Breaking up with someone you love is often a terrible experience. Breaking up with someone you love in what is supposed to be the City of Love can be a heart-wrenching emotional roller coaster.
Unfortunately, at the end of February, I found myself in this exact situation: ending a long-term relationship with a Parisian in Paris. At least by this point, Valentine’s Day had passed and I was no longer bombarded with images of happy couples in love, discounts on holiday-themed lingerie, and sickeningly sweet His & Her gift ideas on every street corner.
Nevertheless, the first few weeks were incredibly difficult. Not only did I have to deal with the usual post-break-up challenges common to any city — cancelling all the plans and trips we’d made for the following months, packing up his things in my apartment – but I also had to walk down the same Parisian streets that we had strolled through hand in hand, eat the foods he had introduced me to, and hear the romantic lilt of his language everywhere.
The worst part? Being French, he had one of those first names that 1/5 of the French male population seems to share. Included amongst the many other Arnauds in my life were (in no particular order): four people at work, two personal friends of mine, the guy at the Bastille Sunday market where I buy my vegetables, and the man at my favourite boulangerie!
But what’s a newly single girl in Paris to do? Clearly you can’t hide from your baguette man forever! Or refuse to eat caramel au beurre salé simply because he introduced it to you. And so after the first couple of weeks of skimming depression, I decided to pick myself up and find new pieces of light in my little world of Paris.
Discovering new parts of Paris
First thing on my list was discovering new parts of the city. I had lived here for three years, but a lot of my memories had been made with Arnaud, so it was time to start carving out new territory just for myself. I noted down all the recently opened hip restaurants, cafés and bars that I had been meaning to hit up and enlisted my friends to check them out with me. I tallied up cool new exhibitions and made plans to go with a couple of art fiends. Sometimes I even went for walks by myself in neighborhoods I’d never explored before. Suddenly, my previously lonely days were filled with coffee dates at Coutume Café, drinks at Le Mary Celeste, and weekend strolls around the 11e.
Meeting new people
One of the difficult things with break-ups is that you often also have to break up with that significant other’s social circle. There would be no more ski holidays or concert dates with other couples he knew. But it also meant that I suddenly had all this free time (and social energy) to find other human beings who might inspire me.
I made an effort to reach out to new people, said yes to whatever invitations came my way, and re-launched my Diner des 3 Découvertes supper club. I signed up for bikram yoga and discovered a terrific health-conscious community, and started going salsa dancing to get back in touch with my Spanish side. Opening myself up to new people brought me wonderful new experiences during the past two months – including Carin Olsson’s Éclair Smackdown for HiP Paris and planning an impromptu girls’ trip to Corsica!
Meeting new men
I suppose the last step in any post-break-up process is being ready to put yourself out there again. Contrary to what many people believe, meeting new men can be as daunting a task in Paris as it is in anywhere else in the world. Upon my friends’ urging, I timidly and painfully subscribed to match.com – then immediately unsubscribed once I saw the results. I reluctantly agreed to a few dinners where couples were eager to introduce me to their single male friends. I even went to a cocktail bar to practice a few fun flirtation strategies with the girls, then chickened out and went home to read a book at 4am.
You see, I’m still at that stage where I’m painfully too shy to meet new men. Much to my amazement, I have found something that works for me. Three words: conversation exchange programs. After hearing a good friend speak about it, I decided to sign up to continue to improve my French in return for helping someone with their English. The next morning, I woke up to at least a dozen emails by Julien, Nicolas, Vincent and the like, asking to meet over coffee or lunch or drinks to practice French and English together (surprisingly, no Arnauds have come through my mailbox yet!). It’s not a date; it’s not a set-up. It’s just a friendly rendez-vous with someone who might or might not be interesting, where learning the language is the primary objective and where an unexpected spark might just be a nice cherry on top.
And so, nearly two months later, this newly single girl in Paris is finding herself. She’s checking out new restaurants with friends, organizing dinners with strangers, dancing / reading / doing yoga more often, and from time to time meeting a new guy over a cup of coffee and some Franglais. I have learned that overall, the post-break-up healing process in Paris is not so different than in any other city around the world. It’s just that cultural barriers and that sense of “separateness” that every expat experiences mean that it requires a bit more effort and creative thinking to get through it all.
Above all, I have learned that Paris is not just a city for lovers. It’s also a city for strong-willed, independent, creative people seeking compassion and inspiration – and you don’t need to be in a couple to be part of that.
- Find out more about Milsters’ Diner des 3 Découvertes
- “The Faster Times” shares their story about traveling to Paris as a single girl
- Looking for the best single bars in Paris? Yelp lists their recommendations