How does an isolated person heal from a breakup?
October 30, 2013 2:24 AM   Subscribe

I need tips on how to handle/distract myself from a break up when I'm low on the friend count and the money count and don't really leave the house. Ever.

It came out of the blue. Usually with break ups I just throw my focus elsewhere or surround myself with friends and it helps a lot. This time around I have a lot less options than usual. I already plan to exercise and eat well. Aside from that, I haven't been doing much of anything with my life. I lost the majority of my friend base, which was quite small already, largely due to this relationship. Either they didn't like the partner or were harboring feelings for me. I will say that my "friend base" was around three people, to put it in perspective.

I've been spending most of my days playing Facebook games. I rarely leave the house. I have two days left of work before my job shuts down for the Holidays. How does someone in this situation handle a break up? I feel alone. I have tried various online avenues for meeting people, but I only seem to become "friends" with people who have ulterior motives and won't shut up about wanting to fuck and/or date me. The rest of the people I've met will go on and on and on and on about how lonely their are and how horrible their lives are. I'm not exaggerating - I've met ONE person that did not fall into the above criteria. I should note that I'm female in my early twenties trying to make friends through Craigslist, OKCupid and Fetlife, which is probably the cause of my conundrum.

I'm on but the lack of meetups in my area and gas money to drive/participate in a lot of them has put my participation there on semi-hiatus. I should also clarify that I don't have a small friend base by choice. I love being out and about with people and hate spending my days sounding around playing video games.

This post feels all over the place, which is probably because my mind is. My hobbies have generally died out due to lack of funds; I don't make enough to afford rent most of the time. I also haven't been to my therapist in awhile because of the same reason. The appointments were only $15 a week but I honestly did not usually have that much extra.

What I'm getting at is; my ex was pretty much my only/best friend and the one I spent the majority of my time with. This makes the pain SO much worse. From reading some of the posts on here, I know I can't be the only near-isolated person who just got broken up with. What do I do to heal? Thanks.
posted by biochemist to Human Relations (24 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Start doing stuff that has nothing to do with dating or finding a date or 'meeting people' -- there has to be a list of things that you were interested in doing before but never did because your ex didn't like it or whatever. Now is the time to do those things. Trying to meet people is often the worst way to do it, and the best way to make new friends can often just be serendipity.
posted by empath at 2:32 AM on October 30, 2013 [8 favorites]

Books are fantastic distractions, and libraries have them for free, and going to the library gets you out of the house!
posted by Houstonian at 3:18 AM on October 30, 2013 [9 favorites]

Its tough after a break up but it sounds like the isolation was something that was a problem independent of the relationship.

I've had a few friends in a similar situation, I've always advised them to try as difficult as it can be to get involved with the community , get involved in something such as volunteer work in your community , you'll find that its free to do and naturally if you use your current skills you can start meeting people who are similar to you. Slowly build up a network of friends and one trick I learned early on in life is to share friends, if you find two people who would just love to know each other introduce them , don't worry they won't forget you . Humans are social animals and humans hate to owe someone :-) so they will then naturally try to connect you up with other people of similar interests. Keep going and you can naturally find some amazing friends that you'll feel you knew forever.

Online spaces are difficult place to really meet people but of course get involved can be hard especially if your not naturally social , but be brave remember that deep down you have these skills . I know it won't come easily but someones going out and helping other is the best way to start helping yourself.

Good luck and remember if getting involved seems to much to do at first , just go outside the house and walkabout if need be , people always go on about having to travel the world to find themselves but that's expensive for one and more importantly no matter where you live there is something magically there that can be found , just exploring everything around your apartment for 1 km can change your perspective, then do 2 km and so on :-) take baby steps but find out whats out there as world and most of the people are amazing if you give them a chance :-)
posted by ACampbell at 3:56 AM on October 30, 2013 [8 favorites]

Woody Allen observed that 80% of life is just showing up. I always say this, but it's so true. Get out of your house. It's really not more complicated than this, but that doesn't make it easy.

I distinctly recall my divorced self ironing shirts on a Saturday night when a little voice said to me:

"You'll never meet anyone if you are ironing shirts on a Saturday night. What's wrong with you? Get your coat on and go out."

I listened to the voice in my head. Turned off the iron. Put my coat on. Went into the closest bar. Sat down and ordered a drink. I was totally not into it. I didn't want to be there. I was feeling anti-social. But I said to myself "one drink" and then I'm outta here. I set the bar low but would count it as an accomplishment to offer as assuagement to the voice. I sat at the bar with my one drink and started talking to the other losers. And fun stuff happened.

Meatspace, my friend. Get yourself into it.
posted by three blind mice at 3:59 AM on October 30, 2013 [40 favorites]

Do you live in a town or a rural area? Is there a coffee shop, church, library, volunteer org? Any of these might have activities where you can meet people.

You can also create your own activities - start a knitting group, a book club, a current events discussion group, a group to make care packages for troops or prisoners. If there's a university nearby with Continuing Ed classes maybe look into that.

Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 4:15 AM on October 30, 2013

I'm low on the friend count and the money count and don't really leave the house. Ever.

I would pass over your lack of social network for the time being. That is a symptom of another larger issue, and that is the second part of that statement. Right now you need to focus on solving part two of that statement. Start leaving the house. Even if it is just to go for a walk by yourself, start leaving the house. I think you should aim to spend more time OUT OF THE HOUSE than you spend at home. I don't care if you leave the house and do things out and about alone, or if you're leaving the house to go do things with other people (though the latter is preferable). The point is 100% to just LEAVE THE HOUSE. Go for a walk every day. Find a coffee shop and go there and have a cup of coffee while reading a book. Join a knitting club. Go to the movie theatre (yes, alone). Staying in the house when you're sad is toxic, at least to me. You need the new environments and fresh air and random social encounters (even if it is just saying hi to the cashier at the grocery store).. they all help to get better persepctive on what your situation actually is. The little bit of awkwardness you feel when you first start getting out of the house will be short lived. It will become easier, and the potential pay offs are huge.

Staying alone at home leads to more time spent alone at home. You gain nothing. It may feel safe and comfortable, but it is actually doing more harm than good.

Getting out of the house vastly increases your ability to get over the breakup and vastly increases the likelihood of meeting some new people.

For what it is worth, I say this as someone who often struggles to leave the house. It wasn't until I took my own advice and got out of the house that my life improved pretty significantly.

Also, get rid of your cable and stop watching tv. It is toxic for a lot of reasons. One, it keeps you from GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE. Two, all the "happy relationiships" portrayed will just make you feel worse. Three, IT KEEPS YOU FROM GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE. I say this as someone who used to watch a LOT of TV. I ditched the cable and whoa... who knew there was so many other things going on! I to this day am surprised at how much I don't miss it. If you're going to stay home alone, for the love of god do ANYTHING other than watch tv. Personally I read a lot more, started quilting by hand (love!), crocheting, sketching, and frankly just going to bed at healthier times and getting a lot better sleep (which also helps).

Best of luck! You can absolutely get through this!!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:29 AM on October 30, 2013 [15 favorites]

I want to add that when I said 'start doing stuff', i meant 'doing stuff outside of the house'. Just not necessarily with the intent of meeting people. Just being where other people are. If you can't think of anything you want to do out of the house, just go to the nearest coffee shop and start reading the internet.
posted by empath at 4:34 AM on October 30, 2013

You don't say if you work from home or not, but if not are there any social networks there? Are there work nights out, and if not can you organise any? Maybe try and set up something free - a clothes or books-swap night, where workmates can invite other people they know and you can maybe widen the number of people you interact that way.

If you do work from home would there be a possibility of getting another part-time job (I mean something basic even, maybe just a couple of hours a week) to meet other people, give you another place to go to and also give you a small extra income? I just say this because most of my friends have come through work, people who I've happened to meet not set out to. But I also agree with the idea of volunteering somewhere, not to meet people but to give you a purpose, and then meeting people is just the cherry. Look after yourself.
posted by billiebee at 4:41 AM on October 30, 2013

If you find it hard to leave the house and want to distract yourself, you might try cooking. It's good if you don't have a lot of dough, because it can save you money, it requires a certain amount of concentration that might get you out of your head space, and it can fill home your home with nice smells. It's also a way of taking care of yourself, which is priority one especially now.
posted by angrycat at 4:47 AM on October 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would definitely think about getting another job, maybe just some seasonal part-time work during the holidays (lots of stores hire extra staff around the holidays). Look for something simple and low-stress, and aim for a store that caters to young people.

This will serve a triple purpose. First, maybe most importantly, it will get you out of the house and keep you busy. Second, it will put some money in your pocket so you can do things like go to therapy. Third, if you find a store that caters to your demographic (or even if you don't) you may meet some new people to hang out with.
posted by Mender at 6:12 AM on October 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

In a very similar situation, I couldn't even afford internet service. Here's what I did:

- I started going to the library aaaaaaalll the time, and writing silly little reviews of the books I read.

-I started doing dead simple and cheap arts and crafts, like with RoseArt crayons/watercolors and dollar store glue.

-I went to whatever park or woods was close by, and brought some coffee shop extravagance with me - like an over-the-top pastry and a fancy tea.

-I cultivated an interest in insects, and went out to do beetle and butterfly spotting.

-I also cultivated a fake-it-til-you-make-it attitude that I was going to enjoy myself somehow, in any tiny way I could. Rather than letting the pain eat me alive.

-I got a volunteer position at a museum - which seemed scary, tiring, and overwhelming at first, but forced me to interact with others in a positive and pleasant way. Eventually, I was hired at that same museum, and I still have friends from that time. It was also very therapeutic to watch after the cute animals in the exhibit.

-Sometimes I'd go for a short drive and listen to music. Or I would take a bus or train to see my grandparents, and look at some serious scenery.

-Making myself walk around the block helped a lot more than I thought it would.

-I went through a phase of dyeing my hair about 10 different shades.

Most of this kind of stuff is affordable, even if you're broke. It helped me a great deal, even though my breakup was EXTREMELY messy, and even though I was incredibly depressed.

The lonely, dark time after a breakup is the worst. You'll get past it with time, even if you lump around the house the entire time. But it really will be better for you if you can haul yourself out of the house. I know it's a damned arduous pain in the ass, but please do give it a shot.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:16 AM on October 30, 2013 [12 favorites]

Many years ago I moved to another country by myself and felt pretty isolated; I think that had a lot to do with my personality and propensity toward wanting to be by myself, but also shyness and lack of self-confidence. I also didn't speak the language, so when I was out and people were speaking, I felt alone there too. I knew I had a challenge ahead of me, not only with learning the language but also the social customs. Anyway, could you think of this transition in your life as if you just moved to another country and don't know the language? Allow yourself to be confused but push forward anyway because if you don't you will lose out on an amazing experience. Allow yourself to "not know", and to be curious. Allow yourself to let go of your expectation that your life should go back to the way it was before you lost your friends and boyfriend, almost your whole life really. Understand that your life will never be the same, and that's a good thing!
I'm an Average American in every way, but when I worked and then pursued travel opportunities, they would happen eventually. I see you may be a biochemist? I am in the sciences too and one great thing about that is that there are opportunities to work in other countries doing research. Try schools in Europe, Easter Europe, Asia--post-doc or teaching opportunities. I had very average grades, not a scholar by any means, but I had a lot of perseverance.

Anyway, I have moved to various countries several times since then and have started over, each and every time I was lonely and terrified, at first, sometimes for about a year. I must have a desire to torture myself, but I also got pretty good at facing uncertainty. After a while, you learn that life not only goes on but by getting out of your comfort zone, you can experience some pretty amazing things you never expected, anticipated

This is going against the grain of "get out of the house", but sometimes we just want to be alone. I got a LiveJournal account and just started writing. After about a year I got a few friends. Not only did it help with the loneliness and need to journal my feelings, I got a bit better at writing.

So, it's really OK to spend time on your own if you want, but when you are are ready, be prepared to have a great adventure into the unknown.

Sorry you are going through this. And understand that there is nothing wrong with you.
posted by waving at 6:24 AM on October 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

With the holidays approaching, now would be an excellent time to get some seasonal work. You'll get out of the house, make some bank and be useful in the world. In Atlanta, the windows are PLASTERED with signs begging people to apply for positions. So start there.

Get TWO jobs if you can. More money, more out of the house.

You'll meet people at work and they'll become friendly. And you'll be on your way to enlarging your circle.

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:26 AM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

waving has a good point: it's okay to need craploads of alone time. I am not at all a social person, myself. For me, getting out didn't usually involve talking to others. It was mostly about seeing the damned sunshine and leaving my brooding cave.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:53 AM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

On top of the really, really excellent advice to just Get Out of Your House, Now, and Do Whatever that you are getting, I want to reaffirm something you said:

Dogg, you gots to stop looking for friends online. The three places you mentioned are literally among the very worst places to look for platonic friends in the galaxy. Especially since it sounds like you are looking for dude friends (?!) on them. Dudes on Fetlife are absolutely not on there to be kind, sex-less friends to young girls who just got out of a relationship. C'mon champ. For real. You know this.

Books are a great option, as suggested above. Do you exercise? You're about to have a crazy amount of free time; harness that energy by making a schedule for yourself and sticking to it. Go running. Get on a push-up schedule, like onehundredpushups.
Both free, both clinically proven to be good for just about everybody's mental health.

If you decide to not get out of the house. I just... listen broess, this is a terrible option. I know it's where your head is at right now, but it's not going to do you any favors. No matter how small your town is, unless you live in the serious-for-real, can't see another human being without driving a car woods, there is something happening somewhere. Reread these posts for suggestions; it's not like you're going to be doing anything else better with your time.
posted by Poppa Bear at 7:01 AM on October 30, 2013 [8 favorites]

Hey, some good advice here already.

For me the "big break" was when I started noticing the difference that incremental steps I made brought me closer to recovery: I drew a lot of strength from this awareness. In hindsight things worked best if I started small: putting one or two things on a to-do list, and branching out to three, four and now five. I signed up for activities (giving myself the permission not to go) that got me out of the house and moving (baseball!). In the process, somethings worked and others didn't. Note the things that work, and don't berate yourself too much for trying things that didn't.

These little baby steps may seem small, but when they form a chain (, their spillover effects have the potential to be tremendous, especially in killing the "Groundhog Day" like repetition that can hamper your efforts to get out of the rut.

Take care of yourself, and best of luck!
posted by wallawallasweet at 7:23 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was in a similar situation I called up a lot of old previously-ignored friends and said, "I've been bad about keeping in touch and I want to fix that. Let's hang out." And they all said, "great! let's go get a drink, see a movie." Heck, last week an acquaintance (a friend of a friend who is becoming my friend!) and I went to IKEA and Target and had a fabulous time.

It felt weird to reach out but truly, no one said, "eww go away. you suck." (because frankly people enjoy being asked to go have fun.)

I felt like it took a ton of energy to make these calls, but it got easier as time went on. And now people call me up with fun plans.
posted by vespabelle at 8:44 AM on October 30, 2013 [14 favorites]

I'm in a very similar situation right now (break-up, job lay-off leading to unemployment, no friends, moving back home), and I'm sorry you're going through this. It sucks, but you have to realize that you and you alone are in control of your life. Make a conscience choice to do what you want to do, regardless of whether or not you're in a relationship, dating, or have friends to do these things with.

As others have mentioned... go to a coffee shop, go for walks, get in shape (running is free!), hang out with relatives, reach out to old friends, volunteer, bike around town for fun, go to a bar and watch football, learn new recipes, join an indoor volleyball league, read, join a book club, go to cheap/free concerts (of any genre!), go to a movie during the day. The list is endless.

It's OK to do things alone, and a little self-indulgence and selfishness from time to time can do wonders for your confidence and will help you live the life you want to live. Don't worry about anything else but making yourself happy!
posted by mrrisotto at 11:45 AM on October 30, 2013

Would you be able to foster a dog or cat? I know the rescues near me provide the food, supplies, and veterinary care. If you fostered a dog, it would get you out of the house because you would be forced to walk it. It also might help take you out of some of your negative head space. Another option is to sign up on a site like and offer to dog sit in your home. You'd earn a little extra money and again it would get you out of the house.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:50 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry you got dumped and did not see it coming. One of the takeaways is never to let one person be your everything. Be gentle with yourself at this time. While you're at the library, check out some stuff on female friendships. Learn how to identify the qualities of real and true female friends, because part of the reason you maybe feel so isolated right now is because you don't have that solid BFF in your life to look after you, and vice versa. Learn how to act to become that person in some woman's life. It will be life-changing. And volunteer.
posted by hush at 11:56 AM on October 30, 2013

Seconding the idea of volunteering. You need to get out of the house and out of your own head, in an environment that is not centred around dating. I'll bet there is a food bank, a soup kitchen, or a humane society that could use your help a few hours per week.
posted by rpfields at 12:40 PM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Look, I think you need to be a bit more pro-active here. It's really pretty common to have the problem of not having a lot of friends when you are right out of college. It's just a transition period. Being out in the working world there aren't many people your age, most people have more money to do stuff than you do, it's a really tough period for a lot of people. You're just going to have to keep trying things until you find something that fits. The good news is that trying out lots of new things will take time and you probably need a distraction. Also, stop using things like not having gas money as an excuse. Can't afford gas? Fine. Get a bike. Take public transit. Try carpooling or ride shares.

Here are some places where you can meet people:

The unitarian church -- Many churches have "young adult" clubs. You don't have to be religious to join.

A biking club --- This seems like it might be perfect for someone who doesn't have money for gas.

The Hash House Harriers-- This is a very friendly running and drinking club for people of all ages with clubs all over the world.

Volunteering as other people have said. Try

Try meetup again.

Salsa dancing

Any kind of Hiking Club is great because it gives you a chance to talk and it's free.

The key here is to just keep trying things until you find the right one. When I was in your situation, I literally sat down and planned my week around meetups. It worked.
posted by bananafish at 1:46 PM on October 30, 2013

What are you passionate about in life? Playing the tuba? Chess? Swimming? Join a brass ensemble, chess club or the YMCA as applicable and keep yourself as active as possible. I don't know why your conversations are ending up in people wanting to date you, sleep with you or talking all about their problems, because that doesn't sound totally normal to me. I'm tempted to ask what you are bringing to the table conversationally. Maybe you need to re-assess how you are interacting with people.

You probably shouldn't spend lots of time playing Facebook games and not leaving your house. If you want to stay home it is probably a good use of time to engage in self-reflective or self-care behaviors. Like doing yoga or doing nice things for yourself.

It's really hard to be lonely. It sounds like you are having a hard time. You are probably a good person. Trust in your essential goodness and then friendship and eventually joy will follow. Also, yes, volunteer. Serve others and make other people happy because it comes back around. Lots of good advice on this thread.
posted by mermily at 5:59 PM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unless you have a health issue that prevents it, you are capable of leaving your house.

Maybe you feel that there's nothing to DO outside of the house without driving somewhere. I'm guessing that you are either in an isolated suburb or rural area. In either of these, you can find something to do.

Go for walks at different times of day. If you have a camera on your phone you can take up photography, set yourself goals to find something like a plant you haven't seen before or the two most identical suburb tract houses to take a picture of. Look around and see what other people are up to -- maybe there are others who go for a walk everyday, and you could see if they want a walking buddy, maybe there are neighbors you haven't met. If there's a park near you, you could hang out there for a while and read a book, draw, or just look at the sky. Your quest is to find whatever there is to do that you can walk to.

If you live somewhere with more things close enough to walk to, or a bus route you can walk to, all the better.
posted by yohko at 2:20 PM on October 31, 2013

« Older Patent protection: what should I do first?   |   Is there a great, free alternative to Ad Aware? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.