Coping With Being Alone After A Rough Breakup

General Break Up, Healing Strategies, The Single Life

And here we are, deep within the all-encompassing, all-devouring, ever-draining swirling maelstrom of guilt, anger, confusion, hope and anxiety that a rough breakup always is (no matter what the context is and no matter who did the dumping).

One of the greatest catalysts of all of these emotional outlets is solitude, as it lays bare the rawness of our feelings and forces us to contemplate the reality of what separation really entails. But all is not lost, rather, our “alone experience” is a reflection of our own internal tumult, and thus partially within our control.

While we can’t argue ourselves out of grief (due to the fact that most of it is playing out at a subconscious level), there are steps we can take to regain self-control, and master our solitude, rather than being mastered by it.

Solitude And Loneliness Are Not Synonymous

I find that all to often people tend to feel that solitude and loneliness are somehow the same thing. Being alone is a state of being, feeling alone is a state of mind.

In fact, many (guilty as charged on my count), find it far easier to feel alone around people. In the words of the Thin Red Line’s Sergeant Welsh:

Private Witt: Do you ever feel lonely?

First Sgt. Edward Welsh: Only around people.

But so what? You may right ask. How does this distinction help? The reason I bring is this up, is to reinforce the realization that we are ultimately the master and commander of our present emotional predicament (aside from the natural sub-conscious elements of grief).

That there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being alone. Especially with regards to moving on. There is absolutely no right way to navigate a breakup.

So, let’s drop the pretense that being alone is a pretext for punishment, and instead, start to work on feeling lessĀ  alone.

The World Is Our Oyster

One way to remind ourselves of the undeniable virtues of singledom, is to look at the breakup as a landscape of opportunity rather than a series of consequences. For one, it exposes the lie that we must weather the inevitable storm, rather than build a new life that better fits our needs right at this very moment.

While these two scenarios are not mutually exclusive, much of what happens next remains a choice, should we choose to see our immediate future as a decision rather than something we are forced to suffer.

Let me put it this way; the brain wants its comfort zone back — and it doesn’t really care how this occurs, or what the consequences are (hello rebound relationships! I’m looking at you). If we are lamenting our lost partner, it is only natural that reconciling is the easiest and safest way to give our subconscious brain what it wants.

But it isn’t the only way.

Finding A New Comfort Zone

Here are a number of ways we canĀ  reconstruct a new comfort zone, and appease both the conscious mind (a worst case scenario still means a much blessed distraction anyway), and the subconscious mind.

  • Develop a new routine that works, and stick to it — day in day out. The key here is consistency, the more consistent you are, the quicker your brain will accept the new you as legitimate and stop barking for a return to the past. Does it really matter what this routine involves? Not really, but it should obviously be something that you are comfortable with, or you will merely replace one torment for another in the long run.
  • Redefine who you are by reinventing yourself. This can be tricky due to the fact that, for the most part, we perceive ourselves through the eyes of others (let’s be honest here). Nevertheless, force your mind to reconsider who you are by changing something significant about your life. A conspicuous example would be to erect a new social circle and explore it (joining a gym or local meetup, sharing hobbies, casual dating e.t.c).
  • Drop self-criticism and judgment. There is always something to learn about a breakup, and you will have inevitably made mistakes. But who doesn’t? Letting go isn’t only about accepting that they’re gone. It’s about letting go of your own self-judgment. Who benefits from self-inflicted misery? What purpose does it serve beyond delaying a rosy new dawn and alienating yourself further from your present? If there are lessons to be learned, and apologies to be made, make them, then set sail for new horizons without beating yourself up. If your actions match your thoughts, your mind will naturally acquiesce (in time).

A Note On Diving Headfirst Into Dating

Don’t get me wrong, dating is a fantastic way to move on, provided that you are incredibly skeptical about your intentions, and doubly skeptical about your expectations.

Rebounding is a real threat, not only because it is a glass house that will shatter and leave you precisely where you started (or worse, with the added illusion that nobody will ever be quite the person your ex was), on top of hurting someone else who may have genuinely believed in you.

My only advice would be to be constantly honest about your intentions, both with yourself and with your new partner in crime. While it isn’t the sexiest thing in world to tell a romantic prospect that you have come sliding in off of a breakup, it usually pays to mention it (if only in passing, and definitely without making it the crux of the conversation). P.S, if it’s just a fling you’re after, as long as it is implied that this is all that’s going on, then none of what I’m talking about applies.

While this may dampen the mood somewhat, and many will be dissuaded by this revelation, it won’t deter those who have taken a genuine interest in you, and will allow them to adjust their own expectations as necessary (because they will know there is a pretty big chance you are in a state of constant flux).

James Nelmondo

James Nelmondo

James "the Unknown" Nelmondo is a self-styled relationship enthusiast, former infant, part-time dumper and full-time dumpee.


  1. I am going through a really bad breakup and I cannot tell you how helpful some of the posts are. I was down in the dumps just 2 hours ago, and now after reading some of these posts I feel so much better.

    I’m not looking for strategies to get back my ex! I just want to grow and move on. There is a tiny part of me that thinks it would be nice to reconcile with my ex, but I don’t want to force anything… it should happen naturally and for the right reasons. That’s what I like about your blog – there are no devious tactics you suggest, instead you focus on self-growth give us good psychological insights.

    I hope you will continue to post!

    1. Thank you Emily! To me, mind games are just a way of easing loss of control. I also think that to many, they aren’t even a way to get an ex back (deep down they know it probably isn’t going to work), it’s just a way to give the chaos of abandonment structure. To make it something understandable, to make it go all according to a “plan”. I definitely understand the appeal though.

      Thanks for taking the time to drop by!

    2. Me again. I’ve been finding a lot of comfort reading your posts. I think you have good insight into relationships and the human psyche.

      I know you mentioned somewhere that most of this is based on personal experience. Maybe some of it is based on experiences that friends have. Anyway, I would love to read your thoughts about dealing with an SO who struggles with anxiety and depression. I think there are a lot of people like me who were “dumped” because anxiety/stress/depression had taken a grip over their SOs. Logically there is nothing we can do but move on and hope that our SOs get help. I’m slowly beginning to realize that. If you’ve seen this happen in real life, I know I would love your insights and many other would too.

      I will keep visiting your website until I get over my relationship :-‘( Thanks again for sharing your wisdom with the world!

    3. Hey again.

      I try and stay away from depression because it is something I feel that I am absolutely unqualified to judge (even with the disclaimer of anything I write being opinion).

      My only experience regarding depression is through a friend, and my only real observation is that it is absolutely something he could not “snap out of”.

      Fortunately, he is doing far better now thanks to ongoing psychiatric therapy. But it is clear to me that a simple lifestyle change would not have done the trick.

      Of course, anxiety and clinical depression are two separate things. One is a medical condition, while the other may evaporate naturally (it’s only natural to be anxious now and then after-all).

      But the labels are murky and I’d rather steer on the side of caution rather than give horrible, unqualified advice.

    4. Yes, I agree it is hard to give advice for such situations unless one has gone though something similar or one is a trained therapist.

      It is a common phenomenon – depressed people walk away from the ones they love. I have found a couple of online forums for “depression fallout victims” i.e. ex SOs of people with depression. Everyone’s experience is very different, the only commonality being that the depressed person has no feelings of love anymore.

      Even though my particular situation is not covered in your posts, I find a lot of these posts helpful. Thanks.

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