The Danger of Grey Area in a Break Up

Breaking up can leave a lot of loose ends. If you’re living together, who moves out? Who gets the Netflix account, how will you split up going to friends’ gatherings, etc.
What those loose ends can become, if not taken care of, are grey areas. Grey areas are situations where there’s not a clear boundary on how to deal with it.
The biggest example of a grey area after a break up is when you guys decide that maybe you can be friends, and you don’t want to lose the person entirely. No one wants to lose the person entirely, but that’s the point of a break up.
The grey area might manifest itself in not knowing when it’s OK to text or not (not texting is the best idea by the way) not knowing when it’s OK to call (again not calling the best call). The problem with this is, in the beginning without boundaries you may think it’s ok to send them a birthday text, then the birthday text turns into wanting their advice on something, then that turns into talking on the phone, and before long you’re back where you started from- feeling attached and wanting to get back together.
This is why some break ups can take so long, we don’t completely shut the door. Sure, not shutting the door can make it a little easier since you’re not entirely losing the person, but it will drag it out- and in the end you’ll be in that same level of pain.
So how do we avoid those grey areas? The best way to do that is to set up boundaries from the beginning. It takes one person with courage to say exactly what they need (not what they want but what they know they need to heal through the break up successfully). The conversation can look something like this.
If you’re the one who was dumped: “As much as I didn’t want this to happen and as much as I’ll miss you, I know for me I’m going to need the space to heal. I’d appreciate if we didn’t have any contact at all. This isn’t necessarily something I want, but I know I need. I will of course miss you, but I know it will be too hard for me to see or hear from you.”
If you’re the person who dumped the other. “I know this is going to be hard, it’s hard for me too- but I think the right thing to do will be not to have any contact to make it harder on each other. This doesn’t mean I won’t miss you, but I think for both of our sakes it will be better to cut ties so we’re both able to heal.”
This may sound harsh but by establishing clear boundaries it will be the biggest first step to letting go. There may be other grey areas you guys have, and as soon as you can think of those and communicate your wishes the better. If you guys have a close circle of similar friends, it may be worth talking about how you’ll deal with gatherings. It’s OK to miss out on a few parties if it means healing your heartbreak. You can ask your friends to help out too, if you can’t attend a party because your ex will be there, ask your friends if you can get together another time.
This doesn’t mean you’re asking your friends to pick teams, you’re just communicating your needs- which is healthy. This also doesn’t mean that this needs to be forever. Of course you can’t avoid your friend group forever, and there’s also weddings and events you can’t miss. This is just picking and choosing your battles and giving yourself ample time to let your body detox and heal from heartbreak.
You do owe this to yourself, regardless if you’re the person who dumped or the one who got dumped. Trust me when I say these conversations are worth having in the beginning, even if they’re hard.

How to not take your break up out on other people

Break ups can unfortunately bring out the worst in us. Every bad emotion we have is brewing and there are times when it feels like our emotions can take control of us and we act out in ways that we normally wouldn’t. While all of your emotions during this time are completely valid, no matter what they are- we do have some responsibility in terms of how we react and behave towards other people.
It’s usually the people closest to us who end up getting the brunt of our emotions during this time. We can become extra sensitive to our friends, we can become jealous of those in our lives who are in happy relationships, and sometimes we expect other people to read our minds and to know exactly what we need.
While we are absolutely entitled to our emotions, we’re not entitled to take out our pain on other people. During a time like a break up is when we need those closest to us the most, so these are the LAST people you want to be taking your anger and pain out on.
So how can we avoid that?
Communicate your feelings: Your friends and family will of course know you’re sad and in pain from the break up but it’s so important to communicate your feelings on a regular basis and keep them up to date. If you’re anything like me I’m great at putting on a happy face and pretending everything is OK, but I had to learn that if I’m acting OK it’s easy for others to assume that I’m OK. If I’m honest about my feelings, I’ll get the support that I need from loved ones in my life.
Write down your thoughts and feelings: It is totally valid to feel jealous of friends who are in happy relationships, or if a friend gets engaged- it’s normal to feel bad about it (even though I know you’re happy for them, it can be hard when you’ve just had a relationship ripped from you). However it is not OK to express that jealousy towards them, that’s where a journal can come in. This is a judgment free zone where you can write 100% exactly what is on your mind. If you’re not a regular journal person, you would be shocked by the relief that comes from the honesty between you, your pen, and a piece of paper.
Ask for exactly what you need: NO ONE CAN READ YOUR MIND. I repeat, no one can read your mind. Your friends will be able to relate to you if they’ve had similar break ups but remember we’re all different and we all need different things to heal. Here’s a common example I see- if your friends invite you to something they have planned this weekend, and you say you don’t feel like going. Now, deep down you know you should go and you know you probably want to go but you’re sitting in a little pity party. Your friends don’t push you to go and just say they’re bummed you can’t make it. I’ve seen so many people get mad at their friends because they didn’t push them. That’s not fair to your friend, maybe they think you just need space. So instead of doing that you can say something like “I’m in a little bit of a pity party- my first instinct is to say no and stay home but I really think it would be good for me to go. Please hold me accountable to go I really need it.” That way you’re being honest about your feelings and you’re asking for what you need.
Take your thoughts lightly: Without a doubt your thinking is going to be a little skewed during this time. As mentioned earlier you may be extra sensitive, you may feel disconnected from those around you, and all of those other fun emotions. Because of this, it’s important to take your thinking a little lighter than you normally would and it’s super important to pause before reacting. When our moods are low, we’re WAY more likely to say something mean that we might regret later. So because we’re in a low mood state because of the break up it’s just important to tread lightly with the people around us so we don’t end up saying something we don’t mean.
Bottom line is, this is the time you need your community the most to love on you and support you. Allow your friends to carry you through this time, but just remember they’re the good guys- not your enemies.

How to Talk to your Family about your Break Up

It’s hard enough to go through a break. After the initial shock of dealing with the actual separation, now it comes time to tell friends and family. While most people will be supportive and try to the best they can to help you, there are always some people who just seem to make it worse.
While they may have good intentions, sometimes family thinks this is the best time to tell you how much they liked your ex, they may want to tell you how much they didn’t like them either which isn’t helpful. Things might come out like “I don’t know why you were with them in the first place”, or “there are plenty more fish in the sea” which again are not helpful.
So what can you do to assure that you leave telling your family about your break up in a way that you feel supported  and loved?
The first thing that it will take is some preparation on your part. Take some time and write out a list of things you want to hear from them.
Examples can include:
“I love you no matter what”
“I’m here to support you however you need it”
“Do you want to talk more about it?”
“Do you want to stay with us?”
It is ABSOLUTELY OK to start the conversation, before you even start the conversation saying exactly what you’d like them to say. It’s ok to let them know exactly how they can support you.
You also don’t owe anyone an explanation further than what you’re comfortable telling them, if it’s too painful you don’t need to go into the whole story. I highly recommend that you speak about it in depths at one point but it doesn’t need to be right away if it will just cause you more harm.
People love to ask give advice in these scenarios, and while some
Another thing I would recommend is telling your family who you end up talking to first to inform the rest of the family to your wishes. There’s nothing worse than going to your next family function and having everyone ask where your ex is.
If you feel weird about asking for your needs to be met, remember it’s most important to take care of yourself right now and to fully practice self care sometimes you need to firm with others of your needs.
It’s also great to keep the conversation going with your family, if they’re asking about how you’re doing too much you can ask them to talk about another subject. If you feel like they’re treating you differently or feel like they’re walking on eggshells around you, you can mention that as well.
Your family (and friends) can be your best support during a time like this, don’t lose that opportunity by not taking the time to express your needs. This can apply to your friends and coworkers as well.
IT IS OK TO ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.

Hidden Heartbreak Interview with Emma Lee

If you’ve been following me on Instagram for any amount of time you know I am a HUGE fan of the account @hiddenheartbreak. The way the artist captures the feelings, innermost thoughts, and things I didn’t even realize I felt into illustrations is incredible. Her relatable images always makes me breathe a sigh of relief knowing I’m not alone in my thoughts and feelings, and what a gift that is!

I had the honor of interviewing Emma on why she started Hidden Heartbreak, her advice for someone going through a break up, the red flags she looks out for, and a lot more you probably didn’t know about her. Oh! And if you’re as big of a fan as me you should know that she’s releasing her first book titled Hidden Heartbreak which comes out this January but you can order a copy now on Amazon at this link. 

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

You can call me Emma Lee –I’m the illustrator behind @hiddenheartbreak. I’m an INFJ, probably the most impatient person you’ll ever meet, and a fierce marshmallow addict.

 

What inspired you to start Hidden Heartbreak? 

I’ve always been someone who just feels things very intensely, even as a young child. I had some residual feelings leftover from a heartbreak I had experienced and wanted an outlet to express and explore them. Drawing has always been a big part of my life (as have many other creative outlets) and it just felt like the right way to express myself at that time.

 

One thing I’m always SO amazed about you is your ability to put into an illustration thoughts I have that I can’t even put into words, what is your process for creating your illustrations? 

Ahh, thank you so much! Honestly, a lot of my ideas come to me at weird times, so I keep a note in my iphone that I’m just constantly adding to. I find irony, and contradictions in general really fascinating, so that’s something I’m always paying attention to. These days I get a lot of ideas just from talking with friends, from movies, even from lyrics in a song. I usually try to sit down and do 2-3 drawings at a time once I have a few good ideas rolling around. I’ve also found that my art turns out much better if I draw soon after I’ve thought of the idea or felt the feeling, while it’s still fresh. Sometimes I start with a pen on paper and then transition to photoshop, or sometimes I just do the whole thing on the computer.

 

Although I’ve been through many there was one break up in particular that sparked me to start Break Up Bestie- was there a particular one that inspired you to start Hidden Heartbreak?

It wasn’t so much an official breakup as a realization about someone I cared for deeply. We all have people who we feel got away from us, that we’re convinced we’ll always love, and this particular person filled that role for me. I always thought we felt the same way about each other, but when I realized that I didn’t hold the same magic for him that he held for me, I felt pretty shattered. These feelings were really long lasting, so I started HH as a way to explore them.

 

I’m sure these illustrations are extremely therapeutic. What are some other ways that you practice growth and self care? 

They are! I have a many forms of self care, and I think drawing has actually helped me to be more deliberate about all of them. I love cooking and trying new recipes. I love running – I used to run marathons but from now on I’m sticking to half marathons, which aren’t as time-intensive! I love going for walks and taking photos along the way. I’m currently learning to play guitar, which is a very slow process, but I enjoy it and I try to keep it low pressure so it doesn’t become a chore.

 

Another thing I love about your illustrations is that you talk about feelings that I think so many people are ashamed to feel. I hear so many people saying “I shouldn’t feel this way” or they ignore their feelings altogether. Is this something you ever struggled with or have you always been open about feelings? 

This is perhaps the one thing I feel most strongly about when it comes to art and emotions. I have always been very open with my feelings, which people used to tell me was detrimental at times, or just not appropriate. I was called too sensitive all the time, I was ashamed of how much I cried as a kid and teen, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not change that part of me. Looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t. I am certainly no expert, but what I do know is that any time I “over-express” myself, I never regret it, but when I hold things in it always comes back in a more painful way later on. Being honest with yourself (and others) about your feelings is so liberating and, I’m convinced, really helps to get over those feelings in a healthier way. How can you move past something if you deny that it exists?

 

One thing I try to instill with my readers is that break ups and really anything “bad” that happens to us are always a blessing in disguise in one form or another. What’s a big blessing in disguise that you’ve had in your life? 

Oh my gosh, I totally agree. This whole process with HH has brought me SO many blessings. I’ve met some amazing, true friends through my account, some of whom I speak with every single day. I never would have had the chance to bring them into my life had this not happened to me. I somehow have a book coming out, though I’m still pinching myself about that one. Most importantly, though, I have grown and changed so much and become so much more confident in myself through this experience.

 

Many of your illustrations are about ignoring red flags in relationships, what do you think are the biggest red flags to keep an eye out for? 

Lack of openness is my number one red flag. If I don’t feel like someone can be open with me, or worse, they make me feel like I can’t be open with them, that’s a deal breaker. I also need a partner who appreciates creativity, even if they themselves aren’t creative, so not having that trait would be a sign to me that we aren’t compatible.

 

I am so excited about your book and feel so lucky I have one on my coffee table now. I’m in love with it, especially that I’m able to interact and do my own writing in it. What inspired you to come out with a book? 

Thank you so so much! I really had no plans to make a book; I was approached by a few agents about it through my IG and that kind of put the idea in my head. I enjoy taking on new challenges and thought it would be fun and rewarding. I’m glad I did it!

 

What’s one piece of advice you would give someone going through a break up? 

Be honest with yourself! As I said before, being real about your feelings is a form of healing. If you’re hurting, say so. Tell someone you trust. Tell yourself it’s okay to feel that way. It may feel awful at first, but in my experience, it always gets worse before it can get better.

 

The Power of Gratitude in a Break Up

If I think about the moment right after a break up, more specifically the moment right after getting dumped- my entire world felt like it came crashing down. I could have lived in a mansion, drove my dream car, had the most supportive family, the greatest friends, and my dream career and my life still felt like shit.
Relationships can easily feel like our entire life, especially if you’re like me and have had a history of codependent relationships. But it’s important to remember that a relationship isn’t our entire life, and we do have a lot of beautiful things outside of the fact that our favorite person in the world was just ripped from us.
Now I’m not talking about the “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” kind of gratitude. That quote might work for some people but when I’m on the floor sobbing over a break up, I’m not thinking about how happy I am for the time I had with that person.
The kind of gratitude I’m talking about is looking at the things you’re happy about currently in your life, even with the immense sadness and pain. I was lucky that I grew up with semi-spiritual parents and gratitude was something that was talked about regularly, in addition to the fact that I’m in recovery from alcohol and drugs and my support group is a huge proponent of reflection on what we’re grateful for.
The good news is you can pick gratitude up as a habit at anytime. It literally takes less than 5 minutes. The purpose of gratitude is to focus on the positive, instead of focusing on the pain. Looking at the positive in your life and focusing on that does NOT negate the pain you’re in. It doesn’t mean that you should all of a sudden feel better because you won’t. Even if you feel better for just the 5 minutes when you’re actually making your gratitude list that’s ok. If you want you can go right back to reminiscing on the relationship.
Gratitude is a practice and it takes practice to do. Here are some tips to practice gratitude even at a shitty point in your life.
  • Make it easy for yourself: No need to go out and buy a fancy gratitude journal. Do it in a way that makes sense with your life. If you like writing, then jot down your list in the journal you already use. Do you not like to write? Type up a note in your phone and do it there. No need to go out of your way to do something that already feels weird.
  • Start small: Don’t overwhelm yourself with needing to write 10 or more things. Start with 3 and then work your way up. Set a goal for yourself that’s super easy to hit so you don’t get discouraged.
  • Do it whenever you can but I recommend doing it at night: That way you can reflect on your day and focus on what went well. What you may notice start to happen is you’ll be on the lookout during your day for things to write on your list at night.
  • You can write down ANYTHING!It can be big, broad things like I’m grateful I have a roof over my head, I’m grateful for my family, I’m grateful I have food to eat. Or it can be super specific to your day. I’m grateful for that amazing cup of coffee I had today, I’m grateful for the text my best friend sent me. There’s no wrong answer to write down.
  • Can’t think of anything you’re grateful for? That’s impossible. Not but seriously, every single person has something to be grateful for. If you’re reading this blog post that means you have reliable electricity, you have a computer or a smart phone, you probably have food to eat, and a roof over your head. You have eyes that can see, you have hands that work. That’s a whole lot to be grateful for.
And who knows….maybe one day you’ll be grateful that the relationship ended. My guess is if you put this into practice and keep healing you will absolutely one day see this as a blessing.

The Importance of Making Your Bed During a Break Up

I used to be the type that questioned why I had to make my bed every morning “I’m just going to mess it up again tonight!” and like most of my other learned habits, something had to come around to teach me the sometimes painful lesson of why it was important for me to make the bed.
During break ups, we tend to either feel like a blob of nothingness or someone who has to be running around constantly a million miles a minute to distract ourselves from the icky thoughts and feelings. This post is geared towards both tendencies and the point I’d like to make is that it is so important to make our outside world feel OK and sane because our inside world is not feeling too hot.
Having a messy and chaotic house is very likely to make you feel messy and chaotic. I’m not saying by any means that you need to have a sparkling clean house every day, but we’ve all seen those movies where friends have to bust into their newly broken up with friends’ house and throw away the old pizza boxes and ice cream pints that are scattered all over the house. Let’s not do that.
At least in my experience, when I’m going through a break up my self-esteem usually goes to shit and I find myself questioning not only if I’m ever going to be good enough in a relationship but also if I’m good enough at my job, with my friends, etc. For whatever reason, having a routine I stick to helps me SO much with my self-esteem especially when I’m in crisis mode. Starting my day off making my bed makes me feel like I’ve already done something awesome for myself and I’m still in my pajamas. Then when you had to that making a healthy breakfast, putting make up on, and getting dressed I’m already feeling significantly better.
During break ups we tend to let ourselves go in some way, we do pajamas all day, go days without washing our hair or brushing it, we rely solely on take out, and other anti-self care measures. When we’re in relationships we cook for the person, we get dressed up, make sure legs are shaved, and other grooming measures and then when we go through a break up we stop. Why is that? Shouldn’t we be taking even better care of ourselves during a break up? That’s when we really need it. Not saying you need to be perfectly groomed and glammed up every day, but there is something about feeling good about our outsides, our insides feel better.

How to face reality when your feelings about your partner have changed

We’ve all been in relationships that are clearly just dead. Your feelings are no longer the same, you don’t love the person like you used to, and it’s clear that it’s time to move on. Yet most of us take TOO long to act on those thoughts and feelings.
Recently I read an article that showed an insane amount of people will stay in a relationship they don’t want to be in because they are afraid of hurting the other person too much.
I’ve totally done this but how crazy is that? It would be one thing if we kept going to the same yoga class every week even though we hated it because we didn’t want to hurt the instructor’s feelings but we are talking about our relationship! The person we spend probably the most time with out of everyone!
By doing this, what you’re communicating to yourself and to the universe is that your feelings are less important than the other person’s. It’s ok for you to suffer in a relationship that isn’t right for you in order to protect the other person’s feelings. That’s not very nice to do to yourself.
Also, what makes you think you have that much power to hurt someone else that badly? 
I’ll never forget I was talking to one of my mentors when I knew I had to break things off with the guy I was dating, but I was stalling because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I called her and told her the situation and she said to me, what makes you think you’re that powerful that you could destroy someone’s life? It was a blow to my ego but it was such a relief to know that I didn’t have to carry that burden.
Another lesson from that same situation is by holding someone in a relationship we don’t want to be in, and trying to “protect” them we are robbing them of their soulmate as well. By me staying with someone because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, I was preventing him from being free to go out and find the person he was meant to end up with, and I think that’s even worse than breaking their heart.
I think many of us know if we’re in the wrong relationship, but we use a lot of rationalizing, excuses, we drown out our feelings to prevent ourselves from taking accountability for our feelings, which are valid and facing reality.
So if you do find yourself in this situation- it is always worth it to acknowledge the reality. Then you can decide what to do.
Once you have decided that you’re ready to end a relationship that isn’t working, it’s helpful to tell your close friends and family so that they can hold you accountable towards taking action. It can be really easy to back out of a decision after your guy sends you a nice text or brings home flowers (ps the day I went to break up with one of my exes, he walked in with flowers and a massage gift card, but I knew I had to do it!) but by having your close friends know your plan it’s harder to back out of what you really need to do.
After you’ve acknowledged your feelings and you’re not quite ready to take action that’s ok. It’s hard to sit with our truth without taking action for a long period of time so just sit patient and stay in touch with yourself. Living in a relationship that contradicts our values and wants and needs can create havoc on our mental, emotional, and even physical health.