5 Reasons Life is Better Without Your Ex

The county fair was last week and, as is the usual tendency at the fair, my friends and I ate unhealthily while we walked aimlessly around and ran into old classmates and colleagues. One of the groups we happened to run into contained a kid from my high school who was also once one of my campers. (He’s now a sophomore in college! Oh, how quickly he grew up!) As we did our quick five-minute catch-up, he asked me how Army was doing. I was a bit surprised he hadn’t heard of our break up being that it was over three months ago, but I gave my well-rehearsed, polite response, “Actually we aren’t together anymore, so I’m not entirely sure.” To which he gave me the mixed look of sadness and sympathy accustomed to those transitioning through a break up. Then he proceeded to pat me on the back and tell me that I will find someone new and I will get over the heartbreak.

His words, meant to make me feel better about being single, really got me thinking. I have done a lot of reflecting over the past week on my own life and the state I am in at this exact moment. It was not until that exact moment that something struck me: I am over it. I’m over the heartbreak and the sadness and the pain. I’m over him.

A day after the fair, I went on a first date. My date with The Golfer (perhaps I’ll expand on this subject in the future…) just solidified this revelation. Here I was enjoying a great evening with a new person and I could honesty say to myself, “I want to see where this goes.” That means I was considering the future, and not looking back to the past. I’ve moved on and I was/am ready to move forward.

I remember seeing myself in the mirror back in May and being unhappy with what I saw: the girl looking back was sad, angry, and confused. Now, though, looking back it seems surreal that I was so hurt by a person I hardly think about these days. I cannot believe how much stronger and independent I have become since the time with Army. I thought we had a great relationship but I realize now that just because I wanted it to be great didn’t actually mean that was the case. We were good for awhile, but we weren’t meant for the long haul. And I’m happy with this knowledge.

Seeing my life now, I am content. However, I know how difficult it can be to see the bright side of things following a break up. So this post is a big reflection for myself, but is targeted at those who are going through the rough patches right now. Take solace! Life goes on and there are still plenty of reasons to be happy without the person you split from. So for all of you out there who might need the relief, I have constructed this little list of reasons why life is better without having your ex in it:

1.  You become stronger.
I learned this mostly with X’s and my end. Without someone to lean on, you find that you have to pull yourself together and start functioning on your own. This may seem cliche, but it’s true! When I broke up with X, I was broken. It took me months to become strong enough to even consider life without him. However, I finally gained the strength to open my heart again, and that is when I met Army. And though that relationship didn’t work out either, I did not break again, I just cracked a bit. The healing time was quicker, the mindset was clearer, and my future is brighter as I now know I can handle the worst and still find happiness in myself.

2.  You focus on your own self-improvement. 
One thing I’ve noticed not only in my own relationships but also while watching my friends’ is that when you are “with” someone for an extended amount of time, you place your own self-improvement on the back burner. You’re no longer going out and trying new things. No new hobbies, no new skills. Now that you’re single, you have the chance to learn new things and try new experiences. So get out and do them!

3.  You have freedom.
Once you’re no longer in a relationship, you are free. You no longer have someone to answer to or check in on where you’ve been or what you’ve been doing. You can hang out with anyone you like (either gender), watch the movies you enjoy most, and eat the food you enjoy without being concerned about anyone else’s feeling but your own.

4.  You can meet new people.
Sometimes when you’re in a serious relationship, social skills suffer. If you meet someone new, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to actually get to know him or her. I mean, you don’t want this new person to get the wrong impression or for our SO to think something is going on when it isn’t. So it is easier to just say hello, swap niceties, and then forget this new person altogether. Thankfully now you can smile and meet and learn about new people as much as you want without worrying about anyone’s feeling or the time they may take out of your relationship!

5.  You learn to be alone.
I believe this is one of the most crucial lessons a person can learn in his or her life. It was not until I was single that I went to a movie by myself — and the result was so inspiring that I went again the very next day! I no longer had to wait for movies to come to DVD because my SO had no interest in the same things I did. And, more importantly, I no longer cared what others in the theater thought if I sat by myself. I had control over my own life and I reveled in that knowledge. Learning to be alone is the most empowering lesson you can learn, and it makes life a lot less scary.

Now, I want to make something clear: this list is what I have learned during my time being single after relationships that were not meant to work out. I am a BIG believer that all five of these reasons why my life is better without my exes will and should be present in the relationship that will last in my future. In a happy and lasting relationship…

  • … you are never weak. Your partner does not cause you to crack or chip. Troubles will occur but you work together to hold one another up and strengthen each other. You are able to strive to function on your own because you already can, but you have a great support system behind you to help.
  • … you continue to learn every day. No matter how long you and your partner have been together, you’re never bored. You either learn a new hobby together or alone. You’re comfortable enough to have similar interests and to have individual wants and desires… and you’re both okay with simply being happy with the other’s hobbies even if you personally do not have the skill set or passion.
  • … you never feel trapped. This covers both #3 and #4. If you cannot do things on your own every now and again, then the relationship is unhealthy. Trust is a huge part of this; you trust your partner and they trust you. There are never any questions into your faithfulness to one another if a new person enters our life. There is also compromising, which is a huge component to any functional relationship. You give and you take on everything, and you’re willing to do so because you know it’ll make your partner happy.
  • … you never actually are alone. Even if you’re physically alone and doing something by yourself, you have the knowledge that you’re returning home to someone who cares for and loves you. This, in the same way as learning to actually be alone, makes life an easier and less scary place.

Writing this post has been exciting for me. I now look in the mirror and see a girl with potential. She has lost a bit, but that loss has not dimmed her demeanor — it has only forced it to glow brighter. I am proud of where my head is, where my life is heading, and how strong I continue to become. And though the future is still clear obscurity, I’m more than willing to take the plunge knowing full-well I am not only a better person but that I am now unbreakable.

The Art of Being Alone

We live in a society which sees high self-esteem as a proof of well-being, but we do not want to be intimate with this admirable and desirable person.

How many people can say they have perfected the art of truly being happy and alone? So many of us are constantly looking for fulfillment and happiness through external forces that we forget genuine happiness can only come from within.

I have witnessed so many people in my life filling the void of loneliness by skipping from relationship to relationship. It strikes me now that these friends of mine, and sometimes myself, do not take the time to allow themselves the freedom and opportunity to explore what self-fulfillment and happiness really mean.

As I consider this exploration of self-happiness, I’m thinking of a specific friend who is making some questionable life choices. It is obvious to me that she is not happy with herself, with what she has accomplished in her own life, and she is instead trying to find that happiness through other people — specifically numerous members of the opposite sex.

I am a firm believer that we, as humans, were made to touch, dream, and be together. However, I also think that in the world we live, many of us do not understand the difference between being alone and being lonely.

Last summer I discovered how to be happy while also being alone. I mean, I spent a lot of time with people but it wasn’t actually being with people. You know what I mean? It was at work, and that’s not the same connection as having a relationship in terms of no longer being by yourself. I had no one to come home to, nobody to whisper sweet nothings to, nobody to have dinner with and tell about my day. I had no one to take vacations with, nobody to cry to or hold me when I’m sad, and no one to take care of me when I’m sick. As a friend put it: I didn’t have my lobster yet. Yet being on my own forced me to learn to be happy with myself. I had to learn to take pride in my own achievements, calm myself in my own terrors, and comfort myself in times of sadness.

But then things changed. I had another source to find happiness in, and I lost myself in the joy and comfort of love’s whirlwind.

Re-finding your happiness, alone, is difficult. At last, though, I can feel the waves of change coming my way. Over the past few weeks, there have been multiple times where I veered back and forth between feeling scared and lonely to feeling a sense of promise in my solitude.

I have no doubt that there will be agonizing and heartbreaking moments in the months coming up, but I also know that there is a silver lining: I know how to support myself.

So many people, like Seki who seeks the company of crowds, are terrified of themselves. The thought of being at home, alone, by themselves, with no one to talk to is debilitating. So they do everything possible to avoid it. Whether it be clubbing, drinking, overworking, overexercising, or any other overactive social lifestyle, they all have the same goal intended: avoiding the pain and darkness of being alone. This comfort is fleeting, though, and not a sufficient long-term method to deal with the true loneliness felt within.

The reality of life is that you are your own person. If you can’t enjoy being alone and by yourself, then how can someone else? You need to find that long-awaited comfort to truly be happy with yourself and with life.

Saki takes a lot of pride in calling herself “single”. However, when one considers that term, how single can a person be when they are always chasing another guy, or spending time at another party, or hanging out with another friend? When Saki looks at her life, she sees “alone” and “single” as two separate terms. But I do not. Being single, to me, is not a status. It is a word that describes a person who is strong enough to live and enjoy life without being dependent on others. 

For many of us, being single/alone is hard. Being alone requires us to find the time and slow down enough to let circumstances become enabling to “singleness”. Being alone means you aren’t looking for distraction (like scrolling through your phone’s notifications for some sort of meaning to your life). Instead, being single/alone is the art of embracing all of yourself — discovering what is beneath your surface, learning new talents or redefining old hobbies. Being single is being yourself, without running away from any fault.

As I look to my future, there are a lot of questions as to where I am going and what is planned for me. I may relapse (kicking and screaming, most likely) into loneliness every now and then, but overall I plan to embrace my new found freedom and reestablish what it means to be Ashley. I am going to face the darkness felt when I am completely alone and be one with it. Fearlessly and gracefully.

Clear Head > Lonely Heart

Love and hope are powerful emotions, as is a fear of being alone. Have you ever been in this type of situation? You know, the kind where your heart aches to be with someone, so you just choose the closest person without even stopping to think why this person deserves to be in your life. There is a strong temptation to allow for more heartache by entering the wrong relationship simply because the heart is crying out. The truth is, though, you’re smarter than your loneliness. If you are finding yourself in a situation like this, it’s time to tell your heart to “shut up” and let you think. Thinking is going to allow you to analyze what is right and wrong, and hopefully act in the best manner.

This post is dedicated to one of my best friends, we will call her Saki, who is going through a similar situation. She broke up with her boyfriend of five years a few months ago and she’s questioning her position in life now. There are days when she wants to give up and go back to her ex, and then there are days where she’s willing to move on and goes out on dates. She’s confused. She has heart ache. She doesn’t know what is the right path for her.

Saki and I had a conversation about this topic recently and it brought me back to a few relationships I had put myself into in the past. I think we’ve all been there — those relationships where we know deep down that something isn’t right but we continue with the facade simply because 1. It is what we know, 2. It is what’s most convenient, or 3. It is what is preventing us from being completely on our own.

A few months ago, I went through the whole dating thing. (Most of you know this, and most of you know I’ve pretty much decided to quit looking, focus on work, and let the future happen when it’s meant to happen..) However, during the spring and beginning of summer, I found myself in a few different dating relationships. And as each new person entered my life, my ideals of love and a blossoming relationship seemed to dwindle every day. The dating game is difficult. You begin building this relationship with someone and it breaks, so you begin with someone new and it breaks too. With each new stumble your heart grows a little bit tighter. Trust becomes harder to earn, the will for commitment decreases, and love becomes a distant dream. Everyone needs someone sometimes. However, when you go through a number of someones trying to find the right one, sometimes the appeal gets lost and you JUST. WANT. TO. BE. DONE.

As this appeal is lost, the heart grows lonelier. With each new failure it almost seems as if the heart beats faster and louder. There are so many other factors that magnify the cry of your heart also.

One big factor is the media, such as seeing your friends post cute little statuses about how in love they are and engagement announcements and baby photos and etc… I mean, really? I’ve heard multiple people in my life ask, “Why is my love life nonexistent when that girl from high school is already happily married?! What’s wrong with me?”

Another factor is reputation. Dating numerous people makes others talk. Go on too many first dates, you’re too picky. Meet people in a bar or club, you’re a floozy. Date a number of people at once, you’re a player. It doesn’t matter if everything you do on your dates is innocent, people always think the worst. No one wants to be thought of critically, so clinging to the first person you begin dating who isn’t a psycho might seem ideal.

Personally, I don’t like the dating life. I’m all for meeting new people and socializing, but I like commitment. I like having one person to always be able to confide in, and spend time with, and just enjoy knowing they’re mine. I like being in a relationship, and I miss that component in my life. That ache in my heart ended up hindering me more, though. I began dating someone who was emotionally unavailable. Not only did I enter into such a relation, but I allowed that person to drag me along for three months with no commitment plans. That’s not what I wanted in my life! I didn’t want to go week by week wondering if the guy was back with his ex-girlfriend, or feeling ridiculous because I hadn’t heard from him in days. I wanted someone who wanted me. Wanted me for me. Yet I clung to the first person I saw a glimmer of hope in and wasted the beginning of my summer!

As for Saki and her ex, she’s gone the entire summer bouncing back and forth with him. She knows he’s not good for her, and that they’re not meant to be, but it’s what she knows. She is questioning whether it is better to be with someone wrong for her rather than be by herself for awhile. Is trying to force love better than being lonely? This is a question she asks herself daily.

Yes, being lonely sucks.

But being lonely takes too much time to deal with too.

I finally figured this out when my “summer fling” broke up (I say that loosely because he never wanted to commit so I don’t really classify it as breaking up) with me for the fourth time for no reason at all. That is when I stopped listening to my lonely heart and began thinking with a clear mind.

Yes, I was lonely, but did spending time with this person actually end that loneliness? No. Actually in all honesty, he made me feel lonelier. I knew what I wanted in a relationship and I knew I wasn’t going to have that commitment from this person, but I still chose to hold on. Knowing this caused me to be annoyed and cast blame on myself. I singled myself out; I isolated myself in my own mind. I don’t know if I’ve ever been lonelier.

So I started thinking with my head, rather than my heart. And guess what? I’m pretty smart. I realized the type of potential I have for a relationship. I rediscovered how caring and loving and patient and pleasing I wanted to be to someone else, and how I wanted those things in return. I concluded I deserved more.

We all deserve to be in a relationship with someone who prioritizes our needs and desires amongst their own. Relationships are meant to be a partnering of two people. You give and you take. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s those relationships where the couple can work through disagreements and come out on top that actually work.

You know what you want in a relationship. If you don’t, figure it out before you try to enter into one. The heart can be a great judge sometimes, but it’s not always the most rational — especially when it comes to a lonely heart. Look at the healthy relationships around you and pinpoint what makes them successful. Look at your past, and decide what worked for you and what didn’t. This is something I’ve been doing for awhile now and I’m truly happy with my life at the moment. I’ve quieted my lonely heart by focusing on the positive friendships and family relations in my life, I’m continuing to bring my all to both my jobs, and I’m not worrying where my “soul mate” is or what he’s doing or why he’s not presently in my life.

So that’s my advice, guys: Think with your mind for awhile and make a clear approach to the type of successful love life you want to have. And most importantly, don’t settle for anything less.