Post-Breakup Do’s and Don’ts

Leave town for awhile? Sure! Get a totally new hairstyle? Well, maybe not. Here, the best—and worst—impulses to pursue in the wake of heartbreak.

By Laura Schaefer

hether the breakup was a complete shock or long in the making, chances are you are now left feeling less-than-great about it. And maybe you’re harboring some pretty strange thoughts. Like, Should I cut my hair? Or, Should I give up all my worldly possessions and move to Tibet? All logical questions to entertain during this heart-wrenching phase. And yet, while certain impulses are healthy and productive to pursue, others should remain in the realm of “what if?” if you know what’s good for you. In case you’re not sure which group your own whims fall into, check this list below for things the lovelorn should — and shouldn’t — do.

5 things you should do after a breakup…
Purge memories of your ex
Out of sight, out of mind isn't just a cute saying, it’s a crucial part of getting over your past relationship. Throw out anything that could serve as an unpleasant reminder,
A little ice cream and drinking is OK, but not every night of the week.
including photos and gifts (if they’re expensive, give them away or store them in a closet until you can handle it). Delete that person’s emails and number from your cell to head off an embarrassing drink-and-dial episode. The fewer memory triggers that surround you, the faster you can move on.

Get a new goal
Newly single people often feel aimless and have hordes of time to fill… what better opportunity to take on a challenge? It can be physical (triathlon training), creative (art courses), or warm-and-fuzzy (volunteering at an animal shelter). Having a purpose outside of yourself can snap you out of your woe-is-me mindset, and give you yet one more reason to jump out of bed in the morning. How’s that for a speedy recovery?

Head out of town
A brief change of scenery could be just the thing to lift your spirits. Consider a journey to a place you’ve always wanted to see, whether it’s a week of roughing it in the woods or a quick spa getaway on the beach. You’ll be so stimulated by your new surroundings that stray memories from your relationship past are less likely to intrude.

Cultivate a new crush
Even if it’s a meaningless, mini-infatuation with your Starbucks barista that goes absolutely nowhere, it can be just the thing to distract you during a rough time. Not in the mood for butterflies just yet? Get in touch with someone you may have neglected lately, like your sister, parents, or an old high-school friend for some quality bonding.

Celebrate your singledom
It can be easy to see a breakup as a downer, but let’s be honest here: If it wasn’t meant to be, you’re much better off being free, don’t you think? To emphasize that this is a good thing to have happened in your life, throw a cathartic “I’m Single!” party to kick off your newly-available status and move forward with an attitude of relief rather than sorrow.

…and 5 you shouldn’t
Indulge in your vices too much
Don’t get us wrong: A little ice cream and a few drinks are definitely in order, but not every night of the week. Think about it: If you completely give in to your video game habit or start smoking
It can be easy to see a breakup as a downer.
like a fiend, you’ll just end up feeling worse. Focus on healthy distractions like exercise, socializing, and community involvement.

Drastically change your look
Sure, it’s always tempting to follow to a major life change with a major style change. But do you really want to grieve for both your relationship and your old hairstyle? There’s nothing wrong with a little makeover, but give yourself some time before you go through with anything drastic. Calls to a plastic surgeon or the tattoo artist should not be happening now.

Move to a new place—permanently
While a brief change of scenery can be a good thing after a bust-up, a permanent move to a new city is probably going too far. After a breakup, you need your friends and the other steady parts of your life for comfort. If you jump ship completely, you might be left feeling very adrift.

Talking about your ex too much
Talking it out is one thing. Talking only about your ex for weeks on end is another. Obsessing about the past or indulging in spiteful thoughts will prevent you from moving on, and it will alienate your friends. To avoid going down this road, consider writing it down in a journal or meeting with a therapist. By confining your thoughts to the page or to a talk session or two per week, you’ll be able to focus your other time on healthier plans.

Stay friends with the ex
Probably the biggest no-no of all. You’re used to having each other for emotional support and companionship (not to mention sex), but if the breakup is for real, it is time to start moving on… sooner rather than later. Jerry Seinfeld famously joked that it takes more than one push to get a soda machine to tip over, but a clean break is a better break. Turn to other people in your life after a relationship ends—not to the ex.

Laura Schaefer is the author of Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor: The Best and Worst Personal Ads of All Time.
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