I was 26. We started a pet products company, my fiancé and I. It grew from a handmade living room product into outsourced manufacturing with distribution to thirty six states and twelve countries in six months. She was the creative and I was the business/ops guy. I was working a corporate finance job full time and our plan was to focus on the company when it got big enough. It was almost there. She was running the day-to-day from our apartment in the tiny NorCal town of Arcata.
One time, my partner had a disagreement with the label supplier. We set up a conference call to resolve the dispute between them but my partner never called in. She didn’t call for 3 hours. I thought she was in an accident and called all of our friends. When she finally called, she was 120 miles away. She said she thought I was going there for the call. It wasn’t the first red flag.
I moved in with her anyway because I was 26 and I thought you had to trust your partner unquestionably when in love.
A few months later, I checked the business accounts that should have been full. They were empty. The money was being collected and withdrawn, but the suppliers weren’t getting paid and customers weren’t getting their products. I checked the banking history.
There was an argument. She left.
Two days later I came home from work for lunch. The apartment was empty except for a 2” triangle bit of yellow legal paper on the floor:
She took everything she and her sister could carry, leaving a bed frame, couch and over sized coffee table.
I found 4 medications: anti-anxiety, anti-add, anti-depression and another.
The relationship was over and the company looked like it would be insolvent. I knew it wasn’t only her fault. I shoulda, coulda, woulda…
There was bread and turkey in the refrigerator, so I sat on the floor, ate a sandwich and cried.
I was 28. I got drunk on my birthday. My new gorgeous, smart, school teacher girlfriend drove us home in my SUV. We were about eight weeks into our relationship and I really liked her. I had visions of our gorgeous children chasing dragonflies through meadows of wildflowers eating rainbow lollipops singing “The Hills Are Alive”.
She couldn’t parallel park my car so she left me in the middle of the street because I was passenger-seat advising her on how to do so. Have you ever parallel parked an SUV while drunk at 1am? I’m sure you have, but:
A. I had not previously done so;
B. It is illegal to do so; and
C. Somehow I did it without hitting other cars.
I went inside, drunk and upset.
I slept in the car.
She did not want to see me again.
I was sad. I really liked her and she no longer liked me. I went into therapy.
I was 30. She owned two companies, had two kids, each with a different ex-husband. Playboy published an interview with her and she was the star of a new reality TV show that never took off. I came home one day and she had redecorated my condo. We did not live together.
I found out that while I was out of town she had guy “friends” over frequently. She later admitted to sleeping with at least one. I told her to “enjoy the pleasure of her body while alone” in more colorful words, and left. I thought I liked her and I was very upset. Now, however, I’m embarrassed that I dated her.
(I knew she was trouble)
I was 31. She was the heiress to an 85 year old family business that one of the richest men in the world wanted to buy. On our first date, she hit her head on a dresser and cried hysterically, telling me I was just like her ex-boyfriend soul-mate who committed suicide a couple years prior. We started dating long distance Los Angeles to the Midwest because that’s what you do when a first date goes so well.
A few weeks later, she read me an emotional love letter from her “best friend”. He was too in love with her, he said. He would no longer be her friend because she was dating me, he said. He wanted to know when her grandparents died because he really liked them, he said. Needless to say I didn’t like the guy. I was suspicious of their “friendship”. Their “friend breakup” lasted about two weeks, after which they resumed their “friendship” for the duration of our relationship. I never met him. She told me she thought he was gross and would never do anything with him, especially sleep with him. They hung out all the time and I heard they did hard drugs at raves together. They slept together a few years later. She told me six months after it happened, a few minutes after I asked her to marry me. I told her to choose him or me. I lost.**
I have more stories, but the moral of the story is:
I am terrible at relationships. Do not listen to my advice about relationships. Actually, I could probably use advice from you about relationships. My ability to choose partners of the opposite sex has been incredibly bad. But, I am great at getting over them when they have ended. I have chosen poorly in the past so I’ve learned to rebound quickly. I will keep trying until I make a great relationship with someone. I know it is out there.
In the meantime, this is what I’ve learned about what to do if you’re going through a breakup:
1. Quit drinking. Now. Alcohol is a depressant. When alcohol detoxes, your body hates you. Quit drinking and you’ll feel better. Sobriety helps avoid that post-breakup rabbit hole depression.
2. Love Yourself. “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It” is a book by Kamal Ravikant. The book will take you just a few hours to read and it may change your life. It saved Kamal’s life and I practice the method in this book every day.
3. Love others. Spend time with your family or close friends. Get online and find a supportive community such as The Breakup App (note: just don’t let it make you dwell on the past). Love is everywhere and abundant. You need to feel it. In this dark place it’s easy to forget. Although love didn’t go the direction you wanted, there is more love. Your ability to love others has not been taken. Give and you will receive.
4. Be thankful. Every night before you go to sleep and every morning when you wake up, make lists of what you’re thankful for. People, everything you have, things large and small.
5. Read James Altucher’s blog. Especially THIS POST, THIS POST and THIS POST. James has built himself up from zero many times. He’s the Comeback King, the Underdog and knows some secrets we need. He’s a super hero blogger and I’m pretty sure he wears a cape while he writes.
6. Eat. You are starving. Eat good food. Avoid heavy and sugary foods that will make you tired. Eat light and right. Throw in some chocolate occasionally and try not to sit on the couch binging on ice cream and frosting from the can. If you do, that’s okay, just try your best. There is no failure, just direction. Direct yourself to keeping your body healthy so your mind gets better.
7. Move. Run. Walk. Swim. Swim naked. Shoot hoops, ride a bike through your city or your neighborhood or just your street. Just move your body a little bit. Feel how good it is to MOVE.
8. Shower. Scrub the relationship from your skin. Watch it slide down the drain with the dirt. Feel that fresh clean towel on new skin.
9. Meditate. I meditate every night before I go to sleep. I’ve only missed 3 nights in 3 years. I sit with my legs crossed. Keeping my back straight I focus on breathing. Slowly breathe in and out. Close your eyes and try counting ten slow breaths. If you lose your count, start over. But, don’t stress about it. Just breathe. If you only do 5 breaths that’s fine. Focus on your breathing and nothing else. It’s hard. Thoughts will creep. Just let them go and bring your mind back to your breath. If you can’t get to ten, that’s okay. Just relax and feel the present.
10. Choose. It hurts. You feel like a slave. The bad thoughts are addicting. Everywhere you go and everything you do, your mind races back. Instead, choose to be thankful, to love, and to let go. Choose to notice: the way the flower looks in the garden or the rain looks hitting the puddle or the woman with the interesting glasses walking down the sidewalk. Choose to wonder and revel in life. When hurtful thoughts arise, think different thoughts. Choose happiness over pain.
11. Sleep. Sleep at least eight hours every night. Your head will try keeping you awake. But when you sleep, you won’t lose yourself down the rabbit hole. One day you’ll wake up and the sun will be shining, you will hear birds chirping and feel that energy inside of you.
12. Find an Abyss and Scream Into It. Like this:
I’m not good at relationships. I take full responsibility for all of the relationships I’ve had that have failed. It scares me. I’m seeing grey hair in the mirror more and more every day and it is scary thinking of getting older without anyone, but I’ll never stop trying because love is a renewable, infinite resource. I always find more love to give when I find something worth loving, and the same can be true for you.
There is enough love for everyone and I hope you can share yours. I know you have a lot to give.
Hopefully I’ve learned from my experiences enough to build the right relationship into something great.
If there are things that work for you not on my list, please add them in the comments below. I probably need them, too.
**She said she wanted to be with me but still wanted to have him as a friend. That’s not “choosing” and wasn’t acceptable.