I was recently talking to a guy friend on the phone. He was half-sobbing, half-screaming about a recent breakup he was going through.
He’d made the typical mistakes a guy in his 20s makes with his long-term girlfriend -- taking her for granted, lacking appreciation, approaching her life with a general aloofness -- and it had finally caught up with him.
He went from being an example of the ultimate relationship to being single and exuding an aura of desperate loneliness. Babies cried just passing by him.
As I listened to him curse her name and attempt to wax philosophical, he finally got to a question he thought I could answer:
“How did you get over your breakup?”
I sat quietly for a long while, thinking. The simplest question in the world seemed like the hardest to answer. I thought I didn’t know at first, but eventually I realized I did:
“I got over it by not getting over it.”
He wasn’t too happy with that answer, but being in my late 20s and seeing many of my brethren fall, it was an honest answer for both myself and those I’d seen come out of it for the better, rather than for the worse.
You see, women have figured something out that men haven’t. It seems men desperately run away from their feelings when going through a breakup; whereas, women don’t mask or hide from the emotions they feel when love comes crashing down. Instead, women explore those emotions, cope with them and use them for betterment.
Being the sensitive sap that I am, I ended up doing the same thing when my long-term (five-year) girlfriend kicked me to the curb a couple years ago.
Thus, my advice to said friend -- which I suppose is my advice to any guy reading this who is, has been, or will go through a rough breakup -- was to use the emotional pain as a way to better himself.
By "use the emotional pain," I'm not suggesting to drink a bottle a day, eat Doritos and not shower for months on end, hoping it’ll make you a better person. Instead, try giving these tips a try:
Figure out why you broke up
Some breakups are out of our hands, but in ways both innocent and not-so-innocent, both parties involved have usually contributed to the relationship's downfall in some way.
Instead of spending most of your time wishing the other person would die in a tragic accident or catch a very painful STD from his or her next lover, spend time exploring your past relationship step by step, paying particular attention to your mistakes. Write out “your history of f*ck-ups,” if need be.
Even if your ex cheated, there is usually some reason why -- get to the root of it. If you are able to control your emotions during a conversation, ask your ex why he or she chose to move on in a cordial conversation.
If you can’t bring yourself to ask, ask your friends what their thoughts are as an outside party. It’ll be painful to hear, but it's something you need to carry with you so you won’t make the same mistakes twice (hopefully).
Don’t throw away the memories
Lots of guys come out of breakups with these weird, frightening vendettas against love and happiness that cause them to treat their subsequent relationships as if they’re playground games.
It’s a cycle you HAVE to break out of. Sure, toss out or burn most of the memories that will make you cry (softy), but keep something small that will remind you times weren’t always bad (for me, it was a pink sock).
When you’re distrustful or feel too burned to give your next lady a chance, having that memento tucked away somewhere to you remind you that it’s worth taking the good with the bad.
Don’t sleep around… yet
The biggest mistake men tend to make is drowning their relationship sorrows in a sea of strange women. It may make you feel better initially, but each dalliance you have before you’re ready will stunt your emotional progress. Once you’re done trying to go to bed with every woman in town, you’ll end up where you started -- or worse.
NO sex... for at least for a month. Make it three months if your relationship was over a year long.
Don’t get revenge on your ex
When your heart has been broken, you are going to go through petty emotions -- it’s inevitable. Petty behavior leads to petty habits, and petty habits lead to a petty lifestyle, where you lose your sense of right and wrong.
Has her cute friend always given you the eye? See her at a bar and think you have a shot? Hold off on that, son. Getting back at your ex may feel like a good idea at the time, but it’ll lead you to feeling even more like the piece of sh*t your ex left in the first place.
Start your new romantic life on the right foot; respect her even if she didn’t respect you. It’ll help you respect yourself more as you come out of this.
Make the darkness your ally
We all have that period of wallowing, and yes, wallowing is crappy. Wallowing is also a time a guy is emotionally connected to himself in a way he’s never been before.
Explore those dark emotions as a way to get to know yourself. Write, read, or make music if you’re able to. Use the time you have alone with this currently f*cked up brain of yours to get to know yourself by doing something creative.
When you come out of it -- which we all do -- you may have a new skill set or product to show for it.
Long story short, I don’t mean to be naïve or patronizing, but I do feel like our culture too-strongly promotes “moving on” without valuing enough introspection, especially for guys.
If you want to come out of this like she did -- drinking mimosas while listening to your favorite songs, dancing in your underwear and thanking all your friends for showing you there is life after heartache -- give this advice a shot.
Photo via We Heart It