The Girls' Guide to Surviving a Break-Up
By Delphine Hirsh
If your palms aren't too tired, high-five yourself yet again. You may not be laughing all the time and wildly in love with your life, but there is no doubt that you are feeling a lot better than you did six months ago. Can you even really remember how miserable you felt back then? Most people can summon a vague feeling of horror, but the actual intensity of the pain can't be accessed. That intensity, thank God, does not stand up against the passage of time.
As relieved as you arc, you may be wondering why you had to experience the kind of pain you just endured. I don't have a very good answer for that and neither did my wise grandma. A lot of people try to find meaning in suffering. For example, you may be familiar with the phrase "that which not does not kill us makes us stronger." Maybe it does, but I'm not sure that being stronger makes pain worthwhile. I myself am pain averse - for my friends, for myself, for you. But, of course, most pain that comes our way in life is not a matter of choice. And when it comes, you can live through it or you can throw in the towel - literally or emotionally - and that just isn't an appealing option.
I do think that heartbreak - though again I would never recommend it - has a silver lining. If you can break out of your own pain, the experience can bring a new or renewed sense of compassion into your heart - for others who have experienced what you have and for people the world over suffering in many different ways. Heartbreak can also bring you a new or renewed understanding of the world around you. Listen to Billie Holiday singing "Lover Man," watch Casablanca, talk to your widowed great-aunt. Are you hearing or seeing them more clearly?
I remember one time I had my heart thoroughly trounced. I was lying on my bed with the radio on and a blues song came on. I think I'd actually heard it before, but I'd never really listened to it. And it hit me: I understood exactly what was being said. Then I realized that several years earlier when I'd told my grandma about a painful breakup I was going through she had understood exactly what I was saying and then some. While my experience had felt so private and so unique, I realized that I had just joined the world's biggest club. And, in a weird way, I felt proud. I wasn't happy, but I knew I was living and I knew I could be happy again.
Whether you realize it or not, you are probably more soulful, more compassionate, and wiser than you have ever been. And that's just for starters. The future is wide open. There is every reason to believe that you can have the things that you want in this life - including a great relationship. I promise, if nothing else, it will be all the sweeter for your recent experience.
Appendix: Days You Could Do Without
Your breakup may have happened at a relatively good time in terms of your calendar. But very likely, in the course of your healing, you will have to deal with days that you could do without. I remember, for example, that a boyfriend of mine and I broke up a week before Valentine's Day. On that Valentine's Day, I was doing my best to pretend that it was just another day when a big box came for me. My ex - who was living in Europe at the time - had sent me a Valentine's Day present early to allow for shipping, which was thoughtful but didn't prevent him breaking my heart a day after he sent it. Needless to say, that Valentine's Day blew. Here are some thoughts on how to make it through potentially upsetting days if they come up before you are ready to enjoy them.
Do not call. Do not send a card. Definitely no gifts and no E-mails. Remember that if his birthday is falling shortly after your breakup, he is probably going to be having a miserable time anyway. But don't feel sorry for him one bit. Use this day to do something that he never wanted to do with you. This is good because it means that you will not run into him and you will spend the day or evening doing something you really like doing that you may not have done often enough when you were together.
Other People's Weddings
I was in a wedding recently and the maid of honor and one of the other bridesmaids were in the first few weeks of breakups. It was not an easy day for either of them, but one of them triumphed over the situation by being gracious, while the other one completely lost it.
Here are some things you want to avoid:
Getting plastered and making a toast in front of all the guests in which you wish the bride and groom more happiness than you and the ex who dumped you. Then falling off the stage.
Freaking out on the bride and telling her that the groom is a total loser.
Making out with more than one person on the dance floor - sloppily.
Here are some tips:
Do not get too wasted.
Designate someone - preferably a male friend - to be your escort, dance partner, Kleenex bearer, safety person etc.
Make yourself useful. Stay busy by volunteering to help with anything.
If you have to make a toast, write it out in advance and have someone read it over For you before you give it. When you actually make your toast, read it exactly as you wrote it. Save improvising for another day.
Get on the dance floor and dance. Dance with friends, strangers, that awkward twelve-year-old boy - it'll probably be the biggest thrill of his life so far.
Wedding Showers and Baby Showers
These may have no impact on you whatsoever. Maybe you don't want to get married. Maybe you don't want kids. However, if you do want to get married and/or you want children and you've recently been through a painful breakup, these kinds of events may not be very feel-good right now.
Try to remember that as happy as your friend is at her wedding/baby shower, the change that she is going through is going to bring its fair share of challenges - challenges that you don't have to deal with just yet. She needs your support just as you need her support through your breakup and on lots of other occasions. Also, having a friend break into marriage and childbirth before you will give you better insight when you are getting ready to do the same.
Naturally, it's a good idea to stay relatively sober at these events. And, not surprisingly, it is inappropriate to dominate the conversation with a blow-by-blow account of your breakup.
Anniversaries or Almost
You may find yourself feeling blue on the date that marks the beginning of your and your ex's relationship. Even - and maybe especially - if you did not make it to a year, you may find this day upsetting. Do not wait for the day to creep up on you and bite you in the ass. Make a plan in advance to do something you enjoy on this day. I recommend that you do not spend it alone. If you need some alone time, take it at the beginning of the day. Write in a journal, mope about, cry, whatever. But by the afternoon, get yourself into another space - literally. Put on a groovy outfit and some lipstick and go meet one or several of your friends. It's not a good idea to get too sentimentally attached to an anniversary that in the scheme of the rest of your life is not going to be important. You will have anniversaries with other people and you will probably not even remember the date of this anniversary in a few years. You may be a diva, hut it doesn't serve you to be a drama queen.