Breakup ABCs: on Letting Go, Coping With Other Peoples’ Advice, And Listening to Your Inner Voice
Why I wrote this article: because I no longer want you to feel imprisoned by other peoples’ opinions about your emotions and breakup experiences. You are going through a really tough time, and what you have been told about how you “should” act and feel during a breakup—isn’t the whole truth.
In fact, a lot of it is just plain…wrong.
I’ve written this article to help you dive deep into some of the ways you can work through your breakup while demystifying the typical breakup advice you hear from your friends and family.
Whether you’re reading this because you’re thinking of ending a relationship, or have ended a relationship (even months or years ago), this A–Z list will help you understand that while there’s no straight recovery from a breakup, there is a ton hope, discovery, growth, and freedom waiting for you in this process.
As I’m sure you’re aware, no two breakups are created equal; we’ve all got our own stories, experiences, feelings, and timelines when it comes to ending a relationship. This is why I created breakup coaching; so that my clients could have an outlet to express themselves without feeling as though they’re going to get more “advice” from their loved ones. For the full lowdown on my coaching process, read this article.
Let’s dive in!
Be sure to check out my online Masterclass and Coaching Programs designed specifically with you in mind
A IS FOR ATTACHMENT STYLES
If you’ve been wondering why you find yourself attracting “these types” of partners, then reading up on attachment styles might shed some seriously light into the matter.
Do your friends tell you that you consistently attract people who can’t commit? Do you find that you always want to “save” your successful—yet wounded—partner? Ever take three steps in when you find your partner is taking one step back? Learning about attachment styles will help to clear the air on this phenomenon. (Like, why is this happening to me but not to my happily married friends?)
As a breakup coach, I’ve recommended Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment on How to Find—And Keep—Love. You’ll take a quiz to find out if you’re a secure, anxious, or avoidant attachment style, and the book will navigate based off your results. Without fail, this scientific view on relationships has men and women looking at their past (and current) relationships in an eye-opening way. I first read this book after experiencing a brief relationship that had me wondering why I typically pursued men at the faint sign of interest in me. Perfect for men and women to read who want to learn more about how to attract healthy relationships for them, and why they haven’t been having success yet.
B IS FOR BEING YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND
Feel like you’re not getting the support you need from your loved ones or best friends? Here’s some fun news: you don’t need their permission to live your life. You are your own best friend.
What I have learned is that too often, our friends and family have a lot to say about our relationships, but those aren’t the voices that ought to govern our actions. Of course, we love, respect and trust our friends, but the only voice that truly matters when it comes to your life and your decisions—is your own inner voice.
I’ve worked with clients who have found themselves waiting for permission to take the leap to end a relationship, and I work on helping them develop the relationship with themselves that they require to make it through their breakups.
“You’re crazy to end a relationship with her,” or, “I can’t have my friends judging yet another failed relationship,” are sentences that have been shared with me through my practice—these are blocks that prevent us from taking action. I love when Brene Brown said, “we are hardwired to care about what other people think,” because I’m not here to tell you to stop caring; I’m sharing with you the importance of hearing your own voice above all others. This voice is your truest friend, and it’s one that will never steer you wrong if you nurture it. With a solid I-am-my-own-best-friend relationship, decision-making isn’t so scary, and you’re able to be more discerning with what your loved ones say about your relationship.
C IS FOR CONSISTENCY
I’m not about to tell you to be consistent in your breakup or decision. Guess what? Humans are not all that consistent. (Hate to break it to ya!)
Yet, we are constantly being fed the need to be “consistent’ in business, love, and all our decisions.
But as a human with freedom, I literally have the freedom to change my mind.
I have the freedom to be okay that I was absolutely miserable yesterday, and today I’m feeling as good as my grandmother when she’s feeling up to gardening (which is pretty damn good).
Another thing? My emotions are inconsistent. Human emotions are inconsistent. And that’s okay. To strive to be consistent with our mindset and emotions might set us up for failure if we don’t accept the fact that each day is going to look incredibly different. It’s better to ride the wave with our emotions than it is to control them in fear of being inconsistent.
If you were angry at your ex yesterday and vented about it to your friend, then empathize with your friend when he feels puzzled by the fact that you want to get back together with your ex. It’s okay to change your mind today. That’s just life giving you some fun inconsistency.
Dare to be inconsistent. Actually, embrace the inconsistency. Stop trying to be perfect about your emotions and actions. Give yourself a break.
D IS FOR DEEP KNOWING
You’d be surprised to learn that my clients come to me with a full understanding of the facts; they know they “should” probably stop texting their ex, and that they “should” stop scrolling through their ex’s Instagram feed. Hell—they know that better than I.
But going through a breakup isn’t at all about following “basic advice” and practical tips—it’s about tapping into the deep knowing that we all have. This is otherwise known as our intuition; it’s the compass we use to guide our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It’s not about what an article or good friend says you “should” do.
It’s the inner voice I mentioned earlier. It’s the voice that says, “go for it!” when everyone else says you’re nuts. It’s the voice that can often contradict any rational or logical thoughts you have. Getting in touch with the deep knowing can come from a mindfulness practice. If you’re new to meditation, try Headspace App; perfect for people who have tried to meditate, but had never found their rhythm. The yearly membership fee is nominal, and worth every penny.
E IS FOR END OF THIS CHAPTER
If you’ve been watching World of Dance with Neyo, J.Lo & Derek Hough, then you’ve likely heard Neyo say to contestants that “it’s not the end of your story; just the end of this chapter.”
This is a hard pill to swallow, especially if you’re going through a breakup that feels like the world is ending. (AKA most of them.) This is no joke; science confirms that our brains view a breakup the same way as losing someone to death. You are aware it’s a breakup, but your body is going through a process that mirrors that of a lost life. (This sheds light on why you’ve lost weight, are exhausted, don’t want to eat, lost your passion for life, can’t focus at work, and so on.)
If you’re feeling like your breakup is the end of your life, and you’ll never find someone better, please know—this is a season in your life, and you will be looking back with gratitude on these moments remembering this chapter, and how it played a huge positive role in your life.
While this is the end of one chapter, it’s also the very beginning of the next.
F IS FOR FRIENDSHIP
Studies show that social support plays a huge role in recovering from the devastation of a breakup, but I’m not here to tell you about any studies. I’m here to share that you’re going to have days when you want to be alone, and that’s perfectly okay. There will be other days when you feel alone even surrounded by friends. You’ll have days you wished you stayed home. But here’s what I want you to know: you need your friends right now.
If you’ve ended relationships during the course of your relationship, get back in touch. Funny enough, I have a friend who pretty much exclusively reaches out post-breakup, and you can bet I respond every time with arms wide open. Why? Because even just one loving hangout makes a difference to them. And I feel the love, too. They trust me to support them, and that’s something I highly value in my friendships.
During a breakup, we actually lose friendships in the process; perhaps there’s an abundance of advice-giving, or feeling like your friends simply don’t know understand what you’re going through. This is where breakup coaching comes in; it’s a place to express yourself without feeling judged or worried about what others will say. Ultimately, this process allows you to eventually see your friends without asking for explicit support. You’ll be able to view your time together as providing an overflow of support.
G IS FOR GUILTY THOUGHTS
If you were the one who bravely ended things as you knew deep down that this relationship wasn’t working anymore, then I’m sure you’ve been battling with guilt. It can feel as though you’re “stuck” with the burden of guilt if you instigated the breakup, right? I’ve worked with a lot of people who couldn’t stomach the guilt, and they ended up postponing the breakup itself just to avoid that emotion. (But…you can never run from your emotions for too long.)
Here’s the thing; both of you played a role in the downfall of the relationship, and ending a relationship can feel like a bad cocktail of regret, fear, anger, guilt, and then some. This is all part of the grieving process, and just because you have guilt on your chest, doesn’t make you guilty in your breakup. It just means you have been reflecting on the areas of your relationship, and taking ownership. Quite frankly, that’s a beautiful thing. You took ownership. It’s time to reframe your feelings of guilt and turn them into a perspective that will serve you. I can show you more about reframing in my 30-minute consult.
H IS FOR HAPPINESS
I have been learning a ton in my course on The Science of Happiness through BerkeleyX. I’ve learned that expecting happiness or continuously striving for it is actually counterintuitive. Instead, let’s aim for meaning. And what better than a breakup to showcase true meaning in our lives? This definitely applies to my own relationship experiences.
From my perspective, we are chasing happiness, and it’s affecting our ability to be…happy. (Ironic, right?)
If you’re terrified of leaving your partner, or terrified of being single after a breakup—in fear you won’t be happy—rest assured that staying in this relationship will not yield happiness.
It might delay your biggest fears, but we all know that you’re experiencing fear right now anyway.
You will be happy, but we first must stop chasing it like it’s some sort of state of mind that is void of all other difficult emotions. We are humans, and we experience a rainbow of emotions—including happiness. Don’t run from your breakup to get out of feeling miserable. Happiness and misery are not antonyms.
I IS FOR IRRATIONAL
“You’re being irrational right now!” — Your best friend
I don’t know about you (well, I kinda do now, because we’ve already gone through 8 letters together and you’re still here), but when someone says I have irrational feelings, I feel hurt because I am not understood by the person I’m sharing my honest feelings with. I went full vulnerable with them…only to be met with the word irrational. Have you been there?
God, I despite the word irrational. It just sounds so demeaning, and dismissive.
If you’ve been told you’re being irrational while you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve, I want you to know that you’re just expressing your thoughts and emotions, and being open to their guidance. That’s not irrational — that’s just awareness.
Yes, of course fear’s job is to protect us, and to paint elaborate stories in our head so we don’t put ourselves in danger — but that’s our caveman brain talking.
What I’m getting at here is that your emotions are speaking, and you’re just speaking your emotions. You’re not irrational. And I will not have you believe that it’s okay to be dismissed with that label. NEXT!
J IS FOR JOY
Nancy, how can you possibly bring up joy in a time like this? Well, I’m getting to that.
You might be wondering when the crappy feelings will fade away (because you’re convinced they won’t), and be replaced with happy, joyful feelings. Here’s the thing: you’ve actually got to feel your feelings, in order to release them. The joy will come after.
Again, not to avoid the negative feelings, but to feel them.
Feel, not avoid. Not bury. Not pretend they don’t exist.
How exactly do you feel the crappy feelings, without the petrifying feelings that come with it?
You’ve got to acknowledge them, and welcome them. Don’t push them out of the door like a relative who showed up unexpectedly at your door!
Simply say, “I am feeling [anxious, worried, scared, stressed]” as you notice a strange bodily sensation or thought that brings up discomfort.
There you go — you’ve labelled your emotion, and put it in a box. This will give just a little bit more control over the situation.
It’s almost too incredible to be true, but this tiny exercise works like a dream if you do it enough. You can get to joy by acknowledging the feelings, instead of distracting yourself when an uncomfortable feeling starts to pop up. Try it. Once you release the clutter, you’ll find joy. And I promise I will not mention Marie Kondo in this article, as much as I want to.
L IS FOR LETTING GO
Let’s get one thing straight—letting go is okay. In fact, it’s great.
Letting go doesn’t make you a failure, despite the fact that your mind might try and convince you otherwise. I’m the voice getting inside your head telling those thoughts to BLEEP off.
Letting go makes space for new things—for the things that serve you.
We let go of the things that no longer align with our values, or don’t align with where we are in this chapter of life. And that’s okay. That doesn’t make you a failure—it makes you aware of your needs. You’re aware that you no longer need this relationship, and that’s powerful.
You can be loving in your goodbye, and you can appreciate, respect, understand, and be grateful when letting go. You can honour your partner, and still let them go. #Fact
And letting go doesn’t mean that your ex was a “bad” person, it just means you’re making space for experiences and people who are best for your life where it is today.
Be open to letting go because life has something amazing coming your way; you’re only making room for great things to come.
Need a little boost of support? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you have in mind for your future. I will personally respond to every single one of those emails. I truly support you in your goals of letting go and making space for the new.
M IS FOR MISTAKES
If you’ve been going over and over in your mind about the “mistakes” you’ve made in your relationship, whether that was the breakup itself, or all the events that led to the breakup, let me just say this: nothing in life is a mistake.
Because if that’s true, the universe would implode.
God, the Universe, a higher power—whatever you believe in—is perfect, and you are right on track to be where you need to be.
There are no mistakes. Just, redirects.
If this message landed with you, might I suggest reading The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein. That’s all I will say on the topic.
N IS FOR NEEDS
Want to know how to stay committed to your breakup?
Know your needs.
As humans, we all have them. But, we aren’t taught how to identify them; It was only until I started reading Nonviolent Communication that I realized just how little we know about our feelings and needs. This book changed my life.
Know your needs.
You know when you’ve been on-again, off-again with your partner, and you’re wondering “why” you “keep” going back and have no clue why? It’s likely because you aren’t fully aware that your partner can’t meet your needs, because you aren’t aware of what those needs specifically are. And the fact that the grieving process (damn the bargaining stage!) has you throwing any insight of your needs out the window.
And that’s okay. Because many of us find ourselves beating our heads with a frying pan and wondering why we aren’t standing our ground during a breakup. Nonviolent Communication will give you some serious insight.
Every client of mine works with me to address their experiences and match them with their feelings and needs. Every client becomes amazed to learn how much more they are aware of why they do what they do because of this framework. Talk to me more about it by filling out my contact form.
O IS FOR OPTION B
Let’s just talk a bit about expectations; they’ve the thoughts we have often before anything has happened (or maybe midway through a great first date). You instantly have chemistry, and within a flash of a second—you envision you and your new date happy with three kids and living a yuppie city life. You’re then overcome by feelings of hope, relief, and excitement. And you haven’t even ordered a second drink yet.
That’s what expectations look like, disguised as happy thoughts and freedom from our past relationships.
But those are the thoughts that devastate us when we go through a breakup, because we forget that there’s an Option B. We just cling to our initial thoughts and expectations, and become resistant to altering the course in the slightest.
Option B isn’t about creating a back-up plan; it’s letting the Universe guide you somewhere you didn’t have in mind. Our lives are filled with Option Bs, but when it comes to breakups, it’s sometimes the hardest to picture.
Option B is about letting go of the resistance, and surrendering to a plan much greater than you had for yourself. Option B is beautiful. (Literally, that’s why it’s option B.)
P IS FOR PROVE NOTHING
I’d be lying if I said I never posted a “I’m doing great” selfie or group photo during a breakup. (Just to prove to my ex that I was perfectly alright post-relationship even though he didn’t have social media...woops.)
You might find initially that you do a bunch of things just to “prove” you’re fine, but here’s the truth: you have nothing to prove to anyone. Whether you did the breaking up, or got broken up with, you don’t have to prove anything—not to them, not to your friends or family.
But if you’re someone who likes a challenge, then prove to yourself that you got nothin’ to prove to no one. You are already badass, wonderful, perfectly imperfect, and that is something that will shine through how you show up. It’s not an effort that is explicit. It’s subtle, beautiful, and peaceful. Knowing your worth is what will release the need to prove.
Prove nothing to no one.
Q IS FOR QUESTIONS
I talk a lot about the power of asking good questions in my latest article on my breakup coaching process, but let’s just talk about why we don’t ask more to ourselves?
Here’s a basic example: you might be saying to yourself, “I don’t think I can do this—I can’t end this relationship.”
But if you turn it into a question, like this, “how do I get through this breakup?” then you create a ton of power, and invite a solution into the mix.
Let’s try another example. If you say, “I’m so angry at my ex for doing [awful action], then you can create a question with that statement, “how can I begin to let go of this anger that. is no longer serving me?”
You’re taking your ruminating thoughts and creating an opening for a solution—just by making it into a question. Brilliant, yes?
This is a concept that has absolutely changed my life. And you can apply it to all areas of your life.
R IS FOR RESILIENCE
Whether you believe it or not, we are put through these tests in life that teach us just how resilient we truly are, and reveal to us how capable we are of building our resilience—breakups are no exception. The best part about breakups is that the emotional, spiritual, and mental work we do to get through a breakup often leaves us stronger…if we let it.
You’ve likely gone through a bad breakup before this one, and you grew tremendously. Think about how much more growth the Universe wants you to do. That’s a beautiful gift.
Being fully aware that this is a test for resilience can help you not only get through a breakup, but transform who you are because of this. You’ll let go of that resistance you subtly have for change, and embrace the growth and resilience. Your future partner will commend you on your strength, courage, and fierce resilience. Remember that.
S IS FOR SPIRITUALITY
Living in Vancouver, I’m grateful to be surrounded by many people who share a similar perspective as me when it comes to my faith. When I went through my breakup, I felt like I walked into the door of spirituality, and that gave me a huge sense of connection to something bigger than myself.
This helped me as I began to let go of the control-freak tendencies I had, and starting going with the flow a lot more. There’s a control freak in all of us, and now, I understand that so much of life is about letting it take you where it wants you to go.
Now, I can give healthy meaning when things don’t go my way. I release my need to control my thoughts during a breakup, I accept my emotions, and I put my faith in something much greater than I.
T IS FOR TEACH ME ABOUT MYSELF
Breakups teach us about ourselves. Period.
As the grieving process reveals, we get angry. We get depressed. But at the end of it all, we find acceptance once we learn that this process—if nothing else—we learned about who we are.
I learned more about myself during my breakup than I did my relationship with that person. #Truth. (Not a good one, but an honest one.)
I thank my ex for being there for me during our relationship, and the bulk of my gratitude is from the teachings that came when we ended things.
Our relationship, and the breakup, taught me about what I need in a partner; what I enjoy about having one; about how I can be independent, yet fully there for my partner and his needs.
He taught me how to find the love that is best for me—I cannot put a price to that. There is no greater cost than staying in a relationship that will not allow you to grow. Think about that if you find yourself in a relationship that is at a stand still.
Keep going. You are learning.
Grab a journal, and jot down 1-3 things you learn each day because of your breakup. Doesn’t have to be meaningful—just has to be something. That in itself will render meaning as you flip through the pages in months the months to come.
U IS FOR USEFUL
“How is this information useful for me?” I ask myself.
This sentence changed my life.
When I get angry about things, I ask myself that very question. It helps me shift my thoughts from a negative state to an empowered one.
A few years ago, I surrendered to the process by deciding that I would let information I felt “stuck” on help me learn more about myself.
This is something you can most definitely practice after a breakup, but also in your every-day life.
For example, next time you feel an uncomfortable emotion, express what you’re thinking, “I am honestly so pissed!” and then add the sentence, “how is this information useful for me?”
Without the sentence, we end up placing blame. And blaming got us nowhere.
So, hypothetically, if I’m angry because my ex started dating someone recently, and all I’ve been doing is ruminating on toxic thoughts, I can say, “how is this information useful for me?” It forces me to find the usefulness without even questioning whether or not it is in fact useful.
I’m acknowledging that it is useful, and get to explore how.
See how brilliant it is? Think about it.
To finish up that example, I might say, “this is useful as I wasn’t sure if he wanted to get back together; now I know he is seeing other people.”
As a work issue, you might say, “I can’t believe my boss didn’t give me a raise!” and you might tag on the sentence, “how is this useful for me?” and you might complete the sentence with, “this is useful because I have a need for recognition, which I didn’t realize until this moment.” Of course, I might say that, but you might say something else depending on what your needs are. If I line up 10 people, they might find the same sentence useful in 10 different ways. This is why you get to ask yourself this question.
In conclusion, the feelings you have about your situation is actually quite useful. Tag that sentence on whenever you find yourself overcome by these negative emotions.
V IS FOR VULNERABILITY
Let’s get one thing clear: vulnerability is power.
I repeat—vulnerability is power.
Most of us, excluding Brene Brown lovers, consider vulnerability to mean weak, volatile, and fragile. But this is simply not the case.
Vulnerability is true courage. It’s the voice inside your head that feels and sounds right, yet doesn’t match other peoples’ expectations. It doesn’t match “logical” or the voice of reason.
It’s breaking up with your partner even if others think you’re crazy.
It’s expressing your emotions even if you are told your ex isn’t worth the tears.
It’s texting your ex at 2am and writing a message with your raw emotions…and being okay because at least all your words were honest.
It’s being your true self, even if someone might disagree or make a judgment about your thoughts, feelings, or actions.
Revealing your true self is vulnerable and beautiful.
W IS FOR WHOLENESS
You might be brokenhearted, but let me tell you—you are whole, just as you are.
You feel a void now that you and your partner are no longer together, and that’s normal. But you are not empty, or broken.
You are whole.
You might want to think about your ex in your lonely moments, and thats okay. You’re forgetting in those moments that you are whole.
Y IS FOR YOU’VE GOT THIS
A few years ago, I used to think that others had better judgment than I; were smarter than I; made better choices, but then I realized—I’ve got this. I don’t need to put others on a pedestal in order for them to validate me and my choices.
And I’m here to say that YOU’VE got this, too.
Want to end a good but unfulfilling relationship? You’ve got this.
Want to go back to school on another coast now that you’ve ended a relationship that was keeping you here — you’ve GOT this.
Want to cry all day and night over your ex today? You’ve got this.
Only you know what’s best for you. It doesn’t always look rational or logical. Either way, YOU’VE got this.
Why are we always turning to others to let us know we are going to be okay? I have no idea. But I stopped doing this once I realized I am in charge of my life and my decisions. I don’t need permission. Neither do you.
You’ve got this. In fact, you’ve had it all along.
Next time you’re feeling weak, unstable, or scared during your breakup, please remind yourself, you’ve got this.
Z IS FOR ZERO EFFS GIVEN
Because this is the last letter, I wanted to make it a powerful one.
I wanted you to know that putting yourself first is a very important part of the breakup experience.
You must put yourself first. And this requires a certain level of f***s given. As in zero.
If you cancelled plans because you’re not feeling up to it, you can give zero effs about it because all you did was make your self care a priority. That’s just solid thinking.
If you are worried about what his friends will think of the breakup, I want you to give yourself permission to give zero sh*ts about it because you’re doing what’s best for YOU.
YOU matter. Not what others think about your choices and your life.
You now have zero tolerance for people who don’t support you. You deserve support, so I’m drilling into your head the importance of letting go of the things that aren’t serving you—which requires a certain level of zero f***s given.
There you have it, your A-Z list of all things breakup related
Wherever you are in the world, I hope this article has brought you some peace of mind. Breaking up with someone you love is a very difficult experience, and I wanted to share my version of Breakup ABCs to help you put one foot after the other—even if it’s just baby steps.
You’ve got this.
You are in control of your life, and you are free to feel whatever it is your heart is feeling.
And you’re free from what others think of. your decision.
And if you need someone by your side, or just want a listening ear, check out my online sessions, Masterclass and Coaching Programs designed specifically with you in mind