I’m not usually one to get worked up over what goes on with celebrities and their love lives. But lately, there has just been so much to notice – so many unhealthy situations to observe and learn from. Maybe it’s just me and my heightened sense of awareness of what goes on in the world of a single woman. But I see too much of these same unhealthy patterns playing out in the lives of not-so-famous people.
The latest news: Jennifer Lopez (aka, J. Lo) has a new boyfriend. Was it not just five months ago that she and Mark Anthony announced their divorce? And Mark Anthony came along just three weeks after the infamous Ben Affleck breakup in 2004, with whom she was engaged. Before that? The devastating ending of her iconic relationship with Sean Diddy Combs. All of this, seasoned with the fact that she’s been married twice before. Come on, Jen. I’m not judging. But woman to woman, I am concerned. It makes me wonder whether or not she’s ever given herself a break.
Sadly, this pattern of jumping from one relationship to another is not rare, nor is it exclusive to celebrities. Without a doubt, break ups suck, and it’s clear that our friend, J. Lo is not immune to the pain of the process. On October 24, while performing a song about past love, she broke down on stage – a clear indication that she still has some healing to do. But all too often, as with the case of J. Lo, we seek immediate comfort from the pain by resting in the arms of someone else – anyone else – as soon as possible. I know, because I’ve been there.
I’m no angel myself. I don’t claim to be this self-righteous master of love and break-ups who has always gotten it right. I once fooled myself into believing that new love – as quickly as possible – would heal the wounds of old love. But back to back heartbreaks taught me real quick to step back and give myself some time to get it together. I understand why we do it. Finding a new boyfriend as quickly as possible keeps our minds off of the enormity of what has just happened in our lives. It allows us to bask in the glory of feeling loved again (even if that love is just a fantasy). It gives us that secret satisfaction of revenge as we appear to have moved on with our lives, and best of all (this is the best part), it keeps us from having to actually face those demons we keep kicking back into the closet.
What’s missing here? Taking our minds off of what has happened, hiding behind affection, basking in revenge, and living in denial circumvent the process of healing. Perhaps, it is worth considering that seeking immediate comfort should not be top priority after a breakup. Perhaps we should allow ourselves to feel the discomfort. When our primary objective is to just feel better and not to actually heal, we tend to seek it by any means necessary by simply numbing ourselves – through drinking, overworking, oversexing, or handing our hearts over to the next Joe who will take it. Dangerous! Of course we all want comfort. Of course we want to feel better. But sometimes, comfort is just something that we have to work to secure. That work doesn’t always happen overnight. Sometimes, being out of our comfort zones is exactly the challenge we need to look at ourselves and change what needs to be changed. It doesn’t matter who was to blame for the breakup. Odds are, you have some self-assessing to do before moving on to the next thing.
But many of us flat out refuse to spend some time with ourselves. Why is that? Do we dislike ourselves? Are we afraid to stare at ourselves in the mirror for too long? Yes, the thought of going from long-term partner to single lady can be a scary one. But it can also be quite liberating and life-changing. The status of “single” can give us the time and space we need to prepare for the love and the life we truly deserve. Running to the first person who agrees to open the door will not. Let me use an analogy to explain why.
Rather than taking the scary step of navigating our own ship, many of us chose to become stowaways, jumping from one captain’s ship to another. This can be crippling. Sometimes when we jump ship (or get thrown from the ship), we need to spend some uncomfortable time in the water strengthening our muscles, learning to swim better, learning to sense the danger of sharks, learning to overcoming fears. The last thing we need to do is to find another captain to depend on. The truth is, we just don’t know our own strength until we’ve taken on the waters of the high seas alone. When we’ve mastered the challenge, the fear, and the solitude, we will eventually find our own ship to navigate and sail. We will learn how to navigate our lives. We can make it to dry land on our own and begin to build up our empire. This is independence at its finest, girlfriend. This means having your own set of know-how tools, your own strength, your own sense of control. Navigating your own ship is sexy as hell.
Jumping from ship to ship teaches you survival, but fails to take you to the next level – the level of navigating your own ship and building your empire. After a relationship ends, we are already in a weak state of mind. When we take that weak state of mind into another situation without healing wounds or addressing unhealthy patterns of behavior, we never operate above survival mode and further continue the cycle of jumping from ship to ship.
So, if you want the next relationship to be a healthy one, it is essential to take some time to heal and strengthen yourself. This process is not supposed to feel good. It is supposed to make you stronger. It is supposed to develop you into an even better person, to take you to a new and higher level of living. Push through the pain and the loneliness and find your strength. If you don’t give yourself that time, those demons will just continue to chase you from relationship to relationship, and they won’t go away until you finally turn around to face them, once and for all.
The goal: The next time you run into potential love, you’ll want to be able to say, “Hey, I’ve spent time building up this empire of mine. What do you have to bring to the table?” And if he is able to present you with an empire of his own… well, you just might have something there. This is what you want to shoot for – not two empty souls crashing together, but two well-grounded empires that unite. Take the time you need to build up that empire of yours, so that no matter what your status is (single or in a relationship) you have something to stand on with confidence and pride.
This Hopeful Romantic