How to Get Over a Break Up (in 10 Easy Steps)

Dear Em & Lo,

My boyfriend of 2 years just broke up with me.  It came out of the blue, to me at least, and I am devastated. I thought he was going to propose and instead he told me he didn’t want to be with me anymore.  Didn’t give “specific” reasons, just that he wants time, he needs space, blah blah blah — cliche stuff.  So I feel awful and am not dealing well.  I’ve been broken up with before, even divorced, but those I saw coming and could deal with, but this time…I’m just not sure what to do.  I believe in the saying “the best way to get over someone is to get under someone” but I can’t right now.  The thought of sex with someone else leaves me not far from disgust. So my question is how do I deal with this?  Any tips or helpful trick besides “Just give it time” because time is killing me right now.


Dear Crushed,

Come here, Lambchop, and let us give you a big hug. It’s going to be alright. Really. However bad it is, someone else has lived through worse before you — read our book “BUH BYE: The Ultimate Guide to Dumping and Getting Dumped” if you don’t believe us — and they didn’t lose their job or their marbles in the process. Sure, it might have been touch-and-go at first, but eventually they started bathing again. Some of them even got a promotion and fell in love with someone new. It’s the cycle of life! Remember, bad breakups don’t make you undateable, they just make you feel that way for a while — unless, of course, you lock yourself in your bathroom for the next year and refuse to answer the door to anyone except the Domino’s guy. Our patented ten-step process below will keep you out of the john and in the human race.

  1. Numb the pain…for approximately seven days (two weeks max, in extreme circumstances). Everyone needs time to hit the wall, overeat, drink themselves silly, and generally self-medicate. Rent Shirley Valentine with a good friend. Get drunk on box wine. Lean on your friends, especially those who insist on referring to your ex as Fuckface. Make a breakup playlist. Don’t feel guilty about crying yourself to sleep. Briefly consider sexual reorientation. Get drunk again.
  2. Cut the cord. As tempting as it may be to call your ex looking for closure, hoping to be friends (i.e. “frexes”), or conning them into second-chance sex, this is not the time to concern yourself with Fuckface. In fact, as with smoking, going cold turkey is often best.
  3. Think negatively about your ex, especially if it helps you manage step 2. Avoid looking back on your relationship with rose-colored hindsight or beating yourself up about what you did wrong. Learn from your mistakes (if you made any, which you probably didn’t), and move on. And while you may hate your ex for dumping you, it’s okay to claim to acquaintances, coworkers, and nosy family members that it was a mutual decision.
  4. Git ‘er done. After you’ve broken down, it’s time to rebuild yourself. You have it in you: start that political blog, dust off your bicycle, take that fiction writing class — after all, you’re more than someone’s other half. Haven’t you always wanted to read Anna Karenina? Never got around to painting your room because of all the time you wasted having sex? Do it now!
  5. Give back to the community. Nothing like volunteering at the local orphanage to put your heartache in perspective.
  6. Give yourself a “breakover.” If revenge is on your mind — and we know it is — get back at your ex by getting in the best shape of your life, getting the best haircut of your life, getting the laser hair removal you’ve always wanted ….
  7. Mark the occasion of moving on. Get a tattoo, whether permanent or henna. Have a breakup party with all your friends. Burn his effigy. Congratulations, you’re more than two-thirds of the way through the breakup grief cycle already!
  8. Go shopping! It may sound a little Tri-Delt, but retail therapy can work by temporarily filling up that void inside you just long enough to get you through the next day. Go on, you deserve it. You can catch up on bills next month.
  9. Go on the rebound. We know you’re not here yet, but don’t underestimate the benefits of distracting yourself with the joys of being single so that you won’t be tempted to indulge in any late-night Googling or other spying on your ex. Try masturbation, online dating (if only to get a few nice emails from strangers in your inbox), or flirting therapy (it’s like smiling — forcing yourself to do it will make you feel better). You don’t even need to have actual rebound sex with someone, though by the time you’ve gotten to step 9 you might feel differently about a palette-cleansing one-night stand (i.e. “sorbet sex”).
  10. Think positively. This is not the death of sex and love. This is the beginning. Say it again: This is the beginning! Now sing it: “I will survive!” Because you will survive. And you will metabolize. Closure will come. Hey, maybe you should even go on a “date.” Remember, dating– whether online or off — is your chance to find better sex and truer love. Fuckface was just a stepping stone on your way to self-improvement, personal growth, and true happiness with the person you were truly meant to be with. Take comfort in the fact that, with every passing day, as the pain subsides, you’re that much closer to your density. We mean, your destiny.

Want even more breakup advice?
10 Journal Prompts to Help You Get Over a Breakup

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22 Comments on "How to Get Over a Break Up (in 10 Easy Steps)"

2 months 12 days ago

Amazed at how bad this advice is..villifying your ex, assuming you “did nothing wrong” doesnt help you gain closure or grow as a person….numbing yourself rather than booking in for therapy or some kind of therapeutic body work, going on the rebound (anyone who seriously cared for the ex would only miss them more..)…spending money…jesus! This sounds like what most people do and end up with less money, less self respect, less personal psychological tools than ever…
It’s like this was lifted straight from sex and the city…or was written by a 20 year old who has never really lost anything. BOOOOOO

2 months 12 days ago

Just out of curiosity, Sam, what would you recommend doing? What’s worked for you?

2 months 11 days ago

I think I voted you down …sorry ;( phones. Im going through an awful breakup..years of addictive patterning, back and forth etc etc. I think tackling it as a physical, spiritual and emotional issue works best. Immediately find a grief and loss therapist, find someone who understands the enormity of the pain for you. Validation will heal you quickly. Take responsibility for your part in it so you aren’t lost in victimhood for months, only to fall into the same relationship with someone else. Avoid booze or drugs or anything that will impair your judgement and may lead to makeup sex etc..its only prolonging the inevitable. Remember if you are going to come back together, you will, don’t push it,just take care of yourself…. Grief is stored in the body…so find something that will help release it, even many things, like five Rhythms (dance therapy, look into it) hypnotherapy, kinesiology, walking, yoga, running, infrared sauna, anything that will soothe release heal…go to websites like soundstrue and download any audio that will help you process and heal your pain and put it in perspective, talks, music, whatever appeals to you. Get into probiotics, they will literally change your world. Be your own best friend. Dont do anything that will leave you more vulnerable, financially, emotionally, physically…And remember…you existed before this person, and you will continue, fall in love, laugh, cry…you’ll do it all again.

2 months 11 days ago

No worries–that’s some good advice, for sure. Validation’s huge, of course. I think it depends on what the relationship was. It seems like Em & Lo’s advice might be more geared toward break-ups from the younger, learning-experience type of relationship, perhaps. Something less serious, and likely less healthy, in retrospect.

I’m not sure shopping would help if my marriage were to fall apart. I do agree with some of their advice for any breakup, though, like giving back to the community, putting energy into something you always planned to do but hadn’t gotten around to (like Sharon Van Etten launching her musical career), thinking positively, and not indulging in wistful idealizing of the ex or the relationship, if possible. Those elements seem sound enough to me.

Sorry to hear about the breakup, by the way. All the best wishes for coming back stronger, happier and healthier. It sounds like you’re on a great track.

2 months 11 days ago

Yeah, I think Lo and I were thinking of breakups rather than divorce (and when I say “divorce” I’m also including the ending of relationships that were basically a marriage but without the paperwork). Yes, some of the tips are a little flippant, but the reader in question here was asking for specific things they could do to distract themselves and help time pass faster — the reader understood that time heals, but they were just having trouble knowing how to pass that time.

I do love your advice about helping your body heal via yoga/walking/running/whatever physical activity meshes best with your personality. I absolutely agree that you can hold pain physically in your body, and sometimes it’s easier to get your body on the road to feeling better before your heart catches up.

And sorry about your breakup. All breakups suck, but the big ones suck especially.

2 months 12 days ago

He (we) broke up yesterday. Actually already have the self defense reflexes of thinking of all the bad sides of our relationship (he was married). And I agree with Jennifer, the word Fuckface managed to put a smile on my tear covered face.

2 months 12 days ago

Aw, Marie sorry to hear that. Well, sorry about your heartache, but NOT sorry that it’s over with a married guy. Consider this your chance to start over with a guy who’s not splitting his time between you and a SPOUSE. Weirdly enough, there are plenty of guys out there who are happy with just one woman. :-)

2 years 12 days ago

This has to be the hardest thing ever, can someone please tell me how to stop this ache in my heart.. :-(

3 years 26 days ago

Haha… fuckface! I’m heart broken and in tears, but every time I read that word I giggled! Thank you for that!

4 years 7 days ago

I can relate to this article alot. It really helps to surround yourself with friends, exercise, hobbies, anything at all to stop from thinking about it. I’ve been having good days and bad. The worst part is when I’m surrounded by my friends who are ALL texting their boyfriends 24/7. It also really helps to make a list of all the NEGATIVE aspects of the relationship, or the person. Anytime I start pitying myself or tearing up, I read the list and it helps alot. This article really shed some positive light on my situation and gave me a laugh, which I could always use. I just can’t wait to fully move on.