It is common knowledge that breakups are the heart’s equivalent to getting stabbed in the crotch with scissors. To the recipient of walking papers from a relationship, even the brightest, most sunshiny day can feel like a canker sore. And, barring the passage of time, there is no single effective cure for the gut-wrenching angst associated with heartache.

The typical breakup is comprised of a series of standard stages through which everyone progresses in roughly the same manner. However, the “actions” associated with each stage differ for men versus women. The male breakup recovery cycle is largely counter-productive in comparison with the female version – especially if “breakup anxiety” begins – in which case a routine breakup for either sex becomes a case-study in maladaptive social bizarredom. For the anxious individual, the symptoms and manifestations associated with the breakup stages are measurably more self-defeating, sadistic, lengthy, and, oddly – awe inspiring – than that of a split for the less anxious populace. And, though the phases for a breakup involving an anxious person can affect both males and females – it is far less socially acceptable in a man.

This is the primary reason there are so few books available to men regarding breakups. You have to look no further than the breakup book covers and titles to validate this claim: “He’s Just Not That Into You“; “The Smart Girl’s Breakup Buddy“; and “Breakup Girl to the Rescue“, for example. The list is long, and each cloaked in pink, pastel, and effeminate covers. As general practice men go to bars and strip-clubs, hook-up with a random stranger, stalk their ex, or binge drink upon having a significant relationship terminated. But, once anxiety kicks-in he becomes an emotional crash-test dummy. He is the poster child for Kleenex, alcohol, and anti-depressants. And, he was recently … me.

Post breakup advice from a guy is seldom, if ever, helpful. “Man-therapy” is worthless – unless the man has “LCSW” or “Bartender” following his name. After my very first breakup, my dad bluntly dispensed some advice while we worked on my Dodge pick-up. It was one short, memorable statement he made as he torqued on something important under the hood with some large torquing type of device. In referring to my ex, he said, “Son, there is nothing between her legs that you won’t find between another set – so, move on.” Sage advice. But clearly, my father assumed I was as shallow as my brother, whom rolled through breakups like a pimp with a titanium heart and sealed tear ducts.

There are basically three stages of any breakup. And, the following are how each plays-out for an anxious individual:

Stage I for the Anxious Breakup Victim is “Shock & Awe:
This initial period is accompanied with a false sensation of, “I can totally fix this.“ It is marred by feelings of inner turmoil, all-consuming grief, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, jealousy, lack of food or sleep, a disregard for personal hygiene, and peppered with moments of irrationality. It is comprised by a sense of defeat that this was the single greatest partner you will ever have, that you will never meet anyone as good, and you will die alone. Sure, you’ve somehow recovered from previous losses, but this one is seemingly insurmountable.

It is within this early state that you believe the resultant heartache will kill you. Your current state of emotions feel worse than had your love interest actually died in a freak bong or hair straightener/White Rain aerosol accident. Had they actually died, you would not be picturing them naked in ritualistic Conquistador-type sex orgies. And, in the instance of their death, you would receive paid time off from work with copious sympathy from colleagues and peers. Not so with breakups. People tire of your incessant whining and ideological droning about times past.

In the campaign to win back the object of your desire, this stage will often include regular and methodical text diatribes (aka, “terror texting”), along with emails and voicemails in futile attempts to recon the defector – while each time, vowing not to send another – only to do so within hours. This period is rife with a fuzzy logic that there is just the right combination of words and dire pleading to get them to reconsider. Like reminding them that no one will ever love them the way you do. It is wise to keep a dose or two of Ativan, Xanax, or Klonopin readily available to prevent the inevitable emotional meltdown or impulsive purchase. I took Xanax during a long mountain bike ride after my breakup, and passed-out midway on a remote hillside. And, offering to do everything now that you were unwilling to do while in the relationship is a colossal ‘red-flag.’ To yourself. 

Remedy for Stage I:
If you take away anything from this article, let it be this: Do not ask him/her to sleep with you one more time in  the hope it will somehow woo them back. If you pose this question, you will be denied even a sliver of dignity upon which to rest. It is imperative to limit self-humiliation and to avoid further contact with your ex. An effective technique to implement at this early stage is deleting the object of affection’s number from your phone contacts list. Even better, is turning off the phone and keeping it in the trunk of your car. If, as in my case, the number is permanently etched into your mind from days of deranged dialing, then change the object of affection’s name within your phone to something more appropriate like, “Rotten Crotch,” “Man Whore,” “Patriot’s Fan,” etc. This will limit moments of nostalgia and the certain romanticizing of his/her name.

Perform an exorcism of all relationship mementos: Emails, cards, photos, half-used massage oils, candles, anal beads, concert tees, Tantric Sex guides, etc. Despite how expensive, memorable, or impressively crafted, they must all be discarded. Jewelry is excluded, as it should go directly to a consignment shop, with the resulting cash used on legal massage or facials. I still miss the beautiful desk globe my ex got me for Christmas – but, it looked much better at the bottom of my garbage. My shirts she loved to wear – now used to wipe the mud and bugs off the front of my truck. Her toothbrush – perfect for removing hard-to-reach toilet algae from under the rim. Bath gels, shampoos, lotions, hair clips – all trash. I found that ridding of her hair was the final and most tenacious forensic leftover of which to dispose. I found it everywhere … for months. All over my floors, in the dryer, permanently intertwined in my hair brush, in my sock drawer, adhered to my shower tile, clogging pipes, etc. It’s a wonder she had any hair at all, with a shed-rate of a Wookie.

Change all venues you regularly frequented together, such as gyms, bars, naughty shops, theaters, cafes, Pottery Barn, etc. You could probably use the change of scenery anyhow. And, no matter what month the breakup occurs, it will seem everyone else you know is in a happy, healthy, sexually-charged relationship. Even your ugliest and socially stunted of friends will somehow secure mates during this time, then say asinine things like, “Hey, when you get a new partner let us know so we can double-date.” And, skip rebound dating for now, under the presumption that “The quickest way to get over one, is to get under another.” This is a brief distractor and, invariably, turns into date-therapy and sound-boarding your problems on to some innocent philanthropist kind enough to get naked with this woeful, depressed version of you. Your sole focus is making it to the next phase while limiting any carnage to yourself or some unsuspecting prey from Tinder.

Stage II for the Anxious Breakup Victim is “Death-by-Analysis“:
This white-knuckle stage is infused with just enough “What’s wrong with me” self-loathing to completely derail any chance of near-term recovery. Life feels like a vapid waste of time that varies in length, wreaking havoc on the synapses, short circuiting the neurons while your exhausted brain runs endless scenarios trying to solve the severed bond piece-by-piece in some macabre “CSI” type of relationship re-enactment. You painstakingly dissect every past conversation, event, moment, expression, and nuance of the relationship in futile attempts to plot a reconnaissance and recovery strategy. This insidious period takes hold just as you feel you could not sink any lower, and upon realizing the breakup was probably all your fault and that he/she is really never coming back. 

Each day you awaken yearning for a mere 1% reduction in sorrow and heartache, and more than 4 hours of sleep. I avoided my bedroom entirely and slept on the living room couch for the next two months. My days were spent outdoors and ‘on-the-go’ in an attempt to stay distracted till I was physically spent, then I would down a couple of sleeping pills. I avoided my memory-tainted bedroom altogether. Her aura hung in there like a fat, lazy demon – always looming, while unresponsive to exorcisms. And, oddly, one whom sadistically hid her scrunchies and hair-ties throughout the night for me to find later. Her ghost was a bitch.

Remedy for Stage II:
To counter the morbid feelings inherent to this stage, it is imperative to spend time outside, get regular sleep, eat right, and exercise. Wean off the liquor and Mylanta, and introduce your body to some calories in the form of broth, dry toast, and perhaps graduate to an actual fruit smoothie. And, wash it all down with some heavy metal. Because no matter when you breakup, you will hear only dismal love songs to feed your angst. Richard Marx, Air Supply, The Commodores, John Waite and the grocery store Muzak play-list all conspire against your recovery. There is often no mental escape except the solace brought on by the death metal genre. You won’t find any power ballads on the Sirius Heavy Metal-XL 40 channel. Embrace your inner head-banger and savor some Goatwhore, Hatesphere, or Napalm Death. Sure, it feels a tad Satanic and insubordinate at first. But, this audio ecstasy greatly facilitated my own recovery. And, rather than sulking into the lump of moist waste that John Mayer and Maroon 5 will produce, death metal will usher you to the “healthy” angry stage of a breakup. 

If you haven’t done so, stop sending flowers and/or gifts and recoup some losses – like your self-esteem. No more idealizing, and begin reducing your love interest’s grandiosity by radically accepting things for what they are. Friends usually have your best interests in mind, and make convincing liars regarding how much better off you are. In my case, however, male friends only added to the distress by stating that my ex was doing some other guy at random moments – and, probably – multiple guys. And, even though she was not sexually adventurous with me, she is certainly now an amateur porn star, while pulling ecstasy-induced all-night sexcapades. She was a former gymnast after all. In my mind, she made the “Kama Sutra” read like a beginners wall chart to yoga. 

Retail therapy often helps women within this state-of-mind regain some self assuredness. Many spare no expense when purchasing their way into temporary bliss. New clothes are not as cathartic or therapeutic for an emotionally wounded straight man, however. Retail therapy for a guy means a muscle car or a new truck with thousands in aftermarket modifications, followed by a serious bout of “buyer’s remorse.” This is precisely how I acquired a $65,000 lifted, customized 4×4 truck. The high lasted about 40 hours until I had to fill the gas tank for the first time. 

The Final Stage (III) for the Anxious Breakup Victim is “Reattaching Genetalia
Congratulations! You are beginning to feel some emancipation from your emotional purgatory. You do not feel as physically repulsive as before, and you have some real marketability to leverage since giving-up the pastime of wallowing in anger and self-defeat. Thankfully, the visceral imagery has stopped, and no longer do you mull over your ex every minute of each day. You have even moderately accepted that, depending on your ex’s “promiscuity index,” he/she has been naked with someone you despise. Somewhat unsettling to know, but no longer a deathblow. And, you can watch as the season changes and know that you are not going to perish from a bleeding heart. On the upside, you’ve even lost enough weight to rock those skinny jeans. 

Perhaps the best part of this phase is that you have stopped idealizing the relationship and see it for what it was: A two-party ‘shitshow.’ Use this time to accelerate gaining distance from the person and the past. It really is okay that your supposed “perfect” relationship is irretrievable. It’s a delusion that if you had back, would end in the same twisted wreckage. You may even consider going on a date and not verbally vomiting the name of your ex. What’s important is that you get out there and take some swings, jabs, cracks, or whatever your preferred sports analogy. 

Finally, it is important to note that is within this final stage of your recovery that your ex will fortuitously make a reappearance. This assumes you followed the aforementioned recommendations, and their reappearance is not in response to a court subpoena for your criminal stalking trial. The moment your ex senses you have moved on, will be the moment they can’t stand knowing you have. The sick irony, however, is that they will absolutely not contact you prior to you getting over them. Plan for this momentous day by readying yourself for the moral high-ground. Quiet confidence speaks volumes here. There is no need to remind him/her what they lost in you, because this isn’t about you. It’s about their own frail and bruised ego, and the fact they only care that you have managed to somehow prevail in their absence. Sometimes God sends an ex back into your life to see if you’re still stupid.

Remember, “It’s Called a Breakup Because it’s Broken.” I read that on a neon pink breakup book cover somewhere …