What now?
September 26, 2005 10:17 PM   Subscribe

Well, it seems like the relationship is over, it's over, it's oooohver. What, if anything, can I do to distract, deflect, defer, deal with the pain? How do you say good-bye?

We managed to patch this up, and now I'm coming out of the throes of this massive medical thing. I'm finally feeling more like myself, after being a wreck for the better part of a year, mostly due to the thyroid thing. Now he springs this on me; just when some of my life makes sense, this is a bit of a surprise [given the timing and my mistaken general happiness] even though I'd known our issues were still there. I'm still not 100%, and our relationship is the best it's been in ages [we both agree], but the distance and the insurmountable personality differences just don't give a great prognosis for the future. Given all of that, I'm feeling like it's probably for the best in the long run. But, it still feels like utter shite right now. I'm in a city without that many close friends, can't really drink because of the aforementioned issue, and generally don't feel well because of it and medicine complications (so hardcore working out and hiking isn't going to work right now).

I'm talking on the phone to my good friends, and I'll keep up with my general activities, but what can I do to *not* sink into this thing too far? We dated for about 1.5 years, almost-dated for a year before that, and are totally integrated with each other's families, lives, friends, goals, etc. I am having a hard time imagining saying good-bye to him. At the moment, the official stance is "we'll talk next weekend to really decide," but I think we both know the verdict. It's four last days of introspection. We're either stubborn or gluttons for punishment, depending on your perspective.

Any words of advice for the (likely) last relationship talk? How do you say goodbye? How do you stay friends with an ex? How do you keep yourself busy during and after this time without automatically calling him when something exciting happens? How did you get through your toughest breakup, without alcohol and close friends nearby?
PS: I know, I know, drinking isn't a solution. I barely even drink when it's possible. But c'mon, some drinks post-breakup can be pretty helpful.
posted by barnone to Human Relations (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Find a social network that can help give you a new focus. Volunteering somewhere is great for this. As long as it's a cause you can agree with and have some passion for, you'll meet a lot of like-minded people, you'll be doing something worthwhile and it will keep your mind occupied with new activities and personalities.

As far as the last talk goes, in my experience it's worked out best to first agree on what, exactly, we wanted our future non-kissing relationship to look like. If one of you doesn't want anything to do with the other, it's good to know that ahead of time and avoid a lot of pain. If neither of you want to lose your base friendship, it's good to know that as well.
posted by fatbobsmith at 10:43 PM on September 26, 2005

I was about to type out my answer, but fatbobsmith hit it on the head. Get involved in group activities. Volunteer, spend more time with friends, etc...
posted by packphour at 10:48 PM on September 26, 2005

Also, I think the "friendship" part should be attempted after some time has passed- not right after the breakup.
posted by packphour at 10:50 PM on September 26, 2005

"How do you stay friends with an ex?"

You don't. That will only prolong the process of getting over it. In my experience it takes one half the length of the relationship to feel over it, but calling and commiserating will just draw things out.

Don't even think about starting a new relationship during that period. Date if you want to, but be up front that its just casual. Revel in solitude and take the opportunity to get to know yourself better.
posted by Manjusri at 12:34 AM on September 27, 2005

Start working out at the gym. It will give you a sense of control over your life and boost your self-esteem at the same time (because it is easy to make gradual progress).

Take up a new hobby that involves other people. Avoid contact with ex for a long time before trying for a friendship. Stop talking about the relationship as soon as you possibly can. Be as outgoing as you can be.
posted by srboisvert at 3:17 AM on September 27, 2005

Here is a great breakup album
posted by poppo at 4:04 AM on September 27, 2005

Completely off-topic, but is your first line a reference to the ELO song?

Back on topic: one of my best friends recommends drinking a bottle of whiskey to get over an ex. The idea is that you'll wallow in self-pity while drinking (so you get that out of your system), then you'll associate the resultant hangover with the ex and never give a damn about them again.
posted by kimota at 5:25 AM on September 27, 2005

Wow. Seems to me people didn't bother to read the more inside. barnone can't drink or work out intensely because of medical complications, and they don't have many friends in their city.

I don't have much to add beyond the suggestion that it might not be possible to be good friends immediately post-breakup. If you're not ending the relationship because of anger and angst, you may find it very easy to keep behaving like you're still dating when you try to 'stay friends.' If you both honestly agree that this relationship should end, it may be better to stay away from each other some - don't try for a close friendship now. Give each other some time to get used to not dating. If you're close and you were friends before you started dating, you can always spend more time with each other after you're a little more emotionally self-sufficient and you're out of the habit of treating each other like lovers rather than friends.
posted by ubersturm at 5:58 AM on September 27, 2005 [2 favorites]

Completely off-topic, but is your first line a reference to the ELO song?

And here I was thinking it was a reference to Billy Bragg's "Valentine's Day is Over"
posted by Robot Johnny at 7:01 AM on September 27, 2005

Response by poster: Yeah, reference was to Billy Bragg and Roy Orbison, of all people. But the ELO looks good too. I'll make an "it's over" compilation with all of these!

Also, yeah, think of this as a creative exercise in break-up rituals that don't involve copious amounts of self-loathing (I am teaching a class and can't abandon the students!), copious amounts of alcohol (medication issues) or hard workouts. The volunteer thing is a good idea, and I will try to take walks. Any other suggestions, or am I bound to sit here, miserable, on my own? I've never really said goodbye to someone with whom there wasn't animosity, anger, or a good reason. We *were* friends before we started dating, and hopefully we can eventually go back to that, but in the meantime I don't really want to know who he's screwing or how great his life is.
posted by barnone at 7:21 AM on September 27, 2005

> but in the meantime I don't really want to know who he's screwing or how great his life is.

Exactly. Give it at least a few months with *no* contact. You need to learn what your life's like without him before you can add him back in (if you decide that you even want to).

I'd also recommend easy yoga, if it's available in your area -- something like "restorative yoga" is designed more to get you in tune with yourself than really exert yourself. It was (and has continued to be) hugely therapeutic when my personal life exploded this year. And as others have said, walking, especially in nature-heavy or pretty-architecture-heavy areas, is great.

Beyond that, don't be afraid to try anything that you think will help, and don't be afraid to say "This isn't working for me" even if you're in the midst of it. I spent several months figuring out that drinking with groups of friends, or being around large groups of people in general, was making me miserable, which meant I actually spent months more or less abruptly departing from social gatherings. My friends were generally understanding, but even when people aren't so nice about it: It's not your job right now to make them feel better, it's your job to make yourself feel better.

Pay attention to what makes you feel bad and stay away from that; pay attention to waht makes you feel better and do more of that; and don't judge yourself for what's on which side of that list.
posted by occhiblu at 7:38 AM on September 27, 2005

I know you said you don't have a lot of friends in the area, might I suggest that now is the time to make some? They don't have to be great friends, but people to hang out with is honestly the way to go. After my last big relationship, I know I pretty much just tossed myself into things to keep myself distracted. Anything you can do that doesn't involve sitting around thinking about what happened is a Good Thing.

So volunteering is good, finding friends is good. Take some night classes, learn a language. There's a lot of things you can do.

As for exercise and the thyroid issue, even if you can't "exercise" I'd still recommend remaining active. Doing something (even if it's just walking around a park) that gets your blood flowing really does help.

Also I can't recommend enough having a dog (assuming your situation allows). Cause really, unconditional love goes along way towards making yourself feel better. Also they're good about making sure you don't mope too long.
posted by KirTakat at 7:42 AM on September 27, 2005

I had a bad one myself a few years back, and this worked for me...

1. Change location

A cliche, but it's tough to feel better when everything, everywhere reminds you of someone. Even if it was a long distance relationship, there will still be places that were 'our place' and so on. If you can, take a holiday somewhere you've never been.

2. Very light exercise

Someone recommended restorative yoga. I'll second that and add on tai chi. Most places will have classes designed for people with limited stamina, joint flexibility, or who are recovering from illness.

3. Read crap books

Distracting, but not too taxing. Now's the time to see why all those shiny-cover-book authors sell so many copies.

4. Put the photos away

I segregated all of my digital snaps to a backup drive, then unplugged that drive and put it where I couldn't see it. Also all the mp3s that came from him, etc.

5. Volunteer

You'll feel much better about yourself if you help someone. Benefits them, benefits you, and you have the added sense of achieving something without your ex needing to be involved or even aware of it.

6. Early to bed, early to rise

I found my worst thoughts started happening after 9pm. Solution: go to bed before 9 and get up at sunrise.
posted by methylsalicylate at 8:35 AM on September 27, 2005

I was "dumped" today after only one year relationship with the woman I most "loved" in my life. And she used email; not even a phone call!! Yuppppyyy!

barnone, I will drink today an entire bottle of wiskey. Half of it will be for you mate.

Sorry I can't help you further; I will also follow all mefi mates' advices...
posted by LittlePrince at 8:49 AM on September 27, 2005

The friends-afterwards thing, from my experience (and watching others go through it): Try it too soon (you must give yourself 3-6 months MINIMUM, for the length of time you two have been together) and one of two things will happen (or even more likely, they will happen simultaneously):

1) You'll never get anywhere with the closure/moving on part because at a gut level it will feel like you haven't really left/there's still some hope/etc. Sort of a "break-up lite," where you skip all the messy, worst emotional stages (pissy post-breakup rage, abandonment, grief over a very real loss, etc.) that actually allow people to move forward and get over it (and not be devastated when they hear Mr./Mrs. "Almost Right" has started dating again).

2) You'll be going through all those ugly (however temporary) "I hate him but my life is over and I can't believe I put up with his crap but what now and etc." feelings but have to keep them buried, be feeling ashamed about them, etc. because after all, HE'S YOUR FRIEND. (Note: feelings do not have to be rational to be a necessary and natural part of the grieving process.)

Also, not to be a downer, but prepared to "lose custody" of any friends (particularly if they were primarily "couples time" activity partners, etc) who are uncomfortable trying to support you both, etc. Some other friends may tell you more than you want to know at times about how and who he's dating again, etc. To really get back your mojo, do whatever it is you can to start carving out another circle for yourself that's all about you. For me, it was a book club and dancing lessons and volunteering in the arts again--I didn't have to make a whole new circle of best-est friends (tough because of where I live too), I just needed to recreate a social environment where I remembered that I was a reasonably popular, useful (that's why volunteering is so great), and interesting grown-up. Let new people mirror back to you what you like about yourself, and what you'll (eventually) have to offer to a partner in your next relationship
posted by availablelight at 9:18 AM on September 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

On preview:

You mentioned, "How do you avoid automatically calling him?" when something happens you'd usually share, etc.

My solution has been to get a friend you will dial instead ALWAYS when the urge strikes. Explain to the friend what his/her new role is for the time being, make a joke of it if you like. (I would call and say, "Hi, I'm calling you instead of []." I've gotten my share of calls like that too.) You need to replace one automatic behavior with a healthier alternative to break the habit.
posted by availablelight at 9:25 AM on September 27, 2005

You might also want to take his number off your cell phone and his email address off your email program. Helps remove one level of temptation.
posted by occhiblu at 9:35 AM on September 27, 2005

I asked something here that covered some of your questions, and will at least make you feel you're not alone in this... Good luck, barnone, give it time and be nice to yourself.
posted by penguin pie at 9:40 AM on September 27, 2005

Surely we all have different kinds of relationships with our families and this might not be workable for yours, but when availablelight suggests having an other to automatically call, perhaps that person could be your mother or father or a sibling.

When my sister was going through something similar she turned to our mom for support and from that developed a closeness with her that i admire and kind of envy. This could an opportunity, albeit under horrendous circumstances, to spark a nearness with the fam.

Oh, and good luck. Grieve, heal, and love again.
posted by verysleeping at 10:30 AM on September 27, 2005

Barnone, I'm going through the same thing. I took her picture down today and thought of the crappy Kid Rock song and wanted to shoot myself.

I recommend excercise. And finding stuff to fill the void that isn't just more interaction with the opposite sex. Almost every time I've had a breakup, I've watched as the girl jumped into the arms of someone else while I stayed single. I hated that at the time, but I think I was able to heal more completely because I was letting the wound close up on its own, instead of just propping up someone else to fill the gap. Don't be one of these girls. Stay single, avoid the jackals masquerading as male friends (who've been lying in wait the last year or two for you to be single) and find some activities.

Or you could go the High Fidelity route and jump into bed with the first person you meet who's also suffering from a breakup. Your choice.
posted by Happydaz at 12:04 PM on September 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, thanks everyone. I found a restorative yoga session near me, so I'll jump into that right away. I'll take walks, fight the urge to talk to him, and give myself enough time to get over it. I hope I can stick to the plan - it sounds easier than it feels. But centuries of poems have paid tribute to this feeling, so I know I'm not the first/only/last. I liked the comment about how feelings don't have to be rational during this time; it helps to put it in perspective. LittlePrince, cheers! Drink for me! Happydaz, I feel your pain but haven't had the strength to even look at pictures, let alone take them down. The removable media for photos is a great one. Thanks everyone, you've been more calming than you realize!
posted by barnone at 5:02 PM on September 27, 2005

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