7 Practical Steps To Take Just After A Break Up

It’s crunch time, and the narrow road of our previous life has reached a crossroads. A crossroads, I might add, with an infinite amount of intersections. It can be overwhelming.

So what now?

#1 Erect Strong Boundaries

It isn’t arrogant to define how we choose to be treated in the wake of a breakup.

If the decision has been made to call it quits, with or without our consent, then we are fundamentally no longer responsible for juggling our ex’s insecurity or mixed signals. We have ourselves; our lives and our emotional well being to think of now.

The sooner we erect personal boundaries to fend of confusion and potential manipulation the better.

First thing’s first, decide under what conditions (if any) you are willing to communicate with your ex. Such as:

  • Making sure your ex knows what is acceptable communication. If you want to reconcile, then make sure your ex can’t just reach out with pictures of their dog to lure you into a false sense of hope. If you are only interested in talking about “us”, then make sure that if the phone does ring, that’s what it’s going to be about.
  • Demand respect by disregarding outbursts of insecurity that are aimed at bringing you down (anger, blame games, guilt, emotional blackmail, e.t.c). Opening yourself to confusion and hurt in the name of what you had will do neither of you any favors in the long haul. If you are afraid that not engaging with an ex, despite the hurtful tone, will lead them to disappear, recognize that their shenanigans have little to do with you, and everything to do with their ego, and catering to this insecurity isn’t improving your chances.
  • Define the medium of contact as something comfortable to you. If hearing their voice is too painful, or too stressful, don’t be afraid to de-escalate the means of communication to something less personal, and more comfortable such as E-mail. Again, we are no longer responsible for juggling our ex’s insecurity! It can understandably be difficult to grasp this at the tail-end of co-dependency.

Admittedly, just because we insist on structuring out post-breakup communication the way we want it, doesn’t guarantee that our ex’s will listen. Which is why it is important that we…

#2 Lead By Example

Despite our own confusion and emotional back and forth, it is important to act consistently. Both out of respect for our exs, and because we fundamentally teach people how to treat us.

If we engage in mixed messages, then it is likely that our ex will feel that this sort of mind game is also acceptable (even if we told them it wasn’t).

Actions really do speak louder than words.

Yes, this is all easier said than done, and sometimes the urge to reach out can overwhelm us. It happens to the best of us. However, the more consistent we are, generally speaking, the more consistent our exs will also be.

Consistency doesn’t mean we can’t change our minds, it just means that we are consistent in the means, tone and way in which we communicate. If we have a change of heart then we should communicate this, but if we flip-flop constantly we are going to tear trust apart and foster resentment.

#3 Shred Remnants Of Co-dependence

Making our exs the focal point of our breakup means delaying healing. It’s a little like an alcoholic trying to break the habit by filling their fridge with beer.

A breakup isn’t just separation from the past, it’s a new beginning, a fresh start.

This isn’t just misplaced optimism, it’s an objective fact.

Even if we do hope to reconcile, re-acquainting ourselves with elements of our individualism that may have been lost is a healthy way to approach whatever future awaits.

  • Rekindling dusty social circles and old friends.
  • Rediscovering hobbies and pastimes that made us tick.
  • Focusing on our careers.

The possibilities are literally endless, and I won’t bore you with them.

No matter what the future holds in store, reconciliation or separation, rediscovering ourselves as individuals means we are better equipped to sustain ourselves emotionally. Win-win.

#4 Make The Breakup Yours

Right-o, so this may seem a little ironic for two reasons:

  • I’ve urged you not to make your ex the focal point of your future.
  • I urged you this on an article about steps to take after a breakup.

So yes, it may seem a little hypocritical of me, nevertheless…

While fixating on an ex is generally a bad (but often unavoidable) idea, we shouldn’t stigmatize the breakup as some kind of weakness. Nor should we allow others to define how we choose to navigate the bubbling waters of emotional turmoil (those seas our ours, after-all).

It is up to us to dictate the manner and tempo of our healing.

I’ve tried to structure this article in a way that provokes food for thought, but at no point do I offer any of this as a universal truth. Truth, when it comes to relationships, is relative to the experiences and character of those involved. Not a generic pan-human script.

So. If you’re wondering why dating or clubbing is only making the flashbacks worse, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you and don’t let anyone tell you there is.

This is a liminal stage in our lives, and to deny ourselves the chance of owning and living it on our terms is to deny ourselves an important growing experience.

#5 Find A Way Of Channeling Stress

Even if you are quite certain that separation was the right idea, good luck convincing your subconscious mind of this.

In other words, there are still going to be moments, pangs and memories that suck.

Due to the heightened base-line of stress, finding a temporary outlet to release pent-up stress can be of great use. Breakups aren’t only a psychological quagmire, then can be a physiological one too.

Case in point: Making my thoughts tangible, by making this blog, was my way of making sense of my inner demons. It helped me transition internal pain externally. This is why keeping a breakup journal is such a popular tool for healing.

  • Build a little bonfire and host a funeral for your breakup.
  • Beat the living snot out of a punching bag at the gym.
  • Write a bittersweet fantasy epic laced with real-life parallels and innuendos.
  • Talk yourself out with a friend.

Whatever it takes, find a way to externalize grief, even if you think it is manageable.

#6 Develop A New Routine

In point #5 I mentioned the subconscious mind. Understanding, at least superficially, how it works (I’m certainly no psychologist) can give us a leg us with regards to finding our feet again swiftly.

Sometimes our conscious mind will confuse breakup pain stemming from losing contact with an ex, with losing contact with a comfort zone or routine. In short, it isn’t really the ex that we miss, but the world we used to know folding up all around us.

It can be tricky to differentiate the two.

Personally, I feel the two overlap somewhat, but the act of being consistent with a new routine is a great way to discipline subconscious pain into accepting our new lives, without requiring any validation from the past. After all, the end stage of the Kubler-Ross cycle (the notorious five stages of grief) is precisely that, acceptance.

The important part here is developing a new structure for our lives, day in day out, that will allow us to quickly embrace our new reality. This will happen regardless of whether we face it kicking or screaming or in a welcoming way, but if it’s going to happen, we might as well embrace it.

#7 Make Big Changes

No matter which way you cut it, breakups epitomize adaptation and change, and because of this, your mind will accommodate enacting far larger changes than you would usually be able to stomach. Take advantage of this!

Your comfort zone has been stripped away. Let’s build a better one.

Disclaimer: Before I get into the nuts and bolts, please don’t make changes subjectively or impulsively. These decisions must be weighted down with the objectivity of a hammer, and enforced with a glacial fist.

Still with me? Great, onward-ho.

  • Strip your life of bad influences. Toxic friendships, and other things that bring you down. Most people will accept that a breakup will mean increased distance, use that stereotype as an umbrella to forfeit drama.
  • Redefine yourself. Are you frustratingly stereotyped as that guy, or that kind of woman? People will expect and look for change after a breakup, use this to redefine yourself in a way which suits you. Break the mold and shake the pillars. No, it isn’t all about what others think (rather than real internal change), but let’s be honest — it helps.
  • Just do it. I know this reads like a Nike commercial or an homage to Shia Lebeuf, but now is the time. Doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it isn’t purely a side-effect of trauma. Just. Do. It.

79 Comments 7 Practical Steps To Take Just After A Break Up

  1. Leilani

    Btw, I still go through the roller coaster of emotions but I’m okay with them now.. I don’t suppress, hide nor take them personally anymore.. it just is… he broke up with you? so be it.. it’s not the end of the world. Love you.. let go of wanting happiness outside yourself from any person, place or thing in the waking dreams and stay the happiness that you are.. he will come to you when and if he needs to and if not, it’s okay too. Love. Yourself! I thought my ego was bruized but again, I know “Ego” is just one of our Emotions. It’s not me. No matter what what happens, you, I, We as one will be okay.. we are and will always be “Peace” :)

    Reply
  2. Sarah W

    Leilani,
    Thank you for your kind words, they are really touching and compassionate. I will try to work towards self love, something I have never been good with.

    James,
    I guess I just don’t know how to reach out to him. I can see how me just coming out and saying “hey, I want to talk to you because I want us to try again,” can be contrived by others as a desperate attempt to hold onto to the past, when really I am just looking forward. Also, since he is the dumper, me coming to him with this can look like I am coming on my hands and knees to beg for him back. I don’t (and haven’t) want to beg, but how to convey the message otherwise?

    My heart is yearning for what was, but I know that is gone, but feel it could be rebuilt better if both of us are willing to try. But at the same time, there is the issue of timing. It’s been just under two months, he hasn’t moved into his new apartment as far as I can tell, he just got the promotion and I don’t know it that has started, and he hasn’t reached out to me in over a week. All this points to the likelihood that he won’t be very receptive for whatever reason. I am now also dealing with the fear that I won’t be able to find my trust in him again. Which was an issue from the start b/c I don’t trust easily and it took a while for me to build my trust in him before.

    I am just as lost as ever, but have a better handle on my emotions than before. I have never been good at verbal communication and neither is he. So a face to face scares me. The thought of sending him a letter (don’t know if that is even a good idea) and possibly never hearing a response (and not seeing body language or reaction to the letter) scares me also.

    Things like this are what are holding me back and giving the impression/fear that I will look desperate.

    Reply
  3. James Nelmondo

    Fair enough. I absolutely don’t mean that passive aggressively, just in the sense that we’re different people with different models of judgement.

    I realize now that when I reached out, I did it more for myself than anything else, and as such I didn’t really care how I came across. I did it for my own sense of clarity, and at that stage clarity trumped whatever notion of dignity I might have had.

    Looking at it now, I suppose I see your side of the argument (beyond just the abject fear you mention). There’s the risk of cracking the ego open and spreading the pain from just the breakup to a larger sense of questioning self-worth.

    I definitely plummeted to ground zero on that score. To the point where I was amazed (and suspicious) that people actually were interested in dating me after the breakup itself.

    I think rebuilding my ego masked a lot of the breakup pain because it became the more critical of the two problems I was dealing with. A little like ignoring the headache because your leg is cramping.

    Reply
  4. Sarah W

    Yes, I think that is where I am now, trying to rebuild my ego without going through the pain of further rejection from him – though the ‘not knowing’ the ‘what ifs’ may prove to be just as damaging; only time will tell I guess. While I do think he still has feelings for me, I know him well enough to know how stubborn and single minded he can be and only he can decide what he wants to do and how to go about it. At this point, he has to realize that the lines of communication are open, and I am not sure there is anything more I can do.

    May I ask how you approached your ex when you reached out? Did it start with innocent texts that built up to the possibility of a meet up, or did you just come right out and ask? Also, when you had the conversation, how did you go about expressing your desire to reconcile? (This is a major sticking point for me, as I really have no idea what process would be good to take or how to go about this if I do decide this is the road to take – though I do know it is different for everyone.) I am so much better with my written communication, but not sure it is a good medium for expressing such feelings. (He is not much of a reader, or talker, – he’s a gamer, so really is just overly anti-social. lol) A lot of our communication was through text when we were not together. Never had a prolonged phone call and both of us are uncomfortable talking on the phone in general.

    Add to all that is going on internally for me, I have friends and family members who I value and trust telling me I need to move on, he isn’t good enough for me, asking why I would want to go back to someone who acted like he did (immature and running away instead of facing the problems we had when they arose rather than concealing what was going on in his head…), … I also have my fears that he may have cheated on me or is sleeping with the person he is currently crashing with (she is an ex-girlfriend which has thrown my internal struggles into a massive torrent.) Not sure I have mentioned this fear to you.

    Reply
  5. James Nelmondo

    In my case it was a little weird. She didn’t actually break up with me but kept asking for more time.

    This would normally have been okay but she was due to leave the country in a couple of months, and by shutting me out in this way it became evident that she would be leaving me behind (are we supposed to just get back together two days before leaving with even talking about it? Yea. No. I think changing country warrants a little more discussion than that).

    So we kept throwing crumbs at each other (I miss having coffees with you, etc) for weeks. Finally just got sick of it all and phoned her and asked her for a straight yes/no answer.

    I’m usually not this direct, but I feel the situation forced my hand, and I needed to know what my priorities were.

    It was a no. I thanked her for being honest, erected an iron curtain and got on with things (things weren’t quite that simple, but that’s the long and short of it).

    It sucked, but not living on the edge of doubt did help a great deal.

    Reply
  6. Sarah W

    That is a rough situation, sorry you had to go through it. It is almost worst than where I am. I have already been rejected, but can’t move past the feelings I had during the relationship.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  7. James Nelmondo

    I didn’t move past those feelings either, but I had no choice. Sometimes I still feel the odd pang of remorse, but it’s no longer something debilitating, just background noise.

    Bear in mind the entire debacle lasted months, and it took me close to a year to feel somewhat “free”.

    Making this website helped me channel those feelings. It was my version of what Leilani referred to as “make a journal”. The first few articles I wrote are quite palpably the result of dealing with those feelings. And it’s amazing how the tone has changed from then to now!

    It really is a one-day at a time thing. There’s no other way. Drop by drop, bit by bit, you tear your way through it.

    Reply
  8. Sarah W

    Gah, I did it again -_- (I thought I was regaining some control over my impulses…)

    I mistakenly looked at his FB page and he had posted a meme about a “fitness tip” that made a joke about sleeping more, working out more, eating more, and ‘burn your ex’s house down.’ I didn’t understand why he would post something like that. Instead of obsessing about it all day, I decided to message him, and we had the following exchange.

    Me: Why would you want to burn my house down?
    – Him: I’ve never said or thought that
    Me: Oh, I was just referring to your last post. It popped up randomly on my page lol
    – Him: My last post was about a “fitness tip”
    Me: It says ‘burn your ex’s house down’ at the end.
    – Him: Oh. Well it may be a joke in poor taste, you didn’t take my dogs so your house is safe (referring to his last ex who took the dogs when they broke up)
    – Me: Good to know

    (A few minutes later in an attempt to not look ‘weird’ for messaging him)
    Me: Oh, the reason I messaged you, I was wondering when you were going to make the february truck payment?
    – Him: Never!
    – Him: Jk I forgot
    – Him: Been busy getting shit ready to move wednesday
    – Him: Anyway It can wait til friday?. I actually did some overtime this week
    Me: ok
    – Him: Thanks *my name*
    Me: yep
    Me: good luck with the move
    – Him: Thanks, 3 flights in my near future
    Me: oh?
    – Him: Ya. It’s on the 3rd floor, I’m gonna break that couch into tiny pieces
    Me: ah, I thought you meant flights – as in flying somewhere. ll
    lol (Our trip to Las Vegas last year was his first time on an airplane)
    Me: Third floor moves are no fun
    – Him: I agree, but nobody will be stomping around on my head while I sleep
    Me: that will be nice.
    – Him: Yes Indeed
    Me: That was my biggest complaint in my last apartment.

    I don’t know if this was a pleasant exchange, a negative exchange, or just a neutral one. I know I shouldn’t have looked at his page in the first place, but I am still working on that impulse. I almost asked him out for a coffee, but I don’t want to add to his stress with moving (and risk him being less receptive to having a conversation). Also, still don’t think I am ready nor do I know if I actually want to have the conversation anymore (at the present moment, who knows how I will feel later). I do know that this conversation showed him that I am obviously not over him, that I still look at his FB page, and that I am still insecure, so I don’t know if I have set myself back.

    Reply
  9. Sarah W

    Well,

    I bit the bullet and sent him a message asking him if he wants to meet for coffee or something after he has moved and settled in.

    I woke up this morning not wanting to live in the limbo anymore, and as much as I have been trying to convince myself over the last few days that I could move on with out further action towards him from me, I know myself better than that. With the above invitation, I have released that nervousness and feel that I will have my answer one way or another with out having to question. I have launched the ball into his court, so to speak. What ever happens, it will be an answer I guess. I am not sure what I will say, but have the ‘excuse’ of giving him his mail and a few of his things I have found (have not mentioned these to him, but will act as a buffer if he says yes). I will keep it short and as pleasant as possible. Just need to figure out what to say – assuming he says yes and schedules a time. If he says no, then I will take that as an answer and use it to progress my healing and move on (hopefully, but it could just cause me to go into another spiral) On one level, I am kind of hoping he does say no, as I know my nerves will be on edge otherwise figuring out what to do and say.

    I hope this current feeling of release and calm lasts more than just a few hours. lol

    Thoughts on that last exchange in my previous post? It seems he is somewhat open to communication, so I am hopeful we can have a productive exchange either in person or through text (if he decides he doesn’t want to meet).

    Reply
  10. Sarah W

    Sorry to post again with out waiting for your response, but I have my answer. His response was: “I Dunno, let me think about it.” I took that as a ‘NO’ and didn’t respond since I was running out the door. I came home an hour later to “What for? – Cuz I don’t want to meet. So can you just say what you want to say?. I’ve been stupid busy and don’t have the time” So I am taking that as a ‘H*LL NO’ and not responding. He is trying to bait me into a fight and I don’t want to go down that road. He has done that before on a few occasions and I have had to calm him down, and I simply don’t have it in me to do it again.

    So, what’s done is done, if he contacts me in the future I will respond based on how I feel at the time, but for now – I can move out the ‘pining’ and the ‘what if’ limbo I have held myself in for the last 2 months. It feels like a weight has been lifted off my chest. I know I am not healed, that I will still suffer pangs of sadness, loneliness, and will want to contact him – but I think it will be easier from here on out. I can focus solely on me and not wonder if what I am doing will affect him or how he perceives me.

    Reply
  11. James Nelmondo

    Unfortunate, but yes, at least you have a better idea of what your priorities are. This way he knows not only what your feelings are, but that the ball is most definitely in his court should he have a change of heart. So yes, you’ve done what you can, and hopefully the pain is clean this time around and not laced with “what ifs”.

    Sorry for the terse reply, I’m traveling at the moment with sporadic time and Internet access.

    Reply
  12. Sarah W

    Hi,

    Don’t know if you are still checking this article but I figured this would be a good place to write.

    Its been two weeks since my last writing. I haven’t contacted him other than to ask for his monthly payment on the truck a week ago. A few days later he messaged me on FB – “Since I know it was a big deal to you, check this out..” He then posted a picture showing a zero balance on a debt he had (that had been sent to collections and that I had pushed him to take care of during the relationship.) I told him “Congrats, that’s really great” and he said “thanks.” (this was a week ago)

    My brother said not to take it as a malicious act, and maybe it just shows that I had a good influence on him. I can’t help but feel that it was a slap in the face to show me how well he is doing with out me.

    I am no longer in the limbo of wondering what is going to happen, but I am still very emotional (more inwardly than before) over all of this and I still miss him and want him back. I am working towards moving on and I am doing much better than before, but I am still having random moments of sadness and longing.

    I guess I just wanted to update and ask why, from a guys perspective, he would send that picture to me? Why, 2 months after breaking up with me and telling me he didn’t want to see me, would he bring up his debt with me? Why send out that ‘bread crumb?’ Was my short response adequate? Should I have tried to continue the conversation? Should I have not responded at all?

    (And yes, I still hate all of this, lol. But really, I am doing better than before and I want to thank you again for your help.)

    Reply
    1. James Nelmondo

      Hey Sarah!

      I think, all in all, I agree with your brother. Thing is, just because you’ve parted ways, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an ailing connection (as you well know). I find it likely that he still values your respect and feedback, and that he may have been proud of his achievement and wanted to share it with someone who would care.

      Of course, this doesn’t preclude that it wasn’t a “forget me not”, but it doesn’t strike me as overly vicious, although it is possibly a little selfish (he discounts how this might open a wound).

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