23 November 2011, 14:20
How do you stay so optimistic even though the world around us has so many problems? Everyday I see awful things on the news (war, famine, class inequality, etc), and even my work is slowly taking a toll on me. I’m an environmental scientist, and it is both sad and scary to see just how much of a mess the world is in.
I’ve been trying to focus on the smaller things instead — Look how nice the trees outside are! Look how awesome this cake is! Look at all of the postcards I just got in the mail! And so on. But it’s becoming increasingly hard to do this.
I used to be a much happier person when I was younger and more oblivious to these sorts of things! Is this just a normal part of growing up?
It’s certainly easier to ignore the bleakness of the world when you’re younger. There are reasons why the old envy the young, & it often has very little to do with mobility! Naïveté & youthful optimism are wonderful things, & they can empower us to take on enormous tasks with tremendous enthusiasm.
I’ve noticed the same thing as you, though. I don’t know whether I’ve been in NYC too long, or whether it’s a natural part of aging, but these days, I find it increasingly difficult to ignore the injustices all around us. Sometimes when I walk down the street & see homeless veterans begging for change — when everyone ignoring them is clutching an iPhone while slurping an enormous Starbucks beverage — it makes my heart hurt. Really, the only solution for this is to do as much good as you can.
I recently started working with New York Cares, an incredible organisation of volunteers throughout the five boroughs. After you’ve attended one of their orientation sessions — which lasts about an hour & is incredibly painless! — you’re able to browse through their site of volunteer opportunities, & sign up for whatever interests you. You can practically do anything you like, whether it’s reading stories to children, helping immigrants strengthen their English skills, walking dogs or feeding people in a soup kitchen. The best part is that all the placements are really fun!
My first New York Cares session was at PS 140 M-Nathan Straus, a school in the Lower East Side, doing something called “Art Explorers”. Officially, Art Explorers is “an innovative program that uses games and art projects to promote positive self-esteem, team building & communication skills.” Unofficially, it’s a BLAST! I spent the afternoon with an excitable bunch of 7 year olds, making hand turkeys complete with googly eyes, loose feathers & psychedelic pom-poms. I made one too, & brought it home to stick on our magnetic front door. (Don’t tell anyone!)
Volunteering my time (& enthusiasm!) is one way that I choose to contribute to the world. It’s a way that I can “show up” & be present. If I can help a 7 year old girl with her spelling & make her smile with my pink hair, or if a woman reads an article on this blog that helps her, then I think I’ve done something good. It makes it easier to deal with those difficult things we’re all faced with. It also makes you realise that if you see injustice or unfairness or sadness, you can get in there & DO SOMETHING about it!
We don’t have to sit around & watch the news & feel maudlin about what is going on. We are not helpless. We can ALL contribute something positive. The only thing that’s required is your own willingness to make a change.
As we get older we are presented with a choice. We can choose to grow into cynical, cranky, distrustful curmudgeons, or we can decide to be strong, brave & happy. We can choose to focus on the horrible, ugly parts of life, or we can put our attention onto — & our energy into — the good things. As my friend Mike Dooley says, “thoughts become things”, & it is an irrefutable fact that we get more of what we focus our attention on.
It’s easy to be miserable. You only need to look around you to see how true this is! Conversely, being happy requires constant effort. You might not hit the mark every day — & few of us do — but you have to keep trying.
Being thankful & staying in a state of gratitude as often as possible is a major part of the happiness puzzle. I used to think that was all there was to it, but I’m discovering that it’s not. Actively devoting your time to a cause that is bigger than you is another massive piece of the riddle. Whether it’s helping children or elderly people, cleaning up the environment or educating teenagers, this idea of HELPING OTHERS gives our lives deeper meaning, & ultimately, more happiness.
Here’s a fake statistic for you: 9 out of 10 billionaire rockstars polled said that the act of becoming a billionaire rockstar didn’t bring any more meaning or happiness to their life. Okay, I know that’s a fake statistic, but anyone who has been famous, wealthy or good lookin’ will tell you that these things don’t make you any happier! There’s a reason why the most successful people (see: Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt, Russell Simmons & Sir Richard Branson) donate their time, money & energy to bigger causes. It’s not because they want a tax write-off or good press — they do it because it brings meaning to their lives.
Photo by Joey Lawrence.
I know that sometimes it can feel hopeless. Short of single-handedly destroying a monstrous Earth-bound asteroid, none of us are ever going to save the world, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon all hope! It doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice our lives to a million charities or people in need, either. The best thing is to choose a few causes which really mean something to you, & then figure out the best way to help.
If you’re cashed up, maybe a financial donation is the smartest way for you to contribute. If you’re looking for a job, perhaps volunteering a few hours a week will bring you some joy. If you have a particular skill or talent, why not ask around & see if there’s some way you could use that to benefit others?
Volunteering & helping other people isn’t just for bleeding hearts or celebrities with a lot of dough. When you match up with the right cause, it’s SERIOUSLY fun, it makes you feel SUPER-good, & it does SO much for others. (I mean, I got to make a hand turkey yesterday! It was awesome!)
Illustration by Raphaël Vicenzi.
The truth is there are always going to be terrible things & sad stories, ranging in seriousness from war, senseless violence & abuse down to ill-fitting underpants & terrible room-mates. Switch off the news if it’s too much for your soul to take, & start improving the lives of the people around you. There are so many ways you can help your friends, family, neighbourhood, city, state or country, & sitting around feeling bad, miserable or guilty is not one of them.
We have to turn up in the world, & be bold enough to ask, “How can I help?” It comes down to doing the best we can with what we’ve got, doing the right thing as often as possible, & being kind. Don’t close yourself off from other people; stay open & always do what your heart is telling you to do.
If you see someone who looks hungry, offer to buy them a sandwich. If you have a spare coat in your closet, donate it to someone in need or even organise a coat drive in your area. If you know someone who will be alone these holidays, invite them over for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
It’s so simple, but your actions can help change the course of someone else’s life… & make you smile in the process.
"I'm So Jealous!": How To Deal With The Green-Eyed Monster When It Threatens To Get The Best Of You!
26 September 2011, 13:29
Photo by La Caitlin.
This is a blast-from-the-past article, which I had totally forgotten about until @tenaciousleigh reminded me of it! I originally wrote it way back in 2007 — yeah, four years ago! — but it is no less relevant today than it was then…
From a reader: “I really think you should do an article on dealing with jealousy. I just got hit really badly today with jealousy since my friend got accepted to this school and I got rejected from mine, even though the ones I applied to are way harder to get into. I just feel like it is unfair since she has not-so-great grades and doesn’t try, while I put my all into everything I do and have straight A’s. It’s hard to explain. But the green-eyed-monster affects us all sometimes…”
This is such a huge topic, & even though the request was for advice as relates to jealousy between friends, I’m going to include some things regarding jealousy in an intimate relationship too.
“The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.” (William Penn)
Jealousy is an incredibly destructive emotion. If it gets out of control, it can rip your life & relationships apart. Sark has some great things to say about jealousy in her book The Bodacious Book Of Succulence. She says that we should think of jealousy as a gift — that, ultimately, it is helpful because it points the way towards where we might like to go.
Jealousy teaches us a lot about ourselves. If we can step back from the emotions flaring up, a more thorough examination of the situation can be a complete revelation. Why are you jealous of Jane? Do you think she’ll leave you for someone else? Do you feel unpopular in comparison? Does being around her make you feel like a dunce?
I also learnt from Sark that jealousy gets bigger if you try to keep a lid on it, or pretend that it’s not there. She wrote that saying, “I am so jealous!” aloud — especially to the person you’re green about — removes all its power. I don’t completely agree with that though. Doing this might make you feel a little bit better, but it won’t completely remove the emotion, & you have no control over how the other person is going to react to you. For all you know, they could be completely snide & hideous about it, which would only make you feel worse. Use your judgement if you decide to express your jealousy!
The reason jealousy is so destructive is that the whole reason it exists is because you are comparing yourself to someone else. We all do this at some point or another, but we could devote our lives to making comparisons between ourselves & whoever — it doesn’t alter reality in any real way! You will still be you, & they will still be whoever they are. I remember reading Freaky Friday when I was a kid, about a mother & daughter swapping places — fortunately, life isn’t like that!
Another thing about jealousy is that it can be so all-consuming that it can completely blind you to reality. People feel jealous of others because they’ve made a value judgment (“Sarah has wealthier parents than I do”) & attached importance to it (“I believe having wealthy parents is significant”). In this example, why is having a well-to-do family important to you? Additionally, your assumption that so-&-so is better off than you isn’t even true for everyone. The Crown Prince of Brunei, for example, would probably think Sarah’s parents were little more than well-dressed vagrants. The whole thing is very subjective.
How about Kate Moss? If you compare yourself to her, you might feel bad about yourself. She is probably slimmer, more photogenic, more stylish, wealthier etc. However, she has dated a string of men who treated her terribly, & has a slew of paparazzi who follow her everywhere & document her every move. This is not to even mention her past battles with drugs. If she was actually happy & liked herself, somehow I doubt she would have dated such deadbeats, or consumed drugs so ferociously. Hopefully, she is happier these days, though it is almost impossible to know.
So it may be that Sarah’s parents have more money than you, but her father is never around & her mother drinks herself into a coma every night. Do you see what I’m getting at? No one really knows the true story of anybody else, & it is ridiculous to assume you do.
Photo by La Caitlin.
Deep down, you know all of this already. The problem is that feeling jealous is an effect, not a cause. Really, regardless of the reason you’re jealous — that worry about being abandoned, feeling scared of being stupid, etc. — all comes from one place.
Jealousy stems from the fear that you do not have value or any special attributes of your own. It is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy in that, because you believe you have little or no value, you will be constantly looking to reaffirm this. So you see people who appear to be doing better than you, & it “proves” to you that you were right — you really are useless.
It is so easy for us to feel bad about ourselves in this society where we are told we have to consume to be cool, we have to guzzle diet pills to be beautiful, we have to be straight fall in love get married have children make lotsa cash fall in line OR ELSE!
While identifying your jealousy is worth doing, there aren’t a lot of practical steps you can take to get rid of it. The only way to really remedy this whole thing — the source of your jealousy — is to concentrate on yourself. You need to practice some major RADICAL SELF LOVE, baby! Learn to love & value yourself — then you won’t be constantly seeking people to weigh yourself up against. Stop comparing yourself to other people, for your own sake.
Make a decision right now: that you will put yourself first, & that your personal happiness & security are your top priority. Then go about making that your reality, in a 100% healthy, constructive way. Work on yourself from the ground up, in a holistic manner. Start journalling & sorting out your feelings. Read up on the concept of radical self love. Listen to what your mind & body are trying to tell you, then act on it. If you need to see a nutritionist, a therapist, a spiritual guru, do it! If you need to get in touch with your estranged family & clear the air, start now! If you need to cull negative people from your life, please go right ahead!
Improve yourself every day! Take your radical self love bible, go to a cafe & make yourself some goals. Make a list of things you like about yourself & refer to them all the time — if you can’t write the list, get a good friend to start it for you! Think about things that would make you happy, & write them down. Do you want to study in Paris or become a famous photographer? Start making steps in the right direction — take an extracurricular class or make it your aim to shoot 5 great photos a week.
Do whatever it takes to make you feel good. That might mean weird changes occur, like you stop going out drinking with your friends every weekend, or you turn down that girl you’re really interested in, because you know she’s cruel to her lovers. Do what you have to do. If you have to pretend that you care about yourself, do that. It’ll get easier.
In the meantime, try to be happy for your friend. Something that we can easily lose sight of is the fact that just because this or that wonderful thing has happened to someone, that doesn’t mean their life is all beer & skittles! They are still going to have challenges & difficulties, sometimes related to this jealousy-causing event, & sometimes not. They still need your friendship & your support. Don’t pull that from them just because you are dealing with your own stuff.
Continue to concentrate on you, you, you. Discover who you want to be & what you want to do. It’s such an exciting process, which makes the whole thing worth it. Sometimes you might find it scary, but push through. It will make you a better person. As you go through this process, you could find yourself backsliding a bit. Jealousy might start to rear its ugly head, but now it will be much less painful, & you’ll shake it off quickly.
The more you know & like yourself, the happier you will be. You’ll be more in control of your life, with the ability to steer it anywhere you want to. You will no longer feel the need to criticise everyone you know. The coat of jealousy will slip from your shoulders into the street, & you will walk on oblivious.
Working on your self-esteem is not a cure-all, but it is an essential building block. If you don’t have it, suffice to say that life will be much harder. Baby, you don’t need that! Do yourself a favour!
You are an incredible person with your own uniquely brilliant qualities: know that, & trust that. It might sound crazy, but maybe your friends are jealous of you too, sometimes! Being able to deal with these irrational emotions in a mature way is all part of growing up & becoming a healthy, happy person. You’ll get there! I promise!
31 August 2011, 14:43
Occasionally, I do really love myself. And it is wonderfully, deliriously enticing! But… It is so hard to stick to radical self love, when other people are trying to bring you down!
Yeah, my body isn’t perfect, but deep down I love it. I love the imperfections, and my teeny tiny curves, because I think they fit me. I think I am the way I should be.
But then you enter “girl’s world”, and you try to talk to your friends, and they’re so full of judgement and hidden fears and their own issues, they just don’t want to hear you’re happy. I know that I should get rid of frenemies, and I did, but even my friends struggle with themselves, and sometimes I feel they just can’t bear to hear another girl is happy with herself.
Occasionally I almost feel ashamed of sometimes liking myself. Isn’t that crazy? I think what it comes down to is that we’re taught to be unhappy with ourselves by so many sources in our lives (esp. media) that it is hard to stick up to yourself and proclaim radical self love!
This is so common. I think that speaking badly about ourselves is something that a lot of us bond over, not just women, but men too. Loathing can be very powerful. Not as powerful as love, but pretty powerful!
Plenty of people have friendships which were founded on mutual hatred of various things — loud eaters, for example, or slow people who take up the entire footpath, or babies, or themselves. It’s weird, but true. Hatred sticks people together like superglue.
Words have power. They affect us & the people around us. Talking shit about ourselves is infinitely harmful. It shapes a sad, negative view of who we are, which we then can’t help but expand upon, & it sends a loud, clear message to our friends & strangers alike. It lets potential romantic partners know that we don’t respect ourselves, & opens the door for people with less-than-honourable intentions, or who are messed up themselves. Even more than that, it shows other women that self-hatred is “normal” or acceptable or okay.
I’ve heard so many women say, “I never even knew it was possible to have something wrong with your (insert body part here) until I heard other women complaining about theirs!” Or you don’t realise your ears/nose/knees are supposedly imperfect until someone else makes fun of them. For example, I didn’t know my ears stuck out until some girl laughed at me on the school bus… & even these days, I won’t push my hair behind my ears! Some part of me is still that 6 year old girl, mortified by something outside of her control.
We hold onto these incidents & they form our identity. An event from our youth, viewed through the eyes of a child, can feel like a major trauma. As we get older, & gain more experience, we’re able to take things in stride… & yet some things which happened to us at a young age are just as fresh, just as devastating as they were 10, 20, even 30 years ago.
Now, about your friends. There’s a definite difference between a frenemy & a friend who happens to have her own self-esteem issues. A frenemy is either an enemy disguised as a friend, or a friend who is also your competitor & rival. A frenemy is someone who doesn’t want to see you succeed, do well or be happy. She is so damaged that she is incapable of wanting anything good for anyone other than herself. She doesn’t love herself, & that void sucks anything that is positive or joyful into it.
A lot of this stuff sprouts from the same place that causes women to compete with one another. We feel jealous & threatened & get all nutty. We think, Am I prettier than her? Is she going to steal my boyfriend/girlfriend? What if my best friend likes her more than me? What if she makes more money than I do? She’s happier than me & I HATE HER!
Part of radical self love is about knowing & recognising that there is more than enough for everyone. There are enough opportunities for all of us. There is enough love for everyone to have a big, heaping slice with a dollop of whipped cream. There is enough! When your container (this is a term I borrowed from the Angry Therapist, who is awesome, but “sense of self” works just as well) is uncertain or cracked or not fully-formed, you worry about lack all the time. You’re convinced that there is a finite amount of luck, success or love. You think that if Jennifer has (seemingly) secured a whole lot of good stuff, then you’ll be getting less… Like Santa Claus doles it out at Christmas time or something. “No happiness for you! You’ve been a very bad girl!”
This is clearly nonsense!
Further to that, as much as we make our judgments & are convinced that we’re right all the time, you can never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life! You’re not all-seeing & all-knowing; none of us are. It’s just like in relationships: we all have our opinions on whether John is good enough for our best friend, or whether Sally is being faithful to Joan, but the old cliche is true, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. The same is true of other people’s lives.
The good news is this: I don’t think you’re surrounded by frenemies. Like you said, you got rid of them a while ago. (Congratulations are in order!) I simply think your existing circle of friends are a bit dissatisfied with themselves. I don’t think they want to destroy you, like a frenemy would. They probably just find it hard dealing with their own issues when they look at you & you seem to be in such a better place.
Most people walk around with a pretty massive deficit of self love. It’s just not something we are taught — it’s usually something we have to figure out for ourselves. Some people learn it as they get older, after having made a lot of mistakes. Some people never learn it.
I believe that like attracts like. I have seen this principle prove itself over & over again within my own life, & the lives of my friends. For example, when I’m charming, good things happen to me. I get special treatment. When I go out of my way to help others, strangers do the same for me. When I choose to believe other people, trust them or have faith in them, 99% of the time it turns out wonderfully.
This is one way of saying that as you continue on your radical self love journey & begin to vibrate at a higher frequency, you will naturally begin to attract people who are at that same frequency. Some of the friends you have now, who are struggling with your newfound happiness & the discovery of the bright pink heart you have burning within you, will flutter away from you, like autumn leaves from a tree. But maybe a few girls will be so inspired by you that they will begin to work on themselves.
I’ve been through my fair share of friend break-ups, so I know how painful & difficult that can be, but ultimately all the friendships that have disintegrated have turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes it’s not until someone is no longer in your life that you realise how they were really affecting you. Sometimes those friendships shielded you from certain truths that you’re now free to explore.
Of course, this information doesn’t help you right now — it’s more like hopeful pieces for the future. What I would encourage is to continue being you & burning bright. The world is not served by you playing small or pretending to be less than you are. We are able to influence, encourage & inspire incredible acts of beauty & strength in other people simply by being ourselves. It is so important to keep that spark flickering in your heart, & not allow other people’s behaviour to dampen your spirit.
I know that you can do it. You are a radical self love warrior of the highest order! Every morning, imagine painting your face with sparkly, neon pink stripes. Think of your boots as magical totems which kick away hatred, self-loathing or angst with every step. Pull on a sweater which smells like sweet sugar & which has accompanied you on so many adventures. Every day of your life sets a new standard. Every morning, you have a new chance to be your own role model; your own heroine; your own superhero.
You can only do this when you are brave about who you are. You can only grow your radical self love journey when you face the truth about who you are head-on every day, when you refuse to shy away from your less wonderful traits or facets, & commit to working on them.
You are incredible. Your friends are learning so much just by being around you & witnessing your progress. You are doing the right thing. You are beautiful.
22 June 2011, 15:27
This article was originally published on March 15th, 2007, but given the amount of emails I receive on this very subject (boo!), it was clearly time to sass it up & repost it! Everything I said back then rings true today. I hope this isn’t an article you need, but if it is, then I send you all the love in the world. xoxox
“It’s over.” Boom. Now what?
People deal with the end of relationships in various ways. Some people go the healthy route (lots of therapy, good food, exercise & meditation, for example) & some go the unhealthy way (plenty to drink, sex with anyone who pays them a compliment, copious amounts of drugs which result in an annoying facial tic).
However you deal with it, the point is that it drives everyone a little mad. It is a harrowing time. It’s scary & heart-wrenching & makes you angry & is definitely a time for waterproof mascara. Even the tiniest thing can set you off. It’s okay to go — or simply be — a little nuts during this time. Honestly, it’s what is expected!
If you have recently given your lover the flick, or been the flickee, it’s important to allow yourself time to deal with it. You need to go easy on yourself. A simple way to do this is by getting your hands on a calendar. Work out the day you broke up on — say June 22nd. Page forward three months, to September. On the space for September 15th, write, “Get over it!” You now have three months worth of absolute wallowing. Cry, scream, watch episodes of Sex & The City & scream, “HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO AIDEN?!” Just do whatever you like. You may not need those three months, or even want them — but you have just given yourself permission to deal with the fall-out, toxic or otherwise.
The biggest break-up of my life was compounded by a transference of emotion which went awry. Terrible. (Read about transference — I think it’s pretty common, especially transference of emotion from your ex to a new paramour.) In my case, I’d left my boyfriend & totally ruined things with someone else, who had turned out to be a creep with no scruples whatsoever. I was living alone, miles from my friends & family, & I was incredibly lonely a lot of the time. I was working my ass off in a job which was kind of fun but paid badly, & one of my staff was nasty & malicious, with the ability to destroy your day with a simple comment. It was a bad time. Believe me.
How did I get through it? I listened to a lot of Fiona Apple, I smoked a lot of cigarettes (), I sat in bed every night with a bottle of Johnnie Walker & wrote stories — mostly stories about my love life, which were pretty dark, really. I went for long walks & cried myself to sleep, I didn’t eat much, & I considered moving home to live with my parents. Obviously, I was in a pretty bad emotional state, it was a very ugly time. Please don’t follow my example, it is a terrible one!
Instead, try the following…
Seriously, go easy on yourself
Just do what you want! Use this newfound freedom to actually do things you enjoy… Like watching every single teenage cheerleading movie you love, or listening to really loud apocalyptic folk music. Sleep when you want to, eat in bed, do whatever feels right. Indulge yourself! Luxuriate in what YOU want to do!
Spend time with your friends
If you, like so many other people, have slightly abandoned your friends in favour of your lover (a terrible sin), you need to make it up to them. Take them out for coffee, a meal, go to the park, go shopping, talk a lot. Apologise. If you didn’t abandon them, do the same things, but less apologising! Your friends are so essential at this time, so make good use of them & be as kind to them as possible.
If you don’t have a lot of friends, make an effort to be social & get out of the house. During the break-up I mentioned earlier, I enrolled for a creative writing course at the university near my house. We met up once a week on a Tuesday night & would workshop everything the other people had written. It was really good for me & definitely helped boost my confidence (I was the youngest person in the class & they really helped me come out of my shell). It also made me feel like I was good at something, rather than feeling like a big Love Trainwreck. You might want to try something similar, friends or no.
Try not to talk about Mickey or Griselda too much!
I know that a little ex-obsession is normal, but after a while you will begin to sound like a broken record & your friends will be sitting on their hands, trying not to maim you! After the break-up, allow yourself two weeks maximum to talk about your ex, then go cold turkey. No more! It’s not helping you, & you’re annoying everyone else. (Trust me!)
If you must think about it, get a notebook & start writing. I have filled up several notebooks this way. When I was obsessing over one particular person — & really, it was obsession — I used to write about him on the bus on the way to work, on all my lunchbreaks, on the way home, & after dinner. It is crazy, I can’t believe I had so many thoughts! But, well, I did. & getting it all down really, really helped.
Find some kind of outlet
Do something to keep your mind occupied. It’s important to have something else to focus on. Throwing yourself into a grand project is a great way to get your mind off your ex & help move you forward.
If you’re an artistic sort, then do what comes naturally — paint or write or make music to your heart’s content. It is incredibly therapeutic. If you’re not very artistic, indulge yourself in sports, languages, books, record collecting, shopping, baking, angry cross-stitch, buying an entire house worth of furniture, etc.! Do whatever feels right to you.
Look after your body
If most of the year you are a complete slob like the rest of us, this is one time when you should really look after yourself. Eat as well as you can — don’t just resort to Burger King every night. Try & eat lots of fruit & vegetables, drink plenty of water (especially if your beautiful eyes insist on spilling so much of it!), sleep as much as you feel you need to & get a bit of exercise. You don’t have to go & make a mess of yourself in a gym somewhere, just go for a good walk every so often or ride your bike to the sea or something.
Again, after my last break-up, I would walk to & from work (it was about 45 minutes in each direction). I would take my camera with me & listen to my mp3 player & think. It was a really great experience & use of my time, even though I was miserable. I actually sometimes miss that walk.
Don’t do the “friends” thing
If your ex wants to stay friends, say no. If you want to be their friend, hold yourself back. TRUST ME when I say that it NEVER WORKS. It might work for a few months, but then the poop will hit the fan & you do not want to be around for it! Seriously!
If you are meant to be friends, it will happen again once you’ve both dealt with the demise of the relationship, but don’t force it. Especially while one or both of you are angry/grieving/scared/lonely/on the prowl. You don’t want to hear about their new lover, right? Ouch. Delete their phone number & email address, it will be good for you. Feels good.
Don’t sleep with them again!
I know, it’s very easy to do. But just don’t. It only complicates things further.
Don’t get back together without a lot of consideration
The same problems you used to have are probably still there. Why would it be any better this time? Try to engage the logical side of your brain as much as possible & if you’re not sure, WAIT!
Indulge in a little radical self lovin’!
Go to the movies alone & eat a jumbo box of popcorn, get a massage, have a manicure, clean the house (it will make you feel great), buy a good pair of shoes. Scream if you want to. Buy new sex toys. Punch pillows if you’re really angry (I never found that very satisfying but for some people it works a treat).
Don’t jump into another relationship or sleep with anyone…
No matter how perfect they seem! You’re probably not ready & it might take you a while, so give yourself some time. I know it’s tempting to go out seeking positive attention & compliments, but if you can practise a little self-control, it will turn out much better.
Just leaping into bed with someone new — before you’ve dealt with your emotions about your last lover — will end in a terrible mess, & it won’t take long for your new lover to realise they are a rebound. I think everyone has done this at least once before, but let’s learn from our mistakes & not do it again, huh?!
Read uplifting books & watch movies which make you happy
Here are some suggestions if you don’t know where to start — they run the gamut from funny to insightful to bizarre & inspiring.
Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block. Fear Of Flying by Erica Jong. What’s Not To Love? by Jonathan Ames. The Unbearable Lightness Of Being by Milan Kundera. The Princess Bride by William Goldman. T.A.Z. by Hakim Bey (available online). Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami. Pronoia Is The Antidote For Paranoia by Rob Brezsny. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. I also heartily recommend anything by John Steinbeck, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Roald Dahl, Franz Kafka or Charles Bukowski.
As for movies, my taste is questionable at best — I watch New York Minute often. Yes, the movie featuring Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen. I love it & I am not ashamed! However, I did write a cute little piece called 33 Movies To Watch When You’re Sad, Glum Or Bummed Out!
Really though, in winter, there is nothing better than going home with a huge stack of books from the library on bizarre subjects. Yesterday at the library I saw something like, “A Complete Illustrated History of Cannibalism”, which is about the best thing I can think of!
Think about yourself
What do you want for yourself? What do you want to do in the future? Did your boyfriend hate Europe which prevented you from travelling there? Well guess what baby, you can do it now! Take time to work out who you are again. Sometimes in a relationship it is hard to know where the couple ends & you begin. I evolve so much whenever I break up with someone (!), & completely for the better.
Photo by Gaby J Photography.
Maybe you’re wondering how my most horrible break-up turned out. Well, within a year, I had travelled to four countries, moved internationally, started my own business, gone camping in a desert full of crazy people (also called Burning Man), obtained another half-sleeve tattoo, dyed my hair pink, removed all my piercings, started wearing COLOUR & embracing it, shaken off depression & an eating disorder, stopped biting my nails, & met someone new (who I was with for almost two years). Lots of other stuff happened too, like I had my first chocolate & peanut butter milkshake, oh my god, so good!... but they’re not major things!
Life goes on & it is amazing regardless of whether you have a lover or not!
Being single is fantastic. It can be lonely sometimes, but you will grow to enjoy your own company & really embrace life again soon, I promise. Everybody gets through it, even though I know right now it might seem like the most devastatingly hideous thing ever.
Please be good to yourself. Lots of kisses, let me know how you’re getting on & if there’s anything I can do to help you. Chin up, cutie!
17 May 2011, 10:37
“My boyfriend of 3 years told me that he isn’t sure if he loves me anymore. This came pretty much out of the blue, and I was obviously completely crushed. He assured me there is no-one else (and I trust him 100% there) and that he still likes me/finds me attractive. He feels like this is something that we should work on. He is keen to make things better and thinks that this may be something that we have let happen through laziness/becoming more like friends than lovers. I completely agree with him and together we are taking steps to make our relationship more exciting and get that spark back! However, I’m really struggling with staying positive. My last serious relationship ended in exactly this way, with him telling me he didn’t love me anymore, except he broke up with me immediately rather than trying to work things out. I guess I’m just finding it really hard to stay happy and give this my all when I keep wondering, ‘What if?’”
1. This is his issue, & contrary to what you may initially think, it has nothing to do with you. Who knows what he’s looking for? You came into the relationship with honesty & authenticity; you are who you said you were when you first met. If that is not something he wants anymore, that is not something you can take personally. In other words, don’t internalise his dilemma, as difficult as that may sound. Additionally, trying to second-guess his reasons or motivations will drive you mad.
2. At the same time, relationships are complicated. The road is seldom smooth, & the bumps (or potholes!) are an opportunity to take your relationship to a new place. So here you go. Here’s your chance.
3. Other people will give you different advice. When I brought up your situation on Twitter, about 60% of the responses said, “Work on it” & 40% thought you should cut your losses & leave. Perhaps even more surprisingly, at least 3 of the women who advised leaving are married! But the internet is not in charge of your relationship. You also didn’t ask whether you should stay or go — you have made your decision. You said you want to keep at it, & work on it. So here are my thoughts on how to do that, & stay sane.
Take a breath. This change within your relationship — this flux, this instability — happens to almost all couples. Don’t feel like you are out on a limb, or some kind of freaky relationship failure unit. You are not. Relationships are always changing; this is simply part of life. The bond between best friends can break, the closeness of a family can vary, & romantic liaisons are always being tweaked. This situation is almost shockingly normal — the only constant in life is change.
I think that your guy is a keeper. Your previous boyfriend was clearly not au fait with the nature of adult relationships — i.e., that they require work & effort in order to thrive, & that it’s not sparkles & unicorns all the time. While it definitely hurts to hear, “I’m not sure if I’m in love with you anymore”, I give him props for having the personal bravery & courage to tell you that. If nothing else, at least you know he’s being honest.
I wanted to get as many opinions as possible so I could answer your question with as much depth as I could muster. A couple of people on Twitter said that when it comes to love, either you know or you don’t — & if you (or they) are unsure, you should get out immediately. While in theory I agree with this advice, & I think waiting around for someone else is immensely painful & damaging to your self esteem, I also don’t believe love is so black & white. People have issues, & it would be naïve of us to believe that these issues don’t colour our relationships or the way we conduct ourselves.
Guys who can’t commit are one thing, & it pains me to hear from girls who are waiting around for their boy — emphasis on the word “boy” — to grow up & decide to settle down. (Quite often, this never happens!) But from your email, it sounds like your boyfriend is serious about you. You share a house, & you’ve been together for three years. I don’t think he is afraid of commitment, & I believe you when you say you trust him.
It’s almost impossible to speculate about what your boyfriend is going through, or where it started. So try not to dwell on it, or on things you both did in the past which got you here. Don’t woulda-coulda-shoulda yourself into analysis paralysis. Instead, think about how you can improve your intersecting futures.
I’m not going to lie to you: sorting through a relationship & repairing the parts of it which are weak or strained is a lot of work. It takes immense courage & personal bravery to sort through the detritus of a relationship, to dismantle it & discover what makes it tick (or explode).
It’s definitely much easier to just scrap the whole thing & start fresh with someone else — but if you never learn how to deal with the fact that it’s not love & rockets 24/7, you’re simply going to have the same problem over & over again.
The truth is that sometimes lovers become best friends, & eventually, the fluttering of butterflies fades. It can be sucky to discover that just showing up isn’t enough to ignite a firework display anymore. Thankfully, you’re not the only one who has ever had this problem. Bookstores across the world are stacked with tomes on how to reinvigorate a relationship that has had the volume turned down. I know you’re not married, but you could have a look at these titles in your quest for information: How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, Starting Your Marriage Right: What You Need to Know in the Early Years to Make It Last a Lifetime, or Fighting for Your Marriage: A Deluxe Revised Edition of the Classic Best-seller for Enhancing Marriage and Preventing Divorce. The reviews for those titles are immensely positive, & as long as you put the principles into practice, you should find success!
Another thing you might find useful in this new era of your relationship is an article I wrote last year: When The Magic Fades & The Doldrums Set In: How To Avoid Becoming One Of THOSE Couples!
Beyond that, it’s important to focus on you, & your wants & needs.
One thing that might ease the anguish is the knowledge that the chemicals in your body which create all that crazy-sexy-love stuff last two years from start to finish. Once the hormone levels start to decline — & this is a biological certainty! — we’re more inclined to cuddle than to engage in rampant sex. So, don’t feel like you’re somehow deficient or lacking because this has happened to you. It happens to everyone!
While the two of you are sorting through your relationship & where it falls short, remember to take care of yourself & make yourself happy. There are many excellent reasons for this!
First & foremost, your happiness is the most important thing. Relationships don’t work if the people in them don’t know how to love or please themselves!
Secondly, if you’re constantly obsessing about the problems in your relationship, it will overshadow your entire world — & it shouldn’t. Remember who you used to be when you were single? You went out & had adventures all the time! You got dressed up! You had strong friendships & you took spontaneous trips away. Go get that girl back! It’s really important to invest this time in yourself.
Thirdly, a person with her own life & interests is so much more sexy than someone who hangs on her boyfriend’s every word! You’ll feel about a million times better about yourself when you really make an effort to put yourself first.
Sometimes getting through this phase of a relationship is as simple as switching up your daily routine, adding some variety to your sex life & having a few good conversations. I read something once which said that people are more inclined to have truthful, deep conversations if they are next to one another but not LOOKING at one another — which is one reason why it can be so beneficial to go for a walk & talk it out!
...But sometimes it isn’t that easy. You might want to think about visiting a relationship therapist or counsellor if you’re having trouble communicating with one another.
Use some of that time you’re spending channelling your inner single girl to work out what you want out of the relationship. It’s oh-so-easy to accept the status quo, & the truth is that you are steering the ship just as much as he is. Really spend some time thinking about it — do you want to stay in the relationship because you truly love him, or is it more that it’s convenient, or you fear change? If you decide you really do want to stay, what areas of the relationship are dissatisfactory or could use improvement?
This situation is not all about him — it is the perfect opportunity for you to get some things off your chest, too. That way you can both move forward into a new era of honesty & happiness.
It is totally okay to be pissed off, confused & feel nauseous all the time. If you want to scream & smash cutlery, GO FOR IT. (Though, preferably in private! It tends to scare others… !) It would be absolutely normal for your boyfriend’s confession to make you feel uprooted & ill. Try not to judge your own emotional process; just go through it. You need to feel all these things so you can move on.
Your boyfriend is keen to make changes, which is fantastic… But if he’s putting in all the work & you’re pissed off & punishing him for it, you’ll get nowhere fast. It’s important to recognise that you both need to work on your relationship if you want it to be a success. This is not a one-person show!
This article — about a man who said he didn’t love his wife any more, & how she decided she didn’t believe him — is absolutely amazing. Every time I read it, I get chills all over my body. The comments are amazing too, with a lot of talk about how “you didn’t allow his personal difficulty to be your point of insecurity” — a fantastic point. It is truly a story of “for better or worse”, & it is immensely inspiring.
I asked my magical Twitter coven (!!!) whether they had been through anything similar, & what their advice was. Here are some of my favourite responses.
@pincurlgirl Advise her to think of something that makes her happy instead of focusing on negative thoughts about him. It will help.
@erinloechner oh gracious poor girl. tell her to take a solo trip while he makes up his mind. she’ll need some perspective in a new space.
@ashemischief Having gone through something similiar— which lasted for 4 years— spend time on yourself. Be confident in what you do. and I fully believe that if he’s between 25-28 (ish) it’s not that he doesn’t love her, he just loves himself more right now! which goes for girls too—I think unattached people in that age range often go through a selfish phase & want them time first. I’m in it right now and boy does it make being in a relationship interesting at times! ;)
@jessicamahna If he did fall out of love, there isn’t anything wrong with her. They’re his feelings and she shouldn’t take it personally!
@dandyLionevents all relationships are in a constant state of flux. learn to grow with them.
@Allisomething You don’t fall out of love into friendship, you develop a deep friendship and then it’s up to you to nurture more intimacy.
@fragiledesigns when all else fails, there are 1000s of ways to love someone, and no one is better than another. what’s hard and painful is transitioning from one to another. that’s what you break your heart over (before you start to put it back together).
@Liizzziie Too often people drift apart without really understanding why. Keep being honest with each other, whatever the outcome. Try to woo each other all over again! If it doesn’t work out at least they’ll have memories full of fun instead of fighting!
@gnat23 Need to get adrenaline going. Get outta town, skydive… Like in the movies, after a big carchase/gun fight, guy and girl kiss.
@AHaefner It’s ok to be friends while you figure it out! It’s also ok for her to be very hurt and he should be understanding. My sweetie & I went through something like it….sometimes it works out! We’re living together now :)
@kirbyamour need to learn how to take turns bringing sparkles into the relationship, if it’s just one person it won’t work! Balance.
No one can gaze into a crystal ball & tell you how this will turn out. Will you survive? Will you rise from the ashes, triumphant? Or will you walk away covered in scratches?
The truth is that relationships are difficult. When two people tangle their hopes & egos, the results can be unpredictable at best. But relationships also give us the opportunity to grow & evolve beyond what we ever dreamed possible. Maybe in time you will be able to see this less-than-stellar situation as a window to a new future.
The really wonderful news is that love advances, transforms, & most importantly, deepens with time. Trials & tribulations are, eventually, the things that strengthen bonds & cement two people as partners — & the knowledge that you can overcome problems together gives you both the confidence & fortitude to tackle larger obstacles.
Hopefully, this will be but a brief hiccup on the path of everlasting lurve! & if not? There are hundreds — no, thousands — of men who would fall all over themselves for a chance to hold your hand during a movie!
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