I'm a big believer in the idea that no two relationships are the same. Therefore, there are very few hard and fast rules that everyone can follow. However, I get a lot of emails from people going through breakups - telling me how hard it is. He won't stop calling. I can't stop thinking about her. I can't eat, sleep, do anything and feel normal...
I get it. I've been there.
And while I don't think we can all play by the same rules in relationships, I do think we tend to go through similar stages of grief when one comes to an end. So, if you're out there wishing you could just get over your ex, here's what helped me...
1. Give yourself grace. Understand that you are experiencing a loss. In longer relationships, a breakup can almost feel like a divorce. Who gets the dog? The house? Our friends? You can be so tied together that you physically have to reallocate your lives.
And, even if it isn't that deeply intertwined, you're still experiencing a very really loss. You went from having someone in your life to not having them. And you went from talking, texting and spending a lot of time together, to cold turkey - very likely overnight. Understand that you need to grieve this loss and give yourself the time and space to do it.
2. Stop talking. Whenever someone emails me and tells me they are still communicating with their ex, my first piece of advice is to s-t-o-p. I know how hard it is to cut off communication, but you have to do it. You will not be able to move on if you're still communicating. This is ONE rule that is hard and fast.
3. If you didn't end it: get mad. It sounds crazy, I know. But mad is a lot easier to manage than sad. Switch your thinking from:
I'm so sad he is still texting me. It's so hard to talk to him, but I can't imagine cutting off all ties. This makes me so sad.
I'm so mad he thinks he can text me after breaking up with me. Does he think he can have it both ways? This makes me so mad.
I absolutely despise being mad at someone. It makes my head spin and my heart hurt. I will do anything to resolve it if I feel angry with someone. BUT when it's a matter of a breakup, I learned that being mad at someone was empowering and motivated me to m.o.v.e. on, while being sad made me feel like a victim.
4. Figure out your needs. Do you need closure? Space? Time? Retail therapy? Figure out what it is you need and go get it. I do not recommend talking regularly (see #2!), but if you need one final conversation to get your questions answered, ask for it. I believe we all deserve an exit interview if we want it. If you'd rather run for the hills and never ever look back? Do that! Listen to your heart.
I remember, after a bad breakup, advice just poured in. From telling me to play hard to get, to reaching out, to toilet papering his house, everyone had an idea. And I was so grateful for all of the advice (it got me through it!), but I also remember having this moment where I realized: wait. that might have worked for them, but I don't think it will work for me. Remember, nobody knows you better than you know yourself.
5. Don't rush through the emotions. I remember, on days when I woke up insanely sad, I'd think: UGH I just want to feel normal again. I just want to feel like myself. You'll get to the point where you do feel like yourself, but you can't rush through the way you feel in the meantime. Grieve it, reflect on what went wrong, own your part in it and feel it. If you don't reflect on that past, you can't make positive changes for the future.
6. But don't wallow. There will be times where you start to feel normal again. Don't be afraid to stop feeling sad to embrace it - even if it's just a little at a time. I remember being almost afraid to feel happy, for fear the sadness would wash over me again. Don't sabotage yourself - take the happy as it comes.
7. Know who your go-to people are. Let's be honest, not everyone wants to talk through what went wrong and how you're feeling all the time. Not because it's not important, but because not everyone has that capacity all the time. Know who your absolutely-go-to-at-any-moment-people are and lean on them. For me, my parents, siblings and a few close friends were always there. If I needed someone to text from my desk at 3 p.m. or call crying at 6 a.m., they were there, ready to remind me that I'd feel better soon. Find your people.
8. Let yourself be built back up. When your friends and family are reminding me how wonderful and beautiful you are, just the way you are, lean into it. Listen. Bask in it. Let them love you better than you love yourself.
9. Don't be afraid to move on. I went on a date one week after my breakup. That was too soon. I actually cried on the way to meet him. It was pitiful! :) When you feel ready, though, don't be afraid to get back on the horse. Don't let the fear of it happening again keep you from letting love back into your life.
I hate to say this, but it might happen again. It might not work out. BUT after you've survived one bad breakup, no other breakup looks the same. The next time, you believe in and know yourself more fully. You know that the place of pain you're in can't break you, because you've survived it once before. You're stronger.
10. If you do move on, don't compare it to your ex. A new relationship is kind of like using a new muscle. It feels different at first and may cause a little discomfort, but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing. Sure, he might not laugh at the same jokes that you an your ex spent months or years cultivating, but that doesn't mean it's bad. Different isn't bad; it's just different. Don't fault someone for not being your ex - be open to them for being different. There was a reason it didn't work out in the first place, so don't spend energy trying to recreate it with someone else.
11. Don't compare the chemistry, either. First of all, if you've been having a physical relationship with someone for a while, you know their ins and outs. How they like to kiss or relate intimately is something you have to learn. An awkward first kiss doesn't mean there is no chemistry, it just means you have to learn one another's style. I get so frustrated when someone tells me there was no chemistry after a first date. The very definition of chemistry is the act of putting two things together to see how they interact, combine and change. It might take a few tries to figure out the best way for two things to interact.
Also, if you were in a bad relationship before this - one with lots of highs and lows - I hate to tell you this, but: you probably had really good chemistry and it might be hard to find that again. Not because you two were meant to be, but because, the highs and lows create drama and that drama can be (1) addicting and (2) the lows make the highs so much better than they really are. The awesome coffee date after the terrible fight might not have been as good as you remember it. Sadly, it just seemed great when compared to the fight beforehand.
12. Know that your pain will come to an end. You will soon feel like yourself again. You will stop grieving and will begin to believe you can love again. Trust the process, lean on those you love and believe in your worth.