I’m going to be upfront, this is not going to be one of those articles where you can scroll through, get three hot tips, and in your broken-hearted desperation believe they will fix you.
You do not need to be fixed. You need to feel, you need to be patient, and you need to process this.
This theme is tender and important to me because I write to you with a still not-quite-yet-healed heart, a teacup of salted caramel ice cream and, if I’m completely honest, a tissue box readily at hand. We gonna get real.
Living and Learning
I got through my first break-up at age 17 by listening to Mazzy Star’s Record, So Tonight That I Might See on repeat and watching myself cry in the mirror in my vintage nightie. I think in my own adolescent kinda way – I was trying to locate myself inside this body, inside this world, while also trying to conjure up some BIG Audrey Hepburn energy.
For my second breakup, I was dumped on the way to a party two years into our relationship. Cool move, dude. So naturally, I moved states the following week because I couldn’t handle the thought of living in the same city as the guy or bumping into him at a party with a new lover.
The third time around, I found myself crying to sleep in a single bed adorned with unicorn sheets at my step-mother’s house. I was living out of a suitcase, staring deeply into a Coles bag full of my ex’s extension cables, which I had taken as an act of defiance when I left (he was a sound guy.)
It was at this moment that I decided it might be time for me to get my shit together, see a therapist, take some responsibility, and to stop feeling so sorry for myself.
This time I’m just trying not to rush the process, not to follow a script or self-destruct.
Coming Out and Cracking Open
My first female-female long-term relationship ending hit different. Losing a best friend, a soulful and fiery connection, and a deep love in one go was a new kind of pain to me.
Really all we can do is keep being kind, cherish the gifts we are left with, keep loving ourselves when we slip into believing we are unlovable and get a solid self-pleasure routine going on.
I feel that it is crucial we do not try to assume we understand everyone’s unique experience of heartbreak or love for that matter. We all miss different things about our lovers. For some, it’s summed up in the memory of a song shared, for others its in a secret they helped you carry. It might be distilled in love notes past or the smell of vegemite on toast.
Take solace in knowing that what you had cannot be replicated by anyone else. What you are feeling is one of the most human yes-you-are-in-a-body-on-planet-earth moments you might ever feel.
Get Out Of The Loop
…Until the next time, that is, when your breakup will be with a totally different person, ball game and deliver you with a whole new set of truths.
Same person? Or same circumstances? A re-lit cigarette never burns quite the same.
It might be time to check your relationship patterns as you’re probably stuck in a bit of a loop and missing the juicy lesson over and over again.
New break-up dynamics mean you tried to love in different ways, that you are getting bolder and wiser in how you choose to show up at the door of love. And that is hot.
Keeping the Heart Unlocked
Heartbreak can make you want to hang a closed sign on the French melancholic café of the heart. Simultaneously, it could have you declaring your openness to any hot ‘somebody’ who struts through the club entrance on a Saturday at 12:07am.
Task: Can you strike a balance? Can you be open without having someone between your legs?
If you fall into the trap of seeking out mindless casual sex or intimate encounters, be real with yourself, if this is just a protection mechanism.
Could you try making the casual sex mindful?
Could you try closing your eyes and letting yourself feel this new touch? Noticing what your body has to say about it all.
Could you avoid the projection of lover(s) past?
Could you find a new rhythm with an energy you haven’t had the opportunity to witness in pleasure before?
Could you let that unpick the seams of your heart just a little? Without needing to love them, or fill a void or imagine a life together. Could you let the stitches of the wounded heart dissolve ever so slightly, and just hold yourself in that present moment?
Taking Time and Making space for the Platonic
In saying all of this poetic, mushy, Pisces moon shit, take your damn time with coming back to intimacy if you need to. Let your friends show you some (tough) love.
Try to avoid falling into a victim role and drinking an entire bottle of Jameson in the corner and sobbing at every party. You’ve got maybe two yellow cards on this one, maximum.
Do: Let them remind you of your greatness, your strength and their presence.
Particularly in the first few weeks, in the days when you feel like being in the foetal position and re-coiling at all sunlight, make a list of things you could do with your best mates. Anything that involves movement, wholesomeness, water, creative expression, new adventures or skills. Then get them to pull this out whenever you feel ‘stuck’ or weighty in the heartbreak space.
A note on feelings
Look, feeling your feelings is really fucking important but so is sunshine, laughter, a good iced latte, cuddles, dancing in the park, co-creating art and the nutrient density of minestrone soup. No matter who dumped who, don’t play the victim, it ain’t sexy, it ain’t cute and it ain’t gonna be the way through your lessons from this partnership.
Surefire signs of a closed heart: numbness, detachment from the world, escapisms, addictive tendencies (re)surfacing, brittleness physically and emotionally or intent to be hurtful to anyone around you, including and especially your ex.
The New Love Story
‘Fuck. How do I open it again?’ you say.
Usually there are two stories running in this scenario.
The story of how it ended: who was at fault, who loved who more or hurts more. And then, there is the story of the Hollywood break-up.
The one where it’s (generally) a heterosexual break-up, the chick de-rails her whole life in the ‘agony of it all,’ ignores her body, ignores her own boundaries. Meanwhile, the guy shows little to no emotion, usually drinks with his friends and goes to the strippers and then somehow, they magically resolve all of their issues and end up a happy, sexy, adorable hetero couple. The end.
When we expect break-ups to look and feel like a rom-com, we sign ourselves up for all sorts of toxicity, boring heteronormative social scripts and boundary breaches. When we change this expectation it still hurts like hell, but we aren’t burying, blocking, pre-empting emotion or ignoring what our achy breaky heart might actually need. We can expect discomfort and hurt and also expect to learn mind-blowing lessons about our version of love (and what we might choose to change here). Such as:
Love comes in many forms, including showing up at our front door with a cuddle and a casserole.
Expect to be treated with respect, but firstly and always show this to ourselves.
Trust the tears are releasing whatever they need to from our body and do not let them scare us or override reality.
Then, slowly, you’ll notice the break begins to visualise less like the Three of Swords tarot card and more like one of those broken Japanese ceramics that are glued back together with gold. Cherishing the life it still has to live without forgetting its journey or what it has held.
Seeking Wise Counsel
In the spirit of not wanting to assume your heartbreaks have all felt, looked or ended like mine, I sought some sage words from some of my dearest and fiercest – friends who have been through break-ups in open, poly, queer, platonic intimacies, monogamous, trans partnerships, gay male-to-male / female to female relationships and everything-in-between.
With their full consent, but privacy in mind, enjoy their bloody brilliance in reflection to the question: What do you wish you knew about heartbreak? And how do you support yourself through it?
You can trust yourself.
Love cannot actually be ‘lost,’ it exists everywhere, we grieve lost attachment.
You can sit deep amongst the decay, the grief and the shattered pieces of it all and resurface with a wisdom you will never find otherwise.
Experiencing love once is evidence that you will experience it again — from there it’s a matter of trust, that things unfold in only the timing that we are ready for.
Cut energetic cords and set clear boundaries around how the ex-lover(s) can communicate with you.
Get crystal-fucking clear on what you are ready to manifest into your reality.
You have only lost one mirror out of 7.6 billion mirrors, who reflect your own pure essence of love back to you.
On the days you feel that loss more strongly, the comfort is knowing you were strong in your convictions.
Do not deny yourself the deep wish to share your essence with others as you heal.
The process of each heartbreak can bring you steadily closer to the unshakeable sense of embodied [human/womxn] hood, you have always yearned for.
Crack your chest wide open. That’s the only way to allow new, wonderful, exciting things in and the only way to send the old out.
Now, my sweet heartbroken doves, go sit and be with your heart. But don’t forget to feel your freedom too.
Here are some helpful sexual assault and mental health resources if you need them.
The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault. (Avail 24 hours, 7 days a week.)
A national number which can help put you in contact with a crisis service in your state. (Avail 24 hours, 7 days a week.)
Sexual Assault Crisis Line
(1800 806 292)
A statewide confidential, telephone crisis counselling service for people who have experienced both past and recent sexual assault. (Avail 24 hours, 7 days a week.)