You’re Going to Be Okay: How to Move on After a Breakup
“Just went through a break up after a year and 4 months. Mainly her decision. Age difference, she wanted kids I was hesitant, sex wasn’t great. I’m trying a lot of the things you guys suggest…the books, the how to deal with rejection, setting goals for myself. These all help. Problem is I just found out she is already dating a new guy. I found out only 3 weeks after we made our breakup official. So she basically moved on in lightening fashion. I know the best thing would be is to move on, I’m even talking to a therapist about this and other issues. But, I still love her. I’m still friends with her. She’s never once been mean to me, but this fucking kills me!! Any advice on not thinking about when your very recent ex is already dating and hooking up?”
“My girlfriend broke up with me about six months ago, but I still feel the same pain now. Recently she started texting me, but every time I see her texts or her pic my heart races. I took the breakup like a wuss and it’s affected every aspect of my life. I need to turn things around. Reading your emails and Facebook posts helps a lot. I’d very much like to get back into the dating scene but I’m scared shitless. Any advice?”
It’s ironic that for the last few weeks most of our questions have been about breakups.
Or maybe it just feels ironic because I’m going through a breakup myself and these are just the questions that stand out—the way that if you have a certain car on your mind you seem to see it everywhere you look.
It’s been terrible. Endlessly exhausting. I feel you. I hope this helps. We got this.
Go easy on yourself
The messages I get from guys on this topic really do make it clear that men are (or can be) so much harder on themselves when it comes to things like breakups.
You’ve been socialized to be physically and emotionally and impossibly “tough.” So when you have a very hard, very human experience like this, you feel bad for feeling bad and it compounds the pain. You have to deal with (perceived) rejection from her and also rejection from yourself.
You’re not a wuss. What you’re going through is fucking hard.
Your dopamine and serotonin levels drop resulting in “depression, anxiety, feelings of addiction and deprivation.” Your brain during a breakup may look exactly like someone who is going through withdrawal. We’re talking about physical changes in the brain.
Guys don’t usually show it, so you don’t see it, but you should know that what you’re going through is normal.
Feel what you’re feeling. Is that not macho enough? Let it be what it is.
I’m not saying that to“feel your feelings” you have to be a weepy mess at work or in public. You also
don’t have to shouldn’t put your breakup feels on social media for the world to see.
I’m saying don’t guilt yourself. Don’t think about how you “should be feeling.” Don’t put a time limit on how long you should be feeling it. Don’t fight what you really feel. Don’t suppress those feelings. Don’t judge yourself for them.
Let what is, be what it is.
Limit contact for as long as you need to
For now, put a hold on checking her social media, especially if she’s seeing someone new. Don’t text her. Don’t hang out with her. Don’t try to be friends right now.
If you want to keep her in your life, check in and see how you feel in 6 weeks. Does it still hurt to talk to her? To see her moving on? Try 4 months. Still hurts? Try 9 months, and so on.
I think with most exes, eventually, your heart won’t race anymore when you run into them unexpectedly, or even when you see them with someone else.
And in a rare few circumstances—despite what everyone says—I think that hurt or sharpness won’t ever go away, so that friendship can’t ever really be rekindled. But keep checking in. Don’t let her back into your life until it hurts less to do so.
Acknowledge why it wouldn’t work
It can still be hard to end a relationship even if you know it wasn’t a good match.
A lot of people tend to dwell on what they lost post breakup, and it sucks. Try to also acknowledge 1) why it wouldn’t work and 2) what possibilities might open up because of it.
To the first writer, you say that the sex wasn’t great and she wanted kids.
- If you don’t want kids and she does, there’s nothing that can be done. That’s a fundamental incompatibility.
- By breaking up, you get to find someone you do have amazing sex with and a future that doesn’t ever included screaming toddlers.
But what if you think it could still work?
Warning: real talk ahead
- She ended it. She chose not to be with you. It’s out of your hands.
- You get to find someone who wants you, who chooses you, who wants nothing more than to be with you.
Find other people going through the same thing
Talk to your friends, yeah. Talk to your friend who will indulge you in your sad-sackery, and talk to your friend who will tell you to pull it together.
But especially talk to people who are going through the same thing if possible. Even if it’s a friend of a friend’s roommate, ask them to grab a drink.
People who are also going through a breakup can offer you the kind of validation, time, understanding, and vulnerability that, in my experience, can’t be matched by someone who isn’t going through it now even if they have before.
Find what works, keep doing that. Learn what doesn’t, stop doing that.
This sounds stupidly obvious. But at the end of the day, there is no one thing or set of things that works for everyone. This article could be terrible advice for you. So, the only real thing to do is figure it out yourself. You do that by being ultra aware of how ____ makes you feel moment to moment.
Is dating a good distraction or does it make you miss her more?
Does working out energize you or wipe out the little energy you had left?
Does being around a group of friends make you feel supported or isolated?
Do you need a break from work or do you need to throw yourself into your work?
SIDE NOTE: Write down or remember what your own breakup “formula” is so you can lean on it in the future.
Evaluate even the smallest things that make you happy or cause you pain, especially at first.
To the first writer,
You sound like you’re absolutely normal. You’re three weeks out and you’re dealing with the fact that she’s seeing someone else. Of course you still love her. Of course it’s killing you. I would suggest you explain to your ex that you need a break before you can be friends with her. If she’s as sweet as you say she is, I’m sure she’ll understand.
To the second writer,
First, stop being so hard on yourself.
It sounds like talking to your ex is causing more harm than good. Take some more time. Check in again in a few months.
You ask for advice to get back on the dating scene after a breakup. I don’t know if I have any advice that would be any different than what I would normally give. [Readers: do you have any post breakup dating advice?] The only thing I would say is to try it and see how it makes you feel; (see the last section). I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been hurting for six months. This isn’t necessarily unusual, but if I were you, I’d be exhausted from feeling so bad for so long. You might also want to look into talking to a therapist–like the first writer–to see if they can help you through this shitty time.
Good luck out there.