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The Guy’s Guide To Getting Over A Breakup


So she just gave you the Heisman? Splitting up sucks, but it doesn’t have to KO your love life. Here’s how to move on.

By Jim Hamilton

ike most men, I’ve never had much luck when it comes to relationship advice books. It’s not that I don’t have problems. It’s just that these books are written mainly for the people who buy them — women — so it shouldn’t be a shock that guys don’t always connect with titles like He’s Just Not That Into You or Mars and Venus in the Bedroom.

I was thinking of this recently when a male friend was telling me how hard he was taking a recent breakup. He’s a 32-year-old musician who’d been with his girlfriend
You’ll be shocked by how many others guys have experienced loneliness and rejection.
for a year-and-a-half. There was nothing dramatic about the breakup — they’d been having problems almost since the beginning — but he was taking it awfully hard. He braved a trip to his local bookstore’s self-help section, but as many men discover, the typical “let yourself stay in bed and eat ice cream” or “give yourself one year to grieve” lines of advice didn’t speak to him.

So I decided to give him my what-actually-works-for-a-guy tips. Again, this isn’t the stuff you’ll hear from a therapist, but it’s practical and easy to do.

Make a list of ex-girlfriend’s horrendous traits
Yes, this means sit down with a pen and write them down. The purpose is to overcome an inherent tendency all people have to only see the good side of a person. Writing down what sucks about her can help you realize, You know, I’m better off without her. For example, several years ago, while missing my ex-girlfriend, I made a list that included “cold, immature, dishonest, cruel, evil.” “Evil” was a bit of a stretch, but the act of writing — and of keeping that list somewhere — went a long way toward keeping me from calling her. Speaking of which…

Establish a designated phone friend
There will come a time, especially in the first month or so after the breakup, when you will be unable to resist calling your ex-girlfriend. One way to keep yourself from doing this is to ask one of your female friends to be the person you call instead. Not to reinforce stereotypes, but this is the type of emotionally-supportive thing women love doing for a friend. (Your male friends might look at you like you’ve lost it if you ask them to be the designated callee, but if you have no female friend willing to do it, it’s worth asking!) An added benefit: You might get some free therapy. It’s no secret guys don’t talk out their problems enough; if you have an excuse to call a gal friend, you might find yourself with just the therapeutic outlet you need.

Begin a new relationship, especially if it’s not a serious one
This is not the age-old male piece of advice to the brokenhearted, “Go get laid!” Any guy over the age of 19 realizes that getting laid, by itself, can be more depressing than being alone. However, there’s much to be said for
Hang in there— it does get better!
what some call the “transitional relationship.” In a transitional relationship, you’re not over your ex-girlfriend, but at the same time, you’re not ready to totally commit to the new person you’re dating. (Of course, it’s only fair to let your right-now woman know you just got out of something messy and you’re not looking for a real relationship.) You have someone to spend time with, who makes you forget what’s-her-name. Maybe it won’t last more than a few months, but it can heal you more than solitude can.

Solicit other tales of relationship misery
You’d be shocked how many other guys have experienced the agony of loneliness and rejection, and how much better you’ll feel after hearing about it. I suspect what’s at work is a very important principle of psychology called the Theory of Relative Deprivation. According to this idea, a person who is unhappy about his life will feel much better if he learns everyone else is doing even worse than he is. So if you find yourself thinking every girl walking by is your ex, if you’re tormented by thoughts of her with another guy or of things you think you could have done to keep her, you may find out your friends have gone through worse! But you’ll only know if you ask them. So go ahead, put it out there and see if you don’t get a real sense of community and perspective.

Have a three-month “light at the end of the tunnel” goal
I’ve never believed grieving should be an endless process, save for truly tragic losses, such as the death of a child. For the unavoidable events of our lives — say, the end of a relationship — it helps to understand that the every-moment-of-the-day sadness is indeed temporary. And you know what? After 90 days, assuming you haven’t rekindled the relationship and you’ve been disciplined about not calling her (see Tip #2), the light does emerge, and you start feeling like yourself again. You can even think about finding someone to get serious with—or maybe your transitional woman will turn out to be Ms. Here-To-Stay. But hang in there and remind yourself, it does get better!


Jim Hamilton is a New York-based writer.
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