“We need to talk.”
Those four little words are enough to tie my stomach up in knots and knock the wind out of me.
They are the beginning of the end.
No one likes endings, especially in a relationship they’re still invested in.
Here at Ex Boyfriend Recovery we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the “recovery” of a relationship, what I call the “Get Him Back” approach.
However, we have also briefly talked about the personal recovery we go through once we resign ourselves to getting over the relationship.
Today, that is what we will be focusing on. As we have discussed before, there are many different chemicals involved with being in love. One of these is Oxytocin, commonly referred to as the cuddle-hormone.
Withdrawal from it is comparable to withdrawals from a serious drug addiction.
Our relationships are the major building blocks of who we are as a person. When a relationship ends our entire self has to be “rewritten.”
In some cases, it’s even comparable to major life disasters, such as having a home burn to the ground or having to relearn to walk after breaking a bone.
If you’ve ever broken a bone, you know that they tell you to stay off of it for a while to let the bone heal and become strong again.
The same principle applies here when it comes to getting over an ex.
The thing is that a lot of my girl friends do the absolute worst thing, I think, that you can do after a break up. They jump right back into the dating pool. They don’t give themselves time to heal and become stronger after reflecting on what they’ve learned from the situation.
If you are separated from someone you still love, I’m sorry that you are going through this. But know, you are not going to go through this alone.
We’ll get through it together.
As a matter of fact, I have several people tell me after the fact, and I can say this for myself in some instances, that choosing to get over a relationship was literally the BEST thing I could do.
Losing that piece of myself gave me an opportunity to rebuild myself into someone stronger that I was proud to be. Some of the greatest friendships I have are with the people that supported me during that time.
There is a process though.
Just like with anything it won’t be easy, but I’m asking you to stay positive knowing that you will be happier and better for it by the end.
There is a right way and a wrong way.
I’ll walk you through the things you should and shouldn’t do. But before you get to a point where you’re ready to let a relationship go for good there are a few things that have to happen.
It is normal to go through certain stages after a break up that are similar, if not identical, to the stages of grief.
If you are unfamiliar, those stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Denial: “This isn’t really happening. He’ll change his mind. We’ll get back together soon.”
Anger: “That jerk doesn’t know what he’s missing. How dare he. He’ll never find someone as good as me.”
Bargaining: “I’d do anything to get him back ANYTHING!”
Depression: “Why hasn’t he com running back yet?! I’m worthless!”
Acceptance: “You know what, good riddance. He was no good for me anyways.”
You may find yourself dealing with some, if not all, of these after a breakup.
I need you to be fed up. With all of it and at a stage of acceptance before we go any further.
I mean you can keep reading, but that is my suggestion before you jump in to moving forward.
Because you can’t build a house on a faulty foundation.
I need you to be sure before you go any further that you are ready and prepared to completely cut him out of your life if necessary and I need you to be prepared to be COMPLETELY honest with yourself.
It All Starts with a Decision
The decision to leave a relationship behind, even if you still love him, is very similar to a drug addict deciding to get clean and it can be just as difficult.
You still love him, but you realize that your efforts to get away are completely in vain.
There are some definite Do’s and Dont’s that go along with this “Getting Over It” process.
First of all, once you decide to leave a relationship in the dust, despite knowing that you still love him, you have to leave the wallowing in self-pity behind as well.
DON’T numb the pain away.
It’s tempting to find a little consolation at the bottom of a glass. But I will tell you right now, if you look to find comfort in drugs or alcohol, you will wind up in the same if not a worse place than you’re in right now when it all is said and done and despite popular belief the pain is still there when you sober up. Hiding from the pain does not make it go away, it only postpones it and makes it hit harder.
DON’T Bury the pain with a bunch of carbs and junk food. These will not make you feel better.
Instead focus on learning to cook healthy meals that with make you feel healthy and give you energy.
DON’T dwell on sad music or sappy romance movies.
This is just perpetuating the sadness that you feel currently. Instead, listen to empowering, music, podcasts and lectures.
DO spend time with supportive friends, not people who keep you in a state of upset after the break up.
Building A Suitable Environment
Now, look at these four do’s and dont’s that I’ve laid out above.
What do they all have in common?
Well, each one of them is based upon building an environment conducive to moving forward with your life. You can’t do that if you are stuck in the past.
No Contact Vs. Cutting Contact
For the sake of differentiating this from “No Contact” I called this Cutting Contact.
Well, while it is essentially the same idea, it has a different goal in mind. You aren’t cutting him out with the intention of making him miss you.
You are cutting him out with the intention of giving yourself the time and space to heal, no matter how long it takes.
There are two ways this one could go and it all depends on what your end game is. You can cut contact with the intent of moving past him completely OR you can cut contact with the intent of eventually being friends with your ex.
Either way you are going to address it the same way. Cut contact with him completely.
No late night meme texts.
No venting about your boss.
No “remember when… I miss you.” Conversations starters.
No. Contact. Period.
Look, your head is going to drift to him every single chance it gets. You want to remove as many things as you can from your life that will trigger any memory from him.
Let me give you a few examples,
“Oh look at that funny meme he posted.”
“Oh that card he got me for my birthday. I should see what he’s up to.”
“Maybe he’ll text.”
These are all thoughts you SHOULDN’T BE HAVING if you are “cutting contact” with him.
If you’ve done this correctly you will have removed even the possibility that he might reach out to you and deter you from your clearly marked path.
HOWEVER, if your intent is to eventually be friends with your ex, I suggest letting them know NICELY that you will be taking some time to yourself for a bit and ask that they kindly respect that.
That way he won’t get his feelings hurt when you block his texts, calls and unfollow him on Facebook (if you feel you need to do that.)
I say unfollow, not unfriend.
You just don’t want his stuff showing up in your feed during this time.
However, unless you have incredible power over your emotions, I suggest just deleting his number, unfriending him, and getting rid of anything else that will tempt you to check in on what he’s doing. Removing him completely is going to make success in moving on much more likely.
Let me put it this way, when riding a bike downhill, would you be more likely to ride down this path?
Or this Path?
You’d choose the clear path, right?!
You wouldn’t choose the one that is sure to make for a nasty wipe-out and probably a whole world of hurt.
Create a clear path for yourself and avoid additional pain.
What I’m saying is, DO remove the temptation to keep tabs on him. No Facebook, texting, Instagram, or Snapchat.
DON’T find solace in sad songs and romantic fairy-tale ending movies. They’ll only make you sadder. Instead find music and movies that make you feel powerful and better about yourself.
DO put away anything that reminds you of the time you spent together. When I do this I just gather it all in a box and shove it in a closet or give it to a good friend to hold onto if I know I’ll be tempted to dig it out again.
Yes. Even his favorite sweatshirt that you may have “forgotten” to return when you went your separate ways.
DO put your confidence in a few close friends. I say few, because you don’t need to lay your emotions out for just anyone. That’s how things get back to your ex and that’s just a way to cause issues that will keep the two of you in communication.
Remember, we’re cutting him out.
This means DON’T choose mutual friends to confide in. It will make the whole process much easier. I will say that without the support of my friends, there are a couple of breakups in college that could’ve knocked me down and kept me down for good.
During this time, when talking to your friends about the relationship, DON’T talk bad about your ex. Fight the urge to go on about how terrible he is to your friends though.
They will join in bad mouthing him and you’ll automatically want to defend him, rekindling those feelings again.
DON’T give up the things that make you happy just because they make you think of him. In fact, I encourage you to do them more!
Because you’ll overwrite those memories with new ones. And as much as I’m sure you cherish some of your good memories, there are even better ones waiting to be written that don’t include someone that you’re trying to get over.
Would you rather think about the memories you had with him and have a good cry or would you prefer to look back on new memories with fondness and self-assuredness knowing that you were able to do have a good time without him?
Also, if your goal is to eventually be friends with him again, then this is imperative. It means that when the inevitable happens and the “remember when” conversations come about, you’ll be able to shrug it off and say yeah I went and did that again, either by myself or with so-and-so and had a blast!!
Your memory is no longer centered on him. It’ll make being around him more casual and less emotional.
So he found the one way of communication you forgot to block, and you are suddenly faced with an invite for Netflix and Chill. DON’T fall into the “Friends with Benefits” “One Time Hookup” trap.
This will only rekindle your feelings for him and make it harder to let your relationship fade into the past.
Don’t lie to yourself with a, “Just this once to show him what he’s missing,” line.
No. you won’t be able to keep your emotions out of it, no matter how tough you think you are.
And no. It won’t make him realize what a catch you are. It just doesn’t work that way.
Men will always want what they can’t have. It’s human nature. We’re wired the same way.
This is simply another reason we remove him COMPLETELY from your life.
It’s like the story of Ulysses and the Sirens, in which the Sirens were known for seducing sailors to their deaths with their hypnotizing melodies. The sailors would happily drown at sea after crashing their ships into the rocks simply for the pleasure of giving in to the Sirens’ call. Ulysses and his crew overcame the situation by shoving beeswax in their ears so they could not hear the Sirens’ call. Ulysses even chained himself to the mast as to remove all possibilities of giving in to the temptation.
Remove all possibilities of being tempted and do not be distracted by the hypnotizing call of a rekindling of a physical nature that is unlikely to benefit you in any way aside from create emotional distress and put you right back at the beginning of the stages of denial.
DON’T try to find comfort at the bottom of a bottle, in drugs, or by drowning in a sea of junk food.
Let Go Of Your Expectations
I have a few things in my life that I say over and over again that apply to so many situations.
One of them is, “If you don’t have expectations, then it is impossible to be disappointed.”
A cynical way to live, I know, but the way I see it, if you keep your expectations realistic, then you’re more like to be pleasantly surprised and less likely to be disappointed.
DO take inventory of the relationship and DO be honest with yourself about it.
Something I didn’t realize until after my closest friend pointed it out a few months after my last big split was that my ex talked to me like I was stupid constantly when we were around other people, enough so that it made her get very defensive toward him.
Yet, being head over heels as I was, I never even noticed it until she pointed it out. It was at this point that I took my own inventory of our relationship.
During this process I realized several things:
I realized that, while I was COMPLETELY engrained in his life, having met his parents, children and all of his friends, he hadn’t really put forth any effort to delve into my life at all, despite my best efforts.
I also realized that we literally never spent any time at my place. We were always at his or one of his friend’s houses.
He pushed me to take on a lot of his hobbies and interests. (This wasn’t entirely terrible, in fact we already shared a lot of the same interests. In fact, I still enjoy most of them to this day. However, for most people this is something they don’t see until it’s long past.)
Now, I’m not totally blameless in these occurrences. I was so blissfully unaware to what was going on that I never actually asked for what I wanted from him and I never stood up for myself.
Often times we will only allow ourselves to remember the good parts of a relationship. It’s why letting go of the expectations you had for it is so important.
We grow up hearing about fairy tales and dreaming of one day having out own prince charming. Then, as adults, we watch movies and TV shows where everything always works out in relationships and the guy gets the girl. Well, NEWSFLASH, life is not a Lifetime movie with the perfect happy ending.
DO use this opportunity to identify any mistakes that were made on your part and resign yourself not to make them in your next relationship.
There will be a next relationship. I know it’s hard to believe now, because you still have that feeling of tight emptiness in your chest. However, should you address the mistakes YOU made in this last relationship, perhaps this next one will turn out differently. Make changes and adjustments to prepare for that moment.
One of my favorite quotes from a lecture I went to in college was,
“We change and the world offers us new opportunities to understand ourselves.”
I can’t remember what the speech was about but that quote stuck with me, because we are constantly morphing into a new version of ourselves, why not choose who that person is?
Make Peace With The Past
So, now that you’ve put your relationship behind you, you have to get rid of that bitterness that comes with the thoughts about it. We’re going to work on getting rid of that automatic grimace that comes across your face every time someone says your ex’s name.
Here’s how we will accomplish this:
DON’T regret having had the relationship. Every moment in our lives, whether they turn out how we plan or not, can be used to make ourselves better and stronger. Each moment has the potential to be a learning opportunity should we choose to use it.
DO accept that your feelings will fade the longer you go without contact and the more you let go of what could have been. Stepping back and getting a grasp on reality will never be a bad thing. However, if your feelings don’t completely fade, know that it is completely normal to still have a bit of a connection with your ex. Love for someone doesn’t just go away overnight. The only way it goes away completely is over time. Sometimes that takes a LOT of time. Doesn’t mean you can’t move on.
That being said, if he’s already moved on, DO be happy for him.
No, I don’t mean fake it.
Do some soul searching and realize that you can’t make someone love you. In still loving him, you want him to be happy. I mean what more do you want for the people you care for than for them to be happy?
I realize that it will difficult not to be at least a little bitter that it wasn’t you that he wound up being happy with, but by putting forth effort into trying to be happy for him, you are allowing yourself to move on. If you hold on to that bitterness, it’s like holding on to long to a rope swing. It’ll only end in you getting hurt further.
And he’ll be completely fine.
You just have to let go before it’s too late.
DO love yourself more than you love him.
I know it’s difficult to manage your focus after a breakup. It’s like your brain has a filter and it only picks up on things that make you think of him.
Heck I once found a friend of mine sitting in the middle of the shampoo and body wash isle at the supermarket consumed in tears because she smelled a soap that a guy she had just split up with used.
Put your focus on making yourself happy and becoming a better version of yourself. Handle those waves of memories with grace and you’ll be glad there isn’t a security guard somewhere replaying a video of you sobbing into the toilet paper on the bottom rack of your shopping cart over and over again.
Eventually, you will begin letting people enter your life and you don’t want to meet them as a pudgy puddle of sadness and tissues.
Focus on the Future
DO focus on regaining confidence.
Dye or cut your hair.
Hit the gym and feel good about the way you look and feel.
Invest in a few new outfits that make you feel powerful and sexy.
Get you a pair of heels that make you walk like you own the town. Trust me, they make a huge difference in the way you carry yourself and in turn can change the entire way you feel about you. You’ll know when you have found the right ones.
Learn how to properly do your eyeliner. Seriously, ladies! You know we all have trouble with that. I know two people that can get it right 97 % of the time and they had to go to beauty school for years to master it.
My grandmother used to joke that in order to know that you did your eyeliner properly, it had to be so sharp it could kill a man. In my niece’s words, “Man, Aunt Ashley, your eyeliner SLAYS.” I’m assuming they both represent the same sentiment. Regardless, I know that when I’ve put a bit of effort into doing my makeup, I feel powerful.
Basically, do what makes you feel powerful, whatever that is.
DO get used to the idea of a new relationship.
I’m not saying go searching for one, just know that eventually you will be in a new relationship that does not involve your ex. Knowing that this is something that will eventually and inevitably happen, not only gives you something to look forward to, but also gives you a reason not to take one step forward and then too steps back.
It’s that big striped flag at the end of a race that urges you on and keep you from doubling over and giving into that catch in your side that has been pestering you for the last three miles.
DO focus on your hobbies.
For me, my hobbies help a lot with the gaining confidence. I cycle and work out. When I went through my last break up I found myself in the gym more and cycling more. I wound up being in the best shape of my life. I felt GREAT about the way I looked and the way I felt. I still do!
And that brings me to my next point.
DO go out and have fun.
Meet new people and let people flirt with you. Like I said, Don’t go looking for a rebound or a new relationship. It just helps a lot with the regaining of confidence to know that you are still desirable to other men. This keeps you from getting ex-tunnel vision.
This just goes to show how important it is I have “regain confidence” written three separate times in my notes. So you can guess where I’m going to tell you to focus all of your energy.
Lastly, when you finally do get to a point where you are ready to start dating again, DON’T compare your new relationship to the old one. It’s like giving your new relationship the kiss of death.
Stay with me here.
You spend the entire afternoon getting ready. You feel great about the way you look, because you’ve got your new heels on and your eyeliner could easily be mistaken for Xena’s Sword.
He picks you up.
The conversation on the way to dinner couldn’t be better. You arrive. He is the perfect gentleman. He opened the door for you and pulled out your chair.
Your ex never did that.
He suggests a wine that you’ve never tried. It is perfect and it complements your dish perfectly.
Your ex wasn’t this cultured.
He asks about your hobbies and your goals in life. He wants all the same things out of life that you do.
Your ex always hated that you wanted to build your own career and weren’t too keen on having a flock of children like he was.
You see what has happened. Your date could not possibly be more perfect, but because you keep comparing him to your ex… Your ex may as well be there on the date with you.
So, if you take a step back and look over what I’ve laid out for you here, you’ll see that getting over someone that you still love boils down to four simple actions.
- Remove the object of fixation from your line of sight, in this case your ex, so you can focus elsewhere, such as moving forward.
- Let go of the future you had planned.
- Make peace with your past by accepting that it will be just that, the past.
- Focus on the future by identifying your shortcomings and adjusting your course to create a new outcome.
Walking away from this experience, you should be more confident in who you are and have a new vision for the opportunities that lay ahead. Running into your ex should no longer be a reason to panic, but a quick glimpse into what might have been, followed by a prompt “C’est la vie”, or “Such is Life”.
I hope that each of you take the advice in this article to heart if you are truly ready to move forward with your life. This is one of the toughest yet most rewarding gifts I could have given myself, the gift of confidence and freedom, and now I pass it on to you.