When we’re in the middle of a painful breakup, it can be tough to find that light in the clouds, that silver lining that keeps us feeling positive when everything tells us we should be thinking the worst. Particularly if your partner made you feel like the breakup was all your fault (hint: it’s rarely completely one person’s fault) we might doubt ourselves in general and feel like we’re just not worthy of happiness.
Thankfully, that’s not actually true. Even if your relationship was riddled with mistakes you made, there is always a chance to learn, grow, and make yourself better. Think of each relationship as a cocoon that can help you transform into the beautiful butterfly you’re meant to be. Sometimes, it’ll take a little bit of work – but if you’re willing to put forth the effort, you can be a better girlfriend to your next partner, as well as a better friend to yourself.
1. Redefine your relationship expectations.
If your partner was the one who “did the most wrong” in the relationship, it can be helpful to think of the things she did that you don’t want to put up with in the future. Maybe she was unfaithful, and you’ve decided you can’t handle someone with so many hot friends. (That’s not really the greatest answer here, as it’s more about self-control than the attractiveness of the people you hang out with, but still – I’m sure you get my point). Make a note to yourself of the things you just aren’t willing to accept anymore, and then stick to it.
On the other hand, if you find that you were the one who “did the most wrong”, it might be important to redefine your goals a different way. Maybe your new goals deal with things you should try harder to do in the future. Maybe your partner was upset that you never helped with the dishes, so you try to focus on sharing the housework more equally in your future relationships. Of course, this won’t usually apply until after you live together, but it’s important to think about these things before the relationship gets there.
2. Switch up your wardrobe.
I don’t think that people should change their personal style – your clothing choices should make you comfortable, both physically and internally. You shouldn’t be wearing things that make you feel awkward, or self-conscious, or restricted. Dressing provocatively simply to attract a partner doesn’t really have the highest success rate, and it’ll just make you feel… Well, a bit promiscuous.
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with dressing provocatively, or that your clothing is any indicator of your sexual availability – but that doesn’t change the way these clothing items will make you feel if they’re not things you would ordinarily wear.
Instead, focus on ridding yourself of clothing that you have negative associations with. After my last break-up, I had a bunch of clothes that I had “inherited” from my ex when I lost weight and became smaller than her. These clothes looked great on me, but they brought to mind images of her, and I didn’t feel comfortable in them anymore – so I gave them away!
As an added bonus, giving your clothes to someone who is less fortunate is a good deed, which will make you feel better about yourself – and it gives you an excuse to go shopping, which many women enjoy. If you’re the type who doesn’t enjoy shopping for clothes (I absolutely hate clothes-shopping for myself, but love clothes-shopping for other people) consider the idea of a clothing swap with friends or acquaintances. There are social groups that do this, and if there isn’t one in your area – make your own!
Of course you’ll need people who are the same size as you to make this work, but it can be a fun experience. It’ll bring you back to the days you had sleepovers as kids – playing dress-up, but with the added bonus of actually being able to keep the clothes when you’re done. Score!
3. Start an exercise routine.
Most people don’t get their recommended amount of exercise, even if we’d like to consider ourselves “active” people. Exercise sucks. But it does help your mental health, and while it won’t eliminate all the symptoms of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, it can help to alleviate the negative moods associated with these conditions – as well as boosting your overall mood even if you don’t suffer from any of these illnesses.
The problem with exercising as a mood enhancer is that many people don’t enjoy it, so they do it for a shorter time or less frequently than they should – which reduces the number of endorphins it can create. After all, if you don’t like it, it’s going to seem like a chore, and you’re not going to want to continue.
It’s important that you find an exercise you like (such as dancing, running, weight lifting) – because not everyone has the same interests. Truly, not everyone enjoys any physical activity, but there is bound to be something that you can at least tolerate enough to make it a regular part of your life.
For many people, the easiest exercise to participate in regularly is a brisk daily walk. It might not change your life (at least not right away), but with diligence you can make it a habit – and just a 30-minute walk, at least five days a week, is scientifically proven to elevate your average mood. You’ll still have highs and lows, but your highs will be brighter.
4. Get a hobby.
If you had hobbies before your relationship, it may be a good time to re-immerse yourself in these hobbies. If you can’t remember the things you used to do, maybe it’s time to find some new ones! Participating in hobbies can improve your mood because you’re actively doing something that makes you happy. It seems pretty obvious, and in fact, it is.
If you give yourself time to do something you love, you will automatically feel better about yourself, your surroundings, and your life as a whole.
You shouldn’t dedicate all of your time to your hobbies, as this can be unproductive, and many people feel depressed when they’re not being productive with their lives. But if all you ever do is work and do “important” stuff, you’ll feel bogged down after a while. It’s important to take breaks, and to allow yourself happiness. Don’t you think you deserve it?
5. Set some goals – and have a plan.
Maybe you already had goals before you were in your relationship, and they got pushed aside when you started trying to make your partner happy. Maybe you didn’t forget them completely, but just sort of stuck them to the back burner. Having goals is all well and good, but if you’re not actually working towards them, all they’ll ever be is a dream.
I’m not saying you need to work on your goals all day, every day – but you should have a plan of action. For example, in my own life, I have a goal to publish ten e-books by my next birthday. It gets hard sometimes, as everyday life gets in the way, but I make a point to work towards it at least one day a week, and to date I’ve had a hand in five books. Five down, five more to go – but it definitely takes some work.
Your own goals will be different from mine, from your partner’s, from your parents’… And it’s just as important that your goals be personal to you as it is to have them in the first place. Sure, when you’re in a relationship, you’re probably going to have some goals with one another – but you should still be taking the time to work on your own. When you go through a break-up, all you have is your own goals – so this is a great time to cultivate them!
6. Work on your habits.
If you’re a smoker, dating another smoker can make it pretty much impossible to quit. (Those who are able to quit smoking while dating a smoker are a force to be reckoned with!) There are a multitude of habits that we form every day, some good and some bad. It’s best if we focus on growing the good ones and killing the bad ones.
An important note is that you can’t effectively change your habits if you try to take on too much at once, although it is possible to learn to switch a bad habit with a good one – as long as it’s something reasonable. For example, if you’re used to getting drunk on the weekends, and this is something you want to change – consider putting your “turn up” money into a savings account instead. Not only will this help you to quit drinking (or at least reserve it for special occasions), but you’ll also have some fallback money in case something comes up.
7. Let go.
Try not to focus on the negativity. If either of you did something “truly unforgiveable”, this should be reflected in your goals for the future – but for the most part, you’ll need to just accept that the relationship wasn’t right, no matter how much you wanted it to be.
No stalking, no drunk texting, no booty calls.
Your ex is under no obligation to still be there for you after the relationship, and to expect her to fix the problems once it’s no longer going to effect the relationship is futile. Not only does she not have to, but she shouldn’t, either.
Sometimes we stay in touch with an ex after a break-up because we feel that she is the only one who knows us that deeply. Usually, that’s not true – we have friends, after all, and if you don’t have friends, it’s a good time to make some.
If you continue to hold your ex responsible for your happiness, she will continue to hold the control over you. More often than not, this control is not used in a positive way. After all, things didn’t work out, so why should she care about your happiness?
(Well, we should all care about one another, regardless of whether there’s an emotional aspect or not – but many people don’t actually work this way.)
If you let go of your ex completely, at least long enough for you to heal, you are putting the power back in your own hands. You alone are responsible for your happiness – so act like it!