Why sometimes, breakups are good for you

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Popular culture, from songs to films to social media, often ingrains in us that breakups are inherently bad, a breeding ground for resentment and an example of failure. We often have this melodramatic arc that leaves little room for the third option: that breakups can be good and help achieve personal growth.

We would do better in life to celebrate relationships for what they are, and for having enough awareness to know when they no longer serve us well. If a relationship doesn’t allow those involved to be happy or grow, it instead causes hurt and upset. But the end of one doesn’t mean we have to lose part of who we are or that can’t reshape a previously romantic relationship into something else, like a friendship.

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Breaking up is an opportunity to pivot forwards

It’s this sense of renewal that forms the basis of US-based Onward, a ‘breakup concierge service’ founded by childhood friends, Lindsay Meck and Mika Leonard. “We both wish there was more of a cultural narrative showing that breakups aren’t throwing stuff out of the window or drowning sorrows into Ben & Jerry’s,” says Lindsay.

Instead, she says, breaking up 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”.

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It can be an opportunity to live a better life

New Yorkers Lindsay and Mika see themselves as the ‘Ghostbusters of the breakup world’. “We want to be there 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.”

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Onward provides a tiered solution of options for breakups

The two women came up with the idea for Onward after both went through 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.

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.

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Self-care can easily fall by the wayside in a break-up

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 when working with Onward folks, reminding them to take care of themselves and to be inwardly kind.” 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.

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We’re somewhere between the best friend and the fixer

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.”

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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 reframing 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.

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