Three entire pints of Ben & Jerry’s (Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie, salted with human tears).
That’s what it took for me to come to the realization I’m about to share with you guys. But pints isn’t the only unit of measurement for heartbreak. It’s also 15 podcast episodes, five nervous breakdowns in one week, and countless calls home to friends and family.
Unfortunately, there is no recipe for coping with a breakup—there is no sum of ingredients that magically makes your heart feel whole again. Trust me, I’ve Googled. But there are small steps you can take and little goals you can set for yourself that help ease the bumpy and winding road that is recovery.
As someone who’s been in relationships pretty much all her life, I half-expected myself to launch into a new one shortly after the breakup. But that urge, even if it did arise as if out of instinct, suddenly didn’t sit well with me. It felt wrong. I couldn’t imagine investing in someone else when there was so much, I realized, that I needed to do internally for myself.
Somewhere around my third pint of B&J, I made a commitment: I was going to date…myself.
When you’re someone who has always focused your love outwards, dating yourself is not easy. (“Thank U Next” might condense this turbulent journey into three catchy minutes, but don’t be fooled.)
It’s a lot of working through past traumas, constantly doubting yourself, and of feeling small when you’re sitting alone in a coffee shop surrounded by happy couples. I think many of us tend to think of bubble baths and glam retail therapy when we think of self-care, but familiarizing yourself with your inner self can be extremely uncomfortable.
It can be weird, silly, sad and all these other messy emotions that most of us don’t like talking openly about.
It can also feel extremely counterintuitive to date yourself in a society that tells us that the most classic love stories are always between two people.
But there is also so much to be gained when you invest your love and energy in yourself first.
You start building trust in yourself, so that over time you realize that at the end of the day, you are your own “ride-or-die” and that you can always depend on YOU. You learn more about your idiosyncrasies and the small things that make you unique, from the way certain fragrances make you smile to the way your voice reverberates in an empty room when you’re alone and belting out your favorite song. You learn how to wrap your arms around yourself at night when that inevitable wave of sadness washes over you, for what feels like the hundredth time. You start putting yourself first over social conventions, so that unfollowing your ex on social media doesn’t feel so wrong (but it’ll still sting at first, and it’ll sting a little more when you see that they’ve unfollowed you too).
You realize that maybe, just maybe, you can survive this after all.
I’m still in the process of learning how to be a good partner to myself. A lot of days, I still lash out at myself and say mean things, and I easily find myself still wanting to prioritize other people first. And yes, I am going to couple’s counseling, where I show up to a therapy office every week, and I apologize profusely and practice saying compassionate, loving words to my partner—aka, me!
It hasn’t been easy by any means, but I feel a little comfort in knowing that I have the rest of my life to do this. My partner isn’t going anywhere, and she’ll ALWAYS be there for me.