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The Dos and Don'ts of Getting Past a Breakup

A breakup can be heart-wrenching for the one who is dumped, and liberating for the one who did the dumping. For the dumped, there are things that one should do and some things that one shouldn't do post-breakup.
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Relationships are a big social experiment. Think about it: Two people meet by a variety of circumstances, whether that be in real life or online, and the hope is that things stick. For most, the desire is to forge a bond and a lasting relationship. The reality, though, is much different: More people fail than succeed in this endeavor. They don't marry or stay with each other for life but break up. Chemistry is complex and relies on numerous factors matching up. If they don't, the inevitable breakup occurs. This can be heart-wrenching for the one who is dumped, and liberating for the one who did the dumping. For the dumped, there are things that one should do and some things that one shouldn't do post-breakup.

  • Don't cyber-stalk. This has become the modern-day version of doing a drive-by. If you get the urge, say to yourself, "Suppose I check his/her Facebook or other social media. Then what? What will I gain?" If you see something, it will upset you, and if you don't, it will only encourage you to continue checking, thereby setting up an obsessive-compulsive way of thinking.

  • Don't make desperate pleas to win your ex back. If you feel compelled to do so, examine your motivation. Is it to be truly back with the person, or is it to alleviate feelings of rejection? Desperate attempts will only make you seem less appealing to your ex. Understand your intention. Do you miss your ex specifically, or do you miss the idea of having a partner? The two are very different.
  • Don't self-medicate. Popping pills, drinking heavily, and doing drugs will only numb your sad and anxious mind, and it won't teach you how to mourn the loss of a relationship, provide you with any insight, or help you move on.
  • Don't rely on rebound sex. It will merely be a distraction and end up making you feel bad about yourself.
  • Don't define yourself by your ex. You're much more than a former girlfriend or boyfriend. You're a friend, sibling, son, daughter, colleague, and someone's future partner.
  • Don't complain too much about your ex. That person is your ex, and whatever negative things plagued your relationship, you no longer have to deal with them. Repeated negative self-talk about your ex will only keep you mired in the past and reinforce just how incompatible the two of you were.
  • Don't get into a new relationship and play out the drama of the previous one. Out of fairness to yourself and any future boyfriend or girlfriend, sort out the previous relationship. What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about the type of partner you desire? What can you do differently in your next relationship?
  • Do be clear about how you feel and where you stand. If you love him or her, clearly state it in certain terms. If you did the dumping, don't sugarcoat the reasons. Spell out why it isn't working, and tell your partner that it is over. This will eliminate any doubt and ambiguity.
  • Do surround yourself with friends and family members. They'll usually support you even if you're the villain.
  • Do look at your ex in their entirety. After a breakup, we often miss all the good things about the person and overlook the negative parts that led to the break up. Make sure you remember both when you think how much you want to be back together.
  • Do get rid of items that make you feel connected to your ex. Love letters, pictures, and songs will only hold you back.
  • Do keep your anxious mind in check. Our mind can play tricks on us when we're sad, anxious, or heartbroken. People have a tendency to come up with explanations for the breakup that may not be true -- for example, "She met someone new and is getting married next month," or, "He never loved me." When your mind wanders, separate fact from fiction by asking yourself, "Where's the evidence to support the belief?" If there is none, then it goes into the fiction category.
  • Do think of all the reasons your ex is not healthy for you. Create a new ending in your mind where you reject him or her rather than you being rejected. Move from being the rejected to the rejecter. This will change the dynamic and make you feel more empowered and less like a victim.
  • In relationships, people's identities often become fused with one another. They forgo many things that are important to them and their own interests. For instance, they may spend less time with their dear friends or not participate in activities or hobbies that they enjoy. The danger is that resentment might develop, and that that could lead to stress in the relationship. And, should the relationship not work out, one might be left aimless and depressed because of having shed the things that were so meaningful to you. Bottom line: The next relationship you're in, make sure you continue to do the things that you enjoy doing.

    For more tips on dealing with breakups and healthy relationships, check out my book Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.