Dealing with a breakup? Maybe your relationship ended suddenly or had been dying for some time. Either way, a broken heart is never fun. Especially now during quarantine and the coronavirus pandemic – How do I know?
Because 48 hours ago, I had my life turned upside down. With no warning, my longtime boyfriend, William & I broke up. Between the stress of COVID19, a long distance relationship, and missed messages, it ended. He said he had found somebody else and wanted to pursue a future with her.*
While the extent to which we had been exclusive was always murky, he had previously assured me that nobody could ever take my place. That I could trust him and he would not just drag me along until he found somebody better. And I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? As late as two days before breaking up, we talked about moving to Sydney together, adopting cats, and living happily ever after.
Here’s a guide to myself, and maybe you, to get through a breakup in light of quarantine and the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Let The Breakup Hurt
Despite being one of the most common (and painful) shared human experiences, I find that others tend to trivialize post-breakup blues. Don’t let anybody do that to you.
Eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Cry yourself silly. Stare blankly at the ceiling for three hours listening to Taylor Swift. You’re allowed. And thankfully, it’s sweatpants and Netflix time all around the world right now. Last night, I broke my veganism, ordered pad thai, and cried to my cat.
It’s ok to not be ok and this is your time to be as unapologetically hysterical as possible.
But things will get better.
2. But At A Certain Point, Try To Get Back Into A Routine & Distract Yourself. Focus On Self-Care.
While I often find that a certain amount of catharsis is helpful, it is important to know when to stop. Because at a certain point, crying and staying in bed will only make you feel worse. When I think about overcoming past breakups, I think about all of the things I accomplished after I broke up. If not to just stop my mind from swirling darkly into oblivion, these things that reminded me of everything else I had to look forward to from now on.
The most important thing that we can do for the foreseeable future is to just distract and take care of ourselves. Distract ourselves from coronavirus, from our broken hearts, and from our shattering world. Dwelling on these things will not help and we have to stay busy. So as difficult it may be in these circumstances, we need to move onward. Get out of bed. Go for a walk/run. Get dressed in the morning. FaceTime with friends – Right now is a great time to lean on them! Watch a movie with them on NetflixParty or play a game on HouseParty. Take a long shower. Stress-bake. Go outdoors to the shop even if you only need one thing.
(If you need advice on more things to do, peep my article on 45 Things To Do In Quarantine)
3. Delete/Block Your (Now) Ex
Say it with me: DELETE. THEIR. NUMBER.
This rule is my most standard piece of relationship advice and one of the first things I did after William and I broke up. Because even if you don’t feel like texting them right now, chances are, you probably will at some point. All it takes is a couple of cocktails before you “just wanna ask them a question” or a boring work meeting until you’re lurking on their Insta. None of these things are productive in moving on. By deleting their number and/or blocking them, you’ll have zero temptation to reach out and will be able to focus more fully on your next steps.
What if I have an emergency?
If you’re worried about an emergency, then give your ex’s number to a trusted friend. Tell them to only give it to you when it’s absolutely necessary. That way, you’ll have zero temptation but also the ability to reach out if you find out you have chlamydia or something. Shoutout to Claire & Beth for storing William’s number in their phone.
What if I wanna be friends when it’s all blown over?
You can do that too! I know tons of people who are friends with their exes and are friendly with some myself. However, I highly recommend a “cooling off” period for you both to readjust. Your feelings nor his/hers will disappear overnight and it’s best to make a clean break. You’ll avoid the temptation of breakup sex and the subsequent spiral of an on/off-again relationship. Even if your country is still on lockdown and you are unable to each other physically, it’s important to get some mental space to rediscover the life you had before them.
If you want, you can even tell your ex that you’re deleting/blocking them for your own good and will reach back out when you are ready. I have admittedly pulled this move a couple of times and people have always understood.
4. But Don’t Enact Revenge
I’m mostly avoiding this tactic because William has a lot of money and I can’t afford that lawsuit right now.
5. Talk or Write About It
A big part of why I keep this blog is to not only remember my experiences but make sense of them. It’s why I’m writing this post right now and have talked to my friends endlessly these past few days. While I’ll sometimes need to take a break to stop myself from spiraling into a depression, a good amount of self-reflection can be helpful.
When I write a story or talk about what happened, I effectively decide on a “definitive” version of events and stop replaying them in my head over and over. By mapping it all out, I’m able to see everything more clearly and decide on some conclusions.
What went wrong? What went right? Was it a personality issue or timing? Both? What qualities did/didn’t I like in this person and how they meshed with my personality? What can I subsequently learn from this?
Just remember to not drive yourself crazy if you’re not sure as to why your ex did something or if they’ll come back begging for your love. You’re a journalist on your own life and feelings, not a therapist for theirs. I, for one, will truly never understand why William felt the need to find somebody else when what we had was so clearly right. Or at the very least, why he didn’t communicate his issues to me? But I’m perfectly content not knowing. Maybe he was confused, sure, I don’t know. The reality is that it’s not my job to find out. My only task is to figure out how I felt and how I can move forward.
Furthermore, the point of this exercise isn’t really to find out exactly what happened. Any event, not just breakups, will always be perceived differently by different people. When I write, it’s simply to tell my version of that history so you know what something meant to me. And as Winston Churchill said, since history is written by the victors, I well intend to write it.
6. And Expect Your Thoughts/Feelings To Come In Waves.
The number of times I’ve changed my mind about William over the past 48 hours is truly astonishing. One moment I’m thinking about how excited we both were to end up together, how much I trusted him, and how much he betrayed that trust. Another I remind myself of his occasional warnings that he could not promise anything and how difficult the distance was for him. And while it does not absolve him from guilt (he should have been clearer), a series of miscommunications that were exasperated by circumstance are easier to forgive than outright cheating. As a result, I go from being adamant that I’ll never speak to him again to hoping he will apologetically come back and want to start over. That he will admit he was wrong and we can have the future that I know we both wanted.
If you’re having a similar experience, know that these shifts are normal. Grief often comes in waves your view of events may change from day to day and even from moment to moment. At this moment, I have no idea how I may look back on my breakup with William and that’s OK. I just know that each of these painful waves will gradually get shorter and less painful. That someday, the dust on our story will settle and I’ll know what to make of it.
7. Force Yourself To Be Hopeful.
You Will Get Through This.
But what I do know is that this breakup has, and will continue to hurt. A lot. The pain I’ve experienced the past few days has been beyond anything I could have imagined. I had heard so many stories about breakups like the one I was facing. But I had never imagined that I would have to one day lose the man I held so dear.
When I considered something as exciting as my next career moves, I was happy that my world seemed open. No longer would this relationship be tying me down. But even life in London, Paris, or New York – places I had dreamt settling in for my whole life – Seemed dull and pointless when I knew that he wouldn’t be there with me. Sure, I might have a great apartment, but I wouldn’t see his (very stupid, but very adorable) smile in it when I got home every day. I wouldn’t be able to surprise him with tickets to West End/Broadway/Paris musicals. I’d never get another one of our daily chats on politics over dinner. Maybe I’d have a great job but I wouldn’t get another mid-workday spam of adorable cow pictures.
All of this in the context, of course, in the world’s greatest crisis since WWII. London has been in lockdown for almost two weeks now and I haven’t seen my friends in three. My home country, America, has now had more deaths from the coronavirus than 9/11. Grocery stores are empty and food is hard to come by. The days feel long, shapeless, and without meaning.
In spite of absolutely everything going wrong right now, I have to push through. And if you’re in a similar situation, you do too. Even if it means living in a state of denial, we have to hope that things will get better soon. We have to hope that people will stop dying. We have to hope that measures will be lifted and we can see our friends again. And as impossible as it currently seems, we have to hope that if this is the end between us and our partners, that there is somebody better waiting for us. That we are valuable human beings who have a life full of potential to live.
For my sake and the people around me, I need to turn off my BBC news notifications, block my ex, and continue to live my life. Focus on school, my friends, and myself.
Because while everything may have ended, it means that everything else that is bigger and brighter can begin.
May it now start.
Stay safe and I’ll see you next week!
*IN fairness to William, he did say that he and I could continue dating if I knew that I was not his primary focus. To which, I replied that I would never ever ever ever be his side chick.