Let me preface this by saying that I know how you feel at this very moment. If you are the dumpee, right now, you are in a free-fall from the edge of a cliff. No matter how long you teeter, the point comes when you finally slip. You cling furiously to the side, your fingers digging into the hard rock, and shut your eyes. You instinctively reach out an arm and wait for your person to pull you up to safety, but that familiar touch never comes. Finally, you open your eyes again, staring helplessly into the face of the person you love. Begging with your eyes, you pray this contact is enough to bring them back to you. So many beautiful memories reside in those eyes. But now, they are blank—lifeless. At this moment, you know what’s ahead. Some people will quickly pry your stiff fingers from their grip and let you fall. However, the weak ones walk away, leaving you to let go. From this point on, your person is just a person, existing only in distant memories. Once your free fall is over, you will hurt–badly. However, the day you pick yourself up off the ground, your road to recovery begins. It won’t be easy, but I assure you, one day you’ll wake up and be grateful for who you are—someone who prevailed after devastation. After all, our most traumatic moments are often our most transformative.
The thing about falling and staying in love with someone is that you learn how to make excuses for their behavior. If they lash out at you suddenly, you have enough knowledge of them as a person to construct a reason why–validating their actions undeservedly. Oh, they were only rude today because their parents got divorced when they were six, or they have trouble communicating because once they got lost in Walmart, or they’re always with their ex-girlfriend because their cousin’s dog ran away last year and they need their support system right now. This is what happens when you love someone; you validate their behavior, preserving their spotless image in your mind. Post-breakup, you cannot, under any circumstances, make excuses for their actions. Use your untempered fury as fuel in your journey of getting over them.
Right now, I want you to gather every piece of them from your memory and heart and shove it all into a box in your mind. Got it? Now, take your favorite Sharpie and label this box “HATE” in big, thick letters. The purpose of this sophisticated and well-researched exercise is the simplification of your emotions. You must go from love to hate, and eventually, from hate to indifference. There’s merely a fine line between love and hate, and crossing it becomes easy after a breakup; the person becomes some giant, vengeful, yet thoughtless monster, but we all have our moments of weakness. Maybe the beast had a bad day at work or stubbed his toe. No. Do not validate them. The monster is a monster, and we shall treat them as such.
Another advantage of the mental box is the prevention of rumination and self-blame. After a breakup with someone you loved, reliving your relationship and blaming yourself for its end comes easy. The monster is not there; it cannot accept blame nor elucidate its actions. So, in searching for explanations, your thoughts spiral into things like maybe I wasn’t pretty enough or perhaps I was too clingy. Although tempting, this rationale is devastating to your journey. The breakup process is like training a dog; always rehearse good behavior. When one of these thoughts arises, shut it down immediately. Don’t let your mind wander into any self-deprecating territory. And while the box may not seem like the most empathetic thing, it is no longer about them. Thanks to your box, the only emotion you feel towards the monster is a hopefully dwindling hatred.
Once all the memories safely reside in the box, swiftly move on to their only other source of existence: social media. It is imperative to your mental health that you remember your ex knows you see what they post. My recommendation is that you block them immediately on every conceivable platform: Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, naturally, but also Spotify and Venmo. You’ll be surprised by the amount of pain and anxiety stalking your ex’s Venmo transaction history can cause. If this blocking feels too sudden and harsh at first–that’s okay. You can always remove them gradually. However, if you do stumble across a particularly happy Instagram post from them, remind yourself that social media isn’t real life. They are acting as if everything is okay, to prove to themselves and you that things are actually okay. Don’t fall for it. The monster is hurting as well.
My last concrete piece of breakup advice is the creation of distance. When you date someone, they become a part of your routine. When they are no longer there, this absence can be a source of wallowing and sadness. I recommend forcing distance between your time with them and now, by transforming your daily routine–so their absence is no longer the sole distinction between past and present. Make some change that will define your time now. A classic example of this is breakup hair. Traditionally, right after a breakup, a person might make a drastic change to their hair, giving them a sense of control over their lives. And although this is valid, I believe its more effective result is creating distance. So, dye your hair red or give yourself bangs (bonus points if your new look is something they hated), but whatever it is, make sure you’re truly pleased with it. If you’re apprehensive about your impulsive decision-making skills, you have other options. Maybe buy a new perfume and use its scent as a marker of this glorious and dynamic time in your life. Or, paint a room in your house or get a new shower curtain. I believe the most beneficial change you can make in your life is exercise. Not only does working out improve you physically, but it releases happy chemicals like dopamine and endorphins. Whatever it is, your change should create a healthy distance between your time with them, and your time now.
Although following my steps above will help you triumph against heartbreak, the most crucial step is giving yourself time. Healing is not linear. You might have two months of tangible progress, and then one day, you wake up and it hurts just as much as the second you hit the ground. But I promise, there will come a time where you pass by their favorite restaurant, hear their favorite song, watch a show they loved, see their favorite sports team win, or even smell their perfume on another body, and you will not think of them. They will be merely a person of your past. Once your initial hatred has dissipated into a sweet indifference, I implore you: think fondly upon your memories with them. Learn from your mistakes. Relationships put us in positions we would never be otherwise; they teach us invaluable lessons about ourselves: how we love, how we receive love, what makes us cry, what makes us angry, what brings us joy, and everything that we value in a person.
Lastly, I will leave you with my theory for life: I call it The Theory of Balance. In each relationship of our lives, we will have good moments and bad. Take your sibling, for example; growing up they might have been your enemy. You constantly bickered and felt a dull annoyance around them. After you both mature, your sibling becomes a sort of friend as you go your separate ways. The concentration of dreadful fighting while growing up and the longer-term friendliness found in adulthood always evens out–The Theory of Balance. The same goes for a romantic relationship. When you get incredibly close to someone in a short amount of time, it breeds a beautiful but fleeting connection. The intensity of the love-fueled stupor of the relationship must balance out with an agonizing breakup. However, remember what your journey through the pain taught you, as well as the love. I hope after you slowly crawl towards a peaceful indifference that you will agree with the old cliché, “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Eventually, a new person will waltz into your life; when you reach the beginning of the hike with them, hand in hand, do not fear the familiar cliff. Because now you know, it’s all worth it—the pain, the love, and everything in between.