I wrote the following list in 2011. I then proceeded to forget about it, found it again, took a quick read and gave myself a mental high five.
Why? Because I’ve followed my own advice. For once in my life!
So here you have it, my personal list of break up dos and don’ts.
• Keep it civil. Even if you’d rather say, “Go f*ck yourself!” try to remember that there was once something you liked about this person. Something you respected or even admired. Try to hold onto that—not forever, but just long enough to offer a sincere “Be well” (or something along those lines) and actually mean it.
• If the person in question has moved on, don’t insult their current Plus One. It just makes you look petty. And undignified. Have a little class (especially if you’re hoping to reconcile and even if you’re not, it’s still a good idea to take the high road).
• If your break up coincides with some sort of holiday that requires the exchanging of gifts and you’ve already purchased something that isn’t terribly expensive, then by all means: go for it, for old time’s sake. But if you haven’t already purchased something, don’t.
• Do not threaten to kill yourself. Seriously. It’s not cute. My college boyfriend made some threats along these lines when we broke up (even though he himself was well beyond college and should have known better). I ended up looking his mother up in the phone book and calling her to let her know I was afraid her son was going to “do something…” Moral of the story? If you don’t want your ex to call your mother, don’t threaten to kill yourself.
• Do not decide that all women (or all men) are useless/heartless/pieces of sh*t simply because you feel wronged by one. Also, while we’re on the subject, if you do in fact feel this way, don’t say as much in your online dating profile. For starters, this means you’re not ready to date again. It also makes you look like a major loser.
• Do not drunk dial. If you have to, give your phone to a trusted companion when you go out drinking. And even if you find yourself having all sorts of brilliant, alcohol-induced revelations about your ex, your relationship, or the history of universe, keep them to yourself.
• Do not drunk text. If you need to delete your ex’s phone number to keep yourself from acting stupid do it. If you’re not willing to delete, see “Do Not Drunk Dial” and give someone your phone for safe keeping.
• Be civil but not cordial. You’re not doing anyone any favors by being “nice.” I think this one is especially difficult for women; we may think we’re letting a man down gently but really we’re sending mixed signals and making it harder for everyone involved to move on. (And yes, this is one of those lessons I learned the hard way…)
• Stick to your guns. Remember why you are breaking up with this person in the first place. Don’t let anyone manipulate you into thinking that you’re overreacting or making too big a deal of things. We can’t control our feelings but we can control what we do about them.
• Load up on ice cream. And chocolate. And wine. Or chocolate wine if you want to really get fancy. Make sure you have plenty of snacks on hand as well. Ice cream is my personal favorite.
• Try to give yourself some “me” time before rebounding (l learned this one the hard way too). Do yoga. Go for a run. Write. Read. Reconnect with old friends. Do not rush right into making new ones (especially “friends” you meet through online dating websites.)
• Resist the urge to shred things. You may want to throw away all the “stuff” of your relationship (the letters and gifts and photographs) but remember: these things are a part of your history as a person, not just as a couple. I keep all my old love letters in box, not because I like re-reading them and rehashing my past relationships (thankfully I got over that in college) but because they were part of my childhood, and now they’re part of my adulthood and I wouldn’t let anyone take my history away from me. (Can you tell I spent most of my college days engaged in one archival internship or another?)
• “Unplug” yourself: set their calls to go straight to your voicemail, un-friend them on Facebook and file away their emails and texts where you won’t be tempted to look at them every five minutes. Delete everything if you must.
• Do not agree to one last kiss/make out session/night together. It just makes everything harder. Not that I would know anything about that… Okay, actually I do. I know all too much about that. And it sucks. It brings you right back to square one and is so not worth it. At all.
• Avoid engaging in stalker or stalker-like activities. Leave the drama for Judge Judy, Dr. Phil and reality television. This means you should not show up at your ex’s house with a Christmas present. Or send her 30-odd text messages before she finally figures out how to block your number. Also, do NOT create fake Facebook accounts and attempt to friend her, her current beau and her co-workers. It’s pitiful. And eventually she’s going to call the cops.
• Accept the fact that “closure” is a fallacy. You’ll get it eventually, but it will rarely come from the person you broke up with and if it does, it will take a long, long time for you to get there. Instead, focus on yourself. The answers you think you need will eventually surface. (I promise.)
• Remember (and this is a big one) that you cannot be responsible for someone else’s happiness. You can only be responsible for your actions and ultimately it’s up to you (and not anybody else) to cultivate the happiness you deserve in life.
Have I missed anything?