This Is How You Survive The ‘Post-Breakup Relapse’

Woman walking through woods
Chad Madden

It’s been three months. Well, over three months. Almost four months, actually. You’ve met other people. You’ve gone on dates. You’ve gotten a “good morning” text from someone that wasn’t him. You’ve been excited by someone that wasn’t him. You’ve been let down by someone that wasn’t him.

You’ve been smiling. You’ve had a girl’s night in and laughed your head off relaying recent drunken stories to one another and reminiscing about times that once were. You’ve found peace in solitude and sleeping alone no longer feels cold and lonely. You’ve learned to enjoy your own company. You’ve gone full days without thinking about him and been fine with it. Because he’s no longer a part of your life, and you’ve discovered you’re becoming okay with that.

You’ve gone out with friends and been happy going home with someone. You’ve gone out with friends and been happy going home alone. You’ve gotten drunk and danced your ass off while screaming the words to some one-hit-wonder you haven’t heard since high school. You’ve been, over all, good. You’ve been content. You’ve been undoubtedly, genuinely, really fucking happy. You’ve realized things are going to be okay after all.

And then one night, for just a few moments, something changes.

It could be the lyrics to a song that fit a bit too perfectly. It could be the monologue in a movie that sounds all too familiar. It could be a single, sweet line of narration in the paperback novel you’ve been reading. It’s like all of the progress you’ve made the last few months has been erased. You’re back to thinking about him. You’re upset about him. You haven’t cried in months but suddenly you’re tearing up. You’re picturing his face, you see him blushing, smiling at you. You can imagine him wrapping his arms around you, pulling you into him. You can hear yourself laughing at him. You can feel his five o’clock shadow brushing up against your cheek.

You’ve spent the last few months forcing yourself not to think about him. And the moments that he did cross your mind you’ve focused on the negative: how terrible of a cook he was, how he never wanted to go out dancing with you, how you had to force him to hang out with your friends and family, how terrible he was at holding a conversation with your father. You’ve told yourself, “He was so obviously not the one for me, I can do so much better!”

But now you’re thinking about the positives. You’re thinking about how he made you laugh sitting at dinner, guessing what the couples at other tables were saying to each other. You’re thinking about how he held you when you cried, showing him such an unusual side of vulnerability after a fight with your mom, or disagreement with your best friend, or even a particularly rough day at work. You’re reliving that night you drank too much and he held your hair and stroked your back at 4 am without a single complaint. You’re thinking about how in love you once where, and how good it felt to be loved by him.

This relapse only lasts a moment. The song ends. The scene changes. The page turns. Just like you’ve done these last few months. You’ve moved on. But like any piece of art it’s so easy to go back, reread the last chapter, start the song over, rewind to the beginning. And sometimes you have to let yourself. Be sad, but only for a moment. Get angry, then let it wash over you. Wipe the tears away and let yourself smile. Embrace the relapse for what it is: a fragmented memory about someone who once loved you. Allow yourself to give into it and then let it go. Give yourself a pep talk and hum a new tune. A happy song, a love song, a song you know will soon replace the last one, if you only give it time. TC mark

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