How To Deal With The End Of A Relationship

Don't make it too messy!

This article was originally published on March 15th, 2007, but given the amount of emails I receive on this very subject (boo!), it was clearly time to sass it up & repost it! Everything I said back then rings true today. I hope this isn’t an article you need, but if it is, then I send you all the love in the world. xoxox

“It’s over.” Boom. Now what?

People deal with the end of relationships in various ways. Some people go the healthy route (lots of therapy, good food, exercise & meditation, for example) & some go the unhealthy way (plenty to drink, sex with anyone who pays them a compliment, copious amounts of drugs which result in an annoying facial tic).

However you deal with it, the point is that it drives everyone a little mad. It is a harrowing time. It’s scary & heart-wrenching & makes you angry & is definitely a time for waterproof mascara. Even the tiniest thing can set you off. It’s okay to go — or simply be — a little nuts during this time. Honestly, it’s what is expected!

If you have recently given your lover the flick, or been the flickee, it’s important to allow yourself time to deal with it. You need to go easy on yourself. A simple way to do this is by getting your hands on a calendar. Work out the day you broke up on — say June 22nd. Page forward three months, to September. On the space for September 15th, write, “Get over it!” You now have three months worth of absolute wallowing. Cry, scream, watch episodes of Sex & The City & scream, “HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO AIDEN?!” Just do whatever you like. You may not need those three months, or even want them — but you have just given yourself permission to deal with the fall-out, toxic or otherwise.

The biggest break-up of my life was compounded by a transference of emotion which went awry. Terrible. (Read about transference — I think it’s pretty common, especially transference of emotion from your ex to a new paramour.) In my case, I’d left my boyfriend & totally ruined things with someone else, who had turned out to be a creep with no scruples whatsoever. I was living alone, miles from my friends & family, & I was incredibly lonely a lot of the time. I was working my ass off in a job which was kind of fun but paid badly, & one of my staff was nasty & malicious, with the ability to destroy your day with a simple comment. It was a bad time. Believe me.

How did I get through it? I listened to a lot of Fiona Apple, I smoked a lot of cigarettes (), I sat in bed every night with a bottle of Johnnie Walker & wrote stories — mostly stories about my love life, which were pretty dark, really. I went for long walks & cried myself to sleep, I didn’t eat much, & I considered moving home to live with my parents. Obviously, I was in a pretty bad emotional state, it was a very ugly time. Please don’t follow my example, it is a terrible one!

Instead, try the following…

Seriously, go easy on yourself

Just do what you want! Use this newfound freedom to actually do things you enjoy… Like watching every single teenage cheerleading movie you love, or listening to really loud apocalyptic folk music. Sleep when you want to, eat in bed, do whatever feels right. Indulge yourself! Luxuriate in what YOU want to do!

Spend time with your friends

If you, like so many other people, have slightly abandoned your friends in favour of your lover (a terrible sin), you need to make it up to them. Take them out for coffee, a meal, go to the park, go shopping, talk a lot. Apologise. If you didn’t abandon them, do the same things, but less apologising! Your friends are so essential at this time, so make good use of them & be as kind to them as possible.

If you don’t have a lot of friends, make an effort to be social & get out of the house. During the break-up I mentioned earlier, I enrolled for a creative writing course at the university near my house. We met up once a week on a Tuesday night & would workshop everything the other people had written. It was really good for me & definitely helped boost my confidence (I was the youngest person in the class & they really helped me come out of my shell). It also made me feel like I was good at something, rather than feeling like a big Love Trainwreck. You might want to try something similar, friends or no.

Try not to talk about Mickey or Griselda too much!

I know that a little ex-obsession is normal, but after a while you will begin to sound like a broken record & your friends will be sitting on their hands, trying not to maim you! After the break-up, allow yourself two weeks maximum to talk about your ex, then go cold turkey. No more! It’s not helping you, & you’re annoying everyone else. (Trust me!)

If you must think about it, get a notebook & start writing. I have filled up several notebooks this way. When I was obsessing over one particular person — & really, it was obsession — I used to write about him on the bus on the way to work, on all my lunchbreaks, on the way home, & after dinner. It is crazy, I can’t believe I had so many thoughts! But, well, I did. & getting it all down really, really helped.

Find some kind of outlet

Do something to keep your mind occupied. It’s important to have something else to focus on. Throwing yourself into a grand project is a great way to get your mind off your ex & help move you forward.

If you’re an artistic sort, then do what comes naturally — paint or write or make music to your heart’s content. It is incredibly therapeutic. If you’re not very artistic, indulge yourself in sports, languages, books, record collecting, shopping, baking, angry cross-stitch, buying an entire house worth of furniture, etc.! Do whatever feels right to you.

Look after your body

If most of the year you are a complete slob like the rest of us, this is one time when you should really look after yourself. Eat as well as you can — don’t just resort to Burger King every night. Try & eat lots of fruit & vegetables, drink plenty of water (especially if your beautiful eyes insist on spilling so much of it!), sleep as much as you feel you need to & get a bit of exercise. You don’t have to go & make a mess of yourself in a gym somewhere, just go for a good walk every so often or ride your bike to the sea or something.

Again, after my last break-up, I would walk to & from work (it was about 45 minutes in each direction). I would take my camera with me & listen to my mp3 player & think. It was a really great experience & use of my time, even though I was miserable. I actually sometimes miss that walk.

Don’t do the “friends” thing

If your ex wants to stay friends, say no. If you want to be their friend, hold yourself back. TRUST ME when I say that it NEVER WORKS. It might work for a few months, but then the poop will hit the fan & you do not want to be around for it! Seriously!

If you are meant to be friends, it will happen again once you’ve both dealt with the demise of the relationship, but don’t force it. Especially while one or both of you are angry/grieving/scared/lonely/on the prowl. You don’t want to hear about their new lover, right? Ouch. Delete their phone number & email address, it will be good for you. Feels good.

Don’t sleep with them again!

I know, it’s very easy to do. But just don’t. It only complicates things further.

Don’t get back together without a lot of consideration

The same problems you used to have are probably still there. Why would it be any better this time? Try to engage the logical side of your brain as much as possible & if you’re not sure, WAIT!

Indulge in a little radical self lovin’!

Go to the movies alone & eat a jumbo box of popcorn, get a massage, have a manicure, clean the house (it will make you feel great), buy a good pair of shoes. Scream if you want to. Buy new sex toys. Punch pillows if you’re really angry (I never found that very satisfying but for some people it works a treat).

Don’t jump into another relationship or sleep with anyone…

No matter how perfect they seem! You’re probably not ready & it might take you a while, so give yourself some time. I know it’s tempting to go out seeking positive attention & compliments, but if you can practise a little self-control, it will turn out much better.

Just leaping into bed with someone new — before you’ve dealt with your emotions about your last lover — will end in a terrible mess, & it won’t take long for your new lover to realise they are a rebound. I think everyone has done this at least once before, but let’s learn from our mistakes & not do it again, huh?!

Read uplifting books & watch movies which make you happy

Here are some suggestions if you don’t know where to start — they run the gamut from funny to insightful to bizarre & inspiring.

Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block. Fear Of Flying by Erica Jong. What’s Not To Love? by Jonathan Ames. The Unbearable Lightness Of Being by Milan Kundera. The Princess Bride by William Goldman. T.A.Z. by Hakim Bey (available online). Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami. Pronoia Is The Antidote For Paranoia by Rob Brezsny. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. I also heartily recommend anything by John Steinbeck, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Roald Dahl, Franz Kafka or Charles Bukowski.

As for movies, my taste is questionable at best — I watch New York Minute often. Yes, the movie featuring Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen. I love it & I am not ashamed! However, I did write a cute little piece called 33 Movies To Watch When You’re Sad, Glum Or Bummed Out!

Really though, in winter, there is nothing better than going home with a huge stack of books from the library on bizarre subjects. Yesterday at the library I saw something like, “A Complete Illustrated History of Cannibalism”, which is about the best thing I can think of!

Think about yourself

What do you want for yourself? What do you want to do in the future? Did your boyfriend hate Europe which prevented you from travelling there? Well guess what baby, you can do it now! Take time to work out who you are again. Sometimes in a relationship it is hard to know where the couple ends & you begin. I evolve so much whenever I break up with someone (!), & completely for the better.

Maybe you’re wondering how my most horrible break-up turned out. Well, within a year, I had travelled to four countries, moved internationally, started my own business, gone camping in a desert full of crazy people (also called Burning Man), obtained another half-sleeve tattoo, dyed my hair pink, removed all my piercings, started wearing COLOUR & embracing it, shaken off depression & an eating disorder, stopped biting my nails, & met someone new (who I was with for almost two years). Lots of other stuff happened too, like I had my first chocolate & peanut butter milkshake, oh my god, so good!… but they’re not major things!

Life goes on & it is amazing regardless of whether you have a lover or not!

Being single is fantastic. It can be lonely sometimes, but you will grow to enjoy your own company & really embrace life again soon, I promise. Everybody gets through it, even though I know right now it might seem like the most devastatingly hideous thing ever.

Please be good to yourself. Lots of kisses, let me know how you’re getting on & if there’s anything I can do to help you. Chin up, cutie!