Breaking up
June 23, 2006 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Help me survive the break-up of a 5 year relationship.

We've been together for 5 years, and now it is over. How do I move on? Going from living with someone for 5 years and sharing your life with them to moving on alone seems almost too much to handle. How did you move on? Did you eventually find someone else you loved as much, or do you still pine for the one who got away? I can't imagine this feeling getting better. Obviously, it isn't a mutual break-up, he is just no longer in love with me.

I worry that this will be especially hard because I will be leaving the home we share and moving to a new city where I don't know anyonw. I also worry that now, in my early 30s, it is too late to start again finding friends and findinding someone new.

What are some tips to keep me sane and avoid obsessing while time is "healing the wounds?" Also, for any questions that need to be answered.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, you'll never have another relationship again. It's over - spinster.

OK - silliness aside, the same thing happened to me about 4 years ago at the age of 32(not sure what the male term for spinster would be) and it sucked. Let it suck, feel your pain, mourn the damn thing and move on with your life. At some point you'll wake up in the morning feeling strange. After a bit of pondering you'll realize it's because you feel pretty damn good. Hang in there.
posted by gregariousrecluse at 9:44 AM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

I also worry that now, in my early 30s, it is too late to start again finding friends and findinding someone new.

Put that on hold. You're just going to have to go over, under, around or through it, and that's going to take some amount of time.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:45 AM on June 23, 2006

It's not too late; I got divorced in my mid-40s and found someone new (and better!) within a few years, and plenty of people do so at much more advanced ages. That said, there's no magic secret for moving on; it takes about a year to get over the initial pain, and then another couple of years of tentatively reaching out and stumbling around, before you get back on track (to judge from my experience and that of others I know). In that first period I did a lot of drinking and howling at the moon; that may or may not work for you. Hang in there, and feel free to write me (address in profile).
posted by languagehat at 9:46 AM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Get a time consuming, physically exhausting, rewarding hobby. Those tennis lessons1 you've been meaning to take up for a while? Do it. Also get really drunk, hang out with your friends, etc, etc. Keep busy.

1: example only.
posted by aeighty at 9:48 AM on June 23, 2006

Hey, that's my life too! I am very very sorry. I am also older than you and in a similar situation [breakup was more mutual, he moved not me] so perhaps if you are getting down in the dumps you can always think that someone else has it worse. I'm feeling okay though, and this is what is working for me.

Seriously though, it sounds cliche but the most important part of all of this is reaquanting with yourself, what is yours instead of yours and his, and also staying busy. This is important, and most important during the times that would be your usual together times. Did you have dinner together every night? Find a new dinner buddy, or learn to cook some new food, or invite people over, or take yourself out to eat. The point is you're not going to change overnight, but you can change the patterns so you're in a better place to evaluate your own needs and desires, not think "this was better with him and now it sucks"

Also, this sucks. It's okay to think it sucks and it's okay to mope. You will have some friends who are helpful and some who are not. The ones who say "if there is anything I can do to help...?" call them up. Invite yourself over. Invite them over. Chat with them about things, the current thing, or other things. Frame the situation in a way that you are more comfortable with it, you don't have to stick with "he is just no longer in love with me" there is always nuance.

Try to baby yourself without getting into bad patterns that will be hard to get out of (I'm thinking booze and ice cream type things here). I've found that eating well and hurling myself into some exercise is really a good way to keep dark obsessive thoughts and actions at bay, plus it keeps you busy. Stop reading his website, maybe take a break from your social software sites, remove him from your buddy list (I wrote more here about this). If there are things you two still need to talk about, have a structured way to do that that you both feel comfortable with. Maybe it's email or regular phone calls or regular meetings.

And yes, it gets better and yes you can fall in love again and no, it's not too late. Keep an eye on yourself to make sure you're not getting so depressed that you're not taknig care of yourself, but otherwise it's okay to be sad and probably good to compartmentalize. If you're online enough to read MetaFilter, you're online enough to keep up with friends remotely somewhat and maybe explore your new home before getting there, maybe even find a meetup group or something else. Are you moving for a job? Moving in with family?

Feel free to add follow-ups to this thread via me if you want, but I think the main parts are
1. staying a bit busy and distracted
2. focusing on you, not the absent "us"
3. stepping away from the computer (watch me be no good at this)
4. having faith in yourself and accepting help when offerend
5. keeping an eye out for trouble in yourself and the situation and trying to keep away from it rather than extract yourself from it.

Again, I am sorry, and again, I know how you feel somewhat. It gets better.
posted by jessamyn at 9:51 AM on June 23, 2006 [11 favorites]

my probably unpopular advice: do not be his friend anymore. cut off all contact with him permanently.

that was key for me. as long as there was that illusion of post-break-up-friendship, my healing was seriously hobbled.

Many people balk when I give this advice, but it is what nearly everyone does eventually. Better sooner than later.
posted by milarepa at 9:59 AM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Agree above that any activity that you can lose yourself in for a while (something intricate or repetetive - something that involves your hands and your brain) is one way to keep your mind off the internal dialogues that you may be having with Mr. Gone.

I think one of the greatest adjustments to make after ending such a long standing relationship is finding yourself again. So much of your identity and what you consciously or subconsciously thought of yourself and of your future was tied up in this other human being and now that's over and done with -- sooner or later you're going to have to figure out who you are in this strange new alien territory.

The whole grieving process is pretty important though, I wouldn't recommend running from that; it'll hurt while it is happening but there really isn't any substitute to cleaning out your psyche than to feel all those bewildering feelings and move on. One day you'll just realize you hadn't thought of him, or your past with him, in a while. Nobody can really ever say when that will be though.

Don't feel like it's all over for you. You're young!!
posted by contessa at 10:01 AM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think it's important to remember that everyone feels like they'll never find love again after the end of every relationship -- it's likely you felt the same after your last break-up, right? And yet you found someone again.

Realizing that I had had the whole "But he was my one chance of happiness!" feeling after each of my relationships, and yet each time I went on to find someone else, was a huge comfort after my last break-up.
posted by occhiblu at 10:06 AM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

I know how hard this is and it does take time to heal.

What stood out for me was the fact that you're moving to a new city. It's a chance to start over with a clean slate. You'll have lots to explore and learn about your new town. You can live your life on your terms, meet new people, try new things, and like milarepa stated, make a clean break.

It's important to take time for yourself. Don't go looking for or fall into another serious relationship too soon. Give yourself time to mourn this one, but be sure to do things that you enjoy. Try new things, go new places. Pamper, Pamper, Pamper.

Good luck to you.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 10:14 AM on June 23, 2006

Keeping busy is my strategy, but playing the "dead to me" game, as milarepa says, is a sure-fire way to move on quickly. It is however extremely hard to do, especially if you're the one being left behind anyway.

Give yourself some time to grieve, listen to "your" songs, be miserable for a bit and remember that it isn't going to last forever. Look after yourself. Good luck.
posted by girlwonder at 11:16 AM on June 23, 2006

I found the best way to get over someone is to cut them out of your life entirely. There's way too many voices in the back of your head saying 'maybe he'll change his mind', and if you keep him around (talking to him on the phone, maybe visiting him occasionally), the voices will just get louder despite the fact that when its over, its over.

Every day sucks at first. But when you look back, you'll slowly figure out that today sucked less than yesterday. Time heals all wounds, and I'd agree with the statement that it'll take about a year before it stops sucking completely.

I'm of the mind that you're never truly over someone until you found someone new that you like almost as much. That might just be me though. But you'll meet people, 90% of them will suck but every once in a while you'll meet a great guy and things may work out. Just keep plugging away and good things will happen.

Oh, and take my advice: If you get drunk, definitely don't call him. Ever.
posted by ZackTM at 11:24 AM on June 23, 2006 [2 favorites]

I've had this sort of experience too. The best advice I can give is that, at least for now, you should stay away from your ex. It does suck, and you'll probably want to see him, but it's impossible to get over someone if you're around them a lot. Especially if you want to get back together.

Second the advice on getting some exercise and living well in general.

Finally, you can take now as an opportunity to make any changes in your life that you've been wanting to make. When my girlfriend of two years and I broke up, I spent some time moping about (which is necessary for pretty much everybody, I think), and then moved to a different city for grad school, and I've become a very different person since then. A new place means nobody expects anything from you, so you're free to be whoever you want.
posted by number9dream at 11:27 AM on June 23, 2006

Moving to a new city is a great opportunity. Lots of fun to be had exploring.

If your work schedule allows, think about constructive use of your evenings/weekends. Think education/training -- lots of possibilities there, and think volunteering -- which may lead you to fantastic new experiences.

I recommend volunteering with a local branch of a professional organization. Good for your career, and a good way to meet people with similar interests and education.

If you have the time and inclination, Girl Scouts is great -- and it is good for everyone to have a non-mom involved. You will have a lot to give the kids. Again, the adults you will meet are pre-filtered to be reasonably compatible, but are likely to be much more varied than in other organizations.
posted by Idcoytco at 12:24 PM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

I too have been there. One thing I hated when it happened to me was all the people who said that it would get better. Finding out that they were right didnt make me resent them less.

I personally got through it by getting drunk for 6 months (which I dont recommend) and wallowing in my misery. After 6 months, I started to run a lot, got very involved in work, etc, and moved on. I was very gunshy around women for a long time, but eventually I got over it.

Then, a few years later, I met the woman I was really supposed to be with, and I have (so far) lived happily ever after.

Its kind of like being seasick...when you are in the midst of it, you feel like you are going to die, but when its over, you look back on it with kind of a bemused contempt.

Good luck....
posted by stupidcomputernickname at 12:27 PM on June 23, 2006 [2 favorites]

It's never too late. I've had to prove it to myself several times but I've come to know it is a fact. I thought it was too late to go to law school at 34 but did it anyway. Now, at 46, remembering I had those thoughts and almost didn't do it scares me a little bit. I had the same kind of thoughts about relationships when I divorced at 39 and now thank the magic spirit in the sky that I didn't follow them either.

Unfortunately, there are no secret or magical solutions to getting over a break up it just takes time. All you can do is try to minimize the discomfort by accepting that it is over, getting some distance and staying busy.
posted by Carbolic at 1:26 PM on June 23, 2006

Therapy helps, especially if you don't have anyone else around to talk to.
posted by Eater at 1:48 PM on June 23, 2006

In 5 years you will look back at this post and you will shake your head compassionately and laugh gently at how funny it is that you thought you were too old to start a new relationship in your 30s.

People who are depressed tend to only see the worst outcome and see it going on forever. Grieving and healing from grief is normal. Social support is a good way to help it along. Don't isolate yourself in your new location. Take care of yourself, surround yourself with good little things and move forward exploring the infinite abyss.
posted by jasper411 at 2:01 PM on June 23, 2006

And even if you do never find love again -- so what? "What would I do without you?" is a question best answered with "the same thing I did before I met you, duh."
posted by kindall at 4:40 PM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

I know moving away seems like part of the problem now, but it may end up being a huge boost to getting over him. After my last breakup, I found that my good days were derailed way too often by someone's well-meant check-in. Instead of being a comfort, it only served to remind me that I'd lost something. Your new friends/coworkers in your new city won't have to know that your ex ever existed if you don't want them too, and since they didn't know you together, they won't look for him now that you're apart.

Hang in there. This is something that you can do, even if it doesn't look like it from where you stand now.
posted by donnagirl at 5:28 PM on June 23, 2006

How did you move on?

It is a good thing you are moving to another city. Start anew. Find new friends from your hobbies and other interests and from work. Be social. Have fun. Spoil yourself. Go out a lot. Go on a lot of dates. Don't be afraid to hang out with a lot of different groups of people, a lot of differetn kind of people. Be observant. Sometimes the best people are next to us and it takes years before we realize it.

But also keep in mind the lessons you got from this expired relationship. What went wrong? Could you have detected the outcome earlier? Could you have prevented it? Also, make sure that you do not let this relationship engage you further. Think about whether and how much contact you want to keep.

Did you eventually find someone else you loved as much, or do you still pine for the one who got away?

Yes I did (even though I was coming out of a longer relationship and I did not move) and I did several times. And you will get over it too.
posted by carmina at 6:55 PM on June 23, 2006

Lots of good advice here. Speaking as someone who was in an extremely similar place about three years ago at age 34, I can promise you that you can find new friends, happiness, and love again. I did, and if you had told me that in 2003, I would have thrown a bottle of whiskey at you and then put my head back on the floor to resume weeping.

The thing is, you're going to grieve. Try not to be frightened by that. You're grieving now, and you will grieve for some of the future. The grief may seem constant and all-consuming right now, but it will not last forever. I can't stress that enough. One day, it will recede a little -- maybe just enough to realize that you've spent a few hours in the garden or a bookstore and you've felt all right. And the grief might rush back in, but that will be okay -- because it means it's started to ebb and flow. You'll feel it, then you won't, then you will again, and then you won't again. The times you feel better will last longer. The mornings won't seem so grim, or the nights so long. You'll start to have good days -- eventually even more good days than bad.

The thing is -- and this is the dirty trick of grief -- is that you've got to go through the mourning to get there. Which is all a long-winded way of saying that you have to let time pass -- but more than that, to know and believe and embrace that time will pass. It will pass and it will be damned tough for a good long while. That's the path you've been put on right now. You don't have to like it -- I sure didn't -- but there's no getting off the path. The only way to get to new junctions in the road is to put one foot in front of the other.

One trick that I did to believe that time would pass, and that my life would change and improve during that time, was to embark on long-term projects, and to write down some long-term goals. So I got braces (yes, my breakup helped spur me on to that) and made a plan to have my jaw fixed, knowing that as time passed, my teeth would be getting straighter -- I reasoned that even if i did still end up lonely and alone (as I suspected I would), at least I'd be lonely and alone with good teeth, which would at least be a little consolation. I set the goal to have at least one production of a play I'd written. I decided that I'd go visit my friends in New Zealand. All of these things were things I could do to bring a sense of health, accomplishment, and connection to my life at the exact same time as I was still mourning the loss of my relationship. I could do both at once -- grieve, and enjoy myself. Feel pain over my loss, and gain new experiences. Those things can coexist. You just have to treat yourself with compassion and hope. (A good book to check out is When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron.)

And as for moving on to a new city -- that's what I did at 31 after my marriage split (another major heartbreak!) -- I started my entire life over. And as much as I still really miss Chicago in a lot of ways, I wouldn't trade my life now in L.A. for a million bucks. At 37, I now have the best relationship of my life, not to mention a set of wonderful friends, a close relationship with my 3 awesome nephews, and a cool job I couldn't have even dreamt of before. I never would have had all of this had I not taken the chance. So no, if it wasn't too late for me, it's not too late for you. It's never too late.

Sorry to ramble. Email's in profile if you'd like to contact me. Good luck.
posted by scody at 7:39 PM on June 23, 2006 [10 favorites]

oh, and also: jessamyn, I'm sorry to hear about your breakup, too. My thoughts go out to you.
posted by scody at 8:00 PM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm sure the majority of us went thru this experience before.

It's no fun. You have quite a bit of information here. What worked for me was: I kept telling myself "he's dead", he moved across the country, he got sucked by the alien and no coming back.

I spent months and months moping over the dead relationship. Then I realized that it wasn't the relationship I had to recover from. It was the "belonging somewhere" that I need to get over with. It was a sad discovery.

Keep yourself busy. Go out with friends. Go window-shopping. It's a chance for you to put on your make-up and get out of the house. Casual dating if you can. It will lack of the butterflies/sparks/chemisty (or whatever word you want to use) but it'll keep you busy. Just make sure the other party know that you are only looking for a friend. To find a "substitute" to help you feel better because of your break-up is a poor plan.

Some day (and hopefully it comes soon), you will meet someone who is really interested in you, he won't let go of your hand for even one-second and enjoys being with you.

So, don't be down! I know it's hard...and have a good cry to work it out of your system.
posted by teapot at 11:02 PM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

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