How to Survive a Bad Breakup

I’ve been wanting to write this post for some time, but have been busy with working on my next novel. The reason a bad breakup is on my mind is that I’m in the process of working on new covers for my Cinderella’s Secret Witch Diaries series and Cinderella is put through the ringer in those books. When I wrote the first book, Lost, back in 2009-2010 I wanted to show how money and fame didn’t save Cinderella from a loveless marriage and I wanted her experience to be a means to help others get through a bad breakup.

You might be wondering what experience do I have in this area and I’ll be straight with you: In my early days of dating, and my first long term relationship in which I was engaged to be married, both ended up in flames. I learned a lot from those times and hopefully some of what I learned will help you.

Take Care of Yourself

I think one of the most important lessons I learned is that no matter if I’m in a relationship or not that it’s key that I take care of myself. I’ve been that friend that as soon as I “fall in love” that I ditch my friends and fall head first into the relationship. I’ve fallen in love with being “in love.” The giddy feeling you have in which you wake up in the morning being so happy to be alive and know that someone cares about you. There is a special bond of joy at the beginning of a relationship and it’s part infatuation and part fantasy. Yes, it’s amazing and beautiful and good, but that doesn’t mean everything else in your life ceases to exist.

Back when I was in my 20s, my counselor at the time told me to eat when I was hungry, sleep when tired and spend time with myself. Now that I’m older, all of this makes perfect sense to me. But when I was in my early 20s, I kept looking for someone to complete me. (Oh, Jerry Maguire, how you led me wrong.)

I cannot stress this point enough. I needed to stop looking out in the world for someone to “fix” and complete me like I was a missing puzzle piece and do the hard work on dealing with my own problems and shortcomings. When I understood that I would always keep falling into bad relationships if I looked for someone to complete me, that marked a turning point in my life. It’s part of the reason why I wrote my Cinderella’s Secret Witch Diaries series. I wanted to show how Cinderella finds that she doesn’t need to be rescued by the prince, but she needs to be there for herself. That’s the message that I wanted my kids to learn when they grow up. It’s something that I wish someone would have taught me when I was young.

Building Your Network of Friends Now

After the breakup, you might be lost and feel broken. Family and close friends will help heal you. Yes, you’ll have a lot of work to do on your own, but if you have a strong network of friends, you will be okay. This is another example of why it’s so important to have a healthy balance with your friends when you’re in a relationship. If you’ve ditched all your friends just to be with “the one you love,” then your friends aren’t going to be too happy when you come crawling back to them during the rough times. Good friends are hard to find. I’ve learned that as we get older it’s harder to stay in touch with friends because of distance, work, family and a whole list of things. But if you tend to your friendships over the years, not only can you share your life with them and the relationship you’re in, but if a bad breakup does happen, then you’ll have their love when you need it the most.

I am a firm believer in that personal time with your friends is essential. If you go out with your friend and have dinner, there’s a special bond of each of you being able to be free to share what you will. When you’re in a relationship, couples going out together can be fun, but remember to have that one one one time with your friends. It’s integral to your mental and psychological health. You’ll need to remember who you are without your partner. That’s key.

If you’re now right out of a bad breakup and you’ve neglected your friends in the past, be honest with them. Apologize for blowing them off and show how you want to rectify that (and not just now because you’re hurting). Keep true to your word and stay true to your friendship with them after you start dating again.

Take Time to Be Alone

If you just came out of a bad breakup, relax. I found that trying to jump right into another relationship to numb the pain of the last one probably isn’t the best idea. I’m a big fan of spending time alone. I’ve had many a long conversation with my women friends on this next point, but I think being alone is key: Go to the movies by yourself, go out to lunch or dinner. Treat yourself and learn to be comfortable with being single. I know that this might be hard and it’s a lot easier to have fun with friends, but that’s not the point.

You’re alone now and taking care of yourself means having fun. I spent time going to museums, movies, and restaurants on my own. I realized that if I wanted to heal the aching pain in my heart then I needed to take care of myself. No one was going to come in, sweep me off my feet and fix me. I needed to do that myself.

The best way to be ready for a healthy and loving relationship is to be your own best friend.

After a breakup, you’ll need time to feel crappy and just want to curl up and lick your wounds. But once that time passes, then I’ve found that it’s fun to try new things. I remember cooking some great meals for myself, seeing some great movies and having lots of fun once I started taking care of myself. I began to fall back in love with myself and not the me who I was when I was in a relationship.

I learned to love myself again and stopped thinking of how bad my life was being alone. It took time, but I started to enjoy my life on my own and realized that I could do whatever I wanted and whenever. The new found freedom I had allowed me to create some good boundaries for myself so that in my next relationship I knew that I needed to keep time for myself and my friends irrespective of my girlfriend.

Write Your Feelings Out in a Journal

I love writing. Maybe you do too or maybe you don’t. However, I would recommend starting a journal. It could be as formal or informal as you’d like. And how you use the journal is entirely up to you. Maybe you were cheated on or dumped. Maybe you did the cheating. Maybe your relationship was way more complex than that and just went down in flames and you’re devastated. Whatever the case is, I found that writing my feelings out is a great way for me to process the emotions, and over time, let them go (more on that in a bit).

In today’s day and age, you could sit down at your computer and just type away. What I would recommend is trying two different ways of writing.

Free association

If you know how to touch type, close your eyes, put your fingers on the keys and just start typing. Type whatever you feel like. Just let it all out. I’ve found the freedom to not worry about punctuation, grammar and the like allows me to get at the core of what I’m feeling. Just go with the flow and allow yourself time to express whatever you want.

Write the letter and then burn it

Pretend that you’re writing a letter to the person you’re no longer with, print the letter out and then burn it. Sounds weird, I know, but I’ve experienced the “what if we got back together again” phase of a breakup. No matter how bad things were, there’s a moment of weakness in which you might long to be back with that person (even if the relationship wasn’t a healthy one for you). I’ve been there, you’re not alone. That’s a dangerous time in the post-breakup phase.

I found that I leaned heavily on my friends during this time. With my closest friends, I was able to admit how I felt and wanted to get back with the person I was no longer with, and they would listen to me and then talk some sense into me. I felt ashamed to admit that I felt weak and wanted to be back in the relationship, but to admit that, feel it, write about it and then letting it go is the best path to moving on.

Let It Go

I found that if I didn’t take care of myself and just circled around and around, regretting my mistakes and longing to be back with the person I had been in love with could turn into a destructive cycle. After my first breakup, I romanticized the relationship and longed to be back together with my girlfriend. I didn’t know how to overcome the hurt, loneliness and just felt stuck. Instead of taking care of myself, I stayed stuck in this pattern of feeling bad for myself for way too long and used the hurt as a crutch. “Look at me, I’m hurt and damaged from a breakup. Don’t you feel bad for me?” I admit that I did some stupid things when I was younger that I look back now and understand why.

But when I was young and hadn’t found myself yet, I didn’t know what to do. I had no clue how to help myself. I just know that I was hurt. When I started following the steps listed above, I naturally found a way to survive a bad breakup because I began focusing on myself. I had to grieve the loss of the relationship and that meant going through the stages of grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Some days I would deny how I felt, then I’d be angry, then go back to denial, be depressed and cycle through all of the stages again and again. It took a long time but I finally was able to accept that the relationship was over and that I would be okay. The world hadn’t ended (though I thought it would at the beginning) and I had come out stronger.

I learned that no matter if I’m in a relationship or not that there is still work to do on myself each and every day. And that’s a good thing.

I hope the steps that I’ve listed here help you deal with a bad breakup. Remember, you’re not alone.