The cold hard fact about heartbreak is that there is no carefully created formula or step-by-step instructions that will superglue your shattered heart back together. No two breakups are the same, whether it’s the reason why (they dumped you, you dumped them, they cheated, you fell out of love, they were abusive, you weren’t compatible together) or the emotions that follow suit. All breakups fucking suck. I have had a breakup that felt like I would never recover, a break up that felt like my heart was being pulled out of my chest and a breakup that I got over in two days but made me mourn three years of my life. I often refer to myself as a serial monogamist, and with serial monogamy comes a whole load of achy breaky hearts. My last breakup was over a year ago and I feel like enough time has passed for me to be able to reflect on my experiences without wanting to cry or tweet emo lyrics that I swiftly delete the next day. I’m in no way a relationship guru, but I am a person who has been through the fiery hell of heartbreak and made it out of the other side like we all eventually do. I want to pass on any information that may help you get through the painful end with a little more substance than other articles that tell you to work on your revenge body and drink more water. I’m also here to tell you all the stupid things I’ve done so you don’t have to do them too.
Don’t Put Off The Inevitable
Keeping a plaster on for longer doesn’t mean it isn’t going to hurt when you finally rip it off
Breakups aren’t always a clean cut. There are instances when they are long, drawn-out affairs of gradual decline followed by unsureness that can stretch on forever; you go on breaks, you separate, you try to win the other person back, you get back together, things still aren’t right etc. It’s so hard to accept it’s over, you’re admitting defeat and finally putting your hands up to say ‘there’s really nothing I can do, we just aren’t compatible together’. I once spent a month on a break that seemed to go on for eternity, trying to breathe life into an already dead relationship. I knew deep down that we brought out the worst in each other but I clung to the false hope of a reconciliation that never came. Unless you have no shadow of a doubt that you are meant to be together, embrace the inevitable rather than attempt to put it off. Otherwise, you end up hanging in limbo where emotions are high and it’s impossible to move on.
Let The Shock Sink In
Don’t run before you can walk
You’ve just been through some serious shit, whether it’s the end of a new relationship or a long-term living together situation, it’s all going to hurt, so let it. If you’ve been together a long time it’s going to be difficult to suddenly have someone that was once so prominent in your life just disappear. It will be unnerving and unfamiliar at first, but in time you’ll form your own routines without them and finally stop feeling like you’ve lost a metaphorical limb. If it’s an early relationship, you’re coming to terms with not knowing what could have been. You haven’t had enough time to get sick of their shit and are yet to discover all of their flaws. This can be just as hard as leaving a long-term relationship because they are still a one-dimensional perfect person in your mind and you don’t have their bad habits to hold onto in times of pain. Give yourself time to get used to your new reality and let the initial shock sink in.
Cry It The Fuck Out
Crying is cathartic – so get your fix
Don’t hold those tears in. Even if you’ve been crying for days and your face is so puffy it’s starting to resemble a blancmange with eyebrows. Even if you’ve just got home and you don’t want to fuck up your makeup because there’s a chance you’ll be going back out later. Nothing good comes from pushing your emotions further down – they’ll only bubble to the surface eventually when you’re carpet shopping with your gay Dads in a badly lit multi-store and you won’t be able to stop crying even when the manager awkwardly asks if you’re okay. While I’m still waiting for the day that public crying is en vogue, it’s better to get it all out and be able to talk through your emotions with your friend/sibling/parent in the comfort of your home. It’ll feel way less tragic and they’ll be able to rationalise the doubts that are churning around in your mind.
It’s Okay To Not Be Okay
When in doubt – scream along to “I’m not okay” by My Chemical Romance
For a while, your emotions are going to run riot and you might feel like a more diluted version of your former self which is completely normal and totally okay. You’re processing a major change in your life so you can’t expect yourself to be back to normal a week later. Yes, time heals, but it isn’t miraculous. You’ll gradually feel yourself getting better but until then, make peace with the fact that right now you’re not okay.
Don’t Let Your Mental Illness Eat You Alive
If deep down you know you need help – seek it out
Going through a breakup when you have a mental illness is an entirely different situation. If you are really struggling to handle your emotions, get professional help. Don’t do what I did and think that you’re being overdramatic and spend weeks judging yourself for not being able to handle a breakup the same way someone without a mental illness can. Heartbreak is turbulent and depression thrives on it. You may find it harder to get over someone and that isn’t anything to be ashamed of. This is especially important for people getting out an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, you’ve been through a hell of a lot, so don’t be afraid to go to your doctor and ask to be referred to a therapist. They will help you work through your trauma and teach you valuable coping mechanisms, not to mention the fact you’ll be able to unload completely to someone who doesn’t know you personally.
Don’t Be Alone
As much as I wish it was, being a recluse isn’t always the answer
Easier said than done right? There are going to be times when you can’t avoid being alone and I’m by no means saying that you need to coerce whatever poor soul you vaguely know to babysit you when all your friends are busy BUT it’s really easy to alienate yourself when you’re feeling shitty. Whether you’re locking yourself away in a room at your parents’ house, avoiding hanging out in the living room with your flatmates or saying you’re “busy” when your friends want to come over and order a pizza, it’s probably not helping your mood being totally alone. It really helps being around people, even if you’re just sitting in the corner wearing your grubby off-white dressing gown and only joining in the conversation to ask for another slice of pizza, you’ll appreciate the company.
Hammer the final nail in the “cool ex” coffin
Controversial opinion: you can’t be friends with your ex…not immediately after breaking up anyway. I know a lot of us want to be that cool ex that seemingly holds no grudges about the fact their heart has just been torn apart and pretends not to feel any pangs of longing when their lost love pops up in their Instagram feed looking like a fine wine but we can only keep pretending for so long. Going straight from a truly intimate bond of being in love and having sex to a strictly platonic relationship? Those emotions aren’t going to dissolve that quickly. I’ve been there, I’ve found out. Maintaining regular contact after a breakup is the tried and tested way of ensuring you never get over your ex. It draws out the process, someone always feels like the relationship is rekindling and ultimately gets hurt when the feelings aren’t reciprocated. So delete them off Facebook, unfollow them on Instagram and stop answering their late night calls. The less they factor into your everyday life the quicker you can move on.
For The Love Of God, Don’t Check Their Social Media
Curiosity will kick you in the chest and leave you in a heap on the floor
You’ll see something you don’t want to see, your stomach will do that weird drop that only ever happens when your worst fears appear before your eyes in the form of a photo on Instagram. Their arm around someone else or a cryptic comment from a girl you’ve never heard of but spend two hours investigating anyway. We’ve all been there. With every movement of people’s lives played out publicly on the internet, it’s almost impossible to remain unaware of your ex’s life progressing without you. Of course, you’ve already unfollowed them (right?) but we all get that urge to self-sabotage all the progress that we have made in our recovery for the slim possibility of finding evidence that they haven’t moved on. Even if they haven’t now, they will at some point, and you don’t want to get into the habit of checking it regularly until that day comes. You’ll see it and it’ll hurt, all of your fears materialised and you’ll wonder why you put yourself through the pain. Tell yourself you’ll never check it and you’ll eventually stop thinking about. They’re not your concern anymore and it’s a compulsion that you can’t give in to.
Don’t Pressure Yourself
Forget the FOMO – it’s okay to say no
Aside from the fact that you’ll probably have to drag yourself to school/university/work at some point during the tender weeks after a breakup, don’t pressure yourself to do anything you don’t want to do or go anywhere you don’t want to go when you’re still feeling raw. I’m a firm believer of not being coerced into social situations that you really don’t want to go to, which sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many people attend parties just because they feel like they have to. It’s easy to say no, just don’t be a dick about it. If your friends are inviting you to the cinema and you really can’t face muting your sobs in a packed audience staring salty eyed at a sad film for three hours, tell them that you can’t yet. If your aunt is having a barbecue that you know is going to be plagued with single mums over forty drinking Bacardi and you can see yourself ending up drunk in the toilet giving your reflection the stink eye in the mirror, say you don’t feel ready and RSVP no. Go easy on yourself for once and only do the things you feel emotionally ready to do. Don’t bully yourself into going to places that won’t make you happy and for the love of God, stay away from things that will make you sad. Resist the urge to make it hurt more. Don’t watch that film you first saw at the cinema together, don’t listen to the playlist that you used to have sex to on repeat. The pain is bad enough without you jamming the knife in even further.
Try Not To Blame Yourself
Just because it’s over doesn’t mean it’s your fault
Unless you cheated or did something pretty unforgivable and you were dumped as a result, stop blaming yourself. Hindsight is a bitch. She will replay the last moments of your relationship on repeat and point out all the little things that you could have done to stop the inevitable from happening. The truth is, regardless of whether you said the “wrong” thing at the “wrong” time, if a relationship isn’t working out it’s going to end one way or another. Even if you hadn’t seen each other that one week and hadn’t argued over something that you brought up, it would have happened in another place at another time, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Please, please, please never regret changing yourself for the sake of a relationship either. It’s so easy to fall into that ‘if only I had lost weight, if only I had dressed differently, if only I had acted differently’ mindset. You’re basically saying ‘If only I had morphed into an entirely different person maybe then they would have loved me’. Screw that. You want someone to love you for who you are and if they didn’t, it’s a good thing the relationship is over so you can find someone who will. After my last breakup I told myself repeatedly that I had lost my soul mate and guilt-tripped myself for not being the person he wanted me to be, then I thought, wake the fuck up, if he didn’t want to be with me, he wasn’t my soul mate, duh.
Focus On Things That Make You Happy
It’s time to get used to your own company
So we’ve established it’s impossible to be around people permanently and because of that, it’s important to learn how to soothe yourself. It’s so easy to give yourself a hard time when you’re feeling low but just try and lay off yourself for a little while, you’re only human and you’re going through a lot. I’m not really a person who works well with a routine but when you’re feeling fragile sometimes a routine is the only thing that keeps you going. In the beginning, you may be going through the motions, but in an attempt to coax your old self back into existence, make your routine as pleasurable as you can. Take a really long, languid bath when you get home, use one of those bath bombs from Lush that makes glitter come out of your vagina for a week. Get into a series, any series that will distract you from feeling shitty that you can get really immersed in. For me it was Making A Murderer, I watched it every night straight after my breakup and it gave me something to obsess over that wasn’t my ex. If you enjoy cooking, make a big deal of your dinner, look forward to the delicious masterpiece that you’re going to create each night. Buy a load of terrible holiday books that are so trivial and light-hearted they give your brain a break and read a bit before bed every night. When you’re getting ready, listen to songs that build you up and make you feel strong. I remember listening to Leave A Trace by Chvrches and Flesh Without Blood by Grimes on almost constant repeat.
Write The Pain Away
Let heartache fuel your creative fire – if you can
Some of the greatest music ever written is the by-product of intense heartbreak, some of the most beautiful poems ever produced are about unrequited love and some of the greatest novels would never have seen the light of day if the author had a perfectly smooth relationship with a long lasting life partner. So surely for me, a passionate creative, it was the prime time to turn my pain into something productive during my last breakup, right? Wrong. I couldn’t bring myself to write a single piece of poetry, prose or even channel my feelings into a script. I felt like my raw emotions were being wasted. I thought that if I was ever going to write something of worth it was going to be then. Sadly, the pain was so much that I would have rather stopped writing altogether than place myself in a room in my mind with the person that hurt me and write about it. While I didn’t turn my sadness into a creative masterpiece, I did make myself write a diary every day to get everything out of my head and stashed away out of sight. I wrote what we said when we broke up, how I threw up straight after, how I was feeling every day, how I was finding the smallest tasks the most difficult and it started to help. I have only read back over my words once since writing them and I was stunned by how you can feel something so deeply and then over a year later feel almost nothing at all. My advice to you is that if you can turn your pain into something productive, something spectacular, then do it. Write the poems that make someone’s breath catch in their throat, write the novels that people read until their hands ache and their eyes close, write the song that produces the intense ache in the chest of the person listening to it but if you can’t, just write.
Don’t Start Throwing Public Hate
Silence is golden
It’s not worth it and surprisingly, it won’t make you feel better. You’ll only end up spending the next morning shamefully deleting tweets after re-reading your words in the cold light of day. Of course, there are instances when your ex is the instigator and you might want more than anything to set the record straight via social media, but by retaliating you’re only stoking a fire that is already out of your control. Being intentionally hurtful or nasty will only ever backfire on the person spitting the venom, and generally, people are more intuitive than you think, they have a natural way of working out who is in the wrong and they’re usually right. If you want to write about how much of an asshole your ex was, write it in a diary or a word document, you won’t get anything positive from blasting it all over the internet. Something that I have done before which a therapist might not necessarily deem healthy was write down a list of everything my ex had done to hurt me and all the things I hated about them. So during those moments when the rose-tinted glasses would slip over my eyes to briefly obscure my vision of reality and I’d start thinking of all the good times and bittersweet moments, I would whip out my list and remind myself why we were over. It’s not a long-term solution, but once the initial pain goes away and your brain stops playing you flashbacks of tender times on a loop, you can finally appreciate the good times you had together.
Your Pain Will Come In Waves
Breakups are like bruises – they’re going to hurt when you prod them
Some days you will feel like you’ve finally got this. The pain is starting to subside, the tears are drying up and you slowly start to feel more like yourself. Then suddenly, you’ll be sitting in your office ignoring all the work you’re meant to be doing when an image of your ex’s hands on someone else’s body will hit you out of nowhere. It will shock you to your core and you won’t be able to get it out of your head. It doesn’t help if you have an imagination that works overtime either. These feelings will come and go with varying intensity, but don’t feel like you’re falling backwards instead of moving on. Years later you will get hit with memories that worm themselves into your mind of past lovers and the time you spent together. They’re the memories that your mind refuses to let go. It will feel different then, nostalgic instead of painful, even if there is a slither of your heart that refuses to heal. Just know that in the early days, you’ll have good days and you’ll have days when you end up crying in a public toilet over a familiar aftershave you smelt as you walked down the street, but this won’t last forever.
Don’t Turn Up To Places You’ll Think They’ll Be
You’re only gatecrashing your own recovery
We’ve all been guilty of this at some point in our lives. You know an event is coming up that your ex will be attending so you just so happen to buy a dress that is out of your budget but makes you look hot as hell. You’ve also managed to squeeze in getting your hair done, not because you’re going to be face to face with your long lost love but because it needed doing anyway…. While there may be instances where being in the same place at the same time is unavoidable, don’t go out of your way attempting to turn up to places you think they’ll be. This means that you’re still trying to impress them by A. showing them that you are totally completely utterly fine under layers of deliberately placed waterproof mascara or B. showing them what they’re missing whilst putting yourself through the heartache of seeing them again, potentially on the arm of someone else. The idea that you want them to see you – regardless of how much you think you’ve gotten over them – means that they’re still factoring into your decision making. No matter how much you convince yourself otherwise, this isn’t moving on. There are so many ways you will get hurt doing this. The same rule applies to getting in touch with mutual friends for the sole purpose of getting information on your ex, it puts them in an uncomfortable position and in most cases, the little you know the better.
Don’t Get Drunk, Even When You Think You’re Ready, You’re Not
Those drunk texts to your ex will hit you harder than your hangover
I am writing this knowing that when you’ve just been through a breakup this piece of advice is virtually impossible to stick to, in fact, the first thing you probably want to do is drown your tears in a vat of vodka. In my experience, even when the dust has settled a little and you get the urge to go out for the first time in forever with your friends and get back on your game…don’t. Things might start off alright but you’ll always end up way. too. drunk. Emotions that were slowly simmering under the surface erupt into a messy volcano when alcohol is added to the mix and you’ll drunk text your ex before your friend even has a chance to confiscate your phone. You’ll start crying in the middle of some shitty nightclub, surrounded by sweaty bodies and searching for a face that you wish you didn’t want anymore, that you thought you were over. The inevitable trip to the kebab shop will result in your friend stuffing cheesy chips in your mouth in an effort to stem the flow of tears running down your swollen cheeks. You’ll go back to hers and proceed to throw them up in the toilet while catching her boyfriend’s eye through the crack in the bathroom door. Or if you’re anything like my current boyfriend, you’ll drop £2,000 on a stripper who you convinced yourself was the love of your life in the space of five minutes. So this isn’t the same for everyone and are only tragically funny anecdotes we can laugh about through clenched teeth now but, unnecessarily long story short, you’ll feel like shit. Alcohol is a depressant and instead of numbing the pain, it’ll accentuate it, heighten your emotions and leave you feeling as raw as you did when they first left. That bottle of wine will break down the barriers you have carefully put in place to keep yourself safe and those cocktails will almost certainly convince you to do something stupid.
You Have Nothing To Prove
Make changes that benefit you and no one else
Get it out of your head that you have to make a big change to show that you’re moving on. Don’t feel that you have to upload continuous photo’s of you looking a million dollars or surrounded by people to prove that you’re looking great and not alone in the off chance that they might randomly check your social media. Don’t feel that you have to lose weight and get that “revenge body” to prove that you are better without them. I know it’s hard, but never think that you have to change yourself for someone else. You don’t need to prove that you are better off without them by becoming the person they wanted you to be when you were with them. Chances are, you probably are better off without them and that will show through eventually. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to hit the gym and feel better about yourself, by all means, do it, but never do it with the sole intention of impressing an ex-lover in the hopes that they’ll come running. If they didn’t love you for who you were, they don’t deserve you for who you’ve become.
Indulge In Things You Couldn’t Do When You Were With Them
Think of it as dating yourself
Whether you were in a controlling relationship or not, there are always compromises and things that you are unable to do as freely as you would like. This is obviously due to the fact that you probably spent the majority of time together, so while you might think going out every weekend is ideal, if they are more a stay at home person then you’re going to end up spending more time ordering greasy Chinese and passing out on your sofa than downing mojito’s in an overcrowded bar in Soho. One prominent silver lining in the midst of a very murky cloud is the fact you now no longer have to factor someone else into your plans, you can do whatever the hell you want. So indulge yourself. If you love going out and drinking until the early hours of the morning, do it! If your ex sighed whenever you wanted to watch romcoms curled up in bed with hastily made popcorn spilling everywhere, firmly grab your remote in both hands and put your favourite film on. You are now free to cry along to Bridget Jones’s Diary to your heart’s content. My friend’s boyfriend had a huge issue with her speaking to a handful of male friends, so when they broke up she took the opportunity to reconnect and start hanging out with them again. Whether your ex restricted your contact with your family (which is totally unhealthy and will be worth speaking to someone about) or hated the way you styled your hair, indulge in all of these things and get to know yourself again in the process. Relationships really change you, and not always for the better. Some relationships leave you feeling like a shadow of your former self so it’s time to figure out who you really are, even if you have to do some digging through layers of prickly exterior. Learn to love yourself and the “flaws” they hated.
Focus On Something Or Someone Else
There are bigger, better things to invest your precious time in
I wasn’t sure whether to include the “someone else” part of this simply because I, in no way want to urge people to get on a continuous treadmill of ill-fitting partners, I’m not about that. If you need time alone, be alone. Take a year out. Invest your energy into things other than love. Focus on whatever will give you purpose and happiness, get better at photography, go for the job you really want, follow your passion, learn how to design clothes, whatever. Relish the fact that you can be totally and utterly selfish with your time and not have to share it with someone else. Just don’t be scared of speaking to someone new. Once you start to spark interest with someone else and realise there are intelligent, good-looking, cool people out there who treat you better than your ex did, the person who hurt you so badly with slowly start fading into the background.
YOU WILL GET OVER IT (even if it doesn’t feel like it)
There is a neon coloured light at the end of the tunnel
It starts off dimly and flickers in the dark but as you make your way towards it, it grows stronger and more powerful, pulling you out of the darkness and into the light. I’m getting sentimental, who knew. You get what I’m trying to say, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and you will make it out the other side. Some processes are longer than others and it will hurt. You’ll grieve, in a strange way, for someone who is still alive, but you will emerge stronger. You’ll learn more about yourself, your emotions, your ability to cope with loss than you ever knew before and hopefully at least one piece of my advice will help your healing process, even if it is like jamming a plaster across an open wound.