Lena Dunham is working on self-care after splitting with longtime boyfriend Jack Antonoff. Real women tell Moneyish why the cost of self-love is priceless
Breaking up is hard to do — and doing you after a long-term relationship can be even harder.
Lena Dunham revealed in a recent essay for Vogue that she’d forgotten how to be alone after calling it quits with her boyfriend of five years, Jack Antonoff. The “Girls” creator said she eased back into her solo life with simple self-care practices.
“I made a list, on actual paper, of things I like to do, activities that bring me joy, pursuits that nourish me,” Dunham wrote. “I found that a bath was a good starting place because bathing alone is natural,” she added, explaining that she’d also read a poetry book cover-to-cover at her kitchen counter, and worked up the courage to eat at a restaurant by herself again.
Dunham isn’t alone in her quest to regain control of her sense of self. Research from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that when people are in serious relationships, their identity becomes intertwined with their partner’s, so they tend to lose their sense of independence. One way to remedy that, experts say, is by investing in some serious “me time.”
“It’s a slow process,” relationship expert Kate Galt told Moneyish. “You have to find time to grieve and let go of the heaviness. That doesn’t mean dating immediately, but rather gradually calling on friends and getting out. Exercise and meditation will help; anything that involves committing to yourself.”
While research shows that spending money can at least temporarily boost your mood, investing in healthy self-care practices like giving back, pursuing career goals, or going on wellness retreats is key to bouncing back after a breakup, women who have been there told Moneyish.
After ending an on-again-off-again relationship of 10 years, Vancouver native Puneet Grewal, 36, knew she needed to make changes. “If you want to increase self-love, you definitely end up spending money,” Grewal said. “I said to myself, ‘I’ll either eat this tub of ice cream, or I can do something positive to change my life.’”
Healing, for Grewal, started with five 30-minute counseling sessions for $125 a pop, in addition to seeking out an energy healer to learn more about her chakra levels to release negative tension (another $125). After working on her inner beauty, Grewal decided to invest in a little glam. She got botox at $300 per session, and treated herself to weekly manicures and pedicures for around $200 a month.
“Is there a price tag on self-care? I don’t know. It could be all placebo, but at the end of the day I think it helped,” said Grewal, who also tried other affordable remedies like joining a book club and running. “I felt more at peace.”
There’s certainly business for breakups. For a starting rate of $1,200, women can enroll in the lush Renew Breakup Bootcamp, which holds three-day retreats in upstate New York near Woodstock and in Malibu every two months, bringing together intimate groups of up to 20 women. Applications are open to women of all ages and in the past, attendees have been between ages 23 t0 68. Attendees discuss feelings, stages of mourning and detaching with psychologists; practice yoga and meditation; learn about behavioral nutrition; and complete tasks like keeping a gratitude journal.
“It’s a journey on how to love ourselves, and really understand that we need to fill ourselves up. We go over everything from attachment theory to self-compassion work and physical exercise,” said founder Amy Chan, who started the company after experiencing anxiety and depression stemming from a difficult breakup of her own. “The goal is you come away with your own toolkit of emotional regulation.”
Traveling and giving back to those in need was a way to cope with ending an 18-year marriage for Suzie, 57, a mother from Burlington, Vt., who requested that Moneyish withhold her last name.
“When I was married, I was always on the bottom of the list. I learned that I had to make time for me,” Suzie said of why she had to leave the relationship. “It took me three years to regain my courage and the confidence. Traveling helped a lot; my first trip was to Nicaragua with my son, teaching kids how to read. It was eye-opening. The second year, we did Zion and Grand Canyon, and last year we did a riverboat trip through France.”
Seeing different parts of the world doesn’t come cheap: Suzie says she spent around $25,000 on travel over the course of three years.
But that was money well spent, research suggests. A study from the American Psychological Association on breakups shows that making an effort to promote positivity in your life — whether it be from going for a run or traveling to a tropical island — promotes personal growth. But there are certainly plenty of free options, too. The same study found that expressive writing and journaling triggers a focus on cognitive processing that decreases negative thoughts and increases well-being.
Other new singles channel negative energy from a toxic breakup into pursuing their career goals.
“I left an emotional, verbal and sometimes physically abusive relationship after two and a half years,” said Malia Jade, a lecturer in music theory and piano at California State University. “There was the final moment in the relationship where I stood up and decided to respect myself by saying, ‘That is enough. I’m done.’”
Jade invested $2,000 of her own money into creating Music Theory Staff Paper, a type of music-writing paper for lessons and songwriting. She filed a copyright, trademark and design patent and built a website, while mailing out dozens of copies to target potential buyers like music theory professors.
“My ex said that I would never make it in the music industry without him. And I haven’t made it … yet,” she said. “But I am on my way.”
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