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A breakup can leave you feeling lost. You question your choices, the things you said, and run through endless questions of “what went wrong?” Recent research even shows that breaking up with a romantic partner can produce a depression-like state, which might make it difficult to find the energy you need to do the things you enjoy.
But it's important to remember that breakups can also be a good thing — particularly if the relationship was sapping your energy or making it difficult for you to engage in self-love.
So, while it’s only natural to feel at a loss when a relationship ends, you can still take proactive steps to pick yourself up and find yourself again after a breakup.
Reaching out to a helping handPhoto by Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash
Life is hard enough even when you’re in a stable relationship. It gets even harder when you go through a bad breakup and are assailed by self-doubt and sadness. Many folks mistakenly believe that it's best to just “get on with it” but this mindset can be incredibly taxing on your mental health.
If your mental health is taking a dive, you should seek out a trusted medical professional who can help you cope with a breakup. Psychologists and therapists can provide you with a safe space and will give you the mental tools you need to move on. Additionally, the right physician can help you manage the stress and negative physical health consequences that come with a difficult breakup.
Getting help might be particularly difficult if your breakup has impacted your friend group and caused you to lose friends. But life after a breakup shouldn’t spell the end of your social life. If anything, you should lean on your friends when you’re at your lowest. So instead of turning your back on people altogether, connect with others through community groups and by joining a sports team or book club.
Change the Scenery
Taking in the beauty of it allPhoto by Tyler Reynolds on Unsplash
After a breakup, it’s only natural to lament the loss of a person you once loved. You see them wherever you go and are reminded by their absence through silly things like the smell of pizza, the sweater they left behind, and their favorite songs that still play on your Spotify.
But wallowing in the same physical space will only make you feel more isolated and won’t help you make the positive changes you need to rediscover yourself. Instead, consider changing the scenery and plan trips that help you rediscover your identity and create new memories which don’t involve your previous partner.
If you’re really struggling to move on, it might be worth considering a permanent move for your mental health. Plenty of folks around the nation are moving to lakeside towns or slower-paced suburbias to prioritize their mental health and turn over new leaves. But, before you move to a remote cabin in the woods, remember that you still need good access to healthcare and will probably benefit from being around other people — even if they’re strangers to you.
Art for Identity
Painting as a form of therapyPhoto by dusan jovic on Unsplash
There’s no “right way” to rediscover your identity or create a new sense of self. But art can help channel your feelings and find new meaning in life after a breakup.
A lot of folks are put off practicing art due to the pressure they place on themselves. This makes sense, as you may feel as though your artistic production is a reflection of your self-worth. But this isn’t really true: art just gives you a way to channel your thoughts and feelings into a medium of your choice. So, preempt the nerves around artistic production by sticking to low-stakes artistic methods like journaling, doodling, or photographing your neighborhood.
If producing art of your own seems a little too daunting, you can always look for inspiration from other artists, musicians, and writers who have been through similar experiences. You might, for example, explore ideas about identity and relationships through iconic LGTBQ novels like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando or James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room.
If you do decide to start practicing art for self-discovery, consider spending time practicing “felt sense”. Felt sense is a low-stakes artistic practice that helps connect your body and mind as you discover new ideas about yourself and your identity. Guidelines for felt sense vary, but, in general, you’ll need to find somewhere you can relax and journal about the way your body feels in a particular moment.
Learning to Move On
Getting past the breakup blues is difficult. When a relationship ends, you might feel like a failure and could experience a genuine loss of identity. But you can find yourself again by consulting with therapists and physicians who understand the trauma that comes with a bad breakup and can help improve your overall health while you rediscover your sense of self. You can also take proactive steps to create a new sense after a breakup by visiting new places or developing a low-stakes artistic practice that gives you space to process the breakup and establish a new identity.
The number of couples who meet online, in all age groups, continues to grow.
A whopping 39% of heterosexual couples and 65% of same-sex couples who met in 2017 met online.
This was reported in a new study, “Disintermediating your friends,” by Michael Rosenfeld, from the Sociology department at Stanford University.
Eighty-five percent of those who've tried online dating are under the age of 55, according to Pew Research Center. Two age categories, however, have seen the most growth. The 18-24-year-old group tripled to 27% in 2015 over a two year period. Also, the 55-64-year-old group that's tried online dating doubled to 12%. Men make up more than half of those in online dating sites and apps.
According to The Knot 2019 Jewelry and Engagement study, 22 percent of couples meet online and end up getting engaged.
Online dating has led to numerous committed relationships and marriages. But as too many can attest, it's not all fun – and there are plenty of games. In fact, according to studies, more than half of users lie on their online dating profiles. It's often fairly innocent (though frustrating to those who uncover the deceptions) in regard to their age, weight, or height.
But catfishes (scammers who lure people into a sham relationship) are a whole different breed. They lie about nearly everything, including posting stolen photos to beguile and lure victims. In 2016 alone, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center received
15,000 complaints under the category of romance scams and confidence fraud.
Most, however, likely don't get reported. We've all heard a well-publicized of someone losing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to an online catfisher. But the truth is, it's far more common than most people realize.
Financial gain, however, is just one of the motives of catfishers. While many are out to scam people of their hard-earned cash, others have different sinister intentions. Some are seeking sexually explicit videos or photos for either personal use or to post online. Some catfishers find it an effective method for identity theft.
Tragically, pedophiles also catfish to groom and lure children. Even adults are sometimes catfished for the purpose of causing physical harm. There are also those who do it for revenge, to catch an untrustworthy spouse, or to live an alternate reality. In the end, regardless of the catfishers' motives, victims often experience emotional trauma, as well.
Here are some particularly eye-opening facts:
- Women make up 64% of catfishers.
- Fifty-one percent of online daters are married(though most lie and say they're not).
- At least 10% of dating profiles are catfishers.
How do catfishers choose their targets?
One thing about catfishers is they're pretty slick when it comes to choosing their victims. Senior citizens are frequent targets. But catfishers scam people of all ages. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission found that of all fraud victims surveyed in 2016, 21% fall between the ages of 30-39. Those in their 40s and 50s are a close runner up.
Catfishers also look for those who are desperate for love, gullible, or sympathetic. Such people are easy to woo, guilt, or manipulate in a variety of ways and feed right into the catfisher's hand.
How to protect yourself from the get-go
Catfishing has been around since long before the internet. But the world wide web provides catfishers an endless supply of prey while making it easier to conceal their identity. So, whether you're in an online dating site or app and even in social media, keep your fisheye peeled and follow these precautions.
First, know the red flags to look for before you begin communicating with someone you don't know. Some catfishers provide detailed, elaborate (but deceptive) profiles. Often, though, their profiles are incomplete and vague. By providing such limited detail (other than, perhaps, a very attractive photograph), they're able to capture the interest of more potential victims. It also gives them the advantage to make things up as they go that best fits their victim's wants, needs, and desires.
Photos are another big clue. If they have no photo, this can be a red flag. Also, does their only photo look extremely dated? You know, the ones with that orangish hue that date back to the '90s. Or does the photo look like it came straight from GQ or Glamour? Of course, many are smarter than that. Even when the photos look kosher, they might be stolen from someone else's social media profile. So always do a reverse image search. Just right click on the photo and select 'save image as'. Then go to Google images. Drag and drop the photo into the search bar. If Google shows identical results for the image, do some investigative work.
Also, watch for broken English in their messages. If you notice odd language such as 'I would like to get to know you', be wary. It might indicate they're from a foreign country commonly known for catfishers. On the same token, some scammers use broken
English intentionally. They do this to weed out those intelligent enough to easily catch on to them. Catfishers want to invest their time in those who seem to be gullible. Another reason they may intentionally use broken English is to create the illusion they lack sophistication. This gives them the advantage that you won't suspect they're crafty enough to be a catfisher.
On the hand, beware that many, and perhaps most catfishers don't show broken English. Plenty of catfishers are American, or English is their native language. Good English doesn't necessarily deem them legitimate.
When you begin communicating with someone online, ask for their full name, and beware if they won't tell you. Then do an online search for their social media profiles, job information, places they've lived, and anything else you can learn. If you can't find the person online or something doesn't seem right, cut your ties.
If someone you haven't met starts getting romantic quickly or comes out with the “L” word before you've ever met, be suspicious. It's true, some legitimate relationships have started out this way, but it isn't the norm. It's fairly common, though, with catfishers who quickly try lure you into a phony whirlwind romance. They often move quickly and begin talking about a relationship, being in love, or a future together before you've met.
Most important, regardless of how perfect or real someone seems, don't allow yourself to get emotionally involved before you've met in person. In fact, once you've done the investigative work above, try to meet for coffee as soon as possible. That way you don't waste time or risk getting emotionally entangled with a fraud. Some people have found themselves reeled into years-long sham relationships without ever having met their predator. They only learn after wasting years of their life and sometimes all of their savings.
More ways to recognize a catfisher
Be wary if:
- they're often difficult or impossible to catch on the phone.
- they're unwilling to video chat.
- they always have an excuse for why they can't meet you in person. They may claim to be out-of-state or the country. Also, they often claim, repeatedly, to be dealing with a major crisis or set back. This is to gain your sympathy, so you'll accept it without question.
- they won't provide their exact address, especially even after professing their love, an extended courtship, or asking to borrow money. (It should be noted for women's safety, however, never give your address to someone you haven't met and gotten to know well in person.)
- they try to manipulate you by shaming you, playing on your sympathy, or being overly charming, complimentary, or empathetic.
What to do if you've been catfished or suspect it
If you suspect you're communicating with a catfisher but are uncertain, gather everything you know about the person, print their profile, communications, and photos. Then share it with trusted family and friends for objective opinions.
Also, report catfishers to the dating or social media website where you met. Then file a report with the FBI at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
I have clients who tell me that it’s painful for them to walk down the street and see all those happy LGBT (or straight) couples.
“It makes me feel so lonely and unwanted,” they say. When you’re single, and people around you “appear” (and I use that word deliberately) to be much happier than you - so in love, arm-in-arm with their gorgeous partner - it’s tough not to compare your lonesome, solitary self and feel you’re lacking.
Feeling alone and unloved is common to us all, coupled or not. If you live the Hallmark card life - you have a wonderful, perfect partner and the two of you regularly enjoy sunsets on the beach and great sex by the fireplace, followed by hours of hugging and kissing – then this column is not for you.
For the rest of us, who live in a place called Reality, feeling alone and isolated is all-too-common. The remedy? Self-love.
Even if you’re in a relatively happy couple, you know that most of your married life isn’t like a Hallmark card. But after seeing all those media images of happy, perfect couples, you may think there’s something wrong with your relationship and wonder: “Why are my partner and I living a life with romantic moments few and far between, not to mention the ongoing boredom of paying bills, buying dog food and just getting through the day without killing each other?"
If you’re single, you may feel even worse, asking yourself: “Why am I alone? Am I a total loser, spending yet another Saturday night alone? What’s wrong with me?”
The common theme here is, “What’s wrong with me?” The good news is: there’s nothing wrong with you. The bad news is: It’s harder than hell to love yourself when your expectations are crazy-high.
How did our expectations get so unrealistic? In some ways, it’s all about selling things. Businesses sell us things by creating idealized ideas of how life should be. The end result of buying these media images hook-line-and-sinker is that we feel we’re doing our relationships all wrong.
We need an antidote to this “poison” of media-induced craziness. We need self-love.
Want to improve your self-love? Start by being aware of the things you say to yourself about love, romance and relationships. Notice if you’re critical or harsh to yourself. Many of us have such tough inner critics that when we make a mistake in the relationship department, this inner voice beats up on us, saying things like, "You are so stupid” or “You’re such a loser; who would want you?”
The next time you are disappointed in yourself, try a little cognitive therapy: replace your negative self-messages with neutral or positive ones, like, "I made a mistake. No big deal.” Or “Yeah, I screwed up, but I won’t make this mistake again."
For you lucky folks in contented relationships, ponder this question: Should you love yourself more than your partner, your children and/or your friends? Should you put your love for yourself before your love for them?
I believe that while love for others is extremely important, self-love must come first. Are you cringing right now? Does this feel too “New Age-y” for you? Self-love has become a cliché; yet so many of us in the GLBT community are Masters of People Pleasing: we put the needs of others before our own. This is the essence of co-dependency – pleasing others first, putting ourselves last.
Self-love isn’t narcissism. Being in service and giving back to our community is important, but even hard core 'people pleasers' can see that when you love yourself, you can more easily give love to others. Self-love is a powerful gift of kindness, compassion and appreciation that you give to yourself. Even if you don’t have a friend in the world right now, you can give yourself the gift of self-love and know that you deserve it.
Ready to ratchet up your self-love? Try this exercise: Get up off the sofa, put down the remote, and stand in front of a mirror. Look yourself in the eyes. Take three deep breaths. Ask yourself (out loud): “What can I do for you today?” or “What do you need today?”
Don’t be surprised if you start to cry. Many of us aren’t used to being in touch with what we need; it can be an emotional moment. Now listen to the answers you get: this is the real you speaking. If you’ve been out of touch with yourself lately, your answers may surprise you.
You may expect to hear, “Go to the gym and don’t eat all that junk food” but what you actually get is, “Be kind to me today, let’s go out and walk around somewhere pretty and then have a nice lunch and a glass of wine.”
I invite you to make this whole month about self-love. It’s hard to love your partner if you hate yourself. If you have a partner, by all means, shower him or her with affection…as long as you shower yourself with affection first. You’ll have more love to give your partner if you’re already feeling it for yourself.
If you’re single, resist the temptation to beat yourself up because you have no hot date for the weekend. Instead, try the mirror exercise and see what your “inner” lover would like. Whether you have a 25-year-relationship or you’re new in town and know nobody, give yourself a healthy shot of Self-Love and see what happens.
Joseph Gregory and Chuck Rapp, partners for 22 years, have formed a happy life together by pursuing separate interests while sharing a deep respect for each other's abilities.
So what then are the keys to a healthy, long-term relationship?
"Honesty, communicating and we profess our love for each other everyday for the last 22 years. We balance each other," says Joseph, an entrepreneur and president of Hope Diamond Collection, an organization that honors the famous family heirloom.
The couple, who met in the late Eighties shortly after Joseph graduated from Belmont University, faced the usual obstacles of a gay couple during that challenging period. Though they acknowledge that Tennessee remains limited terms of GLBT rights, they also say that constant sources of inspiration have allowed to lead free and open lives.
Joseph admits that it is "hard being taken seriously in business and financial situations" at times, but that the majority of the people along their journey have been actively in their corner.
"Our true friends have been with us for many, many years," Joseph says. "Some of my family is accepting and supportive and some are more distant. Chuck's side is very small, but accepting for the most part. We have learned to be just who we are and to be known as individuals as well as a couple. Acceptance by everyone is not a necessity for us any longer."
Chuck, an admissions coordinator at Cumberland Heights drug treatment center, appreciates that their neighbors and friends have fully embraced the two men as individuals and as a couple.
"We feel very blessed in our lives. We've been very fortunate to have a long history together. I guess we really didn't have to hide," he says. "With the people in our neighborhood, there's never been any violence or prejudice towards us."
Though both men have a fair share of professional responsibilities, they balance their schedules to find time for a sense of adventure and fun.
"I've been to great places around the world that I wouldn't have gone on my own. It's nice to share that experience with someone else," Chuck says. "Joseph has encouraged me to explore and opened doors for me to try new things."
To offer their energies towards important community efforts, the couple have consistently been involved in organizations such as Nashville CARES and the Tennessee State Museum. Through their work they hope to reverse the trend of discrimination in a more conservative society.
"I don't feel it's the right of the government to legislate morality. Telling people what they have to do is not right," Chuck says.
"I encourage people to show their strengths, and if you have children, be an example," Joseph adds. "You need to stand up for issues and speak out in order to make a difference."