It’s been three months since I broke up with Boyfriend #4. And man, I’m so glad I can say that without tearing anymore.
At the start of this year, my friends were still betting I’d be the first among them to get hitched. In our two-year relationship, he and I had talked about marriage like it was a given. I’d visited his home regularly and was considered a part of his family.
Then it ended. We realised, belatedly, that we had different life goals. He also confessed to growing closer to a female friend. Hearing that crushed me. I suddenly felt our time together had been a sham.
In the last eight years, I’ve weathered four break-ups. I’ve always prided myself on being able to overcome heartbreak relatively quickly – sometimes within a fortnight – but this last one was tough as I’d thought he was special.
In the weeks after, I felt like a robot, throwing myself into work so I wouldn’t feel anything. But I was still distraught. One emotional Sunday night, I e-mailed my boss asking if I could work from home as I needed some space.
My turning point came when I met a friend who had recently broken up, too. I was appalled by her story. A month after the split, her ex applied for a build-to-order flat with another woman. Upset, she binged on alcohol, developed rashes all over her body (an allergic reaction), and made mistakes at her new job. Her supervisor was unimpressed and passed her over for a coveted training programme.
“I was silly to let a guy mess up my body and career, the two things I have control over,” she said. “Now, I’m putting in 120 per cent at work to make up for it.”
She was my wake-up call. I was outraged to think that I’d potentially let a man mess up my life. I’d lost his love, but I’d not let him take away from me anything else that mattered.
After that, I pushed myself to forget him. It wasn’t easy, but I’m now back to normal – almost. I’m still getting used to being single again, but I’ve got my emotions in check. That’s a big step forward.
And because no one should be derailed by a man, I’ve compiled my personal road map to post-break-up recovery and happiness. These are lessons I’ve learnt with each split and they now form my “manual” to cope with heartbreak. Remember – when one door closes, hundreds of other dishy ones open…
1. No, you can’t be friends
Don’t even try going from “lover” to “friend” overnight. Being around an ex can dredge up past feelings and memories, preventing you from moving on. Barely a week after breaking off with BF #3, I invited him to my birthday party. Result? We nearly ended up having break-up sex after some birthday margaritas. Luckily, I wasn’t that tipsy. Get some space and reconnect with him only after you’ve found your feet.
2. Go cold turkey
Best decision ever: blocking BF #4 on Facebook. I can’t message him or view his profile, and vice versa. It’s a relief to know that I won’t chance upon pictures of his new squeeze. Life’s simpler when I don’t keep tabs on his life – I can get on with mine.
3. Know your worth
After each split, I felt as if I’d lost a soulmate. But my perspective changed when I flipped the question around: What had he lost? I’d been an affectionate girlfriend who loved my man, quirks and all. It was his loss. List your plus points and appreciate yourself for all of your strengths. Laugh at what he’s missing out on.
4. Create a break-up playlist
My friend claims Beyonce helped her recover. She’d listen to the R&B star’s empowering anthem Me, Myself and I, and dance in front of a mirror in a bikini. “It made me feel sexy,” she declared. Dancing aside, music is a great mood lifter. I’ve got Kelly Clarkson’s fist-pumping Stronger on a loop right now. It reminds me that I’m a “fighter” for moving on. Avoid depressing Lana Del Rey ballads.
5. Build up your defences
Guard yourself against vulnerable moments. As a social butterfly, I get moody on nights when I’m home alone. So after BF #4, I made sure I had something to look forward to every day for a month, like meeting friends, and going to parties, movies and exercise clubs. I had no time to dwell on being alone – because I wasn’t!
6. Choose good allies
Surround yourself with supportive friends. After a so-called pal said to me: “When are you going to stop bitching about your ex? He’s not that bad,” I booted him out of my support network. Instead, I inducted the friend who had accompanied me online till 2am as I typed an emotional e-mail to my ex. Keep reliable buddies close.
7. Do something life-changing
I look for projects outside my comfort zone that offer tangible rewards. Like a recent trip to Malaysia to qualify for a scuba-diving licence. Ironically, my fear of drowning was an excellent distraction. And the sense of accomplishment when I got my licence? Unbeatable.
8. I always avoid…
Alcohol and other men. The first is a depressant that clouds judgment (birthday margaritas, anyone?). And I avoid dating other guys because I’ll compare them to my ex. Date only when you’re ready. In the meantime, work on the most important relationship – the one with yourself.
9. Fact: You never needed him
You were already complete without a man. You might have lost him, but you haven’t lost yourself. Tell yourself that every day, and things will get better. I promise.
This story was originally published in the August 2012 issue of Her World.