Chances are that, at least once in your lifetime, you will experience a break-up. The most important thing to keep in mind is that it happens to everyone, and life does go on. As someone who has gone through several break-ups, I can attest that as bleak as things may look, eventually the pain and hurt do dissipate. There was a life before him, and there will be a life after him. One of the best moments of life is waking up and realizing that you can stand on your own again. But, things are easier said than done, and everyone has a different healing process.
Relationships can become an addiction, and once they're over, the withdrawal can be consuming. Typically, people go through these stages:
The Mourning Stage
The break-up can be imminent or spontaneous, but real nonetheless. Give yourself some time to deal with the revelation and to adjust to the change. It's natural to feel sadness, grief and depression - just don't dwell on it. Don't be afraid to get it all out. Cry if you have to, wallow in self-pity, write in your journal. The important thing is to try to accept what happened and to move on.
The Angry Stage
All of a sudden, you can hear every mean thing he's said, all the stupid things he's done, all the lies he's told. You make a list of all the things you wish would fall on his head. Trust me, I've been fixated on this stage many times before. This part of the process is natural, as long as you keep your rage in check. Keying his car may seem like a good idea at the time, but in the long run it won't change things or make them better, and you may end up on Judge Judy as the "psycho ex-girlfriend."
The Preoccupied Stage
People experiencing this step immerse themselves in every activity under the sun, from scuba diving to building bird feeders. It's very constructive to keep yourself busy, but don't use this as a way to ignore your feelings.
The Lonely Stage
Couples surround you everywhere you go. Even your cat is getting some action. You feel abandoned, alone, and depressed. Take this time to really think about your situation. Are you missing the person, the comfort, or the relationship? You don't have to be alone. Re-connect with old friends, or concentrate on cementing close relationships. Don't be afraid to seek comfort in your friends and family, that's what they're there for.
The Blame Stage
Don't blame yourself, and don't blame your partner. What's done is done, and if things didn't work out, chances are he's not the one anyway. Learn to take things constructively instead of keeping score. You may feel like you've been wronged, but never play the victim. You know you're stronger than that.
The Learning Stage
Never have regrets in life, learn from your mistakes, and use these lessons to improve on your future relationships.
The Single Stage
Now that you've healed and moved on, you will find that being single has its advantages. Focus on yourself and do everything you've wanted to do. The extra time you would've spend dealing with your partner's problems or constant fighting can now be put to good use. Embrace your singledom!
The Do's and Don't of Surviving a Break-Up
- DO get it all out. Wallow in self-pity, cry into your pillow, write bad poetry. Express your feelings as openly as you can. The more you keep things inside, the worse the feelings can become.
- DON'T stay bitter. Don't take it out on your friends, or shut people out of your life. It's understandable that you may need some time alone, but don't prolong this period or you may find that you've isolated yourself from the rest of the world. If you don't feel like talking just yet, let your friends know. Don't leave them in the dark, especially if they reach out to you.
- DO think positively. A positive state of mind will manifest into a positive outlook on life.
- DON'T lose faith in people. Assuming that all men out there are scum could result in you missing out on someone great.
- DO something new. Whether it's a class or hobby, try to pick something that you and your partner did not share an interest in. The less reminded you are, the better. By making the activity your own, you're asserting your independence from the relationship.
- DON'T lead others on. If you're not over someone yet, make that clear. After all, you wouldn't want to be someone else's rebound.
- DO keep active socially. Call up your old friends, have a girls' night out, start a study group. You'll find that surrounding yourself with other people will make you feel better, and the support they provide is like a big comfort blanket.
- DON'T listen to sad music. This will only make the wallowing worse. At all costs, avoid putting on the mixed CD that he made for your six-month anniversary.
- DO pamper yourself. Pick something that will lift your spirits and do it. Is it a manicure? A new outfit? A day at the casino? Whatever tickles your fancy, do it.
- DON'T contact your ex. If you still care about him and want to know how he's doing, give yourself some time to boost your ego first. Contacting him too soon could result in more pain and a longer time to heal.
- DO let go of the relationship. You may end up together in the long run, but for now, consider things done and certainly don't wait around for him to come around. Life is too short for you to be waiting around for someone.
- DON'T gossip. Things may come back to you, and by then it'll be too late to take things back. As tempting as that may be, resist the urge to bad-mouth your ex.
- DO make a list of his annoying qualities. It may seem like a childish thing to do, but it's very therapeutic and will help you realize that things were better this way.
- DON'T set time frames for yourself. So your best friend always seems to bounce back from a relationship. So your ex is already dating someone else. So what? Take things day-by-day and at your own pace. Give time its chance to heal things, and in the meantime, look for the best in yourself and remember that you're an ultra-cool vixen who doesn't need a man to feel complete.
- DO change your environment. Do this especially if you've lived with the person. Take pictures down, gather his things in a box and place it as far away from you as possible, rearrange the furniture. Even if you haven't lived with the person, you may find that a little rearranging can do wonders for the soul.
The Break-Up Kit
Everyone needs a break-up kit. Try these suggestions to mend a broken heart:
- a garbage can to trash all his belongings
- a book of matches and a fire extinguisher if you feel like burning all his belongings in the garbage can
- a Polaroid to take pictures of you burning his belongings in the garbage can
- bath salts and scented candles for a calming bath (and to get rid of the smoky smell on your clothes)
- a mixed CD of "I'm over it" songs, i.e. I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor), I Will Love Again (Laura Fabian), Stronger (Britney Spears), Survivor (Destiny's Child)
- a journal to jot down your thoughts
- some inspirational books, i.e. the Chicken Soup for the Soul series
- some funny movies, i.e. Friday, Charlie's Angels, Austin Powers
- a punching bag and gloves to get your aggressions out (and get fit at the same time!)
Let's face it: break-ups aren't fun. But with a little time, you'll find that your life will be even better than before. Don't give up on love, and remember that with every tear, you'll have fifty more smiles coming your way. C.Ho.