The early phase of a breakup is marred by feelings of inner turmoil, all-consuming grief, anxiety, low self-esteem, jealousy, lack of food or sleep and an indifference to personal hygiene, all peppered with moments of irrationality.
The exhausted brain loops re-enactments of the severed bond piece-by-piece in some macabre relationship forensics. You painstakingly dissect past conversations, events and nuances of the bond while cerebrally clawing towards a personal salvage strategy.
You become a pariah to friends and family who look upon you with pursed lips of empathy, while avoiding sustained eye contact or dialogue at the risk of triggering an emotional flare. People make tired comments like, “There are plenty of fish in the sea,” “You’re better off,” or “How long were you together?” so they can quickly determine if the number justifies your level of distress.
How long will the pain last? What is considered acceptable by friends … or society? Is the recovery period half the time you were together? No. There is no mystical breakup algorithm to yield your fixed emotional penance. It takes what it takes. And for everyone this is different. Everything you need to heal is already within you. Therein lies your freedom.
The pain of rejection is exacerbated by how we view and treat ourselves after it occurs. But rejection also causes physiological pain with an evolutionary purpose. Back in early times, being rejected by your people meant lone survival and imminent death. Now we have Netflix and DoorDash, and being alone for a period is an underutilized indulgence that too few learn to sit with and relish. Once we do, we glean how truly self-sufficient we are.
But, what does the research say?
Studies suggest that women experience more emotional anguish in the aftermath of a breakup, but it takes men longer to recover. A woman deals with a breakup head-on. By the time a woman is on the backside of a breakup, her ex-boyfriend is just coming to terms with what went down.
And contrary to widely held beliefs, closure is not necessary. Countless people never gain closure yet still move forward and heal. When we are broken-up with, our ability to reconcile who we are is upheaved. But you’re still in there … somewhere. You are whole. And you are grand. Despite what you might be thinking, you never need to know why your ex did anything they did. Your ex was never the reason you thrived.
Soulmate is what Satan puts in his coffee.
From an evolutionary perspective, if we were meant to be with only one person on Earth, society would collapse. You did not lose your soulmate. You can look for one of your other soulmates later. For now, any search for external breakup remedies and relief is rooted in a desire to short-circuit the recovery process. If evolution didn’t insert some physiological checks and balances in the form of heartache, we’d hook-up with the next thing in an Armani suit or Lululemon’s.
For those lacking breakup survival skills, the symptoms and manifestations associated with a breakup are measurably more self-defeating. So, here are some proven tactics to hasten your heal:
1. Don’t press “rewind” when you should hit “delete.”
Do not sleep with him/her one more time in the hope it will usher you back to better times. Delete your ex’s number from your phone — even if you have it memorized. Of all the things we lose during a breakup, keeping the locus of control is the most important and often ignored. The easiest way to control your current moods and keep your power is to not contact your ex.
2. Therapist? You mean bartender?
A breakup can lead to depression, isolation, self-accusation, or worse. You don’t always need to make grief clinical, but it’s imperative to know when to seek outside professional help. The easiest index to use is if your emotions are starting to interfere with daily life functioning — including sleep.
3. Only the strong forgive.
Forgiveness is simply giving up the hope for a different past. They may not deserve your forgiveness; but you deserve peace. It’s about letting go of the outcome, rather than condoning any actions by someone whom inflicted the pain. Forgiveness takes only one person: You.
4. The power of three gratitudes.
Not only does gratitude increase how much positive emotion we feel, it just as importantly deprives the negative energy that is the driving force of why we feel so badly. There is omnipotence in gratitude. Focus on three gratitudes daily, no matter how small.
5. Exorcise all relationship mementos.
Emails, toothbrushes, photos, texts, his Apple Watch, etc. and change all venues you frequented together, such as bars, cafes, Urban Outfitters, etc. You could use the change of scenery, while avoiding needless reminders of his love for salmon shorts and craft brews.
6. The quickest way over one is not under another.
Rebounding is a brief distractor that invariably turns into sound-boarding your ex’s name and shortcomings onto some naked app prey beside this woeful version of you. A rebound won’t help you with healthy, long-term objectives. What will? Work with being solo for a bit to achieve self-improvement, reflection, and a righteous comeback.
7. But, veggies taste like dirt and sadness.
To counter the melancholic feelings inherent to any breakup, it is imperative to spend time outside, get regular sleep, exercise, and eat right. Wean off the Pinot Gris and cookie dough and get some nutrients. Studies have shown that foods can directly influence the brain’s neurotransmitter systems that are related to mood. (Hopf, 2010).
8. Better than an FWB is a BuB.
“He’s only ignoring my texts because I haven’t sent enough.” Utilize the exceptionally helpful camaraderie of a Breakup Buddy (BuB) to remediate poor decisions when reacting from emotions. These are dangerous moments of relapse; hence, the importance of someone who will think for you until logic is reengaged. Refer to them often.
9. Tweak small behaviors to dramatically shift moods.
If you change small post-breakup behaviors, it will change your thoughts, feelings and emotions. This is paramount in helping you to feel less anxious, worried, depressed, or experiencing an intolerance of uncertainty following a split. For example, if you do the opposite of what your emotions are driving you to do — such as checking-out their social media or driving by their residence — your anxiety, worry, and pain will subside.
10. “Cowabunga, dude(tte)!”
Ride those thought waves. The technique of urge-surfing involves riding an emotional wave and not responding to any part of it, but letting it swell and then wane. This is an extremely helpful tactic to use in dealing with the impulsivity associated with a breakup, because you are observing your emotions, rather than acting on them. And this prevents regretful actions.
11. Cuddle the friendliest ghost of all.
“Just gonna send him a message … Aaaaaaaannnnnd I’m blocked.” Going ghost is one of the most sagacious devices for self-preservation. Most breakup sufferers greatly add to their angst by not following this one, basic tenet. If you’re going to be friends with your ex, it’ll happen organically and only when you’re long over them. If you must see your ex, keep it cool and make it fast. Otherwise, ignore them so hard they doubt their own existence.
“Frankie says, relapse.”
A final note: Breakup recovery isn’t linear, but more a game of Chutes ‘n Ladders. Reverting and plateauing are common throughout the entire process. Healing is rarely direct in movement, but setbacks are temporary and short-term. You may feel stuck at the same level of muck for two weeks, only to suddenly leap forward in your progress out of nowhere. Your adherence to tactics such as the aforementioned will accelerate your imminent return to baller status.