Rule #1 of the heartbreak manual: There is no manual for dealing with heartbreak. Sorry to disappoint. What I can offer you is some practical advice and some tools to reframe your thoughts. That’s as close to a “manual” as I can get. It’s what helped me and, since I work for a company that champions open source, I figured why not share.
If this is an overwhelming amount of information, no worries – you’re heartbroken after all so take your time. Leave it open in your tab and come back to it when you can 🙂
You exist before and after this person and this relationship
When a relationship ends with another person you’ve committed so much to, it feels like a bomb went off and who you are has been shattered completely. Pause for a moment when those thoughts and feelings crash over you and remember you very much were a person before you met them. You can be someone after too.
Write a note to yourself on good days
This was the best thing I ever did. The concept is quite simple: when you have a day where you are feeling good, start writing a note to yourself about why. Speak directly to your “negative day” self. You know what you need to hear. You know the perspective you need to have. Write it out. On bad days, read it. On more good days (they will come), add to the note. As your perspective evolves, it’s normal to need to edit what you wrote. What seemed logical then might not fit into who you are as time passes. This is okay 🙂
Go back to the basics
What has always been a part of your life? What are the basics of who you are? What are your core values? It could be everything from loving to eat spaghetti to loving a certain sports team to valuing honesty above all else. Go back to the basics and invest in them. Fall back on the core of who you were to help rebuild who you will be. Remember that you aren’t trying to rebuild into your former self but you’re trying to pick up the scattered pieces of who you are to build a foundation that your future self can stand upon.
Take yourself on dates
My current fancy date record is dropping $150 on myself at a ridiculously expensive restaurant. It was purposefully absurd because I knew I’d have no problem dropping that kind of money on dates with someone else. Why wouldn’t I do the same for myself? It was a matter of my self worth being so shattered I didn’t feel worthy. Take yourself on dates – you’re worth it. Treat yourself like it. Make yourself dinner. Take yourself to watch the sunset.
“One of the best guides to how to be self-loving is to give ourselves the love we are often dreaming about receiving from others. There was a time when I felt lousy about my over-forty body, saw myself as too fat, too this, or too that. Yet I fantasized about finding a lover who would give me the gift of being loved as I am. It is silly, isn’t it, that I would dream of someone else offering to me the acceptance and affirmation I was withholding from myself. This was a moment when the maxim “You can never love anybody if you are unable to love yourself” made clear sense. And I add, “Do not expect to receive the love from someone else you do not give yourself.” – Bell Hooks
P.S. Don’t be afraid to go to things alone. I’ve had some amazing memories going places entirely by myself:
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“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is." – Kurt Vonnegut. IF THIS ISNT NICE I DONT KNOW WHAT IS. Months ago I saw tickets for a match up between Brazil and the USA pop up. I've never seen Brazil play in person despite some of my favorite players playing for them and have been a seemingly lifelong USWNT fan so this was a no brainer. I paused when buying tickets though – should I really go alone to this? Maybe I should buy two tickets just in case… Thankfully, this was a brief pause and I did the damn thing. I show up today 2 hours early to the first game against Japan vs Australia only to have one of seatmates show up soon after! She was a British woman living in Houston for the last 6 years watching the dash play. Next thing I know, we are hardcore nerding out about soccer. I frankly have never been able to actually go to a pro game (including when I watched the World Cup) and nerd out as much as I did today. We debated. We cheered. We agonized over the score. We yelled at the ref. We talked strategy. We shared our favorite moments of past games we've watched. We celebrated veteran players coming onto the pitch. We high fived and danced when we won. Lesson learned: always buy the ticket for yourself and make sure to leave room for a new friend in the process. Best part? I never even got her name (but I could tell you a lot of other random stuff about her 😜) – the beautiful game, ladies and gents. Oh and the USWNT freaking came back from a 1-3 halftime score to beat Brazil. AMAZING. #ton2017
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Take yourself on a fancy date. Meet Sue – your seat-mate who has been going to operas and symphonies for the last 40 years. Learn about how she sang for 17 years in a local choral group and how she always sits in this seat. Share her pain when she talks about how she wishes her voice could do the things it used to be able to. Swap stories of places you've been and music you've experienced. It'll be a GREAT date – promise 🤞🏼
Find routine little things that make you happy
For people that know me well, they’ve heard me say this: “Well, at least there’s always breakfast and chocolate”. It’s a joke and a reminder. On my worst days when I don’t want to get out of bed and when I want it all to end, I fall back to breakfast and chocolate. Find those little routine things that you can do to make you happy. On really bad days, these will be the reminders you need. Finding happiness in small items again helps so much especially when larger “big happiness” items take longer to get to.
Ask for help
Whether it’s from your friends, employer, or a stranger, ask for help. If you can afford it, find a therapist. If it’s too expensive, look into online options or seek out free group therapy sessions in your area (many places offer this).
Simplify your life
This might be the minimalist in me but as much as you can shed away anything non essential whether that’s material items or time commitments you aren’t really invested in, the more time you’ll have to refocus. It’s easy to get lost in the activity of life without ever achieving anything.
Don’t seek out pain – you’ll find it.
A dear friend said this to me and it’s so so so true. You’re seeking answers and to understand “why” this happened. Dig within but don’t dig into the past. In the world of social media, seeking out pain is easy: just find your ex’s new partner and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Avoid death by a thousand cuts aka purge everything
Block them on everything you can. Feel free to explain this to them as you needing boundaries. Unfriend their friends to avoid seeing pictures and memories by association. Get rid of physical items. If you can’t, ask friends to help (I asked my mom to get rid of items for me). This isn’t “ignorance is bliss”, this is protecting your sanity. You’re already thinking about them enough – you don’t need 235892359 areas in your life reminding you of them too.
Realize that the silver linings will take longer to find
The classic advice in times of struggle is to find a silver lining aka find positives in the situation. The problem is we never talk about the timescale of finding those positives. When months have passed and we still see nothing at all positive from being heartbroken and left to restart… we begin to feel even worse. Don’t make this mistake! Don’t beat yourself up for not magically pulling positives out of a hat. Switch your timescale expectations. Realize the positives will come on a larger timescale when you have better perspective. This frankly will likely take years (or so I’ve been told). It doesn’t mean they aren’t coming.
Know you’re living in truth
It’s better to live the truth than a lie. Things ending is the truth. It’s better to live that even if it’s awful.
Avoid comfortable pain
We would rather put up with comfortable pain than veer off into the unknown. This is just how we work. Don’t put up with comfortable pain because you are afraid of the unknown. Don’t go to the coffee shop you used to always go to with them – switch it up. Changing things up really does help. Don’t get sucked into the trap of comfortable pain lulling you into thinking it’s normal to be at a baseline pain level.
Know you are getting insight you will use for the rest of your life
Whether you got broken up with or if you did the breaking up, you are now inheriting the knowledge that comes from painful situations of what you do and don’t want in your life. You are getting insight into how you deal with bad things happening to you. You are getting insight into your insecurities. You are getting insight into what you want your life to be like. While it may seem just simply overwhelming to take on, remember that this insight is what you will use for the rest of your life.
Double down on vulnerability
Don’t close up. I know you’ll want to. Don’t give in to cynicism. Be soft. Be open. It is most important to be vulnerable and to be open when you have every reason not to be.
You are going to be different after this relationship. There’s no doubt. Relearn who you are and what you like outside of the context of the relationship. You may find that when you do things that you did with them now you don’t really enjoy it. You may also find brand new things you had no clue you liked.
Be patient with yourself & treat yourself as you would a friend.
There’s no timeline to when you need to recover. If anyone ever tries to tell you there is, ignore them. There’s no checkpoint you need to reach by a certain date. There’s just life. Be patient with yourself and, when it gets really tough, try to think of what you would tell a friend in the same situation. I find most of us would never rush or speak to a friend like we would ourselves.
Whether it’s going somewhere brand new, trying something out of your comfort zone, switching up your hairstyle — whatever. Expand yourself. Go see new things. Go to a museum. Go to a concert. Go to a free lecture in your area about a totally unknown topic. Read a new book. It’ll show you that there’s so much more to life than the pain that’s trying to narrow you.
Remember there is more than just romantic love
Book recommendation: “All About Love” by Bell Hooks. Long story short, there’s more to life than romantic love. How we love a friend influences how we love a lover. Invest in those other kinds of love with your friends, family, and strangers. If you really take a moment to look around and take stock of the love in your life, I think you’ll find a whole lot of it. You can never offer someone too much love and there are so many in your life you can give your love freely to. I’ve been on some incredible trips and have had incredible memories as a result of investing in different types of love.
Don’t view short term love as a failure
A coworker sent this to me and I find myself referencing it often. It’s 6 min and 55 seconds long. Make breakfast and while you’re eating, turn it on or something:
Waves of grief
I can’t accurately sum up this amazing comment left on a Reddit thread (of all places) so I need you to take the time to go read it. An excerpt:
The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.
I’ll add to this as more items come to mind. What helped you through heartbreak? Please share so we can all learn 🙂