Ending a romantic relationship is hard. If you ended yours within the last year of the COVID-19 pandemic, your experience may have been even harder. With the first dose of the world moving toward social distancing and the second dose of social isolation after the loss of a relationship, it would make sense if you’re experiencing the throes of how to navigate this new path of being a single person in the middle of a pandemic.
There may be a swell of grief each time you think about your ex-partner and what could have been post-pandemic life. There may be people in your life who were close to your ex-partner, like family or friends, who may be wondering what went wrong. There may also be the awkwardness of figuring out how and when the right time would be to start dating again. All of these things become layers and layers of potentially new experiences, but they may also be scary. Remember: this is normal. You are allowed to feel excited, scared, worried, curious...all of it is valid.
Now comes the question: how can I deal with all of this?
Let yourself feel the grief.
The end of any relationship is difficult, but a romantic one can be especially painful. Running through scenarios in your head of what could have gone differently or how you might still be able to reach out is normal. These emotions make sense, and rather than pushing them aside, let yourself feel them.
Emotions are like a compass. They let us know what we need. When you’re grieving, ask yourself: what is my grief telling me? What can I do to soothe my grief rather than push it away? How can I be kind to myself while I am experiencing my grief?
If it means that your grief wants you to sit and cry, that is okay. You can find a space where you feel comfortable, whether it’s alone or with a trusted loved one, and let it out. The way that you grieve is within your control even when grief may make you feel like you’re out of control.
Disclose information at your pace.
People will be curious about how your relationship ended. That’s a fact, and it can be a frustrating one when you have to dish out and relive the pain of how it happened over and over again. In this case, it’s important to know that you do not owe anyone your story. No one is entitled to the details of your relationships, your healing, or your life. You have the power to let them in, which means you also have the power to maintain a boundary if you don’t feel ready to talk about it.
If you want to disclose it to a loved one in your life, you can decide how. It might be of special consideration when your ex-partner was closely tied to other relationships you hold like family or friends. Here’s a golden formula to help you: state the event and then what you need. For example, “I ended my relationship with ___ and I’m needing someone who will listen.” You can be clear and also say you’re looking for support so that you avoid all of the unsolicited advice and toxic positivity.
If you want to maintain a boundary, the formula can work, too! “I ended my relationship with ___ and I’m not ready to talk about it.” Remember, setting boundaries doesn’t have to be abrasive. It’s your way of maintaining your privacy, something you have every right to have.
Get into the dating pool when you are ready.
Everyone has a different level of readiness to get back into the dating pool. No two healing journeys look alike, and readiness will look different for everyone, too. Some people may feel pressure, whether it be from friends or family, to get back into the dating realm for different reasons. Perhaps you are coming from a family where marriage and children are culturally expected or you’ve received messages about what you “should” be doing.
It can be hard to balance cultural expectations with your own desires. At the end of the day, you know your situation best and you have all the information you need to make decisions that are best for you. These questions may help: what does readiness look like for me? How do I want to feel when I am ready to date/search for a partner again? What have I learned from my last relationship that will change my expectations of my next?
And there’s another possibility: maybe you don’t even want to date again, and that’s okay. You can utilize your time on cultivating parts of yourself that feel important to you.
Moving toward tomorrow.
Relationships are complicated. Healing is complicated. These are facts that are very difficult to dispute. While it feels like the grief and the pressures make you lose your sense of control, remember that you have more control than you think. You have it in the way that you grieve, the way that you disclose your information, and the way that you enter the world again as a single person.
Regardless of what your journey looks like, we’re here for you. We see you. We’re proud of you.