There are reminders of your partner everywhere. There is a marathon of their favorite show on TV. You find one of their mangled Christmas-themed socks in the laundry. A suspiciously hairy spider makes you shriek more than any adult should and you’re forced to square off with it alone. I mean, as opposed to having your partner charitably volunteering to “relocate” it for you. After a breakup, it can feel as though the world is hell-bent on making you miss your ex.
Big or small, these daily reminders can make your heart ache. We’ve all been there. You’ll find comfort when you recognize these little pangs as natural. A simple instinct that you’ve developed over time with your lover. And in the same way that these habits learned to rouse your emotions, they can be unlearned.
Now for the less comforting part: they won’t be unlearned on their own. Your lover won’t magically dissolve from memory. They were a significant part of your life; they became embedded into your plans for the future and your daily routine.
Letting go of the reality of a long-term future is hard. But letting go of the day-to-day habits that the reminders frequent the most can seem impossible. Sometimes the only way to begin to tackle these emotional land mines is to disappear them from your reality.
So make a change in your daily schedule. Heartbreak loves stagnation. It craves the familiar. Take a different route to work. Avoid the deli where your partner first professed their love. Enjoy the sights of a more scenic road, or a path you usually detour because of the bustle of its street fair.
Most often, however, the reminders are unintentional. There is no obvious connection. Or maybe it’s that your vulnerability and missing your partner creates one. Either way, your emotional turmoil is an opportunist. And an opportunist can’t be wrangled with just avoidance. The best way to confront an opportunist is with reality.
Yes, Bravo is playing your partner’s favorite show. The one they made fun of you for not getting. The one that fuelled their narcissism and deserved its early retirement from television for being a half-assed rip off of Dr. Who.
Remember the reality, then change the channel.
Yes, only one of their cute Christmas socks found its way into the pile of your laundry. The same socks they wore the day they flung cranberry sauce at the new cardigan your aunt bought for you, stained it, and refused to apologize.
Remember the reality, then throw that thing away.
Yes, that spider is suspect. You may have watched a nature documentary on it. In fact, you’re sure of it. But you’ll still manage to slip a piece of paper under it and conceal it in a cup before you take it outside. Unlike your partner who, despite your protest, would squish it between that same piece of paper before discarding it in the garbage.
Remember the reality, then reunite that horrifying bug with the wilderness, intact.
More often than not, these reminders are rose-coloured in their macabre. They distract from the reality of why you ended your relationship in the first place. Bitterness is no better a resolve than idealizing a relationship whose time has ended – but it’s important to bring perspective to reminders that can so easily cause you to backslide into a situation you weren’t suited for. Even if a backslide isn’t an option, the reminders can still make you miserable. Prolong your heartbreak. Stress you to exhaustion by making you question your decision to break up. All of which serve to diminish, rather than grow you.
There will come a time when you can look back at your relationship devoid of the attachment. You will be able to see your dynamic from all angles; without the faultless idealization and without the anger bellying bitterness. You will recognize it as a time shared between two people that grew you by virtue of its existence and ended when it could no longer serve you.
Until then, avoid the reminders that pain you when possible. And dose the others with a healthy bit of reality.