Dating & Relating
Post-breakup dos and don’ts
By Lisa Lombardi
So you gave your sweetie your heart, only to have it carelessly tossed aside? We’ve all been there—and it stinks. “Not only is your heart hurt, but your pride is wounded,” says April Masini, relationship expert and author of Date Out of Your League. But you can bounce back from a one-sided breakup and be a stronger person for it. Here, the rules of rising above it all…
The fact is, you just suffered a loss. And it’s completely OK — in fact, it’s normal — to want to grieve. So don’t feel bad about feeling bad. Go ahead and declare a mental-health weekend and be as emotional as you darn well please. “I always give myself a 48- to 72-hour grieving period after being dumped,” says Diane Sodetz who lives in Hermosa Beach, California. “I can cry all day, talk about it to my girlfriends, watch bad Lifetime movies in bed. It helps me to get out all my emotions instead of holding onto them. That way, I’m less likely to call my ex to vent my anger and hurt.”
Don’t surround yourself with a glass-half-empty crew
You know that friend who swoops in as soon as misfortune hits? The one who’s probably already called to swap relationship horror stories or emailed you that news story (since proven to be false!) about how you’re more likely to get hit with a truck than get married after age 35 or so. The secret to your survival is giving this Misery Loves Company bud the kiss-off. Negative friends, explains Masini, “tend to dwell on all the gory details of the breakup, causing you to relive it.” Instead, spend time with your sunniest pals. “Positive people will energize you, help you break that negative thought cycle, and will re-introduce fun into your life to help you move on,” says Debbie Mandel, Ph.D., author of Turn on Your Inner Light.
Don’t try to be friends
It’s hard to go cold turkey when separating from your former love—so hard, in fact, that you may be tempted to go the “just buddies” route. But to move on, you need a clean (read: Zero contact) break. “Men and women can't be friends post-breakup because there is always a sexual tension, and in weak moments, one or both parties give way to desire,” says Masini. And who wants to turn into someone’s booty call? “If you are a guy, the woman will add you to her collection of beck-and-call, last-minute dates. If you are a woman, the guy will keep you as a back-up for those lonely nights when he's looking for ‘comfort’ without commitment,” says Mario Almonte in New York City. Parting ways, on the other hand, paves the way for a fresh love in your life. “If you're serious about being in a good relationship, don't clutter your life with men who aren't Mr. Right,” advises Masini.
Do treat yourself really, really well
Since your best friend can’t be there 24/7 to tell you you’re amazing, shower yourself with the TLC that you deserve. “You’ll feel a little bit better immediately—and maybe a lot better,” says Masini. This tactic always works for Lauren Daniel of Glendale, California, after she’s heard the “We need to talk…” talk. “I focus on being really nice to myself,” she says. “I’ll buy myself a chocolate croissant — something I normally wouldn’t let myself eat — on the way to work. Or I’ll spring for the extra massage when I’m getting my nails done. I’ll get in my comfy PJs as soon as I get home. I don’t think it’s the treats that matter, but the fact that I’m being proactive about cheering myself up.”
Do hang with a buddy of the opposite sex
Don’t worry — we’re not suggesting a rebound one - nighter. Rather, we’re floating the idea that hanging out with this kind of pal can help restore your banged-up ego in a big way. “For women, a guy pal won’t rehash the drama, but will give you a few choice words that will break through the clouds,” notes Mandel. “Also, because he is a male, you will feel that you are getting the guy point of view when he compliments you and boosts your self-esteem.” And for guys, a female friend can offer all kinds of insight—and make you feel really cared for. Who knows? There might even be fringe benefits: “Whenever I got ditched, I went out with this one guy friend,” says Tara Rivers of Brooklyn, New York. “He’s like my lucky charm—we both always meet new people when we’re out together.”
Avoid this horrible habit in which alcohol lures you into making “Hey, want to get together?” calls to your ex and your self-esteem will thank you in the morning. “I am the queen of drunk-dialing, and doing it to exes is my specialty,” admits Jillian Chertok of Queens, NY. “Sometimes my best friend tries to take my phone from me before we go out so that I won’t be tempted, but I never let her. The one person I consistently drunk-dial is my ex from freshman year of college. It's been years, and I still drunk-dial him—and just when I think I won't do it anymore, he drunk-dials me, and the whole cycle starts again.” Which is the problem: You never get the guy off your brain (or your speed-dial). Here’s how to stop drinking and dialing: Erase his number from your memory settings, and ask a friend to be your intervention counselor, ready to take your call at 3 A.M. when you’re tempted to ring up your ex.
Don’t call him when you’re sober either
Dialing when you’re not under the influence can be even worse, because you can’t blame it on the margaritas. And if you’re hoping for reconciliation, it’s counterproductive: How is he going to miss you if he’s still getting your daily calls and emails? Tonya Kimbrough of Savannah, Georgia deliberately didn’t check in with her ex—and ended up winning him back: “Calling will give someone the space to miss you.” And even if reconciliation isn’t your fondest hope and dream, at least you’ll retain your dignity.
Don’t ask, “Why?”
Face it: You’re not going to get closure from the person who broke things off, says Tina Tessina, Ph.D., author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again. “Closure requires getting truthful answers to your questions about what happened. At this upsetting time, usually no one really understands why things fell apart and neither party is prepared to tell the truth, even if they know what it is. Neither wants to actually hear the truth, either.” Thus, initiating one final conversation—and then another—is just asking for pain. As Diane Sodetz puts it, “I don’t ask, ‘what went wrong?’ anymore, because I’ve never gotten an answer that satisfied me,” she says.
Do something creative
When something destructive happens in your life, create something to restore the balance, says Mandel. “Creativity is a wonderful way to heal your broken heart. You get passionate and fall in love with a project—and in the process, you create not only a satisfying outcome, but you also fall in love with your own ability and ultimately, yourself,” she says. “When you love yourself, you are ready to love another!” There’s only one rule: Don’t create a life-sized bust of him or a blog updating your revenge plans. Better bets: Bake cookies, plant an English garden, sign up for a pottery class, take black-and-white photos of your pooch, retile your bathroom—the possibilities are as endless as your imagination.
Do rearrange your bedroom
Every time you see that Asian flower-patterned bedding, you’re going to remember a night with the ex. So stash that set at the back of your closet and treat yourself to new bedding that you love and strongly suspect your former love would hate. Then move the bed to the opposite side of the room. It’s all about creating new rituals, says Mandel. “Getting rid of knick-knacks your ex gave you and rearranging furniture will help you see things from a new perspective,” she says. “You invite happiness.”
Do take the long view
Don’t perceive yourself as being dumped, which is bound to deflate your ego and hardly represents the full story about your romance. “Look at it this way; your journey with this person has ended. Some relationships have beginnings, middles and ends,” says Mandel. You two had a nice run. But now that this romance has run its course, you’re that much closer to finding the kind of true love that never ends.
Lisa Lombardi is a writer and editor living in New York. She’s contributed to Redbook, Cosmopolitan, and Child, among other publications.
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