So your fiancé has broken up with you, left all your dreams in the dust, and you’re supposed to cope … alone? You might be thinking the loss is too devastating, or perhaps you’re just embarrassed to face your friends and circle of people. I am happy that you have the opportunity to make a new life for yourself, and that you have been saved from a problematic relationship. My advice is a mix of self-help stuff and tactical steps, in sort of chronological order:
1. Accept the truth of the situation and prepare a public statement. You did not leave him, you did not have a mutual breakup (when does that ever happen, anyway). No, he left you. That does not make you less of an attractive person; on the contrary, it shows strength that you own up to the reality and can face up to your future. Also, don’t think for one moment that the decision to end an engagement is an easy one for your partner—as much as it may annoy you, try to show that the decision on his part was for the best. Try to think of a good one-liner that you can use to explain the situation, followed by a clarifying sentence, that if pressed for details makes it clear that you are clear and resolved to the matter.
“Mark decided to end our relationship; it ended up being good decision, because we weren’t moving in the same direction when it came to family plans.”
Clarification: “It all boiled down to having different life goals in the short term and long term, and there was no way around it. I still respect him deeply”.
This shows maturity, and can also be repackaged for use in a future relationship, when you are revealing your pasts. Never, ever believe that your common friends who believed in your relationship or his family that loved you so dearly and were so ready to grow their family will fix what’s wrong or make your ex come to his senses. It’s over, and that means a new life for you.
2. Decide not to feel sorry for yourself. It could be a lot worse. If you have trouble accepting that, watch Born into Brothels tonight. Do not progress unless you have committed to this point. If you don’t, you risk being a turnoff for friends and family. Think to yourself, “I am someone’s role model. How can I handle this well to give someone else hope?” For me, I thought of my sisters and my classmates, and decided never to feel sorry for myself.
3. Attitude of gratitude. Would you be where you are today if you hadn’t had an amazing journey with this person? Sure, you may have made sacrifices, such as: other men who loved you, the chance to be a young mother, lost opportunities in financial matters and career. But chances are that your experience together has left you a wiser and more mature person, which leads to …
4. Young at heart, sage in spirit. Don’t believe for a moment that you are “too old to ____.” Modern science means a lot of biological stuff is still possible, and anything else is in your head. And don’t put up with your best guy friend calling you a cougar or even a puma, or you’ll be doing the breaking up with him! But try to take the learning from point 2. What did you learn about yourself and your needs? What are your new deal-breakers? I learned that I need someone who has a very strong relationship with his family—I need that structure and support for when I have children someday. I also learned that IQ is not a be-all and end-all. I feel much better prepared for the next relationship: I have faced my own mistakes and my fear of arguing. My fear of communicating what I don’t like. I won’t repeat that mistake twice. Instead, my new relationship will be fun and communicative and honest.
5. Reflect, on paper. The best way for me to reflect is by keeping a journal and recording my feelings. This way, each emotion is captured, which not only provides an immediate release but also is a mechanism for storing up my story for future consumption. In fact, when I read back on how I felt right after the breakup, I feel a sort of empathy for my former self, and sometimes even laugh when I compare that person to the one I am today. Or I let my own soundtrack accompany the healing process, see below.
6. A new playlist every week. Week one: sappy Italian tearjerkers from spaghetti westerns and operas that run at La Scala. Indulge the drama without violating point 2. Maybe even a melodramatic Bollywood soundtrack? Then maybe progress into a going-out-with-the-girls mix, a dressing-to-kill mix, and then, at some point, maybe your happy-mellow mix.
7. Invest in you. I did not say to max the credit card. But maybe buy a perfume that takes you back to the beginning of your career. Or book a holiday to see an old friend.
8. Be prepared to be alone for awhile, but also be realistic that you’ll probably find love again. First, I decided to have fun with friends and work and school. I realized, “No one owes me love. I don’t deserve a fairy tale. I can be happy alone for some time. But the next person I date is out there somewhere, and it’s gonna be fun when it happens”. In fact, at home I made a tree diagram, starting with me. Hmm, chances of being along all my life: 5% percent. Chances of dating again: 95 percent. Chances of dating an Italian: 60 percent. That was my little goldmine, and the best part is that it was realistic due to where I live. A little nugget of hope that turned into a reality, as you will see in the next point.
9. Get busy. Once you’ve carved out time for yourself, get out into the wide world and get yourself doing something good. Could be volunteering, could be learning to teach yoga, or could be learning a new language. For me, it was taking a second part-time job in a challenging start-up environment. There, it came to pass that I met my current boyfriend. I have to admit that I was so into the new me (which was really just loving the old me) that I was somewhat unaware of his advances … the many “ciaos” and glances throughout the day that added up to something. I briefed myself to expect the worst: “He just wants to be friends and practice his English.” “He’s gay—I mean, being so stylish and graceful and friendly, he must be.”
10. Resist the rebound, and good things come your way. Don’t risk your emotions and harm your physical health by getting hot and heavy with the next hottie. Take things slowly with someone great, and you may see a beautiful relationship unfold. Easier said than done, but if the next guy really cares for you, he may be just as eager to take things slowly. And no, it does not mean he is gay!
11. This is my over-indulgent side coming out, but by all means, if you can, date an Italian! They love-ah to love-ah, and they are so very good at it!