So, here you are. Mourning a fresh heartbreak and wondering what life looks like without that person you’re so used to having around all the time. Listen, I’ll be the first one to tell you that getting over an ex is the pits. It’s so freaking hard, especially with their digital imprints ambushing our timelines every day. But you know what? I also know that sometimes we make it much harder on ourselves than it has to be.
Whether you’ve done the best you can thus far to move forward or you’ve sulked a bit too much and dove deep into the lurking and reminiscing, I’m here to hopefully help you make this transition a tiny bit easier.
Here are 8 things to do when trying to get over your ex:
1. Stop Worrying About Being Nice: I can’t speak for everyone, but I feel like most of us don’t really want to be a shitty human being, and that’s actually a great thing. But don’t let the fear of coming off rude blur the lines of what is. It’s natural after you break up with someone who was important to you (especially if you spent years together) to dip back into the pool of familiarity. But that’s not going to help the process of configuring your life without this person in it. I’m not telling you to be a dick about it, but there’s a way to be both stern about solidifying the break and respectful. Find the beauty in the balance and utilize it.
2. Distance Is Key: Love is like an actual drug, and I’m not just saying that to be some broody poet. There’s scientific evidence that proves someone going through heartbreak suffers the same withdrawal intensity as a drug addict feening for another hit. That’s some serious shit, so it’s no surprise that sometimes all you want to do after a breakup is see that person again because you want that fix. STOP. I understand it’s not always black and white, but be mindful. If you can’t avoid this person for whatever reason (kids, work, etc), then it is what it is, and you’ll have to find a workaround to be civil without falling into a trap of past comfort. But if you have the ability to distance yourself, then you need to put your cravings aside and think of what’s best for you in the long run.
3. Lurking Will Only Hurt You: Social media makes breakups that much more difficult. Before, you could cut ties with the person, and all you really had to do was avoid the areas that you knew they’d frequent. Now, their face is blasted all over the place and it’s like the ghosts of love’s past are haunting TF out of you. I know, it’s the worst. But I also know that most of the time, the pain of seeing what your ex is up to is self-inflicted. STOP ACTIVELY LOOKING AT THEIR SHIT. Easier said than done, blah blah blah, I know. But that doesn’t mean you need to emotionally cut yourself by keeping tabs on them. You’re pouring salt in an open wound and you have no one to blame for that but yourself. If you have to, block them! Who cares if they notice? Who cares if they feel like you care. You do care, boo boo. You ain’t gotta lie to kick it! Just do what’s best for you and stop worrying about how it may be perceived.
4. Set Up Some Boundaries: The dynamic obviously changes after a breakup, so you need to be aware of that and set some rules if necessary. I can sympathize with people who really want to try to cultivate a friendship with their ex (even though that’s not my style, especially if there was no time to heal first), but you have to be very, very careful and consider creating some ground rules, because it can be extremely easy to fall back into relationship territory without even realizing it. Or maybe one of you knows this, and that’s your motive–Let’s act like we’re in a relationship even though we’re not and maybe they’ll miss it so much that they’ll want to get back together. Sure, there’s a slim chance that could work. But there’s a bigger chance that you’ll end up even worse than before, and guess what? After that, the possibility of being friends is out the window.
5. It’s OK to Be Selfish: Don’t be afraid of putting yourself first! The greatest thing about the single life is not having to worry about anyone else’s needs but your own. So go where you want to go. Do what you want to do. Lag on texting back. Don’t answer phone calls. Who TF cares?! It’s your world now, so stop living it in order to please someone else. However, this is under the assumption that you have absolutely no ties to anyone else. If you begin to entertain someone, whether it’s serious or not and whether it’s official or not, then you need to cut it off or make it EXTREMELY clear from the beginning, because you don’t want to hurt someone else in the process.
6. Start Knocking Out That List: …of people you want to sleep with. HA, just kidding (unless that’s your prerogative…I’m not judging). You’ve always wanted to backpack through Europe? Thought about learning a new language? Wanted to join a basketball league? Go back to school? Get a new job? Write a list of things you’ve always wanted to do, wondered about doing, maybe want to do someday, and get to crossing them off! In other words, live your damn life unapologetically.
7. Say Whatever Needs to Be Said: One of the main things that keeps us holding on to the past is closure, or lack thereof. If there’s something weighing heavily on you or unanswered questions that taunt you in the middle of the night–just fucking say it! What do you have to lose? If it’s something that will give you freedom from the chains of your ex, then stop being afraid of sparking that dialogue and gain the courage to set yourself free. Just remember, you can’t control their response, or if they’ll even respond at all. But that’s not the goal. The goal is to say what YOU need to say. You may not get the answers you need, but a no answer is an answer in itself.
8. Let It Go: And the hardest part, completely letting go. This concept has been one of the most difficult to grasp in my life, and I can’t say I’ve mastered it, but I’m definitely better than I used to be. I’m a very visual person, so when I try to understand something better, I create a picture in my head to illustrate the idea. When it comes to letting go, this is how I see it: I imagine myself with strings attached to my back, and holding on to the strings is whatever is keeping me back (an ex, stability, fear, a job, etc.). I picture myself seeing everything I want and need RIGHT THERE. It’s so close I could touch it, but no matter how much I stretch to grab whatever it may be, the strings attached to my back are pulling me away. That “thing” or “person” holding on the strings on the other end are preventing me from attaining the goals that may be just an arm’s reach away. So what do I have to do? I have to break the string. I have to completely detach myself from whatever is holding me back. That can be really scary, because what if you detach and just end up falling into an endless abyss? Or what if you detach and find yourself with nothing to latch on to? I get it. But the beauty is you already know what’s on the other side, and you weren’t happy. In contrast, you have no idea what’s waiting for you if you choose to wander without any weight holding you back. It could be everything you’ve ever needed. You just have to make the choice.
A version of this post was originally published on The Problem With Dating.