There were red flags, but I didn’t notice.
The lyrics are pretty self-explanatory.
Folks who are over it won’t be reading this article. Because they are over it. The very recently dumped will be typing ‘getting over a break-up’ into Google and be on page twenty-six of the search results. Just in case they missed the secret to getting over it faster. They are tired of reading ‘time heals all wounds,’ and want this feeling gone by the weekend, or at least by Christmas. I’m afraid time doesn’t do all the work for you. If you’ve ever listened to someone talk about their difficult break-up, only to find out it happened eight or nine years ago, you know time doesn’t give a rat’s arse about your loss.
I think I have some advice about getting over your break-up, but it’s going to be messy and you might want to lay a towel on the floor.
It’s possible you ended the relationship…it still doesn’t mean you are over it. If you’re the one who got dumped, you can double the recovery period but oh, the victory will be yours in the end. It might have happened twenty years ago or last week. You know you’re over it when you stop wondering if there is a chance you’ll get back together. You’re not waiting for them to wake up one day, reach for their phone and tell you, ‘I’m sorry. I failed to appreciate you. I want to apologise for every negative comment I made, starting with that remark about your mother. I didn’t mean it when I said, ‘pack your shit and get out.’ What I meant was, I love you. I’m coming over.’
Getting over it requires passing through two stages, the first is experiencing the loss. When you’re through that, the second stage is wishing them well in their future. The one you’re not in.
Go ahead and get that towel ready.
Obviously I’m speaking from the experiencing of getting dumped hard. ‘Pack your shit and get out,’ was a direct quote. Not a lot of wiggle room in there to try and get back together one day. Yes, I still entertained those fantasies on high rotation. I packed my shit up and muttered some encouraging words about us, ‘taking time out to look at our issues,’ while he held the door open to my car. I was going to be alright, I told myself, barreling down the highway. I’ve been here before and it doesn’t kill you, it just feels like you’re going to die. There is a wall of pain headed your way, and you will scamper over it, sort of the way a toddler climbs a stool. Awkwardly and without any dignity.
The most important thing is to keep your panties on. The person who told you ‘the best way to get over someone else is to get under someone new’ wasn’t really grieving. They were using someone else’s body to grieve on and that’s not very fair. Grab a hanky, instead. At least after you throw the hanky out, it won’t climb back out of the dirty laundry basket, hoping to hook up again.
After getting dumped, I told my friends I would be over it in ninety days. I’m a writer, I figured, I work well with deadlines. One wise friend kept checking in on me.
‘Almost through!’ I said, ‘It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.’
She replied, “I want to suggest to you, Vivvie, that even though you think you’re through, you may not be through.”
“Nope, I’m definitely through!” I said, because I had started eating solid foods again. Freedom was just around the corner.
“Are you down on the marble tiles, yet?” she asked.
“Nope. I don’t really know what that means, but I don’t have to!”
“Lying on the floor of the bathroom, crying through the layers of grief until all you feel are the marble tiles on your back?”
“Nope! I really don’t think that’s going to be necessary.”
You can see where I’m headed with the towel.
I was using a lot of positive encouragement. You know the kind I’m talking about. You’re going to be a really interesting person after this, wowwee… I was using it as a bandage over the wound that wouldn’t heal. That wall of pain had arrived and it can’t be scampered over. You have to walk through the wall. That’s why it hurts.
I finally gave myself permission to cry. Then I started to howl. Then it was those moans an animal makes when it’s dying in a forest alone, its foot caught in a trap. I cried first for the break-up and every break-up before it. I cried for my father and his abandonment. I cried for a pain that went back three generations. There were probably random people I’d never met scooped up in that howl, that’s how big it was.
The door from my bedroom was open, and lying on the bed, I saw what I looked like in the bathroom mirror. I looked like I had rigamortis. Not so much a serene looking corpse, but the ones they dig up from the base of a volcano, burned alive. ‘That’s kind of funny,’ I thought and broke for lunch. I made myself a sandwich and went back to crying for another couple of hours and then I was done. Was I over the break-up? Almost. There’s another stage I had to pass through, but I was ‘moving on’ by moving through the grief. This, I thought, this is interesting. I’m in pain and I’m quite enjoying myself.
If you do go with the bathroom tiles option, I would recommend the towel. It’s easier on the back.
The second stage in getting over your break up is more challenging.
Wishing them well.
To wish anyone you loved and lost well comes easier for some, more difficult for others. If your loved one displayed particularly shitty behaviour, you might try to skip this stage. Feeling the depth of your grief releases them from your body, but wishing them well releases them from your mind. Because no one wants to be the girl at the party, bitching about their ex twelve years after it ended. Or as my mother once said to me, “It’s been two months since your relationship ended, please stop talking about it. It’s not fair to people. You’re boring them.”
What you seek is ‘closure’, but we only get closure when we no longer need it. With pain and loss, the mind wants to apportion blame. We put certain events on trial, and stack the jury, create the judge and start the prosecution. We know it’s an enormous waste of time, but we do it anyway. Some people actually go to court in real life. A friend recently went to court for mediation. There were twelve other couples there that day. The judge looked at each of them and said, “I’d like you all to step outside and take two hours to work out your issues with a mediator and come back in here like adults.” One’s day in court isn’t always the vindication we hope it will be.
If there has been violence and custody battles, wishing them well is going to be the last thing on your mind, but it releases you from the spell of the relationship. Or the death grip, depending on your level of despair.
Close your eyes. Visualise the person. Now wish them well.
It’s hard, isn’t it?
I have a friend who grew up in India and he told me a story about his heartbreak when a woman dumped him. He was in pain and so he sought out a guru his uncle had recommended. He sat in front of the guru and explained he has been heartbroken and needs help moving on. The guru told the young man he would recover if he did one simple thing. Pray for her happiness.
Two years went by. He prayed for an hour every morning and an hour in the evening on her happiness and still, he was in pain. So he travelled back to the guru and told him, ‘I’ve done as you said. Prayed for her happiness and it didn’t work. I’m still miserable.’
The guru asked, ‘Did you mean it?’
The young man realised he had been praying, but hadn’t really wanted her happy. He just wanted her back.
Pray for their happiness. Mean it. And you’ll be done.
What are your best tips for coping with a break up?
Vivienne Walshe is an Australian playwright and screenwriter. Her plays have been highly awarded and published by Currency Press. As an actress she appeared on The Secret Life of Us and many other television shows and performed in plays at the Melbourne Theatre company, Sydney Theatre company and Queensland Theatre company.
Start with some affirmations -“each hour is an opportunity” is a good one. Listen to an upbeat song – no Stevie Wonder or Portishead! Read an inspiring poem or quote, look at a flower, do the sun salutation, pat a dog, shut your eyes while you sip your coffee and picture yourself having a happy day being and having all that you wish for…
Don’t read the paper until you’ve done one of the above. Don’t chat to the grumpy neighbour, hop on the train or watch the news. Your tender head needs preparation so it can meet the day armed with a ‘positive’ vest. Oh, and pack fruit and nuts to snack on at through the day – your blood sugar is important at this time.
Next, look at your bedroom. It’s time for a good clearing out! Open your bedroom window, play some loud disco music, turn all the lights on and burn some incense or aromatherapy oils. In Eastern philosophy music, light and heat all increase the Yin (positive) energy around us. A good oil combo for productivity and focus: Rosemary, Basil and Cedarwood. Three drops of each in an oil burner and you’re on your way.
Throw out some old clothes, pack up any old love letters and store them in a box (in another room), or better still, if you’re feeling really strong – toss them away.
Change the pictures on your walls and the photos in your frames. Vacuum your room, wipe the dust, head to the shops for a new set of pillowcases, (or a full set of linen if you’re really feeling indulgent) or a healing crystal to hang from your window.
Feel a bit more welcome and clean in your own space now? Change your exterior and it’s bound to affect the interior.
Excuse #1: “It’s not over, it’s just a bad patch”.
Falling out of love is a slow, subtly creeping process, one that at various stages can easily be confused with any number of ordinary relationship lows such as complacency lagging libido, never-ending arguments, and boredom. When you’re living in a healthy, non-threatening situation it makes sense to do everything you to can to maintain a relationship that still holds the promise of love, passion, compatibility and security. But if your “low patch” has being going on for months and months, it’s time to get out.
Excuse # 2: “No one will never ask me out again – and even if they did, who wants to go through the horrors of dating again?!”
Even if you are perfectly hideous (which I am sure you are not!) there are sure to be plenty of equally vile creatures simply dying to make your acquaintance – the world just works that way. Even so, putting yourself back “on the market” can be a really terrifying prospect, especially if you’re lugging around a bruised ego, guilt, a sense of failure, or are broken hearted because you still love your ex but it just wasn’t working out. When you are going through this poxy stage just remind yourself that the fun and lovable babe your ex first met and fell in love with is still inside you, she’s just been emotionally bound and gagged. You’ll know when you’re ready to let her loose again. We owe it to ourselves to take risks and not realise at 90 that life is very short.
Excuse #3: “He’s not that bad.” Do you really want to spend the next 75 years with “not that bad”?
When was the last time you thought about what you’re getting from your current relationship? Do this: make an actual list. If the pro and con sides are relatively balanced may that’s good enough for you. Remember that no relationship is perfect and you can’t expect to get everything you need from one person. “He’s not that bad” is a also an excuse uttered by a terrifying number of women bearing the black eyes and fat lips of domestic violence. If you are being abused, verbally, emotionally or physically, bolt first and ask questions later. Understand this: when choosing our partners we never get more than we think we deserve.
Excuse #4: “It will kill him.”
It won’t Okay, so you don’t want to be the bad guy, you don’t want to hurt him, you don’t want to face conflict, you don’t want to be alone and lonely, and you don’t care enough about yourself to get out. The longer your cling to a dead relationship, the more likely it is that you will grow frustrated and resentful, a lethal combination that often leads to destructive behaviour (an affair, anyone?). No sane person enjoys hurting someone else but think about it this way: were the situations reversed would he be doing you any great favour by staying out of some warped sense of obligation? The truth is, wonderful as you are, he will get over you. End it swiftly and honestly.
Excuse #5: “But the sex is great.”
Enjoy it while it lasts – what more can we say?
Excuse #6: “What if he’s The One and I blow it?”
Trust your gut and follow your instincts. If this guy were the best thing since sliced bread, you’d know it. When you begin questioning things it’s a signal to be more observant. Maybe you’re not ready to commit. Maybe the timing is wrong. But if you’re always wondering if there’s something better out there, you owe it to yourself to explore your options. “But”, you protest, “there’s nothing wrong with him!” If your friends love him, your parents approve, he’s “eligible” and you use the word “should” as in, “I should be madly in love with him”, then you’re not.
Excuse #7: “He won’t commit.”
When you’ve got the white-picket-fence fantasy and he’s just bought an open round-world air ticket, then clearly you’re not in the same relationship zone. If you’re the one who’s eager to seal the deal, here’s a likely scenario: eventually you do get fed up, threaten to leave, issue an ultimatum. He resists, you leave. But then you miss him because you love him, damn it, so you slink back to him. For a while it’s okay, until you start to want that concrete commitment, and you leave again. He knows you’ll come back, because you always do. The break-up/make-up cycle is the stupidest thing a woman can do. The moment you go back on your word, your word becomes meaningless.
Okay, what to do? find out what he thinks he’s committing to, or not committing to that’s so terrible. Is it you? Your pairing in particular, or the concept of eternal togetherness in general that’s got him clinging to his bachelorhood. If he’s just got normal fears and insecurities, lots of long talks and a little therapy might sort things out. On the other hand, if he’s a seasoned soloist with no interest in having a co-pilot, get out now with your self-esteem intact. Why would you want to be with someone who doesn’t’ want to be with you?
As we get older (and the more bridesmaid dresses you accumulate), the more important “landing a man” invariably seems and more pressure comes at you from the breadth society and the depth of your family. Instead of shifting into high-gear manhunt mode, figure out what you hope to get from a relationship – financial security? companionship? confirmation of your lovability? Then find ways to get these things on your own. Change careers, go back to uni, rekindle old friendships, and work on filling your life with happiness and meaning. Life isn’t about hooking up to complete yourself; it’s about making yourself whole first. When you do that you meet other people who are whole and who have something to give back to you. So how do you say goodbye nicely?
So you’ve finally decided to break up with him but what do you say so he doesn’t’ end up weeping buckets or going psycho and throwing furniture about. These are our pointers for making a quick, clean and as painless exit:
- Don’t verbally beat him up. Character assassination is not required at this point, no matter how tempting it is to whip out all those little things that irritate you, and it will only make you look petty. Besides he’s already going to feel like crap, don’t add to it.
- Get it over with. Don’t let the conversation go on for hours, you will just be going round in circles. It will just get late and you will end up in bed together – bad idea. It should take no more than an hour, no matter how long you’ve been together.
- Make it stick. The worst thing you can do is throw in a maybe to try to ease their pain. This leaves the proverbial door ajar slightly when it should be closed firmly behind both of you. Give him back his stuff. Keep all gifts he gave you, except if they are family heirlooms.