Apparently, it’s time to stop lamenting the oft-cited statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce. While there was a surge in nuptial failures during the 70s and 80s, that trend has officially tapered off, partly because people are waiting longer to exchange vows of love contingent upon death in the first place.
It seems as if tying the knot at an older age gives us more time to figure out who we are and what we want out of life and a life partner, so we’re less likely to choose an incompatible mate. But nuptial procrastination also gives us a lot more time to date before settling down, and the longer we date, the more breakups we’re bound to experience in a lifetime. So while we may be more likely than previous generations to stay married, we might also be racking up more failed romantic relationships over time.
It’s no wonder that an entire industry has sprouted up recently around our collective post breakup needs. Self-help books such as Rachel A. Sussman’s The Breakup Bible are selling like crazy, words like “ex-aholics” have been coined, and a 12-step program for the broken hearted has been formalized.
But before you dive headfirst into the woe-is-me breakup blues and let your split metastasize into a disease from which you must recuperate, here are 5 secret steps to getting over your ex once and for all.
1. List your former lover’s flaws
As humans, we’re all flawed. This can be a depressing thought if self-focused, but a wonderfully liberating one when directed towards others. No matter how many hours someone spends volunteering at homeless shelters or coaching underprivileged children on weekend afternoons, I assure you they are imperfect.
The best way to prevent a former partner’s positive traits from clouding your memory is to write out a list of his or her specific shortcomings. Don’t get roped into drafting a pros and cons chart because this isn’t meant to be a balanced exercise. Concentrate solely on the negative—every undesirable characteristic, whether emotional, psychological, or purely superficial. Give yourself permission to admit that those once charming quirks (reliance on “literally” as a verbal crutch, an outie bellybutton, etc.) are in fact insanely aggravating. Be mean on paper—never in public, because bitterness just looks silly—and continue to consult your list whenever you feel the tickle of relationship nostalgia creeping in.
2. Cyberstalk all you want
There’s no point resisting the urge to cyberstalk your ex and anyone he or she dates after you. It’s natural to want to know things, after all, and it’s so damn easy to collect information on the Internet. So don’t beat yourself up for indulging the itch to dig.
Unless you and your ex have zero friends in common, you’re bound to come across photos and posts including them in your social media newsfeeds anyway, so you might as well get used to it. The key is to remind yourself that the information flows both ways. And that no one’s web presence is an accurate reflection of real life. Also, whatever intelligence you gather should be used to help you move forward, even if that requires fabricating context. For instance, a photo in which your ex is pictured with his arm around a beautiful younger woman probably indicates that he’s squandered his savings to hire a sugar baby [http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/05/seeking-arrangement-201005] after several ego diminishing failed attempts at getting laid.
3. Do whatever it takes to feel sexy again
This is the time to focus on Number One’s wellbeing, and let’s face it: Your mental health is tied to your physical appearance, at least to a certain extent. Don’t be afraid to be vain. Do whatever you need to feel good about the way you look, even if that means hitting the gym more than you want, over-spending on new “going out” clothes, or giving up dessert for a while. When you’re about to reenter the singles scene, it’s advantageous to look and feel your best, because we all know confidence is the key to rebounding properly.
4. Find someone new, stat
Guess what? Every single relationship you enter into is going to fail, until one doesn’t. The bad news is, there’s no way around plowing through all of the muck before you find the one worth holding onto. But the good news is that each relationship failure gets you one step closer to your personal Happily Ever After. This under-acknowledged benefit of breaking up should motivate you to get on with it for efficiency’s sake. As an added incentive, the best distraction from grieving lost love is new couple bliss.
So whether you were the dumper, or the dumpee, consider yourself lucky to be freed. Louis C.K. famously said: “Divorce is always good. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true, because no good marriage ends in divorce.” The same can be said of any relationship that comes to an end. There are always reasons why things don’t work out. But around the corner from every nasty ending, there’s a wonderfully lustful romantic beginning waiting to be discovered.
5. If all else fails, go “antiquing”
When single, it’s ill advised to waste time bemoaning the lack of acceptable options out there. In the words of Dance Moms’ Abby Lee Miller, “Everyone’s replaceable.” That said, sometimes it’s tough to find a new boyfriend or girlfriend as quickly as we’d like.
Luckily, it’s always possible to call upon one or more of the exes you’ve accumulated over the years so you can get a taste of closeness and maybe have sex without having to engage in tedious pleasantries, or wonder whether someone can hold their own in bed. This helpful practice is called antiquing. Use your investigative skills to figure out which of your trusty past lovers is in the area and currently available for a tryst. Just don’t fall into the trap of getting reattached. It can be fulfilling to dip into the ol’ well, but it’s dicey to soak in there for too long.