8 Steps To Survive A Break Up

Neil StraussNeil

On my Facebook profile recently, someone asked for advice on a sequel to the popular how to break up post here: How to Break Up.

And I thought: Who is best suited to write that for this blog? The answer: Only a survivalist.



So below, our resident self-sufficiency expert weighs in on…

by Aaron Frankel

Losing at love can be one of the most crushing experiences in life. If you let it, the loss can leave you scarred for longer than need be. However, there is a healthy way to deal with breakups and use them as an opportunity to grow emotionally, learn, make new friends, and come out the side a better lover.

So, through examination of countless people who have succeeded at getting over a break up, this is the best way I have learned to get past a break up. This isn’t a quick fix, but a very rewarding journey with lasting results for dealing with a love loss.

Step One

Don’t: First, let’s talk about bad advice, “Go fuck 10 other women.”  A break up is a rejection, even if you are the one doing the break up. What “10 other women”, or men, will do is provide you a short-term validation that you are desirable. Like chewing gum holding together the sole of a shoe, it’s not going to go the distance with your heart either.

If you are following the steps, this may happen on it’s own though.

Jumping into the next relationship that comes your way can also be a tempting quick fix – usually referred to as the rebound. Love starved and looking for validation, you will push things to fast and display neediness.

Don’t drink, pop, or smoke the problem away. Drinking the grief away may allow you to feel temporary relief – in a way. But, what that relief does is keep you from actually dealing with the break up. Every time you drink you are resetting the clock. Pain must unfortunately run its course.

All to often our aching hearts tell us to make it all stop and the quick answer is trying to win back what we have lost. Just let it go. Take the time to work on yourself. You never know, in the end, you may end up back together. However, on the other side you may find someone that fits you better.

Step Two

Acknowledge The Process: All grief follows the same basic steps. The Kubler-Ross model of grief states people can be expected to go through the following stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Allow yourself to go through them. Emotions are like a water balloon. You can press down on it pretty far, but eventually it will rupture in unexpected ways. All you are you left with a big uncontrolled mess. Better to let the water out in constructive measured ways.

Step Three

End Communication: For every year you were together, swear off contact with your now-ex for six months – general rule. Cutting times, at least for a time, allows you to move past the relationship. A lot of people are wishy washy after ending a relationship. They think they want out, then as soon as there’s distance or a date gone awry, they panic and want to get back together again. Best to stay out of what will easily become a vicious cycle of reopening a wound.

Removing their number from your phone keeps you from making the all to infamous drunk dial/txt. The same applies to checking their Facebook and Twitter. Nothing good will come from checking in on them and you will only be practicing in masochism. If they call, only answer once to tell them that if they call or text after that, as hard as it’s going to be for you, you’re not going to respond so that you can allow yourself and them to move on. Remember that every time you communicate with an ex in the throes of a breakup, it resets the clock on their (and often your) recovery time. [NOTE FROM NEIL: Hey, that’s what I said in my post!]

Step Four

Explore the Pain:Certain breakups may hurt. Instead of letting it crush you, explore it and learn something about yourself. As Neil puts it, “Become a scientist of your own lows.” Take advantage of this moment for self-examination, for reading self-improvement literature, or even for a few sessions of therapy. Find out what you can learn from this experience to make your relationship choices, skills, or behavior better in the future.

Step Five

Start New Social Circles: Often we use mutual social circles to check up on ex’s or create the opportunity for a chance encounter. It’s all too easy to use our friends as a way of staying close to broken relationships. Both pursuits keep the other person fresh in mind and reset the recovery clock. Plus, few things are worse than being repeatedly asked how you’re doing.

This is a great opportunity for networking that can further your career or making new friends to share good times with.

Step Six

Take Care of Your Body: Taking care of your body both through what you eat and the exercise will make you feel better. Not over night, but in a short amount of time. Physical activity not only helps you look better, which does help heal that bruised ego, but also has a tremendous effect on your emotional well-being. Try starting a workout routine before or after work three days a week. Mixing in a walk or run a couple evenings a week helps too.

Eighty to ninety percent of your physical state is dictated by the food you put in it. You wouldn’t put the cheapest gas at a gas station in an expensive sports car would you? Take steps towards eating better. Just as with physical exercise, ease your way into it. Most diet changes and workout plans die a quick death because people try to do too much to fast.

Step Seven

Get Out: Get out of the house and start doing something constructive. Make a list of all the things in your life you have always wanted to do or learn how to do. Then make a plan for doing them and actually go do them. Every new activity has a learning curve that will occupy your mind and free time.

Most hobbies have interest groups. Joining one, or a few, that will get you out of the house. It’s also a great way to meet new interesting people that share in your interests for the new social circles you are going to build that do not include your now-ex. This is a great time to join that running group you have always talked about. Plus, if you are going to go fishing, doing so in a pond of fit fish doesn’t hurt.

Step Eight

Move On: Not everyone wants to or is capable of being friends with their ex’s. Some relationships just carry to much baggage and need to be left in the past. You may find that you see the person in a whole new light you don’t like. But, if making contact gain is desired, the best time is when you stop thinking about them, need nothing from them, or expect anything of them. At that point, a real friendship can begin.