On the heels of my “Tips to Get the Job” blog post, I have received a few requests to write about how to handle break-ups. Additionally, my sister just broke up with her boyfriend of 10 months, and a co-worker’s sister is going through a divorce. Relationships are ending everywhere, and I am putting out fires all over the place.
I am no expert. I have learned these lessons just like everybody else. But having been married three (3) times and divorced twice, I have a little experience in what it takes to move on after someone leaves you.
And with that, try these:
1. Accept reality. This is first on the list because it’s the first thing you need to do. The situation is this: it is over. Living in “la-la land” won’t benefit you in anyway. Just accept the break-up, and don’t try to manipulate or change what has happened.
2. Analyze the damage. Before you can even think about the emotional side of the break-up, you need to handle the business side of the relationship. And the damage will depend on several things – how long you were with that person, whether or not you have assets or children or pets, etc. There are logistics that will need to be sorted out. I would suggest making a list. Pack his/her belongings – check. Divide furniture – check. Separate the bank account – check. When the goal is to move on with both of your lives, this may be the easiest part of breaking up with your significant other.
3. Allow the hurt. This one was always the hardest part for me. When you break up with someone, it’s all you can think about – how hurt you are. And then you fall into the trap of The Blame Game and Guilt Trip and “What if?” Lanes, and it becomes a vicious cycle of trying not to think about it, but then thinking about it anyway. There are so many emotions that pop up after a break-up – anger, upset, betrayal, depression. Feel them all. Embrace them all. For a short while, allow yourself to think about it and fall apart. The quicker you do it, the easier it will be to move on from those emotions and thus your life. It would be unrealistic to try to avoid those emotions. So instead, embrace them.
4. Amputate the baggage. After you’ve spent a few days melting down and trying not to go crazy, it is time to cut ties, tie up loose ends, and close the book on the relationship. This step means different things for different people. But you need to purge. End your “connections” with him/her on social media, delete all of the phone numbers and pictures and e-mails in your phone, throw away his/her old ratty t-shirt you used to sleep with. Remember, you’ve already accepted reality. It’s over. He/She is not coming back. There’s no need to hang onto any of those things.
5. Acquire a friend. I think we all have the ONE person that we talk to about anything and everything. If you don’t, get a dog. You’re going to need to talk to someone, and you’re going to need that someone to be objective and trustworthy. Venting is like free therapy. Practice the art.
6. Aver a routine. You may prefer to crawl back into bed and cry the days away, but the quicker you get up and get back into the swing of things, the easier it will be to move past this whole ordeal. Tell yourself that the world doesn’t stop just because your relationship did – there are still jobs to do, bills to be paid, kids to be fed. It can be a real test of strength, but it is SO important to keep your schedule.
7. Attempt new things. When it feels like a piece of you has left with your ex, a good way to regain some sense of self is to experience new things. Buy tickets to a concert, go to that bar your ex would never step foot in, get the silly pair of socks and jump up and down on your bed. Whatever YOU want to do. Again, keep in mind that he/she is gone. You get to make decisions for yourself now. If you like creamy peanut butter but bought crunchy because that was your ex’s preference, throw that shit away and go buy what YOU like. If you only wore thongs only because that’s what your ex liked, go raid the granny panty aisle of Target. These are silly examples, but making decisions with only yourself in mind can be so liberating. It’ll make you feel better. You’ll wonder why you changed so much for your ex, and you will fall in love with who you REALLY are all over again.
8. Abstain from drama. You will feel really great about your post-break-up progress, and then some bullshit will hit you right in the face. He/She will drunk text you out of the blue, or you’ll hear a rumor or you’ll find out he/she has ALREADY met someone else. Do not let these things deter you from your already amazing progress. Stay on track. Remember, yet again – it’s over. There is no point in engaging. Do not bother trying to defend yourself. Do not cast judgement (at least not out loud). Do not fight. Use your journal, dog or friend, and vent, but do not let the melodramatic nonsense get a rise out of you.
9. Avoid negativity. Friends of you and your ex are often guilty of picking sides, asking too many questions and/or bashing one party or the other. That kind of relationship is not one that is healthy right after a break-up. Let those people know, very clearly, that you will accept their support and love, but you will not entertain ugly remarks or any other types of negativity. You’ll find this is easier once you’ve completed steps 1 through 8.
10. Adopt new standards. Being single again can be a curse or a blessing, depending on your outlook. And while you can have fun on the rebound, you will eventually need to reflect on the relationship. What went wrong? What are my flaws, what are his/hers? And at that point, you will subconsciously begin to create a mental list of things you need or absolutely do not want when getting into another relationship. Do not stray too far from that list. It will help you decide if new prospects are even worth a shot. There are some things that can be worked out, but there are also some things – and you’ll know deep down what they are – that are non-negotiable. Maybe you forgave your ex for cheating but don’t want to go down that road again. So put it on your list – MUST BE LOYAL. Maybe you hated the fact that your ex never brushed his/her teeth – MUST HAVE FRESH BREATH. Maybe it bothered you when your ex ignored your calls – MUST BE ACCOMMODATING. Keep your list short and sweet. Details can be worked out, but the “bigger deals” – life choices, goals, etc. – should be discussed in the early stages of any new relationship. This way, you’ll know right away if you should continue to see this new person or if you need to stop wasting your time.
Interestingly enough, it took my second divorce to realize that I am actually worth something. And it is important to remember that you cannot be happy with anyone else if you are not first happy with yourself.
Hope this helps.
Meg / cC