined on those cuddle nights.

So it is necessary for our well-being to be creative in our imagination of a new life without him. You mentally exchange the old life with the imagined new and then you work on living that life, discovering new ways to be happy. Happy without him.

Start by listing down the things you want to do, to experience, to accomplish yet. Create that bucket list. I did mine and it involved a lot of sea and salt which I missed out on before because my ex partner was not too happy to take a vacation on the beach.

Gratitude and restoration

Despite the bitter circumstances, I always look out for the things that I am grateful for and the things I learned in my relationships. I do not forget my exes’ positive contributions but I also check if any of their words or actions have scarred me,

Having said that, it is important for our well-being to take responsibility for all the shit that we contributed to the break-up, to the broken self, etc. While many of us see ourselves as victims of our exes, we need to rise above this and learn to be survivors.

For those who still feel guilty for breaking up with their former better half, start walking down that road towards forgiveness. Again, there is no template. Take your time but make sure you walk towards the healing path.

Choose to look forward

‘To heal a wound, you need to stop touching it.’ I read that somewhere and it just struck me.

At a certain point, I have to consciously stop myself and just shut the door of bitterness. Yes, there are regrets, what-ifs, whatnot and we need to include them in our goodbyes. Replaying the scenarios in your head that brought you so much pain is masochism.

If it prevents you from living your best life, stop it. Do whatever it takes: reach out to a friend; see your therapist; bake that cake; go to the gym; take that pole dancing class, etc. If the mind wanders back, guide its path towards things that will make you feel challenged, loved, and focused on the next chapter of your life.

‘Pain demands to be felt,’ according to John Green in The Fault in our Stars. If you feel fragments of pain, acknowledge it but don’t swim in it any longer. Learn from its lessons.

A version of this article first appeared on Medium. Mister Minchin is a blogger based in the Philippines. Follow him on Twitter: @misterminchin

See also

What happened when I met a guy for a date instead of just a hook-up

How can you mend a broken heart more quickly?