They say time mends a broken heart and it takes 21 days to break a habit.
Recently, I ended a three and a half year relationship. And once it was over, I felt vacant. Not only was something missing in my heart, there was an emptiness in my home, cellphone and inbox.
And like a craving, he appeared to be the only thing that could satisfy that vacancy.
No one wants a relationship to end, but sometimes, as it was in my case, it’s not going anywhere. With the break new and fresh, it is easy to lose sight of the reason for the break. True, it’s harder when we’re on the receiving end, but when it’s over it’s over and there’s no use holding on.
It simply prolongs the heartache.
That’s why I started thinking about other methods I use to eliminate something from my daily routine. Take abstaining from alcohol or caffeine as an example. The first few days are miserable.
In my experience, the misery is a product of anticipating the pain that will result from abstaining. That is why it is important to remember the reason why we are removing a particular substance from our life.
I wrote a list of 10 qualities I wanted in a man. I then compared those qualities to those my most recent man possessed. I found he had less than five. So I went back to this list each time I wanted to text, email or call. The first day was the hardest. By the fourth, I started to think if I can get through a few more days it will be seven—an entire week.
That is when I remembered that I once read it takes 21 days to break a habit.
It might sound odd to compare a relationship to a habit, but I realized that we break habits and relationships because they are not right for us. I was either settling or outgrew my relationship.
With this in mind, it became easier for me to stay on the 21-day path to being unattached. I knew once I found emotional freedom, I would be able to heal my core. And with this clarity, remain true to my principles and ultimately be better apt to find a suitable mate.
The mindset helps, but it did not completely rid me of the urge to contact him.
So I had to develop a strategy to distract when the late night craving for the comfort of a relationship struck. This is when I channeled that energy into a creative flow. As an artist, this is a distraction that comes easily. But I realize this is not true for everyone. So go for a run, dance, play an instrument or redecorate.
Do whatever it is you need to build a better you.
I spent my first seven days writing and illustrating. Seeing what I created during that first week inspired me to create more and I had the positive affirmation of building something new. All habits have some sort of an emotional payoff and in this case, it is two-fold.
The first is freedom from the emotional drain of a failed relationship. The second is not so obvious. It is the self-confidence we build by channeling the pain we feel into creating something new. It is this second payoff that I found most helpful in the healing process.
It put me in a position to see that I was able to choose a partner more aligned with my beliefs and dreams. I could be free of this relationship and be a better me.
Author: Jane CoCo Cowles
Editor: Nicole Cameron