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June 29, 2011 7:16 AM   Subscribe

What are some healthy ways to mark the amicable end of a long-term relationship and the start of my new, single life?

I'm going to end my long-term (> 5 years) relationship tomorrow. We're both good, kind people stuck in a not-so-great situation, and although it might have worked out, the end won't come as a surprise, at all. It won't be pleasant, but I'm not expecting unusual amounts of drama. We're not currently living together, so there won't be a whole lot of practical stuff to sort out.

I stand to lose a few friends in the breakup, at least temporarily, which means I might be a bit lonely for a while. Drinking all night and sleeping with strangers isn't really my style. What are some healthy ways to mark the loss of something long cherished, and to begin to celebrate the start of a new chapter in my life? When moving on doesn't mean packing boxes and calling lawyers, what can I do to deliberately start afresh?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry you're going through this (even if you know it's for the best, it still kind of sucks).

I'd do...some kind of longish trip, if you can swing it. Something that pushes your boundaries just a touch -- and something solo, something you've not done before. Maybe a solo road trip, or solo camping, or something like that. Something that gives you some challenges to face, but also time and space to reflect and process what happened. If you can do that during the very early aftermath it also saves you from being in town while everything is fresh and hurts most so you won't be doing that "oh there's that restaurant we both loved, o woe is me alas" thing all the time.

Travel can be transformative as it is, and I've found travel right after a breakup can be doubly so. good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:25 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

One of my traditional post-breakup rituals was to go get a new haircut. It helped me feel I had a new head, in a way, and was starting fresh.

Are there any hobbies or activities you have been interested in but have either neglected or never pursued? Now is a great time to take up a new thing, a class, a hobby, something to bring you into contact with a new group of people, doing something you enjoy.
posted by ambrosia at 7:32 AM on June 29, 2011 [7 favorites]

Clean your house, your wardrobe, your car. Engage in a bit of retail therapy, but don't go overboard. Read and write a bit, either to reflect or to escape.

Do some yoga, go running, or anything along those lines.
posted by knile at 7:35 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding the travel suggestion. My best friend got a tattoo after the end of a long relationship and he felt it was a great way to mark the transition, but I would personally find that a little too permanent for my tastes.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 7:44 AM on June 29, 2011

Echoing what people above said: movement & cleaning can help. Whether it is international travel, national travel, or simply a lot of walks in your own community with a camera. With music! At least I live with soundtracks and really appreciate them. Empowering, healing, tear.allowing music accompanying the travel or cleaning can be wonderful. In terms of cleaning, the house, your wardrobe for sure. Perhaps donate things that you two purchased together that you don't want or need to others in need (Goodwill, etc.). Haircuts are always nice. Maybe a day at a spa or a massage. Cook a lot of good meals with friends. Oh, back to movement, bike rides if you are able and interested are great - going down hill fast always feels cleansing/healing to me. Go dancing with friends! AND, allow yourself to feel - five years is a long time. Even if the end of your romantic/relationship is amicable, expected, it doesn't mean that you won't feel something or a lot of something. I think people are really hard on themselves to move move move on quickly. I am not sure that our bodies and souls can move that fast.
posted by anya32 at 7:52 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bonfire on the beach (with or without ritual burning of significant relationship objects) and a midnight leap into the ocean.

Also, get a new bed/sheets--reclaim that space for yourself.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:58 AM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding the new sheets suggestion. If possible, rearrange the furniture in the bedroom too, it will give you a whole new perspective- literally and figuratively.
posted by mareli at 8:12 AM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Nthing new hobbies, especially a sport that is solo but can be social. When I moved to a new city last fall I only knew a few people and I didn't see them very often. I tried rock climbing at an indoor gym and even though I went alone most of the time I ended up meeting various people and even though I don't need to be with anyone else when I go to the gym I often run into people I know and it makes it a lot more fun. It's like starting a new long-term project; it can take a long time to get anywhere near competent but the journey there is the fun part. I've heard yoga and running can be similarly solo+social (classes, road runners, etc.)
posted by mishamashes at 8:15 AM on June 29, 2011

Write down any bad memories and feelings you have from the history of this relationship, and from the breakup itself.

Then on a separate page, write down all the good memories and reasons why breaking up was the right thing to do.

Go somewhere nice and peaceful. Read the first list, and then burn it.

Read the second list, put it in your pocket, and take it home with you to keep somewhere safe.

Once you've done all the above in the literal sense, you just have to remember to keep doing it in the figurative sense, too.
posted by FishBike at 8:16 AM on June 29, 2011

A friend of mine and I recently both went through this, and we found cleaning out our underwear drawers and going and buying a whole bunch of new panties to be rather awesome.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 9:06 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

After a three year relationship and mutual-agreed breakup, I did a few of the suggestions offered here... cleaned house, traveled, got a tattoo, and took up a new hobby. It was good to do these things independently, as ways of marking my territory anew, so to speak: my home, my body, my schedule. It felt clean and surprisingly refreshing.

Though I don't have any advice on losing some friends - some that I thought would be temporary losses weren't, and vice verso. This is the part that takes more time to even out, or has been for me. Good luck to you!
posted by jymelyne at 9:25 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am going through something very similar. The relationship had to end, but it's just excrutiating to lose such a close friend. I don't feel much hope at the moment, but I think it's important to remember that even doign the right thing can be very painful, and life can still go on and be wonderful, but it takes a bit of work. Make sure to be OK with not feeling OK, if that makes sense.

I did drink too much at first. That did not help. When I need to distract myself now I watch a movie. I have also been cycling a lot around town and trying to see friends and playing soccer. Excercise helps me feel good about myself and helps me sleep.

I wish you the best. This kind of decision takes courage.
posted by beau jackson at 9:39 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got a dog, which worked perfectly: it's great company when you're lonely, it gives you something to take care of rather than your partner, and you will meet tons of friendly people on every walk!

(Also, getting highlights and losing 20 lbs was a nice transitional marker as well.)
posted by Pomo at 9:42 AM on June 29, 2011

Have a set amount of time in which you let yourself mope. Eat ice cream, rant to girlfriends and feel everything you need to feel. Watch lots of sad movies, cry a lot etc. After your alloted time, pick yourself back up and start on a personal project of some kind and work on building yourself into a healthy individual.

Look at the kind of person you want to be. Make a list of the traits which you would like to have. Actively start working on acquiring those traits. You no longer will be working on a relationship, so you will have time to work on yourself.
posted by becomingly at 10:42 AM on June 29, 2011

Surround yourself with hope and possibilities for how to write this future, even if you can't actively chase it yet. It gives you something to look toward. And another day when your head and heart are fully healed you'll decide which roads to take and how you want to travel. This is not necessarily sexual or romantic. This is "I might like to take up martial arts...I wonder what kinds would interest me." Or, "I don't have any friends who are singers/dancers/artists...if I explored that some more, I wonder how it would change me." Or, "I've never been to Turkey or Mexico or South Africa...I wonder which one I should see first." And most importantly, "After 5+ years of commitment, I wonder who I'll be a year from now."

Tomorrow is Day 1 of exploring all possible paths with unhinged freedom. Become more aware of that ongoing dialogue with yourself, so you can note how it's changing. Writing is always good, but don't forget that the places you go, the thoughts you have, the ways you reach out to others and the things you buy and sell and hold and carry and cherish and let go of are all part of that long conversation, too.

So I guess what I'm saying is that there are lots of ways to commemorate amicable ends and fresh starts and I'm sure others will come up with some great ideas to make that tangible. Just don't overlook that by each day of being and working on being more present you are already honouring your past and marking the celebration of your life.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:50 AM on June 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

For me starting on a new exercise program and doing activities where I was likely to make new friends and meet new men was really helpful.
posted by bananafish at 11:54 AM on June 29, 2011

New bedding. It will give you a fresh start whenever you start seeing someone new.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:45 PM on June 29, 2011

Getting your hair done and singing along really loudly to Alkaline Trio and The Descendents.

You might want to only do the first part.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:13 PM on June 29, 2011

I tend to go a dramatic new hair cut & colour route myself. So whenever you look in the mirror you see a new you. If you're staying in the same place you lived before then maybe rearrange our furniture etc as well along with a major spring clean of the place it would feels like a symbolically new house as well. Of course if you want to take comfort in the familiar that might not be a good way to go.

The advantage of moving furniture around and cleaning is that you will be busy so it will help stop you brooding and exercise will help you sleep without doing all that horrible laying awake second guessing thing. (It may just be me that does that after a break up).

Getting a pet if you are a pet sort of person would be good too. If you get a dog taking it to training classes and for walks etc is a great way to make new friends too.
posted by wwax at 6:37 PM on June 30, 2011

Are there any foods or activities that you enjoy that your partner didn't, and thus you didn't get to enjoy them as often? It can feel really good to enjoy this kind of thing without guilt. This might be a little extreme, but when I broke up with my strict vegetarian boyfriend of seven years, I went on a total binge of eating and cooking a lot of meat (I'd never really been a vegetarian but I never cooked meat and rarely ate it out of respect for the boyfriend). I learned how to cook a bunch of stuff I'd never cooked before, and I had a nice dinner party with some of my close friends. It was especially nice as a thank-you to the people who had helped me out with logistics and emotional support during the lead-up and aftermath of the breakup.
posted by crowyhead at 11:31 AM on July 1, 2011

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