How to Deal with Loneliness
There’s a difference between the feeling of loneliness and “I am lonely.” One is an experience, a feeling that comes and goes. The other is an identity, tightly tied to your sense of worth. Instead of just being aware of the feeling, you have attached added meaning to it. You are lonely. Because you feel lonely, you believe there is something wrong with you. You’re too old or too fat or whatever. But it’s not your fault. That knot has been tied by society. Whether you know it or not, you have been programmed.
Self-Care Is Your First Date
It doesn’t have to be dinner and a movie. Or at the other extreme, a trip to Bali. That’s self-help talk. A first date with yourself can be a walk. Or a workout. Or a cup of coffee sitting on a brick wall on a Saturday afternoon. It’s not about the activity. It’s about the connection. Are you connecting with yourself? Leaning into the discomfort of sitting with yourself? Or are you on your phone and in your head the entire time, running a to-do list or ruminating on why you haven’t met someone? Can you give someone else your undivided attention? Do that for yourself.
What Moving On Really Looks Like
Acceptance is the beginning of any healing. When we don’t accept something, it continues to grow, like a virus. We may be able to bury it for a while by distracting ourselves, but it will eventually come back. By rejecting it, denying it, pretending like it never happened, or minimizing its ongoing impact on us, we actually continue to feed it, allowing it to grow until it makes us destructive—to ourselves, to other people, or to another relationship.
Acceptance doesn’t mean you want to get back together with your ex. If you do in fact want to get back together with your ex, then you must accept that as your truth and start there. Maybe you need to accept how much you’ve been hurt so you can start grieving the loss of the relationship. Maybe you need to accept that it wasn’t your fault. Or that it was—maybe you need to take ownership so you’ll be better in your next relationship. Maybe acceptance means forgiveness. Maybe acceptance means boundaries. Ask yourself what you need to start accepting and what that looks like for you. And remember, acceptance is a process. It takes time. It’s not something you do over a weekend. What’s important is that you start the process.
You are not moving on. You are moving through. Acceptance isn’t a corner you turn. It’s a journey, and journeys take time. But eventually a journey can lead you back to the village a changed person, because with every journey there is a transformation.
How To Be Single On Purpose
There are necessary steps to declaring you are single. The purpose is not to advertise but to promise yourself that you will be a better person because of what happened. Single isn’t just a status. Single is a choice to take your love lessons and grow.
Step 1: Accept That Your Relationship Has Expired
Relationships are not milk. We’re talking about a human who shared their heart with you. But this is more about a reframe, a mindset shift, a different way of looking at it to help you accept that the relationship is over and let go of it.
One of the hardest things about a breakup is wondering if it could have been different. What if I did this? What if she was more like that? What if. . . . What if. . . . The what-ifs keep us holding on, feeling like shit. We play back the highlight reel instead of the whole documentary. We drown in our emotions, questioning whether we made the right decision or could have done more. All these thoughts keep us stuck.
Your relationship has expired. It was not meant to last one day more or less. It has run its course. Not because of you or your partner, but for a different reason: your relationship hit its expiration date. You have to believe that.
Step 2: Cut the Cord
There’s no way around this one. You must unfriend, unfollow, and unsubscribe. Stop texting and calling. Resist the urge to leave voicemail. You have to let go. Maybe not forever. Maybe the two of you can be friends one day. But that won’t come unless you give yourself space now. If you don’t, you’re just peeling scabs. You’re holding two hostages: your ex, and you. Respect the relationship and what you had by respecting the expiration. Draw firm boundaries.
But what if you have a kid together? You communicate. You get on the same page and establish healthy boundaries as best you can. It may get ugly. When we are hijacked by emotions, we may use our children as chess pieces. Even unintentionally. Our emotions are the elephant, our logic is the little rider on top, and the elephant is going to go where it’s going to go. But it’s critical that you set some kind of boundaries or healing won’t happen.
Step 3: Take Ownership
Most of us lay blame. We point our fingers and are quick to spell out everything our ex did wrong. This becomes a broken record that sinks us deeper. By blaming your ex, you are putting yourself in victim mode, as though you were powerless over what happened. And yes, many of us have been victims. If you’ve been in an abusive relationship, physical or emotional, you have been victimized. Something has been taken from you. Self-esteem, voice, a sense of worth. And that wasn’t your fault.
For many relationships, though, what happened is not so black-and-white. Sure, your partner was shitty sometimes, but were you perfect? Instead of feeling the pain of an expired relationship—and don’t forget, a relationship always involves two people—it’s easier to demonize your ex. This might feel good, but by ignoring your own role, you’re setting yourself up for a repeat performance.
Step 4: Focus on You
When a relationship expires, we want to jump into something else as fast as we can. We search for our next ride right after getting off the last one, without giving ourselves any time to really process what happened and how we feel about it. Obviously, it’s uncomfortable to be alone, and we want an easy fix. But love is not an amusement park. If you just keep jumping from one ride to the next, you will only repeat patterns. Nothing will change. The soil for growth is so rich when you’re single. But only if you are focusing on you. Not on finding someone else.
Working on your relationship with yourself isn’t just about doing things alone. It’s about being alone. On purpose. Sitting with everything that comes up, however uncomfortable. Finally breaking the patterns you fall into to cope and numb when you are alone by noticing what comes up and why. This is the inner work. The hard work. This is what focusing on you looks like. As you do this work, you also practice self-compassion and forgiveness. Accept your story, let go of what you need to let go of, and start leaning into your evolution.
Step 5: What Are Your New Non-Negotiables?
There’s a difference between non-negotiables and preferences. Telling yourself you will date only men who are six-two, make six figures, and drive a vintage Porsche are not non-negotiables. That’s called being picky. Non-negotiables are new standards you’ve created for yourself that line up with your new story. They form the container that houses and grows your sense of self-worth.
Your non-negotiables don’t all have to be big things. Needing to be able to have great banter with the other person can be a non-negotiable. They can be based on common interests and values. Maybe you will no longer tolerate being with someone who plays video games all day.
Step 6: Smash the Clock
There is no fixed time it takes for you to “get over” someone. There is no formula, no secret steps. And just because you got over someone in three months last time doesn’t mean it will take just as long this time.
Every relationship is different. They make imprints on us that vary in depth. Who you are or were in that relationship is different now. There are too many factors involved to be able to judge or compare your expired relationships this way. It’s going to take as long as it’s supposed to take to heal and move through.