We've all been dumped before. I remember the first time it happened to me. I was going with a girl named Maria Almendarez. I was happy. I thought things were good. Then she wrote me a letter saying she was just not that into me. I was crushed. At least she didn't break up with me by text. Because she couldn't. It was 1984. I was in the sixth grade.
Two months later I asked Andrea Aguirre to be mine. Andrea was Maria's best friend. She said yes. Not long after that, we shared our first french kiss together, in the parking lot of the Beverly Center Mall. While we swapped saliva, we left Maria waiting alone by the elevator. Revenge can be so sweet! (I don't think Maria cared, really. Who knows, maybe she was sweet on gals. I mean, it's moi we're talking about here!) When school let out that year I dumped Andrea for no reason that I can remember. Or maybe she dumped me. Either way, it was a long and lonely summer.
Which goes to show that whether you're the dump-er or the dump-ed, breaking up is hard to do. Neil Sedaka's catchy ditty is way before my time, but it seems so fitting! Sometimes breaking up can really be incapacitating. I've been through break-ups right in the middle of midterms (Erika) and final exams (Isabella). Who could study with a personal life in turmoil! The Russian Empire (in college I majored in history) seemed so remote and irrelevant, happening as it did hundreds of years ago, thousands of miles away. While the break-up was happening to me, and the pain, the pain! My heart in tatters, my intestines in knots, my skin acrawl. It felt like I was dying!
Of course I didn't die, but the end of an affair can be shattering, and the sensitive sort can suffer far more from the effects of romantic rejection. I am one of the sensitives. And I am not alone. Funny man Owen Wilson once tried to take his life when Kate Hudson wouldn't have him. Fortunately for fans of his humor he failed. In The Sorrows of Young Werther, a loosely autobiographical novel that many regard as Goethe's masterpiece, the lovelorn protagonist is driven by amorous angst to shoot himself in the head. Suicide among the rejected is thankfully rare, homicide not so much. Just think back to OJ.
But over the years, the school of love has taught me a few lessons on how to cope when the inevitable end arrives - and there is always an end, even if you and your sweetheart stay together till death, in which case it is the Grim Reaper to blame.
It was nice to see some of the strategies I have developed independently listed under the topic "rejection relief: proven ways to ameliorate the pain of breaking up" (I paraphrase) by Lisa Philips, professor and author of Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession.
Some of these strategies, time-tested and expert-endorsed, follow here.
1. Reconnect with yourself
When you're with someone, your lives get intertwined. Same friends, similar pastimes. Breaking up can be like losing a limb - weeks later, months even, you still feel phantom pains! Don't let the loss of your "other half" shatter your sense of identity. You existed before you met your mate, and after it's over, life goes on.
2. Love yourself
Don't beat yourself up too much. Whether you are the breaker or the broken, it's easy to blame yourself for things not working out. Be compassionate and gentle with yourself and your bygone flame. Be kind and forgiving without getting stuck in anger, sadness or regret.
3. Break all ties
My personal favorite, collect all the photographs and mementos and stash them away in an out-of-sight place. Or throw them away if it makes you feel better. Who needs the clutter? Relationships are like addictions. You wouldn't keep alcohol on your nightstand if you swore off drinking, right? Don't call or write to that former flame, at least not until you are in a better place emotionally. Let yourself heal.
4. Foster other attachments
Nature abhors a vacuum. Lovers do, too. Fill in time you formerly spent with your significant other with people and pastimes. Reconnect with family members and long-term friends you may have lost contact with while you lost yourself in the other. Or approach a stranger and say hi. See where it goes. Be adventurous.
5. Force yourself to have fun
Sounds like an oxymoron. Force and fun together in the same sentence? But when you're blue, it sometimes feels like you have to drag yourself to do anything, even activities formerly regarded as pleasurable (the term for this is anhedonia, and it is a symptom of depression - and heartache). Fun stuff boosts feel good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, the same chemicals that get a boost when you fall in love and eat chocolate. But go easy on the sweets. Focus on physical exercise instead, preferably outdoors. Do it with a friend if you're the kill two birds type (that's number 4 and 5, if you're counting).
On a side note, people often ask me if I meet women while running. No, I say. Not only because I don't want to be that guy who approaches women while running. Such a Guido thing to do, really. But really it's because running itself feels so good, not even the prospect of meeting a gal, whether she'd be soul mate or merely playmate for a day, is worth killing the buzz.
So, exercise. Or, make life a holiday. See movies, go dancing, read, meditate, treat yourself to a massage. Breaking up is hard to do and you need to be good to you.
So do these five things and you'll get over said other before you know it. Or take the shortcut and just have sex with someone new. But be warned: this doesn't always work.