Breakups blow chunks. Whether it’s an amicable breakup or a horrible, crash-and-burn situation, you’ve invested a part of you into another person and must accept that a relationship that you once nurtured is dead and gone. Brain-mapping studies have shown that the same regions of the brain are activated when an addict is going through withdrawals as when someone is going through a breakup.
1. Day of the split—contact purge.
Block them everywhere: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, Snapchat and your phone, along with unfollows on Tumblr and Vine.
I would also recommend steering clear of social media for at least a day or two; you’re not going to miss out on much in the way of your virtual social life, and it’ll keep you from creeping where you should not be and from making emotional posts that will embarrass you in the future.
Additionally, nobody wants to be the crazy bitch who logs into their ex’s accounts because they remember a password; it’s going to accomplish nothing but shame. Same with calling your exes from a landline; I know you have the number memorized but just no. Don’t let the crazy win!
2. Day of the split: lean on loved ones.
Call your older and wiser confidant who always seems to know the right things to say—for me, that’s my mom. Tell them what happened and cry to them; they will help you to feel better and remind you of your worth through other’s eyes when you can’t see it yourself.
Call up your best friends (and don’t make them mutual friends with your ex, if possible) and have them come over with junk food, sad movies (The Notebook, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 500 Days of Summer, The Break-Up, etc.), Kleenex and pajamas—alcohol is an optional component too.
This is your time to be pathetic around people who love and will not judge you, tell them everything you’ve been holding in and let out all your feelings in the comfort of your own living room and let yourself cry on their shoulders.
3. Week 1 of the split—controlled mourning.
Instead of trying to be tough and burying your feelings, allow yourself to feel it all.
Call sick into work or work out of your home. If you’re in school, see if you can get notes off of other people and miss a day or two. Cry a lot and come to grips with the fact that what you had is gone. Let yourself feel the flood of emotions entirely and allow yourself to go through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance) without the risk of going off like a loose cannon in public. Turn your house into a personal love detox center filled with cheesy break up songs followed by empowering songs with choreographed dances. Then after the allotted mourning time is over, pick yourself up and re-enter the real world.
4. Work through your issues.
Learn how to channel your anger toward the breakup in a healthy way, whether it’s through music, writing, exercise, or some other outlet.
If you feel that it’s the right move, seeing a therapist can be very helpful in getting through a breakup. They can offer an outsider’s perspective on your situation and give you the tools and resources to achieve closure on your own.
5. Turn your loss into a learning experience.
Although you’re unable to alter the past, you can always learn from your mistakes. If nothing else, lessons can always be learned from a failed relationship.
6. Accept where you are in life.
Be aware of what you’re feeling and learn to recognize your self-worth. I am a big believer in the power of meditation and I find this can be really helpful for this component.
7. Acknowledge your last relationship’s positive aspects.
Although your relationship may have gone sour and has come to an end, there were reasons you stayed with them for so long. Try a writing exercise and jot down some of those positive aspects.
8. Focus on your best qualities.
Try writing down the five best things you have to offer the world. Remind yourself that you have value and internalize your self-worth. You have to learn how to stand on your own two feet again.
9. Rediscover and reinvent yourself.
Spend time with people who love you for you. Pick up a new hobby that makes you happy. Get a new hairdo, go on a trip with friends, lose some weight, or just catch up on things you’ve always wanted to do. Spend time focusing on getting a promotion or doing well on that tough course you’re taking.
10. Be patient.
You’re very lucky if you don’t run into your ex at some point during the recovery period. This can be more difficult for some than others but when in doubt a short, “Hey, how are you?” followed by a little bit of small talk does the trick. Try to avoid talking about your relationship, as it’s uncomfortable and never does a whole lot of good for either party.
Do not under any circumstances do the following:
1. Have break-up sex (especially after months of not seeing each other).
Remember that you broke up for a reason and that you don’t have sex with people you’re trying to get over. This is especially important if you’re a woman, since during sex, a hormone called oxytocin (or the dreaded “cuddle hormone”) is released in the female body; this is lethal for getting over someone as it makes you trust your partner more, lowers your defenses, increases levels of empathy and it puts you at risk for falling right back in love. Think with your brain and not your heart or genitals and you’ll thank me later.
2. Talk shit about your ex to their family or friends.
If your ex comes up in conversation when you’re not yet over them, keep it short and sweet to avoid sliding into that dark space. Although you might think you’re tainting that person’s ideas about your ex-flame by talking shit, you’re really tainting their view of you. Bitterness is not a cute look on anybody, and talking about your ex negatively never has the outcome you want it to.
3. Try to “fuck it out” or move on too quickly.
So you’ve just broken up and are in a fragile place. You are desperate to feel wanted by anybody. Suddenly, you’re chatting it up with some hottie on Tinder with a half-naked display picture.
It’s unfair to drag another person into your mess with the lone goal of not being alone and keep them around for the off chance that your ex will see you out with someone new. Everyone will know your relationship is just for show and it will end, leaving you in a worse place than you were before since you didn’t let yourself heal properly.
One-night stands often end up making you feel bad about yourself in the long run, and friends-with-benefits situations simply reap no benefits at all.
4. Try to “fake it ’til you make it.”
This is otherwise known as the “tough guy approach,” letting everyone think you’re fine by burying your feelings deep inside you until they rot your core and make you an un-dateable monster. Yeah, don’t do that. If you don’t address your prior relationship’s end in a healthy way, you can’t learn how to love yourself and are setting yourself up for failure in future relationships.
5. Abuse drugs and/or alcohol.
Although it feels amazing to dance your heart out to “Call Your Girlfriend” while under the influence, you can’t be doing this every day. Alcohol is a depressant and drugs are a slippery-ass slope, so have fun but in moderation.
Unfortunately, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is just a movie, and technology hasn’t yet found a way of making us forget about our exes and relationships completely. Just remember that you’re loved and important to the world, so be kind to yourself. Time heals all wounds and breakups are no exception to this rule. Even though the future may look bleak, eventually you will get back to being happy.