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Dumped… Now What?


Here’s your hour-by-hour survival guide to the first days after you’ve been walloped by a big breakup.

By Kimberly Dawn Neumann

ou’ve just heard those three little words—the bad ones: “It’s not working.” Aside from the fact that your entire world is crumbling down, what should you do? Cry? Try to talk your ex out of it? Start hurling his or her stuff out the window? You’ll probably find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster. Here’s what you can do in those first minutes and days post-dumpage to get back on track.

One minute post-breakup
What you’ll feel like doing: You may experience one or more of these myriad
Don’t act on impulse, whether that means getting
a tattoo or calling
the ex.
reactions: Violent tantrums, bursting into tears, acting dazed (the “this isn’t really happening” response).

A better way to deal: “When you get bad news, your body goes into panic mode and everything speeds up,” says therapist Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., author of Secrets You Keep From Yourself: How to Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness (www.secretswekeep.com). The best way to handle this warp-speed moment is to stop, look and listen. “Focus on yourself, notice your breathing, and attempt to slow things down in your body,” suggests Neuharth. This self-awareness can help you stay rational during this high-stress 60 seconds. Once you’re calm, extract yourself from your now ex (ouch) so you can be alone — or with friends — to process the info. Don’t wait around looking for answers, because they won’t make sense anyway. Breakups aren’t a negotiation, and anything you do next to try to change the person’s mind or punish him or her will likely embarrass you later.

One hour post-breakup
What you’ll feel like doing: Trying to make yourself feel better—eating three pints of Ben & Jerry’s, drowning your sorrows in bourbon, going on a shopping spree, or calling your ex very late at night to make that “one last” point.

A better way to deal: Doing things to soothe your spirit is healthy, as long as you don’t pick something that will make you feel worse afterwards. “If you’ve just had your heart broken, sometimes a lot of chocolate is exactly what you need,” says Neuharth. “But if you start feeling fat in addition to alone, choose another coping mechanism.” And “proving” your ex wrong won’t change the fact that you’ve been dumped, it’ll just make you seem a bit psycho. You two can talk things out rationally… later.

Positive choices include talking to a close friend who will just listen or going to the gym. The endorphins you get after a workout (or even a long walk) can help counterbalance waves of sadness.

One day post-breakup
What you’ll feel like doing: Being impulsive! You feel the sudden urge to call an ex, ask out 50 people online, get a tattoo, or cut off all your hair.

A better way to deal: A lack of impulse control is your mind’s attempt at sidestepping the hurt. “Things are still sinking in, and people may wake up the next day and forget for a moment that they were dumped,” says Neuharth. When they realize it wasn’t just a bad dream, they start thinking that perhaps change will make things better, or at least offer a
Take a minute to make sure you don’t repeat bad patterns.
fresh start. “Recognize the tendency to do something impulsive, but don’t act on it,” says Neuharth, who suggests journaling as a good exercise at this time. No one likes to be rejected, but getting a Mohawk isn’t going to help.

Three days post-breakup
What you’ll feel like doing: Crawling in a hole, never leaving your bed, listening to “your song” on repeat.

A better way to deal: Yup… reality sucks. “There is a qualitative difference between one day and three days. This is the point where the breakup sinks in, and then you crash,” says Neuharth. Adrenaline (not to mention rage) may carry you for the first couple days, but once that wears off, you’ll find yourself dealing with the same levels of pain and exhausted from running on emotion! The tears you thought were over may start anew—in floods. You’ll be mad one moment, sad the next… you’re going through the stages of grief. “Focus on getting rest, eating well and taking care of yourself, because you’ve had part of you ripped out of your life.” Sticking to a routine that helps you stay occupied is smart.

One week post-breakup
What you’ll feel like doing: Dialing your ex, logging into his or her email, obsessively checking your phone for messages, looking to see if his/her profile is reposted online.

A better way to deal: Congratulations. You’re now in the “I’ll get him/her back” phase. “You’re trying to make sense of the shock, but it makes things worse to think that maybe they miss you,” says Neuharth. And focusing on the other person keeps you in pain. It’s hard to accept, but there is nothing you can do to get the other person back if he/she truly doesn’t want to be with you. Resist picking apart all the reasons your ex gave you for the breakup and thinking you can work your way back into his or her life if you just change that one little thing. “It really helps to say, ‘I’m going to grow from this no matter what.’ You may not know how at this point, but you don’t tell a cut to heal—it heals.” And so will your heart.

Two weeks post-breakup
What you’ll feel like doing: Clinging to reminders of what it was like to be a couple, reminiscing about the bliss of being in a relationship, thinking you’ll never love again.

A better way to deal: Ask yourself whether you’re actually missing your ex or missing the perks of a relationship, like physical affection and a regular Saturday night date. Right now you’re writing revisionist history and glorifying hanging out with a dude or dudette who callously dumped you. Is that really worth mooning over? This is the time to start clearing out “ex” reminders. Put photos away, delete your emails, rearrange your bedroom so you don’t relive memories when you look at things, etc… “Relationships are basically habits, and you need to break this one,” says Neuharth. “If you see reminders of this person everywhere, it’s harder to get them out of your head.”

One month post-breakup
What you’ll feel like doing: Trying to forget that this misery-making person was ever in your life. Who needs ’em?

A better way to deal: Before you forget about your ex entirely, take a little time (now that you have some distance) to think more about him or her. Not to win him or her back, but to make some sense of the relationship and avoid repeating its mistakes. (Note: If you’re still sulking à la day three, consider seeing a therapist to screen for depression.) “Do a timeline and write down when you met, when you first had sex, when you had your first fight and any other significant events you think of,” says Neuharth. This can give you perspective about the relationship: Objectively look at what was good, what was bad, and — wake-up call time — what patterns you might be repeating. And once you can remember the other person’s positive traits without pining, then you’ll know you’ve got some distance and wisdom—and you’re finally ready to move on.


Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a New York City-based writer and performer who has written for Fitness, Marie Claire, Prevention, and Cosmopolitan.
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