"How do you feel today?" my phone screen inquires.
I click on the emoji that has a straight line in lieu of a mouth, slap in the middle on the emotion spectrum. It's the visual manifestation of my emotional state today: A poker face, if you will.
I'm squished between two six-foot plus gentlemen, standing on a particularly packed morning Metro commute, and as per my newfound routine, phone in hand, my daily Mend app training already on play.
"Today I want to share some tips on how to build will power when it comes to an ex," says Elle, my soothing virtual guide.
"Relevant," I think. If I possessed anything of the sort, I would be long past the point of being heartbroken, let alone needing an app to cure me.
I discovered Mend, an iOS compatible self-care app that contains short daily trainings meant to help you reflect upon your breakup, while attending a book signing sponsored by them. Turns out, I had already downloaded the app on a whim — it just got lost in the clutter.
It has been more than a year since, to my surprise, my near 6-year relationship ended with next to zero foreshadowing. It has also been about six months since I last saw my ex, and, according to the app, more than 125 days since our last text communication (after my accidental stumbling upon images of him moving on with someone new.) Oh, the many blessings of social media!
Throughout this time, my family, friends, roommates and coworkers have been beyond accommodating — but human nature is human nature, and after the first, second, third (…or fiftieth?) mention, the feedback became inevitable: Move on. Get over it. And my favorite (as intelligent, assertive and emotionally stable men tend to fall from trees): Just find someone else.
From the sounds of it, generally speaking, when it comes to a breakup, this type of rhetoric is pretty prevalent.
"That was something that I came across a lot when I was going through the breakup that inspired Mend," soothing virtual guide (her voice leads the trainings) and Mend founder and CEO Elle Huerta says. "But things aren't that black and white. A lesson I learned while building Mend is that a breakup isn't something to just get over — it's actually a really important life experience for someone."
The Heartbreak Cleanse
"How do you feel today?" The same question the phone screen is flickering my way now is one I answered more than four months ago, during day one of the 'Heartbreak Cleanse' — Mend's initial post-breakup training.
That day, on a significantly less crowded Metro commute, my answer was the crying emoji. The lowest possible option on the emotion spectrum.
The 'Heartbreak Cleanse' is a free and personalized program, based on the type of breakup you are experiencing. With each training (carefully written by experts whose specialties lay within the individual topic and narrated by Huerta's buttery voice), I got closer and closer to a shift in perspective: from victim to better off, from him to me.
"If someone can't give you that, you have to be strong and kind enough to yourself to walk away, knowing that crumbs aren't enough for you and you want the whole cake," the training said, regarding my commitment-related breakup. And after going through the initial days of zeroing in on my feelings surrounding the heartbreak while my former partner was plastered all over Instagram smiling next to his new person, so began the healing.
"Seeing an ex on social will naturally hinder the healing process," says Dr. Marni Feuerman, licensed psychotherapist and author of Ghosted and Breadcrumbed: Stop Falling for Unavailable Men and Get Smart About Healthy Relationships. "It really stings if you are able to see that they have someone new."
But here's the thing — in the spirit of actions speaking louder than words ("I don't want to lose our friendship," "I could still see myself marrying you one day"), that last sting fuels a fire that ultimately leads to the last step in the mending process: focusing on yourself.
As part of the app-creation process, Mend CEO Huerta connected with many people from older generations, and there was one recurring sentiment: their breakups were a pivotal moment in their lives.
"That's the really beautiful thing about heartbreak is that people who invest the time into themselves and into their mending end up learning a lot about who they are and what they want and the kind of life that they want to live and the type of people that they want to surround themselves with," Huerta says.
And to that I say, amen. All those months ago, the daily topics I chose to focus on (you choose new topics on a weekly basis) were related to the heartbreak, the commitment, the loneliness. This week's topics? Forgiveness. Work. Sleep. Self-care.
"The amazing thing that I continue to see with almost all of our Menders is that they join Mend and they're at the lowest moment and they're so focused on the breakup," Huerta said. "After using the app for a while, they're more focused on themselves and the relationship they have with themselves. Truly, I think that's the way through a breakup is to turn inward."
My relationship was clear-cut: Official. Exclusive. Years of investment. Separation. But the further removed I stand and the more I connect with friends on their experiences and even Menders (through the private Mend Facebook group), I realize that even that is a luxury. In today's modern landscape, there are many in-betweens.
"Technology has made people less empathetic and sensitive in their dating habits. People are much more likely to ghost someone — just disappear without explanation — along with some other poor behaviors," psychotherapist Feuerman says.
San Francisco-based associate marriage and family therapist Allison Zamani adds, "People seem to be more willing to date multiple people at once. People are starting to narrow down the number of people they are dating more around when they have had five successful dates with a person, whereas in the past it was more like three. You should also expect more time in between communications with a person you are dating."
That's a lot to latch onto. And at the moment, the Mend team is focused on how to best navigate all these modern relationship roadblocks. According to Huerta, there is a lot of demand behind trainings for the on again-off again relationship, as well as the non-relationship (or "almost relationship," where things may have never been exclusive or official, but people might feel that they had a connection with someone and believed it could become exclusive eventually).
"People feel some guilt and shame that they're so upset and so affected by losing someone that wasn't even their girlfriend or their boyfriend, but the label doesn't matter. What matters is what your investment was in that person and your expectations around what it might be in the future," Huerta says.
Is My Heart Cured?
So… is my heart cured? Sometimes I wake up in the morning without the need to tame my anxieties by doing the meditations. Sometimes I forget to do them altogether, because at the moment, my ex occupies a minimal amount of space in my mind. I've turned my narrative inward: focusing on my career, my friendships and planning an exciting trip.
My answer is yes. An app — for me, this app — can cure a broken heart. And the best part? It doesn't just feel like a Band-Aid. It feels like a stitch.
Heartbroken? These Apps Might Help
Mend: focuses on getting over a breakup through daily trainings, journaling and an emphasis on self-care.
Break-Up Boss: acts as a self-help book and encourages a big-picture, positive view when it comes to your breakup.