How To Deal With Being Alone After A Breakup

And here we are, deep within the all-encompassing, all-devouring, ever-draining swirling maelstrom of guilt, anger, confusion, hope and anxiety that being alone after a breakup entails (no matter what the context is and no matter who did the dumping).

One of the greatest catalysts of all of these emotional outlets is solitude, as it lays bare the rawness of our feelings and forces us to contemplate the reality of what separation really entails. But all is not lost, rather, our “alone experience” is a reflection of our own internal tumult, and thus partially within our control.

While we can’t argue ourselves out of grief (due to the fact that most of it is playing out at a subconscious level), there are steps we can take to regain self-control, and master our solitude, rather than being mastered by it.

Solitude And Loneliness Are Not Synonyms

alone on computer

I find that all to often people tend to feel that solitude and loneliness are somehow the same thing. Being alone is a state of being, feeling alone is a state of mind.

In fact, many (guilty as charged on my count), find it far easier to feel alone around people. In the words of the Thin Red Line’s Sergeant Welsh:

Private Witt: Do you ever feel lonely?

First Sgt. Edward Welsh: Only around people.

But so what? You may right ask. How does this distinction help? The reason I bring is this up, is to reinforce the realization that we are ultimately the master and commander of our present emotional predicament (aside from the natural sub-conscious elements of grief).

That there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being alone. Especially with regards to moving on. There is absolutely no right way to navigate a breakup.

So, let’s drop the pretense that being alone is a pretext for punishment, and instead, start to work on feeling less  alone.

The World Is Our Oyster

One way to remind ourselves of the undeniable virtues of singledom, is to look at the breakup as a landscape of opportunity rather than a series of consequences. For one, it exposes the lie that we must weather the inevitable storm, rather than build a new life that better fits our needs right at this very moment.

While these two scenarios are not mutually exclusive, much of what happens next remains a choice, should we choose to see our immediate future as a decision rather than something we are forced to suffer.

Let me put it this way; the brain wants its comfort zone back — and it doesn’t really care how this occurs, or what the consequences are (hello rebound relationships! I’m looking at you). If we are lamenting our lost partner, it is only natural that reconciling is the easiest and safest way to give our subconscious brain what it wants.

But it isn’t the only way.

Finding A New Comfort Zone

Here are a number of ways we can  reconstruct a new comfort zone, and appease both the conscious mind (a worst case scenario still means a much blessed distraction anyway), and the subconscious mind.

Develop a new routine that works, and stick to it — day in day out. The key here is consistency, the more consistent you are, the quicker your brain will accept the new you as legitimate and stop barking for a return to the past. Does it really matter what this routine involves? Not really, but it should obviously be something that you are comfortable with, or you will merely replace one torment for another in the long run.

Redefine who you are by reinventing yourself. This can be tricky due to the fact that, for the most part, we perceive ourselves through the eyes of others (let’s be honest here). Nevertheless, force your mind to reconsider who you are by changing something significant about your life. A conspicuous example would be to erect a new social circle and explore it (joining a gym or local meetup, sharing hobbies, casual dating e.t.c).

Drop self-criticism and judgment. There is always something to learn about a breakup, and you will have inevitably made mistakes. But who doesn’t? Letting go isn’t only about accepting that they’re gone. It’s about letting go of your own self-judgment. Who benefits from self-inflicted misery? What purpose does it serve beyond delaying a rosy new dawn and alienating yourself further from your present? If there are lessons to be learned, and apologies to be made, make them, then set sail for new horizons without beating yourself up. If your actions match your thoughts, your mind will naturally acquiesce (in time).

A Note On Diving Headfirst Into Dating

Don’t get me wrong, dating is a fantastic way to move on, provided that you are incredibly skeptical about your intentions, and doubly skeptical about your expectations.

Rebounding is a real threat, not only because it is a glass house that will shatter and leave you precisely where you started (or worse, with the added illusion that nobody will ever be quite the person your ex was), on top of hurting someone else who may have genuinely believed in you.

My only advice would be to be constantly honest about your intentions, both with yourself and with your new partner in crime. While it isn’t the sexiest thing in world to tell a romantic prospect that you have come sliding in off of a breakup, it usually pays to mention it (if only in passing, and definitely without making it the crux of the conversation). P.S, if it’s just a fling you’re after, as long as it is implied that this is all that’s going on, then none of what I’m talking about applies.

While this may dampen the mood somewhat, and many will be dissuaded by this revelation, it won’t deter those who have taken a genuine interest in you, and will allow them to adjust their own expectations as necessary (because they will know there is a pretty big chance you are in a state of constant flux).

10 Comments How To Deal With Being Alone After A Breakup

  1. Emily

    I am going through a really bad breakup and I cannot tell you how helpful some of the posts are. I was down in the dumps just 2 hours ago, and now after reading some of these posts I feel so much better.

    I’m not looking for strategies to get back my ex! I just want to grow and move on. There is a tiny part of me that thinks it would be nice to reconcile with my ex, but I don’t want to force anything… it should happen naturally and for the right reasons. That’s what I like about your blog – there are no devious tactics you suggest, instead you focus on self-growth give us good psychological insights.

    I hope you will continue to post!

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Thank you Emily! To me, mind games are just a way of easing loss of control. I also think that to many, they aren’t even a way to get an ex back (deep down they know it probably isn’t going to work), it’s just a way to give the chaos of abandonment structure. To make it something understandable, to make it go all according to a “plan”. I definitely understand the appeal though.

      Thanks for taking the time to drop by!

    2. Emily

      Me again. I’ve been finding a lot of comfort reading your posts. I think you have good insight into relationships and the human psyche.

      I know you mentioned somewhere that most of this is based on personal experience. Maybe some of it is based on experiences that friends have. Anyway, I would love to read your thoughts about dealing with an SO who struggles with anxiety and depression. I think there are a lot of people like me who were “dumped” because anxiety/stress/depression had taken a grip over their SOs. Logically there is nothing we can do but move on and hope that our SOs get help. I’m slowly beginning to realize that. If you’ve seen this happen in real life, I know I would love your insights and many other would too.

      I will keep visiting your website until I get over my relationship :-‘( Thanks again for sharing your wisdom with the world!

    3. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Hey again.

      I try and stay away from depression because it is something I feel that I am absolutely unqualified to judge (even with the disclaimer of anything I write being opinion).

      My only experience regarding depression is through a friend, and my only real observation is that it is absolutely something he could not “snap out of”.

      Fortunately, he is doing far better now thanks to ongoing psychiatric therapy. But it is clear to me that a simple lifestyle change would not have done the trick.

      Of course, anxiety and clinical depression are two separate things. One is a medical condition, while the other may evaporate naturally (it’s only natural to be anxious now and then after-all).

      But the labels are murky and I’d rather steer on the side of caution rather than give horrible, unqualified advice.

    4. Emily

      Yes, I agree it is hard to give advice for such situations unless one has gone though something similar or one is a trained therapist.

      It is a common phenomenon – depressed people walk away from the ones they love. I have found a couple of online forums for “depression fallout victims” i.e. ex SOs of people with depression. Everyone’s experience is very different, the only commonality being that the depressed person has no feelings of love anymore.

      Even though my particular situation is not covered in your posts, I find a lot of these posts helpful. Thanks.

  2. Veronica

    I’ve just discovered your blog, and I really enjoy reading your articles!
    Speaking of break-ups, I never expected mine to be so long and painful; it’s something I’m experiencing for the first time in my life, at almost 50. My ex-boyfriend is now 36, and I was the one who ended the relationship almost 2 years ago (!!!). We never lived together, because I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted, actually. We spent together 4 beautiful years, but after around 3 years, he started wondering whether or not he wanted to start a family, have children, etc. I have 2 teenage daughters, and it was quite clear to me that I did not want to start all over again. He is pretty useless when it comes to taking decisions in his life, so I had to take the decision of ending the relationship myself.
    We continued to see each other for at least 6 months – we loved each other so much, that we couldn’t let go of one another – until one day, in January 2018, I told him that it was better to stop seeing each other for good. I did not see all the pain and heartache coming!
    I became so depressed, that I was on sick leave from work, my doctor sent me to a shrink, and prescribed me anti-depressants… 2018 was a difficult year, to say the least.
    I’m still dealing with the pain, and wonder when it will finally go away. Last year I spent a lot of time alone, did A LOT OF crying, I tried just being with my pain, and facing my emotions on my own. After several months, I started going out again, tried making new friends, embarked on new projects, etc. I kept my mind busy, not to think about him all the time.
    Until one day, last summer, we stumbled upon each other at the train station. At that moment, I found out his way of “dealing” with the pain: he went on Tinder, and met someone who moved in with him barely 2 months after having met him. I was shattered, and felt I had been lied to. During all those years together, he had told me countless times that he’d never again find someone like me, and even last year, after we saw each other that day at the train station, we exchanged couple e-mails, and he said that all women after me were the same to him… She’s exactly the kind of woman he never liked, and always made fun of: cheap and uneducated. Ar first, I felt sad for him, but now I realize I was the one who was too much of a woman for him. And even though I KNOW I took the right decision, there are still “what ifs” coming to my mind all the time. I think I simply don’t know how to LET GO, and move on like he did, because he was the love of my life, and I’m afraid I’ll never feel that way again with anyone else :-(
    Thanks for reading me,
    XOXOX
    Veronica

  3. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

    Hey Veronica, welcome aboard the pain train!

    Well, looks like he was right in a way. He didn’t find someone like you, after all. Which makes me think that your assumption that he has moved on cleanly is just that, an assumption. It seems just as probable that this new relationship of his is an attempt to move on rather than a consequence of it.

    He reached outwards for support while you dug inwards. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

    And yes, the what ifs never stop coming unless we stop asking ourselves the questions. And even if we receive answers, would we trust them? And even if we did trust them, what would we actually do about those answers? As you said, you know that despite the pain you are feeling you made the right decision.

    I suppose that’s why they say that acceptance means surrendering. Because there is no closure, only the acceptance of what is as it stands.

  4. Veronica

    Thanks so much James for answering!

    Closure. That’s exactly what I needed – we all do in order to move on, I guess.
    So, if there’s no closure, the only way to move on is to accept what is? That simple?
    OK. So… Accept // breathe // trust // let go
    Amen :-)

    Thanks again!

    V.

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      I can only speak for myself, but I never did find closure. I just kept walking and build a new life to hang on to while doing so. Perhaps there are some who are lucky enough to attain closure, though I doubt it. I’m convinced that answers just lead to more questions.

      You’re welcome, thanks for commenting and swinging by!

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