How adults handle getting dumped?
August 26, 2010 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Are there adult rules for getting dumped? It's never happened to me till now, my late 20s, and I'm pretty inconsolable. (anon because she knows my handle and lurks).

I've done plenty of dating, but not so much breaking up or getting dumped. I've just been dumped after a 3.5 yr relationship (some of which was long distance) and though I'm in my late twenties I feel like a 16 yr old. Abridged history: we started dating at the very end of college, lived together afterward, then I moved in 2009 for a new job. We kept dating long distance on the off chance that she would move out here in 2010 for a job she was trying to get. She didn't get it. So after spending a lot of time with her these past few months, she finally ended it. I should also add that throughout, the relationship's been incredible, but we always grudgingly (me more grudgingly than her, I think) agreed it would eventually end because she is three years younger than me and never dated -- or slept with -- anyone before me. Lots of times we talked about marrying each other, but she wasn't ready to make a commitment like that with anyone who was the first person she'd ever seriously dated. She's smart (& gorgeous).

I'm still very much in love with her, and I'm so sad I can hardly do anything with myself. The only two other girls I've ever dated for more than a few months were when I was like 17 and 21. When I ended the first relationship I was so excited to go to college, and when I ended the second one, I was in college and had a million friends and never really got sad about it. Now I don't have any (the year out here hasn't been very fruitful, socially, probably because I was putting a lot of effort into our LDR) and don't know what to do with myself.

That's not to sound self-pitying. My question to breakupfilter is just that -- what do I DO with myself? I spent all my time with her when we were together; when we were apart we talked a few times a day, for at least an hour every night. I feel like I'm going to cry all the time, and I haven't cried since a funeral in 2002. Sorry if this real mundane. I'm just wondering if there are any practical solutions, or if it's just gonna suck like hell forever.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
The only way out is through it. Don't run from the pain, just live it.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:19 AM on August 26, 2010 [16 favorites]

Give yourself permission to feel bad for a little while. Right now, you have no obligation to anyone as far as the dating/relationship world goes, so you don't need to worry about behaving appropriately as long as you're not hurting anyone (including yourself). Then, soon enough (not yet), you'll be able to move on.
posted by jejune at 8:21 AM on August 26, 2010

It's going to suck like hell for a while, but not forever. Do as much as you can to move forward in your life, taking along the positive experiences you shared with her, and learn as much about yourself in this so you can grow into a better person. Diversify your social situations to meet new people to help you move along.
posted by El_Marto at 8:22 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's just gonna suck like hell. Not forever, though.

To get through: run/swim/exercise the hell out of yourself. Read those books you have been meaning to. Learn that new language, travel to that new country, dive back into that old hobby. Hang out with those friends you haven't seen in a year.

Whine to your friends, your parents, yourself. It sucks now, but it will pass (or at the very least, change dramatically).

Bonus points for any hobbies/sports/etc that also get you talking to new people.
posted by nat at 8:23 AM on August 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

Breakups are supposed to jut. It's someone saying to you that they don't want to be with you anymore and that is a big hit to the ego.

So people usually go through the classic stages of grief for it, too. Mourn it like a death.

But it's more important now than ever to get out there socially. You don't have to be clubbing every night and it doesn't even have to be socializing with the ultimate goal of hooking up. It could simply be a book club you join at the library or a cooking class you take.
posted by inturnaround at 8:27 AM on August 26, 2010

And by jut, I meant hurt.
posted by inturnaround at 8:27 AM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Whiskey, music, and time.

You're gonna feel like shit for a week or two. You have to accept this. Take the steps to make yourself as comfortable as can be. Call some of your old friends, try not to talk about the breakup. Listen to some music you liked before you were dating her, and try and get into some bands or albums you haven't listened to before. Apply whiskey as necessary.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:28 AM on August 26, 2010 [7 favorites]

It is certainly possible to get over such break-ups, and it does not have to suck like hell forever. It's pretty simple. You need a new girlfriend. So, how do you find one? There are vast numbers of women who are interested in finding men with whom to have relationships, and vast numbers of men looking for women, and many different social situations or dating services which can facilitate this process. I am sure you are familiar with these things already. Just do it.

This is a somewhat incidental point, but I do not agree that the relationship you had, which is now ended, had to end because of the 3 year difference in age - which is actually quite a small difference - and because she didn't want to make a commitment with the first person she seriously dated. If the two of you got along really well, it is easily possible that she got it right the first time, and she will never find any superior mate to yourself. There is no obligation to play the field. If the two of you were happy together, I think it was unnecessary to end the relationship for those reasons. Of course, the geographical separation resulting from your move in 2009 is a more significant impediment (although not insurmountable had you been determined to make it work). But since that was the decision, the practical thing to do at this time is to accept that the relationship has ended, and move on.
posted by grizzled at 8:29 AM on August 26, 2010

miss a bus? another on nthe way
posted by Postroad at 8:33 AM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

...what do I DO with myself?

Go hang out with friends. Seriously. I know you probably want to spent time in your room with the lights off, face-first into the pillows and listening to the Cure and, well, that's totally okay. Not just "okay," even. it's healthy and you should do it. But you need to drag yourself out of it, every once in a while, and go hang out with friends. You don't have to be the life of the party. You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to -- you ought to try, however. Just be around people who you care about and who care about you. Watch a movie in complete silence. Just make sure there are warm, non-stranger bodies about you for as long as you can stand it, every day you can manage.

And if you end up crying? Well, you end up crying. It's not some sort of horrible, shameful act. It's what happens when your heart gets broke. If it's a social situation in which you shouldn't cry in front of a bunch of people then excuse yourself and walk out onto the porch or the stairwell or whatever and let it out. Friends don't judge friends with a broken heart.

It don't feel like it right now but things will be okay. Eventually.
posted by griphus at 8:35 AM on August 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

The fact that you think you have nothing to do with yourself now is a really strong indicator of how good this breakup is going to be for you. I'm speaking from experience.

I was in a position very similar to yours a couple of years ago. It made me realize that aside from sitting around and chatting with my friends, cooking dinner, listening to music, and watching TV and movies, I had no hobbies. Why did I need a hobby when I had a boyfriend to chat with for a few hours every night?

Now, I can't tell you what hobby would be interesting for you. I tried a whole bunch before I found one that I truly love (incidentally I also met my next SO while partincipating in said hobby). If there's anything you've ever thought seemed neat, why not try it? You said yourself you don't know what to do with your time now, so what's stopping you from taking a rock climbing class or joining a bowling league or learning to knit?

If you try something and it turns out that you don't really care for it, try something else (try not to waste too much money though). Be really open and force yourself to get social with the people you meet -- even if you don't love the activity you'll make some friends.
posted by telegraph at 8:37 AM on August 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

The fastest way to get over someone is to get under someone else. (But vigorous exercise is probably better for you)
posted by matty at 8:38 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do not make any major decisions, significant life changes or commitments for 6 weeks. Lot of good suggestions, support and directions above (and perhaps below).
posted by rmhsinc at 8:41 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Garrison Keillor, when he wrote's Mr. Blue advice column, once wrote up what he called something like "Mr. Blue's Patented Recipe for Getting Over Someone". I wish I could find it exactly, but you are going to have to settle for my dim recollection. I thought it was pretty good.

Basically, look at this breakup as though the universe has given you two gifts: 1) a significant amount of time, and 2) release from a relationship that has run its course. You can use those gifts to live a life that is better and different than the life you have been leading.

For the next three-to-six months, commit to some or all of the following.
1) Get out of the house. Find a running, or weightlifting, or hang-gliding buddy, and go running, or hang-gliding twice a week. Avoid hobbies that involve long periods of waiting and thinking (for instance, don't take up fishing or writing your memoir or doing 1,000-piece puzzles), but find things that force you to be active and get into your zone. The endorphins will do you good; you'll be in better shape; regular accomplishments will help you feel better about yourself.

2) Do things for others. Go volunteer at a soup kitchen or an animal shelter or something. This will take your focus off of how bad you feel and force you to work on someone else's problems. Don't do it to feel better about yourself: in all likelihood, your hard work won't be thanked. That's okay. Do it anyway, and know that you are making today a little better than yesterday was.

3) Do things for yourself. Take a weekend and go to the ocean, or the mountains, or whatever is nearby. Visit the museum you haven't made time for. Take up wet-shaving. Find a local cheesemaker and trade your labor for everything she knows about cheese.

4) DO NOT GET INTO A RELATIONSHIP during these three-to-six months. You aren't ready for it. You'll just bring hurt and baggage to the next person. Get to where you appreciate singleness: the freedom and the possibility and the energy that you don't owe to any other person.

Basically, get into a place, mentally, where you are both busy and building a more interesting version of yourself. Make it so that, when you think back to this time, you won't feel like you wasted it moping around, playing video games or getting drunk. Take a level in awesome, instead.

The noble reasons for all of this are the same as the noble reasons for anything: life is short and should not be squandered. The petty reason -- and you should spend as little time thinking about this one as possible -- is that it will look, to everyone you know, as though it was the relationship that was holding you back. The important thing is not how awesome she undoubtably was and still is. The important thing is that you are more awesome without her than you were with her.

Make that happen.
posted by gauche at 8:42 AM on August 26, 2010 [107 favorites]

Somebody once told me a rule of thumb for how long once should expect it to take to get over a relationship: divide the time that you were together in 2. So that would be a rule for getting dumped - even if a rather dubious one.

Whether the rule turns out to be nonsense, in your particular case, will partly depend on how much luck you have in finding new activities and new people as distractions. But it still might be useful to regard "getting over her" as a 2 year project with all the "5 stages of grief" inturnaround mentions. During that time things will get a lot easier and more fun - but this is about the duration over which you will still find yourself having occasional strong feelings of sadness, anger and regret.
posted by rongorongo at 8:53 AM on August 26, 2010

You can't fix or remove the grief. Now is the time to cradle that grief. It's legitimate and real and ok! Hold it, feel it, own it. It's yours completely, feel every corner of it, explore every part of it and allow it to come over you entirely.

When the feeling passes for a bit, go about your normal routine, until it comes again and then cradle it again, feel it again, hold onto it again until it passes on its own. Admit that you're afraid, admit everything you're feeling about her and about the loss. Allow yourself to feel it all fully and without any attempt to get rid of it. Let it go through you.

When it passes and you're doing your normal things, act like your fear and grief are not in your way, they won't stop you from moving ahead, from living and being and expanding and becoming - act as if that's true even if you don't believe it and you will find the fearlessness in you to move forward - not in spite of this loss - but because you're learning and growing from fully experiencing it.

The more you embrace what you're feeling and come to know and understand it, the more quickly you move through the grief. There are lots of steps to take in addition to that, mostly focused on re-igniting your own internal fire and re-orienting your life around building up yourself (to correct for all the energy you were putting into the relationship). If you're interested in some further steps, I have reading suggestions for you, MeMail me.
posted by jardinier at 8:54 AM on August 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

You'll get used to it.
Almost everyone has gone through it and survived.

I've never dumped anyone, I've always been dumped.
At first, you think it's the end of the world and you have so many questions.
Then after the next few times, you just move on.

You just have to look at like this: If she dumped you, that most likely means that it wasn't meant to be. It's pointless to chase after someone who ended a relationship. Don't waste your time if you are considering that. Also don't waste your time asking a million questions on WHY.

What I do after tough break ups:

hang out with friends, go to bars, watch only comedy movies and television shows. Listen to upbeat music.
I refuse to watch anything romance-related, any music that we both found important, depressing music about break ups, etc. That just makes it worse, in my opinion.

Eventually you'll find someone equal or better than her.
posted by KogeLiz at 8:55 AM on August 26, 2010

Feel bad for a while then get out and about again and see what happens. I decided on a clean sharp break after my last breakup and within a month met someone else. Amazing how quickly that makes you forget the previous one.
posted by epo at 8:55 AM on August 26, 2010

Cry. Get it out. It's ok.

But then get out. Go hang with friends. Follow telegraph's suggestions to pick something you've always wanted to do and go take a class in it. There's a ton of arts and creative centers in most cities where they teach things like painting or metal sculpture or whatever.

I'm a firm believer in doing something with my hands during times of stress. There's just something zen in it for me to be able to squish mud or bend metal, or knead dough, or heck, right now, refinishing my cabinets, that lets my brain process things more logically.

But classes give you a chance to interact with others that have the same interest, and there's no telling what sort of groovy people you'll meet.

I'm sorry darlin. Unrequited love sucks. It does. I know. I'm sorry. And it's ok to grieve. But it's also ok to move past the grief and let the sunshine back in too.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:57 AM on August 26, 2010

Echoing what gauche said: Do NOT immediately start to date anyone new. That's a bandaid solution at best and will do nothing to help you deal with your feelings.

I remember being dumped at the end of university and having a real rough go of it. I talked a lot about it with my mom and she gave me some pretty sage advice, which was "A relationship is like a person. You have to go through a grieving period when it ends." This was to say that it's not a good idea to push it out of your mind or run from it. Face the pain, deal with it, get past it. And you will get past it. Everyone who gets dumped thinks that their pain is the worst that anyone has ever felt, but it's normal. We've all gone through it. It feels like it'll last forever, but it gets a little better each day until finally you're gonna wake up one day (maybe in a week, maybe a month, maybe six months, it's impossible to know) and realize that you're over it. Trust us.

I would also suggest that you follow the advice of Dan Savage and sleep with a bunch of new women in the meantime. Speaking from experience, it really does help.
posted by fso at 8:59 AM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

You'll feel like crap for a month or so then slowly recover. In a few years you will be with someone more wonderful than her and then you will thank God you moved on ended up with someone who is even better than what you had.
posted by MsKim at 9:24 AM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't think breakups change much between adolescence and adulthood - they still suck. But keep yourself distracted and active and you won't have the time to dwell on it. You had plenty of friends in the past - you will again, if you make an effort. You've dated in the past, you will again.

But there is a rule I urge you to follow - for your own mental health, severely limit or cut off contact with her. She'll probably want to keep in touch, but it will just mess with your head. From what you say it's quite unlikely she'll end up coming back to you, so do your best to move on instead of living in false hope that she'll come around.
posted by lizbunny at 9:37 AM on August 26, 2010

Breakups always suck. I'm sorry for the pain you're going through. Ironmouth spoke the truth. Your only option is to work your way through this so you can move on.

...that being said, I have two suggestions:

NUMBER ONE: work hard at *NOT* dwelling on the past. You're going to have to make a conscious effort. It's only natural to suffer loss, but the more you stay connected to yesterday when you and she were a couple, the harder it will be for you to move on to tomorrow where you are a great guy who is single. The more you stay connected to her or even just the idea of the two of you as a couple, the harder it will be for you to move forward.

NUMBER TWO: do whatever you can to add some positivity to your life. This is a time when change for the sake of change is good! Rearrange the furniture! Paint the walls! Buy some new art to hang! Exercise! >> Rediscover your talents and dive into them as hobbies <>
---> Look to the future!
---> Positivity!

Best of luck to you.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:19 AM on August 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Go out and have experiences. With each new experience, the pain will slowly dwindle into a very dull ache, which will likely never go away (and it shouldn't). This sucks now, and will suck for awhile, as everyone above has said.

But as you accumulate more experiences, this pain will be padded and compartmentalized by the new stuff.
posted by Danf at 10:23 AM on August 26, 2010

Write some bad poetry. Read some great poetry. Look up an old friend (guy) you've lost contact with. Take up some new and creative interest like welding or photography. Play some racquetball or anything that requires sweat, agility, and vigor. Play some poker with the guys or some chess in with an old guy in the park. Turn off the TV in your home. If you must watch TV, watch a ballgame in a dark corner bar where there's no chance or hope of picking anyone up. Go bowling in an alley where you record your own scores by hand and smoking is still allowed.

Evan Williams Black and George Dickel #12 are surprisingly good values for a cheap whiskey. Just sayin'.

Most of all, recognize that your "dumped-ness" makes you mensch material. Thousands of other guys have been through it. Just dust yourself off, be honest with yourself and others and have as much self-deprecating sense of humor as you can. Treat this breakup as a signpost in your life that says, "Nope, go this way." And then go, don't sit and wallow.
posted by cross_impact at 10:31 AM on August 26, 2010

So hard! I'm sorry you're going through this. It's got to be awful. I remember when my first true love and I split up, I couldn't even eat for a couple weeks. But not only do I feel better now, but I feel like a better person for having gone through the experience. Here's my advice, based on experience:

- Don't contact her. Period. Commit to some period (3 months?) where you do not email, do not call, do not reach out or respond. Maybe send a brief note saying this is your plan, not becuase you're trying to punish her, but to adjust for yourself. It is sooo tempting to get in a cycle of calling, pleading, getting angry, break-up sex, crying etc. You won't get free until you take a break from her.
- Keep busy. Commit to projects, classes, volunteer work, a job, a club, something, or somethings to keep you occupied.
- Exercise. Everyone says this and it's true. Join a gym, take a class, join a team, some form of exercise that you do several times a week and that you like enough to keep showing up to. This will help keep you busy, keep the blues at bay, and will help make you feel good about yourself.
- Nurture friendships. Do you have old friends you can reach out to? Can you join a group of folks with similar interests? You need people to talk to right now!
- Allow yourself to be sad. Your feelings are normal and OK. Feeling them now will allow you to move on. When my ex and I broke up, I was so upset right away, and she seemed to feel nothing. I went through months of hell, and then I felt resolved. There's a sense where my ex still isn't resolved, more than 10 years later, and I think its in part because she never experienced the feelings in the first place.

Good luck! You'll make it.
posted by serazin at 10:34 AM on August 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

I got some good advice when I asked this question a couple years ago. Unfortunately, the people saying the only way out is through are right. It doesn't feel like it now, but you will get over it in time. It just involves a lot of being sad first. Really really sad.

The best thing I did for myself during that time was doing things for other people. I picked up two volunteer gigs, and those were the only times of the week that, even when I was in the thickest part of the sadness, I felt ok and back to some semblance of my normal self. Doing for other people gets your mind off yourself, which can be a real blessing.
posted by MsMolly at 11:00 AM on August 26, 2010

I should also add that throughout, the relationship's been incredible, but we always grudgingly (me more grudgingly than her, I think) agreed it would eventually end because she is three years younger than me and never dated -- or slept with -- anyone before me.

Accept that no matter what terms or certainty you build into ending a relationship, it will always suck.

I think you should get out there and learn a usefull skil, like take a furniture making course or something. It's active, and it gets you around knowledgable people. I'm also a fan of listening to mosic and nervously pacing about once a week.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:00 AM on August 26, 2010

Casual sex, seriously.
posted by brand-gnu at 11:22 AM on August 26, 2010

Distract yourself. Get out and about.

Don't listen to breakup music, unless you're buying the house a round in a dive bar.

Set a timer, and give yourself permission to wallow. Cry, call her names, throw something. When the time's up, it's up.

Don't pick your scabs. Going over and over ever second of your conversations isn't going to make you feel better.

Need someone to talk to? Volunteer to read to the blind, adult literacy, soup kitchens, animal welfare etc. And during those hours you used to spend in long conversations--go to the gym or do sit ups. Get a heavy bag.

It's going to suck for a while, and then one day, you're not as glum as you were. It's like going from black and white in Kansas, and then--poof! you're in Oz in Technicolor.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:13 PM on August 26, 2010

Learning how to be broken with isn't about age, it's about experience. Each time is easier than the previous, and if you'd had your first at age 16 it would have hurt exactly this much back then. So don't sweat your late start.

As for what to do with yourself: this is one of the lessons people learn about relationships, after a breakup or two. It is vital that you remain a whole, complete and independent person even when you're in a relationship. Not just to make it easier to deal with breakups -- as you're finding out, putting too much of yourself into a person makes it harder to recover after a breakup -- but also because relationships between two whole, complete and independent people are much more stable and satisfying than codependent or otherwise unhealthily-entangled ones.

So start living life the way you want it, and next time you hook up with someone, proceed knowing that you get to keep on living life the way you want it even when you're in a relationship (and any potential partner who doesn't agree isn't a good match for you.)
posted by davejay at 12:49 PM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

> You're gonna feel like shit for a week or two.

You're probably gonna feel like shit for a lot longer than that, though it will come and go. I'd figure on a year of general feeling-like-shit, with occasional (and lengthening) periods of relative normality; during that year, do not try to date others. (I'm not saying "avoid women like the plague," and of course if you meet somebody you really click with, go for it, I'm just saying don't roll up your sleeves and say "OK, time to meet some women and forget her," because that's not going to work.) We've all been there, and it sucks, but it passes, and when it does, you will be able to advise others. Hang in there!
posted by languagehat at 1:36 PM on August 26, 2010

I got dumped last year after an 8-year relationship and felt pretty much the same as you - I didn't know what to do with my time. So I started working out more going to yoga with some female friends, and vastly increased my time spent with other friends. Being alone was the difficult part - I you don't have friends separate from your ex, make some. Take random classes that interest you and meet people.

And for Christ's sake, do not have contact with your ex. Preferably ever, but certainly not for a few months.

Getting dumped was seriously one of the most painful experiences of my life, but the aftermath turned out to be the best thing I've ever experienced. The past year without her has been one of the most fun, productive times of my life. As a bonus, the second I went out on a date with someone other than her, I realized how unbelievable lacking she was intellectually. There were great things about our relationship, but I wish I'd dumped her years ago.

Give it a few months - it'll work out for the better.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:46 PM on August 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

One good thing to do with yourself when the pain is really bad is to go on walks. I remember jogging around and around the city. That way, even as it hurts like hell, there will be a tiny part of you noticing "oh look, a new building" or "oh cute, a puppy." Taking your mourning out on a ride on your athletic shoes gives you lots of space to accept and process what you're going through, while in a context that subtly reminds you that life still has some cool stuff in it.

I'm so sorry about this. It gets better with time, but you're probably in the "one day at a time" or even "it hurts to breathe, how can I go on?" phases. It will get easier every day.
posted by salvia at 8:28 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

First, you are idealizing and selectively remembering this relationship and her. This is very normal post-unhappy-ending in a relationship but you're still doing it. She was wonderful and perfect and the relationship was wonderful and perfect, yeah, no, it wasn't, and in your heart you know it. You can't stop thoughts or feelings but you do know have to wallow in them playing the violin. You do something, you stay away from things that allow you to dwell on memories or fantasies of getting her back.

Second, the whole "she's younger and never had a real relationship" explanation is doubtless part of why she broke up with you but it surely isn't all of it. There are virtually always general, systemic faults and deficits that lead to a breakup. She might very well encourage this modified version of "it's not you it's me" to avoid getting into it with you that she wanted out, probably wanted out for a long time, just doesn't want it with you anymore, wants to be single and find someone else, and could doubtless rattle off a laundry list of reasons she is through with you (because when you are the eager dumper rather than the reluctant dumpee you do the opposite of idealizing the relationship of course). This is how things normally go.

She doesn't want to be with you, period, and you have to own up to that and accept it as the real state of your life. The pain is inevitable, the misery you have some control over (in terms of how much you dwell on it or try to evade its finality), time will heal all wounds eventually, and if you can you should just go ahead and cry about it.
posted by nanojath at 9:22 AM on August 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

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