Lindsey Stangl
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Advice for the Broken Hearted (From Someone Who’s Been There)

You can get through this.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Let’s be real, relationships are hard. They’re a far cry from the fairytale romances we were read as kids, that’s for sure. There’s introspection to be done, and painful lessons to be learned, and sometimes things just don’t play out the way we had hoped. Heartache is an unavoidable part of life, but there are a few grounding principles that can make the journey a little easier. Listed below are a few important lessons I’ve learned through years of trial and error that will hopefully help you, my fellow romantics, heal your heart and prepare for the future.

For When It Just Doesn't Work Out:

The shoebox method actually works. You know that trope in movies and TV shows where a heartbroken teenager cries over a shoebox filled with memorabilia from a past flame before hiding it under her bed to be forgotten? Yeah, it’s actually a pretty solid coping mechanism. We’re going to take it a step further. One of the biggest problems with the “out of sight, out of mind” method of getting over your ex is the sentimentality behind any items they left behind. Photographs, hoodies, that one album that you can’t listen to without their face coming to mind—all mementos that are hard to throw away despite the pain they evoke. If you find yourself in this position don’t worry. Try hiding these relics of the past in a place that’s takes a little extra effort to get to. Maybe it’s a box in the attic or that closet in the basement that gives you the creeps for some reason. As long as it’s a place that you won’t be tempted to return to and wallow in your sadness, it’ll work.

Do NOT stalk your ex on social media. Seriously, don’t. Think of it as yet another component of the sacred “out of sight, out of mind” rule we’ve been talking about. The goal is to spend less time thinking about them, and spend more time focusing on yourself. It’s really hard to do that when you’re comparing yourself to their new boo, or keeping tabs on exactly which bars they’re hitting up these days. No need for the extra mental stress on your part. Just relax and focus on living your best life instead!

It’s not the end. Lastly, don’t forget that the end of a relationship does not mark the end of your capacity to love. While not wanting to jump into a new relationship right after your heart basically just got trampled on is totally reasonable, take a moment to acknowledge the fact that just because this one didn’t work out doesn’t mean there’s not something better waiting for you in the future. I’ve known so many people who completely swore off dating after coming out of a bad relationship, and you know what happened? They did fall in love again. Some fell sooner, and some fought harder, but at the end of the day, if you want love deep down, then love will find you.

Before You Strike Up Something New:

Learn to love yourself first. While this may seem like a given, it’s actually way harder in practice than any of us might realize. It’s so easy to get so wrapped up in that special someone that you lose sight of yourself. Learning to be truly happy with yourself and cultivating your own interests before entering any romantic escapades will not only improve the quality of your future relationship with that special someone, but it will also improve your chances of finding someone you really connect with who also likes the same things you like!

Recognize when desires are being projected. This can be a hard one to come to terms with, but we’ve all been there at one point or another. We think someone is one way because of the way we want to see them, but who they really are just doesn’t match up. While it’s not the most pleasant thought, it’s important to keep ourselves in check and make sure we’re not overwriting someone’s personality with whatever it is we want them to be. It’s also important to make sure someone else isn’t doing the same to you. Just be yourself, and if you still feel like they’re trying to impose certain traits on you while ignoring your actual likes and interests, you might want to get out of there and try to find someone who loves you for you.

Being yourself really is the best way to go. Think of this as a continuation of the previous point. While taking interest in your partner’s likes is encouraged, don’t rewrite your entire personality to fit the idea of what you think they would find “idealistic.” You are a beautiful, multidimensional human with goals and interests of your own. Embrace yourself and share those parts of you with your partner. This will let you both learn about each other and grow together.

Things to Consider Next Time:

Communication is crucial. Sometimes telling your significant other that something isn’t right can be nerve-wracking. It’s especially difficult for shy or anxious people to be open about how they’re feeling, especially if those feelings lead to a possible confrontation. Take a deep breath. While it’s not exactly fun, talking about relationship concerns is massively important in cultivating a healthy, lasting union. In a similar vein, be sure to discuss positive things with your partner as well, such as your hopes for the future and where you want the relationship to go. This will not only deepen your bond with your special someone, but also build the trust you two share. However, if they react negatively, or refuse to open up, they may not be ready for a committed relationship in the first place. At that point proceed with caution.

Trust is very difficult to rebuild. My mother used to tell me that “trust is like a two way mirror. You can put the pieces back together, but you’ll still see the cracks in the reflection.” I didn’t realize how true this was until I found myself in a situation where my own trust had been completely shattered. Sure, humans aren’t perfect, but when it comes to important concepts that can make or break a relationship, the truth is undoubtedly the best option. Be open with your partner, and work together to see to it that both of you are comfortable with the situations around you.

Effort is a two-way street. Sure, in every long term relationship there will be moments when one partner will have to support the other a little more, that’s a given. However, if one person is constantly finding themselves putting in way more effort than the other then that’s a problem. This can not only come as a major hit to the trying party’s confidence, but plunge the relationship as a whole into toxic territory. Assumptions are made as to WHY the effort isn’t being put in, and sometimes things can get ugly. Instead of jumping to conclusions try talking things out, as mentioned in the first point of this section. If you’re totally up front with your partner and they still make you feel like you aren’t worth it, then you may be better off cutting your losses.

Maintaining balance in your personal life is important. Don’t lose touch with your friends and family because you’re spending all of your time with your new lover. This is an easy trap to fall into, but as with everything in life, a certain level of balance is required. Be sure to let your partner know that you need time with your friends, and make sure they have time with their friends too!

Love can be scary, but with the right insights it doesn’t have to be. Always do your best to stay grounded, enjoy the ride!

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