Chelsea Handler reflects on breakup with Jo Koy: 'If I have to choose one person, I have to choose myself'

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Chelsea Handler is offering new insights into her recent breakup with Jo Koy.

The day after the comedian, 46, announced the breakup after nearly a year of dating, she sat down with Glennon Doyle on her podcast We Can Do Hard Things for her first public conversation about the topic, her voice often breaking with emotion.

US comedians Chelsea Handler and Jo Koy arrive for the 64th Annual Grammy Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on April 3, 2022. (Photo by ANGELA  WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA  WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
Chelsea Handler and Jo Koy, pictured here in April, have broken up after nearly a year of dating. Now, Handler is opening up about what she learned. (Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images) (ANGELA WEISS via Getty Images)

While reflecting on what she's learned about herself in the relationship, Handler, who said she had originally planned to appear on the show with Koy, months ago, explained how therapy provided a strong foundation towards healing and why she’s still never giving up on love.

“This is a different me. This is the first time that I’ve ended a relationship where I feel like an adult, and where it was because it was the mature thing to do,” she said while confirming the duo ended their relationship several weeks ago.

“I’m really happy to be handling a breakup in an honest way for the first time in my life," she acknowledged, "instead of distracting, deflecting and doing all these things to be like, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine,' then the delayed grief hits you three or four months later, and you’re on your knees, and you haven’t really dealt with anything.”

“When you know, you know,” she said of the breakup. “It’s like any other intuition you have. You have to close your eyes and listen to your gut and understand that sometimes the pain you’re gonna go through with a breakup is gonna be much more preferable than remaining in something that isn’t working anymore.”

Part of knowing when it's time to part ways, she added, is acknowledging when the relationship "becomes untenable and unhealthy."

"If you’re arguing or if it's devolving, if you can’t have conversations that are calm and loving and constant and you’re not feeling like a team, then it becomes untenable," she said. "People are open sometimes in their lives and sometimes they’re really closed off. And [for] a lot of people, it's not a fun job to do the work of looking inward. Like, we all know that it's ugly … it's not an attractive endeavor."

Before the former couple announced they were together late last year, they had already been friends for quite some time — having met on the comedy circuit and after Koy was a frequent guest on Handler’s show Chelsea Lately.

“I was so inspired by us,” she said of their relationship, acknowledging that she will "always" have love for Koy.

When announcing their breakup on Instagram on Tuesday, the comedian spoke directly to Koy: "You blew my creativity open, my lust for working hard again, being on the road again, and you reminded me who I was and always have been," adding, "It’s another beginning. And it’s a comfort to know that I am still loved and love this man the way the sun loves the moon and the moon loves the sun."

Meanwhile, Koy wrote a special note for Handler on his own Instagram: "Chelsea and I will always remain great friends and will always have love for one another," he wrote. "I’m her biggest fan and I can’t wait for you all to see what she has in store for the future."

“I still believe that my person is coming,” Handler told Doyle. “Whether that’s Jo Koy at a certain time, or if it's not, I accept that. I’m not in that immature mode where I need to know the answers. I mean, we all wanna know when we’re breaking up what the answers are [but] that’s part of the maturity, is to sit in the unknowing and still function.”

That being said, though, Handler is quick to acknowledge all she's learned about herself from the relationship — which she credits to hundreds of hours of therapy with a psychiatrist. She says she realized she was holding herself back as a result of her brother dying when she was young and her father "retreating" as a result. "An abandonment, on both fronts, and because of that trauma I layered and wrapped myself up in this bitch."

Another lesson she learned was an understanding that while it’s “nice to bend [yourself] for people” and to “learn how to compromise,” it’s impossible to "change somebody intrinsically."

“I was willing to do so much bending but there’s a line. And I’m very proud of myself because I didn’t let myself cross that line,” she said. “I’m at a place in my life that I have to be with someone [who’s also] where I’m at [emotionally]," adding that "Jo is on his own path."

"I had to have a conversation with myself about how much I wasn’t going to abandon myself," she said. "If I have to choose one person, I have to choose myself.”

Truth be told, the relationship hadn't been working "for some time," she pointed out.

"I’ve been dealing with it in real time — in therapy, out of therapy, with my girlfriends, with all my support systems — knowing that when you’re in pain to sit with it, not to go away or take an edible, even though I always love edibles,” Handler explained of the healing process. “Not to try to numb your pain is what I’ve learned. That is the best way to get through grief in a real responsible way and in a healthy way where it’s not gonna come and sneak up on you later.”

“When you breakup from a love relationship, it is an emotional roller coaster,” she added. “One day you think you’re killing it and the next day you’re not killing it.”

Thanks in large part to therapy, Handler says she has an emotional “toolkit” that's helped her process the situation and move forward in the healthiest way possible.

“I meditate, I read a lot,” she said. “In times like this, I read stuff that I know is gonna help me. I listen to things that I think are gonna help me. I allow the time for reflection, like sitting in my backyard and looking at the trees and thinking about everything that transpired and all the good things that I got out of this [relationship] and what it’s inspired…”

“I feel optimistic about the future now,” she said. “I’ve changed so much. My love was so big that it just blew me open, and as painful as the ending of something like that is, I’m so well-versed in therapy and understanding that every door shutting is a new beginning. And I do believe it. I don’t think that’s horse****. I think that when you have the grounding and the courage to say that something isn’t working, you’re saying a lot more than that to the whole word and you’re inviting in things that are gonna be workable and more suitable to your needs and what you’re available for.”

“Nothing is breaking me,” she said of the process. “This does not define you. It is a part of who you are, it is not all of who you are.”

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