Break-ups suck. There’s few things in life as earth shattering, debilitating, confusing and lame as break-ups. My breakup lasted six months of mere confusion and back- and forth, and was followed by another six months of “real” break-up and then by another year or so of lingering thoughts and grievances. And since I finally feel healed from said break-up, I am here to tell you that you will survive. I didn’t believe I would make it through those horrible months of confusion. I had to question each and every single belief I had based my life on for the past two and half years. I lost my sense of self, I didn’t even know who I was anymore. The organized, cheerful, strong and practical person I had always been was replaced by a weak, anxious, irrationally spacey and avoidant person I didn’t even recognize.
Here are twenty ways to help you deal with your own break-up process that come from my direct experience. As someone who barely just saw the light at the end of the tunnel, I can tell you that you feel a huge sense of relief when you get there as well. And I can also tell you that you will get there.
I know this sucks. And if you’re reading this, it’s because you either are going through something like a break-up or have gone though it already. Regardless, being in denial is a very common human copying mechanism, and while it works for some time, it’s also ridden with bitterness and resentment. I kept telling myself there was no way my relationship was truly over. I mean, how it could it be? He adored me since day one, we were living together and had tons of future plans. When I was finally able to tell myself that because of whatever limitations he was experiencing, he could no longer be in a partnership with me, I felt light. Truth will set you free, because nothing stands behind it. Often times the truth lies right before our eyes, but we are very resistant to seeing it. But it’s right there, being shown in its fullness. Acceptance comes with a sweet sense of surrender. Accept that he/she for the moment no longer sees fit to be with you. Also accept that break-ups are a process. They rarely happen in a clear, polished ways. Accept that it might take more than one conversation to get clarity on what’s happening. And also accept that you can’t talk about the break-up forever with your ex. At some point, you gotta quit the talking and just let it be. Accept that your relationship, for some reason beyond your control or understanding is no longer working. Acceptance is the key to everything.
2. Take Space
For as much as it hurts to take space, because you think you won’ be able to go a day without speaking to your loved one, that you will suffer terrible pains from not being able to hear their voices, trust me, you’re actually better off not hearing from them for a while. First off, distance will give you perspective, which will then allow you to understand a lot more of what’s actually going on without having you be confused by what your ex is saying (there can often be incongruence between what your ex is saying and what he’s actually doing with his actions because you are in a transitional period when you’re drifting away from one modality of relationship into another). The rule of thumb is, whenever a situation is confusing, you need to take several steps back and pause to see clearly.
You know that moment when you want to tell your ex off, and insult them for a good long ten minutes for how much they’re making you suffer? Don’t do it. If you want your ex to treat you with respect, you must do the same to them. If you’re angry, walk away and take some space. In other words, always take the high road, and especially try when it seems the harder thing to do. No matter how angry you are, don’t hang up the phone. Don’t purposely try to make you ex jealous by flirting with others. That stuff is sure to backfire.
What you can do however, is use humor with your friends to look at your ex and the situation in a way that makes you laugh. Finding humor will take your mind off your break-up pain. Write a list of all your ex’s shortcomings. It will take the edge off the perceived seriousness of the situation and make you realize that after all, it’s “just” a break-up and life will eventually continue.
4. Don’t force conversation
Are you trying to rush into becoming friends after the break-up? Into having hour long heart to heart talks with your ex for “closure”? But what if your ex isn’t receptive to having those kinds of talks? Once thing I learnt during my break-up is that you should ask permission before starting a conversation with anyone. A conversation should never start with :”We have to talk. You need to explain why….” You can’t bully someone into talking with you if they aren’t ready or wiling.
5. Lean on your friends
This is the time to ask for people around you to be understanding of your bad moods, shortcomings and constant need to talk about your break-up. Ask your friends to show up for you. During my break-up I constantly needed to talk to someone otherwise I felt I would implode. So I called friends near and far, and they lent a generous ear and heartfelt advice for me during the tough times. I spoke to my friends much more often than I usually do. And they were there for me. That’s a true showing of friendship. Ask your friends to come over to your place and just hang out and be mellow. Contrary to what you might hear, It’s OK not to want to go out when healing from a break-up. It’s ok to stay home and sit on the couch with your best friend and cry while eating banana chips and watching Girls. You don’t have to go out clubbing and pretend you’re having a ball even though you’re dying inside.
Journaling was the pillar of my break-up processing. I literally poured rivers of words into several different journals, an online one, as paper one, I wrote motivational notes I stuck in my wallet and purse. The most relevant one: Step Out Of The Cycle. I wrote unset letters to him. I wrote pretend letters from him to myself. I made lists of the relationship’s pro and cons. Of advice I’d give myself from the future. Chances are, your friends can’t talk 24 hours a day. So you’ll need to put all your anguish and thoughts and unresolved questions somewhere, and there’s nowhere better than your trusted pen and paper to carry the heavy burden of your heart.
7. Take other’s advice with a grain of salt
While during your relationship everyone is happy and stoked for you, after the break-up people will come up with the most random, absurd and hurtful comments you’ll ever hear. Such as, :”I’ve always know he wasn’t right for you” or “It was obvious It wasn’t to work out because of all your differences” or “He loves you, you guys will be back together in no time” or “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else” or “You really need to cut him out immediately and never speak to him again” or “You guys should become friends with benefits” or “It’s already been three months, haven’t you moved on already?’ What?! NO! First of all, if I could get over my ex, don’t you think I would have already done so? Do you think I enjoy sitting here whining about how deep of feelings I have for my ex despite the fact he’s a loser? And, please don’t give me false hope that he and I will get back together. Also, please don’t tell me to go sleep with someone else to get over my break-up. It would only make things worse, since I can barely eat because I’m so distraught and the idea of even touching someone else’s body other than my ex’s makes me want to run away and scream. So, take other people’s comments and advice very, very lightly because sometimes you end up worse than before. And be choosy about who you confide in.
8. Read self-help books
The cure to most problems is to acknowledge them, deconstruct them, and hear an expert’s opinion to realize that million other people have gone through it. Books I recommend are: The Relationship Cure by John Gottman, Are you the One for me? by Barbara De Angelis, Attached by Amir Levine and (less related but somewhat) Blink by Malcom Gladwell.
9. Become comfortable with the uncomfortable
Do you wish you could just fast forward to the very end of the break-up? To the day when you’ll finally hear your ex’s name and will have zero reaction in your body or mind? Are you waiting impatiently for when you’ll hear your ex is sleeping with someone else and you’ll genuinely think: “Good for him!” Are you also looking forward to moving on and feeling ready for a new relationship? Well, let me break it to you. Unfortunately break-ups suck (did I already mention that?) and you’re in it for the long haul, and you gotta live and experience every single moment of it. The good news is, it ends. The bad news is, it takes a while. Think about someone else in your past you loved so much, and now you barely remember? There you go. You will be okay. You will forget your ex. I promise. One day you’ll look back, and who you thought was the most beautiful and worthy human being on earth will now appear like a mortal and someone really not that special.
***There is a catch though. There’s several layers to break-ups. Some that you cannot even foresee yet. And just when you thought you were done…boom something happens that brings some stuff up from the past and you might experience feelings you didn’t know where even in there still. For example, seeing your ex with a new person may stir up certain emotions for you. Finding out that they are getting married, having a baby, etc etc. Even though you may have moved on, you might still feel vulnerable and inexplicably sensitive. That’s when you’ll know you’ve hit yet another step in the process of breakup.
10. Retreat to what is familiar and safe
Your first instinct upon dealing with the break-up might be to fly to Fiji, or regain some mental sanity while sweating and crying climbing thousand of steps to Machu-Picchu. At least that’s what I felt like doing. However, don’t forget that whatever you have inside you will carry with you, no matter where you are. And if you’re still in the very first stages of the break-up, when you don’t even know what your name is anymore or if you deserve to exist because the love of your life dumped you, remember that it is best to retreat to a place where you feel completely safe and familiar. Like your own house, or your friend’s house, or your parents’ house. Here, surrounded by your belonging, familiar smells and routines, you can give room to your damaged soul to be nurtured back to life.
11. Establish a strict workout regimen
If at first it seems like the worst, most dreadful idea every to be stuck in a room with a bunch of people who don’t even remotely understand the pain you feel inside, and who go about their day unaware the your world has basically crumbled and collapsed (how dare they), a daily workout regimen will actually save your life. After a few weeks of feeling completely unable to even think of going to a yoga class, I made myself go daily. I sometimes still had to step out to cry in the bathroom while muffling my sobs. I very often hated the thoughts that crowded my head during class and therefore hated the yoga teacher for making me do side angle pose while I was dying in the inside from pain of thinking my ex didn’t love me anymore. But despite the challenge, establishing a firm workout routine made my body feel stronger, and so my mind also started to feel stronger
12. See a therapist
God bless my therapist, who agreed to Skype me while I was in Europe in the midst of my break-up. The thing is, anybody, your friends, your mom, can tell you that break-ups suck, and they make absolutely no sense, and there’s no one to say what the right way to act/think/speak is, and that there is no way to predict what will happen in the future (will we get back together?????), but until you hear your therapist tell you the same exact thing in their soothing, nonjudgmental compassionate voice you won’t believe it. So don’t be shy. Find a professional that can help you during this break-up process.
13. Be patient with yourself
This one almost makes me laugh. How could I be patient with myself when I couldn’t even respond to the 150 emails that needed immediate attention? How could I be patient with myself when all I could think, breathe, speak was my stupid ex instead of myself and the people who actually mattered in my life? How could I be patient with myself when, behaving like a stoned teenager, I forgot a bag of groceries in the garage to mold for weeks? And yet, yes, you have to be patient with yourself. You have to forgive the grieving person you are in this moment just like you would forgive your friends if they were going through the same thing. To your friend, you would say :”Honey don’t worry. You are going through a tough time, and it’s normal to forget things since you are operating in a heightened emotional state and this is a very stressful time in your life”. Repeat that to yourself too.
14. Treat this break-up as an illness
Physiologically speaking, a break-up feels like a sickness. You feel fatigued, dazed and confused, disoriented, anxious, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating, more wrinkles, more grey hairs, weird dreams, difficulty sleeping and so on. That’s no fun. When you catch a cold, you nurture yourself back to health by resting and waiting it out without overexerting yourself. Apply the same for your break-up illness. The good news is, when you start to heal, every breath will feel like new air, and every thing you look at, the view outside your window as well as your surrounding will be enveloped in a much brighter and more positive light.
15. Do anything to make yourself feel better
And by anything I mean anything. During the break-up I took a ton of hot baths with Epsom salt, because I know they calmed my nerves. I also resorted to shopping a lot on the Free People website, which didn’t end up being a very good financial decision, but it gave me some relief. After I started feeling a bit better (which didn’t happen until six months down the road) I started making really good dinners for myself, with filet mignon and home made pumpkin ravioli. I wrote a list of all the messed up stuff my ex did to me (it was long) and I burned it until it was reduced to ashes, on which I stomped until they vanished in the wind. I cut to shreds my ex’s face from a photo from my underwater disposable camera. I ran on a golf course in the rain and rolled down muddy hills until I got dizzy. I didn’t shave my legs for months. I bought a ticket to Bali. I called my grandma and together we listed all my ex’s downfalls and discussed at length how unworthy of me he is. Like I said, anything that makes you feel good in that moment, you deserve it.
16. If you need to tell yourself you’ll be back together, do it
For a while I was so attached to the idea that my ex was everything I ever wanted or could have possibly desired (somehow I didn’t consider the fact that he was dumping me as a huge sign he isn’t the right guy for me) and so for a long time I felt this strong desire to believe he and I were going through a “phase”. After said phase, during which he was acting like a total a**hole and walking all over me, he would resume back to his old wonderful self and we would continue our life together as we had planned. So for a long time the only thing that kept me going was to believe exactly that, that we would get back together after all, despite the fact that anybody in their right state of mind could see how faulty my reasoning was.
It doesn’t matter. Sometimes we need to tell ourselves certain things in other to keep going, because truth is, we don’t know what will happen. Life is unpredictable like that. Also, think about this. Your relationship probably ended because of some issues right? So it would only make sense that you’d want that “old” relationship to end, and take a definite clear break break in between to clear the slate, and then , if both parties are willing and able, they can then discuss starting the relationship again fresh. I eventually realized my ex isn’t even worth five minutes of my time, but I’ll leave it up to you to figure out how much your ex is worth on your own.
17. Don’t assume things about you ex’s life or coping process
A big psychological fallacy I was falling trap of during the break up was to assume that, just because his Instagram suggested so, my ex was having a fabulous time living his new life without me, while instead I was sitting at home, with greasy hair, an outbreak of pimples on my chin, eating some kind of lame vegan ice cream with frost bite, thinking solely of him. While he, always according to his Instagram, was hot as ever, pretty much feeding off my love for him that reinforced his idea of himself as a God like-creature, king of the world and all women, and no one, repeat no-one, especially hot blonde international girls could resist him. Well, let’s just say that’s not a very realistic representation of reality. Let’s say he was probably missing me like crazy, sleeping with whoever he could to rebound as fast as possible to try not to think about our break up, closed off emotionally, eating stale rice and beans and meanwhile missing my amazing cooking and my overall presence. So don’t assume that just because your ex doesn’t write novels on his Instagram about how hurt and saddened he is, that he is happy and doing great during the break-up. Also don’t assume just because a girl/guy commented on your ex’s Facebook post, they are now in a relationship, completely in love, and will get married next week. If this kind of stuff starts messing with your head, get off social media (I had to take a three month full hiatus/detox from all social media).
18. Remember you are grieving
Grieving is such a strange concept to me. I didn’t realize it could be applied to relationship; I thought it referred to when someone leaves their physical body and those close to them feel the lack of their presence. But no, we can grieve anything, leaving a place, quitting a job, and a break-up as well. Given that information, you can research the stages of grief and realize that at some point or another you have experienced something alike. In no particular order, (super important: grief is not linear) you’ll feel anger, then denial, then acceptance, then sadness. I remember I thought I was literally crazy because I would be going about my day and then all of a sudden I would burst into a immeasurable anger about all the wrongs I had to endure by the hands of my ex, followed by moments short-there-after when I even missed my ex and wanted to call him and “make everything better”. Remember: you are not crazy, you are grieving.
19. Keep in mind that people act in certain ways because they come from a place of hurt
This is probably the one thing that helped me the most during my break-up process. Whenever I felt that my ex was doing/saying something (or not doing or saying, can go both ways) completely hurtful, I had to remind myself that he too, was coming from a place of hurt, from god-knows-what I had unknowingly or knowingly done to him previously. His fake indifference, his silence or mean words and actions could all be summed up by the undeniable fact that he too, had negativity inside. If he had been truly content and positive during his side of the break-up, I am sure he would have acted a lot more compassionately. Remember, the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. And not fake, masked indifference, but a kinda of non-reactive, respectful, peaceful kind-of-compliance.
20. Forgive and trust
Now, as I move through my own journey I realize that my process of untangling the hurt, healing it, and sorting it out isn’t tied to my ex’s process anymore. He’s on his own as I am on my own. So take your hurt, realize it’s separate than his/hers, realize your ex probably doesn’t want to heal with you together as a couple anymore, forgive the hurt your ex made you feel (which is different than forgetting it) and let yourself feel your hurt as much as you need, because that’s the only guarantee that one day it will just naturally exhaust and leave your system and you will truly move on. The tricky thing is, many times it will come down to you having to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for the choices you made to stick with this person. For not noticing the red flags. For having trusted so much and made yourself so vulnerable. The list goes on and on. I find that forgiving yourself is even more difficult than forgiving others. The only answer to that is: time heals.
As humans, we tend to avoid pain, and after having felt enough pain, our own instincts drive us to take the steps necessary to move away from the source of pain.
There is also an element of trust in this entire process: trust that you will get better, trust that you will feel whole again, trust that yes, you will find someone one day who will ignite your desire for connection and that relationship with be entirely different and at the same just as valuable if not more than the one which just ended.
Breakup sucks, they hurt, they last way too long and I don’t wish them upon anybody, and…you will survive, and you need to trust that you will come out of this break-up ever stronger, cleared and a better person than before.
Photo Credit: Drishti Videography