Eventually something you love is going to be taken away. And then you will fall to the floor crying. And then, however much later, it is finally happening to you: you’re falling to the floor crying thinking, “I am falling to the floor crying,” but there’s an element of the ridiculous to it — you knew it would happen and, even worse, while you’re on the floor crying you look at the place where the wall meets the floor and you realize you didn’t paint it very well. ~ Richard Silken
I do my best to maintain a healthy sense of irony about everything. Including death, taxes and breakups.
But breakups are terrible and soul-searing; I’ve been observing some breakups lately that make me feel gun-shy about ever wanting to be involved with another human being. Also, I’m never sure what to tell my friends in these situations. I find the above quotation to be a totally awesome description of how I feel after a nasty breakup, but it doesn’t contain much actionable advice.
There are two resources I’ve found that had the best breakup advice ever. One was aimed at women, and one was aimed at men, but both of them work for people of all genders. The one aimed at men is shorter, and I’ll reprint the whole thing in a moment here. The one aimed at women is more hilarious.
Here are those resources, plus some advice from me. And also, if you’re going through a breakup, then you have my sympathies. Virtual hugs, my friend.
The lady breakup guide is the book Exorcising Your Ex by Elizabeth Kuster. Here is one of my favorite excerpts. This isn’t one of the advice parts of the book; it’s solely funny. Even if you have broken up lately, it will hopefully make you laugh:
… This seems as good a place as any to share with you the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) story about post-breakup stuff that I’ve ever heard. It came from a woman who initially professed not to have any post-breakup stuff. Naturally, I was skeptical. The ensuing conversation went something like this:
Me: You are sure you have absolutely nothing around the house that reminds you of your ex? Nothing he gave you?
Her: He didn’t give me anything.
Me: No cards? No letters? No pictures?
Her: No. Well … there is one thing, but I’m not sure it counts as “stuff” the way you mean it.
Me: Aha! I knew it! What is it?
Her: Well … I have my ex.
Her: His ashes.
Her: In an urn. On my mantel.
Turns out that she once dated a guy for two weeks. A few months after she broke up with him, he died in a motorcycle accident. She had to handle all the funeral arrangements, since his brother — his only living relative — lived thousands of miles away and couldn’t deal. So she had her ex cremated, as he’d wished, and then she called his brother to find out when he was coming to get the ashes.
“I can’t right now, because I’m in the process of moving,” he told her. “Can you hold on to them for a while? I’ll call you as soon as I’ve settled in.”
“That was two years ago,” she says. “I still have the ashes, because I don’t know what to do with them. It’s really getting me down. I haven’t dated anyone since this happened, and sometimes I think that the spirit of my ex is preventing me from getting dates.”
… It would take a very sick person to find anything funny about this story, so let me assure you that I am that person. … I suddenly remembered an article I’d clipped from the “Dallas Morning News”. The title of the article was, “Can’t Part with Fido? Freeze-Dry Him”, and it was about a Colorado Springs company that freeze-dries dead animals into “lifelike” poses so that their owners can keep them for all eternity. … I, of course, immediately wondered if it would work on people.
I made a quick call to the company (Timberline Taxidermy, in case you’re interested), and was informed that, theoretically, it would. All they’d have to do is ice your ex’s corpse until it reached 180 degrees below zero, and then put it into a vacuum chamber and suck all the moisture out of it.
The process is expensive — freeze-drying a 9-pound pet costs $550, so freeze-drying a 200-pound ex would cost about $110,000 — but think about the possibilities. You could have them pose your ex so it looks like he’s begging for forgiveness. You could have them pose him in a sitting position, put him on the couch and tell your parents you’re married. (They’ll be none the wiser, especially if you insert a remote into his lifeless hands.) (pages 118 – 121)
I frequently quote Ms. Kuster’s line where she says “It would take a very sick person to find anything funny about this, so let me assure you that I am that person.” It’s kind of my favorite quotable quote ever.
Aaaand now for the dude breakup guide. It originated on the forums at the classic Internet dude site, SomethingAwful.com. The user who originally wrote this guide called himself Lushka16. Lushka16’s advice has been reposted across various nerd sites, so I might as well mirror it here.
Here it is:
Being dumped sucks.
It is rarely a good experience — no matter how long you’ve been going out, what the nature of your relationship was, or how it ended. The very idea that someone does not want to spend his/her time with you is a pretty big blow to the ol’ ego.
I have been dumped on many occasions for many reasons, for over nearly a decade. I understand that there are many who have never had a girlfriend, many on their first relationship, and many more with little experience with being dumped. Take my advice as you will, but I can guarantee you that when the day comes (and it probably will), you will be better prepared for it, and hopefully won’t end up being a huge whiny turd.
I give to you:
Lushka16’s guide to being dumped, and taking it like a champ
Rule 1: The relationship is over.
This is the most important rule of all. You need to go back to it at least once every minute in the aftermath of being dumped. It is the most difficult part, yet it is also the foundation for healing. The day you come to terms with it, is the day things start getting better.
In my experience, there are three basic parts to being dumped: Premonition, Dump, After-Dump.
I have been dumped, and have dumped, lots and lots of times. There has never been an instance where it is random. For every single relationship, from shortest (2 days) to longest (3 years), there has been a period of time where the breakup is planned. For the person about to get dumped, this period is called premonition. I have always felt a breakup coming, and it is physically a worse feeling than the breakup itself. There is little communication between the couple, an intense feeling of uncertainty, and a strong desire to make it better. The longer the premonition stage lasts, the more apt you are be stupid.
Things to avoid:
Do not go beyond the bounds of your relationship. Don’t start saying, “I love you” if that’s not what you normally do.
Resist the urge to sulk. Do whatever it takes to get your mind away from it. Get the fuck out of bed, go to the gym, go for a walk, find some friends, smoke some pot, do whatever it is that you do to de-stress.
Do not start screwing around. The relationship isn’t over yet. You might get yourself into some serious trouble.
Don’t beat her to the punch, unless you had plans already.
Things to do:
Hey, here’s an idea — talk to her. “Hey, what’s going on with us, things have been kind of weird lately.” Sure, it might lead to breaking up faster, but that’s the point. If it’s going to happen, might as well not torture yourself.
Try working things out. I know, it’s easier to post a complaining thread on the SomethingAwful forums than to talk logically to another human being, but take it from me — it can work. If you really care for the relationship, and she’s not cheating on your sorry ass, there’s room for work. I’ve found that the best times I’ve had were after we’ve worked things out.
REMEMBER RULE 1
Get ready to go through the 5 stages of loss:
It might not happen in that order, it might not involve all the stages. Chances are you’ll experience at least 3 of them, the most popular being bargaining, anger and despair.
Denial — Try your best to avoid it. Denial doesn’t help resolve anything, makes the whole process very difficult. Remember Rule 1.
Bargaining — Might as well give it a shot. There might be some things that you can reasonably change in the relationship. Give it up after a good shot at it. If it’s over, it’s over.
Anger — Yup, you’re pissed. Get over it.
Despair — This is where the crying begins. Now is the time to not be pathetic. There’s nothing wrong with crying, but don’t make her feel bad for you or pity you. She’ll only be pissed. There is little sympathy when it comes to being dumped, so don’t play that card. More on this in the post-dump section.
Acceptance — Time to let go, man. Rule 1.
Here’s a quick scenario as to how the whole thing might look:
Girl: Things aren’t working out.
Boy: Are you sure? I thought things were fine.
Boy: Well, is there anything we can do to make things better?
Girl: I just don’t want to be in a relationship anymore.
Boy: But you were the one who wanted to be in one in the first place! Who put you up to this? Is there another guy? I’ll fucking kill him.
Girl: [insert despair]
Boy: [insert despair]
Boy: Well, if this is what you want, and if this feels right, and there’s nothing I can do or say to change it, then we might as well let it happen.
See? That wasn’t so bad. This is a really good time for some Q and A, especially since you’ll want to know some of the answers in the post-dump phase.
Here is a short list of questions you should ask now, while you’re still communicating:
Is there anything I can do to make this relationship work?
Is there anything I could have done to make things better?
What made you decide to do this?
Is there someone else involved?
Is there anything I can do to avoid pissing off future girlfriends?
When did things start to suck? What caused it?
This is a very short list, and you should tailor it to your needs in the premonition phase. If you can get all your important questions answered, it will make life easier in the next phase. Also, be sure to indicate that you don’t want to see/talk to her for a while. This is key. More on this in the next section.
Nearly a decade has taught me one important thing: This is a very long phase. You need to accept this.
Ok, you just got dumped. Let the emotion out the best way you know. Cry if you have to, beat the shit out of something, go for a run, post a SomethingAwful thread (maybe go for a run first). Be a man, and find someone to give you a hug. Talk it through with your close friends (not hers). Set some kind of time limit. Say to yourself, “I’m going to be a pile of emotional shit for the next hour, then I’m going to start picking myself up.” Stick to it, if you’re a sulking mess for too long no one is going to want to hear about it.
Inform your friends. People ought to know to be careful around you. If they care about you, they’ll help you cope. Put away blatant reminders of her – her pictures, her underwear, her lifesize blowup doll etc.
Go out, live life normally. Do not do anything rash. Joining the Army doesn’t help, running away doesn’t help, you won’t get her back if you get into a car accident/attempt suicide, you certainly won’t get her back if you vandalize her property. Don’t fuck her sister/friends, don’t go beating up some kid who you think might be her new boyfriend. Use Rule 1 folks, it really puts things into perspective.
Just go on with your life. That’s the only thing you can do to really take it like a champ. There’s a huge list of things you shouldn’t do, because they’re very annoying, and you’ll feel stupid about them later.
Spend lots and lots of time away from her. This is actually a strange situation. Say you spend 4 months away from her and are feeling great. The next time you see her, it’ll take you back about 2 months. Then you’ll recover, and the next time you see her it’ll take you back 1 month. Then 2 weeks. Then 1 week. See what I’m getting at? Recovery is a long process, and there will be setbacks. Don’t think it’ll be peaches and cream the first time you see her with another guy. Try to avoid her socially until you’re certain things are ok. This may take months or years. Rarely weeks. This is why avoidance is key. You don’t need to go out of your way to avoid her, just let her know that for a while, you don’t want to see her.
Don’t play the pity card. Yes, you’re upset and hurt and heartbroken. Tell it to your friends, not to her or her friends. Avoid putting up depressing away messages, profiles, blogs, or anything of the like. Understandably, you want her to know how much she hurt you. It does you little good to do that, remember Rule 1? Don’t go to the same party as her and sit in the corner looking all depressed. She’s not going to want you back, you pansy.
Don’t go visit her. First of all, it will hurt like a mofo. Secondly, girls are evil and will do shitty things like hug you, cuddle with you, tell you how much they miss you, or hit you with pepper spray. Rule 1 — it still applies. She doesn’t want to be with you, just wants to make herself feel a little better. If she wants to come back to you, she’ll call you up and say so. Being around her is most likely going to annoy her and make you feel really shitty. Girls have also been known to employ the use of a guy named Todd, who is only there to make you turn emo.
Don’t start looking for answers. If you’re smart, you already asked them when you two were breaking up. Don’t call / IM / email / fox her friends. Yes, they’re close to her and they know what’s going on. Chances are, they won’t tell you what you need to know. They’re her friends first, yours second. I’m letting you know now — if you do take this path, you will find out nothing of any use. Do you really want to know if she’s seeing someone else? Do you really want to know if she is in bed crying because she misses you? Back to Rule 1. She’s going through her own healing process, she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you. Let it go, man. Her friends will report their findings to her, and she’ll hate you for snooping.
On a similar note — Don’t fucking stalk her! E-stalking counts.
The above is the basic foundation for taking a dumping like a champ. There are many little nuances that I can’t remember and didn’t cover, so be prepared for anything. Of course, I welcome and urge the advice and experience of other goons. The only thing I can guarantee is that life will get better and you’ll move on.
For what it’s worth, I got dumped and quite heartbroken 2 days ago, but I’m doing all right, thanks for asking.
Fake edit: It’s almost certain that anyone who has read this and is going to get dumped for their first time will not follow my advice.
It’s me again, Clarisse. Those two guides are my two preferred go-to resources when I’ve been dumped. (Also when I’ve dumped someone! Which is not easy either.)
Note: I, Clarisse Thorn, have personally had okay relationships where I got back together with a partner after we broke up. So it is true that sometimes, you can get back together with an ex. Sometimes, re-dating an ex is not the end of the world. But in general, I still think it’s good advice to take some healing time apart after a breakup. Most breakups are for good. Plus … if your relationship is super solid, then it will still be super solid even if you take a few months without talking to your ex.
If you choose to take time to yourself after breaking up with a partner, then the next question is: When do I talk to my ex again? My answer: I talk to my ex again when I feel emotionally safe doing so.
Here is the way I measure the emotional safety of seeing my ex. It requires being really honest with myself, and sometimes that’s really hard … so a lot of the time I prefer to just avoid him instead of asking these hard questions. A lot of the time, I just avoid my ex until I feel mostly indifferent to him. Friendly, but indifferent. Then, if we’re going to be friends again, we can develop a friendship from there.
But if I think I’m not indifferent to my ex, and I still want to see him … then here are the questions I ask myself before I see him:
Question 1: Do I feel even the tiniest smidgen of desire to have sex with him? Or even just make out?
If the answer is no, then it’s probably okay to go see my ex. If the answer is yes, then I should move on to the next question.
Question 2: Will I feel okay if I have sex with him? Or make out, or whatever?
If no, then avoid him. If yes, move to next question.
Question 3: Will I feel okay if I don’t have sex with him?
If no, then avoid him. If yes, move to next question.
Question 4: If I have sex with him, and then the next morning he says something like “We’re not getting back together,” then am I going to be okay with that? Or am I going to feel like I’ve been punched in the throat? Am I going to feel used?
If I won’t feel okay with it, then avoid him. If I will feel okay with it, then move on to the next question.
Question 5: If I have sex with him, and then he seems to want to date me again, then will I be okay with that? If he wants to get back together with me, and I don’t want to date him, then do I feel capable of telling him that honestly? And … if we get back together for realsies, then what is my plan for dealing with the relationship … especially the factors that made us break up in the first place?
The bottom line is that if I don’t think I can be honest, careful, and kind with my ex, then I avoid him. And if I think he’s gonna break my heart all over again, then I avoid him.
Or at least I do my best.