Truth Or Truth With A Breakup Coach

SOLO 194 | Breakup Coach


Peter McGraw invites a breakup coach and host of Breakups, Broken Hearts, and Moving On into the Solo Studio to play Truth or Truth. Janice Formichella and Peter have a delightful conversation, discussing topics such as the “no contact” rule, overcoming loneliness, and being single during the holiday.

Listen to Episode #194 here


Truth Or Truth With A Breakup Coach

I’m doing a Truth or Truth Episode with a fellow podcaster whom we’re going to share this episode on our respective podcast. She’s a fellow Denver resident breakup coach and host of the Breakups, Broken Hearts, and Moving On Podcast. Welcome, Janice Formichella.

Thank you so much for having me, Peter, and for having me at your studio. This is fun.

It’s lovely in here, isn’t it?

It is. Great setup. I like the warm toilet seat as well.

I have a Japanese toilet. Anybody who knows my neat freakiness is not surprised by that. When I have guests, I warm them, and I encourage them to partake. They’re inclined. In Truth or Truth, we share two questions in advance, and the third round is a surprise question. Anything you want to say before we jump in?

It was exciting to come upon your work. It’s exciting that we live in the same town and also two like-minded people. Sometimes, in the Solo movement, you think you’re the only one, and then when you discover other people in the community, it’s exciting.

You sent me an email. By the way, readers, we have an Instagram account for Solo called @Unapologetically_Unattached. Is that how you found us?

First, I came upon Bella DePaulo’s work, then subsequently found you. I was trying to network with other single or solo podcasters, and that’s how I found you or the account rather.

I appreciate your reaching out. As soon as you reached out, I was like, “We need to talk.” This episode comes on the heels of an episode about loss. It is a fairly heavy and emotional but helpful episode about grieving and mourning loss, more generally. We talked a little bit about how breakups, relationships, and losses create a grieving process, which is a little bit unlike the loss of other types of relationships, at least due to death. Whether it be divorce or breakups, I suspect you have this perspective. This is not my first question, but I’m very chatty. One of the difficult things about breakups is there’s the possibility to unbreak up, and that can delay or alter the grieving.

Yes, for sure. I’m going to get into this in one of the questions that I happened to know that you’re going to ask me. I do think it’s very important to be very resolute when you break up on both sides.

Let me jump into that first question. This is certainly in your wheelhouse. What advice do you have for people dealing with breakups? Conversely, what are the best practices for breaking up so that you minimize someone else’s pain? It’s a two-parter.

As far as the person who perhaps doesn’t want the breakup or is “being dumped,” which is a horrible way to put it, but I know that’s part of our vernacular, I would say it is very important as far as going along with the grieving process to accept that it is over rather than staying in the denial stage, hoping that the person will change their mind, or trying to convince yourself that it’s not really over and maybe continuing to reach out. That is going to keep the wound wide open, whereas if you can accept that it’s over, you can start the healing process easier.

As I like to say, no means no. No doesn’t mean maybe. Maybe usually means no, too.

I think so. When it comes to a romantic relationship and a breakup, why would you even want to be with someone who considers you to be a maybe and certainly someone who considers you to be a no? I always like to tell my clients to keep your dignity at the forefront. When someone lets you know that they’re no longer interested in being with you, that’s the best thing that you can do as far as yourself respect goes.

I am also a very big advocate for what we call the no-contact rule. If you are feeling hurt or burned by the breakup, I believe that the best thing you can do is to stop engaging with each other for at least a period of time. I do work one-on-one with clients, and that’s probably been the thing that has made the biggest difference as far as people’s recovery goes.

I can see that. There’s research on psychological distance. There are different forms of distance. There is social distance. For example, you are more socially distant from strangers than family members. There is a distance in time. A hundred years ago is farther away than yesterday. There is physical distance. The other side of the globe is further away than right here in this room. There’s another form called hypotheticality.

How fun to do this with a professor.

It is things that aren’t real or more far away than things that are real. One of the findings from the psychological research is things that are distant have less of an emotional effect on us. Not having contact, whether it be communication or in person, however it may be, makes that person more distant. Thus, it is less emotionally impactful.

Also, I like to talk about it as to how much space your ex is taking up in your day. When it comes to the no contact rule, that includes not looking at old text messages, which a lot of people do. It sounds torturous. Also, not looking at old photos and social media. I consider that to be not only contact but quite a bit of contact. Not to mention the fact that these are typically things that people do on their phones. I don’t want your ex on your phone. I don’t know about you, but I look at my phone 100 times a day.

I had a whole episode on giving up your phone.

I haven’t read that one. It is something that takes up so much of your time and is constantly in your hand. It should not have your ex all over it. That’s one of my biggest tips. If you are heartbroken, accept it then cut it out.

Do some cleaning. You spend your days helping people work through heartbreak. It’s so difficult, especially when you’ve built the bond with someone. They’re part of your daily habits and rituals, your lifestyle, and part of your friend group. They may be connected to your family. You’ve shared these wonderful memories.

You may be in love with this person, even though you know they’re not right for you, or they’ve done something that is so painful that it necessitates this breakup, or you’re in love with them and they’re not in love with you. How awful a feeling that is. It’s very difficult. Some of the advice about grieving is how you maintain a positive memory of this person while also creating that distance, recognizing that there’s no going back, and life has changed forevermore.

I suppose there’s a few different things. Also, being part of the Solo community does help because knowing you’re going to be okay and you didn’t want to be on the relationship escalator anyway, I will say it has helped me. I will also say compartmentalizing if you’re able to do that. This might be farther down the line. Trying to maintain happy memories when you’re so heartbroken is not something that you want to prioritize straight away.

Going into any relationship knowing that it could end is important. Let’s be realistic. It is knowing that you will connect with many people over your lifetime. It’s perfectly okay to have happy memories of the next because all relationships, or many relationships, have an expiration date. That doesn’t mean that you didn’t learn something or it was important and valuable, but it came to an end, and that’s okay.

I appreciate you saying that. There’s this weird dichotomy, which is that most romantic relationships don’t work out at a much higher rate than, for example, our friendships. The goal is to create a romantic relationship that lasts forever, at least according to the escalator.

For some people. That’s certainly not how I view it.

The average person is suffering because their alternative is this should go until death do you part, which is not terribly realistic.

You set up your future based on being with this person. That’s why a lot of people suffer because what you thought was your future is shattered and ripped from you.

You have to undo a lot of planning and a lot of this. One of the things I want you to comment on before we turn to how you break up in a less heartbreaking way is I’ll speak about two of my breakups. One is relevant to something you already said. In some ways, one of a breakup I had in my late 30s. It was a very emotionally painful one for both of us. Prompted in part because my lack of desire to have children led me to the Solo Movement.

At least it led me to recognize my soloness, which was during a moment of heartbreak, having this insight that I’m happy when I’m single, that I’m not incomplete, that this person, while wonderful, wasn’t going to solve all my problems, and the life I was headed back to was a good life. That was so critical for not just healing my heart in that situation but for me to be more comfortable moving forward because it could be very difficult to love again in part. Every time that you fall in love, you risk heartbreak.

That is a risk. I came into the Solo Movement in a very similar way, knowing that I will be okay. Also, I did take quite a bit of time off of dating. It was like the longer I went, the more I realized how happy I was. It wasn’t something that I even was thinking or wanting about. It was during a couple of relationships in the last couple of years where I had these beautiful moments of self-reflection where I realized I was as grateful as I am for the connection, as happy as I am with it, and as much as I’m enjoying it, I wasn’t walking on cloud nine and saying that I’m happier than I’ve ever been the way that, for instance, my partners were or other people talk about relationships. For me, that was a good thing that made me excited about my life. I went to research, if other people felt this way, and indeed many do.

At least two people in this room do. I like to see it as a different path rather than a better place. That’s how I do relationships. It’s a different path and different experiences. It has its goods and bads, but it’s no better or worse than my single life.

I agree with that. In fact, I will say sometimes I have admitted that I’m happier outside of relationships, but it’s also the same with the child-free by choice.

Here is the other thing that came to me from another breakup. These are the two most painful breakups in my life. This one was in my earlier 30s, and it was prompted by infidelity with my partner. I say the word now, kind. She was kind enough to tell me about it. That was shocking and very hurtful. I was doing a lot of bargaining because I had always said, “If someone cheated on me, it’s done. It’s over.”

When she told me that, I said it was over then I was trying to find ways to repair this relationship and was not seeing her trying to do the same. A friend of mine’s stepfather, a very wise and a kind man who I sought out his counsel, said to me on a phone call, and it changed my perspective immediately. He said something along the lines of, “I don’t understand how the person who’s supposed to love you the way you love them would ever do something that hurts you so much.”

That incongruity was stark to me. I would realize, “This person can’t love me the way I think she does or wants her to. I need to let this go. That was a major shift for me. I did your no contact. I did the ultimate no-contact. I returned the phone call and got her voicemail and said, “I think we should take a break from speaking,” and we never spoke again.

The last time I spoke with my last partner was the night we broke up.

Is that right? I don’t think that has to be the case, especially if you practice relationship design. I encourage people to check out that episode. It’s one of the most important ones I’ve ever done. You have the possibility with a breakup to redefine a relationship.

People are coming to me because they’re in pain over their breakup. That’s why the no-contact rule works.

I get that, versus sitting down, and you can cry together. I had a member of the Solo Community, Monique Murad. She underwent a divorce where her partner decoupled, and they are now still friends. They had a celebratory divorce. It’s a wonderful model. I don’t think it has to be the case where just because the escalator doesn’t work, you have to sever ties.

I agree. Idealizing conscious uncoupling can be a little diplomatic because we’re setting this expectation that it’s the most ideal mature way to do it. For some people, it doesn’t work. For those, it does. Great. I’ve been in polyamorous relationships where we redefined things and stayed very good friends.

That’s wonderful. You can shift to another form of relationship. That’s exciting, but it takes two very elevated, committed, and highly communicative people. Usually, ones that, if they do have a breakup, wouldn’t require a no-contact rule anyway.

Precisely. I agree.

I want you to coach me on the second part of this question. I have an imaginary partner. We are very close, and I have made the decision that we are to break up, but I still have love in my heart for this person. I want to do as little harm as possible, but I am resolute. This is not “I need this fixed.” We’re going to break up this romantic sexual part of our relationship. How should I do it?

What you said as far as being resolute is one of my first tips. That is confidence in your decision. Make sure before you let this person know that you’re 100% about it. This goes back to what you asked about making it less heartbreaking and the fact that you still care about this person. It’s not fair to them if you’re on the fence about it. The next one would be clarity. Make sure you let them know exactly what it is that you want now. Do you intend to stay friends? I don’t think that often happens, but as we said, it sometimes does.

It would sometimes, for me, certainly.

I would hope so for me. In that case, be clear about that. If you don’t want to have contact, be clear about that. The third one, be concise. We have clarity, confidence, and concise. Let them know. Don’t drag it out. Nobody wants someone to sit there and tell them all the reasons why they don’t want to be with them. Getting to the point and keeping it short is often the best way to do it. This might not be as possible if it’s a divorce, you have children, or have been together for ten years.

You’re living together, for example.

Another point I would say is to be very cautious before moving in with someone. I know a lot of people love that. I can’t imagine personally, but keep it short and sweet. Let them heal, and do your own healing. Being in the breaker upper is not a walk in the park.

No, it’s not. There can be a lot of guilt. By the way, Janice, you and I are cut from the same cloth. I’m never living with anyone, so no one has ever moved their stuff out. I had a therapist, the poet. I’ve talked about him at length. He gave me a gift. I had a breakup. My girlfriend wanted to move in, and I said, “I can’t do that,” because it was such a major break from the escalator, which is what she wanted.

I realized that as much as I adored her and we had a very healthy, fun relationship, I was not the right man for her. I was disappointed in her at that moment. I was going to continue to disappoint her, and the break was necessary for her to go find the right man for her, which I believe that she did. He said, “How are you feeling?” I said, “I’m sad, and I feel guilty.” He said, “Why do you feel guilty?” The sadness was obvious. I said, “I feel like I hurt her.” He said, “Do you think you did anything wrong?” I said, “No. I did the right thing. It would be very easy for me to not honor myself and, thus, leave her on.” He says, “You have nothing to feel guilty about.”

You have to do what’s right for both of you. Relationships always end because they weren’t working in some way. I also think when it comes to being the breaker upper, when you get to the point in a relationship where you realize it’s either not going to work or you need to end it, that’s painful.

Let’s add a tag to this. I love your three Cs, Confidence, Clarity, and Conciseness. What if you are breaking up because you’re angry, hurt, and you want nothing to do with this person anymore? It was a slightly different scenario than what we described. Is there anything different about the way you approach it?

In some cases, you might end up having a fight over it, but I still think that you can use the three Cs. If you’re angry with the person, what better reason to be confident in your decision? As far as being concise, my last relationship did end in an argument, but it was a short one.

Are you concerned about your safety?

That depends on the relationship. I’m not necessarily such an advocate for, “You must do it in person.” That’s great if it works for you, but I did mine over the phone because I was angry, and he was as well. What’s the point in meeting in person?

Let’s move on. What do you got?

I was excited to speak to you about my first question because of your background in academia, and that is about conditioning. I believe that so many people get caught up with being single in their 30s and “saying that all their friends are in relationships.” I believe that a lot of people are desperate for partnership, particularly marriage, because of society, pop culture, and the media. I’m also very interested in how this relates to single-ism. Especially my readers, can you tell how conditioning plays a role in our desire for relationships and the relationship escalator?

I want your help with this one because I want to hear your thoughts and your perspective on this. Let’s start with this idea. First of all, it’s to recognize this particular style of relationship that the world is built for it. The world is built for two, and for a particular type of two, a couple, only two people riding the relationship escalator until death do them part. It is incredibly pervasive that many people never question whether it’s right for them. What they end up doing is this. I have a feeling you might be one of these people. I have certainly been one of these people. I call them singles by mismatch. That’s the word I use. They would like a relationship, but they keep banging their head against the wall dating people who want the escalator.

I was for a while, but I’m not anymore. That would be my previous self.

It’s very easy to believe that there’s something wrong with you rather than believing that there’s something wrong with the escalator. Why? Your parents probably rode the escalator to varying degrees of success. Your grandparents certainly did. Their grandparents did. All your friend’s parents did. Your friends often are.

You look around, especially once you hit a certain age and everybody is coupling up and settling down. They’re doing so in almost exactly the same way. The steps of the escalator are well known. You start flirting, you go out on a day and start folding around. At some point, you define the relationship. It becomes monogamous and exclusive. You meet friends and family. You move in with one another. Perhaps you get married.

You merge your life and all these other ways. You’re finances, for example, and your lifestyle. You start vacationing together, and that other person becomes your everything. The standards for that person have been going through the roof in the last 60 years. That person is not just your everything. They’re all so your most important, at least, adult relationship in your life. It is crowding out nearly everyone and giving them sometimes wide-ranging veto power over how you live, who you spend time with, and so on. This is tremendously satisfying for a lot of people also, to be clear. This serves a lot of practical purposes. For example, merging. You now get to split your rent.

That is a big problem. How much more do single people spend, like 30% or something?

There’s more in the housing, for example. The world’s built for two. For example, hotel rooms are priced by the room. Not by the person.

I am thinking of going on a retreat, and they said something about a discount for couples. What the hell? Why?

How do you learn about this? You learn about it because it’s being modeled all around you. One other thing, there are over 1,000 legal benefits bestowed upon couples. You get tax breaks, and there are Social Security benefits. The list goes on and on. I remember I came across a dating profile that said, “I’m ready to couple up. It just makes financial sense.”

I appreciate the forthrightness.

The world is built in that way. Also, moreover, you have someone who can help with your healthcare decisions. There are all these other things that go into it. Plus, you are a single 30-something. Your friends were coupling up. They have dinner parties. Do you think you get invited to all the dinner parties? Not always, because some people don’t like odd numbers.

Who’s excited about having this vivacious, wonderful single woman showing up at the dinner party talking about her exciting life? This can be rather threatening to some people. We haven’t even gotten to the media, which is the training around this model starts very young. There have been some strides, but there is a lot of it in the early Disney movies, the princess movies. It’s in our literature, like Great Gatsby, Jane Austen novels, and the movies we watched, The Notebook. Every rom-com is built upon the challenges of riding the escalator.

Not to mention very much a love-at-first-sight scenario when two people meet and just instantly hit it off and decide they must become a couple.

Even though the rom-coms don’t have that love at first sight, like the one When Harry Met Sally, I always joke that the sequel to When Harry Met Sally was When Sally Divorces Harry.

You’re right. That relationship is probably fraught with some problems.

Do you think those two stay together for 30 years? I find that impossible.

There were two alike, personally.

Even movie adaptations. A wonderful, entertaining movie is Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Audrey Hepburn. A very stylish and charming. She plays Holly Golightly like light sugar baby.

More power to her, if you ask me.

She meets this charming, handsome writer who is a light sugar baby, and they connect. In the movie, spoiler alert, they end up together, but that wasn’t the case in the novel because she has this Prince who was very wealthy and could support her lifestyle. That’s clearly what she was looking for all along. They changed the story. That’s one of the things that annoys me about that movie.

It’s what people want and expect to see.

It’s why, for example, Casablanca is one of my favorite films. It’s beautifully written. If you think about it, it is a story of a solo, Rick.

Very much so. Also, the reality where just because you have feelings for someone doesn’t mean that it’s going to work out to be together.

The famous line in Casablanca is, “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” because Rick lets his love interest go off to America with her husband. He does not break up this marriage. It is a wonderful film. I wish there were more like that. I’m curious about what prompted this question, and I want you to fill in what I have missed from my very long list of pressures. What prompted this question?

I have a lot of my clients telling me now that they’re in their 30s, they’re starting to feel so horrible and so self-conscious as though they’re failing at life because they are not there yet. From what I can see, they have very good lives and so much to offer. I don’t feel like this needs to keep somebody held back or thinking any less of themselves.

I do think that it’s conditioning that makes someone believe that you get to a certain point in life and you’re incomplete because you don’t have it. I don’t think a lot of people think of it in these terms, and we’ve been conditioned from such a young age. A lot of people ask me, which is one of the worst things you can say to a solo person, is the whole, “Why are you still single?” That’s also perpetuating this idea that you are incomplete and there’s something wrong about you when, if you can be happy on your own, there are so many possibilities that can open up for you.

Amen. There’s not enough of a counter-conversation happening. We’re starting to see songs, for example. I have a Solo playlist. It’s very fun, and the number one song on there is one of my favorites, a real banger, Jason Derulo Ridin’ Solo.

I will listen to it in the Uber on my way home.

There’s this very fun song called Paper Mache (Single AF) by Miss Eaves. There are all these fun ones on there. It Ain’t Me Babe by Bob Dylan. I put this one on, I Touched Myself by Divinyls. That’s an oldie but a goodie. I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor and so on. These are alternatives to the typical love song. They’re celebratory in different ways. This is the thing that came to me. I can’t believe I overlooked it because I’m obsessed with it. You hit your 30s, and here come the wedding invites. Here comes the stories with people showing off their engagement rings.

Also, the websites that people are doing now.

What is that?

The wedding website. We’re almost fetishizing the process of getting married. Studies have shown that a lot of people are let down on their wedding day and that they don’t stay together anyway. I’m being so cynical.

There’s nothing universal about this experience, even though it’s portrayed universally. It’s always portrayed as positive. Occasionally, you’ll come across a failed engagement attempt on reels, which is super cringe-worthy.

I know. Keep it to yourself, people.

Also, there’s this feeling of I’m giving to all these married people. I’m showing up at their weddings. I’m buying their ugly bridesmaid dresses. We’re spending thousands of dollars on bachelor/bachelorette parties. I joke that there’s nothing more selfish than a destination wedding.

I agree. As a single person, moving into a new house or apartment is something that’s so important and special. No one bought me anything the last time I moved.

That’s right. I say like a destination wedding. Your friend decides not only when you’re vacation is, but where your vacation is going to be. You’re getting bombarded by a friend group, and it’s all well-intentioned. These people are defaulting to a narrative. They’re not going, “I’m wondering how this is affecting Janice and her pocketbook, and the fact that she’s probably never going to get married. None of this is going to come back to her.” I had Kinneret Lahad here, who talks about these lifelong singles being exhausted gift-givers. This skews especially heavily towards women because they have a little bit higher expectations with regards to giving.

Yes, with the bride-made thing. I skipped a lot of this, luckily. We’re perhaps going to talk about how I was raised. A lot of people were getting married in their very early twenties, and I ended up leaving the community during that time. I didn’t get invited to as many. Once I got a little bit older, I attracted lots of single friends. I personally skipped over this. It’s been a few years since anyone I knew got married. That’s just me.


Thank you. I had a client who said she’s in her 30s and hates the fact that all of her friends are getting married, and she’s not, so I know that it’s real. I’ve been lucky to avoid it.

Do you want to add to my response to your question?

I loved it. The only thing I’ll add is it should be an entire episode.

This is well-intentioned. Janice, is there anyone special?

Thank you for asking me if I’m dating, how I’m dating, or why I’m not dating. Also, people, with no prompting by me, were encouraging me to do it when I’ve just said that I’m fine.

It’s hard. This comes up in the Solo community a lot, like, “How do you respond to these kinds of questions?” They’re often asked by someone who cares about you. Occasionally, strangers will do it, which is inappropriate. The question is, how much of the lift do you want to do to educate them to do this? The question that came up in the community, which you can sign up for at PeterMcgraw.org/solo, was, “I’m sure the right person will come along.”

“I might change my mind.”

That’s right. You can easily say, “You might be right.”

I suppose it’s true.

It’s like, “What hill do you want to die on?” To shamelessly self-promote, in the future, you can just hand them my book.

I cannot wait. I’m so excited for you.

Go, “Maybe, or maybe not.”

Having some go-to answers is good. Keeping things light is good. Confidence is always the key. Some people find it admirable and are so curious because I am so confident and happy about my answer.

That’s wonderful. It’s like, “I appreciate your concern. Don’t worry about me.” The second round, how do you help your clients deal with loneliness?

This is a passion of mine, and it’s something that I do a lot of interviews on. It’s partially because of my own experience overcoming loneliness, and I’m very extroverted. I used to obsessively seek people out. Once I was able to overcome that and learn to be fine on my own, my world opened up like crazy. I love to help people, especially those who are now going through a breakup, to also find this sense of freedom. Also, it comes up in my coaching all of the time. I see people making poor decisions because they don’t want to be lonely and alone. They just want someone around. They’re not as likely to look at potential red flags in someone they’re dating.

The classic rebound.

Also, using a relationship as a Band-Aid rather than just getting to know yourself. I get to work with clients on this quite a bit. I have several things that I do. First of all, routines are useful when you’re struggling with loneliness. That is because the unpredictability of your day is so much more intense when it’s just you. When you’re in a partnership, you know when you’re going to talk to the person. You know that you’re going to be texting. You know that perhaps on the weekends or in the evenings, you’re going to see them and make plans together.

To have that all taken away from you is confronting. People don’t want to deal with it either. Morning routines and evening routines, perhaps picking up extra fitness, that type of thing. Similarly to that, it’s planning ahead for the times in your week when there are going to be lots of white space. The weekends being a classic example. Sundays, especially. A lot of people struggle on Sundays because that might be the time where a lot of people do errands with their partner, Netflix and chill, and don’t have as many plans. It is always planning out how your weekend or evening is going to go. I’m a big proponent of the sexy solo date.

Tell me more.

Plan something special that’s just for you. I was living in Bali years ago, completely by myself for months, waiting for a visa to be approved. This was partially when I started to take on this journey of overcoming loneliness because I was alone. I had gotten out of a period in my life where I barely ever had a night when I wasn’t doing something with my friends. I started the sexy solo date.

I would get dressed up. I had planned things ahead of time. I would look forward to it, and ultimately, I started doing that nightly. It helped a lot. What I want people to realize is the more that you can do this and the better you can get at it, your confident skyrockets. More people want to be around you. I know that perhaps not all of your readers are looking to date, but for those who are. When you’re confident, you draw people in. You draw healthy people who are also confident in.

I love the sexy solo date idea. It reminds me of another episode that I’m quite fond of about Flâneuring.

I don’t know this.

Being a flaneur in life in general is an appealing thing. In the 18th century, France was like a man of the town. He was usually of some means. You don’t have to be a man to flaneur present day, but he would dress up and would walk the streets of Paris. He let his path be guided by whatever felt right at the moment. It would engage with people, but it was a solitary endeavor. You don’t feel flaneur with someone else because now you’re at their whims.

Doing it for you.

You can imagine more of a flaneuring mindset more generally, which is to allow yourself to follow paths in life that feel right for you.

I like what you said about getting dressed up. I am a huge lover of clothes, hair, fashion, and hygiene.

I can attest to hygiene.

This is very personal, but I still shave my legs every day, even when I am not in a relationship, just because it feels good. I’m doing it for me.

That’s wonderful. I do like this idea that even when you’re alone, you take care of yourself. You look in the mirror, and you can feel good about yourself. You feel prepared for the day, even if you’re staying at home.

Strutting down the street and feeling your best is a good feeling. Again, this is confidence snowballing on each other. The more that you do that just for you, the more magnetic you become.

One of the things that you said is, “I’m having a routine.” I realize it’s counterintuitive, especially if someone’s coming out of a relationship. They suddenly have a lot of me-time. They have a lot of alone time. They may not, at first, view the opportunities in that.

That’s how I’m making a living as a wake-up coach.

Everybody thought you were working somewhere else. How do you communicate these benefits of solitude to someone?

First of all, a lot of people struggle after a breakup either first thing in the morning or in the evenings. This is partially why I do it. I’m able to often convey the importance of it to people. Keep in mind that people who are reading my show and coming to me are feeling stuck and not knowing where it’s a turn. Also, if people don’t think in routines, especially the way I do, perhaps you do as well, it can be exciting to talk about how to add things into your life that make you feel like a VIP from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. I’ve generally seen people get very enthusiastic about that.

I could see that. I like to talk about how singles have optionality, which is the ability but not requirement to make a choice, and how exciting that can be. We had an episode where I was saying there are weekends that are completely open. I have my rituals and routines like you do, but technically, they’re completely open. Sometimes because I plan it and sometimes through happenstance, especially if someone cancels. I sometimes say to myself, “I can do anything I want.” How exciting that is? Even if I don’t do anything different, knowing that’s an option can be exciting and uplifting rather than what can happen with a traditional escalator where you got to adapt to what your partner wants.

You check-in even about what to watch and where to go to eat.

Also, what to wear.

Who is having these relationship where you have to ask what to wear? I know what you’re saying.

There are relationships we’re one partner dresses the other.

To each their own.

Recognizing the opportunity to lean into a friendship if you want to donate your time, start a new craft project, rearrange your apartment, or go on a road trip, these are very exciting things that are not intuitive. I, like the quintessential solo, sometimes feel like I don’t take enough advantage of myself.

More travel, Peter.

You’re going to love this. I am planning a Hunter S. Thompson-inspired road trip down to Tucson and back.

That’s so interesting that you’re saying that because one of the things that I most like to do being single is I go to Tombstone, Arizona, for my birthday and Christmas.


I love it, and I love things that are related to the Wild West. The first time I went there, I felt a different energy and couldn’t get enough of it. I’ve never hardly ever met anyone who would spend so much time in Tombstone as me. It’s great that I get to do that.

I’m going to add that as a possible stop because I want to go to weird places. I’m going to go to small towns. I don’t want to hit the big stuff on the way.

Tombstone is a little further than Tucson, about an hour or hour and a half. I recommend it. A little further down from that is Bisbee.

Yes, that’s on my list. Thank you.

You’re very welcome. Let’s get into my question. I’m excited to ask you this because of the time of year. I also think that it will help my readers when this goes into my feed. That is both navigating the holiday season as a solo and also what you like about the holiday season as a single person.

I decided to turn to my Solo community because they’re often more articulate than I am, and they represent diversity of opinions. I would say that there were two categories of response. One audience talked about how much she loves spending time with family, “Especially since I’m nowhere near them and the holidays are my only opportunity to see them, for me, the biggest benefit is simply being able to accommodate all their schedules and visit when it works for them. Not having to cross-coordinate between them, me, a spouse, and a spouse’s family. Everything is just so much more complicated when you’re married.”

I like that one. I wasn’t expecting that.

I know. I thought that was wonderful because if you think about it, one of the nice things about being solo is your optionality that you have flexibility. This is reminiscent of something that Mary Delia said in an episode where she said “Solos can often be uncomfortable because their life can be so comfortable otherwise. They can show up for other people when they need it.” We know that singles caregive their elderly parents more often, but the idea that if you wanted to go volunteer in a war-torn country, you can do that as a single person much more easily than if you’re married. Imagine telling your husband, “I’m going to Ukraine to help with humanitarian efforts.” He’s going to be like, “What?”

It did happen. I am divorce. I don’t think I mentioned that. I got married young, partially also because of how I was raised, and I wanted to go and work in Afghanistan. There was just no way would that be allowed.

I love this idea of, “I’ve got divorced parents. I can visit Mom on this day and Dad on this day. I can see my sister and her kids. It’s only one plane ticket.” I thought that was wonderful in part because I don’t feel that way.

As I said, I want to have thought of that one.

There have been times where I resented being single in the holidays where it was expected that I would cross the country. I would fight the traffic and the weather. I would pay 2 or 3 times the amount for a plane ticket to show up, and as I would joke, all they would have to do is bake a ham.

I felt largely the same. I decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore until I came up with these plans in Tombstone. It could be lonely for sure, but then I realized, “Just because I’m not going to see my family doesn’t mean I can’t do something fabulous.”

That’s right. I still would see them, but I would go when the weather’s better, the tickets are cheaper, and when it fits my schedule a little bit more. I will often travel for Thanksgiving, but I’ll usually travel to a place that Americans aren’t going to, like Ireland. For this 2023, I’m doing a road trip. That’s the Hunter S. Thompson. I like to do a little bit of travel adventure around Thanksgiving, then Christmas, I take to myself. I do my yearly reflection. I hunker down, do creative work, and catch up on some sleep.

Do you get treats for yourself?

Not really. I’m pretty regimented. I might watch a little bit of basketball, which is something I never do, but for the most part, it’s a very quiet day. One of the nice things about the holidays is the emails go out, but they don’t come back in. Sometimes, I even catch up on a little bit of work, and the idea being that I zig when everyone else zags. That gives me space to take time off in January when everybody else is coming back to work.

I like it. Thank you.

There is a few other notes people said. A member of the community agreed with me, saying, “You can avoid them entirely. No in-laws to navigate. No extended family nonsense. If you do enjoy participating, you can come and go as you wish.” Another person says, “The most of the expectations are removed around the holidays. If I want to travel, I tell the expanded family that I won’t be present. I largely don’t expect them feel obligated around gifting because everybody knows they get and do what I prefer anyways. If I have friends free, we might do a friend’s holiday, but it’s all very flexible.”

This was a fun one. Someone wrote, “No questions about who I’m dating and if I still want to get married and why. As a dietitian, holidays are filled with my family members expecting me to work for free by asking for dietary advice. I’m getting upset because I either politely decline answering because I give them an answer, but they can’t handle the truth.” Another bonus is, “Being able to eat a full meal when you have dietary restrictions versus another holiday eating-only hummus again.”

Nice. Thanks, everyone.

I like that we have a full range from the people who are like me. I’m not a Grinch. It just doesn’t work for me.

It doesn’t do it for you.

That’s right. Third round, the surprise question. I have a last-minute change to the question I was going to ask you. You’ve alluded to this already. You were married very young. You are an ex-Mormon. You are raised in a Mormon Church.

Yes, very devout Mormon family in a very insular community as well.

In Utah or elsewhere?

My family is from Utah. I do have what we call the pioneer heritage, which is very important to some Mormons. I was raised in a place called Queen Creek, Arizona.

I’m not familiar.

I’m not surprised.

Is it a Mormon stronghold?

Yes, very much. When we moved there, it only had about 2,000 people. It’s grown like crazy now, but at the time, I don’t even know what percentage of Mormons, but a lot of Mormons. There is a lot of people who want to farm, have land, and have big families. I’m the oldest of seven children. I’m the only one who’s left. It’s a big part of my life and my identity. It is the best choice I ever made. It hasn’t been easy.

We were talking earlier about you get raised in a world that presents the relationship escalator as the only path to happiness. In the Mormon Church, it’s not a path to happiness, but it’s a path to Heaven. It gets preached to you and gets a model to you. If you live in Queen Creek, Arizona, everybody else is doing this.

I can probably think of anybody I knew growing up who was over 30 and single. It was like, “That person, what is with them?”

Why the break? How did you become who you are now? Were you always a little different?

I was, especially when it came to the idea of being a stay-at-home mom. That was something that I definitely noticed about myself. I was different from the other girls around me. I wanted to have a career and travel from such a young age. I naturally thought of getting married and figured I would do that. I didn’t think that I was going to be a stay-at-home mom. That very much set me apart, especially when I was growing up. That was what you were expected to do. I can also think of one woman in our congregation who worked who was a working mom. It stands out to me because it was a big deal.

This was not that long ago.

I’m older than you think, but yes. Still, now, I can think of the Mormon women I know who are faithful, and they are stay-at-home mom, which is perfectly fine. I knew it wasn’t for me. I went to BYU, Idaho. If you think BYU Idaho sounds a bit stifling, imagine going to BYU in Rexburg, Idaho. As someone who always thought of having this worldly life, I had originally wanted to go to school in New York. My parents wouldn’t have it, so I went from fantasizing about New York to being in Rexburg, Idaho. It was a complete disaster. I hated it. I was so miserable and so depressed. Suddenly, I had these moments of clarity where somehow I knew that if I left the phase, I would be happier. Still looking back, I’m not sure how I got to that point and where I got the courage except that I was so unhappy.

The story is you go to New York City, then you’re exposed to this wide, beautiful, and amazing world of unconventional thinkers and people living their best lives. Many of them are single, and you go, “There’s no way I’m going back to that.” You went to a place that as Mormon, as the place you came from.

Strict too. I grew up in a strict household. One of the only things I wanted is to get out of that house and also be an adult and experience life. When I go to this environment, that’s as strict. It was keeping me back. I wasn’t feeling like I was living. I knew that that wasn’t what young adulthood was meant to be about.

I talked about one of the criteria to be a solo is this sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency. If you have a strong sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency but you’re living in a very constrained environment, it creates friction.

It did. It tore me down. I got extremely depressed and to the point where I dropped out. My parents weren’t very happy with me. I moved out of their house and left the whole thing. That was hard, too. I had very little resources and no support, but as hard as it was and still is, I couldn’t imagine making any other choice.

You seem quite happy to me. Here’s my question, which is there may be someone who lives in that environment. They don’t have to be Mormon per se, but they live perhaps in a very religious community or in a very conservative community. They live in a country that is quite constrained and forcing or requiring them to ride the escalator. They’re not happy about it, but they don’t know anyone else like them. They got on Spotify or iTunes, and they found this show. They’re reading and fantasizing about their solo life, and then they hear about someone like them, you, who did it. What advice do you have for this person who’s seeking an escape?

First and foremost, it sounds like this person may need a new community. I want people to know that there are a lot of single people out there. This is a wonderful country and a wonderful world where people are gathering with so many other like-minded people and rediscovering what it means to be an adult. I would encourage this person to maybe go on Meetup or remove yourself from the community where you are or traveling or getting into an apartment, something that allows you to see other opportunities and options as far as who you’re spending time with.

It’s time to maybe do new things as well. For instance, going out to eat on your own and getting more comfortable with that can make you more comfortable with changing your life. I will also say think hard about what it is that makes you happy and go out and create it. Do it step by step. This isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. In fact, certainly not, but there’s a world of possibility out there for you if you want there to be.

I like this idea of starting small. You don’t have to burn it all to the ground, run away, and start fresh. I like this idea of exploring your soloness, seeing how that feels, and gaining confidence.

Remember that this is about you. It’s not about your parents, your family, or your community being happy. We only live this life once. If you do feel restrained or unhappy, please try a new way of doing things because it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ll add one if I may, and that is start to build skills that allow you to live on your own.

I was not self-reliant for many years after leaving the church. I didn’t know anything about budgeting. No one had ever encouraged me to do that. After I got divorced, as far as adulting goes, forget about it. That was a game-changer for me. It is deciding that I’m not going to look outward for solutions in my life anymore. The more self-reliant you can become, the sky’s the limit.

You’re going to be able to earn your own money, not having to rely on parents or a spouse to do that, and being able to take care of yourself. These kinds of things does make your ability should you want to leave this community. I’m thinking about Saudi Arabia, for example. You were saying going to a restaurant alone. It wasn’t that long ago that single people were not allowed to go out to eat.

Also, women are not allowed to drive.

Some of these places are so restrictive. It’s why the spinsters of the 1700s are so incredible. They had a way to make their way in the world without a father or husband telling them what to do. They should be celebrated.

If there are any women reading who are going through this now, trust me, life can be better than you’ve ever imagined before.

I sense an offshoot coaching opportunity for you, which is if you want to break up with your religion, call Janice.

Please, anybody, hit me up, even to connect over this. This was a major life decision and something hard. I still don’t talk to my family, and it was very painful and scary. I’m still glad that I did it. I run a support/social network in Denver for other ex-Mormons because I’m so passionate about helping people to get out and stay out. It’s called Thrive. It is leaving but then loving life. We do that together by sharing stories, time, and community.

How wonderful. That’s so generous of you.

Thank you. All right, are you ready?

I’m ready. We’re going to wrap with this one.

I was curious about this. I know that you have talked about your relationships. Also, because of following your work and reading the episodes, I know that you’re very happy and passionate about your life. Also, you’re a little extroverted, and you like having women around. What does that look like as a passionately solo person to casually date but also have sex in your life?

I’m blushing a little bit. I say that I am 20% No Way and an 80% New Way solo. Frequent readers know exactly what that means. I’m very comfortable turning the spicket off, especially because my dating life is not exactly a waterfall of dating opportunity. It’s more like a leaky faucet. There are times when I am completely free of dating, especially pursuing dating. I would say that I’m fortunate.

I do have women I date. I don’t have any serious romantic partner at the moment. I’ll be perfectly honest. I’m not optimistic that’s going to happen for me for two reasons. The first is I’m not gung-ho looking for it. I find personally in my dating life that if I’m not the one trying to make it happen, it doesn’t happen for me. It’s been my experience. I don’t know exactly why. When I stopped trying, the spicket was off. No one ever dumps a bucket of water on me.

I wouldn’t turn that opportunity away, but I’d have to stumble into it. It’s a very low probability because, first of all, Denver has a nickname, which is called Menver. There’s already a lot of competition as a straight man in this town, and I don’t want to have children. If you have children, I don’t mind, but I’m not going to parent your kids ever, and I’m clear about that. I don’t want to live with a partner. At this stage in my life, I have some pretty grave doubts about long-term monogamy. Any one of those things is the deal breaker for a lot of people because most people want the escalator or something close to it.

I’m fortunate that I don’t get lonely. My life is very full. I have incredible friendships. I also have learned more than ever to enjoy my solitude. I’ve become a little bit of a homebody, at least relative to my previous self going out 3, 4, 5, or 6 nights a week and eating out a lot. I like spending my nights alone, often doing creative work. It’s been incredibly generative for me and fulfilling. In many ways, I’m dating this project because I have a regular job as a professor. On top of it, I’m doing this show and writing.

I’m getting a lot of meaning in my life. Meaning that might have occurred as part of a relationship building, something with regard to a relationship. I don’t feel like there’s something missing terribly from my life. These so-called women around, I do date. I have had some casual relationships that are wonderful. They’re incredible people. They are infrequent but regular. This came to me during a mushroom trip. I’ve been seeking in these dates to create what I call the oasis experience. I take the lead on this. Let’s say I’m seeing someone once every two weeks. When we see each other, I want that time to be special. I want to create an oasis for both of us and escape from reality.

It might be 2 or 3 hours when we may be going out doing something fun, going to a burlesque show, or something like that. If I’m hosting, we’re eating good food, listening to good music, or having a great conversation. It feels like we’re both 100% present. We’re sucking the marrow out of life. The world fades away, and our stresses and concerns seem so distant. We both leave the oasis feeling refreshed, revived, excited about life, and feeling passionate about each other.

Also, that it was special. This is one reason why the escalator doesn’t work for me. When I spend time with someone I’m seeing, I do want it to be something extraordinary, and that’s hard to maintain when you’re seeing each other several times a week.

It’s exhausting. I put a lot of thought into these experiences. I’ll be honest, as the guy who doesn’t have women throwing themselves at him, it keeps people coming back.

I like the strategy.

The last thing that I would say to your question is I took a risk when I moved back to Denver from Los Angeles. I was at my wit’s end with traditional dating. I was unhappy with the dynamic that was happening. The women I was going out with weren’t happy with me, and I wasn’t happy with the dynamic there. Dating should be fun and playful. It shouldn’t be so disappointing, even though we both recognize that it’s hard to make a match.

What I decided to do was I’m going to be who I am. I’m going to be unapologetic about what I can offer and can’t offer. I’m just going to let the chips fall where they may. If this means that I’m going to live a celibate life and it means that I rarely go out on dates, so be it. At least I’m living my most authentic self. I was surprised. I’ve done a lot of work on myself. I’m a good date for the right person.

I feel the same way about myself.

I like conversation. I know how to have fun. I don’t want to just do the regular boring stuff. I want to get to know people. I feel fortunate that someone’s going to give me their time to get to know me. That’s super flattering.

That’s what I don’t like about online dating and cranking it out. It doesn’t feel special to go on five meet-and-greets in a week.

I regularly do this. Sometimes, all I will commit to is something that’s bigger than the person deserves. When I say deserves, I mean because we don’t know each other because I’m like, “This will be a fun experience even if it’s the only time I ever see this person.” I’m lucky that I’m still appealing enough that people want to go out with me. I recognize this. There are a lot of people in the world. There are a lot of men especially, and no one wants to go out with them.

Confidence and a little bit of mystery is something that you bring in meeting people.

Also, good hygiene. I know how to dress myself. Those things happen. The other thing that surprised me because I was ready for the well to be dry was people who are dating are so used to being lied to and being misled. I’m a freak. I engage in relationship design. I have conversations very early on about what I want, what I don’t want, what you want, and what you don’t want.

I had a situation with a woman I’ve been seeing. She was over. We’re sitting on my couch, and I said, “I want to check in. How are you feeling about things?” She was like, “Is everything okay?” I said, “Things are great. You’re so wonderful, and I’m so happy you’re here. I enjoy your company.” She didn’t understand why I would be doing that when things were good.

I find that even if what’s coming out of my mouth isn’t 100% what the person wants, at least their primary, they think, “At least I can trust this guy.” There are people who are like, “I want 2.5 kids by this age. I want a house in the suburbs and my lap dog.” They have this view of the thing, but a lot of people are like, “That would be nice,” but they’re like, “In the meantime, this also would be nice.” I find that they know exactly where to slot me in.

People are doing things a lot differently than some people realize. There are more single people than ever. There are more childless people by choice than ever.

The issue is there’s a lot of diversity across people and what they want. There’s this whole world of kink and this lifestyle community that’s growing. Also, with in-person, people are increasingly open to possibilities. It’s like, “He seems like a nice man. I know I can trust him. He’s going to be honest with me.” I could stay home on Friday night waiting for the one, or we could go to this burlesque show, get dressed up, and have a great time. For some people, that’s an easy decision.

I love it. Thank you so much for that.

You asked me a hard question.

You said it was a surprise question.

It is a surprise. I would say this. I’m sometimes a little reticent to talk about my love life in part because I don’t know how relevant it is to the show per se, except when it licenses someone to consider other possibilities.

A lot of my listeners are single. I thought it might be good for them to hear from someone who’s confident and successful about how they do it.

I appreciate that. It’s probably more valuable to your audience.

Sorry, everyone.

I have a lot of readers who are No Ways, and they’re like, “Okay, Pete. Whatever.” I am happy to model. I’m not embarrassed by what I do. I recognize that it’s non-standard. I don’t want to be indelicate in the sense that I believe in discretion. I’m happy for people to hear a different way to go about dating because most people think of dating as a goal to find something “serious.” I’d like to believe that dating can be an end in itself.

Also, not getting attached to any particular outcome other than enjoying spending time with someone. I also feel like I model it, too. Even when I’m interested in someone, as far as what’s going to happen, that doesn’t even go through my mind. Therefore, you often not let down very often either.

Janice, this was very fun.


I appreciate you coming to the show and exposing these solo ideas to your audience. I hope they find it valuable. For my readers, especially those who are suffering from a breakup, where do they find you?

My podcast is called Breakups, Broken Hearts, and Moving On, wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also find me on Instagram. I hang out there a lot, and it’s just @JaniceFormichella. I would love to connect with you. In fact, hit me up in the DMs and let me know that you read this, and I’ll send you some stickers in the mail.

That’s very nice. I don’t spend time on social media, and Janice knows this because she had to email me to get my attention.

I was happy to do so. I’m thinking to myself your show was so active. I was thinking, “There’s no way that I’m not going to be able to get in touch with him and he’s not going to want this collaboration, so I’m just going to keep trying.”

I appreciate it. Thanks so much.

You’re so welcome.



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About Janice Formichella

SOLO 194 | Breakup CoachJanice Formichella is a writer, breakup coach, and host of the podcast: Breakups, Broken Hearts, and Moving On. She lives in Denver, Colorado.