Getting Over A Break Up
Breakups are fairly crap, there’s no two ways about it. Even if you’re the one instigating the split, breakups are one of the worst life experiences that people have to go through, and the chances are pretty high that you’ll have to experience one; studies have shown that by the time they reach their 30’s, a high percentage of men will have endured three serious breakups.
Some breakups are obviously going to hurt way more than others, but a lot of that is down to the level of respect the person ending the relationship displays for their soon-to-be-ex’s sense of self-worth during the breakup. What this means is that the difference between fleeting hurt and months of heartache lies in whether your partner endorses you or delivers a character assassination on their way out. Breakups are much worse when people feel that they have been rejected for who they are as a person, rather than a declaration that two people just aren’t right for each other anymore. When you feel that you’ve been rejected as a person by your former partner, the effects on your confidence and self-worth are a lot more destructive and therefore will take a lot longer to bounce back from. Consider this the next time you’re about to drop the mic on your partner.
Breakups are also another one of those things that women do better than men. While the initial stress of a split is likely just as bad for both parties, women burn hot and fast like an oil fire; they cry, they watch movies and drink wine with their friends, they post memes, they watch “Ellen” and then they get on with it. We guys on the other hand tend to bottle it up, drag it out, obsess over details, social media stalk and most of all, not talk about it. When sh*t meets fan, we don’t talk and this can trigger an actual condition called ‘abandonment rage’. Men are embarrassed to show their true feelings at the best of times, but when it comes to breakups we are more likely to engage in bravado, pretending that we don’t care because we “never liked her anyway” or “she was a sh*t ride”, rather than being honest and admitting how we feel inside, especially to other men.
Naturally, the worst kinds of breakups are the ones that involve cheating or infidelity. Cheating makes for a very bitter breakup because on top of the normal feelings of pain and rejection that come hand-in-hand with a split, you also have feelings of betrayal and deep emotional hurt. If you’ve ever been cheated on you can probably relate to the emotional hijack that occurs; you want to kill the person they cheated on you with, you want to punish your partner and get back at them for what they’ve done. I’ve been there myself, but this behaviour is of no benefit to anyone, especially you, and the emotional baggage that it creates can damage your chances of having a happy relationship with someone else in the future.
I’m writing this because I’ve recently gone through a particularly painful breakup myself and I find writing about it helps a lot. Not sulking, social media stalking or fixating on the reasons things turned sour, but rather writing. Putting my thoughts down on paper is cathartic and I find that writing about the positives of the relationship serves me better than listing what we both did wrong. I also speak to a counsellor every few weeks, which is something I always strongly advocate anyway, but for me, with the breakup coming so close to the death of my dad, I don’t think I’d have been able to get through the last couple of months without counselling. I’ve also had the support of my family and good friends which makes things easier, but I’m aware of the reasons that men don’t usually talk about their true feelings in these situations (you don’t want people to think you’re a misfortune and you don’t want a slagging from your friends), so I find it a lot easier to thrash it out with a professional. I’m not going to pretend I’m over the whole thing and therefore in a good position to give tips and advice on getting over a breakup, I’m not. But I’ve done the research and the reading, so here are the best pieces of advice that I could give anyone going through a breakup.
Build a Nest
If a breakup has meant that you’ve needed to find a new place to call home, then make that home a “nest” for yourself. Stock up on groceries, hang a painting on the wall, buy an indoor plant and sort out all the stuff you’ve had to bag up and take from your former home. Guys often put these things on the long finger for various reasons, such as they fear it’ll make them feel worse or they lack the motivation because of the breakup. Tearing into it will likely make you feel better and leave you with a welcome sense of achievement when it’s all done. Your new gaff needs to feel like an emotionally warm safe space and not a long to-do list.
Have a Beer with the Lads
Social contact is important for helping with loneliness, so summon your circle of friends and have a few beers. It’s good to plan activities so that you’re not spending multiple nights in a row alone at home. And a few beers means a few beers. Bare in mind that alcohol is a depressant and having a hangover will make you more irritable and less likely to exercise and do healthy activities.
I was a little on the fence as to whether or not to include the infamous media purge as there are differing schools of thought on the subject. I guess it really depends on the breakup and the person, but if you’ve escaped a particularly toxic relationship or you have a lot of anger and resentment towards your former partner, then perhaps you should think about ‘The Purge’ or the “She-Tox”. This usually entails deleting and blocking them on social media, deleting their phone number so you don’t feel compelled to phone or text them when you’ve had a few, changing your Netflix password and removing the shared account, deleting old texts and deleting photos from your phone (especially the naughty ones – don’t be a dick and show them to your friends). Remember though, you might not always feel like this and you might even get back together with this person, so consider temporary or reversible measures rather than permanent ones.
Don’t Try to Read Minds
There’s a tendency among men to think that people will judge you for having had a failed relationship or for still being single at a certain age. This is often not true or greatly exaggerated. I say this even though I’m guilty of this thinking myself, but it’s important not to let it hijack you to the point that you are constantly explaining to people why the breakup wasn’t your fault because you’re inaccurately guessing what they’re thinking about you.
Get a Massage
Not the “happy ending” kind, the regular kind. Get a relaxing massage every few weeks because it will do your mind and body the world of good and because physical touch is irreplaceable.
Talk About It
You don’t necessarily need to burn the ear off your friends – because as I alluded to, you don’t want to become the pothole of the group – but a little can go a long way. A few sentences over a game of FIFA is good, but an in-depth conversation with a close friend is even better. Chances are you know someone who’s been through this already, so finding out how they coped and how their feelings changed over time could help you get out of a particular phase or rut. If you’re not really on this level with any of your friends or you’d be too embarrassed to broach the subject, then talk to a counsellor. As we’ve seen, internalising it and bottling up your emotions leads to increased feelings of shame, embarrassment and loneliness. Counselling is completely confidential no nobody need know except you.
Get Some Sleep
Where there are feelings of rejection and hurt, there are often sleepless nights. Sleep deprivation will make you more irritable and emotional than you’d normally be. If you’re experiencing trouble sleeping or waking at all hours, then try getting up and going for a 30 minute walk and then going back to bed when you come home. If sleeplessness persists then speak to your GP.
As I’ve said, I have found that reflective writing has been very helpful in getting through my breakup, but I know that writing isn’t for everyone. The simple act of thinking about the breakup can boost your recovery. Reflecting is not obsessing, so try to limit it to 10 mins per day where you run through the reasons things didn’t work out and what positives you can take from it. If you have to run through all the things she did that annoyed you then so be it, but don’t get bogged down in the negative stuff.
While it might be hard to motivate yourself after a bad breakup, exercising can help you feel better because it’ll boost endorphins (pleasant-feeling chemicals released by the brain). So, play soccer/rugby/GAA or join the gym. I have an excellent Tongan personal trainer that I can recommend.
Get Back Out There
If you’re ready, talk to other women. But not about your ex. They say the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. I’m not sure if I’d necessarily put it like that, but nine times out of ten, finding a new, meaningful relationship is the best way to get over a previous one. But remember the words of Elvis Presley – only fools rush in.