The path to success requires a plan… even for break-ups.
The following are tried-and-tested rules for surviving the end of a romantic relationship, whether it be an intense-but-brief fling or a fifteen-year marriage.
1. Cut ties.
Explain to the ex that you need to isolate yourself from him or her to heal and then remove all contact from phone, email, Facebook and any other social media. (This is one place where Facebook stalking is damaging)
2. Catalogue Your Reasons
This is the time to make a list of the things you dislike about being in a relationship with this person and an explanation for why you are breaking up. It will be useful later during moments of weakness.
3. No contact for 60 days.
This means no phone, no IM, no email, no Facebook, no “Hey, I was just in the neighborhood.” No accidental run-ins at the gym. No hanging around her favorite nightspot. No late night sobbing voice-mails singing along to Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.” Nothing. Nada. Nope.
Zero contact means zero contact. If you trip up, accept it and restart the clock.
*If you have children, contact is inevitable. Pare interaction down to the minimum needed to communicate the parenting responsibilities. Nothing more, nothing less.
4. “Get busy”
Your circle might be smaller now, depending on the length of the relationship and how mutual friends are divvied up, but the quality of love and support from those left over, best friends, family and coworkers, will do wonders to offset the loneliness. Avoid honeymoon-phase couples, critical parents and babies, if you can.
5. Write down all the things you can enjoy now that you’re single.
This will force you to reframe your perceptions. It will shift your brain from thinking about the negative impact of the break-up to the positive opportunities now available without the attachment. It might take a few tries, depending on how upset you feel. If so, push through. You’ll find some good reasons. You might even end up with a new plan for your life. When you’re done, store it with the reasons you listed for the break-up.
6. Forgive yourself for your reaction. Accept what you feel.
Break-ups are f*cking painful. It’s a totally human and normal reaction to be dramatic, heartbroken, solemn, bitter, etc. If you miss him, let it be. If you say hateful things, let it be. If you do something stalkerish… well everyone has their weak moments. Let’s just all agree to forget about it, OK?
7. Actively let the person go.
This is simple but challenging. Whenever you begin to feel overwhelmed with grief… let the emotions surface (have a good cry if you need to). When finished, announce, out loud, “I am letting [ex's name] go.” It is incredibly relieving and you might be surprised by the physical reaction it fosters…
Make the following bargain with yourself: When you want to pick up the phone or drive to his place to reach out, commit to wait just one week. Promise yourself that if you still feel exactly as you do in that moment one week later you can indulge the impulse. If she truly cares about you, she will be receptive to it and you can work from there. This gives your fearful brain a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of an opportunity to click “undo.” Meanwhile, it gives your heart more time to reflect and heal without the confusion of the ex in your day-to-day experience. It’s a win-win. If it’s really not meant to be, the temptation will fade accordingly.
9. Trust that break-ups happen for a reason.
Something pulled you away, whether it was frustration or loss of lust or boredom or whatever… there is a good reason. Perhaps it’s something in you, perhaps it’s something in her, perhaps it’s something that happens only when the two of you come together. Perhaps it’s something that’s hard to easily describe (thus the lists) but it is definitely there. Trust yourself.
10. Own your decision
Much like monogamy, you have chosen to end a relationship and there will be temptation to stray from this commitment. The only difference is that instead of a promise to a lover, it’s a promise to yourself. You could even argue it is a promise to your as-yet-unnamed life’s love. Honor the decision. Stick to your guns. Ride it out. Soon, you’ll be ok (I promise).