Today is officially three months since The Breakup. When it happened, three months was the goal. I kept telling myself if I can get to three months, things will be okay. Things will be okay by then. I think I was right, although, for the most part, things have been okay for a little longer than that. As a marker of this momentous occasion, I’d like to share my Ten Rules for Surviving a Breakup. I’m no relationship guru, but these are things I learned that absolutely changed my life.
1. Distract, disctract, distract. I just recently gave this advice to a friend, and I laughed at myself a little. Distraction, as a general rule, doesn’t work for me. However, this time, it was one of the only things that did. Not all distractions are equal. Work was difficult because of the slow periods, and because part of my job was conducting interviews, which I could barely do through the knot in my stomach and lump in my throat. Spending time with friends did help, watching crappy TV (I got caught up on the recent seasons of Degrassi) was amazing, and just generally keeping busy. It’s hard as hell, but it can help.
2. Lean on people. This was difficult for me, as I dislike being a burden, and I dislike taking the initiative to reach out for help when I need it. The Breakup was a wakeup call for me. Had I not reached out, had I not surrounded myself with people who love me, I never would’ve gotten through it. It’s important to have people who can talk – or just listen. For the first few weeks, I was never completely alone; if I was driving, I called a friend. If I was going to bed, I called a friend. I asked coworkers to have lunch with me. I made dinner plans with friends. I even had to ask my manager to take over some interviews for me, because I was afraid I would start crying if I opened my mouth. I talked about G. and The Breakup with everyone, to the point that I felt it was the only thing I could talk about – but that is what helped me heal. It’s especially helpful if there is someone who understands; I spent a lot of time talking with a friend who had gone through a brutal breakup the previous summer, as well as my aunt, who had gone through something similar a few months before.
3. Put yourself out there… as much as you’re ready. I mean this in two ways – “out there” into the world of (single) people, but also out there as in, get your ass off the couch and out of the house. I won’t claim to be normal when it comes to dating – I’m very much a serial monogamist and I tend to always find myself involved with one guy or another. However, I will also say that knowing there are other people out there is extremely beneficial when it comes to ending a relationship. I signed up for a couple online dating sites within a couple weeks of The Breakup. I never met anybody this way, but it was great being able to see who was out there, exchange emails with new boys, and know that I would meet somebody someday. I also had a few people I spent some time with casually, which helped a lot – but I knew I wasn’t ready for anything beyond that, and I made sure not to get myself in over my head. And as much as I wanted to hole up in my parents’ guest bedroom and sleep away the rest of my life, I forced myself to get out of the house as much as I could. Even the day after, when I couldn’t even get off the couch to go to work, I dragged myself to Target with my mom. The next night, I went to happy hour with a coworker after work. The night after, I drank wine with my parents and their friends. I did, however, know my limits: a good friend wanted me to drive across the state to visit her, and I just could not do it. I knew that the three-hour drives there and back would crush me. I knew I would just cry to the point of being unable to drive, so I passed up the invitation in favor of finding my new apartment.
4. Get away from the memories. For me, it took an entirely new apartment. After being broken up with on my bed in my studio apartment, I couldn’t set foot in the place without crying. Luckily, my lease was up and I was able to start over. From The Breakup to my new apartment was ready, I stayed with my parents. At first I thought I would stay for a few days, maybe through the weekend, but I just couldn’t leave. It was exactly the right thing, because not only did I have people around to distract/support me, I also could stay somewhere the memories weren’t. Get away from anything that reminds you of this person. Put it in a box, throw it away (but not anything you’ll regret later), move away, whatever. It helps. Immensely.
5.Stop all contact with him/her… when you’re ready. This is a hard one for me. I can never cut off all contact right away; I have delusions of friendships, of getting back together, or saving whatever can be salvaged. And I don’t fault myself for that. It’s like training wheels: you need something to hold you up for awhile until you’re ready to go it alone. It’s a pretty huge shock to go from someone being your world to nothing – not many people can do it in one fell swoop. So do whatever feels right. G. and I talked regularly – but briefly – for quite awhile after The Breakup. I was careful to avoid initiating contact (because if someone doesn’t want to be with me, I don’t need to be reminded, you know?), but he reached out, and we did talk. Finally – and recently – I had to ask for space. I know that time needs to pass without each other before we can be friends (and I believe this is almost always the case, judging from my own past relationships). If you need an extra boost, go listen to this song. You’re welcome.
6. Draw from the past – and the future. When I felt like I would never get over G., I had to look at others’ past experiences. People told me they’d felt the same, but look at them now! I also paid attention to my own past; it took me a year to fully recover from the breakup (and the fallout from the breakup) with my first college boyfriend. But now? We’re friends, we’re both okay, and that year is a distant – although still slightly painful – memory. I also spent a lot of time imagining the future – maybe there would be a point that we’d get back together five years down the line and be happy. Maybe this was happening so I could meet “The One” instead. A good friend recently became single and said, “But I miss the stability! Now I don’t know what’s going to happen!” And that’s scary – but it’s also a good thing. It’s possibility. It’s exciting!
7. Find something tangible to relate to. Music helped. For the first few weeks, I couldn’t listen to anything but Ani DiFranco, particularly songs like Independence Day and Dilate. Even now, in the aftermath, I find certain songs really help (this hit me particularly hard). A friend sent me this poem, which absolutely changed everything. Find songs, poems, quotes, novels, movies, anything that captures what you’re feeling – it helps to know you’re not alone, and maybe it’ll be inspiration to channel everything into something creative (um, I can’t say that really happened for me, but I’m not creative to begin with).
8. Know and accept that you may always miss him/her… but that being together may not have been the best thing. People kept telling me that the pain would heal, I would be okay again, but that I may never stop missing him. That killed every part of my soul, but the fact is? It’s pretty much the truth. I will always miss him and there may always be aspects of our relationship that I miss. But does that mean we should’ve stayed together and gotten married? Probably not. Soon after The Breakup, I was able to see the problems with our relationship, and although I did at first want to try and fix them, I see now that sometimes, two people may not be right for each other. It doesn’t make them bad people. It doesn’t make them failures. It’s just life, it sucks, and most of the time, it’s for the best.
9. Focus on anything good. After The Breakup, I ended up with an amazing new apartment, a giant raise (and eventually a brand new job), and a new appreciation of the people in my life. I ended up with a stronger sense of self, a better idea of who and what I wanted, and the knowledge that I had just gone through an amazing learning experience. No, I wasn’t looking at it like this whatsoever – but now I am.
10. Know that you don’t have to listen to anyone’s advice or do things anyone else’s way. Do what works. I couldn’t stop talking to G. right away. I could not and will not ever tell him to screw off and get out of my life. I couldn’t pretend everything was okay (sorry, “fake it til you make it” doesn’t work with me). I couldn’t stop feeling the way I was feeling. And by letting myself feel how I felt, do what I needed to do, think what I needed to think, I was able to get through it intact. So maybe it would’ve been better if I’d faced my life rather than hiding out in my parents’ house for three weeks. Maybe I shouldn’t have begged G. to take me back in an email. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to move on as quickly as I tried to at first. But everything brought me to the place I am now, and I feel like I did everything right – for myself.
So I don’t know. I leaned hard on people who had been through this before, because while I had been through brutal breakups, they’d never quite been this painful. I had never before thought I’d found It, only to be proven wrong, out of nowhere, on a random Wednesday night that left me curled up on my parents’ couch clutching my childhood stuffed dog, trying to stop crying and focus on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air through swollen eyes. But you know what? I’ve gotten my three months, and I’m kicking ass. I’m in a better place than I ever thought I would or could be. I can say that I am (for the most part) happy. Maybe it’ll take a year to deal with all the fallout, but I can safely say that the absolute worst is over. And yes, everyone was right, I was absolutely strong enough to get through it, even though on June 24th of this year, I was convinced the sky was falling in.