How to cope with ‘breakup firsts’ in your first year of separation

The first half of our lives tends to be filled with exciting new firsts: first kiss, first home, first job, first paycheck. We celebrate our firsts, when it comes to anniversaries, however less is said about the other side of the spectrum — the firsts after a breakup. According to research, the first year after a breakup is the hardest. It’s not surprising, when every milestone acts as a reminder of what — or who — we’re missing. On 17 September, 2022, The Separation Summit will bring experts together to talk about the logistical, financial and emotional ramifications of a breakup. Divorce Coach, Nikki Parkinson, created the event after a spike in clients after the pandemic, with lockdown putting a strain on relationships. If you’re thinking of ending a relationship, or the decision has been made for you, how can you navigate the ‘year of firsts’, without it breaking you? Kick fear in the butt Like what you see? Sign up to our newsletter for more stories like this. First time saying “my ex” Nothing gives us more of a buzz than hearing the word “we”. On the flip side, saying “my ex” for the first time can really sting. Take comfort in the fact, it will get easier with practice. Also, use it as a timely-reminder of reasons to be grateful. Your ex is your ‘example’ of why new beginnings are great. Whenever you say ‘my ex’ think about the other expired parts of your life, which became new beginnings — an old job, for example, which led to a better one. First new pad of your very own  Be like Carrie with her NYC apartment. Image: Sex And The City It’s highly likely that you once shared a home with your spouse — the home you bought together, decorated together and shared meaningful moments with… together. Instead of focusing on the empty half of the wardrobe, how can you have fun making the house your own? You don’t have to compromise on your tastes or interior preferences. Get curious and be playful with home décor and rearranging, rather than focusing on what is missing.  First co-parent hand-over Having to communicate with an ex-partner can be tough at the best of times, and now communication is now more crucial than ever. Stability is important especially for younger children, and evidence tells us that familiarity can help facilitate a sense of safety for our child/ren. Be the adults here, and co-parent kindly. According to Nikki Parkinson, “A common worry I hear often from parents is that separation and divorce will “ruin their children’s lives”. This could not be further from the truth.” The big first date Tinder is upping its safety game. Image: iStock. If, like me, you became single whilst Dating Apps were thriving, then the first date protocols can be a little dusty. However, first dates can also be exciting. Once the nerves and pre-date sweats settle, this is an opportunity to meet someone entirely new. Sure, whilst terrifying, also incredibly liberating. Keep your heart open but also don’t rush yourself. There is no rule saying you have to be ‘on the apps’ three months after a breakup. Trust your gut and go at your own pace. First dinner party your friends throw (and you’re not invited)  Some friends stay, and some friends go (and that’s ok too). Some mutual friends remain neutral, and some take sides. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to negotiate who ‘keeps’ the friends. So, when you scroll over a social media post of a dinner party with your ex in the mix (and the seat where you once sat), learn to accept that this will happen from time to time. Focus on your support network that is 100% yours and understand that whilst your relationship has come to an end, with your friends, it hasn’t. Forcing sides will only make it harder. Take this time to plan a party of your own.  The first big occasions  Birthdays can be a tough milestone. Image: Bridget Jones Big occasions, like birthdays and seasonal holidays can be at the centre of a family. First comes the Christmas trees in two separate homes, and then the Mother’s or Father’s Day, where splitting in two is massively surreal. Somehow, festive holidays spark old memories, but remembering it’s just one day will help this time soften. “This too shall pass”, and it does.  First time meeting the ex’s new flame  Let’s admit it – we have all probably had a social media stalker moment, where we are secretly scrolling our ex. It’s the worst thing we can do, especially when the breakup is new. Clocking your ex’s new partner for the first time, especially for the sake of your children, takes almighty bravery my friend. What should you do? Smile. It can be hard to admit, but you once loved your ex, and wanted them to be happy. Hopefully now will be no different.   First boyfriend or girlfriend  Try to be nice… Image: Forgetting Sarah Marshall This is a good one. Remember that first date, well look at you now! You are someone’s special someone. You have discovered the polar differences between being lonely and being alone. There is no magic timescale for when to date after a divorce, but sure enough, you’ve done the work, you see your worth and now, you are ready to share your world with a brand-new love.   Wedding anniversary: when the “I Do” becomes the “I Don’t” It’s hard to ignore a date that once was the cornerstone for such a special day. Perhaps for decades, you have mentally marked the date, month and year, where you said, “I Do”. Every year that passes, you celebrate with a date night, holiday or with your family and friends. Then the date remains just that, a date. Getting to this day in the first year following a divorce is an emotional win (I’m high fiving you by the way!). You will grieve, reflect, and either celebrate or mourn. There is no right way to move through this day. Dare I say trying to forget it will only make it harder.  The “divorce-sary”  Image: iStock The divorce-sary’, otherwise known as the day, you say, “I don’t”. This date in the diary isn’t for everyone. In fact, some choose to glide straight over it, and others, celebrate. Sometimes, acknowledging our hardest days, is giving power to the very thing that nearly broke us. If you choose to mentally flag this day, perhaps make it the one and only time. We are not our biggest heartaches, or the words used against us in the midst of a brutal breakup. This is now all about you. Perhaps, take yourself to The Separation Summit – they are all the rage don’t you know? Ally Hensley is a writer, speaker, and advocate for women’s health and happiness. Ally has written for leading publications on mental health, infertility, body positivity, and is a regular speaker on how to transform trauma into triumph. Currently, she is authoring her debut memoir. Follow along on Instagram here.

How to cope with ‘breakup firsts’ in your first year of separation

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