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Friday, March 06, 2015

Ten Things to Avoid After a Break-up

Friday, March 06, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - I waited two years after my divorce to date again, because I wanted my daughter to be comfortable with the idea.

She was maybe a little bit too comfortable.

     "Mom, I want to meet them before you go out with them."

     "Uh... that's... that's not really the way it works, Doodle."

     "I have to make sure they're going to be nice to you."

     "That's my job, Em. To make sure I pick someone who's going to be nice to you."

     "Wull... we're a team. You always say that."

I do always say that. So I've developed an online questionnaire for potential suitors. Emerson will be signing off on applicants of whom she approves.

I'm kidding, of course.

Anyway, I thought the end of my first relationship, post-divorce, was going to hurt a lot. But it didn't. I met a guy. We dated for a few months, but we knew we weren't headed in the same direction in life. We had fun, but things were winding down, and it ended - awkwardly, amid some dishonesty (boo, guys, just talk to us). But, ultimately, I had an okay time. Easiest breakup ever.

I was lucky. Breakups are rarely easy. There's a person in your life and then, suddenly, there isn't. It can throw one for a loop, and spark a lot of soul-searching and questioning of self-worth.

Y'all, don't do that to yourself. Unless your relationship has been interrupted by some divine comedy of errors, you probably played this thing out as far as it can go. It's time to get on with your life.

Keeping in mind that I don't know jack, here are some things I think we should avoid after a breakup:

1. If it hurts, don't pretend you’re fine
Shut up, you're not fine. Unless you're a sociopath - are you a sociopath? No. So don't jump right back into dating. I'm actually fine, but I'm still giving myself time before I dip my toe back in the dating waters. I'm not lonely, my life isn't lacking, and I have no desperate need to check anything romantic off my bucket list. I'm fulfilled by my platonic and familial relationships, by the work I've chosen to pursue, by my outside interests. I'm happy. I'll date when I feel like it might be fun and fulfilling. Right now... I'm having fun with my people.

2. Don't spend all your time replaying events in your head
But DO look for useful bits of insight. I learned a lot that I had forgotten about dating from this experience - about communication styles and expectations, about boundaries and family ties. And it has reminded me to be even more cautious than I already am. Look, relationships are hard. Forty percent of them experience infidelity. It's a bit of a crap shoot. When you fall in love with someone, what you're really saying is, "I'm going to give you the power to hurt me more than anyone else. I trust you'll keep it to a minimum." That's daunting. So make good choices. And we make good choices by learning from our mistakes. For example, it's a bad idea to date a person whose life goals don't align with mine, and whose education and life stage are so different that the disparity sometimes halted conversations in their tracks

3. Don't sleep together
Argh, no. Take a walk. Buy some batteries. Or, if it's the kind of thing you're into, find someone new. That's not for me, but have fun if it's for you. Bottom line is that no one on his or her deathbed has ever said, "Man, if only I'd had sex with so-and-so one more time, I'd be dying really happy." No, no, no. You're just complicating matters, and dragging out the process.

4. Don't play out your drama on social media
You're embarrassing yourself, and we're all cringing behind our keyboards.

5. Don't make big decisions
Do not pack up and move out of state, shave your head, buy something outrageously expensive, quit your job, or get a face tattoo. Everything you do right now is influenced by that pain in your chest. And nothing but time, honesty, and self-love are going to relieve it. Wait it out.

6. Don't forget to have fun
Delete your Netflix queue. Go to dinner with friends. Try a new hobby. Explore. There's a big ol' world out there just waiting for you to enjoy it. I'm so looking forward to spring on the Canal towpath, to watching my daughter self-pilot a kayak on the Savannah River for the first time, to finding time for friends and family, and to reading some really good books I haven't had time for lately. There is much about life that is wonderful. Your breakup is not one of those things. Focus on the wonderful things.

7. Don't get back together
Hopefully, you broke up over a solid, well-reasoned issue, and had a calm, rational, positive talk about it. If you didn't have a good reason to break up, but you dumped your ex anyway (or were dumped by your ex), there might some maturity, communication, or other issues for one of you to work on. Getting back together is not going to help.

8. Don't seek revenge
Come on. It doesn't matter what he or she did while you were dating. Trying to get some kind of revenge by badmouthing your ex or damaging his or her property or career is just going to give you more to deal with than if you just let yourself feel the hurt and move forward. If you get angry, act like a fool, then try to move on, you'll have to deal with your own guilt on top of everything else. I'm lucky to have been at a point where the breakup was, essentially, mutual. So this wasn't an issue. But I've seen it play out embarrassingly in the past.

9. Don't throw in the towel
Sure, take a break from dating for as long as you need. There's no rush. You're not going to die alone. You have wonderful friends and family, and romantic love is not a necessity for us to achieve happiness. In fact, as opposed to depending upon it to provide happiness to you, romantic love is more likely to come along when you've already achieved happiness. So chill out, but don't go get a bunch of cats. They're adorable, but they will straight up eat your face the moment you die. These are not the kind of relationships in which you should invest. I mean, I love my two little face-eaters, but I have no illusions that the feeling is mutual.

And finally...

10. Don't fail to forgive yourself
You might have engaged in one, several, or all of the above behaviors. That's okay. Take a deep breath, remind yourself that you are only a mere mortal, and do better next time.


  1. Smart stuff, especially "it's a bad idea to date a person whose life goals don't align with mine, and whose education and life stage are so different that the disparity sometimes halted conversations in their tracks."