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How to Move on After a Breakup

This reads easy, but it’s not. Healing never is.

Elliott was toothpick-thin with strawberry blond hair to his shoulders. He showered at night and then slept with his head hanging over the edge of his bed, so his hair would be “perfect.”

I was 15. This was my first “love.” When we broke up, my appetite disappeared. I grew thinner and thinner. People complimented me by saying things like, “You look so great!” they told me. “I bet he’s so jealous!”

But he wasn’t. He’d started dating one of his female “friends” the day after we’d broken up. While I was wasting away, becoming as tiny as I felt whenever I saw them holding hands in the school hallway, he seemed happy.

I grew to cherish my melancholy. Not only was I “thin,” but I wrote until I was delirious every night. I was thin and prolific — what seemed like the perfect combination.

I could have dated, but I chose instead to nurse the pain from that breakup for as long as I could. By the time I dated again, I’d hardened over. When that relationship ended, I didn’t even cry. I just got to doing.

Feeling nothing wasn’t a better way of handling a breakup. It just meant I’d never let myself care to begin with.

I handled other breakups differently.

I tried to get over someone by getting under someone else. I broke things. I put a dress on and met up with strange men. I leapt into another serious relationship immediately. I drank. A lot.

Junot Díaz said it best,

“You can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.”

Sorry, chickadees, bones don’t heal properly if they’re not set. That may even mean they need to be rebroken.

Recovering from a breakup can be like that. It can be so hellaciously painful, but if you handle it right, you can survive. And then you can thrive.

Here’s a simple list. This reads easy, but it’s not. Healing never is.

1. Go no-contact.

Delete and/or block their phone number. Unfollow/unfriend them across all social media channels. Avoid where they’re going to be. Set boundaries with mutual friends, so they’re not updating you every time you see them. Don’t revisit old haunts. Don’t sleep cuddled against their t-shirts.

Give yourself a time limit of 30 days to completely remove them from your life as you once knew it. Tell them upfront what you need. If they then don’t honor it, don’t respond if they message or call you.

When you want to call them, call a friend instead. When you’re horny, masturbate. Learn to live without them in your life, even if it’s just for a short amount of time. You’ll get some stunning revelations and a fast track on your healing process.

2. Practice self-care.

Yeah, eat the shit out of that gallon of ice cream and cry your eyes out, but maybe take yourself on a walk and spend time with your therapist too.

There’s a difference between feeling your feelings and wallowing in them. You are feeling your feelings if you don’t avoid them, and you keep taking care of yourself. You wallow in them when your feelings take over you.Don’t be like 15-year-old me who thought wasting away was “romantic.”

Pick one or two self-care activities to do a day. Sleep. Eat right. Exercise. Journal. Call a friend. Smell a flower. Masturbate. Light a candle. Yoga.

3. Get realistic.

Regardless of who did the breaking up, there were reasons why you likely shouldn’t have been together. Why was your ex not right for you? Write them down. What were qualities that you disliked or didn’t appreciate in your ex?

What are things you’re glad you no longer have to deal with because of your ex? Think: no more taking 30 photos just to get the angle “right” for their Instagram page, no more dealing with their annoying mother or listening to their inane ramblings.

When we’re sad and alone, we often idealize our former beloveds. Don’t do it. Think about the bad. It’ll help keep your idealizing in check.

4. Affirm yourself.

Affirmations work. Seriously. Science even shows it does.

While doing brain scans, researchers found that “self-affirmation activates well-known reward centers in the brain.” Affirming yourself can literally feel as good as “eating your favorite meal or winning a prize.”

Think about who you want to be after your breakup instead of in the awful you’re stuck in.

I am happy. I am strong. I am capable of handling anything.

Think about what you want to be doing.

I am running my own successful cupcake shop. I am making $200k a year from selling homes.

Write your affirmations on an index card and put them next to your bed to read before you go to bed and as soon as you wake up. Write them on a post-it note and put them in your car. Set reminders on your phone to say them. Whatever you need to do, do it.

5. Get to reading.

The following list of breakup recovery books I've personally read and recommend to my clients. Depending on the circumstances of your breakup, they can give your mind something to do while you're struggling with the changes going on in your life. All of these links are affiliate.

One thing I won’t include as an official step is: if you have to go messy, set a time limit. Many of us need the permission suddenly being uncoupled can give us to date all the people, eat all the things, but they can’t go on forever. Remember, you're simply delaying the healing you'll eventually need to do, not avoiding it.

Please also don’t feel like you have to go messy. It’s not a requirement of healing, but if you do decide, make an agreement with yourself to ONLY do it for, say, a month or less.

Breakups can make us into the people we wish we could be, or they can turn us into bitter husks. Don’t be the latter. You have to go in to make it out.

Want a targeted way of recovering from your break-up? Sign up here to get a FREE copy of my “5 x 5 for a Better Break-up” worksheet!

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