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Breaking up is hard to do… Tips to survive a breakup.

It is fitting that I finally got around to writing my new post while on retreat in the idyllic northeast coast of Bali. It takes me by surprise how catharctic travelling can be. I was definitely craving some healing and spiritual enlightenment leading up to our arrival.

Travelling has always given me a feeling of selflessness. Getting away can literally allow you to leave it all behind and experience the freedom of non-identity. When you are struggling with a problem or as I recently have had to do, a heartache, getting away can provide you with the time and disconnection that you need to put things into perspective and give you space to start to heal. It’s hard to feel down when you are surrounded by beauty and tranquility. So it was perfect timing that my recent break-up coincided with running my first ever retreat in Bali. So while my heart felt bruised I knew I had 6 days of yoga, meditation, adventure and poolside lounging to look forward to. (First world problems – I know!!)

Relationship endings are one of the most painful and commonest sources of loss and pain. Unlike other losses, break-ups often lead you questioning your self worth, lovability and any future hope for happiness. This is what makes heartache particularly painful, especially when you are the jilted lover. If you don’t have the good fortune to time a break-up with a luxury eco retreat in Bali here are some tips to help get you through:

Step 1: Really think about it

And I mean get REAL! Don’t let yourself indulge fantasies or create Bollywoodesque story lines that explain he’s/her reluctance to commit, or treat you right. If there’s a good reason your ex wasn’t able to provide you with the relationship experience that you want (and deserve) you should know it because it was discussed in REALITY. And as a byline it shouldn’t matter what their very excellent, quite understandable, perfectly acceptable reason is, because they still can’t give you what you want or need. Do not, and I repeat do not, let friends give you the “emotionally unavailable” “ too afraid of his strong feelings for you”, “be patient he’s just scared of how much he cares” piece of advice. Our friends mean well but they are not doing us any favours. What you really need to hear if you are leaving a relationship that wasn’t working for you is this: if it’s not working and you know (hand on your heart) you have been open, honest, available and authentic, no matter what his/her reason is, you need to walk away. Even if you sense or know that the other party loves you. Loving you is only half the job, the most important part is being able to provide and give you the relationship that you want and deserve. I am using the term relationship as a verb: that entails all the behaviours and gestures and commitments and actions that make you feel as if this relationship is exactly what you want and need. Think about the reality of your relationship. The actual REAL stuff – real things that actually happened. Not things that you talked about doing, or were going to do or he/she wanted to do with you. Actual real stuff and think about all of it. Not just the stuff you now miss like crazy. The way he made you laugh, or how well you snuggled on the couch. I mean all of it, like that time you realized he didn’t feel the same way as you or doubted his commitment to you, or when he was late or canceled plans last minute or how he never introduced you to his friends or invited you to parties, or stopped talking to his ex-girlfriend. Whatever it was think about it and don’t make up fantasies or good excuses to explain that behavior away. Here’s a metaphor I often use in therapy. I have a thing for handbags. Nowhere else is this craft so exquisitely paraded than in the luxury designer handbag market. Shallow perhaps – but we like what we like. So imagine I walk into the Chanel boutique and ask to try their signature handbag (the 2:55). The sales assistant explains how the bag was made for me and how good the stitching looks. How the bag was hand quilted etc etc. I take it in. The smell, the softness. It’s amazing. I totally agree with her. This is a wonderful bag and well worth the price tag. I mean it’s an investment piece. A once in a lifetime. But I cannot afford it. I have other priorities. It’s impossible. Maybe later. When I pay off the credit card, or my mortgage. A reward for my retirement perhaps. The sales assistant may smile politely while I relay all of this to her. And to be fair to myself, all these reasons are true. BUT and here’s the most important info – ALL the sales assistant really needs to know here is that I am not buying that bag today. She is not getting a sale and I am not getting a handbag. She should walk away and spend her time with a customer who may actually be able to take one home today. So do you see how this relates to your break-up? Yes. You are a Chanel handbag. Just because I can’t afford you doesn’t mean you’re not amazing and completely worth the price tag.


Step 2: Stop thinking about it!

Once you have thought about the relationship and all the ways it didn’t match your expectations it’s time to be vigilant and mindful. Notice how often you drift into fantasies and thoughts about this relationship. Are you having imaginary conversations in your head. If you are (I think we all are) begin by imagining these thoughts on a cloud drifting away from you. Then begin by focusing on how you feel in your body. The chest area is a particularly sensitive area when it comes to loss and grief. Take slow deep breaths directed at your heart centre. Make the chest expand and fill with air and as you exhale imagine the pain and tightness of loss weakening. You may become distracted once again with thoughts about this pain or this loss or anything else. If you do, gently acknowledge that these are thoughts and persevere with redirecting your attention to your heart center and experiencing this loss as it manifests in your physical body, not through the verbal symbolism of the mind. This is a great way to work with the pain of loss. Thinking about loss actually keeps us trapped in our relationship and stifles our ability to let go.

Step 3: Book a massage

A luxurious and nurturing massage is a great way to improve your mood, invoke healing and release some of the toxins that psychological pain can cause.

Step 4: Recruit assistance!

Tell your friends they should schedule regular check-ins with you and ask them to commit to dragging your ass out for a run, to yoga, a dance class, a walk or some kind of nurturing activity.

Step 5: Book some solid time on your own to allow yourself the space and time to get some perspective and clarity. This is best done while sitting seaside or against the backdrop of a mountainside or some equivalent beautiful natural setting (not at home, going through photos of the two of you, with a bottle of wine in one hand and your save-the-date cards in the other).

Step 6: A makeover

Get a haircut, spray tan, new look or a mani/pedi. Devoting some time to the external you can help you feel better.

Step 7: REALITY CHECK! Some self-compassion please

This does not mean you’re unlovable and destined to be on your own forever! You need some straight talking right about now. There is nothing wrong with you. Ok? There is nothing wrong with you. Relationships are tricky. While you may have truly felt deeply for someone, how it worked out may not be about you at all. Most people on job interviews talk about similar things. How they love being on time and often get caught up working way too hard and late. Dating is like a job interview that may also lead to a job trial (restricted access to perks and no guaranteed job security). If someone fails to be as good at their job as they were at their interview, should an organization or business start to question their worth? No. It is usually understood that if someone fails their trial it’s because they failed at delivering the goods they were hired to deliver. Sure. You may have some issues that require attention. If you are unsure speaking to a therapist or counselor could help you uncover if your expectations and behaviors are standing in the way of you finding a fulfilling relationship. Most often however, what I see as the most common mistake made in dating and relationships is that people stay too long in relationships that aren’t fulfilling or moving forward or mutually beneficial. So in many ways we do stand in our way when it comes to finding love, and that’s because for every day we stay in the wrong relationship (even if it is with someone we think is the right guy) is one less day you spend in the right one.

You are a Chanel handbag. Just because I can’t afford you doesn't mean you’re not amazing and completely worth the price tag.

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