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To Save Face (and your Sanity) After a Breakup, here are 5 things NOT to do

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Life after a breakup is never easy, especially when it is your heart that’s been broken. Here are the top 5 things you are going to be tempted to do. Don’t. Doing any of these things will make your life even more miserable.

1. SEND AN ANGRY EMAIL

When we’re hurt, it is really tempting to lash out. It is natural to want to tell off the person who hurt you, the problem is the only person who really gets hurt by sending out an angry email is you. Unless he’s a complete ass, he already feels bad about breaking your heart, but sending bitchy, snarky emails just lets him off the hook. You might think the email will make him feel worse, but in fact, it will actually make him feel better – it validates any negative feelings he has about you. An angry email helps label you as the ‘crazy ex-girlfriend’. Sad to say, but people aren’t always honorable in breakup situations, and if you don’t want others reading your email as evidence of your craziness, the best thing to do is not send it in the first place.

SOLUTION: Write all the angry, hateful, resentful and yes, even childish thoughts and feelings you can think of in a letter, but do not send it. Let me repeat that. DO NOT SEND IT. Better yet, burn it – fire can be very cathartic. After a few glasses of wine that ‘send’ button on our computers starts to seem like a really good idea. That’s the really great thing about letters – particularly burnt ones – there’s no send button to regret later.

2. INSISTING ON EXCHANGING STUFF RIGHT AFTER THE BREAKUP -

If you’ve been together with someone for a while, you’re bound to have intermingled stuff: You keep some clothes and a toothbrush at his place, he keeps a razor and some CDs at yours. After a breakup, there are some legitimate logistical things that need to happen. Rarely do they really NEED to happen right away. Often we use stuff as a tether to the relationship – though we may not admit it to ourselves, a part of us is secretly hoping that when our ex comes over to get his Vampire Weekend CD, he’ll suddenly realize he wants to get back together. This impulse is understandable but totally self destructive.

SOLUTION: The reality is, you don’t need that toothbrush back. Let it go. Your sanity is more important than stuff. Box up his stuff, and put it in a closet. If there are items that really do need to be exchanged right away, box it all up at once, and find a way to make the exchange without having to see him.

3. HAVE MULTIPLE DISCUSSIONS ABOUT WHAT WENT WRONG -

When a relationship ends, you are going to be hurt and confused and want to understand what went wrong. How many times have we thought “But he just told me he loved me three days ago, how can he suddenly not love me anymore?” We feel as though we will hurt less if we understand more. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. The reality is that nothing he says is going to make it make sense. The impulse to ‘understand’ is really about wanting to refute his arguments in hopes that it will change his mind – it all comes from not yet accepting that the relationship is over. Rehashing the reasons you broke up will actually make you feel worse, not better. It also reduces you to uncontrollable crying and that’s not attractive. The only thing you really need to know is that it is over, as difficult as that is. The ‘why’ really isn’t important. At least not right away.

SOLUTION:  In time – we’re talking months later – understanding the why can be an important part of growing as a person and avoiding repeated mistakes. But right after a breakup you need to give yourself as much space between you and your ex as possible. That’s the only way to get over the hurt and be ready for the right man to come along.

4. MAKE A DRASTIC HAIR CHANGE -

This may sound like a weird piece of advice, but think about it. After a break up, many of us feel the need to make a big change, or do something drastic to look and feel like a new person. Maybe it is a subconscious desire to no longer resemble the person who just got dumped or to distance ourselves from the miserable person the breakup has turned us into. We’re so desperate to stop feeling miserable that we cling to the hope that changing how we look will change how we feel. Unfortunately, the tendency is to go extreme with a post breakup hair change and we may not make the best choices. Big hair changes can be traumatic even in the best of times. We all know how crappy it is to get a haircut or color we hate. When you are already feeling insecure and vulnerable, you don’t need to add anything that can potentially make you feel worse.

SOLUTION: When you are feeling the need to reinvent yourself post breakup, change your makeup. Go to Sephora and have someone make you over. If you’re normally an au natural sort of girl, get a sexy, smoky eye and nude lips. Or have someone help you pick out the perfect red lipstick. Try something you’d never normally try and have fun with it. Even if you hate the results, who cares? Washing your face takes 2 minutes. Growing out a bad haircut can take years.

5. STAY ‘FRIENDS’ -

The number one mistake you are going to make after a breakup is trying to stay friends with your ex. It is really easy to convince yourself that this is a good idea – you’ll tell yourself that he’s such a big part of your life and it would be worse to lose him from your life entirely. Wrong. The impulse to stay friends right after a breakup is your heart hoping that the relationship isn’t really over. A broken heart is painful, and we try to avoid the pain by not dealing with it. The only thing that helps mend a broken heart is time. It may be a cliche but it is 100% true. If you continue to hang out, text, or email your ex, you stop the clock on the healing process. And you are torturing yourself in the process.

SOLUTION: After a breakup, delete his number from your phone. If you are computer savy, block his emails. Do not see him, talk to him, text him, email him or look at his facebook page for at least three months. Yes, three months. After a relationship ends, you are convinced that you desperately miss him, but often what you really miss is having someone. Keep yourself busy with friends. Boredom can be your biggest enemy when it comes to getting over your ex. Give yourself the time you need to get over the sting of rejection. If, after three months of having absolutely no contact with your ex, you still want to be friends with him, have at it. But keep this in mind… a friend is someone who is genuinely happy when their friend finds love. Unless you can be happy for your ex when he tells you he’s found someone else, you aren’t really ready to be friends.

The bottom line:

The only way to recover from a broken heart is to let yourself start the healing process. The only way to do that is to stay away from your ex.

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14 Responses to “To Save Face (and your Sanity) After a Breakup, here are 5 things NOT to do”

  1. February 23, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    A truly inspired post — brava!

    Perhaps this is within the penumbra of No. 5, but let me add: Thou shalt not cyberstalk. I had the pleasure of setting up all of my ex’s online accounts (she was quite the Luddite), so for years after our breakup I would regularly check her bank and credit-card accounts to see what she spending, her airline accounts to see where she was traveling, and her cell-phone account to see who she was calling. I used reverse phone lookup every time I saw a strange number, but the unknown numbers were mostly Chinese and pizza delivery joints. At least she was getting fat while also feasting on my pride.

    Needless to say, this wasn’t a very good use of my time.

    • Megan Gray February 23, 2011 at 3:28 pm

      First of all – thank you for elevating the tenor of the site with the use of ‘penumbra’. Second of all, that is both impressive and terrifying. I’m suddenly regretting ever having dated anyone who is techy!

    • Megan Gray February 23, 2011 at 4:07 pm

      Oh BTW, I once chased an ex down the street. Literally chased. I had driven to his neighborhood to confront him. When he saw me he started running and I ran after him. Damn that boy was fast.

  2. Claudia Maittlen-Harris February 23, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    While your cyber stalking went to a whole new level (airline and bank accounts – wow!) at least you were just perusing and not sabotaging her life. But yes cyber-stalking gets to the best of us. I’ve gone through entire photo albums, one after the other on facebook – I’m not proud.

  3. February 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Ditto the cyberstalking advice…the best thing I ever did was “unfriend” my ex on FB – before that I was constantly checking his page to see what comments he had left for people. (He broke up with me one night for no reason given other than that I was “too awesome” for him…this reason, of course, was difficult to accept.) I became an amateur private eye – I tracked down his ex girlfriend, who I only knew by her first name, eventually finding her blog, even her resume. At one point I had to stop myself from going to stalk HER in person after finding out from her blog that she would be attending an art opening. A little knowledge can be a lot dangerous.

    • Megan Gray February 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      I’ll definitely agree that in a heartbreak situation, the internet is your enemy.

  4. March 21, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    thanks for the great message ! internet really is a my enemy..

  5. November 21, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Megan thank you for the great post – I came across it as a result of my sad sack google search for solace – try a boolean search of “surely the internet can tell me that I have *every* right…nay, I have a moral OBLIGATION to send a pissy, “God you are really a jerk and here is why I am soooo superior and let me add a few other insights about your general character – and performance in the sack – and don’t forget *I* dumped *you* first” and this is where you end up!!
    Yes, *I* broke up with him!! Imagine his nerve in AGREEING with me!!
    Thanks for your sober words of sanity at the perfect time plus I laughed out loud reading The Michael’s post ( yes, kudos for penumbra!) and other comments.
    I read your reply re: chasing an ex down the street and took me back to being in Uni and leaving a heartbroken ( and lengthy) letter in the mailbox of my jilter…arrived at midnight at his house – a few sheets to the wind and a day after he dumped me – knowing he was out, to drop my ‘hell hath no fury screed’ in the postbox, turn to flounce away, only to be trapped by a skunk at the end of driveway blocking my exit . Was stuck there half an hour until he pulled in to driveway in his car…with another girl in the passenger seat! Still cringe when I think about it!
    Thanks and love your writing/posts :-)

    • Megan Gray November 21, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      From now on the phrase I will use is ‘Adding skunk to injury’. Or maybe “Adding skunk to insult’?. A terrifying prospect either way.

  6. December 4, 2011 at 10:05 am

    We’re going to be parting ways real soon & this has got to be the best advice for keeping my sanity. Sad enough, ours is not emotional issues & clashes of personality, drama or even power plays; the problem is financial difficulties due to our lack of being able to find any work around here. This has already put a real damper on the romance department & it’s just not working out for us. So I think the amicable thing for both of us is to gracefully move on past our heartbreak & disappointment to wish each other well & simply lose track of each other.

  7. December 20, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I was so glad to find this. my ex stalked me to the point i had to leave my hometown we lived in! IT got so bad ,IM carry a gun now!

  8. May 30, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Have you considered including a few social bookmarking links to these blogs. At the very least for bebo.

  9. August 29, 2012 at 3:29 am

    After ending a relationship one person passes painful time. That time really so hurt. I have gathered huge knowledge about breaking. Thanks and keep it up…
    handling a break up

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