After a few days on your own, you learn a few things about yourself, and about the relationship with the person you are still legally bound to. Changing your status as an “item” means that you have to quickly learn new things about yourself, and notice things about the world around you. Little tweaks, that may come off as simple at first, can be incredibly hard to adjust to, and may be emotionally devastating.
Here are some bits of advice and things you’re going to notice, if you find yourself out of a relationship suddenly. It is obviously a list for the dumped, rather than the person ending the relationship, but if you’re the one ending it, you don’t need my advice:
- If you wear a ring, lose it.
If you’re in a relationship for a long time, one where rings have come into play, you may notice that your finger has gotten somewhat atrophied around where your ring used to sit. This is completely normal, even if you may feel like you have an incredibly banal form of leprosy. As of this writing, my finger still has a fairly deep indent where it used to be.
Taking off that ring is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is a reminder of what is missing in your life. On the other, it has likely become a very large part of you. After a day-and-a-half, my euphoria about being separated waned unexpectedly: for years, when walking past railings, I’ve run my finger along the metal, taking some strange enjoyment in the sound of the metal of my ring against the metal of the railing. The very first time I did this and connected only with bare flesh, I found myself inconsolable for at least an hour.
- Some music is just off limits.
Breakup music is a tricky game, especially if you’re trying to remain happy about things. If you’re already depressed about the situation, sad bastard music just isn’t going to help you. If you listen to music regularly, you’re going to need to reevaluate what you can and cannot listen to, and whether or not it’s going to make you feel worse. The Postal Service and Arab Strap are out of the question right away. Do you really want to hear Ben Gibbard sing, “I am finally seeing why I was the one worth leaving”? I didn’t think so. For me, I get to listen to the first four albums by Los Campesinos!, but not their most recent one, Hello Sadness. I get to listen to LCD Soundsystem, but only their self-titled. I can listen to The Unicorns, Kendrick Lamar, and any Vampire Weekend record. I haven’t attempted Fade by Yo La Tengo, but I feel like songs like “Is That Enough?” and “I’ll Be Around” might be too much. In short: play to your strengths. If you want to get past the feeling of misery, Aidan Moffatt and Blood on the Tracks-era Bob Dylan are not for you. There’s no shame in this. You can always listen to it all later, when you’re more stable.
- Your ex is not the devil.
Though you may feel like screaming at them, your ex is not an evil person. Unless you happened to cheat on them, chances are the relationship ended for reasons that are mostly out of your control. Sure, you may have been distant, or clingy, or loved your mother too much, or been too flirty with waitresses, but chances are your spouse felt like they had drifted away from what they want, and if you’re honest with yourself, you probably did, too. Don’t distance yourself from them, however, no matter how much you think you hate them. They may have ended it, but your ex just got out of a relationship, too. They are someone who knows you well, and will understand you when you express your sadness, because you’re now in the same boat – or at least two boats tied to each other. Your lives aren’t over because your romance is: go to the movies, have dinner, hang out with friends – do things together. Everyone should try and stay friends with their ex.
- Distract yourself.
Everyone needs a hobby, and idle hands will generally lead to a fair amount of inner turmoil and depression. This is exactly what you want to avoid. This is the very best time to keep active, and try and find new hobbies if you can. Been meaning to play the new Tomb Raider game? Get on it! What about that book that J.K. Rowling wrote last year? Perfect time! What about knitting or crocheting? This is the best time to do some of the things that you keep wanting to do, but didn’t want to neglect your partner to do. These distractions are not meant to help you run from things, but rather to keep you out of your own head, running over what might have helped things go differently – if you’re like me, this is exactly what’s going to happen to you.
- Learn who your real friends are.
Not all friends are created equally, and this is when you’re going to realize it the most. Some of your friends are going to come to you and demand that you tell them about how you’re feeling, and express an interest in helping you in a real, substantial way. Some are going to lend you an ear, though they may not give you advice. Some will actively try and ignore the fact that anything has changed, and simply not bring it up. This is the second worst kind of friend to have in a time like this. The worst kind? The one that is going to judge you for the ways you might have chosen to make yourself feel better. Which brings us to the next point…
- Don’t be afraid to abandon your pride just a little bit.
Everyone has needs. You know it, and I know it. A personals ad for a casual encounter is nothing to ever be ashamed about. If you’re feeling tremendously alone, you might end up seeking out an encounter of this nature, and you may feel dirty about it. Don’t feel dirty about it. Sex is completely natural, and two consenting adults having fun is never a bad thing. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Just be safe.
- Reach out.
The internet connects us to everything we could possibly need. There is a certain stigma against posting about your feelings on social media, but there shouldn’t be. It’s all about how you do it. If you’re feeling blue, post something about the fact that you could use some time with friends. If nobody is free, just refer to #5: find a friend who is willing to listen, and unwind yourself a little bit. It may feel like you’re using them, but if they’re worth their salt in any way, they will never feel like this, and they will never pity you. You should never feel bad about feeling bad, but you should always try and let someone know about it, because isolation never truly helps anyone.
- Have fun!
Like it or not, singledom has a lot to offer everyone. Now that you’re out of a relationship (be it temporarily or permanently), you’re free to explore yourself and figure out who you want to be. On a much smaller scale than the act of moving schools/cities, being single means you can redefine yourself in ways that make you more comfortable. Small changes help things along a long way, and you should try and take advantage of that small bit of freedom.
This advice is subject to change, and will likely be expanded as my relationship hiatus continues. But for now, enjoy these pointers about your relationship – or lack thereof!