Breaking up is painful.
Even the gentlest breakup is littered with sparks of hurt and loss.
I’ve been through it one too many times. I’ve worried, and grieved, and even screamed my way through—one of those fabulous close-all-the-windows car screams—in the early days of a breakup.
Those first days of being single are oh-so-tender. Those first weeks can be sad and lonely.
Then the months go by and you crave jumping onto a dating app. Maybe you do—why not? It can’t hurt to look! But then it feels like you’re trying too hard or you start to miss your ex-lover.
Is coupling necessary in this cyber-age?
There is something so refreshing about being a couple in this isolating cyber-age. Instead of having superficial colleague chat, or text, Facebook messages, or email threads to whirl you through the day, you have someone to cuddle and come home to. Suddenly that “other half” seems to have your back in those vulnerable “I need someone by my side” moments.
The more technologically advanced we become, the larger the gap in face-to-face intimate connection seems to be. Loneliness is on the rise. Often we choose (I know I’m guilty of this) to be with another simply because we’re sick of being alone.
Whether you’re with your one true love or a fairweather lover, every relationship goes through phases. When the honeymoon wears off, maybe six weeks, six months, or a year down the road, that safety blanket of a partner doesn’t rev your oxytocin engine as much anymore. It’s then that we may find ourselves asking the question: “Why am I in this relationship?”
Mindfully moving through the phases of singlehood.
Well, singlehood goes through phases too, only they’re not as predictable as “coupled” phases. You see, what I’ve discovered in the myriad of single phases I’ve lived through, is one tried and true predictor of my comfort zone: my mind’s connection to my heart.
Often, when our love hormones (oxytocin being the strongest) are revved up for another for so long, letting them go can trigger a major letdown, similar to losing a loved one to death. The clincher with break-up loss is that your lover is still here—visceral and in the flesh. The mind has a harder time with that “aliveness” than it does with death sometimes, because it doesn’t quite know how to grieve it properly.
The mind wonders: do I pretend they don’t exist and move on, or do I acknowledge their existence and maybe rely on it to help me work them out of my system?
Because of this confusion, it took me more than five years to grieve and release my first love. In that time, I constantly wrestled with staying in contact with him or pretending he’d vanished from the earth.
He and I both wrestled with this, which only made it harder. We pushed and pulled and reunited and then detached and, finally, in a whirl of pain, he said something that completely hurt my feelings and broke the karmic chains that had bound us together. His words somehow freed my heart’s clenching grip.
Sometimes we don’t have control over how a relationship ends, but we do have control over how we process its ending.
It has taken me a few more breakups to meet the space in-between relationships with the grace of self-love and acceptance. After all, the reason past situations ended was because they weren’t right. Now, I can grieve the loss of someone I truly felt affection for through the lens of this wisdom:
The space you have now—savor it.
I see now that so many of my past rebound relationships happened because I felt antsy and uncomfortable being without my cuddle buddy. On the other extreme, I’ve also vowed to spend “x” amount of time alone to “date myself” which was code word for: I’m feeling wounded and sad and scared I’m going to attract someone like my past partner, so I’d rather be alone until I trust myself and life again.
Recently, I had an epiphany at 2 a.m. Yawning and shuffling back from the bathroom, I climbed into my cozy bed, alone, snuggling up to my body pillow, lulled by the sound of my own breath. Somehow, in this simple moment, the sound of my breath washed a wave of peace and comfort over me, as if my soul was caressing my body. “This is it. I have it all,” I thought.
I had a flashback to a past relationship and a person I’ve been crushing on for some time who is already partnered. My mind likes to wonder what it would be like to be with someone (because who doesn’t wonder about that sometimes?) In this vision, I saw the embers of attraction wane in the mundane day-to-day stuff. He makes a condescending remark about my mood or my cooking and sends me spiraling inward…back to the now, my cozy bed, and my soft breath.
No relationship is perfect, not even your relationship with self. In fact, the relationship with yourself is perhaps the hardest relationship you’ll ever have in this lifetime.
Connection with another can often be a bandaid to cover up or smooth your flaws—but only temporarily.
Today, I’m loving the advice my sister gave me years ago when I was craving my soulmate: “Enjoy this time alone—savor it—as you won’t have it forever.”
When you’re single it’s hard to imagine not being single forever. Sometimes it feels like an eternal flame burning inside of you—an Olympic torch kind of flame. But something shifts when you embrace that flame and say: “I see you. I appreciate you. I love that you’re here and offering me all this light and guidance.”
The Shift: How do I get there?
- Bless the Mess.
I don’t think there is a formula for getting there. It’s kind of like the path of enlightenment—it’s different for everyone. And, there are many roads that lead to it. Perhaps the words that bug you in the moment, the bits of advice loved ones offer, or the songs about love and life, or the images of couples canoodling, show you exactly where you’re at in the process. Just like my sisters “enjoy your alone time” words felt like nails down a chalkboard to my lonely grieving soul, those words that nail you, they are the keys to set you free. Bless them.
I know! Eyeroll. Why would you bless something that triggers the hell out of you? Perhaps because triggering the demons that hold you back is exactly what the universe wants to do so you can be completely free.
- Say “Thank You” more.
The taste of freedom isn’t always what the imagination conjures up.
When we open ourselves to what is right in front of us, we open to the bounty that life has to offer us. Who’s to say a warm snuggly bed to yourself with a body pillow to cuddle isn’t your bliss?
The universe just wants us to say “thank you” more—for, well, everything!
Thank you that I’m not with that partner who was not my right match. Thank you that I have this time solo to reevaluate and hone in on my values and enjoy my own company again, maybe even in new ways. Thank you for this cuddly bed and the sound of my breath.
- Start where you are.
I know it sounds cheesy and it’s been said a gazillion times, but if we meet ourselves in the here and now and just accept where we are—be it the deep depths of longing or despair, or the high hills of contentment and inner peace— then we are staying connected to ourselves.
I used to think connection to self meant I was in a constant state of inner bliss. <Evil grimace here> Little did I know that it is just meeting myself where I would expect my partner to. If you, like me, crave a partner that will unconditionally accept your shadow side as much as your light, then perhaps practice that same acceptance for your wide and wild array of inner states.
In the end, we get the love we seek by being the love we seek.
What we don’t realize is that we’ve been that love all along. The moment we embrace being that love, we realize we were just turning away from it within, expecting someone outside of us to turn toward it instead of us.
Whether you’re single or not, I invite you to turn toward yourself, my friend. As you do, you shine light on all aspects of you: the beautiful, the hideous, and all the in-between. Keep turning toward yourself.
Perhaps your gaze will lead you to find comfort in your breath. When you find that comfort, the universe becomes your best friend, and everything it gives to you is exactly what you need right here, right now.
Author: Sarah Theresa
Image: Hernán Piñera/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson