The worst part of the end of a relationship can be the lack of one. The open-endedness and plaguing questions of why and how it all went downhill can keep you up at night. We’ve all been there, waiting for answers that never came and wasting precious time trying to get that closure from an ex who just wasn’t willing to give it.
There are tons of books and magazines on how to get him, please him and make him happy, but missing from much of that literature is practical advice on how to get what you need, whether it’s answers, closure or the will to just get over him.
I’ve scoured libraries, the Internet and talked to experts searching for some guidance to help deal with the ambiguous breakup of a relationship, but most of what I learned didn’t come from any of those places. It came from experience. It came from my girl friends’ experiences. And it came from being the one left confused and broken-hearted.
Whether it was a long drawn-out breakup or one that ended abruptly without warning, below are some tips on how to move on to bigger and better things — specifically, a new you.
1. Play it cool.
The first months after the end of a relationship is spent deconstructing, overanalyzing and explaining to everyone you meet about what went wrong. Instead of jumping straight to the trash talk about how he wasn’t good in bed, try keeping mum on the subject. This doesn’t mean you need to praise him or avoid the topic altogether, but talking it to death will bore your friends and scare new guys away. According to one book I actually found insightful, Delphine Hirsh’s The Girl’s Guide to Surviving a Breakup, “You don’t want your friends to feel as though their lives are unraveling as well or they will not be very helpful to you.” Not only will staying tight-lipped on the subject keep your name clear of drama, but it will baffle him as to why you aren’t pouring with distraught. Win-win.
2. Take some responsibility.
We tend to either blame the breakup on ourselves or entirely on him, and neither really gets us anywhere. A good friend of mine told me about an umpteen-paged letter she wrote to an ex specifically describing how he hurt her and the fault she was willing to claim. She never sent it. At first I didn’t really understand the point, but then I realized venting on paper can be cathartic. There’s a big different between wanting someone and needing someone, and if it’s the latter (which is often the case) taking some credit for the breakup will help you realize why the breakup was for the best.
3. Don’t play the victim.
Women always tend to be the helpless and wounded in movies, and it’s seemingly no different when it comes to relationships. According to the American Psychological Association, women are twice as likely to develop depression than men. Don’t get me wrong, the sympathy is nice when we feel lost and lonely, but it only makes us that much more vulnerable. Be strong and positive. Easier said than done of course, but the stronger-willed we are, the less likely we are to make bad decisions and be taken advantage of by the hard-to-resist rebound.
4. Work on you.
One of the worst mistakes we make after a bad breakup is letting ourselves go physically, mentally, emotionally—or all the above. We tend to break down and spend too much time in our sweatpants wallowing. And wallowing is good—even needed—for a certain period of time. But after the initial breakup shock has worn off, we need to get off the couch and take care of ourselves. After a devastating breakup with an ex, I spent months in bed, most of which remains a blur of time I’ll never get back. Lesson learned. Treat yourself to a manicure or some new highlights. Living well really is the best revenge.
5. Refocus your life.
This step is the hardest because it forces us to admit the relationship is completely over. Sit down and make a new list of priorities—sans ex—and figure out what is important to you. Give precedence to your family, friends, career and yourself. Find ways to fill that time left void by him and try new things. Push for that promotion, reconnect with old friends and take a mini-vacation with your mom or sister. Whatever it is, just count him out.
Now a lot of these tips may seem a little facetious and even idealistic, but the key to getting the closure you need is focusing less on the reasons surrounding the split because you may very well never get them. Allow yourself to cry and rely on friends. Allot yourself that time. Just remember how much time we all spend pining after ex-boyfriends that didn’t even give us the time of day to offer an explanation. Then think about how much time it takes to find a new guy and build a better relationship. You do the math.