I’m not the best person to take advice from on how to deal with break ups. I once interrupted a woman who was breaking up with me, who was doing her level best to spare my feelings, with “if you speed this up, I can still catch the new episode of Homicide: Life on the Streets.” (Although I did have a friend who ended things with the line “it’s not me, it’s you. Can I have your best friend’s phone number?”)*

I’m not even talking about the little-noted peril of cohabitation: the potentially negative financial consequences of breaking up. [When unmarried couples who have been living together part company, women are substantially worse off economically than men, according to a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family. Men’s household income drops by 10%, while women lose 33%. The percentage of women living in poverty increases from 20% to 30%, while men’s poverty level remains relatively unchanged at about 20%.]**

I’m talking about the part of the break up that leaves us under the covers, not wanting to leave the bed for a while. Waiting out the fever that has your brain working overtime as you re-run memories, cast aloft on a sea of special songs, moments, and conversations (actually, going over the mental transcript of every conversation you ever had). I’m talking about the heart ache of break ups.

Pain is real. Pain is also personal. The stuff that makes you wince might not phase me, so each person’s pain is, nonetheless, very real to them and not something to be dismissed. (Read memo to would be consolers: don’t minimize another’s pain). Breaking up, even from an unhealthy relationship, is heart-wrenching. You had come to depend on the relationship and having it suddenly crumble underneath you can make you suddenly unsure of your footing.

As we talked about last week, the general movements of the break up are learn from the situation, give yourself time to heal, and move on. Don’t insist on being just friends, at least not right away. This can be hard on one/both of you, if you’re serious about re-establishing a friendship (as opposed to “let’s be friends” = “let’s part amicably and never see each other again.”). You need time to get to a place where this can happen.

Don’t lie to yourself hoping for reconciliation. On the real, you may get back together. That’s understandable: the things that drew you to each other in the first place are still there (chemistry, looks, etc.) Time and distance have a way of making us forget that the things that drove you two apart are still there too. Know when to just walk away, and stay away, from a destructive situation.

Break ups should be as clean as possible as you accept it and come to terms with the rejection. That means:

-no stalking
-no blackmailing them into staying without you
-no keeping photos of them on your wall, lit by candles
-no becoming obsessed with winning them back
-no constant calling
-no going to their new Significant Other’s place
-no checking their blogs or tracking their movements online
-no haunting their usual hangouts

Keep your dignity. Humiliation and/or desperation is cute on no one.

*Okay, I need to hear your best break up stories.

**Get your stuff back/return their stuff. Take this with a grain of salt since 1) I’m a pack rat and I like to treasure things/memories, even bad ones; and 2) I fully believe I should get refunds for money spent on relationships that didn’t work out. Believe that.

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