Guestpost #63: Emily Schooley – Ten things I’ve learned from terrible breakups

Emily Schooley is an actor/improviser/photographer/life-hacker/Girl Friday with far too many interests and a depressing need to sleep at least four hours a night. You can stalk her website at http://emilyschooley.com, or find her on Twitter @EmilySchooley.

  1.   Sometimes the best thing you can do is leave. People don’t generally go into relationships – or stay in them – thinking that it’s going to fail, but if the other person is making you miserable on a regular basis, chances are you’re not going to be happy in the long-term. All relationships take work, but when the cost outweighs the benefits it’s time to fly solo. It’s the only way you’re going to find happiness and peace of mind, no matter how much you may feel you ‘need’ the other person, or “but the good times are so good…”
  2. It’s going to get messy. There will be name-calling. When emotions are flying high, often there’s no real way to “stay friends” afterward. And to be honest, trying to keep a connection to that person is the worst thing you can do for yourself. When you’re still seeing or staying in contact with your ex, you’re cheating yourself from the time you need to heal and regain your sense of self. It’s also not fair to yourself to stay in an environment where someone is going to say terrible things about all your imperfections – it brings you down and impacts your self-esteem.
  3. People in bad relationships tend to overlook being treated badly. It’s like the frog in boiling water – the little things add up eventually, and it’s not until you’re out of it that you can see how badly you’ve been hurt. In particular, abusive relationships tend to start with small incidents that escalate over time, and you can end up trapped before you realize it. It’s far too easy to justify that your partner “didn’t really mean it” due to whatever reason you pick to rationalize their behaviour, but when things finally come to a head, prepare for serious impact.
  4. You’re going to lose people in the break-up. It sucks, but some people will feel compelled to pick sides. The ones who outright side with your ex are seriously not your friends (even if they were previously mutual friends) and they are not worth the effort of trying to stay friends with. You’re not going to win them back – some people are eternally mentally stuck in high school and the best thing you can do is graduate and move on. The people who stay ‘mutual friends’ are also ones you should be cautious of to some extent – be careful what and how much you tell them, because some people have nothing better to do than take things said in confidence and use them to stir up drama. The people who actively support you all the way through are generally the ones to stick closest to, especially if they were friends prior to your now-over relationship.
  5. You are not in the wrong, or a terrible person. For whatever reason you broke up – and regardless of who initiated it – a breakup is not a judgment on who you are as a person. During a breakup, people are going to offer a lot of opinions and advice about what went wrong and how you could fix things or fix yourself, and your ex probably has a lot of opinions about what makes you the antichrist. I say screw them all; put your fingers in your ears and hum until they’re done blathering. You’ve done (or are coping with) what will be the best thing for you, and those chatterboxes are not living your life with your thoughts inside your head. The breakup is not “your fault” no matter how steadfastly some people may try to guilt you into thinking so; as for your imperfections, they’re yours to handle however you feel is best. A relationship takes two people, so does a breakup.
  6. Some people are truly toxic; most are just misguided. Like Ramona Flowers, I too have a parade of ‘evil exes’. Most of them – even the two who were physically violent towards me – are not necessarily evil people. What matters at the end of it all is that they were so painfully wrong for me it took cataclysmic explosions to get me away from them. Some breakups are smooth, but some are utter trainwrecks, and when you find yourself in the latter it can be hard not to make snap judgments. The best thing you can do for yourself is to forgive the other person, but hold their specific actions at fault. If someone wants to apologize, always say “you’re forgiven” (if you feel ready, that is), never “it’s alright”, because that just gives them permission to hurt you all over again.
  7. Be angry. Be sad. Be whatever you need to be for however long you need to be. When you’re caught in the emotional shitstorm of a breakup, you are not thinking clearly – even if you think you’re just fine. Emotions are going to come flying at you out of nowhere for days, weeks, months afterward. And that’s normal and healthy. Probably the worst thing you can do for yourself is to try to be “okay” too soon after… it just means that you’re bottling your feelings up and one day you’re going to crash hard before you know what’s happening. Take the time you need to heal, and don’t let other people tell you when to be ‘over it.’
  8. It takes time to gain perspective. Fresh wounds from a breakup are exactly that – fresh. A month, a year down the road you’ll feel a lot differently about the situation than you do when it’s happening. Only when you have enough emotional distance and time to heal can you really begin to deconstruct what happened. It’s a process to sort out what’s going on in your own head, not an A to B destination.
  9. It gets better. No, really. No matter how badly you want to down that 40 of vodka straight, possibly even raid the medicine cabinet and put yourself into a coma for the next year – don’t. It’s going to suck for a while, but you CAN live without that other person, and you will. It just takes time to rebuild. Breaking up may be hard to do, but like the phoenix, new and better things will rise from the ashes.
  10. You’re going to be just fine. This kind of goes with 8 and 9 above, but the farther away you get from D-Day, the better you’re going to feel. Life goes on and better things (and people) are coming your way. Spend time with your friends – you know, the ones who carried your ass through the break-up – and do things that you love to do. Celebrate that you’re not tied to someone. Breakups are emotionally exhausting at first, but the more you focus on your needs and wants, the more you will heal and grow into a stronger and wiser person. Ends of relationships that were devastating to me three, five, etc. years ago are things I barely think of now and I’ve accomplished so much between then and now. It’ll be the same for you, I promise.

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