Just days before my 21st birthday I discovered that my boyfriend had tried cheating on me for the fourth time that year. I was heartbroken and exhausted from trying to share my love with someone who couldn't stay dedicated to me. Due to a promise I'd made to myself after catching him the third time, I ended it.
Being an input oriented person, I sought advice from anyone who could help me figure out ways to make the hurt vanish and exponentially speed up the grieving process. I wasn't married, I was a fulltime college student, and had already forgiven my boyfriend three times for sexting other men on campus when I was out of town. After spending hours upon hours reading through online forums and blog articles, I realized there wasn't a cohesive list of strategies in one place that helped explain how to effectively deal with the pain I was experiencing. For anyone who is going through a similar experience, here are 5 strategies I discovered during the first month of being single:
Embrace The Hurt Rather Than Numbing It
After ending the relationship with my ex, I found myself having a lot of trouble sleeping. The first two weeks were the worst; I would lie in bed silently crying, my mind swarming with memories of our past together. When I was finally able to fall asleep from exhaustion, I would have visceral dreams of him with other men, causing me to wake up bawling.
Having just turned 21, it was easy to use alcohol to try numbing myself and inducing sleep through drunken binge sessions. However, that only elongated the process of healing by giving me a chance to avoid confrontation with the inevitable. It was also unhealthy and extremely self-destructive.
The first day I felt a change was when I embraced the hurt I was feeling. It crashed into me with incredible force and I felt paralyzed until I accepted it. The hurt inside me was going to take time to heal. I made a conscious decision to stop drinking for the next two weeks and to focus on embracing the pain rather than numbing my mind and body from feeling it.
Don't Feel Guilty Talking About Your Healing Process
There were many times throughout the first month of being single where my friends were woken up between 3 and 4am by my texts. Their support and cooperation with my unstable emotional condition, even at 4am, were essential to keeping me from texting my ex or being swallowed by overwhelming bursts of loneliness and sadness.
There were many moments when I felt I was being a burden to my friends and family by unloading my pain via texts or asking them to spend extra time with me during the day. Being able to talk about the pain I was experiencing was a crucial step in my healing process. It also gave me new insight about relationships and the power of the shared experience.
In three weeks I had talked with 10 people who had also ended a relationship in the past month due to a cheating partner. Being able to talk about healing and coping mechanisms in a healthy, dual format added new depth to many of those friendships. It also showed me how many gay relationships end from a cheating partner getting caught.
Block His Social Media Accounts
This was important for me to do for two reasons:
- It let my ex know that I was serious about not wanting to rekindle our relationship.
- I was now blocked from creeping on him after experiencing withdrawal, especially in those moments when it felt like a craving to see how he was doing. Until I blocked him from all social media platforms that option was available and easily accessible to me. Not being able to search his name or see pictures of him looking happy with other people was exponentially helpful with my healing process.
Avoid The Rebound
The day I changed my relationship status on Facebook I received texts from numerous gay men who haven't talked to me in months, some even years, who were suddenly interested in "hanging out". Apps like Grindr, Tinder, and OKCupid tried to seduce my single and hurting self by offering to eradicate my insecurities by providing men waiting with baited compliments.
I still loved my ex. His actions betrayed and crushed me, but didn't negate the love I had for him. Any rebound situation I encountered after our breakup felt empty and meaningless. These post-breakup encounters lead to broken connections and unnecessary hurt in men who were interested in pursuing me further.
My advice? DELETE THE APPS.
The most surprising part about avoiding rebounds was the power I felt after promising myself that I would keep any type of hookup or dating app off my phone until I had allowed myself time to heal. I realized that I didn't need someone else in bed next to me in order to heal myself; I had to heal through paving my own path of independence.
Explore Your Independence
Independence can mean many different things for everyone. My journey to further construct my independence included exercising, eating healthier, visiting museums and parks, exploring a new passion, making different playlists to reflect my moods, and taking a trip for a week to visit friends in California.
Make a list of things you want to do by yourself, whether they are in your comfort zone or not, and commit to doing each of those things in the next two months. Pushing yourself to grow as a human being will increase your happiness and self-confidence. Healing from a cheating partner will take time, so spend that time being productive, reflecting, and growing in ways that shape you into a more able and confident person.
Good luck on your journey!