How to be easy on yourself, and stay out of trouble.
In an ideal world, breakups would be a “conscious uncoupling” during which all parties would lovingly, gently say their goodbyes and offer well wishes to their now ex-partner.
In my world, breakups have not gone so smoothly. Issues which have prevented conscious uncoupling range from lying and cheating to mutual disappointment and resentment.
I recently ended a year long relationship, and quickly realized that coping was much easier during the work week. I love what I do and keep my schedule packed with client calls, mentoring sessions and other projects. Outside of work, I book yoga classes, dinner with friends and pencil in paddle boarding excursions on my calendar.
For the first few days post-breakup, I felt relieved and euphoric. “I love being single,” I proclaimed to my friends. “I am sleeping so much better, love not having to clean up after him, and have SO much time to pursue my passions.”
Although I loved this person, it seemed crystal clear that the relationship was unhealthy and needed to end. We had run out of options, and it was time to part ways. I had made up my mind.
The weekend, however, has been a whole other story. Despite making every attempt to fill my schedule with healthy plans (yoga, massage, visiting friends, writing, checking projects off of my “to do” list), I found myself in bed for most of Saturday drinking wine and bingeing on cheese and crackers, cookies and whatever else I could get my hands on.
I topped the evening off with a prescription sleeping pill and unsurprisingly woke up feeling ten times worse the next morning. In my depressed and anxious state, I began having irrational thoughts. “Maybe things weren’t so bad,” I pondered. “Maybe we could be friends. I should call him and suggest that!”
A trip to the grocery store, which seemed to be filled with happy couples doing their Sunday shopping, nearly put me over the edge. On the verge of tears, I contemplated driving to his house, giving him a big hug and pretending everything was going to be alright. That we could pick right back up and magically become a happy, healthy couple.
This seemed like a good plan until I reminded myself that this would provide relief from my pain for about ten minutes, and then the behaviors and issues that had driven us apart would come racing back and inevitably cause more damage.
At age 36 this is not my first trip to the breakup rodeo. I have done all the “wrong” things in the past, but this time around my coping skills and sense of self are strong enough to persevere, even in the face of a long and lonely weekend. As you are reading this, my hope is that you are either happily single or happily in a relationship. For the rest of us, here are my recommendations:
Rule #1 Don’t drown your sorrows.
It seems perfectly logical to race to the bar or the bottom of a bottle after a breakup, and many country songs have been written about this strategy. I have learned the hard way that alcohol causes depression, anxiety and lowers your inhibitions. The only thing worse than feeling single and lonely is feeling hungover, sad, anxious and remorseful the next morning (and yes, you are still single). Nursing a headache while revisiting the embarrassing texts/calls you made to your ex the night before is simply not good for morale.
Rule #2 No contact.
Seriously, none. Going cold turkey can be tough, but you will feel SO much better once the withdrawal subsides. Block your ex’s phone number, and if you cannot bring yourself to unfriend them on social media at least “unfollow” for the time being. If you need to exchange personal items, have a friend arrange it or put them in the mail. Getting together to “give back his or her things” is often a thinly veiled excuse for one partner to try and win back the other, and it rarely ends well.
Rule #3 Stay off Dating Apps.
In my younger days, I thought the best way to get over one man was to get under another. It is all too easy today to download a dating app, throw up a few of your best selfies and have a new insta-boyfriend or sexual partner for the night. There are a lot of reasons why this is a bad idea.
For one, you haven’t taken time to grieve the end of the relationship and allow yourself to heal. It seems selfish to bring that baggage into a new person’s life, and then you will have the guilt of this behavior to deal with in addition to the other post-breakup emotions.
Another danger is that the next guy or girl is “worse” than your ex, and you can then rationalize that maybe said ex wasn’t so bad, maybe the relationship is fixable, etc. A few bad dates can drive you back into your ex’s arms, and leave you feeling worse than ever.
Rule #4 Stay busy.
The most effective post-breakup strategy I have found is to stay busy. Reach out to friends and family to make plans, book activities you enjoy on your calendar and make a list of all the things you were too busy to do when you were wrapped up with your significant other. Writing is good too, feel free to pen as many letters to your ex as you would like to express the anger, sadness and regret you feel. Just do NOT, under any circumstances, send the letters.
Whether or not you make it to the activities on your weekend calendar is of little importance. The purpose of having a full calendar is so that you do not wallow in your sadness or become overwhelmed by a looming “single weekend.”
Rule #5 Be easy on yourself.
It is totally normal to feel sad, angry, anxious, lonely, etc. after a breakup. Maybe you need to eat a gallon of ice cream or toss back a few glasses of wine. You might feel too sad to get to that yoga class and choose to stay home and have a pity party instead.
These things happen. Breakups are hard, and we are all humans who crave unconditional love and relationship. Remind yourself of all the reasons why the relationship ended and write down the non negotiable qualities you will look for in your next partner.
Once you have made your list and shed your tears, shake it off and make your plan for tomorrow. This too shall pass.