By Mandy Hale
Over the past three years, I’ve dated six guys. Only one of them was super serious, and another was somewhat serious (it was an on and off situation for over a decade… too ON to be casual and too OFF to be super serious.) But even though only two of these relationships were serious or fairly serious, ALL of them left their mark. Emotionally, on me and my heart… and physically, on my surroundings.
By that, I mean we spent time together in my apartment, we spent time together in my small town, we spent time together in the places that surround me every single day. And as a sentimental person, I get attached not just to people but to locations. Places that were significant to a relationship and the memories we made there. It can make it hard once a relationship ends to feel comfortable going back to places where I once went with that person who I cared about, sometimes deeply. And THAT can make it tricky to walk through my everyday life without getting bogged down in the many, many misty water-colored memories… of the way… we were.
For example, my last serious boyfriend and I had our first kiss right on the town square here in my little town, just about three blocks from my apartment. It was such a significant moment, later he went back and captured the GPS coordinates of the location of that kiss and gave me a bracelet imprinted with those coordinates for Valentine’s Day (Swoon, right?!) Which was all fine and good and beautiful and romantic while we were together, but once we broke up (painfully) it made it nearly impossible for me to go within a block of that location without feeling sick to my stomach. And that was extremely problematic for me because I love my town’s square. I take walks there all the time. I go to the farmer’s market there on summer weekends. I attend the Christmas tree lighting there in the winter. To have a great big emotional black hole in the center of the square that I felt like I had to avoid like the plague just wasn’t going to work for me.
So, one day, a few months after we broke up, and a few months after I had grown weary of dodging that corner of the square, I decided enough was enough. That relationship had ended – and not just ended, but ended abruptly in a five-minute-long phone conversation like it never really mattered to him at all. So why was I still allowing that relationship and that person to dictate my movements? My feelings about an area of town that I loved? My LIFE? It had to stop.
When the dust settles from the end of a relationship, it can sometimes feel like we’ve lost absolutely everything. But we don’t have to.
So I took a deep breath, I worked up all the nerve I had, and I walked right down that sidewalk where that first kiss with my ex had happened all those months ago. Right down the center of it. I didn’t waiver or dodge or hesitate. I was done with all of that. I was done letting someone else control my life. I RECLAIMED THAT SPOT. And you know what? I expected to feel a rush of emotions and sadness and nostalgia, but I really didn’t. All I felt was pride and strength and deep gratitude that I was no longer stuck in the intense cloud of grief that had descended when that relationship ended. I was not the same person I was just a few months prior. I was stronger, and wiser, and braver. And right then and there on a beautiful summer day, I Marie Kondo’d that ex right out of my heart and off of my town square. And it felt amazing.
Sometimes, that’s just what we have to do. We have to reclaim locations, memories, parts of ourselves… that we lost to failed relationships and heartbreak. When the dust settles from the end of a relationship, it can sometimes feel like we’ve lost absolutely everything. But we don’t have to. We don’t have to surrender these great big pieces of our hearts and our lives to people who didn’t love us enough to stick around. We don’t have to lose ourselves just because we lost the love. We CAN reclaim not just significant places, we can reclaim our time and our happiness, just simply by refusing to allow the memory of someone who isn’t even in our lives anymore to control us.
I have a girlfriend who, when she broke up with her boyfriend, went around to every restaurant, every significant location where she and her ex had been… with a new friend, to make new memories. She didn’t dodge or avoid or shy away from those painful chapters with her ex, she simply rewrote the story. That’s what we must do when someone leaves our lives but leaves us surrounded by their memory. We must decide to release the emotional and physical ties we have to them the same way they released us. It’s the only way to TRULY be free.
That’s why I love what Worthy is doing so much, and how they are giving women the opportunity to physically release the weight of past relationships in a positive way. To wipe the slate clean. And to not get dragged down by the memory of what might have been and to instead look ahead to what can still be.
Today I urge you to release the dead weight of whatever little pieces of past relationships you’re still holding onto. Maybe it’s a physical ring or another significant item. Or maybe it’s just the emotional weight of avoiding places you once loved because they remind you too much of someone you once loved. Whatever it may be – silently thank it or them for the role they played in your life and the lessons they taught you. Then let it all go and reclaim your happiness. Make new memories. Rewrite the story.
The pen’s in your hand… ending unplanned.
About the Author
Blogger turned New York Times best-selling author and speaker Mandy Hale is the creator of The Single Woman social media movement that has revolutionized what it means to be single. The author of four books, Mandy’s empowering message reaches millions of women across the world every day. You can connect with her online at MandyHale.com, or on social media @TheSingleWoman.