It's Okay To Not Be Okay After A Breakup
One of the most difficult periods of my life was immediately after a breakup with my first love; someone I’d been in love with for several years before our breakup. We reconciled a few months later, and have been together since then, but that definitely isn’t the norm and I would highly recommend not getting back with your ex-partner without putting serious thought into the decision.
Over the years, my friends have came to me for advice and consultation about their relationship issues and failed relationships, and alternatively, I’ve had major relationship issues of my own. I want to share some pieces of advice that I’ve gotten and given over the years with you, but here’s the best piece of advice I can give you: it is okay to not be okay. Here's 3 pieces of advice that I give to my friends immediately after a breakup.
1) Allow yourself to grieve.
People never allow themselves to grieve after a breakup outside of the initial cry period. Why? This is a person that you've gotten extremely close to, and potentially loved and considered a future with, and to pretend that you're okay with ending that relationship and losing a very close and dear person to your heart sucks. So why is it so socially unacceptable to say that you miss or care about a person after a breakup?
Your brain is going to process this as a loss, because it is. No matter how toxic and awful your relationship was (which often makes this even more emotional), it's going to be extremely emotional when ending a relationship. This actually has a scientific reason: relationships boost our oxytocin (also known as the "love hormone"), dopamine (neurotransmitter related to pleasure and reward), and serotonin (associated with happiness, helps regulate moods) levels . When relationships end, your brain loses their regular supply of these neurotransmitters and freaks out. This neurotransmitter deficit makes you literally go into neurological withdrawal, and can make you feel depressed, anxious, and emotional until your levels return to normal.
Some tips I recommend for post-breakup self care are:
Doing something different to your hair. A haircut, perhaps? I chopped all of my hair off and dyed it, and it was a good "change of scenery".
Taking baths. Warm baths lower blood pressure and blood sugar, which ultimately relax you. Additionally, doing "fancy/extra" things such as bath salts, bath bombs, bath bubbles, and lighting candles are great ways to make yourself feel better in and out of the bath. Also, it smells pretty great!
Listening to music. It's up to you whether you want to listen to sad or happy music - personally, I only listen to my sad indie rock playlist and cry until I feel better.
Allowing yourself to cry, but timing how long you cry. Tell yourself you'll only cry for 45 minutes and then you're going to complete a task, and as soon as those 45 minutes are up, even if your eyes are puffy and teary and your heart still feels like it's going to fall out, you will still complete said task. It gives yourself time to process your sadness and grief in a way that isn't self-destructive.
Spend time with loved ones. You're probably isolating yourself, whether you like it or not. Spend time with your friends and/or loved ones. Do new things just for the heck of it, or because it's something new that will take you away from your partner. For me, this "new" activity was, as odd as it sounds, driving in mountainous areas and playing in the snow with my friends. I was too excited about seeing 3+ feet of snow in April and too scared of getting stuck in the snow to think about depressing things. Please don't do that at home, readers.
2) Consider: Most breakups happen for a reason.
Most breakups happen for a reason, whether it's because of toxicity, a lack of communication, a lack of trust, or because of irreconcilable differences (religious preferences, dietary preferences). What I recommend doing after a breakup is writing down the pros and cons of your relationship.
Pro: Was really kind to me, attentive
Con: Made me feel uncomfortable about my weight, said something extremely hurtful during an argument.
As I previously mentioned, breakups mess up your neurotransmitter levels, and affect your ability to think clearly about whether this was a good thing to happen to you. This is also a good time to self-reflect: did I do things that were hurtful to my partner? Did I have toxic habits?
3) Drop contact with your ex-partner, either temporarily or permanently.
As I previously mentioned, I got back with my ex-partner a few months after we broke up. This probably won't apply to most people, because as I mentioned in my previous bullet, most break-ups happen for a reason. I forced myself not to contact him, as did he, even though it hurt. There was a time I texted him a few days after we broke up, after a good crying session, and I said a lot of things I regretted and was a further point of contention between us.
Any contact that you and your ex-partner have immediately after a breakup will go catastrophically badly. Breakups suck. Breakups cause lots of hurt feelings, no matter how amicable the breakup is. Emotions run high, and things that you didn't mean to say get said. If you truly want to reconcile with your partner, wait at least a week before contacting them. Yes, this means unfollowing / blocking them on all social media and not texting them. Write down everything you want to say to your ex-partner multiple times before you contact them again, and consider if you still want to contact them after writing down your feelings towards them.
This also goes hand-in-hand with creating a pros-and-cons list: do I still want to contact my ex-partner and reconcile after realizing they were toxic towards me and that our breakup was based on disrespect and a lack of trust?