Why sometimes, breakups are good for you

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The founders of a heartbreak concierge service explain why sometimes, breakups are good

The first cut is the deepest. Unbreak my heart. Don’t tell me ’cause it hurts. Our song lyrics are rife with the searing pain of a relationship breakdown – a giant fistful of tears and soulful warbling.

Films don’t fare much better. According to Hollywood, heartbreak will either leave you binge-eating in a duvet (Bridget Jones, Legally Blonde) or deranged and homicidal (Heathers, Kill Bill).

This melodramatic arc leave little room for a third option: that breakup are good, and can help you achieve personal growth.

Breakups are an opportunity to live a better life

It’s this sense of renewal that forms the basis of Onward, a “breakup concierge service” founded by childhood friends Lindsay Meck, 34, and Mika Leonard, 33.

“We both wish there was more of a cultural narrative showing that breakups aren’t throwing stuff out the window or drowning sorrows into Ben & Jerry’s,” says Lindsay. Instead, she says, splitting from someone is “an opportunity to pivot forwards, for both people to leave with grace and integrity”.

Onward provides its users with a network of emotional and practical support in the wake of a breakup, to “make this life moment less derailing”.

Moving on from a breakup

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New Yorkers Lindsay and Mika see themselves as the Ghostbusters of the breakup world: “We want to be top of mind at a moment when you need us. We are the folks who come in, triage, and problem solve – be it finding you a new apartment, moving or storing your stuff, setting up your furniture or coordinating someone to walk your dog.”

“Lindsay’s late mother had been a divorce attorney for 33 years in our hometown of Ohio,” explains Mika. “So we had grown up around this idea that breakups were okay to talk about. Rather than being shameful or a failure, they can be an opportunity to live a better life.”

The two women came up with the idea for Onward after both suffered a major breakup within months of one another.

“Mika was first – and had to navigate all these challenging logistics on her own – moving out, setting up her new place, getting furniture, while also having to manage her stress, her sadness, and her career,” says Lindsay. “I then had the same experience six months later.”

They were struck by the notion that a “friendly service” could make the whole ordeal easier to handle.

Finding the breakup support you need

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Onward provides a tiered solution of options for breakups, depending on whether you simply want to “reboot” with physical rehousing help, or “recalibrate” with a hands-on approach to therapy, finance, legal advice and more.

The support plans Lindsay and Mika have devised last up to three months, and cover everything from affordable apartment tips to online mindfulness courses and a therapy matchmaking service. They are currently developing healthy practices to manage “social media uncoupling”,  and all the baggage that comes from shared posts, or far-flung Facebook acquaintances being unaware of a split.

Self-care is at the core of the two friends’ approach in handling breakups, too. “There is so much to do, so quickly, and it is easy to live out of suitcases for months while in survival mode,” says Mika.

“I do think forgetting self-care – getting sleep, eating right, exercising – was an easy one that fell by the wayside in my own break-up. We are very conscious of that working with Onward folks – to remind them to take care of themselves and to be kind to themselves.”

Onward’s resources include tips on meet-ups, yoga classes, acupuncture and more, to encourage healing and recovery. “This is a major juncture in people’s lives. They need to process it thoughtfully, in order to file it away and move forward,” says Lindsay.

Why breakups are good

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When it comes down to it, Onward plays the role of an empathetic friend: albeit one with endless availability, and a neutral distance from the situation at hand.

“I think folks who have stretched their friend circles thin over the course of a tumultuous relationship really like going to a neutral third-party, who isn’t going to take sides and is a bit anonymous,” says Mika. “We’re somewhere between the best friend, the secretary, and the fixer. Onward is going to champion you and also make sure you get through this process as seamlessly as possible.”

It’s about building resilience and life skills

By lifting the weight of a typical breakup, the hope is that people can move forward more quickly. With grounding support in place, they’re better able to use the split as a foundation for positive growth.

“I think it is very brave to break up — you have to be quite strong to forge ahead and begin a new chapter,” says Lindsay. “We both feel re-framing the experience as an active choice can help with some of the less-than-great feelings that might come — heartbreak, sadness, and maybe a sense of failure.

“There is a lot of research to support the idea of breakups as a time for growth. It’s about building resilience and life skills, and reinvesting in yourself.”

At a time of life that can feel overwhelming, it’s a relief to think that a breakup can be good. Not only that, but the experience may help you move forwards in new and unexpected ways.

How to have a good breakup

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Breakups are always painful. Here’s how to handle the emotions in a positive way, and kickstart your recovery.

Acknowledge how you feel

Breakups are tough, so don’t minimise your feelings. Many people try to bury the heartache by working through it, or partying hard. But it’s better to simply listen to what’s going on in your head, in a gentle and non-judgemental way. Writing things down can really help to process how you’re feeling, too.

Ask for help

Your loved ones want to help you at this difficult time, so use them – that’s what they’re there for. They might help you in a practical way, or simply offer a sympathetic ear. Either way, their support is invaluable: don’t let your pride get in the way of asking for help. Similarly, professional services such as Onward, or therapy sessions, can be a huge source of support.

Cut ties quickly

Logistics are always tricky to navigate but if you can, try to avoid living together after you’ve split up. It will only make your situation more complicated. It can be hard to deal with practical details when you’re in a bad place, so this is where you call on your support system (above). The quicker you can cut ties, the better you’ll feel: and this applies to everything from shared living to joint bank accounts and beyond.

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Take your time

Although you want to move on quickly in a practical sense, don’t try and rush the healing part. Breakups are essentially a trauma: you grieve for your partner in a way that no-one else can really understand. So don’t beat yourself up, or think, “I should be feeling better by now”. Messy emotions don’t play to a timeline. Just know that sooner or later, you *will* feel better.

Don’t look back

Nothing good will come from stalking your ex on Instagram, and you know it. If the temptation’s too strong, take a break from social media for a while. You could probably do with the head space in any case. Turn down joint invites where things will be awkward, and back away from being involved in any area of your ex’s life. Maybe in the future you can be friends, but a bit of distance is crucial during the first stages of a breakup.

Find a new focus

A breakup is a good time to reassess where you’re at in life, and that includes pressing reset on new skills and areas of interest. Always wanted to learn French or try out aerial yoga? Now’s your chance. Don’t think about it too hard to begin with: just throw yourself in. Your mind will welcome the distraction, and staying busy is a good a cure as any for a broken heart (as long as you don’t overdo it, or focus just on work). For the same reason, you might start plotting a new holiday or adventure.

Look after yourself

You’ve been through a hard time. Time to swoop in and treat yourself carefully, like you would do a toddler. That means early bedtimes, plenty of sleep, good regular meals and a sense of routine. Put yourself first and don’t feel like you have to look “on form” if you’re not feeling it. You’ve got carte blanche to turn down a few events, or not tackle that huge work project. Take it easy for a while instead.


Need support with a break-up? Find out more about Onward’s NYC-based concierge service on their website

Images: Unsplash

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