When I started this fascinating journey of becoming better with women and dating the last article I wanted to write was about how to survive a breakup.
But, I did survive my breakup AND got a much better relationship out of the deal in the end…but it did take some time and I’m VERY happy I didn’t dive immediately into the “next” one either.
In the spring of 2009, I suffered the worst breakup of my life.
I cannot compare it to anything else I’ve experienced – EVER.
It also involved a devastating betrayal (hard to type, harder to experience).
I want to tell you a little bit about this, AND to share the ways I got through it.
I’m now in a MUCH better relationship with a MUCH healthier woman. If you’ve ever gone through a brutal break-up, somewhere in the back of your mind you wonder (as I did), if you will ever even WANT to be with someone else again.
And you wonder, and this is the worst part, if there is something terribly, terribly wrong with YOU.
If you follow me here at Cutting Edge Image Consulting, you might have noticed that I suddenly stopped posting and working in 2009. I dropped out of sight. My confidence as a dating coach/image consultant took a pounding through this process.
But, I’ve emerged more confident, capable and happier. The “how?” and “why?” is what I intend to share with this article.
When I returned from LA last March – after the “Complete Toolbox” program – I arrived to a much different home than the one I left. My ex and I lived together, and we had created a very warm, comfortable living environment in Brooklyn. When I walked in from the airport, the feeling was different – very very different.
Without going into a description of her (as this is not about her), she had left a number of clues around the apartment that alluded to what had happened while I was away. I confronted her about this, she confessed and I immediately threw her out of the apartment.
You see, my home is a safe place – it MUST be, for me to be comfortable and secure. When it’s NOT that way, I notice right away. Once I had confirmed that the worst was true, the offending agent (her) had to go.
(Um, and yes, I did find myself throwing her things out the door…which was satisfying, very very satisfying)
Once she left and the dust settled, I realized – much to my dismay – that I was single.
I didn’t want to be single. Hell, I had worked hard to learn how NOT to be chronically single (explore this blog and you will discover that). I had treasured the relationship, and had worked hard to encourage its growth.
So, once the pain settled in, once this new reality descended upon me, I realized very very clearly that the world is not the place I once thought it was.
Now, things are different. In fact, Now, ALL things are different. It’s time for damage control.
The first item of business might be the toughest one…I had to accept this new reality. And by this I mean, I could NOT go chasing the old. This was particularly true after a betrayal: Accept the fact that this relationship is broken and it’s not up to me to fix it. In fact, in my case, it was unfixable.
The smoking gun never lies. Instead:
I HAD to let it go. I could not pursue, or try to convince, or attempt to get an explanation…from the ‘ex’. It’s done, it’s over. Any and all attempts to contact the offender would have drained the power I URGENTLY needed for survival (seriously). I had to view her as poison that now must be avoided at all costs. The wound is MUCH too deep and painful to pick at it. Instead…
I had to bring this to my male friends.
It’s the only thing that saved me. Even as I type this, I recall conversations, text messages and pats on the back from my buddies that (quite literally) saved my life.
My female friends are great, but this was a problem for the men.
They are the only ones who will “get it”. Interestingly, many of my friends had also been through this – and they were the ‘first responders’. I suddenly had things to do, people to see, events to attend, outings planned – and all FOR me by my community. They set it up, I showed up. This went on day, after day, after day, after day…
I’m also grateful I have a dog. The need to walk her and care for her got me out of the house when I really wanted to stay in bed. Also, there is nothing like being woken up in the morning by an animal that has nothing to share but unconditional love and affection.
Next…after acceptance and bringing your pain to your friends (and NOT your ex) you then must protect yourself. What do I mean?
Do Not Get Into Another Relationship Right Away (in other words)
I was out at a dinner with easily the most attractive girl I had met in some time. We had met each other before, and I had began a conversation with her over email almost immediately after my ex hit the road. I wanted so so badly to fall into her world to make the pain go away.
“You’re going to hurt her” said a dear friend of mine – one of those male friends who tells the truth no matter what (got one of those??).
He was right of course (dammit!).
I was in so much emotional pain that I was viewing her as a band-aid, or a surgical procedure, and not a person. I had to completely drop her and NOT date anyone at all. Facing the pain was my responsibility. Subjecting someone else to this is not fair, not right, not cool.
Sit with the pain, and don’t look to “another” to fix it.
In fact, (between you and me) if you really need some affection – PAY FOR IT. I am serious. It’s far better to throw a few hundred dollars away on non-descript sex than to involve another person in your drama. It’s a financial transaction, and it’s clear what’s at stake. No harm, no foul.
Did I do this? No I didn’t. I’ve never paid for ‘it’ in my life, and I wasn’t about to start. But, there is far more integrity in handling it that way than to harm other people. Instead, I took care of things myself…(I think you know what I mean).
This new “reality” went on for months. I dragged through my days, leaned on savings, and hung out with friends as much as possible. I went out a LOT…not to meet women, but just to leave home and be away from my lonely mind as much as possible.
Then, I had to move. The old apartment, where she and I lived, where she (gulp) betrayed me, needed to become a thing of the past. Sure, it was an AMAZING place…but, I needed a fresh start. So, I pounded the NY pavement for a few weeks and found a better, smaller, less expensive, place for me and my sweet dog.
Moving was big. In fact, I underestimated how important it was for me TO move. Some part of me was still holding onto the past. I could still see her walking through the door. I could hear her calling my name from the other room. Removing myself from that stimuli was CRITICAL.
This is when I noticed something. I was feeling stronger. I felt less like an alien in my own body. I was away from that old, toxic energy and was now in a new place – literally. Friends noticed too that I was smiling more, and had a better feel for my future.
The healing had been happening and I hadn’t noticed.
And, I had stopped the daily weeping that had plagued me for months. I’m not ashamed to admit this.
Being betrayed, and having a relationship (we were engaged btw…did I mention that??) end within a matter of HOURS, explores every insecurity, resurfaces every painful heartbreak from the past, and challenges every strand of self-esteem one has…this tumult produces tears. I’m not talking the type of tears you shed when your team wins, or when the movie ends like you wanted it to.
No, I’m talking the kinds of tears that leave your entire body shaking and in pain for hours after. These tears turn your entire face, neck and shoulders bright red. You HAVE to wear sunglasses not out of vanity, but because your eyes are so sensitive to light that it’s painful to be out in the daylight. The first thought out of bed in the morning is usually “I’m alone”, which then brings on the unguarded explosion of grief…which can last for hours.
My poor dog must have thought I was crazy or dying.
So, it was a VERY significant relief to STOP the daily weeping, and realize that I could spend an hour without having “her” or “it” cross my mind. Moving out of the apartment marked the end of this. I had moved on, I had moved out.
Some months passed now. I settled in to a new life, a new environment, and a new routine. I was – dare I say it – feeling OK.
A friend says to me: “Great, so now you have to start dating again”.
I nearly choked down my noodles. “What??”
He was right, of course. Now that I had gotten past the initial stages of pain and recovery, it was time to get back onto the horse.
After the shock of that wore off, a couple of women immediately came to mind. I choked at the thought of having to reenter the dating scene, for sure. I didn’t want to have to rebuild something. I didn’t want to have to make that first call, ask her for that first date, go for that first kiss…
But, I knew that was all wrong. I had to get back out there.
I went out on a few dates with some women that friends set me up with…and nothing bloomed. It was good though to sit across from another face and consider romance. It was healing. It was good.
Then, it sort of happened by itself. Hard to say why, or how. But, suddenly there she was and all of my circuits, just, “rebooted”.
Ever see those movies where the plane is going down, all power is lost and there is a massive sense of chaos and panic? Well, this was me. Then, the pilot – or whoever “our hero” just happens to be – flips the right switch and the instrument board relights settling the craft back into normal flight. Calm prevails and all is right with the world.
Well, it was sort of like that. There “she” was. “She” smiled, and I would catch my breath (a small thing, but – well – not really a small thing). I would run into her on the street, and there would be a sense of warmth that I liked a LOT. I took a chance and asked for her number, and she gave it to me (whew). I called her, and she called me back. We went on a date, and there was chemistry – not ‘friendship’ chemistry – but ‘relationship’ chemistry. It was STRONG. Without me even noticing, it was happening…and all I had to do was get out of the damn way.
My heart was re-opening, stronger and humbler. It was more complete, more real and I deserved it.
Surprisingly (or not), I WANTED to pursue her. I wanted to call her. I wanted to connect. I wanted to kiss her. I had forgotten it could be like this. The dark shadows in me were overpowered by the thrill – yet again – of meeting someone really, really special.
I was shocked at how much fun I was having.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, my dog nearly jumped out of her skin when she came over that first time. She didn’t leave her side at all that night. Her clear canine-message to me being: “Can we keep her please?”
(Dogs never lie by the way)
And here I am, a year later – stronger, happier, more grounded, more…alive. If you’re in pain, despair, lonely and sad from the horrors of a breakup – this is possible.
And, it’s OK to be hopeful (you know, in those moments where you catch yourself hoping? Yeah – those moments are FINE)
Healing is worth the pain. Why? Because things will be better next time. If you’re in the place of pain and despair – I know that place, really well – it doesn’t last forever. It slips away VERY slowly, for sure. But it does slip away. The word “patience” has new meaning. I respect “patience” more than ever.
Oh, and it’s humbling, VERY humbling, particularly for a so-called “expert” (me, that is).
But, if we/I/you, don’t ‘react’ and dive into another similarly toxic relationship, we will learn something and become healthier, and then attract someone healthier. It’s dating math: as I grow, those I will attract – and be attracted to – will be healthier.
One question I had to answer some months after the breakup, was (and it was posed by a good friend):
So, Stephen, why do you think you walked into propeller blades anyway?
“Asshole”, I thought to myself.
Of course, it was the right question to ask. I learned a lot about relationships from my ex and I REALLY learned a lot about myself. I guess that’s the purpose of a relationship, ultimately, as you cannot insure that the connection will last but you can insure that you emerge a healthier, happier human being.
I learned that I was secretly interested in ‘saving’ a girl who had a dark side. She’s not a bad person, she just has bad (REALLY bad) “coping mechanisms”. I fancifully thought that I could do something about it – it drew me to it, like an impossible challenge can (might be a “guy thing”). With me and my love, she would be ‘different’.
Alas, it wasn’t so…
It’s sort of like seeing the impossible mountain to climb, and having little to no gear to make the trip. The arrogant guy thinks “Yeah, I got this”…
Am I over the anger? No. Not sure when/if I ever will be. But, it doesn’t stop me from living today and it sure doesn’t stop me from enjoying the hell out of my new relationship. The new girl is even more ‘right’ for me than the old one.
So, for sure, it was worth it. Easy to say on the backside of pain, but if I can do it – you can too.
To learn more about how to get a new (& better) girlfriend, check out my 24 top tips post (linked below). I’ve listed, in order, the process of going from completely clueless & lost to wildly successful and crushing it with women…it’s a long one, but worth your careful study.
Check it out here: