Breakup Recovery Guide: Intro
The pain I felt when my relationship ended is indescribable. The first 6 months was living hell: I was on auto-pilot, completely unaware of what I was doing, completely miserable.
That period is still a haze, shrouded in the screams of pain while I let myself be pulled back and forth by my ex-. The next 12 months were a bit better, but still a very slow process of gradually healing.
I suffered more than I could have ever imagined as I let myself be hurt by the rejection, then be pulled back and forth by my ex- only to be rejected over and over again (I found out later that my ex- had been cheating on me, broke up out of guilt but despised the new partner and passionately wanted me back, but couldn’t bear to hurt me more, so kept pulling me back only to reject me again and again thinking it'd be best for me to never know the truth… a complete mess, no?).
I let the whole ordeal essentially destroy me and waste my life for a year and a half.
It was incomprehensible to me how I was expected to keep going as if nothing had happened. Pregnancy, death in the family, serious illness… you’re allowed to take time off from work or school. But when your heart is broken, you’re supposed to keep on keeping on as if nothing happened.
For an entire year I cried many times each day (literally). Long periods of utter helplessness. Self-pity. Self-hatred. Numb, totally dead inside. Utter loneliness and isolation.
As I aimlessly walked street after street, I couldn’t understand how any person near me could be happy when the world was so obviously miserable and life was so pointless. People passed me, touched me, but I felt they lived in a different universe from my world of unending sadness. Every couple holding hands was a personal insult to me.
But not just couples were an insult to me. Street-corners, walls of buildings, a blade of grass, food, rain, sun… everything in the universe was against me, and no one and nothing could understand my pain.
I had constant thoughts of suicide. And constantly told my friends of my hope and dramatically detailed plans to just end the pain (my poor poor friends, sigh...).
And the irony is that I’ve always been cheerful and active. Just goes to show that a bad break-up can destroy anyone.
No Idea How To Heal
Nothing in life teaches you what really is happening to you, why it's happening to you and what you’re supposed to do when you’ve been dumped.
A lot of the clichés and platitudes are true (“time heals all wounds", “big ocean, lots of fish", “someday you’ll barely remember what all the fuss was about"), but they don’t help much while you're actually going through it.
The endlessly cheerful tone of some friends and self-help guides out there struck me as unrealistic and borderline absurd, making me discount their message even more while I was suffering. My eyes rolled at this type of advice: "Bake something delicious, read your favorite book, curl up in a giant blanket and watch your favorite romantic Disney movie to remind yourself that love is out there… pick one or all three. Take care of yourself."
Of course it's decent advice to keep yourself busy and positive, but it did nothing to help me understand what was happening to me emotionally and physically, or help me to actually get back control of my life again and get over it. In fact, it wasn't just useless; this type of advice made me even more depressed, because it convinced me that I truly was alone in what I was going through. If romantic Disney movies and some baking are all it takes to help other people over this, then I thought that I must be truly unique in my woe.
And the traditional academic explanations of what I was going through didn’t seem to apply to my situation at all. For example, I looked at the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief. Of course there were elements of it in my feelings and recovery pattern, but I realized that the orderly progression through stages it describes had no connection to my actual reality. My feelings were all over the place, with the emotions coming in massive and very frequent waves; I went through many more emotions and stages in one day than the model describes occurring over the course of the whole mourning period.
Recovery Started After Following Good Advice
I’m embarrassed to admit now how much time I spent on the internet reading about break-ups: scientific models of break-up theories, break-up and relationship forums, stories and advice. I must have spent hundreds of hours on forums engrossed in thousands (tens of thousands??) of stories of people who’ve been dumped. I went through dozens of academic papers on the topic. Plus I spent lots more time on all the psychology magazines, relationship blogs, sites by “professionals" who offer paid-for services to help you… you name it, I was probably on the site.
My friends' cheery platitudes weren't helpful. But the information I pieced together on the internet - direct advice from strangers, research by academics - was profoundly helpful. I ignored most of it at first and continued to wallow in my misery, but eventually I started to apply it to my own situation, and little by little I healed.
I tried to put together in one place everything I learned and observed to give you a real, no-BS, no false-cheerfulness guide to recovery.
It’s true that every relationship is different and your situation is truly unique. But it’s also true that it's for the same reasons that every one of us suffers the pain of being rejected, and every recovery can be helped by the same ideas and strategies.
This guide doesn’t have any magic tips; the recovery process is going to be painful no matter what you do and how perfectly you manage yourself. And no matter what any self-help guide tries to sell you, it’s going to take a while, it’s going to hurt, and the one thing you think that you most want – to get back together with your ex- - is very, very unlikely to happen.
The Guide: Honest, No nonsense
In this guide, I try to explain what’s really going on with you after a divorce or end of a relationship, describe the best strategies to recover as quickly and strongly as possible, show what pitfalls to avoid and describe what to do in the common tricky situations that come up.
It’s the guide I wish I’d had when I was dumped.
Regret For Time Wasted
Everyone’s memory of their relationship and their break-up will be different, obviously. But what will be the same is this: enormous regret at how much time following the break-up that you wasted wallowing in your own misery. I lost more than one year of my life. I am more angry about this than about anything having to do with the relationship or the break-up. Being dumped hurts so much, but you will heal. Everyone does eventually. The real question is how much time you’re going to waste before you do… and how many other important things you’ll destroy in the process, like friendships, family ties, school/career, your health, and more.
Control Your Recovery
There are a lot of things you can do to minimize the pain and speed up your recovery. Everyone makes mistakes in the recovery process, everyone goes through the begging and pleading stages, everyone wallows and feels self-pity and self-hatred. But the sooner you can understand what’s happening to you and really stick to the basic ideas I describe here, the sooner you’re going to heal and be back to yourself.
The good news is that when your recovery is over, you’ll end up as a better version of yourself than you were before.
I know that for me, I’ve grown so much. I looked into the abyss of sadness, betrayal and loneliness, and I realized that I can survive, grow and thrive. I’m proud that I went through such a difficult ordeal and came out of it stronger, more confident of myself, and a better, deeper, and more empathetic person.
The site has been up for 2 years. I've been thrilled to see how many people it's helped. I truly mean it when I say that I've been humbled by the response. Thousands of people have corresponded with me about their situations. Their perspectives are invaluable and I've learned so much from their depth and honesty, both directly about breakup pain and indirectly about the strength we all have in the face of emotional turmoil, and I've built the insight from their experiences into the current version of this site.
Some of the readers have also allowed their messages (with identifying details removed) and my initial response to be shown on this site publicly so that others can benefit. The database of messages is searchable, so you can look for stories by age, gender, relationship length, issues such as first love, divorce, broken engagement, extreme sadness, etc. Take a look on the comments page if you're interested; you'll see that you're definitely not alone.
Because of not just my own experience, but more importantly the incredible depth and range of experiences I've been exposed to through this site, I’m positive that you'll also get through it and come out as a better person. Bad moments and setbacks will inevitably occur, but little by little you will emerge from the pain of this breakup to find that you've become a stronger, more self-confident version of who you were before.
My goal with this guide is to help anyone who can benefit from these words. It's my way to pay forward all the help I got from unknown strangers on the internet. It's completely and totally free. Take anything here, use it, copy it, pass it around in any way you want.
But no commercial use, please. I’m so outraged by the numerous commercial sites selling miracle break-up solutions that it’d be particularly grating to me if my own words are used to take advantage of people suffering from a break-up. If you do see it copied and used in any commercial way, please let me know.
I wrote this site on my own, for free, with no desire to get any compensation at all other than the satisfaction of helping others. There is no marketing, no advertising, no donation buttons. I've done no special advertising, social media promotions or links. On purpose, I don't emphasize myself or link to anything about me. As the site has become more popular and bubbled upward in search rankings, marketers have found it and made me numerous offers to "monetize" it, but I've refused them all. I want the message here to be clear, free and without any hint of ulterior motive; the last thing someone who is suffering from a break-up should face is a deluge of marketing and self-promotion.
This guide is made of many separate articles, each of which covers an important topic in the recovery process. You can read each topic on its own and then return to the Topic List page to select another topic. Or you can start with the first topic and progress sequentially through each article to cover the entire guide.
I wish you the best of luck. In the darkest moments of post breakup sadness it might seem impossible to believe, but please trust me that your pain will eventually fade, all of this will just be a memory, and you will come out stronger and your life will be better because of the experience.