So now that you’ve gone through the worst part of the process (if the breakup just happened recently and you feel horrible pretty damn often, please refer to Part 1), it’s time to get ready for full recovery. YAY!
This phase is more about repositioning your thinking. There are still plenty of physical actions you can take, but mostly I think it’s important to try different perspectives.
Do NOT doubt that the breakup was for the best. Put in an oversimplied way, it happened for only 3 possible situations:
(1) You broke up with him/her, so you know the reason why OR (2) She/he broke up with you, so you two are just not compatible OR (3) Both of you agreed to break up together for a reason
In all likely circumstances, the decision to break up is always executed with a rationale. I’m a big fan of “listening to your heart” usually but in this case, stick to this logic because otherwise, your heart will just suffer more for no reason.
Believe that what is meant to happen always do no matter what. It does not make a difference if there was more time, or if more efforts were made, etc. As with anything else in life, if you cannot change something, accept it as a non-issue and move on. It is not your fault (well, unless you did something objectively horrible like cheated on someone, but then again I doubt someone unfaithful would read this).
Do NOT dwell in the past. Every time you miss your ex, try this trick: stop remembering the positives and recount every negative quality about that person and every bad action he or she has ever done. If you’re short on time, focus on the few that piss you off the most. Seriously! And when you get lonely and start reminiscing about your ex, recognize that you most likely just miss having a boy/girlfriend and being in a relationship in general; you don’t miss your ex as a person in particular. SPECIAL ADDED NOTE: One of my best friends Ashley pointed out that this part sounds really harsh, so I wanted to clarify: I’m not telling you to hate your ex (but if you want to, go ahead). Rather it’s important to realistically examine both the negative side and the positive side of things. Usually when you can recall what was good about your last relationship and ex without wanting to get back to that, that’s a sign that you have truly moved on.
Disassociate everything from him and what happened. Chances are that a lot of things will remind you of him, but just try to see them in a different light: If you pass by a place that you used to go with your ex, instead of I wish I can go there again with ______, how about I really like that place and I will go there soon with somebody else? As for objects, in this day and age, there are thousands of duplicates of pretty much anything; therefore, items are not unique and should not be connected with any undesirable memories. Use that same logic for everything: activities, people, etc.
Overall, look ahead and think forward, but stay in the present and do NOT fantasize about the future. Consider making a list of attributes you would like your next boyfriend or relationship to have. Do not hope for your ex to come back crawling for your forgiveness. Nor is anyone suddenly going to change for the better and ask you to get back together. You might argue that this could totally happen. My counterargument is that if it’s going to happen, then it will regardless of what you’re thinking in your head. By holding on to someone old, you’re cockblocking yourself from all other new and better candidates.
Love and appreciate yourself. If you miss being affectionate to somebody, why not let it be yourself? You can be both the giver and the receiver (oh god, that is what she said! Sorry, I couldn’t resist). I don’t like to say that everyone has a worth or value because that sounds like objectifying people, but deep down, you do know the caliber of your character and you recognize all your merits, so be grateful for yourself and be proud of yourself. Very cliché, but you really are your own best friend.
Do NOT think of the relationship as a failure. No matter the details, it was a valuable lesson and learning experience. I remember there was a post on the Male Minded Tumblr some months ago that said something like “Having good judgment comes from making decisions based on bad judgment earlier,” and I cannot agree more. The whole point of going out with people is to discover what you like and want, both in a person and in relationships. It’s actually good that you make mistakes; the significance is that you know now to not repeat the same error.
Remember that there are other things important in life, and you have plenty of other goals to achieve. Your career. Your academics. Your family. Your friends. Your health. Just to name a few.
On that note, please enjoy being single. Now that you have more time, energy, and most likely money than when you were dating somebody, spend that on yourself. Get back into an old hobby or get a new one. Volunteering is usually free, BTW, and exercising has the extra benefit of making you look even hotter- Just sayin’. Bonus: Perhaps you were avoiding certain activities because your ex didn’t like them, and because you were an awesome girlfriend, duh. Well, now feel free to do them whenever you want. For instance, maybe your ex is vegetarian and you always considered that when you went out to a restaurant together. By all means, chow down a hamburger if you want.
Be aware of the fact that you are only single and young for a short period of your entire lifespan. I’m not advocating any wild behavior here. I mean that if you aim to get married eventually, the average American life expectancy is still 78 years. Do the math and you’ll realize that you have the rest of your life to be partnered up with somebody so why not relish in this temporary situation?
If you feel like you’re just so tired of dating, like Charlotte from “Sex and the City” who says, “I’ve been dating since I was fifteen…Where is he?” (IMDB page here), please allow me to quote my friend who has been happily engaged for quite some time:
I can tell you that once you do find your soulmate, you will rarely be alone. And trust me, you’ll have moments when you want the single life again. I know it’s hard to think of being single as a gift, but it truly is: You don’t have another person to factor into everything; you’re more or less free to do exactly what you want whenever.
Do NOT give up hope and do NOT become cynical. Your breakup might have been horrible due to XYZ, and I’m really sorry about that, but realize that it was one single incident, and or just one individual. To write off all the future possibilities or the rest of entire population on earth is simply illogical. Optimism requires true inner strengths because that means you’re willing to try. And without taking chances, you will never know the outcome, let along ever gain anything good.
Try to consciously hang out with certain types of people.
- Older folks: This may sound weird or even offend older people but hear me out. In Chinese culture, older people are supposed to be automatically considered wiser and respected simply because they have experienced life more. Sometimes, that is absolutely true. If you know someone in a more advanced stage in their life with whom you can talk about personal issues, then seek them out. Maybe listening to a divorced mother of three talk about trying to date again will make you realize how easy you have it. Here is a paraphrase of what my former internship boss Dom told me:
Life is full of ups and downs, and you aren’t allowed to skip any of it or fast forward; because otherwise you won’t learn much or appreciate things…You will meet someone who’s at the appropriate place in their life when you’re in the right place in life, too. It’s just timing.
- Other strong ladies: I think that’s pretty self-explanatory.
- Your favorite friends who are great couples: You might get slightly bitter or jealous, but notice how well they treat each other and how happy they are together. You deserve that and nothing less.
With everything said, please take all the time you need to completely recover before you seriously date something else again. Traditional women’s magazines at least got this one right: jumping into another relationship before you’re fully ready is terrible for everyone involved. It’s unfair for the other unaware person, and you’ll feel like a total jerk. Be cautious because you have to be over your ex AND over what happened.
Keep in mind that the road to thorough recovery is not always linear. Borrowing the words from my friend Bryan who’s in a doctoral program to be a psychologist: “Sometimes you have to take two steps back before you can move forward again.” So if you have been doing very well for a long time but suddenly have a relapse, don’t worry about it. Consider it as getting the last bit of awfulness out.
We all go through breakups sooner or later. It’s a universal human phenomenon, but we feel so alone when experiencing it. In a strange way, realizing that you’re not special in undergoing this occurrence liberates you since you know many others have gone down this path before you. Pretty sure President Obama and Lady Gaga both have done it many a times. And yes, I’m sticking to my choice of examples.