There’s a bright side to every shitty situation, if you look hard enough.
I’ve been through quite a few breakups in my time. Enough that you’d think I’d take them in my stride by now. But, nope. It sucks every time. Every time, I think I’ll never feel better, and I’ll never meet anyone else.
It doesn’t matter how vehemently I tell myself it’s not true, that in a few months or a year it’ll all make sense and I’ll be glad to be free of the relationship I’m currently mourning, or how many times my friends tell me he was terrible, and I’m better off. The only thing that helps is time (and meeting someone new, which always does happen, somehow).
One thing I have gotten better at over the years is knowing how to deal when I’m in the depths of despair, even if I’d rather wallow and feel sorry for myself. And the best way I know to feel better when I’m low is to scrape up some gratitude.
Gratitude is the closest thing I know to magic. As the very wise Benedictine monk, David Steindl-Rast, says, when you’re grateful, you can’t be fearful. Fear is the root of all anger, and when you turn anger inward, you get depression. All those feelings – fear, anger, sadness and depression – come through the same pipe. They’re all mixed up, and they’re behind the pain of a broken heart. Zap the fear away with gratitude, and the anger and depression transform as well. See? Magic.
Of course, finding gratitude in the wake of a bad breakup isn’t easy. If you’re in the thick of it, here are a few things to focus on, when you’re trying to capture that alchemy and transform your broken heart into a grateful one.
1. You can take some time for yourself
When you’re in a couple, it’s easy to get caught up in the “we” mindset – and that’s as it should be. In a successful relationship, partners always put each other first. But now that you’re on your own, you come first. Go on a trip, start a self-care practice, spend a ridiculous amount of money on yourself, be completely and totally selfish, and never feel an ounce of guilt about it. It’s all about you now.
2. You can watch whatever you want to, whenever you want to
No more waiting until your partner is free to catch up on your latest Netflix obsession. Binge-watch to your heart’s content, and don’t give a thought to anyone else’s viewing preferences except your own.
3. You can go on dates with yourself
Who says you need a partner to go out to dinner, or see a movie, or spend the whole day doing fun things? In fact, it’s easier to do all these things on your own, because you don’t have to negotiate another person’s schedule, taste, or limitations. I actually prefer seeing movies on my own. I can get popcorn and Junior Mints, and no one says a thing to me about it.
4. No more fighting, ever
Even in the best relationship, there are going to be some fights. Maybe even a lot of fights. Fighting is actually really healthy, provided it’s done in the right way. But it’s also exhausting. Particularly if your relationship had a lot of the bad kind of fighting (and if it ended, chances are it did), it can be a huge relief not to ever have to fight again. Or at least, not until your next relationship.
5. You can stop working so hard
Relationships can be hard work. Sure, they can also be totally worth it. But when you’re not in a relationship, you can relax a little. If you really want to work on something, work on yourself: your own growth, your career, your relationships with friends and family. You may not get this time again, so be grateful for it, and make the most of it.
6. You don’t have to deal with anyone else’s crazy family
Isn’t it enough to deal with your own? Even if you loved his family and it stings to get cut out of it, think about the family dynamics that weren’t so great. Focus on those, and be thankful it’s not your problem anymore.
7. You get the whole bed to yourself
Be honest with yourself – it’s pretty nice to spread out and use the whole bed, with no one hogging the covers, leaving the reading light on, or snoring.
8. There’s a world of possibility out there
No relationship is perfect, and in the course of your last one, you might have started to take for granted the things you were compromising to be with that person. Now that you’re back on the market, you can reevaluate what you really want in a partner. Make a brand new list of what you’re looking for, with the newfound knowledge you’ve gleaned from this latest relationship.
9. You’re one step closer to finding real love
Oprah says there’s no such thing as failure: that every so-called “failure” is just the universe pointing you toward where you’re really meant to be. So, be grateful that you’ve got this experience under your belt, and are therefore one relationship closer to finding the one. Yes, it sucks to have a relationship end. But if it’s truly over, that just means there’s something even better out there waiting for you. Maybe, when your heartbreak eases, you can even get a little bit excited about finding it.
Image via shutterstock.com.
Comment: What things have you been grateful for after a breakup?
Elizabeth lives in Brooklyn with two daughters, occasional mice and innumerable to-do lists. She runs a nine-minute mile, bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie, and can always be persuaded to sing at a karaoke bar. Follow her on Twitter.