Surviving Breakups: The Handbook

person in gray hoodie sitting on picnic table staring at the fog during daytime
Photo by Amy Tran on Unsplash

Disclaimer: This article is written under the jurisdiction and with the verbal approval of Her Highest Honor – my girlfriend. She gave a verbal consent that it is OK for me to share thoughts and experiences on this touchy subject. For this, I am eternally grateful!

Background

Silence.

These are the opening words in my journal, dedicated to my last breakup.

This article was supposed to be called “The Sound of Silence”, because, that’s exactly what losing somebody feels like. No more sound of their voice, no more phone buzzing with “good mornings” and “I love you”s, no more laughter and cuddles while watching that favorite movie of theirs. It’s all replaced with that awkard sound. The sound of silence.

When it comes to breakups, I like to believe I’m a black belt there; 10th dan, thank you very much. I just HAD THEM. Like, a lot.

So, whose better to talk about how to “survive a breakup” than a guy who had quite a few, eh? Take it from the one who sucked it up one too many times.

This article is a collection of ideas and techniques that I’ve gathered and applied over periods of time in order to cope with breakups. You can use them exactly as I did, or treat them a guidelines for developing your own mechanisms.

Let’s do the timeline now.

Day of the Breakup – The Buzzing

It’s exactly like movies portraying hand-grenade being thrown. Those lucky enough to survive, are the ones to experience buzzing in their ears.

The confusion. What the hell just happened? Why? How? Is this a dream? A nightmare? Can I wake up now? Anyone?

No, it’s real thing. And it hurts like a motherfucker. No matter if you are the breakuper or the breakupee, it feels equally the same. It buzzes.

What I suggest at this stage is just going home. Really. No matter how high you think of it, our brains just barely evolved over the animal ones and it doesn’t take much to completely disassemble the rational, and be left with your animal instincts. Just … don’t.

This is really a time when you are not able to make a judgement, let a lone a good one. And whatever you do can and most likely will harm you in the end. Just. Go. Home.

Now, I’m generally one who prefers being alone at this point, but I very well know of people who love being surrounded with close ones. There’s no right or wrong here, just do whatever feels better.

And you know what else? Cry the fuck out of it. Yeah. Sorry to destroy those illusions of yours, but yeah, we, men, we also cry. No matter how you identify yourself, as long as you can shed those tears – just freakin’ do it. Cry the fuck out of it. Scream if you need.

Breakups are hard. And painful. And that pain is as real as the pain of stubbing your toe into a corner of the table. It hurts! And when it hurts you want to cry! So just freakin’ do it!

What I also do at this stage which, I have to say my therapist STRONGLY disagrees with, is – removing them from all social media. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, or whatever the hell is out there anyway. My reasoning behind this is simple – curiosity killed that damn cat. And we are naturally curious beings, which is awesome, for most part. But in this specific instance, you will surely be checking their FB profile, their relationship status, whether they removed the images or not, which songs are they adding to their timeline … Just spare yourself the misery really and remove them; and thank me later.

I do NOT suggest removing or blocking their phone number. It sounds weird, I know, but I think that keeping their phone number and Viber / Whatsapp around, even though it might remind you of the pre-buzzing times, is still useful. You don’t need to hate them and you might want to reach out in distant future to check how they are doing.

However, what I USUALLY do, and again, I have to emphasize that my therapist is STRONGLY against it, is – I remove all the chat history with them. Whatsapp, Viber, SMS, … I remove all of it. But weirdly enough, I keep the photos. No clue why, but I somehow like the fact that I will laugh at it in some distant future (yes, you will!).

The Morning After – The Silence

There are bad, worse and awful days but nothing beats the morning after. Damned it be.

If previous day was all about buzzing, next morning is usually characterized by brutal silence. No texts, no calls, no nothing from them. Just a void. The sound of silence is what it is.

I have to emphasize that at this point, your mammalian brain is still dominating so I really have to warn you against making ANY decisions. Anything more complex than “shall I take a dump in the bathroom, or just shit my pants right here” should, likely be avoided.

If “crying the fuck out of it” was the FIRST survival technique, this is where I’d like to introduce the king of surviving the breakups toolbox – virtual letters.

I have no idea why or how I started doing it. I think I read about it somewhere. But I clearly remember my therapist being really puzzled. Like, where the hell did that come from?

Here is what you do TODAY, and for as long as you feel the need to keep doing it. You will start writing letters to them. Yeah. Letters where you elaborate everything. How you feel, how you survived yesterday, what your plans were, how much you miss them, … write your soul out. And yeah, you are most certainly allowed to cry here because, the more you open yourself up, the more vulnerable you will become and the more sad you will feel. So take it from me – it’s OK to cry while writing those words.

But here is the trick – under no circumstance will you share this with them. Absolutely fucking not. Just … no.

You want to write these letters to them, but keep them in Pandora’s box, never to be opened again. Trust me. Seal it up and surround it with a dynamite.

I keep them on Google Drive. Pretty much have folders named with some weird names that nobody else would understand. Full-blown letters with signature and a date.

You want to keep doing this daily. Or even multiple times per day if needed. Whenever you feel burdened and overloaded, just go and write how you feel.

And here is a fun trick that I realized over time — no matter how bad you feel, you will eventually end up with 5-7 letters in total. Assuming that you write your soul out in each one, of course.

What’s the story behind it, one might ask, right? I ha no clue honestly, but my understanding is that you simply “get all that shit out of your head”. And once you do do get it out, it feels lighter, because it’s not in your head but on paper now.

I know, it’s not really scientific and I’m sorry to disappoint, but that’s the best reasoning I could come up with 🙂

Weeks to Come – The Fog

I’d love to encourage you by saying that “you’ll get over them after couple of days”, but that’d be a lie. If it was anything even remotely serious and committed, it could and probably will be hard.

This is the perfect time to learn about Five Stages of Grief. At first you deny that this shit is really happening, then you are angry and feel unfair about it, next you are thinking of bargaining and doing anything to get them back, even if you were the one to initiate it. Then you just become more depressed about it, but, believe it or not, eventually you accept it and move on.

It’s really unfair to talk about it as a “process”, because I’m sure that, especially if you’re in the middle of it, you are most likely feeling like the pain is unbearable and nobody else understands how you’re feeling. I get it. I’ve been there. It sucks like hell and I’d never trade places with you. But it’s a fact though. People have observed the “grief”. They’ve observed it and realized that most of the time whoever is grieving, goes through pretty much exactly the same process.

What’s positive about this is that, as much as you can’t accept it now, acceptance is ALWAYS the last step. Always. And even if you’re thinking that I have no idea what I’m saying and that “they were the one” (oh hell I’ll need a whole new article about “The One”), trust me … acceptance always comes. I’m the black belt 10th dan in this shit, remember?

Another thing I really find useful is understanding that you are not alone. And not only are you not alone, but if you go and browse Reddit’s /r/BreakUps/, you will most certainly see how many people are going through the EXACT SAME THING at EXACT SAME TIME.

I generally find it comforting to browse Reddit during these foggy weeks. Not sure why, but it’s probably the realization that I’m not alone. Others are going through the same. Others WENT through the same. But eventually they all came at another end. And it’s comforting, so I suggest doing it.

Months to Come – The Clouds

Look, the weeks to come will be foggy and depending on the circumstances, it might be a full blown storm hazard. However, what you need to understand is that after the storm the rainbow always comes. Always. No matter how much you think that it’ll never happen, and trust me, I’ve been the one who would always think that “this was THE ONE and this will hurt forever”, it always passes. Always. Every single time. Time cures it all.

I read somewhere that your grieving period usually lasts half of the time that you spent in relationship. I can’t say I think there’s much science to it, but I do believe it gives a good message. It takes time, and that time might be way longer than you expected. And that’s okay!

What I usually resort to during these months is, funny enough, something that my therapist disapproves as well. Just writing this I’m starting to wonder if I’m actually doing the right thing at all considering that my whole technique is based on the things that a certified REBT therapist thinks are utterly wrong … But I digress.

So what I resort to during this time is focusing on “improving myself”. Be it exercise, learning some new skill or doing something that I never tried before (dancing salsa, maybe?), I try and focus on improvement. And I can see why my therapist is against it. His assumption is that “I think I was not good enough for them, hence I want to make myself better”. Nah. I disagree. A lot of shit that I did came as a direct result of this self-improvement process.

Aside from working on yourself and exploring new hobbies and interests, one thing that I HATE doing is something that my therapist suggests. Yep. There is that ONE thing he thinks is beneficial and I always found it awful and yet useful in the long run.

His suggestion is to always reach out to them and schedule a meeting. Not a full-blown dinner or whatever, but just a meetup. A coffee maybe. Because what you want to do at this point is have a closure. You want to meet them, as humanly and friendly as possible, talk to each other like two normal human beings and either close it right there or, in some rare cases, work it through (it happens!).

Here’s what’s funny about this. It might sound like a freakin’ crazy idea and trust me, no matter how many times I did it, I felt like it’s the worst shit I could ever do, but in the long run, it gives you what’s missing

It adds that fucking dot that is missing in the sentence above!

Because, trust me, that missing dot will haunt you. Sometimes for years to come. You could bury it 3 feet underground, sure. But it will be there. It will haunt you and frustrate you. And that’s NOT a place where you want to be.

So, go out there and make peace with that person! You will both appreciate it in the long run!

The Spring that always comes

Again, I absolutely understand that comforting someone who is in the middle of snow hazard is the most ridiculous thing to do. “It will be ok, you know, you just need to drive through the shitload of snow trying to kill you right now, but it’ll be okay”. Right …

I will say this though – “it sucks and hurts now, and it will be awful for weeks, months and maybe even years, but it will pass. It will get better. Trust me”.

You will think of them, you will dream of them, you will be hurt and sad and angry and depressed. You will. But that’s okay! We’ve all been there. It sucked, but we got through!

What you really need to put emphasis on is, that, once the clouds pass and once the sun shines, you need to be a better person than you were at the beginning of this process.

Ultimately, and take this from an experienced breakuper, you will reach a point where you can look back at that period and be in peace with it.

Every person that goes through your life will shape you. They might change you. Show you new things and help you acquire new skills. Or they might simply show you what a pure love and passion means. Whatever it is, be thankful to them for being part of your life. And yes, you will love again. Take my word for it 😉

Summary

There’s simply no easy way to sum up everything that I wrote. If you want experiences, then just go and read the whole article again.

If you want specific techniques that I use, I’ll list them here:

  • Crying – simple and most underrated technique, especially in (grown) men. Crying is just a natural response to a painful situation and by doing it you actually lower your stress hormones. It’s free and natural, so … why not just do it?
  • Writing virtual letters – write a letter to them and pour your soul out. Cry the heck out of it. And then take all those letters and lock them in a box never to see light again. “Dear _____” is a good way to start.
  • Browsing Reddit’s /r/breakups – it helps knowing you are not alone. Seriously. Just go and browse other people’s experiences. It’s comforting in a weird way.
  • Exercising – I guess I needn’t mention that one? Even though it could be the last thing on your mind, a good workout can really make a difference.
  • Exploring new hobbies and skills – remember those things you always wanted to try but never did? Now’s the time to give it a shot! This is how I ended up going to Thailand all by myself (and loved it!)
  • Understanding that it simply takes time – whatever you choose to do, you need to understand that it will take time to go over things. Breakups are hard and it takes time to heal.
  • Visiting a therapist – I guess this one is obvious. Therapy is always a perfect way to cope with a breakup and learn couple of things along the way. Just do it!

Good luck!

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