A Creative Way to Recover From a Breakup
How do you recover from a breakup? In this post, I share a creative way to work through the pain and heartache so you can begin to heal.
Breakups can be devastating. But they don’t have to be, especially if you have the tools to help you through this challenging time.
After a breakup, I spend a lot of time thinking about my relationship to get clarity. Exactly what went wrong? When did I first notice the problem? Did I communicate my feelings and needs clearly and compassionately throughout the relationship? Was I my authentic self, or did I sometimes shy away from my truth to keep the peace? Did I ignore red flags? And finally, did I break up in the most dignified and caring way possible?
The key is to learn from your relationships so you can do better next time.
A Creative Way to Recover From a Breakup
One of the best ways to process a breakup is by getting those thoughts out of your head and into a letter to your ex. WARNING: Don’t send that letter. It’s just for you.
How to structure your ‘Dear Ex’ letter
- What attracted you?
- What did you learn from them?
- What did you learn about yourself in the relationship?
- What will you do differently next time?
An example of a “Dear Ex” letter I wrote many years ago:
For two years, I went on first and second dates with men I didn’t connect with for one reason or another. And, then I met you. From the first phone conversation, we clicked. There was a sense of ‘knowing’, of understanding each other, of being ‘home’. You made me think and laugh – a rare combination. I liked your warmth and compassion, your creativity, and your zest for life.
On our first date, we talked non-stop until the restaurant closed, and then we continued talking over tea at another restaurant. We were both excited for our next date.
I looked forward to our evening calls, talking late into the night about books we read and movies we’d seen, about our kids and our work and just about anything. After a month, I knew I wanted to be exclusive, to focus on getting to know only you. This was the first time I ever asked a man to be exclusive – that’s how much potential I saw in “us”.
In spite of all the good, there were deal breakers that showed up early on. You were honest with me about your ‘issues’, but the way you described them, I thought they minor, and you told me you were dealing with them. I went into the relationship with my eyes wide open, believing you were working on the issues you disclosed.
Which red flags showed up at the beginning?
1. You smoked, and I never dated a smoker. But they were electronic cigarettes, and the flavored nicotine smell didn’t bother me. Plus, you promised you were trying to quit, and you’d be reducing the amount of nicotine. That made it less of a deal breaker.
2. You had credit card debt. You revealed that you had credit card debt of over $30,000. But, when you explained that it was to help regain custody of your little girl, my heart went out to you. I wanted you to reconnect with your daughter. You promised you were working on paying it down, and I believed you.
3. Your car was falling apart, and you weren’t fixing it. I felt unsafe driving with you. You drove someone’s kids a few days a week after school in order to pay down your debt, and that felt irresponsible. You told me you were going to take care of the car, but it was going to cost a lot of money. You didn’t have the funds. So, the car remained a hazard throughout our relationship.
Why did I date you in spite of the red flags?
I cared about you. I loved spending time with you. We laughed together and shared many common values. And I believed you when you told me you were taking care of all the red flag issues. I gave you the benefit of the doubt.
Over the next few months, I noticed:
1. You were not following through on your promises to quit smoking, pay down your debt, or get your car fixed.
2. You were spending money recklessly on expensive items of clothing that you didn’t need, but not on the important things, like paying down your debt and getting your car repaired.
3. You were planning expensive trips that we’d take together, and you wanted to buy tickets to expensive concerts, but you didn’t have a pot to piss in!
I told you how upset I felt when you didn’t follow through on your promises. It eroded my trust in you. You promised you’d take care of everything. And then you got defensive. You asked, “How can you expect me to make major changes in such a short time?”
I didn’t expect you to solve all your problems in four months. I did expect you to be moving forward, step-by-step, towards resolving the issues. Small changes lead to big changes. No change leads to stagnation.
I could not be in a relationship with a man who lacked the incentive to change and grow, who made false promises and procrastinated.
The final straw
My father suddenly died, and you texted me how sorry you were. You texted me the morning of the funeral, telling me you would be thinking of me. And then you texted again at the end of the day, asking how I was doing.
I called you. “Where were you?” I asked. I wanted you to show up for me; by calling and not texting, coming to the funeral, and coming to my home for the shiva period.
When I shared my feelings of sadness and shock that you weren’t there that day, you were profusely apologetic. You showed up the next night at the shiva with a lovely cake. I appreciated that.
A few days later, you came and spent the last day of shiva with me. When my visitors left, you started talking about your own sadness, about something that was going on for you and how hard it was for you.
I’m an empathic person and a good listener, but I was taken aback with your insensitivity. My father had just died. This was my time. I didn’t have the bandwidth to hear about your sadness. It felt needy and insensitive to me.
By then, I had lost respect for you, and the relationship was over. I couldn’t be with someone who doesn’t follow through on promises and isn’t sensitive to my needs at the most challenging times of my life. I’d be there for you in a crisis. You were not there for me. And that’s inexcusable.
I invited you to dinner to break up with you in person and with dignity.
When I kindly expressed that I cared about you, but I couldn’t date you anymore, you were mean and vengeful, sarcastic and ugly. I paid for dinner, and I couldn’t wait to get home.
I learned a few important things from you, and for that I want to thank you.
I learned to pay closer attention to red flags. While I’m glad I gave you a chance and didn’t immediately write you off for the warning signs I noticed at first, I should have left sooner. If someone says they’re working on their stuff and there’s no follow-through, I’m out. Sooner rather than later.
How a person behaves during a breakup or even an early argument is a foreshadowing as to how they’ll behave in a long-term relationship.
Thanks for reinforcing my belief in the possibility of finding a deep connection with a man. Having met you, I know there’s someone out there who has your wonderful qualities without the red flags.
I hope you either find someone who will love you as you are, or you find the strength to work through your big issues.
I hope writing a letter like this helps you recover from a breakup. It can be very healing to get it all out on paper. You may want to burn the letter when you’re done. Or, you might save it to check back in the next time you’re in a relationship, so you don’t repeat the same patterns.
What creative ways have you discovered to recover from a breakup? Please share in the comments!
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