“Clouds of sulfur in the air, bombs are falling everywhere, it’s heartbreak warfare.”
The Monday after Easter. That’s when it happened. Kind of sad that I can so easily pinpoint the date, but it was a very memorable weekend since I spent it drinking too many mimosas in an attempt to relieve the anxious fear that the inevitable was going to occur. (Which it did.)
Girl got dumped.
Fast forward to now, almost four months later. After ending my sorry month of self-imposed celibacy, I got back on the scene with online dating. Now there are options aplenty, some of which may actually hold some promise.
But how to know if I’m ready?
There are no magic formulas for when to move on from a breakup (e.g. twice the amount of time you were together, or half the amount, or the amount times pi divided by the circumference). Everybody heals at their own pace, and a lot of it is contingent on the circumstances of said breakup. Some are simply more traumatic than others.
The only way to know if you’re equipped to move on is to have some real talk with yourself, about your past relationship and the one you’re considering getting into.
In asking yourself the following questions, refer to the wisdom of Sir John Mayer, sexy crooner and Hollywood playboy extraordinaire. That man knows a thing or two about broken hearts.
1. Is the other person also recovering from a breakup?
“Half of my heart’s got a grip on the situation, half of my heart takes time.”
In a lot of ways, rebounds are natural, and beneficial. A University of Michigan study found that breakups hurt your brain (that’s technical language) the same way a burn does, firing up the same pain centers. Feelings of happiness and love, on the other hand, make those hotspots cool down. So while locking yourself up in your room with Haagen Dazs and Netflix may be tempting, wrenching yourself out of self-pity mode and going out and meeting people will actually do you much better.
But if both you and a potential new partner are on the outs from a recently terminated relationship, that’s a big red flag to take it slow. It’s easy to get caught up in the giddy exhilaration of a New Thing, but before you know it, those pesky ol’ emotions can come ruin your fun… before either of you have assessed if you’re really ready. So whether it means continuing to see other people to create an emotional buffer or simply not reaching for your phone to text your new friend every half hour, proceed with caution.
2. Are you looking to recreate your ex?
“And when the loneliness is through, I’m gonna find another you.”
Do you keep thinking (and talking) about your ex? Do you mentally compare your new dates to him or her (even on second, third, or fourth dates)— sizing them up so your ex comes out better?
Sorry, darlin’. You’re not going to find another anybody.
When you’ve gotten the short end of the breakup stick it’s easy to indulge in this kind of compulsive comparison. And in fact, you might just keep doing it until you really do meet someone who blows your socks off. But a lot of it is a matter of time and perspective. You’re still looking at your ex with rose-colored glasses, even though things really weren’t that rosy— or else you’d still be together. So give yourself enough time to say, “Ending things was for the best,” and mean it.
3. Do you have a support system?
“Then the circle of your friends will defend the silver lining.”
It’s easy to feel alone in life after a breakup, and the next guy or girl who comes along and shows interest can seem like the magic solution. But if things don’t work out there, you’ll find yourself feeling even lonelier than you did before. So make sure that you haven’t ditched your friends for your S.O. (past or present), and if you have, invest the time and energy to strengthen those relationships again. At the end of the day, it’s your crew that’s going to get you through the rough patches. Remember all the mimosas?
4. Are you happy on your own?
“Who says I can’t get stoned, plan a trip to Japan alone?”
It’s arguable that smoking the happy grass equals being content “doing you,” but we’ll let that one slide. The real question to ask yourself is: are you truly happy on your own?
Experiencing a rift with another person doesn’t have to be all bad. It’s also a great opportunity for soul-searching. Pull out a notebook and pour out some thoughts. Ask yourself the tough questions: what was I looking for in that relationship? Was that person really right for me, or can I see why it wasn’t meant to be? What did I learn from it, and what do I realize I need from a partner?
Try that self-helpy, spiritual thing you’ve been thinking of doing for a long time: meditation or yoga class, a retreat, or just some alone time. It doesn’t have to be as far as Japan— even a day spent out and about by yourself can be therapeutic and put you back in touch with the only one who will always, unconditionally, stand by you.
And ask yourself if that new prospect is really special, or just a distraction. Nothing wrong with distractions— until they start clouding your judgement and preventing you taking a hard look at yourself and your past relationship so you don’t spiral into the same dead-end patterns.
So how much time does it take to “get over it”? After I experienced from the aforementioned breakup, I did what any girl would do: I called my dad.
He told me about a heartbreak he suffered when he was about my age. He had been dating a woman he really liked, but it turned out that she was deciding between him and someone else. She went with the someone else. (Good thing from where I stand— or else I might not be here!)
Now, decades later and still happily married to my mom, my dad readily admitted: “Those things never quite leave you.”
Don’t expect the pain of a bad break-up to ever completely fade. Anyone you love becomes an indelible part of you. But if you ditch the bitterness and replace it with stronger sense of self, you’ll be on track to make your next relationship better and healthier than the last.
Lastly, a bonus track: your body is a wonderland. And don’t you forget it.