I have not always been successful in relationships, to say the least. This means I have been through my fair share of break ups. Luckily, most of these have ended as amicably as possible. Others…not so much. No matter why or how they ended, they have all usually been followed with a period of tears, self-pity and sleepless nights followed by unfocused days at school or work.
I played the “What If Game.” What if I had done something differently? Would things have turned out the same? What if I was more/less available to him during our relationship? What if we had met earlier/later in life? What if we just take some time off to get our heads straight? Is there hope that we can be together again one day?
I’ve found one Truth in the What If Game. You will never really know. And that was always very hard for me to accept. I wanted to know, if just for closure. But the thing is, even if we did know the answers to these questions, what good would it do us now? Right now we are hurting and we want that to end as soon as possible.
1. Have a good cry.
Get it out of your system. Dedicate some time to just be sad. Cry, snot, moan, sulk, pout, pull the covers over your head and stay in bed all day. Play all of the sad break up songs you can get your hands on. Take the time to mourn the loss. It’s necessary and it’s healthy.
2. Put a time limit on hardcore mourning.
While it’s healthy to mourn, it’s not healthy to dwell. Don’t let it go on for too long. Don’t torture yourself by replaying scenarios over and over again. Don’t torture your friends by making them listen to the same sad story again and again. Instead, tell yourself, “Ok, I am going to be sad and cry and be gross today through Saturday, but at 8 AM Sunday morning, I’m done.” Of course, that is easier said than done. Of course you’ll mourn some relationships for a longer period than others. But setting a time limit on the wallowing stage of mourning will help you avoid slipping into obsessing and delaying your overall recovery.
Delete their phone number from your phone. Unfriend and unfollow from all social media. Delete all saved text messages and emails so you aren’t tempted to go back and torture yourself by re-reading. Take down any photos you have up around your house or office. If you can’t bring yourself to actually throw away photos, cards and mementos, box them up. Get them out of your house. You need to erase this person from your mind for the time being, and having this stuff around will make it nearly impossible to do that. It’s hard, but rip the band-aid off.
If you must keep in touch with your ex because a) you have children together or b) you go to school or work at the same place, try to keep communications brief, professional and focused only on logistics. Also: dude, don’t ever date anyone you work with again, ugh.
4. Stay busy.
You might not feel like putting pants on or leaving your house, but it’s really the best thing you can do. Make plans with family and friends. You might not be feeling super social and may have no desire to go to that big party, and that’s ok. But don’t rule out making dinner plans with a friend or two. Keep busy at work or with projects. Most importantly, surround yourself with people who love you and think you’re awesome so you don’t forget that you are.
5. Focus on your health.
Try to stay as healthy as possible. Being as physically healthy as you can will only help you feel emotionally healthy in the end. Try not to emotionally eat too much. Try not to drink too much. Friends may not know exactly how to help you, and they might suggest taking you out for drinks. Go easy.
Again, the last thing you may feel like doing right now is “join that new yoga class that just opened down the street!” But at the same time, it might be worth a try. A friend of mine who is currently in the throes of a bad break up started swimming again after many years. He’s lost 20 lbs. and physically feels much better. Emotionally? He’s still hurting quite a bit. But he’s on the right path. If you’re not into the whole gym thing, then at least sit on the floor and do some stretches while watching TV. Breathe deep. It helps.
6. Remember: Time DOES heal.
More than anything, you need time. You need to put distance between the you in the relationship and you in the future. You can’t control making time go faster, but you can control how you react during the passage of time. When things get painful, keep telling yourself, “It will be ok.” Because it will. Time heals. You will be happy again. This, too, shall pass. I have a list of sayings like this that I’ve made my mantras during difficult times. Yes, they are clichés, but they are clichés for a reason. They are universal truths that have been passed down from person to person who have been through the same things you have. And they made it out to the other side. And they survived and moved on to happier times.
And so will you.