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How to mend a broken heart

Whether you choose to be single or require time to come to terms with your new relationship status, this highly requested article is here to help you with heart ache and celebrate being a strong independent woman. Although I’m speaking to you through this screen without knowing the turmoil you may be experiencing, I can hand on heart promise you it will be ok. Maybe not today, maybe not in a month, but day by day it will get easier until the magic moment you forget it was ever hard. Countless times I’ve cried over a guy and firmly believed I would always feel that way, I’ve wasted emotions on men that I would walk by in the street now and barely feel the need to say hello. As sad as it sounds, life moves on, people grow apart and the person you once shared every intimate detail with becomes a stranger. I’ve also been single by choice but reached that stage of wanting someone in my life and worrying if I would ever find them. I’ve questioned if I would I be alone forever, lost faith in dating and the male species in general. When I was single I really learned to love myself, so much so that anyone who entered my life was a bonus and not a requirement. I was so busy being a boss lady that I stopped worrying and wondering and started really living and loving. There’s something so appealing about a girl who requires nothing from a man. I’m a firm believer that you have to really want to be with someone and not need them for things to work out. When you focus your time and energy working on yourself, for yourself amazing things happen. Instead of coming across as needy on a night out or requiring a man to validate your existence you’re indifferent, and they’re an awesome addition to your already fabulously full life.

Over the past year or so my inbox has been inundated with emails, snaps and private messages from young girls and older women alike expressing how they’ve experienced heart break of some kind, asking how I’ve coped in the past and if I can offer any advice. Learning to function and live your life without that special someone when a split is fresh can be a testing time to say the least. The generic advice of ‘he’s not worth your tears’ or ‘there’s plenty more fish in the sea’ simply don’t cut it and can often irritate. Exterior circumstantial situations play a huge role in your road to recovery. If your family didn’t support the relationship in the first place or you’ve lost some friends throughout, the situation can be exacerbated because you feel there’s no one to turn to. Surrounding people can be of the opinion of ‘I told you so’ and as a result are reluctant to help. Perhaps they hated your ex from the start or warned you not to get back with him for the eighth time. Hopefully you have a core group of gal pals or at least one close friend that understands what it’s like to go through this undertaking, someone who won’t tire of your constant reversions and break up woes. Family can also be fantastic, I know my mum is my rock when it comes to any sort of sad situation and she continues to listen, guide and support every decision I’ve made, even if she knew I could do better from the start. She also tells me straight how it is instead of appeasing me to simply say what I want to hear. Honesty is key with your surrounding circle because people on the outside can often see something coming from a mile off and lack the emotion you’ve invested which can often blind sight the truth.

Losing love can be a lonely time, trust me I’ve been there. I’ve woken up disoriented after the initial break to a heavy heart. That feeling of not wanting to lift your head from the pillow for fear the pain in your heart will knock you back down again. I’ve had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach where I know things have taken a turn for the worse and can’t be mended. I’ve genuinely believed my life is over or not worth living without that special someone. I’ve wondered what they’re doing at every moment of my day and cried until there was no tears left. I’ve stopped eating, sleeping and functioning. I’ve eaten ice cream and sobbed at the scene in Sex & The City where Big lets Carrie down on her wedding day. I’ve avoided going on nights out for fear I would break down in a nightclub, or that I would see happy couples everywhere. I’ve driven past hotels my ex and I stayed in and felt as if I was being stabbed by the memories. I’ve stopped listening to music to avoid hearing every song that was ‘our song’. I’ve written lists of why the person is no good for me yet ignored my own hand writing. I’ve given second chances when they weren’t deserved and I’ve fallen in love with the idea of someone only to be surprised at the end outcome. I’ve had sleepless nights, I’ve obsessed over their Facebook page and panicked over the new girl commenting and I’ve generally lost the plot. The pain is indescribable and unless you’ve endured the devastation first hand often hard to comprehend.

So how do you cope? Is it possible to move on? Will you truly be ok? Will you meet someone else? Well, before I address the former, the first piece of advice I can give you is to breathe. This is the worst of it; the open wound needs time to heal and time really is the only things that will plaster that pain. The final argument and words exchanged will play on your mind for at least a couple of weeks. You’ll think of things you wish you had expressed, or said differently, you may only remember the good things about your ex and your mind will begin playing tricks on you in turn persuading you to want him back. The first difficulty you’ll undoubtedly face is not being able to contact him. Throughout a relationship your partner in crime is there to share every moment of your day with. From calling them up just to simply say hi or calling over to cheer them up after a bad day. If a relationship has ended, the worst thing you can do is maintain contact if feelings remain. If you call your ex, guess what? They probably have nothing new to say and repeating the fact you’re not working is probably going to hurt you even more like adding salt to a graze. And to be frank and blunt, if they aren’t calling you they simply don’t want to talk to you. Women analyse EVERYTHING. We create scenarios in our head that don’t exist and have conversations with someone who’s probably thinking about what they’ll have for breakfast while you sob into your pillow. Men are simple creatures who carry less emotion and handle things differently. When a man decides he no longer wants in on a relationship he’s thought long and hard about this decision for some time and will stick to it. They’re pragmatic creatures, they feel a sense of freedom when they end things while we mourn. Then, a few months later while we’re over the entire fiasco and have moved on they can often regress and realise they let something good slip through their fingers, all too little too late.

So how do you stop contacting someone who was such a large chunk of your day? A huge part of this process is about changing your routine to avoid constantly having the desire to call, wonder what he’s doing, what he’s thinking about, why isn’t he calling, or if there’s someone else. The main focus here should be you, what your day now consists of and how you can become happier and more fulfilled than ever. Wasting your time thinking about him and where he’s at literally pauses your life and prevents growth. A break up should be dealt with like a learning process, sure it sucks beyond belief but there is a very obvious reason why it didn’t work or wasn’t meant to be, you just can’t see it yet. The first task I suggest you work on is making a list of all the reasons why you’re broken up and factually what wasn’t working. Try to be as honest as possible; no one has to see this list, the words are there for your eyes only. The list can begin with small traits that annoyed you like the fact John always left the toilet seat up or left his clothes lying around and eventually surmount to bigger issues like John was abusive and untrustworthy or a cold hearted pig. Sometimes pain can bring about so many emotions that we forget the concrete facts. We feel so much love for the person we’ve lost we forget the fact they treated us badly and ultimately weren’t a suitable match. The sooner you realise he wasn’t for you the easier it is to accept, and acceptance is an ideal starting point of the grieving process. Grieving sounds dramatic and is usually associated with a death, but a break up can often feel like a death by virtue of the fact that person is no longer with you in the same capacity and going through the motions is effectively grieving. Give yourself time to grieve.

You’ll have plenty of memories of your time together and regardless of the above list they will naturally surface, regularly bringing you back to the missing him stage. My main advice here is to try to avoid idealising your past and reverting to the honeymoon phase for memories. That time was wonderful and filled with joy but it’s not a realistic comparison to your current situation and you’re not losing the person you knew back then. Unfortunately the dynamic has changed dramatically for the relationship to cease and the more recent memories are the ones you should think about. Once you’re aware factually why it’s not worth fighting for then simply allow those fond and not so fond feelings pass through your mind, but don’t dwell on them. One technique that really worked for me during particularly tough initial phases was a form of healing Mindfulness. If you’re having a particularly sad sleepless night for example try the following activity. Try to vividly imagine your ex and the happy moments you shared together, then focus on the mental image turning it greyscale and letting the image get smaller and smaller until it becomes a dot you allow float from my mind. The opposite is then suggested for more recent negative memories, situations where you felt upset, angry or insecure. Clearly see that time in your mind, that massive argument, allow the colours become vibrant, feel the anger you felt, make the picture bigger and more highlighted in your mind. Focus on every emotion and every detail and repeat the process. This may sound like a hippy dippie method but I can tell you first hand it works. The exercise focuses on your breath and concentration and manages to store memories in the correct head space without the blinkered emotion you’re experiencing right now. When you’re extremely upset your judgement can become clouded and files can go into the wrong ‘feelings folders’ as I like to call them.

The next big challenge so many face is dealing with social media. A part of our everyday life, we now have to see our everything our ex is doing online and change our relationship status for the world to see. Social media puts a huge pressure on people to save face, live a luxurious life and portray the perfect couple. In actuality things are far more boring than our highlight reel and occasionally rotten things happens, including break ups. When I shared ex on social media in the past and I remember how difficult it was wondering if I should explain where he was gone or briefly take a break from being online so I could avoid the subject in case it arose. Followers used to comment asking me why I wasn’t going on holidays and expressed concern when I didn’t post frequently throughout the split. It was horrible having an extra pressure added to an already crappy scenario, but it’s almost expected in the business I’m in. The nature of the internet puts a huge exterior strain on these situations, can make you feel overwhelmed and constantly reminded of the person you’re no longer with regardless of your profile and industry. Respect is hugely important here. I would highly suggest not airing your dirty laundry or attacking your ex online, in my eyes nothing good can come from it. Of course certain quotes and memes will be relevant and you’re entitled to hint at what’s going on, but shouting your turmoil from the rooftops will just make you feel more exposed and vulnerable and appear immature. I also feel no good can come from remaining friends with your ex on Facebook. Even if you’ve had an amicable split, seeing what he’s doing every day, potentially seeing his new girlfriend or an inconsiderate status update can cause nothing but stress and in turn end the real life friendship you may be able to salvage. If you’ve ended on a good note perhaps let your ex know you plan on deleting him, that it’s not being done out of malice, you just simply want you both to move on and wish him well. If things have ended on a more turbulent note, all the more reason to break free from his updates and privatise your own as soon as possible. There will be photographs of you guys too and this is the really tough part. Do you keep them? Only to flick through them frantically everyday? Or do you delete them? The memories will remain in your mind, so do you really need the added torture of romanticising over that holiday in Portugal or your first Christmas together? If it doesn’t help you it hinders you so I say delete.

Once you’ve made your list, accepted the fact it will take time to heal, refrained from contacting your ex and removed the majority of memories including that hoodie that smells like him, it’s time to get out of those pjs and make progress. Having a break up buddy you can chat to throughout all stages of this process is essential. You need someone who knows the entire story of your relationship including how it ended, someone who is strong and will help you power through weak moments. Your chum of choice will need to be understanding and not bore or tire of your back and forth for some time. They will need to be willing to spend some time discussing your ex in lengthy detail, advise you repeatedly why you shouldn’t call him and distract you with fun filled activities. I’m blessed to have some amazing gal pals that were invaluable in the past. From popping round with chocolate or being my plus one when the pain was too big a burden to bear alone at events, I’m eternally grateful for my friends and have since returned the favour when they landed themselves in similar situations. In terms of going out with the girls, take your time on this one. Pushing yourself to go to a club to party and dance can lead to some break downs and worst of all drunk dialling. Alcohol can bring on more extreme emotions, so if you miss your ex sober you’re going to miss him ten times more with ten tequilas in your system. When you’re ready to brave a bop make sure you hang out with responsible people who will look after you, ensure you don’t get paralytic and are ok with a few tears should they fall. Going out with single girls is fun because you’re all in the same boat but don’t give up on or avoid your pals that have partners. You need to eventually learnt to love again so don’t become scornful or jealous of other’s happiness, because when you’re happy again you’ll want them to be happy for you too.

Throughout my last break up I was strong enough to know and truly believe I would be ok, I simply needed time. I accepted the split and knew it was for the best, I knew there was no possibility of us ever getting back together and that clean break is often easier. As a result I immersed myself in new projects to pass my time, heal and improve myself. One of those projects was joining a gym, possibly one of the best things I’ve ever decided as it was the perfect time to really challenge my mind and body. I wanted to prove a point to myself, not my ex, that I was strong, that I was resilient and better than dwelling on a sad inevitability. I began my journey with a bad attitude to fitness (I hated the gym) and had a horrendous diet. A great starting point, I completely overhauled my mind and body and promised myself that everyday I felt sad I would go to the gym. The gym can be an amazing escape from hardship or hell. When you’re lifting heavy weights or sweating profusely in a cardio class it’s relatively difficult to think about the demons that are causing your depression. The sheer focus required when you push your body means your mind has very little time to drift away to dark places. After working out there’s also lovely little things called endorphins that are released replacing every sad cell with happy ones. After time, the body becomes addicted to the good hormones and requires more to function, thus making the whole task of going to the gym a positive one until the day you wonder how you ever hated it. If you can’t face a PT or individual workout session why not try a yoga or pilates class that will allow you simply stretch and breathe through the tough time. I found Body Balance amazing at the start because it was slow paced, still made me sweat and had a mindfulness session at the end to meditate and expend emotion. After time if you stick at your new routine and fuel yourself with the right food, your increased energy levels will in turn provide a sense of well being and motivation to do more activities. Your new body will install confidence and looking smoking hot when you bump into your ex can’t hurt.

If fitness really isn’t your thing and you’ve at least attempted some form of exercise for a few weeks, then getting some sort of new focus is integral. When we’re younger our parents look after sports, activities and creative classes which the majority of us give up in our adult life. Work and life gets in the way and we forget how fun and consuming a new pursuit can be. Whether it’s something artistic like card making or painting, or more adventurous like rock climbing or surfing, spending a small amount of money on a new project can work wonders. When my anxiety was at an all time high my aunty bought me a grown up paint by numbers kit to take my mind off panic attacks and elevate stress. Some people join Slimming World with a friend while others persuade a pal to come salsa dancing, heck you could even try speed dating. It really doesn’t matter what you choose to take up, what matters is that you at least stick at it long enough to change your mindset and focus on the new positive changes and additions to your life. Put simple, the busier you are being happier the less time you have for being sad. Another bonus that comes with new activities is meeting new people. Some of which could be a group of future friends or even a new man. If you’re experiencing singleton for the first time the last thing you’re probably looking for or thinking about is meeting anyone else but in time a door will open when you’ve shut your old one completely. There will come a time when dating again will be appealing and the more full your life is and the more handsome men taking part in your new hobby the better in order to keep your options open.

Dating can be a dreaded task when you’re newly single. Everyone will initially compare to your ex and this can be a good or bad thing. If your ex was amazing in every way in your eyes then no one will come close to the pedestal you currently have him on. If your ex was a pig, then dating can show you what you truly deserve and make you laugh at how you ever accepted previous behaviour. When it comes to dating my motto is to keep your standards high and your expectations low. I’ve always had a certain standard and type looks and personality wise which has become even more fine tuned as I’ve matured. I don’t waver from that standard or settle for anything less, but I remain open to different looks and characteristics that may suit me better. Keeping your expectations low is equally important. If you go into dating expecting to immediately find your perfect man you’ll be sorely mistaken. It takes time to find the one, or even someone close to suitable so you need to be prepared to meet the good, the bad and the ugly and above all have patience. When you’ve been hurt in the past trust can play a major part in avoiding dating altogether for fear of history repeating itself. When you give yourself to someone and they shatter your dreams for a future together, putting your faith in someone new is daunting to put it mildly. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s fear and fear can be the third wheel that destroys most new partnerships. Whether it manifests as insecurity or a defensive nature, a cold calculated look on love can prevent you ever finding true happiness. At the end of the day no one knows if something is going to work long term but you have to at least give it a chance. As you get older the warning signs are generally there and if things start to take a turn for the worse I suggest leaving before investing.

If you’ve decided to take the plunge and begin exploring dating again then there’s a few things to bear in mind. In terms of how you need to carry yourself, arriving with an open mind is essential. As I touched on above, being open allows you to widen your definition of a compatible mate and prevents you from ruling out your set type. In the past I’ve been guilty of this and literally refused to date anyone shorter than 6.3” with black hair and strong cheekbones. This silly approach resulted in a string of model boyfriends with no ambition or future together. He may not have a six pack but he could treat you like a princess and that ex of yours who had rippling abs and treated you like dirt suddenly isn’t so appealing. If you can forget all of your past experiences and look at the person sitting across from you as a potentially new and exciting chapter in your life you’ll feel more at ease. I know lots of single women who are so overly critical that they see flaw in everyone they meet meaning they end up losing hope and becoming irritated by the dating process which should be fun and exciting. These women then get stuck in a rut where they become undesirable and needy which men can smell a mile off. When they eventually start texting someone they like their patience has worn so thin they become frantic if they don’t hear back, or immediately assume the worst, in turn ruining something that never even began. Staying calm, collected and somewhat guarded is the best combination. You have a strong no bullshit approach with a chilled outlook, you’re in control of your desires and emotions and you can give away the snippets of information about yourself you choose. Make sure you’re honest with these nuggets though, because pretending you only want a hook up when really you’re looking for a boyfriend will land yourself in a sticky situation. It’s important to keep your cards close to your chest and not express deep and heavy feelings which will scare someone away, but don’t lie to yourself or him either.

Unfortunately you can’t control the new bloke you’ve agreed to go for drinks with but you can have your wits about you in order to detect warning signs. In the initial stages before meeting and during dating if he’s reliable contact wise and seems to really want to talk to you then you’re off to a good start. Flakey men only get worse with time and become incredibly unreliable. The issue here is that if you accept and allow flakiness early on then you can’t complain about it six months in. The starting phase of any relationship generally determines and sets the scene for the rest of your time together, so in general what you allow will continue. If he only wants to text and never calls that’s always a red flag in my books. The fact he’s not mature enough to pick up the phone and chat means he’s not really interested in talking to you, willing to compromise on contact or worse has something to hide. Similarly if you only get a text from him when he’s drunk at 2am on a Saturday then chances are he’s only after one thing and not willing to make effort outside of his desires. Early on when feelings are detached it’s important to have your wits about you and treat dates like romantic interviews. If someone isn’t fit for the job then they don’t get the job offer, plain and simple. Unfortunately characteristics like jealousy and control usually only manifest after you’re somewhat committed to someone so they’re things to work on should they arise later on. Attributes like anger, lying, or rudeness which are more easily detected but can often only manifest a few months in should also be addressed. One sad fact I’ve had to come to terms with is a stranger can turn into someone special in your life, everything can go great with no warning signs and the man freaks out. Whether he has emotional or commitment issues the guy that called you 14 times a day now wants to be on his own. Again this is something you deal with when you come to it and for me it’s a case of better off knowing now rather than later.

No one is perfect but traits like this are pretty hard to get rid of so keep your eyes open for them. If your man treats the waiter with respect and has good manners, opens doors for you and offers to pay in the early stages then chances are he’s a good egg. Regardless of how modernised the worlds has become, traditional rules of dating are worth sticking to somewhat. Men should act like gentleman and women should act like ladies. Even if you’re one of the lads amongst your group of friends it’s nice to make an effort and show some etiquette. This leads nicely onto alcohol. If you’re a light weight or used to downing shots every weekend I would suggest having some self restraint on a first date. There’s nothing worse than embarrassing yourself in front of someone you barely know and having to leave early because you’re had one too many. A glass of wine or three will ease your nerves and highlight confidence but hold back on ordering any more. Conversation is so important early on because you’re essentially selling yourself and deciding if you want to buy more time with him. The person wants to get to know the present you not your past. Sure, some anecdotes and memories are fine but talking about your ex or past relationship can really put someone off. Your current values, goals, aspirations, likes and dislikes will either attract or dissuade your date. Make sure the conversation is balanced; no one likes a narcissist and only taking about yourself can come across as vain and disinterested. It’s also extremely important you find out about the person for your own benefit. If your new man doesn’t like animals and you have a zoo at home there’s an instant point of contention. The more you can find out during your romantic interview the better chance you both have of making a match.

If your date is arrogant or so far from what you’re looking for you know it will never work then it’s also ok to call it a night and have a back up plan. Meeting someone new is full of possibilities and it’s important to prepare for the worst, so telling friends and family where you are and having an emergency phone call option is advised. You’re perfectly within your right to explain to your date you have to leave or that it simply isn’t working for you and he’s different to how you imagined. Chances are if you’re not feeling it he isn’t either and sometimes it can just lack that special spark. Best case scenario you have a new friend and worst case you never see him again and have to block his number. I’ve experienced plenty of dreadful dates in my time from a footballer who only spoke about his skills on the pitch to a guy who was aggressive and arrogant to the point I was forced to leave dinner. I think my most awkward date was one where I knew immediately I wasn’t attracted to the guy, gave him every disinterested sign. I yawned, I was boring, I looked away at the bar, I fidgeted, I told him I didn’t want a second drink and made up a story about having to work the following day so I could leave after a half hour. He lived near my house and wasn’t drinking so dropped me home. Instead of picking up on my negative energy he lunged in the car and forcefully tried to kiss me which led to me embarrassingly banging my head off his window. He then text me incessantly that night and for the next week or so until the point I had to block his number. I’ve been on a date with someone I initially didn’t fancy whatsoever who I ended up seeing for a few months and almost cancelled a date with someone who turned out to be very special.

If you’re lucky enough to have an awesome date then chances are you’ll both discuss date two and know where you stand. Unfortunately it’s not always that straight forward and things can be left on an ambiguous note. Everything was amazing, you shared a kiss and he seemed so interested. Three days later no text. Men love the chase of lusting after a girl only to get her on a date, enjoy their time and simply move on. Serial daters often become addicted to that new and fresh feeling and simply don’t want anything more. As irritating as that sounds the reality is it was never going to go anywhere from the start and you can stop wasting your time and energy now. Sometimes serial daters actually get into relationships, fall head over heels quickly without stopping to think what they’ve gotten themselves in for. Three months down the line after sharing three magic words they want to be single again and their habitual nature surfaces. This situation is ten times worse because feelings and future plans are involved. I don’t believe serial daters lack emotion, unfortunately their selfish nature simply overrides and they move onto the next project leaving you wondering what the hell just happened. In the game of love you’ll meet plenty of different characters which will open up a world of possibilities and leaving curves. You may meet someone who lights a fire in you you thought had burned out, someone who ends up fancying your best friend, someone who wants to take you traveling or someone who breaks your heart, the possibilities are endless. No matter what you’re looking for, whether it’s an ego boost, a husband or a bit of fun give it time. Just like the healing process, searching for a soulmate takes time. When you’ve built yourself up to be a strong independent person no one can knock your confidence and the right person will be worthy of your beauty when the time is right.

Joanne xoxo

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