When you’ve been with someone for a couple of years or more, particularly if you’re living together, then chances are you’ve settled into a nice comfy routine of some sort. You both get up (and you know what time you both get up), you go to work, towards the end of the day you have a conversation about what to have for dinner, you talk about who’s going to pick up food and what time you’ll each be getting home. Weekday evenings consist of eating, chatting about your respective days, relaxing in front of the TV. Friday night is generally accepted as “quality time” – you’ll most often be doing something together. Perhaps even Saturday night as well. And then there’s those lazy Sunday mornings…
When we’re in a relationship for a certain length of time, whether we realise it or not, we often find ourselves in a routine. A very familiar routine that we play out, every day. Whether or not it’s a physical routine in terms of how you plan your days and weeks, or a mental routine in terms of how much time you dedicate your thoughts to your relationship/significant other, it’s a pattern that we become comfortable with. At times the routine can feel dull and unfulfilling, but on the flip side it feels safe and predictable. As human beings, we quite like some of our obligations, and limitations. They give us a sense of rhythm and routine in a world that might otherwise feel too loose and chaotic.
So when a relationship ends, very often that familiar routine goes out of the door with it and it can take you somewhat by surprise. Suddenly, what you’re having for dinner tonight isn’t a joint decision anymore – it isn’t even a conversation. Friday night isn’t already planned and assumed – it’s a night like any other night and it’s suddenly devoid of activity. Weekends feel longer than they used to – you find there’s too much time on your hands and you’re not used to having to think about what to fill those hours with. You used to have a social life, but much of that appears to have been intertwined with the relationship. Now that’s gone, where do you start with making a whole new life for yourself?
It’s a jolt to have your whole routine change in an instant. And it’s perfectly normal to feel sad, scared, worried, out of control or a combination of all of these feelings. We are naturally creatures of habit – it’s reassuring to have some structures in place and to know that some things in life are constant and stable. When those constants disappear, it’s like someone pulled a rug from underneath your feet, and you don’t know where you’re going to land.
The good news is that whilst it might feel unnerving, within this new found “chaos” are a huge number of exciting opportunities and discoveries. It might be hard to see them straight away, but first take a step back and ask yourself these two questions:
1) “When I was stuck in my old routine, what was I saying no to?”
2) “Now that I have fewer obligations, what does this allow me to say yes to?”
It may be that whilst you were busy going about your normal relationship routine, you said no to social invitations from friends, which you would have enjoyed but decided to put the relationship first. Perhaps there were activities you wanted to try or places you wanted to visit but your partner disapproved or you never found the time. When choosing what to have for dinner together you’d choose things they liked.