Q and A With… Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola

Greg Behrendt & Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt

By Laura Gilbert

The co-author of He’s Just Not That Into You is back—with his wife—and a new book, It’s Called A Breakup Because It’s Broken. Below, their sage advice.

Greg, you co-wrote your first book—He’s Just Not That Into You—to help women honestly assess whether they should continue seeing a guy. What made you decide to tackle the painful topic of breakups next, with your wife as co-author no less?

Greg: For some reason, people categorize breakups as trivial, but they’re profound and they define you. Death makes sense, but when someone rejects you, it doesn’t. You think you can change it or that you did something wrong and can fix it. All you can really do is go, “What can I learn about me from this moment to make my future better?”

Amiira: We were driving in the car one day and I said, “I know what the follow-up book should be!” We’d both been through heart-numbing breakups, but they wound up being the best moments of our lives that sent us in new directions and led us together.

What’s the biggest mistake people make after a breakup?

Amiira: Not cutting off contact. There’s truth to the saying “out of sight, out of mind.” The longer you can keep from communicating with them, the easier it will be.

Greg: Every person we talked to says they wish they’d just moved on. If someone is telling you “I don’t know if I’m into this…” it’s powerful to say, “Then I need you gone. I love you and wish this could work, but I’m going to take myself out of the picture.” It’s the one thing you have that’s your own. It’s like hey, how did you get into the power seat?

After a breakup, many people have a hard time resisting the impulse to call their ex. Any advice on how to stick to it?

Greg: It’s easy to be good during the day because you’ve got stuff to do, but nighttime may make you emotional. Stay away from tequila! When you’re going out—and you’ll certainly need to go out—give your phone to a friend.

Amiira: You’ll always be finding excuses for why you “need” to get in touch, but the truth is, you don’t. They’re not going to hear your voice and realize they’re in love with you. It’s a huge opportunity to turn into a stronger person every time you don’t call, so put Post-Its on your phone reminding you of that. And have someone you can call when you get the itch to talk about the mundane moments you’re so used to sharing with your ex. I had one girlfriend I must have called thousands of times!

In your book, this is called a “breakup buddy.” How else can a buddy help?

Amiira: They can also help steer you away from Revisionist Romance Disorder. You only remember the great things about the relationship and what you think you're losing, but they can remind you of the reality of it. Like, “Yeah, but this guy slept with your friends and forgot your birthday” and bring you back down to earth so you’re not as melancholy.

Greg: The breakup buddy can also set parameters, like “You only get to complain to me for one hour a day, and you have to tell me three new things that are happening in your life.”

What about that post-breakup anger that always hits a bit later? Is there ever a right way to let the person know how much they’ve hurt you?

Amiira: By the time you get to your anger stage, they’ve moved on and don’t care, and now you’re just acting crazy.

Greg: It won’t do anything, except make things weirder between the two of you. Instead—and I know it sounds corny—just write that anger down in a journal or a letter that you don’t send. You have to acknowledge that you’re going to feel shitty for a while. The sooner you meet that pain and say to it, “Hi, I understand you’ll be here awhile and we’ll spend some time together and then you’ll leave,” the sooner you’re done with it.

Can people become friends after a breakup?

Greg: Absolutely, but you can’t control it. Your lives have to bring you back together under different circumstances. You have to detox from the romantic relationship first.

Amiira: Trying to do it while in pain is just confusing because nine times out of ten you’re fooling yourself and actually thinking, “If we stay friends, he’ll realize how great I am and miss me and we’ll get back together.” Here’s this guy who was your guy and now he gets the best of you but can date other people? And tell you about it?! You’ll wind up wounding yourself. If the friendship is truly meant to be, it’ll find its way on its own.

Looking back at your own dating histories before you met each other, if you could change one mortifying thing that you did post-breakup, what would it be?

Greg: I’d have cried less and done more sit-ups. I wore my breakups like a suit; I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having being miserable. For many people, a breakup gives them their first experience of having the personality of a broken person.

Amiira: I wish I’d just walked away. Embarrassing yourself by crying and screaming won’t do anything, but not doing it will let you look back and say “I got my feelings hurt, but I kept my dignity intact.”

Laura Gilbert is a writer living in New York City. She’s written for Stuff, The Knot, Health, and other publications.
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