How to Accept That It’s Time to Break Up

“Sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together.” ~Marilyn Monroe

I knew it was over and yet I stayed.

In my eyes, my relationship had run its course. I was fed up, tired, and emotionally drained, but I couldn’t get myself to pull the trigger. I didn’t know how to go through with it.

Because this was my first serious relationship, everything was new to me, including breaking up. He was my first love. We lived together, built a life together, and now I was throwing a wrench into all of our bright plans for the future.

After being with each other for over five years, our relationship had seen its ups and downs (as most relationships do). By that point, though, the honeymoon phase was a distant memory and our interactions with each other had devolved into petty fights, low blows, and toxic behavior.

I was lost, confused, and unhappy, until finally it hit me:

We weren’t right for each other.

Simple as that.

But still, I waited. For six months, in fact, until I reached a point when I couldn’t take it anymore.

That day, I sat my boyfriend down and told him exactly how I felt and that I was done. Through protests and tears, he packed a bag and moved to his mom’s house until I could figure out a different living situation.

The separation didn’t last long though.

I thought I’d be relieved to finally go through with the breakup, but my boyfriend’s reaction made me second-guess myself. I’d assumed that he was as fed up as I was with our relationship and, when I realized he wasn’t, the doubt crept in and I was even more confused than before.

So we tried again. This time, going to therapy with the hopes of working through our problems, but that didn’t work either.

A few months later (nearly a year after I realized that I wanted to break up in the first place), my boyfriend and I finally ended things for good.

I was left looking back at my relationship and wondering:

How could I have put myself through that? Why did I stay as long as I did? What would I do differently if I were to do it again?

Here’s what I wish I knew at the time.

1. Accept your feelings as valid.

It’s easy to get lost in your relationship and sacrifice your needs for the sake of your partner’s. That’s exactly what I did.

Instead of listening to my feelings and breaking up with my boyfriend, as I should have done, I doubted myself. Even when every fiber of my being was telling me “it’s time,” I held back and made excuses.

I was so worried my feelings could be wrong or temporary, and that I couldn’t trust myself. Could I be making a huge mistake I’d regret down the road?

Then I would think about my boyfriend’s feelings—how I was causing him pain and making him suffer. So why wouldn’t it be better to stick it out for his sake?

These anxious thoughts running through my head did nothing but keep me trapped in a cycle of fear, pain, anger, and frustration.

The bottom line was that I was unhappy. And I knew, somewhere deep inside, this wasn’t going to change.

After years of putting my feelings on the back burner, it was a hard reality to accept. But going through this process made me realize that I couldn’t stay in a relationship with someone I simply wasn’t happy with. It wasn’t fair to him or to me, and it left us both feeling miserable.

Sometimes you have to be a little selfish and put yourself first, and ending a relationship is one of those circumstances.

You also have to push through the fear that you may be making a mistake and trust that you truly do know what’s best for you. That doesn’t mean you’ll find someone else right away or you’ll never feel lonely when you’re single. It just means you know this particular relationship isn’t right for you, and it’s better to be with no one than the wrong one.

It may be difficult, but, through my own personal experience, I’ve found that the initial feelings I had a year before my official breakup are how I feel to this day. If I had listened then, I would have saved myself a great deal of trouble.

So if you’re struggling with the idea of a breakup, take a step back and focus on yourself. Be brutally honest with yourself and write down exactly how you feel without holding anything back.

It can be scary to face the facts, but if the same feelings pop up time and time again, then it’s time to listen. Your gut is trying to tell you something.

2. Focus on the now.

When the bad times outweigh the good, something needs to change.

My boyfriend and I shared a lot of good times together throughout the years. When we weren’t fighting about something, I thoroughly enjoyed his company and cherished the rare moments of peace we had together.

Even though the good moments in my relationship were far and few between, I would cling to those moments to justify my staying. Just when I thought I’d had enough and felt clear about my decision to leave, I would remember those happier times and my mind would instantly become clouded.

I idealized what our relationship once was instead of looking at it from the present circumstances. And the fact of the matter was that there wasn’t enough good to outweigh the bad.

So I made the decision to focus on the now.

Instead of allowing the past to creep in and fill me with doubt, I needed to face the facts and look at where my relationship was at that point in time. Doing so helped me pull away from my tendency to idealize the past and helped me move toward accepting the breakup for it what it was.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, shift your focus to the present. Think about where your relationship is currently and how you feel about it in the moment.

3. Create actionable plans for the future.

Fear was my biggest enemy during my breakup. I was absolutely terrified of what the future had in store.

Over the years, my boyfriend had become a crutch for me to rely on. We had developed an unhealthy level of codependency that was difficult for me to pull away from, mostly due to worries I had about being on my own and navigating life without a partner by my side.

The uncertainty of the future, while exciting for some, left me frozen with terror.

Will I be able to make it on my own? Will I be able to adapt? Where will I live? Will I ever find love again? Am I making a mistake?

Questions like these ran through my mind on a loop, filling me with anxiety that left me feeling trapped.

It wasn’t until I created a concrete plan that I was able to gain the confidence to finally take the necessary steps toward independence.

To combat the overwhelming list of tasks involved in breaking up, I broke my massive to-do list down into smaller, actionable steps.

For example, because I was living with my boyfriend at the time, I needed to find a new place to live. The first step was to figure out where I wanted to live and how much I wanted to spend. Then I needed to devote time to looking at listings and viewing apartments. Once I found a place, then I could shift my attention to packing and so on and so forth.

Breaking tasks down into smaller steps allowed me to focus on one thing at a time, which, in turn, gave me the confidence to move from paralysis to action.

So if you find that the thought of a breakup is too overwhelming, write everything you need to do down onto a piece of paper. Then break those tasks down into smaller steps so that it becomes less intimidating.

The road to accepting a breakup can be a long one. When worries, fears and doubts creep in, change can be that much more difficult. That’s when it’s important to look inward and focus on what’s happening inside of you.

The moment I shifted my focus onto myself, I was able to overcome my hesitation and make a clear decision. And today, the only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner.

Every relationship is different and everyone has their own path to discovering when it’s time for things to change. The key is to be able to tune in to that moment if and when the time comes.

Once it’s over and the dust settles, you’ll realize that breaking up isn’t always so bad.

About Sonya Barrett

Through her own spiritual wellness journey, Sonya aspires to help millennials use mindfulness to thrive in today’s world. Sign up for her free guide the Worry Detox for instant access to tips for adding more peace and calm into your daily life.

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Sharing Your Perspectives in Polarizing Times

We are in interesting times…Times where we often hear or believe that people have become too sensitive, taking offense to “every little thing.” Times where we often hear or believe that it’s good that we’re finally becoming more sensitive, recognizing the damage of perpetuating and propagating stereotypes and reinforcing “norms”.

If your Facebook feed looks anything like mine, there are many conversations happening about racial injustice, gender inequality, the nature of true freedom, the dance of speaking boldly while listening deeply, what kind of changes we want to see in our world, and of course…politics.

These conversations can take on a polarizing nature, calling forth people’s shame, conscious and unconscious biases, fear, anger, pain, and passion.

These conversations can spark division, and yet something is rising in the collective and it seems these conversations need to happen. Furthermore, they are happening.

In the face of this polarization, it can feel scary to voice our perspectives on any topic:

…what if someone challenges us and we don’t know what to say?

…what if we lose rapport because people don’t agree?

…what if we offend people, unintentionally?

…what if we’re judged for being shallow, insincere, insensitive, or inarticulate?

…what if our perspectives are actually contributing to the problem?

We may even find it difficult to share our beliefs because they’re shifting by the day, dissolving again and again into the chrysalis of uncertainty.

So, how do we take a clear stand?

As we navigate these times, it’s critical that we continue to voice our inspired ideas and deepest truths, while being open to shifting our perspectives, and willing to articulate those changes in perspective.

  • Shutting down and tuning-out when confronted by shame, confusion, or resistance remove our important voices from important conversations (and yes, even our questions are a valuable contribution).
  • Ignoring the aspects of our work or messaging that feel misaligned stunts (even harms) individual growth or collective progress.
  • Shutting out the perspectives of others that don’t match ours limits our ability to understand, empathize, and ultimately come together (and often signals a deeper fragility or rigidity within ourselves).
  • Avoiding or shutting down pain and anger within ourselves and others is antithetical to leading with love and compassion and prevents us from healing.
  • Being willing to shift our [often deeply held] perspectives, even if it means facing periods of painful uncertainty, is a sign of true leadership.
  • Acknowledging our changes in perspective and apologizing for ways we may have caused harm does not translate to “being hard on ourselves” or “revealing weakness”.

Leadership isn’t about knowing everything or always hitting the mark. On the contrary, it’s about standing for something we care about, and allowing the journey of taking that stand to shape us. @AskNisha (Click to Tweet!)

We share.

We listen.

We shape and reshape our views.

We deepen.

We share.

Leadership requires courage, curiosity, humility, receptivity, and a commitment to true, deep alignment.

In light of my commitment to leading with these values…

…To the woman I was in dialogue with on Facebook years ago, who felt excluded by my definition and use of the word “feminine”…

…To my friend whose husband emailed me and asked, “But what about mothers? How can they achieve mental clarity without space in their mornings?”…

…To any trans women who have felt excluded by my invitations into sisterhood, because of any ways it may have appeared that my work only welcomes cis women…

I’m sorry for any and all the ways that I’ve ever been insensitive.

I’m sorry for not including you, clearly, explicitly.

You are welcome here, always.

Thank you for being my teachers.

In the comments below, I’d love to hear how these times are impacting your voice and self-expression. Are you finding it challenging? Inspiring? I’d love to hear from you.

Nisha Moodley is a Women’s Leadership Coach and the creator of Fierce Fabulous Free, The Freedom Mastermind & The Virtual Sisterhood. Inspired by the belief that the world will be set free by women who are free & sisterhood is key to a woman’s freedom, Nisha creates communities of ambitious women to support them in redesigning their lives & businesses. Find her online at NishaMoodley.com and download her free Take Flight Action Guide to explore the next expansion of your freedom at TakeFlightActionGuide.com. You can follow Nisha on Twitter or FB.

Image courtesy of ROBIN WORRALL.

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What Is the Best Writing Advice You Have Received?

I was thrown out of graduate school because I thought women would only like me if I published a novel.

So every day, starting in 1990, I wrote 3,000 words a day. I’d go up to girls in bars and ask if I could read to them. 100% of them would say no. Or laugh in my face.

I sucked.

29 years later I don’t miss a day of writing. Which is a shame because that’s a lot of time I could have spent with my kids, my ex-wives, my parents, my friends.

I was delusional and I was mostly a loser. I got 1000s of rejection letters and still do. But I’ve also published 21 books (starting after 13 years of writing), some bestsellers.

Today I’m trying to improve more than ever. The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.

I suck more than ever.

And during that time, many people gave me advice.

A) DON’T HIT PUBLISH UNLESS YOU ARE AFRAID

If you are not afraid of what you are about to produce in the world, then chances are it’s been said or written before.

When you take chances, even if they don’t work out, you are starting to build your real voice.

B) EVERYTHING IS CONTENT

In 2001, I lost all of my money. In 2008, I lost all of my money. In 2004. In 2012.

In 1993, I visited a friend of mine in jail. In 1995 I started a company and hated it. In 1999, I started another one and lost everyone’s money, including one of my investors, a young man named Yasser Arafat.

In 2005, Bernie Madoff rejected a business idea of mine.

Last week, I eloped.

In 2003, I was obsessively trying to figure out how to kill myself without hurting myself after I got a letter from the IRS saying I hadn’t paid taxes in 17 years and now they wanted to meet me.

Yesterday, I bought a suitcase filled with Iraqi dinars from 2000 with Saddam Hussein’s face on them, that was smuggled out of Iraq in 2007.

In 1989, I blacked out drunk on the sidewalk in the middle of the night and woke up to someone peeing on me.

In 2008, I blacked out in an intersection in New York City with oncoming traffic in the middle of the night while it was raining.

In 2015, I was heckled while doing standup comedy and making too many obscene jokes about my mother, sex, my kids, and Auschwitz.

In 2004, my dad had a stroke after I had hung up on him six months earlier and refused all his calls until then. He died without me ever speaking to him again.

You have to live life to write about life.

C) TELL A STORY

Victor Frankl was taken by the Nazis to Auschwitz. His wife, his parents, his siblings were taken to different concentration camps and every day he wondered what was happening to them.

He used to stare at the fence enclosing the camp, imagining he saw his wife on the other side. This kept him going each day. The hope that he would see his wife again.

He would see other prisoners so despondent, they were either going to kill themselves or get killed.

He would whisper in their ears, giving them reasons to find some meaning in their lives so they would have hope for another day.

Eventually he got out of the concentration camps. He never saw his wife again. Or his parents. They had all been killed by the Nazis.

But he wrote about the importance of finding meaning in life.

He didn’t write advice: “Find meaning in life!”

In Man’s Search for Meaning, he told his story of being in the concentration camps and how his personal search for meaning kept him alive. Kept other prisoners alive.

The book is riveting. Or, I should say, the first half is because that is where he tells his story. The second half, his theory of “logotherapy,” is so boring I stopped reading.

He told his story and that’s how he made his point.

Every time you want to rant, or pontificate, think of a story to tell first. The more personal, the better.

D) THE JESUS EFFECT

Jesus was preaching all around Israel and gaining followers. But when he went to his hometown of Nazareth, they all laughed. “You are just the carpenter’s son!”

He had to leave town.

Don’t take it personally.

When you start doing something, you suck, and everyone around you knows it. They are all laughing at you.

In modern life, if you grow your skills at a job, you often have to switch jobs in order to get the salary you deserve. Everyone knows you as “the mailroom guy” or however you started.

Do not bother with the people who laugh. After even ONE YEAR of improving at anything, you are 99% better than the rest of the world at that activity.

Keep improving, but replace the people who are rejecting you.

E) SUCCESS = SKILL + PERSISTENCE + PRIOR SUCCESS

Anne Rice was suicidal after her first book wasn’t published. Then her five-year-old daughter died of leukemia and she became even more depressed.

But leukemia made her think of diseases of the blood (“everything is content”). Within five weeks she wrote Interview with a Vampire.

It got rejected by many publishers. Then she got a small advance and it was published.

She had the skill and she learned the additional skill of persistence (not an easy skill).

Then after it became a bestseller, it was not skill that got her her next major book deals or movie deals — it was the success of her first book.

Skill alone will not get you success.

FOCUSING ON PROCESS: building skill, building persistence, notching up small successes that will lead to bigger ones, will get you bigger successes.

If you focus on outcomes, you’ll fail. Anne Rice only failed when she focused too much on that first rejection.

ONLY focus on process.

F) TAKE OUT THE FIRST PARAGRAPH AND THE LAST PARAGRAPH

Even knowing this rule, it will work. Write your piece. Then take out the first paragraph and last paragraph. I will guarantee you the piece is better.

G) OBVIOUS STUFF: READ EVERY DAY. WRITE EVERY DAY.

I cheated. I’d pretend to work all day but I took an easy job so I only had to work 15 minutes a week (software).

Then I would lock the door and read all day.

Read only stuff you LOVE. Then you will start to emulate those writers. They will be your virtual mentors.

At the time I read books by Denis Johnson, Charles Bukowski, Hemingway, Lorrie Moore, Mary Gaitskill, Tama Janowitz, Margaret Atwood, and hundreds more.

Then I would write 3,000 words a day.

You have to learn to put two words together. This is hard and you can only do it with practice.

It’s like a sport. Michael Jordan was shooting 1,000 baskets a day before 9 in the morning. If you are a beginner, practice. If you are the best in the world, practice.

H) ARC OF THE HERO

I was thrown out of graduate school and had no money or job prospects. All of my writing was getting rejected.

1000s of rejections but I met more and more writers.

First I was writing articles, then books. Then bestselling books.

Each step of the way, the more chances I took, the more people hated me. Articles and reviews constantly trashed me. Sometimes I felt really hurt by this. I can’t help it.

Then I found other outlets for my writing. My podcasts gave me content. Public speaking was a way to improve my writing. Even performing standup comedy improved my writing.

I don’t know if I’m giving good writing advice but this is what I experienced in the past 30 years.

I always ask myself: Am I the hero of my story?

Or did I give up? Did I quit? And I’m just a minor character in someone else’s story.

This is the arc of the hero. The hero’s journey:

  • Go from the ORDINARY WORLD to the EXTRAORDINARY. I was thrown out of grad school to try for something extraordinary in my life.
  • Find your mentors and your colleagues who will grow with you. I moved to NYC to work at HBO and met a whole new world of creatives.
  • You have bigger and bigger problems. First I got small pieces published at HBO. Then I got paid for articles. Then I got paid for books. Then I switched categories and had even greater success.
  • Fight the biggest battle of all. For me, the people who seem to hate me for no reason. This is a tough battle. Also, the gatekeepers, the people who will say no to me. I always try to figure my way around them (self-publish, publish for other journals, publish a newsletter to subscribers, write a screenplay to get more known, etc).
  • Return home with the knowledge (e.g. writing this answer).

And then… REPEAT… because the hero’s journey should never end.

Every book, every article, even every paragraph should have the skeleton of the arc of the hero in it.

I) SURPRISE, VULNERABILITY, F-K SCORE

I combine these three for no real reason.

In Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel Black Orchid, the hero is trapped by the evil villain in the first page. He aims a gun at her.

At this point, EVERY READER expected her to escape.

I mean, the book is named after her! She has to escape. Right?

The villain shoots and kills her. In the first two pages.

This blew my mind. This kept me reading. Always do something to keep someone reading the next sentence.

Vulnerability. Don’t be afraid to make yourself look bad. My most popular articles were about how I lost all my money, and all of everyone else’s money (including Yasser Arafat) in 2000.

Or how I lost relationships by being a jerk. Or how I was heckled for telling obscene jokes one night at standup comedy.

F-K Score. Google that. It’s the grade level you are writing at.

NEVER write above a 6th grade level. Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, one of the greatest written books ever, was written at a fourth grade level.

J) NEVER USE ONE EXTRA WORD

After I write an article, or a chapter, I make sure I cut at least 30% out.

K) TAKE A SHIT BEFORE YOU WRITE.

Clear the body, clear the brain.

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Patrick Fore.

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