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Journaling through a break up

A few years ago, I handled a break up really badly. I left my boyfriend seven times in a year. Yep, seven! And each time, I was in pieces. The thing is, we got along like a house on fire. He thought I was great fun but didn’t want anything serious, so I’d leave him, he’d find it cute and then if he had no plans for the weekend, he’d sweep me off my feet again. I caved in every time. Every single time, my mind would erase the reasons why I’d broken up with him in the first place.

Thankfully, I learnt my lesson. Never again! So, when my next relationship grew rocky, I took to journaling. I’ve never looked back.

Many of you wrote in about the newsletter I sent out last week. Some of you shared stories relating to issues you were experiencing in relationships and asked for ideas on how to work through problems. Today, I’ll share my thoughts on navigating issues in a romantic relationship, but it’s just as relevant if you’re going through a major family feud or have fallen out with a friend or colleague.

Journaling allows you to download your thoughts, unpick situations and stop the brouhaha in your mind when things spin out of control – that constant pestering voice which tells you that all is doom and gloom.

“He isn’t answering my calls. Maybe he’s busy. But then, I don’t think he’s working today. Maybe his phone is broken. Maybe it’s on silent. Maybe he never wants to see me again.”

Does that sound familiar? I can only sympathise. There are only so many times you can call your friends and go through these drills. They listen patiently, secretly thinking “Dump him!” and end up having an urgent thing to do.

Talking to friends and asking for advice is very valuable, but there’s so much going on in your mind that it simply doesn’t provide sufficient relief. You’re busy exploring every possible scenario: “Maybe he isn’t answering because he’s gone shopping and has forgotten his phone, in which case, I should hear from him in the afternoon…” and with this exploration comes shame. “I can’t believe he’s hijacked my brain… I’m done! I want my life back! This isn’t who I am – I was perfectly happy on my own.”

You should really just “let go” but it’s easier said than done. The alternative is to dump your thoughts onto a piece of paper. You’ll end up with a circular pattern, for sure, but you will have allowed your brain to process information. And you will have honoured your rather repetitive and seemingly childish thoughts “Loves me. Loves me not. Loves me. Loves me not…” In the process, you will have learnt a lot about yourself and what is going on in your relationship. Are you being too needy or do you just pick unavailable men by default? Maybe there’s work to be done there.

A few years ago, during another break up (yes, I’ve had a few!), my decision took months to mature. My journal would remain open most of the day as a companion and reporter. I wrote page after page to help me figure out if I was making the right decision. I jotted down what was going well and what wasn’t working. I then made a list of what I could do to make things better. I implemented the list and constantly updated it by trying new things.

“Write what should not be forgotten” - Isabel Allende” Tweet This

After a few months, when I noticed that all my efforts had failed, I could only accept that I was pushing water up a hill. Given my circumstances, the best option was to put an end to the relationship. My friends had been telling me this for a long time, but the decision had to come from me.

My journal held data about what had happened. I couldn’t deny the severity of the issues which my boyfriend and I had, as I’d written them out in detail. They weren’t imagined, as I might have wanted to believe, when breaking up seemed like the most difficult choice I’d ever had to make. I was able to act with composure, clarity, love and care.

In these moments, we wish we could trust our gut, but most of us are tricked by fear, so writing can be a form of commitment to the truth and to your values. Whenever I questioned my decision in the months after the break up, I would get a jolt when I read through my diary again. I was reminded that I should trust my judgement.

Journaling helps you to think clearly, come up with a plan, commit to a decision and remember your values.

“Writing is medicine. It is an appropriate antidote to injury. It is an appropriate companion for any difficult change.”
– Julia Cameron

Committing your thoughts to paper is an act of self-care. Don’t ignore what’s going on, don’t numb your mind with distractions. Take a shortcut, take up the challenge, write and come up with a plan rather than letting things fester. Taking ownership of a situation is the best way to feel some kind of control when your world has been rocked. Consider it a form of pampering. You’re allowing your opinion to be voiced, and you’re listening to yourself and gaining confidence in your judgement.

There are lots of ways to journal. You might want to write or prefer to type. You could even combine a few different outlets. I personally love using the Moodnotes app. It’s a thought journal which helps you “capture your feelings” and “improve your thinking habits”. It combines Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with positive psychology and helps me to reframe issues. I couldn’t recommend it more highly as a complement to a regular journal.

Now, I’d love to hear from you! Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts or email me at charlotte(at)astoryworthliving.com

  • Do you have any issues in your relationships at the moment?
  • How do you handle them?
  • Have you tried journaling to resolve conflicts?

If you’ve enjoyed this article and know anyone who could benefit from reading this, I’d be really grateful if you shared it with them.

Thank you for reading!

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