I write this post for myself: A reminder that no matter how low things turn out in future break ups, I have gone through it before, and I have taken these steps to get out of it.
“You can do it again, noob”.
I’ve always been hesitant to give advice online, I think everyone has it in them to solve their problems in their unique ways.
However, I do hope this provides a “framework” to help you with your recovery strategies should you get into a similar situation.
Also, I’m pretty excited to share this with my future kids when they get dumped, too.
She ended things where we started things: a café where we had our “first” date.
Her: “I’m not ready for a relationship, I want to work on myself”.
We lasted a year and a week. She walked out, I shut down.
I chased after her, she was already in her car. I opened her door, kneeled by the side of the road.
Me: “Let’s try this again”. Drama much?
Alas, it works better in Korean dramas. Sigh, let the recovery process begin.
Step 1: Cry your balls out
(may not be applicable to ladies)
Remember that scene in Mission Impossible 3 where Tom Cruise electrocutes himself and momentarily dies to defuse a micro-explosive in his head? (Fast forward to minute 5).
Crying is this step. It feels like death, but it is necessary. Unfortunately, unlike the movie, there’s no happy ending.
Call a friend, a family, or meet them up. Tell, question, curse, bitch and blame; it’s not healthy, but right now, just do it.
Most importantly, cry like an idiot and #feel the tsunami of emotions.
Thank you Nicholas, Ee, Nicole, Mom for indulging my tears, Robyn, Sam, YP, Alex and Cecilia for the much needed reality check.
Why this step is important: To know that there are people that are still damn close to you after you’ve lost someone closest to you.
However, this feeling can be fleeting. Especially when the phone calls end and friends gtg.
Then we move on to step 2.
Step 2: Pattern Interrupt
A.k.a., doing the shit you don’t want to do.
What you want to do: Booze, stalk her social media, check her “last seen”, read old texts for “clues”, contemplate what’s gone wrong, read sad stories, listen to Backstreet boys.
I did some of these.
(Okay, all of these.)
The last thing you’d want to do: Play basketball, have dinner with family, watch a motivational video, hit the gym (I actually took a break for 2 weeks when it was clear things were falling apart), take a dance class, and ESPECIALLY reading articles like this.
I snapped my fingers, and recognized the need to pattern interrupt, and break away from negative emotion. I put on my workout gear and had the shittiest training in a long time.
That said, I acknowledge that this step is rather easy for me to take, I meet people and communicate for a living. I couldn’t jeopardize my profession by being in a low state. The “snapping of fingers” was very much a necessity.
For you (or future me), the “snapping of fingers” is the hard part, but just do it. I don’t have any concrete strategies for this step, except:
Understand this: These activities don’t serve to “drown” your sorrows, but it gets you into the habit of acting amidst sadness. From this, recognize that a good state can be “switched on” in the saddest of moments, at the snap of a finger.
You’ll feel better. But like step 1, fleeting. So let’s move on to step 3.
Step 3: Fact & Reality Check
Fact 1: Do you know how unlikely it is that you’ll never meet another person amidst the 3.5 billion people in this world? If you really believe in that, give yourself a slap in the face right now.
Fact 2: #YoMindABitch. When a break up is fresh, you’ll only look at the positives in the relationship. Come on, it wasn’t all roses and sunshine. In fact, don’t look too far, go to the reason for the break up.
But first, pen and paper. “Trust the weakest pen over the mightiest mind”, because #YoMindABitch.
The reason: my desire to grow my career drifted us apart. The reason she left was because I was putting too much time in my passion. Am I able to compromise? I’m not sure. Was she able to compromise? Clearly, no.
So that’s a 3 to 1 odds stacked against the relationship being successful. However, #YoMindABitch, and at this point it is highly likely you think your “love” can overcome a 3 to 1 odd. But before you go full steam ahead and try to spam her with sorry texts…
Write down the absolute buzzkills in the relationship: Differing beliefs, values, outlooks, and desires in life; it wasn’t just drifting us apart, it was toxic for my career and life.
“Hey bro, bout time you stop hatin dontcha think?” True, we shouldn’t only invoke all the negatives in the relationship.
In fact, I wrote down all the good times, they deserve to be immortalized. We had some really amazing times. As they’re cherished, they shouldn’t be craved.
Again, fleeting: this logical reasoning is no guarantee you’ll stop feeling like this, but now at least you have a concrete pen and paper writing to refer back to when #YoMindABitch strikes back.
Step 4: Sink Back Into Your Emotions
Very much like step 1, completely goes against step 2, because it’s necessary only after step 3.
This may sound very “out there”, but I believe repressing residual emotions can be problematic in the long run.
This is why it’s so hard to let it completely go. #YoMindABitch, we WANT to have residual emotions, and have it grow, grow, grow till it pops and ends up hurting us again. Why?
As painful as it is, it allows us to cling onto familiarity.
Once step 3 allows you to embrace facts and reality: relish in the pain, rewind the clock, and “go back” into the break up.
But with this purpose: Digging out any residual emotions that linger. Perhaps the most painful step, but the most important.
Ideally, do it without company, this path is best taken alone.
Indeed, easier than it sounds. I think I’m more capable of this step after a year of meditation practice, reading stoic material and also “presence” work.
Here’s a not so apt song before we move on.
Step 5: Grow
Not what you want to do, but definitely what you need to do.
Back to #YoMindABitch: You don’t want to grow. Growing means change, and change leads you further away from the person you were -“you” in the relationship. You don’t want to “win”, you want the both of you to “win”, and grow out of this together like it was some short nightmare.
Remember, don’t wish upon unlikeliness of another person’s behavior change, grow on your own.
“Every problem presents an opportunity to learn from the problem”. When it ends, it feels shit. But flowers bloom being fertilized by shit.
In hindsight, every single break up was a huge leap forward for me.
First break up: started lifting.
Second break up: (which was followed by losing my car and my phone in the span of a week): realized that I can recover no matter what the adversities are.
Third break up: realized that I was being trapped by sunk cost fallacy, and letting that relationship go was the first step in letting every other losing investment in life go.
This break-up made me realize that every issue in a relationship needs to be resolved together, and it gets difficult, bordering impossible if only one partner’s willing to put in the work.
It also led to an intense week of self-inquiry: I learnt, read, wrote and meditated consistently every damn day. Everyday, a new “discovery” was being made. I’ve also completed 75% of my book, more writing in the past week than the past 3 months combined.
Are break ups the equivalent of “Limitless” pills?
Learning, not dwelling about a problem is the first step to taking the right next steps for the rest of your life.
Having invested so much, starting over is tough. But here’s a shitty analogy that might help:
It’s like restarting a Warcraft character again, it sucks balls. But now you know clearly what you want, and how to approach things better. Your character will grow stronger, more accomplished and be better from the experience.
Understand this: You don’t get who you want, you get who you are. Keep growing and the right person will come. With growth, the person that you’re going to get with the long run will be better for you.
This is your responsibility at your end of the bargain. And honestly, I’m not going to rule it out for you, you may get her back IF you grow in alignment with her. The universe works in weird ways.
But never have that thought anchored in you. Your actions should be in the abundant nature of self-growth.
Step 6: Find other “identities”
When you break up, you lose a part of what defines you: “I’m no longer a boyfriend, a lover, a partner…”.
And it’s normal, we anchor a part of our “identities” to the relationship. However, it becomes a problem if that’s our only identity.
Perhaps why teenage loves are quite hard to recover from, you rarely have anything else that defines you besides being “Katy’s boyfriend” in school other than “the nerd with frizzly hair”.
Don’t let one thing define you. Diversify your identity like how you would your investments.
Have other “identities”: I’m a writer, a personal trainer, a son, a friend.
Don’t anchor your identity to the external: reason why people who let their riches, cars, looks and fame define them rarely achieve lasting happiness; those things rarely last and are constantly challenged.
A juxtaposition: I’m not that zen, I’m writing this because I need an outlet, and if you’re reading this, and contacted me, thank you, I know that I’m not alone, and that’s a drug I still crave. More than money, recognition and appreciation have always been my motivation.
But I’m conscious that this, too, ends.
Coming from this point of view, I know that I should never anchor my happiness to “success”. What then? To be present to the process.
I’m constantly finding my “identity”. From writing about varied topics, to making random food review videos, to writing a book. Funny enough, this process of discovery is what’s making me happy, right now.
I’m not sure if the search ends here, but as of now, I’m thoroughly enjoying this process.
I’m not pretending that this is the be-all-end-all to dealing with break ups. Things get way more complicated, especially if it’s a divorce or a disloyal partner*.
Don’t count on this article to tell you that things will all be fine and dandy.
Instead, acknowledge that IT IS going to be hard. The most important things to do are the hardest things to do. At this point, I’m better than I was a 10 days ago, but I’m still work in progress, but i’m seeing a much brighter future at the end of the tunnel.
Snap your fingers and just do it.