I’ve never written one of these articles because even though I use the same steps to get over a breakup every time, I wanted to make sure I gave this advice from a place of pain so I could actually analyze if these steps helped rather than just spouting the same fluff as every other heartbreak puff piece. So here we go, this is how I personally deal with a breakup, in no particular order –
- Retail Therapy. There is a reason we shop to fill the void. But for me, shopping after a breakup isn’t so much about finding things to replace a person, it’s about buying at least one piece of clothing, jewelry, or SOMETHING that my ex hasn’t ever seen, or touched, or had any contact with. It’s a piece that I claim as entirely my own, has no relationship with the past, and it’s the beginning of me claiming my individuality back. I already bought a killer red dress and some earrings.
- Change Your Look. This is similar to the clothing one in that it’s a way to reclaim your appearance. I never do anything too dramatic here, usually a different hairstyle, or slightly different highlights, or a new ear piercing. Doesn’t matter how big or small it is, it is still something that your ex has no part in now. You don’t have to listen to their opinions and it’s honestly the perfect time to try out something if you’d been considering it for awhile. And afterwards, you feel just new enough that you can almost fool yourself into thinking that you’re a completely different person than that girl who dated that guy, and for a little while, you’re untouchable. Even though that feeling won’t last forever, it’s important to get a taste of it early on, because that’s the feeling your aiming for consistently throughout all of this. I haven’t done this one yet but I’m most likely going to get some new highlights and maybe a tattoo that I’ve been putting off for awhile.
- USE your support system. I had been feeling so lonely, stressed, and sad in the months leading up to this breakup because I was anxious about what was happening to the relationship and I unintentionally isolated myself. I was embarrassed to let them in on how everything was falling apart. However, once everything went to complete shit, I immediately leaned on my family and my close group of friends from university for pretty much everything. I could write a book on how each one of these people helped me cope with this kind of pain, but the important thing here is that I had a support system to lean on and I used that. I vented, cried, asked for compliments, advice, empathy, and they gave it all to me. This obviously is cathartic, but using them also puts you back in touch with them and makes you realize how many people you actually do have in your corner throughout a tough time.
- HOWEVER, set expectations with your support system as well. You should never feel like you have to talk about it or that you have to be feeling a certain way at a certain time. Your support system should do just that, support. My friends and family were super great in the fact that they were constantly checking up on me, but didn’t pressure me to talk about it, instead they just wanted to make sure I was ok and we would talk about it sometimes but sometimes not. They should be onboard with what you’re needing at the moment, not with what they are interested in hearing.
- Say YES to everything. Anything you’ve ever wanted to try, go do it. Your friend invites you to a new class or something, go do it. Go out with friends, family, or just yourself! Go out and do things constantly (note – this does not mean you have to go out and party, just go out and keep busy). There will feel like you have a huge void in your life at first because you just have to get re-used to living without your other person and you have to fill it with things that keep your attention. For me, I am lucky in the fact that I actually had to move to a different location, I have friends all over the world that I can leverage work into seeing, and I just planned a trip for myself which I haven’t done in AGES (I’m going to Japan and I’m PUMPED) . Historically, my most productive periods of life have actually been immediately following a breakup so here’s hoping that trend continues.
- DO NOT WALLOW. Or, if you must wallow, put time limits on it. I know this is an unpopular opinion because many people say you should take as much time as you need, but I think we’re all capable of being a little bit stricter with ourselves. Only allow yourself a certain amount of wallowing per day or week. And if you absolutely must wallow, make it a productive wallow. Cry while taking an aromatic bath, go on an epic venting session while masking, make a blog post out of it (haha), etc. Wallowing without a goal can quickly turn into an endless spiral of dark thoughts ending in you scrolling to the first posts of your ex’s Instagram and that is helping NO ONE.
- Practice gratitude. Even if you’re not into the whole zen thing, it is important to be able to see the positive side to things. The thing is that theoretically, the goal is to eventually find a person to spend your life with, which means that the actual precious time is alone time now. Who knows when that person will waltz in and preoccupy your time indefinitely. Be grateful for this time alone, for this time to get to know yourself, to be selfish, to only worry about doing YOU.
Overall, the main thing for me is that I have so much more time and freedom to play with that I have to somehow utilize now that I’m not taking someone else’s opinion into account all the time. Everything has been feeling a little off because it’s like I’m missing huge chunks of a normal day. We don’t have our nightly phone call when I’m away, there’s no one on the other side of the bed, there’s no one to cook new recipes with, there’s no one that makes me cappuccinos, there’s no one to give my constant energy and love to… Aw damn, now I’m crying again as I’m writing this…it’s just the feeling that there’s a void that I have to fill and I use the above steps to do it. They’ve worked before and I’m hoping they’ll work again, but unfortunately for us all, time is the only thing that will truly tell.
An interaction from one of my favorite rom-coms (French Kiss, 1995) that I think sums this up perfectly:
Luc : Why are you chasing after him after what he’s done to you?
Kate : Because I love him! And I’m afraid that if he doesn’t come back that I’ll… it’ll hurt so much that I’ll just shrivel up and I’ll never be able to love anyone ever again.
Luc : You say that now, but… after a time, you would forget. First, you would forget his chin, and then his nose, and after a while, you would struggle to remember the exact color of his eyes, and one day you wake up and, pfft, he’s gone: his voice, his smell, his face. He will have left you. And then you can begin again.
What do you do to get through a breakup?
*Author’s Note – I actually talked to my ex yesterday morning to work out some logistics with the stuff I left behind in Calgary and I completely fell apart on the phone, so just remember if you’re going through this that it is a work in progress and you’re allowed to have moments where you just CAN’T.