Some of us, including yours truly, occasionally engage in activities that make a breakup harder, prolong pain, and hinder our ability to move forward. And no, it doesn’t matter whether you’re the dumper, the one who got dumped or, as a result of one or numerous failed reconciliation attempts, both as you cycle back and forth. Even though you may still care about your ex, the period following a breakup is the time when you must take care of numero uno first, meaning yourself. You may think by putting your needs before theirs that you’re being mean or insensitive. In reality, though, you’re treating the two of you with kindness and respect, despite it not appearing that way initially. Although there’s no right and wrong way to break up, there are ways to minimize your pain. Here’s how.
Becoming friends right after breaking up is one of the biggest mistakes couples can make. Feelings don’t disappear the moment you decide you’re no longer a couple. In fact, you may find yourself even more drawn to your ex as you begin pulling away from each other. According to a 2010 study, breaking up causes the brain to release the same chemicals it does when withdrawing from drug use. Unless you’ll feel genuinely happy seeing your ex with a new love interest or at a minimum not care, you won’t be a very good friend to them or, more importantly, yourself. Be honest with yourself and your ex-and give them a simple, “I’m not ready to be friends now.” The truth is, you may never be. In a twist of irony, making the call not to stay friends may be the biggest act of friendship you’ll ever give them.
Even if the bedroom is the one place where you still work well together and all your problems seem to just melt away, it’s a safe bet your issues will be back once your clothes are on. Sex can create a lot of confusion for couples who have decided to downgrade the commitment level of their relationship. As mutual as the breakup may have been, someone is usually not 100 percent satisfied with the new terms and hoping for more. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable knowing your ex is in someone else’s arms, then they don’t belong in yours.
The best way to heal from a breakup, even if you’re the one who initiated it, is to go no contact. That means no texting, talking, looking at their social media, asking mutual friends about their whereabouts, or trying to contact them telepathically. (Come on, just admit you’ve tried.) It means resisting the urge to talk about them with everyone you meet. Believe it or not, every conversation doesn’t have to lead back to your ex. Start with 30 days. Then go to 60. I won’t lie, no contact may be the hardest diet you’ll ever find yourself on. But if you do it right, you won’t lose pounds. (Although if you do, that’s an added bonus.) What you’ll lose is the weight of the relationship that was dragging you down.
But what if your ex is the one contacting you? What if they’re the one breaking no contact? As tempting as it may be to answer, the best response is no response. If you can’t resist answering, go ahead and block them. Then start your 30 days over again. And again. As many times as you have to. If your ex is having trouble getting over the relationship, they need to find support somewhere else. It’s not your responsibility to let your ex use you to get over you. If you let that happen, you risk becoming reinvested in the same relationship you’re trying to move away from. When your ex eventually does move on and without you, you’ll be left feeling only used and depleted. Save yourself the trouble and cut your ex off the moment they let their intentions (or lack of) be known to you.
If you’re doing no contact correctly, you’ll find yourself with some additional time on your hands. So how should you spend it? The first way is to give yourself a chance to mourn the relationship. It’s okay to feel bad, even if you’re the one who ended things. Process your emotions. Reflect. Evaluate what you did correctly and incorrectly, and how you can improve in your next relationship. How you choose to mourn is entirely personal. There’s no secret formula. Mix tapes, pic collages, and ice cream are entirely allowed. But keep an end date to your mourning period in sight and don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you find yourself depressed and unable to pull yourself out of it. Or playing Taylor Swift songs on repeat.
While you mourn and long after you have, devote time to your needs and improving your life, both in the short- and long term. Focus on your career, purge your surroundings of those material objects weighing you down, explore a new interest, and continue to remind yourself of the gifts you have to offer. Your breakup doesn’t define you. Nor does it speak to the quality person you are. As Taylor Swift sings in “Innocent,” because, hey, I hear she knows a thing or two about breakups, “[t]oday is never too late to be brand new.”
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