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Here's How To See The Silver Linings Of Your Break-Up

"Pain makes you stronger, fear makes you braver, heartbreak makes you wiser."—Drake

Love & Relationships

I already know. If you're someone who's recently gone through a break-up (or you're currently contemplating ending your relationship), you probably rolled your eyes until they couldn't go back any further when it came to this title. Because the reality is that, similar to marriage, there aren't a ton of us who go into serious relationships thinking that they've got an expiration date to them. And so, whenever the ride comes to an end, even if we know it's for the best, it can take a lot out of us. It can also tempt us, at least initially, to only focus on how much we're hurting and/or losing, as the result of calling it quits.

As someone who has had my own fair share of break-ups with guys (believe you me, chile), while it does initially seem like a super painful experience, in hindsight, I'm able to see that there were several silver linings that arose from ending things. That's why I wanted to pen this. Because sometimes, in the midst of a break-up, it can be really hard to see the "beauty for ashes" moments that can be directly connected to them. I'll share the ones that I've personally discovered…now.

Believe It or Not, the Hardest Part Has Already Happened

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I remember the day when I broke up with the last boyfriend that I will ever have in this lifetime (check out "Why I'll Never Call Someone A 'Boyfriend' Again"). Between us being the best of homies before ever getting together, the relationship lasting for four years, and then us sleeping together for two more years after that, while I knew that moving on was absolutely the right and best thing for me to do, on the particular day that I made the call and officially ended things, I was absolutely devastated. I was at a cousin of his house and, after hanging up, I just curled up on a ball and literally screamed and cried and then screamed and cried some more. When someone has been an intimate part of your world for well over a decade, them leaving—even if you're the one who's removing them—can bring about a grief that is truly indescribable.

For the first week, everything was kind of a blur. I was so used to speaking with him, at least a couple of times a day, that it took me a moment to step back and adjust to what had become my new normal. But you know what?

After about three weeks, I found myself feeling pretty OK. On some levels, even better than that. Because while there was a part of me that missed him, I was more excited about what my life would look like, now that I was more focused on me and what I wanted rather than "we" and what he needed.

My point? While this might seem like a really "WTF?" way to start off this article, that doesn't make it any less relevant or true. If you're someone who has just gone through your own break-up, believe it or not, the first silver lining is the fact that the worst part of the break-up is already behind you. I liken it to someone breaking a bone. It hurts like hell but once the break happens (especially if it's a clean break; I'll get more into that later), it's time to focus on the healing part. So, please don't stay in something that is no longer serving you, simply because you think the pain will be too much to bear. Fear is never a good reason to remain in, pretty much anything. And besides, pain eventually exhausts itself. I know this from a very up close and personal fact.

Now It’s Time to Do Some Journaling

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I've said in some of the other articles on here that a phrase that I absolutely cannot stand is, "If you want to get over an old guy, get underneath a new one." Sex is a gift; it's not something that should be abused (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'" and "Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good"). So no, I definitely don't think that rebounding, in any way and on any level, is your best move. If anything, use this as a time to do some serious self-reflecting; one of the most effective ways to do that is to journal.

Something that can prove to be super helpful is if you do a twist to what I call "prayer journaling". When I pray journal, I write my thoughts and feelings in a black or blue ink pen. I sometimes meditate and pray and then what I feel like God is conveying to me (which is oftentimes via a Scriptural reference), I wrote that in red ink. Well, if you're journaling for the sole purpose of evaluating your relationship, write what your "old self" felt while you were in the relationship in black or blue ink and then how your "newer self" feels, now that the relationship is over, in red ink. If you devote 15-30 minutes towards doing this, every day, after about two weeks or so, you may discover some extra confirmations about why the relationship ended and why that could actually prove to be a really good thing. Journaling about your break-up can bring forth a clarity that you possibly wouldn't get any other way. I can certainly vouch, big time, for this.

Think About How the Relationship Wasn’t Serving You

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I once wrote an article for the site entitled, "How To Stop Being 'Ms. Fix It' In Your Relationships". Something that doing my own relationship journaling over the years has revealed to me is, more times than not, I would get into relationships where I was doing most of the work, simply because I was codependent AF. It didn't really matter if I wasn't getting my own needs met; I thought that loving someone meant that I did all that I could to make sure they were good…even if I actually wasn't.

It's pretty common that, once you break-up with someone, your mind merely wants to go back to all of the good times that are filed somewhere in your memory. In a weird way, it's like your heart is trying to shield you from having to relive the "icky parts" over and over again. This is exactly why many folks don't move past someone, who they actually should get over, for months or even years later (check out "6 Reasons Why You STILL Can't Over Your Ex" and "You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?"). But if you really want to heal from your break-up, it's important that you look at it from ALL angles. The good is what can help you to forgive. The not-so-good is what can encourage you to keep pressing forward.

Listen, I don't care how awesome a guy was to you. If the relationship was as wonderful as your heart may be trying to tell you right now, you'd still be with him, right? Think about the areas where things were lacking, so that you can be sure to require those things the next time. Even if the next time is via a reconciliation with him (we'll have to touch on that another time, y'all).

Try a Self-Care Fast

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Even if the break-up was initiated by him, due to something that you did or kept doing (check out "10 Single Men Shared Some Thoughts They Wish Women Would Take At Face Value" and "Women Cheat More Than We Think. What To Do If That's You."), there's a pretty good chance that you were doing those things because some part of you was unhappy or unfulfilled (that's not a justification; just the reality). Back when I used to have boyfriends and go through break-ups, whether it was my call or not, whether it was because of something they did (or didn't do) or I did (or didn't do), I still used to be harder on myself than I ever should've been. I would just keep beating myself up with what-could've-been recollections rather than doing what I am now recommending that you try—self-care fasting.

Sometimes a fast is about not doing something. Other times, it's about doing something in overdrive.

You're a woman. You know how we tend to be when we're with someone. So much of our time, effort, energy and resources is all about making sure he's good and the relationship is fine. It can be so extreme that we don't even realize the areas where we've dropped the ball on pampering and nurturing our own selves. If there's ever a time to get back into the swing of things, on the heels of a break-up would be it.

I'd say devote 14 or even 30 days straight to doing something, each day, that focuses on self-care. It can be taking luxurious baths. It can be having a glass of wine. It can be getting a massage or a mani-pedi. It can be taking a weekend off to do nothing but read, watch mindless television and sleep. It can be taking a social media fast. It can be getting a makeover. It can be remodeling your bedroom. The list is literally endless. The point is, science actually says that it takes somewhere around 66 days to form a habit. By going on a self-care fast for 30 days, you are setting a foundation to make sure that your needs are nurtured. And that is one of the best ways to heal from a break-up and to set solid standards for your next relationship too.

Make Sure It’s a CLEAN Break (at Least for Now)

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OK. Now back to what I was talking about when I mentioned a clean arm break. Any doctor will tell you that a clean break makes for much quicker healing. Same thing applies to a break-up. If the two of you are "technically" no longer together, but you're still talking on the phone, following each other on social media, or (whew) still having sex, it's going to be close to impossible for you to move forward with your life. Not only that but it sends a message to your "technical ex" that he can still get a lot of the benefits of keeping you around without any of the responsibility.

Remember, I was very open about the fact that my last ex and I had sex for two freakin' years after ending our relationship. I also told you that I was a basket case when I finally did say "enough is enough" once and for all. Breaking up can be a process. There's no doubt about that. But don't think that weaning off of a man is easier than just ending things, period. You need the space and time, without him, to see if you really still want him or you're just used to having him around. And the only way to do that is to end all communication. Perhaps not forever, but at least for a while (remember also what I said about how long it takes to form a habit, so "a while" should probably be a couple of months or so).

Remember the Path Is Now Open to Get What You REALLY Want

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Best-selling author Paulo Coelho once said, "Life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself at its most brilliant." A break-up indeed qualifies as a crisis, at least on some level. And while it might not feel this way yet, because the relationship (and the man) are out of your path, the "brilliance" in all of that is you can figure out what you really and truly want. Is it time and space to focus on some desires and goals that your relationship had been distracting you away from? Is it time and space to determine if you were getting what you really and truly needed? Is it time and space to decide if the relationship was the right one at the wrong time, but you both need time to grow individually before coming back together again?

Break-ups are difficult. I totally get that. But they really aren't the end of the world or your love experiences. Use it as a learning experience, a self-motivator and an opportunity to do things, the way you really want to, the next time. If you choose to see the silver lining from this angle, you will be all the better for it, sis. I can absolutely promise you that.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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