The incredibly valuable lessons I learned from getting dumped
Break-ups suck. They suck baaaaaaad. My last boyfriend dumped me three days before my birthday. Well that was the second time we broke up. Bless his cotton socks, it took him two goes to get it right.
Yep, breakups rate pretty high on the pain scale. But without sounding too Oprah, they are also breeding ground for personal growth and development. So with a little less Facebook stalking and a little more self-reflection, I bring you: 10 things I learned from being dumped. Some of these lessons I’m still learning – some I was on top of before you could say Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough.
It’s ok to go a little crazy
My particular brand of cray-cray reached a crescendo when I found myself dancing in front of the mirror in what used to be ‘our’ bedroom wearing Lolita sunglasses and a Russian fur hat. To Rhianna’s ‘Pon de Replay’. On repeat. For an hour. It was midnight on a Wednesday and needless to say I had had a few glasses of wine. As I guzzled the last of it from the bottle, I locked eyes with my neighbor’s cat who stared me down with a mixture of pity and disapproval.
Not my finest hour. But unleashing a little crazy can be helpful. It’s the moment in time before you rip the Band-Aid off completely. And while I’m not condoning the misuse of booze and bad men, letting yourself go a little cray can give you some much needed breathing room before you embark on healing’s journey.
You will feel ALL the emotions
Is it possible to feel murderous rage one minute and soul crushing sorrow the next? Of course it is, you were a teenage girl once (or have you forgotten?). Welcome! You’ve entered the grieving stage where you feel ALL THE EMOTIONS!
Don’t worry – this is fine, this is normal. While it seems like the complete opposite, the grief will eventually pass and it’s important to let yourself really feel these emotions in order to properly move on. And I know you’ve heard this a million times before but that letter you wrote your ex? Don’t send it. The email you bashed out at 2am when you couldn’t sleep? Don’t send it. The drunken text you wrote in the bathroom so your friends wouldn’t catch you and confiscate your phone? Really, don’t send it. You WILL feel worse if you do.
The value of a good pros and cons list
At this stage – screw the pros. What you need is a really good cons list and trust me, once you get going, you’ll find plenty of inspiration. Whether your list includes the small issues (constant burping) to the much larger (dissing you BFFs) it’s incredibly enlightening, if not a little shocking, to stare at the cold hard facts and realize that your ex is less Batman and more Robin.
How to be grateful
I know, I know. Right now you’re probably thinking ‘as if!’ But my ex had a myriad of wonderful things about him and trust me, when enough time passes you will be able to look back on your relationship and feel gratitude. In most cases, your ex will have some redeeming qualities, after all, there had to be something that made you fall in love with them. And while the relationship didn’t last, once the dust settles and you can finally pull yourself away from Gilmore Girls, you’ll be able to feel grateful for the lessons that this person taught you about life and yourself.
There’s also nothing like having your heart broken to remind you of the amazing people you have around you to offer support, cuddles and a shoulder to cry on. For me, it was my sister who I called immediately after it happened and howled for an hour. It was my BFF who responded to my emergency WhatsApp messages from the other side of the world. It was the friends that checked in to see how I was feeling about the whole mess long after I had started to move on. The tough times remind you that these people are a blessing and you should continue to nurture and treasure these friendships.
How to be alone
My ex and I used to joke about how my calendar was 50% full of activities, catch-ups and social engagements that I only went to out of obligation. As if I was Hilary Clinton and not showing up at the White House just once would spell global destruction.
Cue a breakup moving to the other side of the world where I knew one other person. Suddenly all I had was alone time. It felt weird at first. I had to ask myself ‘What do you actually want to do?’ However, once I truly started honoring my needs, I found I actually really enjoyed my own company. It’s made me feel stronger and more self-reliant, which in turn has given me more confidence.
How to be humble
Before being unceremoniously ditched, I thought I pretty much had my sh– together. On the enlightenment scale, I was somewhere between Ghandi and the drunken uncle that only turns up at Christmas to ask for money. In short, I thought I knew a thing or two about a thing or two. Then I got dumped.
While it would be easy to lay the blame directly at their feet, once you’re ready, it’s much more productive to think about how you may have contributed to the relationship in a less than stellar fashion. Keeping in mind that this needs to be approached with kindness, meaning no judgements or self-recriminations. You’re simply taking a gentle look at your own behavior and asking yourself if there is anything you can try to do a little better next time?
That letting go is HARD!
In my eyes, my ex made letting go look like an afternoon at the beach. I, however, needed some tutorials. STAT. So I read a lot about letting go. How to let go, how long it will take to let go, how you will know when you’ve let go. And while it was all very helpful, it did start to give the impression that all you needed to let go was to take a few deep breaths and release a dove from a cage.
In reality, it’s a lot harder. It’s two steps forward and one step back and when you think you just might be there, the goalposts move. Just remember to be kind and to be patient. It will come when it comes. Then one day, you’ll realize that you haven’t thought about your ex in a few days. You’ll be able to think of them and feel grateful for what you gleaned. You’ll realize you’ve let go. And the best part? You were too busy living your life to even notice.
How to trust your judgement
Let’s face it, relationships end for a reason. I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew my ex wasn’t forever and it was a lot longer before I let myself believe it. But if I am being honest – I’m not sure how to make use of this realization in the future other than to be more aware of and trust my internal monologue a little more next time.
How to forgive (yourself)
For weeks months, I tortured myself with feelings of guilt over my failed relationship. ‘Why wasn’t I more of this?’ ‘Why wasn’t I less of that?’ It took me a long time to accept that relationships are places of shared joy and shared responsibility. Without stating the obvious, you were not the only person in the relationship. Sure, given hindsight you may have acted with a little more grace and maturity but recognize that at that time, you were trying your best. And you can’t ask for much more than that.
Nicole Sergi can be found living in East London, writing stories, chatting bollocks, baking treats, wearing red lipstick and drinking whiskey. The only thing she loves more than travel is pizza. And Kanye West. Follow her adventures on Instagram here.