I’m writing a new dating series called “Doing it Right” and basically it is going to take all of the dating blunders of my 20s, and condenses it into the best advice that I could give for myself and other women who are finding themselves back at square one after a breakup.
A breakup, whether you initiate it or not has a significant effect on your life. A breakup signifies that there will be changes in your life, even if that change is simply that this vision of being together is no more. It is the relationship equivalent of quitting your job. There definitely a shock factor regardless of which side of the breakup you are on, and sometimes this shock is immediate while other times it takes time for it to sink in. My advice is the sooner you can face the reality of the breakup, the quicker you can regain control of your life.
Facing the reality of a breakup means to accept the loss of the relationship, which is much harder than it sounds, especially if the breakup wasn’t direct. Maybe he just cut you out cold, or maybe you have hope that you can get back together – sometimes it can be difficult to even acknowledge that you are going through a breakup. I find that some people, especially men just try to carry on with living their lives focusing on other areas of their lives until one day (sometimes even 6 months down the road) the loss of the relationship finally hits them.
When the sense of relationship loss sinks in, take the time to reflect on the loss. It is normal to want to take some time to think about things and analyze what happened, what went wrong and how you feel about it. Writing down your thoughts helps with the analysis process and with starting to let some of it go. If I didn’t write down my thoughts, I find myself replaying the same things over and over in my head. I write down these things that are in my head, how I feel about the breakup, how I wished it could have been, what I want to say to him. Never write letters or e-mails with the intention of sending it while you are in a state of distress. There is just so many mixed emotions from sadness, to anger and as I’m going through this part of a breakup I always wish that I wasn’t going through the breakup and the simplest solution that comes to mind sometimes is just getting back together and how to achieve that. All I can say to that is not to go down that path. Take this time to breath, think about how you feel, analyze and reflect on the relationship and most importantly, let the emotions subside so that you can be rational about your decisions. A relationship breakup happens for a reason, even if you were the one that initiated the breakup, think about these reasons thoroughly.
I am so guilty of being irrational when going through a breakup, so I find it extremely helpful to talk to friends and family about it. Those who are not going through the breakup will be able to help give rational advice on the matter. I could be dating the biggest asshole, and I’d still want to get back together with him and that is where my friends will come in and provide me a more rational perspective. Telling close friends about the breakup will make you feel better. I make it a point to tell pretty much all of my close friends, maybe even more than one time as the breakup continues to unfold. An important point here is to tell people willing to listen, though a caveat is that not everyone gives good advice – that’s why talking about it to several friends will help you gain different perspectives.
A breakup is extremely stressful and a lot of that stress is experienced physically. Take the time to take care of yourself. I highly recommend going to the spa and getting a massage. I even take this opportunity to tell my masseuse about my breakup. I feel like the more I tell people about the breakup, the more I come to accept the reality of it and the better I start to feel. If a spa visit is not possible, then a bath, exercise, stretching, meditation or anything that you would normally do to reduce stress is recommended. I even recommend taking a personal day off work if that is possible. What I don’t recommend however is drinking alcohol, doing drugs or immersing yourself immediately in a new hobby or distraction. Again, the idea is to face your problems and deal with them first.
Hopefully at this point you will start feeling a sense of relief. Heartbreak is like contracting an illness such as the flu and sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. When I am heartbroken I am so stressed out and I wake up with a heavy chest and sometimes a flood of emotions. The smallest things such as a social media post from him or finding his belongings at my place can ruin my entire day or cause me to not be able to sleep. Just driving by a place of significance in our relationship would sting. It is completely normal to feel that sinking feeling or that sting when you are faced with things that remind you of the significance of the relationship and these feelings will eventually pass.
When you’ve gathered enough willpower and mental strength to do so, start cleaning. This could be deleting your ex-boyfriend off your social media or it could mean shipping his belongings back to him. It could literally mean to clean your place and throw out some old clothes. Cleaning signifies that you are physically removing his presence from your life and making room for new things.
Okay, so do you remain friends or not? This is a question that I have struggled with each and every time I go through a breakup. Often times, I feel like it is such a waste to not be friends – except what I fail to consider is how difficult it would be for me to actually see him move on, see other people, be with other people. I’ve stressed about this a lot, especially if there are mutual friends tied into the mix but a good general rule of thumb is to reset your relationships to the state that it was at a few months before you got together. So if you were never friends before you dated then there is no need to be friends after the breakup. Dating is not a means to pick-up new friends/ex-boyfriends along the way. Now if you were friends before or you adamantly decide that you want to continue being friends then agree to take 2-3 months off; if your friendship is meant to be then you should be able to pick-up after a short hiatus. A big lesson that I have learned is that being friends after breaking up is really difficult. If it is a cause of more stress or you are just staying friends in hopes to get back together at some point in the future – don’t do it. Also, if he doesn’t want to be friends, then you shouldn’t convince or force him. If there were any real feelings in the relationship, being friends afterwards will be really difficult. Not being friends with an ex actually opens up more space in your life to move on and meet someone that is a better fit for you.
When the feelings of shock and loss have considerably subsided, this is when you want to make a plan on how to move on. A breakup is like a pivot of your love life and it is also a good check-point to review your life priorities. And now that you have this new space in your life, what are you going to do with it? It’s kind of like clearing out an entire room in your living space and deciding what you’d like to put in it in the short-term and long-term.
While you are thinking about your life priorities, and figuring out what to put in this new space, my recommendation is to take care of yourself and regain some confidence. This is when I go buy some new clothes, get a haircut and get my nails done. This can also mean hitting the gym and eating healthier. The caveat here is not to make any rash decisions that are not reversible such as getting a tattoo or making a large purchase.
Even after you start feeling better about the break-up, there will still be days where you will feel very lonely and start missing your ex. This is normal, and as you have a renewed focus in your life, this feeling will occur less often. If this isn’t your first breakup then you will already know how these feelings will fade. You may even realize eventually that the breakup was necessary and has freed you from the stresses of an unhealthy relationship.