It's the thing everyone fears at one point or another. The thing that can loom in the distance, sometimes even in an otherwise great relationship: The Break-Up. Sometimes it happens as a surprise, other times you feel it coming. It's the final talk or fight or surprising phone call or quiet conversation that marks the end of a relationship. Some break-ups are amicable and others are vicious. When you're on the receiving end, it doesn't matter what form the break takes, or how long you anticipated its arrival, or even if you think it's not the worst idea - fact is, getting broken up with is a harsh blow. There is no one perfect way to deal with a break-up, but there are helpful things to remember - and do - if you find yourself in that position. Some of these items might at first sound cliché, or elicit a "Hmmph, easier said than done," but they're tried and true methods that make a notable impact on the ability to get through a break-up without losing it, and not just move on, but move up.
The Days After
In the immediate aftermath it's hard to adjust to life after a break-up. Feeling terrible, somewhat rejected and a little aimless? It's perfectly okay and not a shameful thing. All of a sudden your significant other is no longer calling or e-mailing. You can sense them everywhere, but they're not actually there. They are now your "ex." Toss out whatever pressure you feel to appear nonchalant and "fine" in the earliest days because, no matter who you are or how you spin it, it hurts to lose someone you love, and even more when it wasn't your choice. Dealing with the pain is not just about letting go of what just happened, it's about letting go of what could have been. Even in rather ugly relationships there often exists the hope that it might one day be better. But once it's over, you can feel screwed out of the chance to try. It's important to know that if you had both been truly inclined to try, you would have done so. And even if you did try, you broke up for a reason.
Don't Let Yourself Go
Everyone knows the sometimes exaggerated details of the beer, ice cream and pizza post-break-up tailspin. Forget that idea. The last thing you need on top of heartache is to feel overly full and ugly. That isn't to suggest that you shouldn't indulge in things that make you feel good, but if it's the kind or amount of stuff that you'd avoid if you hadn't broken up, don't bother. This is the time to eat healthy, take vitamins, don't drink yourself into a stupor, and generally be good to yourself. If for those who simply must over-indulge, stress the next point...
Exercise! Yes, that old annoying tip. It's the last thing you want to do when you feel nauseated and teary and alone. But the few minutes it takes to put on your sneakers and workout clothes will pay off big-time. First off, getting dressed to work out is half the battle. Once you're there, it almost feels wrong to not work out. Remember how much better you'll feel the next day, knowing that you moved your arse today. And remember how much better you'll look (for your own sake, and in case you meet a new option or run into your ex a few weeks down the road). Endorphins are real and when you kick 'em in on a regular basis, your ability to remain emotionally healthy is vastly improved. Plus, your body will be workin' it again, so...
Incessantly thinking (or pining) about your ex is natural, no matter what anyone says. Know this: It's okay to do that for a little bit! But it is ultra, super, mondo important to tend to life's daily tasks - starting on Day 2. Of course you'll feel unmotivated but make yourself pay bills, read the newspaper, clean the house, do laundry, run errands, see movies, go out to dinner, hang out with friends, whatever distracts you from the pain for a few minutes or hours here and there. That time adds up and it helps give you perspective. If you have trouble falling asleep, read a book in bed rather than watching TV (reading is less passive yet more relaxing, and will have a noticeable effect on your ability to drift off). Take down pictures of your ex. Remove their name from your IM lists. Put their stuff in a box, or moved to one area away from plain view until they come to get it, or until you get rid of it. They're in your mind, they don't have to be in front of your eyes, too.
If You Must Rebound, Do It Lightly
The 'rebound relationship' is a real phenomenon and it, too, is TOTALLY OKAY. Well, to a point. Absolutely go out and date, it can be a nice little distraction. But don't put too much effort into it or take it too seriously - not only because you might make bad choices during your heartbreak, but also because someone might fall for you when you're not ready to receive them. How can you know when you're truly ready to start something new? When you're no longer missing your ex, and you're relieved and happy about someone fresh and different. Appreciating the newness of a relationship is half the fun. Couple that with actually wanting to know all about someone new and you're ready. Hint: If you come home from dates and still check voicemail or Caller ID to see if your ex called, you're not ready.
Get A Little Angry And Don't Feel Guilty About It
When you get dumped by someone you love (or even really like), it's natural to remember them as perfect. But - were they really? Are you hurting because you love and miss them, or because you feel rejected? This is a great time to recall how rude they were to waiters or how snappy they got after a long, hard day. Better yet, were they really all that good in bed? Were they cheap? Were they a tad too conceited to back it up? Were they annoyingly snobby about their taste in food, movies or music, or perhaps self-aggrandizing about their intelligence, sexual skill, or role at work? On the flip side, were they overly sensitive to the point of being a crybaby? Were they self-effacing enough to make you feel obligated to build their ego on a daily basis? Most of all, did they truly appreciate and adore you? Chances are, especially in a nasty break-up, some of these questions are answerable with a resounding "yes." That honesty is great! And it only means you've remembered them for who they were, rather than a fantasy.
What Did You Really Feel?
A little ways into a break-up is usually when you start to realize that you might not have been as in-love with your ex as you thought. Or, you were madly in love at the onset, but not by the end. That's not a failure in any way, in fact it's a sign of maturity to know that feelings can change. Realizing that yours might have changed at some point, or that you mistook lust for love, or loneliness for compatibility, is incredibly healthy - and the mark of someone who knows that despite how much it hurts right now, they won't settle for something just because they're alone, and just because it's there.
The next installment, Part II, is for those in the opposite position; the breaker-uppers. Stay tuned...