I’ve gone through some sucky breakups. And I’ve made most of them even harder to go through by doing a lot of the self-sabotaging below. When you feel like you’ve just won the sorrow jackpot, a lot of this stuff sounds like it makes sense. It may make you feel better temporarily. But doing this crap only delays your healing, makes you look like a crazy person, and worries your mom. Stop it.
How to Make a Breakup Worse
1. Keep getting back together.
Seems obvious, but this pitfall also wears a costume called “hanging out as friends.” It includes going to dinner, going to the movies, meeting for a drink, Netflixing, or going to their cousin’s wedding. The only thing this does is reinforce the emotional attachment that used to live inside of a commitment. Your psyche goes through hell as it tries to accept that there is no relationship, while your body gets flooded with endorphins as you hug good-bye after dinner.
2. Keep perpetuating the story in your head that you were true soul mates.
Keep telling yourself you are the only one that can really “get what’s happening” with your ex. When they hit you up at 11:30 p.m. and ask if they can come over to “talk,” listen attentively to your inner social worker who feels compassion for them in this “confusing time” and believes you’re the only one who understands. Refuse to accept that they surveyed all your awesome soul-mateness and still walked out your door.
3. Text them to ask if they’re OK.
Text them to check in. Text them to say you got the job. Text them to say you’d still consider being friends. Text them to see if they got your last text. Text them to ask for help moving your couch. Lock yourself in that airless chamber of expectation, waiting for a response. Lie to yourself and say you don’t care if they text back. Wake up at 2 a.m. and check your phone.
4. Use media to your disadvantage.
Make a playlist of your old songs and listen to them on repeat. Send them funny YouTube videos they’d like. Email links that will be helpful for their latest project. Send a picture of you looking hot, now that you’ve been on a diet of tears and tears for two weeks.
5. Keep going to the same bars you guys used to hang out at as a couple.
Call their friends just to say hi. If you listen carefully, you can probably get clues as to what your ex is doing. Stalk their Facebook. Stalk their Instagram. Stalk their Twitter. Check their friends list to see if there are any new faces. It’s all the same: Keep your ex’s circle inside your circle.
6. Bad mouth your ex to others.
Every time you talk sh*t about them, you create an aberration of them in the room. They get invited back into your life the same way they were first invited in when you raved about them. You are conjuring your ex energetically. (Remember, love and hate are two sides of the same coin. Your goal is neutrality.)
7. Exchange your things in person.
Their stuff is at your place. Your stuff is at theirs. This can only be solved one way: The In-Person Exchange. Really? Or maybe you could make arrangements with a friend to drop off their crap. And maybe that friend wouldn’t mind picking up your stuff. Or maybe you could just throw that toothbrush out, ’cause those are like, three bucks at CVS.
8. Hit on your closest friend.
Use him or her as a surrogate significant other. Ask them to come over and assemble patio furniture for you in exchange for making them dinner. Get drunk, talk about your ex, cry a little, and then snuggle in their arms as you watch Game of Thrones. Wonder why you never saw them as dateable before. Drink another glass of wine. Go in for the kiss and imagine how jealous your ex would be if they saw this.
9. Constantly create long, anguished speeches in your head that let your ex know exactly how they tortured you.
Imagine them feeling bad. Imagine they finally come to their senses and concoct a plan to win you back. Don’t imagine them going out with friends all weekend, moving on with their unrestricted life.
Don’t worry that you’re doing copious amounts of emailing, texting, and swiping at work.
10. Sign up for every online dating service available.
Book yourself solid with dates all week and don’t worry that you’re doing copious amounts of emailing, texting, and swiping at work.
11. Sleep with someone—anyone—else.
Remember Aunt Rhoda’s dictum: “The best way to get over someone is by getting under someone else.” Then remember Aunt Rhoda has been married to Uncle Charlie for 42 years and doesn’t know what the $@&% she’s talking about.
12. Torture yourself with “what-if” scenarios.
Fantasize about your ex waking up and realizing they lost the best damn thing that ever happened to them.
13. And if you really want to make your breakup suck harder…
Tell yourself that you will never love like that again. This is a good one, because when you are in heartbreak hell, that feels like the truth. And the thought of loving someone else makes you sick. Like the three margaritas you drank this morning.
So What Should You Do Instead?
1. Don’t see or talk to your ex for 60 days.
If you could accidentally run into them at the gym, grocery store, dry cleaner, or en route to work, change your gym, grocery store, dry cleaner, and route to work. I know, I know, it’s not fair. But do it.
2. Try a new workout or sign up for a 5K.
This is about giving your grief a physical outlet. Endorphins take a breakup to a much healthier place, and you get stronger and fitter in the process.
3. Give your entire life an organizational makeover.
Clean out your closet, save for something special, and see if you can turn your creativity into a side hustle. (Here’s my step-by-step guide that will walk you through the whole thing.)
4. Go out with your friends.
Do not dominate the evening with your sob story. Ask them questions about what they’re doing, what projects they’re working on, how their crazy family is doing. Something magical happens when you leave your own world for a while and get into others’.
Something magical happens when you leave your own world for a while and get into others’.
5. Remember the answers are not hiding at the bottom of that wine bottle.
Or ice cream carton. Drink lots of water, give yourself a salt scrub, get a pedicure, and kick Uncle Ben and Jerry to the curb.
Run out immediately and get this book: It’s Called a Break Up Because It’s Broken by Greg Behrendt. My copy is soaked with tears (original breakup, Fall ’13), warped, dog-eared, and underlined. I’ve given away about 20 copies to friends and clients.
And check out well-written/funny blogs: I love Heather Havrilesky at The Cut, Texts From Last Night, and The Paris Review. Create a kick-ass collage of your new life (Pinterest lets you have secret boards). Write down the wisdom you are learning from all of this.