7 Mistakes Not to Make After a Break-Up (And What to Do Instead)

Break-ups are hard, and if you’ve just been through one, you’re probably inundated with advice right now. I find a lot of break-up advice is garbage, but some of it is actually useful.

In my mind, there are 7 things you absolutely should not do in the weeks and months following a break-up. Avoiding these behaviors, while difficult and often painful, will help you move through the grieving process faster. And that’s what we all want, right?

Clinging to hope. You know how the first stage of grieving a lost loved one is denial? Yeah, that’s totally a thing for break-ups too. You may have a difficult period of time during which you worry the break-up was a bad idea, deeply regret initiating it or taking the actions that led the other person to initiate it, and/or sit by the phone hoping your beloved will have second thoughts.

It’s okay to feel these things. It’s natural, in fact. But at some point, you will have to pivot toward believing the break-up was a good idea and is final. In trying to speed up this process, I’ve found it helpful to journal exhaustively about all the worries, regrets, fears, and false hopes I have surrounding the break-up – and then make a list of all the reasons it was a bad relationship and the person was unsuitable for me. Once that list is made, I always feel so much better about the break-up, whether it was my idea or not – and I also feel more clear-headed about what types of warning signs and incompatibilities I’ll need to look out for in my future relationships.

Suppressing your feelings. As with any type of grieving process, bottling up your emotions will just make them pop back up later at unexpected times, and often in unhealthy ways. It’s better to work through ’em while they’re fresh, so you can actually move the fuck on.

This might mean crying for hours or days at a time. It might mean telling the same story to various different friends 8 or 9 times until it starts to lose its sting. It might mean journaling for hours about all the ways your lost love wronged you, all the ways you feel you failed them, all the fears you have for your future. It might mean being unable to get out of bed for a few days because you can’t stop crying.

This all sounds scary and unproductive, maybe, but it’s actually very productive, because the faster and more thoroughly you get these feelings out of your system, the faster and more thoroughly you’ll be able to move forward with your life. So rage and cry and scream if you have to. Express your thoughts in writing or art or out loud. Explore all the many avenues of your pain. You’ll feel better on the other side.

Self-isolating. Now, I am writing this from the privileged position of having lots of social supports in my life, so your mileage may unfortunately vary. But keeping to yourself during an emotionally difficult time is never a good idea.

Reach out to friends, family, and any kind of therapy professional(s) you see regularly, if applicable. Tell them what’s going on. If it feels like too much work to notify people individually, you could put a general message on your social media channel(s) saying you’re going through a tough time and would appreciate some support.

If you know specifically what types of support you tend to need when you’re sad, it’s helpful to note that, too. There will be some people who want to help but aren’t quite sure what to do. For example, when I’m sad, I find it helpful for friends to take me to comedy shows, since that distracts me from what I’m going through – and I also find it helpful for people to bring me healthy meals and remind me to eat enough food and drink enough water, since my capacity for those things diminishes significantly when I’m depressed. Whatever you need, try asking for it – you might be surprised by who offers to help.

Maintaining contact with your ex. Oh, the prospect of it feels so delicious. Whether the text you want to send is a tender olive branch (“Just wanted to let you know I’m thinking of you and I hope you’re doing okay”) or a barbed thorn (“I’m fucking furious you would do this to me”), even the idea of reaching out to your ex can give you an evil little dopamine boost. There will be moments when it’ll seem like a very good idea – but it isn’t!

Do what you have to do to avoid breaking the cone of silence. Tell a friend what you wish you could tell your ex, just to get it off your chest. Write in a journal about it. Change their contact name in your phone to “DON’T DO IT” or block their number entirely. (I used a different messaging app to talk to my ex than I did for my other friends, so when we broke up, I put that app in its own far-away folder on my phone entitled “NOPE.”) Make a list of all the reasons it would be ill-advised to contact them, and refer to your list when the urge strikes. Ask yourself, “How will I feel after I send this text? If they answer? If they don’t answer?” Not great, probably.

There are a few valid reasons to text your ex in the aftermath of the break-up – to arrange an exchange of material goods, for example (see below) – but pouring your heart out to them is not one such reason. Someone can’t effectively comfort you if they’re the one who broke your heart, nor will it make you feel less guilty to talk things out with someone whose heart you recently broke. It just doesn’t work that way. Don’t do it!

Keeping mementos. This, too, is awfully tempting. Whether you want to keep their stuff for sentimental reasons (“Oh, but he got me this teddy bear for our one-month anniversary, and it was so sweeeet!”) or for bitter, petty reasons (“If you wanted me to return the gold bracelet you left here, you should’ve thought of that before you cheated on me, Silvia!!!”), it’s probably a bad idea.

Gifts they gave you are okay to keep, if you genuinely like the objects themselves and not just the emotional meaning with which they’re imbued – but you might want to tuck them away in the back of a closet or give them to a friend for safekeeping for a while, just so they won’t constantly trigger difficult emotions while you’re trying to get over what happened.

As for stuff that isn’t actually yours to keep, you should arrange a time to exchange possessions with your ex as soon as possible. The sooner it’s off your hands, the sooner you can stop thinking about it – and about them.

Jumping back into dating. Break-ups can unleash an avalanche of feelings: inadequacy, undesirability, hopelessness. Like an alcoholic sleuthing out some “hair of the dog,” you might be tempted to hop on Tinder or OkCupid and hunt for your ex’s immediate replacement. There’s a reason “rebounding” is such a ubiquitous practice!

I’m not saying this is never a good idea. For example, I had a one-night stand with a stranger five days after my most recent break-up, and it kind of reminded me that sex isn’t always that great so it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I took some time off sex and dating. But for the most part, I think it’s usually best to abstain from these behaviors for some time while you recover.

During that self-instated celibate period, give some thought to what you’d like to get out of your next relationship, what kinds of sex do and don’t fulfill you, and how you can tune up your love-and-sex behaviors to make them overall healthier and better. When you do eventually tiptoe back into dating, you could try some experiments to see if doing things differently produces different results – for example, what happens if you write what you’re looking for very clearly in your online dating profile instead of hedging with “chill,” non-committal vagueries? What happens when you put off sex until the second or third date? Or, alternatively, what happens if you listen to the desires of your body instead of your brain for a while? You might be surprised what you learn.

Idealizing your ex. It’s oh-so-easy to do. The grass is always greener on the other side, and the lover is always perfect once you can’t have them anymore. Don’t succumb to this illusion!

One of the most devastating parts of any break-up, for me, is the period when I still think I’ll never find anyone better. “He was so smart, so funny, so charming,” I’ll groan. “I’ll never meet anyone else who’s that compatible with me, who understands my kinks that well, who ‘gets me’ that much!” It’s valid and normal to feel this way for a while, but eventually, you’ll realize – or you’ll have to force yourself to realize – that this just isn’t true.

I find it helpful to combat this line of thinking by reminiscing on the past. Before you met your ex, there was probably at least one other instance when you believed you’d never meet someone great again. And then you met your ex. So it stands to reason there are lots more wonderful people you’ll meet in your lifetime. Plus, as you evolve and grow, the type of person you’re looking for will change, too. Your ex may be an ideal match for the person you just were, but they won’t be as good a fit with the person you’ll become next!

Make a list of your ex’s flaws if you have to. Or ask your friends what they disliked about your ex. (They probably kept this stuff to themselves while you were dating, so they might be extra excited to unleash a torrent of salt about your former beau now that they’re allowed to.) Do what you have to do to remind yourself that your ex wasn’t perfect – they weren’t even perfect for you – and there will be even more fabulous cuties in the future!

What do you like to do to get over a break-up?

Devastated & Divine: A Week in Post-Breakup Fashion

On the day after her breakup, our lovely model Kate wears the same outfit she wore yesterday. 24 hours of crying, sleeping, and existential angst have rendered the ensemble charmingly worn-in – “heartbreak chic,” you might say.

Her green American Apparel tri-blend racerback tank is embellished with a chocolate stain from a Kitkat bar she bought because her best friend told her she needed to eat and chocolate was the only option that didn’t sound positively nauseating.

Adorning her black American Eagle leggings is a smattering of white hair from the cat belonging to her now-ex-boyfriend. The cat wandered in during the break-up conversation itself – sometime between “I don’t think we should see each other anymore” and “I still care about you a lot” – and though Kate mostly stayed strong, that was the one moment when she thought she might cry, because it wasn’t the cat’s fault she would never see him again.

Her turquoise Coach turnlock tote is stylish, yet roomy enough to fit a fistful of used tissues, a tearstained Moleskine journal, and a Kindle loaded with ebooks about the psychology of romantic rejection. The side pocket can even hold a plethora of condoms, as if she’ll have a need for those any time soon.

Kate’s royal blue heart-shaped sunglasses were a gift from a reader via her Amazon wishlist. Beyond just looking sharp, they also function as a shield to keep onlookers from realizing she’s just, like, constantly crying.

Her well-worn Frye harness boots are comforting and familiar, though now they are marred with the memory of how she clumsily crammed her feet back into them and practically tripped in an effort to get away as quickly as possible from the man who broke her heart. They need a shine, and maybe someday she’ll get to that when she’s no longer in a state of active distress.

Topping off the outfit is Kate’s Tarina Tarantino pink pavé heart necklace. Usually she wears a smaller purple and turquoise one, but the last time she had sex with her now-ex-boyfriend, he sidled up behind her afterward and fastened the purple pendant around her neck like the quasi-collar he understood it to be, and it was the last sweet and tender gesture he ever offered her – so, obviously, she couldn’t wear that one. Not today.

On the second day after her breakup, Kate wears a casually rumpled black tank top that was acquired at a local thrift store years previous and could probably use a wash. She defines her aesthetic goals today as “comfort” and “not wanting to fucking die.”

The red bandana tied around her head serves the dual purpose of concealing both her unwashed hair and her scalp infection, because depression is nothing if not glamorous. Red bandanas also symbolize fisting in the hanky code, a subtle, ironic sartorial nod to Kate’s ex, who would’ve been the first person to successfully fist her if he’d been decent enough to stick around.

Her red and black polka-dotted MeUndies boyshorts continue the color story from her red-rimmed, tearstained eyes. On her lips, Bite Beauty High Pigment Pencil in “Pomegranate” makes a bold statement: “I don’t intend on kissing anyone today. Or maybe ever again.”

On the third day after her breakup, Kate’s thrown on a black American Apparel tri-blend romper for her streetcar jaunt to an erotic massage downtown. The simple pull-on design and halter-neck ties make it quick to take on and off – ideal for getting naked on the massage table as well as navigating the bone-heavy apathy of depression. Easy-peasy!

On her radiantly unwashed face, she sports a pair of sunglasses she bought at a hotel gift shop the week previous, possibly the last purchase she made while happy. They seemed glamorous and eye-catching at the time; today they’re crimson-tinted armor. Pro tip: plastic frames are a smarter choice than metal ones while grieving, because tears don’t rust ’em!

Her heart necklace makes an appearance once again, because if a giant pink rhinestoned amulet can’t make her feel better, nothing can.

Ubiquitous Apple earbuds complete the ensemble, and rarely leave her ears these days, because what little emotional momentum she can gather is mostly enabled by the good-natured goofs of the McElroy brothers.

Later that day, blissed out and supple-skinned from coconut oil and orgasms, Kate slithers into a dark red Forever 21 tank top and tiny black H&M shorts for an evening at the local sex club. As she slings on a vintage Danier leather jacket and looks at herself in the mirror before leaving the house, she feels her first glimmer in days of something like happiness. Maybe she’ll flirt with a stranger tonight. Maybe she just won’t cry in public. Either would be a victory.

On the fourth day after her breakup, Kate’s ex is coming by to pick up the last vestiges he left at her house (a book and some bondage rope), so obviously she has to look good, even though she’s not actually going to answer the door because she’s either an emotional masochist or a massive coward – who can say! This is truly the ideal outfit for today’s activities: hiding under a blanket while rain pours down outside, and then trekking to a doctor’s appointment while blinking back hot tears. Busy lady!

Kate’s zebra-print fit-and-flare dress from H&M clings to her depression-dwindled curves in a manner that just screams “Help, I keep forgetting to eat, because my life is in shambles!” The wild-animal motif is an ironic twist, given that she’s barely left her house in days. So-near-y and yet safari, am I right?!

Today’s lipstick choice, Annabelle Twist-Up Crayon in “Vamp,” is the exact shade her mouth would be if she bit into the throats of the people who’ve wronged her and gnawed mercilessly until their pathetic heartbeats skittered to a stop, not that she’s planning on doing that or anything.

Her hair, still not washed, has achieved a strawlike texture that some people buy expensive salt sprays to achieve, probably.

On the fifth day after her breakup, Kate’s comfy-cozy in a Hole Punch Toys T-shirt she got on a road trip to Minneapolis. Wearing a sex toys shirt and headed out the door to write about sex toys at a café, she’s reminded of her competency, her talent, and the friends she’s made along the way. It’s perhaps too much to read into a T-shirt, but hey, when one is mind-numbingly depressed, one takes what one can get.

Her cheap H&M shorts are covered in dirt, food stains, remnants of her own sexual fluids, and the aforementioned white hairs belonging to the cat of her ex. She really needs to wash them, but when getting dressed feels difficult, it’s hard to part with something so sartorially versatile and easy to throw on for even as long as it takes to do a load of laundry. Plus she keeps thinking about how you could probably clone the cat using its hair. Not that she has access to that technology at present.

She’s finally washed her hair, but it’s been tossed up into a laissez-faire topknot, because today she can’t even.

Later that night, getting ready for an ill-advised OkCupid date, she slips on a lace bralette in “Lacklustre-Libido Lilac” and a Henley tank top in “Terrified-to-Try-Again Teal.” Her black velvet Forever 21 skater skirt creates the illusion of put-together elegance to impress her date, while really just existing to be comforting and comfortable. Joke’s on him.

Hours later, in a near-stranger’s downtown apartment, her Animal Hair internal clitoris necklace keeps falling into her mouth while she’s trying to give a blowjob to an unfamiliar dick. She notices herself falling back on the muscle memory of techniques her ex liked, purposely choking herself on this cock in a masochistic manner that is probably lost on this vanilla boy. It almost makes her cry, and then she almost cries again later when her one-night stand sees her necklace and asks, “Is that the Special K logo?” Her ex would have recognized it. And then he would’ve demonstrated his knowledge on her actual real-life clitoris. Ah, to date a proper sex nerd again.

On the sixth day after her breakup, Kate is so over it (over existence in general, you understand; definitely not over the breakup) so she pulls a hole-ridden, stretched-out, pilling Forever 21 V-neck tee on over her braless boobs. Free the Nipple, Free Women From the Shackles of Convention, Free the Chronically Sad Girl From this Mortal Coil, and so on.

Her berry lipstick creates the illusion of a confident, self-assured woman who has her shit together. Haha. Hahahahaha.

Her black faux-leather flats are practically worn through on the bottom, owing to the many long walks she’s taken recently, when it felt like she would fall into the earth and disappear if she ceased to constantly move.

Her wrists and throat are sparingly spattered with the Tom of Finland fragrance from Etat Libre d’Orange. On her skin, it registers as gentle, feminine, graceful and loving: all qualities she can’t quite remember, and hopes to rediscover in herself.

Today’s Tarina Tarantino heart necklace bears the image of Alice, as in Adventures in Wonderland – a figure with whom Kate strongly identifies, particularly now, as she’s a little girl traveling through an alien terrain without a Daddy to make sure she’s okay. She aspires to reach Alice’s level of confidence in that final courtroom scene someday.

One week after her breakup, Kate steps into a pink and turquoise Leg Avenue lingerie romper, ordered off Amazon back when she was happy. Her then-boyfriend would’ve liked it; it’s emblematic of the little-girl persona she often assumed around him, her Daddy. Maybe that’s the only reason he ever loved her. Maybe it’s the reason he left.

Her black ASOS skater skirt covers the lower half of the romper; the thought of going full-on little girl felt aggressively upsetting, so soon after being jostled from that role. Tonight her aesthetic is more akin to that of a grown woman who will someday tiptoe back into cathartic regression – when she once again has a partner she trusts to take her on that journey. Singlehood requires a fierce independence she feels she can’t cultivate when she’s little. Later tonight she’ll curl up with a carton of ice cream and a comedy podcast and allow herself to be gleefully small, but not where anyone can see her.

In her hot pink Kate Spade satchel, she’s got some business cards to pass out at the sex-themed variety show in which she’ll be a resident sexpert tonight. During the on-stage interview about vibrators and dildos, she doesn’t mention her breakup once. It’s the first time in a week that this recent heartbreak hasn’t felt like the central fact of her existence. Afterward, she even tipsily quasi-flirts with a cute co-performer. It’s not much, but it’s something.

Around her neck, she wears that Tarina Tarantino amulet again. It jangles and glitters when she gesticulates, casting candy-pink rainbows. Sitting on her chest all week, it’s come to feel like a part of her. Like a shield for her heart. It won’t guard her from future heartache – nothing can, not even staying inside her apartment, silent and uninvolved. But for now, she can pretend that she’s safe.

What to Wear to Your Break-Up

What I wore to my last major break-up, in 2014
What I wore to my last major break-up

Break-ups are hard. That’s true for anyone, and it’s true for me. I have an anxiety disorder. That means my brain’s fear-o-meter is out of whack. And that means I often worry about things that no neurotypical person would ever worry about as deeply as anxious folks do. For example: what to wear to break up with someone.

There is such a delicate balance to be struck in this sartorial decision. You want to wear something that makes you feel strong and brave, shoring up your resolve so you don’t chicken out. You want to look good, but not so attractive that your babeliness is a slap in the face to the person you’re dumping. You want to be prepared incase your soon-to-be-ex bursts into tears (or you do) and needs to wipe their snotty face on something. You want to dress appropriately for the temperature and tone of your break-up’s setting, whether that’s your beau’s apartment, a classy bistro patio, or a bustling street corner. You want your choice of footwear to enable a quick getaway, whether that’s needed because of emotional awkwardness or (god forbid) actual threats or violence from your scorned would-be ex. And you don’t want to wear anything that could be interpreted as a sign of lingering feelings for your dumpee, like a T-shirt you inherited from them or a necklace they bought you.

The last time I broke up with a serious partner, it was the sticky height of summer in 2014. I tucked a white tank top into a pink skirt, and put my hair in a ponytail with a pink scrunchie. Hot pink is one of my “power colors,” a shade that makes me feel strong and put-together, which I knew I’d need – because emotionally, I was a mess.

I slipped on some plain black leather flats and departed toward where I’d agreed to meet my boyfriend. About ten minutes into my walk to the subway station, I realized that in my frazzled trance, I’d forgotten my wallet at home. It was too late for me to run back and get it if I was going to meet my partner on time, so instead I just power-walked all the way to my destination. I arrived dripping sweat and out of breath.

When I actually delivered my little break-up speech, I broke down crying. I’d been with this man for three and a half years, and he was my best friend; saying goodbye to him was no easy task, though I knew it was necessary. He asked me if it would be weird if he hugged me, and I said no. He squeezed me tight, one last time, until my breathing slowed. And then we said our teary-but-amicable goodbyes and went our separate ways.

I wished I’d brought a scarf, so I could’ve wiped my wet face on that instead of on my beau’s shirt. I wished I’d brought sunglasses, so I could’ve hid my eyes as I wept all the way home. I wished I’d remembered my damn wallet. But hey, at least my clothes looked cute.


Here are some outfits and the fictional babes who wore them to their break-ups… (Idea reverently pilfered from Gala Darling, who’s written similar posts about first dates, New Year’s Eve, and dream girls!)

get it done

Nora wasn’t going to take any of his shit anymore. She showed up at James’ house with a box of his stuff slung under her arm, and kicked his door a few times with her steel-reinforced boot toe instead of knocking. She’d probably scuffed the paint. Fuck him, he deserved it.

When he opened the door wearing his plaid flannel PJ pants and nothing else, she rolled her eyes and thrust the box into his torso, knocking the wind out of his dumb face. “We’re done,” she barked, and turned on her heel.

“Why?” James sputtered. A Ninja Turtles action figure had fallen out of the box and he bent down to pick it up. “What did I do?”

“You know perfectly well what you did,” Nora snapped without turning around.

When she got back to her car, she caught sight of herself in the rearview mirror, all smudged eyeliner and mussed-up hair. She looked pissed, but she looked foxy. She dug her favorite lipstick out of her bag and reapplied it, slowly, carefully, with the precision of a woman who wants to look hot for the next chapter of her life. Once her lips were perfect, she revved up the car and embarked on a new adventure, joyfully Jamesless and unencumbered.

get it done 2

“I’ve always hated you in those glasses,” Jackson said when Audrey sat down at the desk next to his. “Don’t you have contacts or something?”

Audrey could feel their classmates watching her. Granted, lecture hadn’t started yet, so there was nothing else to watch, but the mini-drama of Jackson and Audrey’s Tumultuous Romance had been a key source of entertainment these past six weeks in Existentialism 101.

“I like them,” she said simply, beginning to unpack her notebooks and pens.

Jackson made a noise somewhere between a scoff and a snort, and that was the final straw.

“I don’t think I want to see you anymore,” Audrey muttered. And then, a little louder: “We’re just not a good match in so many ways. We disagree on the feminist significance of Simone de Beauvoir, for example.” She cleared her throat. “And I’m tired of writing your essays for you. You should do your own work; the rest of us do.” By this time, the other students were full-on staring. The professor had arrived, and seemed interested in this choice piece of information too. “Oh, and you’re an asshole,” she added with finality.

Gaping at her and leaning way back in his chair, Jackson lost his balance for a moment and spilled onto the floor with a clatter. Audrey wordlessly gathered up her notebooks and pens and moved to a desk at the front of the room. The lecture today was going to be about Dostoevsky and she wanted to absorb every word.

get it done 5

“I just don’t think I’m ready for this,” Jenny said with a sniffle. They shouldn’t have met in a park; the hillside was covered in grass and Jenny was allergic to grass. That was the only reasonable explanation for her watery eyes and nose. Right?

“It’s okay, princess,” Evelyn murmured, clutching her little one against her chest. “We probably rushed into this. I should have taken things more slowly. I’m sorry.”

Jenny shook her head and pressed her face against the older woman’s clavicle. She felt safe there, but it was a conflicted sort of safe. “No, it’s not your fault,” she stammered. “I’m just… not as ready as I thought I was. I’m still not over Mel. I should have been more real with you about that.”

Evelyn kissed the top of her princess’s head and held her tighter. “I understand,” she said. “I’ve been there before.”

They sat in silence for several long moments, Jenny’s wet breaths the only sound in the air. Then she said: “Can I keep my collar?” Her hand traveled to it reflexively, fingers hooking on the heart-shaped steel clasp.

Evelyn laughed softly. “Of course, baby. It’s yours. You can keep it even if you don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

Jenny exhaled deeply against Evelyn’s neck, her breathing starting to return to normal. “I might need it again someday,” she whispered. “You know, when I get over Mel and I’m ready to give this another shot.”

Evelyn smiled. The sun had started to set.

get it done 3

Alex had never hyperventilated in an airport before. Lots of other places, sure, but never an airport.

Sleepy passengers piled out of the arrivals door, fresh off a flight from Lisbon. Fuck, this is gonna be bad, Alex thought, but then, she always thought that. That was just how her brain worked.

She spotted Matt, weary-eyed with suitcase in hand, and a bolt of panic shot through her belly. Fuck, fuck, fuck. She had to do it. She had to. It was scary but she had to do it.

“Matt!” she called weakly, in a voice that was barely hers. He met her eyes, nodded, waved, and meandered through a crowd of chatty Portuguese tourists toward his girlfriend. She didn’t hug him immediately when he got close enough, and then it felt too weird to do it after that. Alex stuffed her hands in her pockets and mumbled, “Um, did you have a good trip?”

Matt started to answer her, but her jittery mouth cut him off. “Listen,” she rasped. “I gotta own up to something. When you were out of the country, I slept with someone else. And I’m really sorry. And that was really shitty of me. And you deserve better than that. It’s just, you were away for so long, and I got lonely, and I also started to think that maybe we’re just not – ”

“Just not meant to stay together,” Matt finished. “Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.” She looked up at him with those wide, blue eyes of hers. “And I slept with someone else, too,” he admitted sheepishly.

There was a silence before Alex let out a sharp bark of laughter. “Well! We really fucked this up, huh?” she declared with a grin. And then, taking his suitcase from him: “My car’s outside; let’s get you home and we can figure this out on the road.”

They were halfway to the parking lot when Matt threw his arm around her and ruffled her hair. “Missed you, pal,” he said, and it felt like a preview of what they could be to each other, someday, once the dust had settled.

How to Celebrate your Breakupiversary

Holy shit, y’all: as of today, it’s been an entire year since the end of my last, longest relationship. It’s cliché, but it really feels like so much more time has passed than actually has. My reality has shifted, my identity has transformed. I am very much no longer that girl who blubbered her way through a break-up speech after months upon months of waffling.

However, not being sad about a break-up anymore doesn’t mean it completely fades into the history of your life. The anniversary of a relationship ending can still feel momentous and significant. I’m sentimental and I like to celebrate milestones as they pass, if just because it encourages personal growth. So here are some ways you could celebrate your “breakupiversary” if you feel like you want to…

Invite friends. Make it an event.

Your friends probably saw you through the break-up and the relationship itself. They remember how it affected you, what it meant to you. So they’re the perfect people to help you laugh about it, forget it, and move on from it.

Most of the suggestions below can be accomplished just as well with friends as they could if you were alone. How fun it would it be to put together an itinerary for a break-up party and email a detailed invitation to your nearest and dearest? The event could even have a dress code, like all black (for mourning), all bright colors (for optimism), or “wear something your ex hated.” Amazing!

Ceremonially destroy something.

The traditional way to do this is by burning: you could make a bonfire for the destruction of old letters and photos, or you could get witchy like Gala and burn that shit in a miniature cauldron.

If burning isn’t feasible for you, because it’s illegal, dangerous, or just unappealing, there are other ways to destroy old mementos. You could tear them up and throw them away, stomp on them, toss them in a body of water (if they’re biodegradable), or run them through a shredder. You could use them as the basis for an art journal spread, or shove the remnants into the bottom of a planter that you then fill with soil and a seedling, as a symbolic gesture that you’re movin’ on up.

Replace something that reminds you of your ex.

I know you have some object in your house that, every time it catches your eye, takes you to a dark place, even if it’s just for a second. It could be a perfume that smells like your first date, a stuffed animal your ex won for you at a carnival, or a sleep shirt you “accidentally” stole from him when the relationship ended.

Whatever it is, you should find a decent – better, in fact – replacement for that thing. Ideally, bring a friend or two on the shopping expedition when you do this, so there will be fun and funny memories attached to your new acquisition from the get-go.

Make a list of reasons your current life is better than it was during that past relationship.

I bet you can come up with like a zillion reasons.

Put on an angry/triumphant/sweet-ass playlist.

8Tracks has some good break-up ones. They might be a bit mopey for this celebratory occasion, though. “Emotionally Intense ’90s Women” is my favorite playlist for when I feel like being ridiculous and angry (thank you to the friend who turned me onto this playlist when my cat died and I just needed to scream along to Alanis). Anything that ignites that “hell hath no fury like a woman[/man/non-binary person] scorned” feeling in your gut is a good pick.

Dig out old journals and read them dramatically.

If your friends aren’t around for this part, hop on Periscope and do it there. You really need some kind of audience for this one (although, admittedly, I have spent many an afternoon re-reading my old journals by myself and absolutely guffawing over how silly past-me was).

If you’re in a boozy mood, you can make this into a drinking game. You know what your patterns are in relationships, so you’re best equipped to create the rules of your own game. But, for me, I’d probably take a shot every time I used the word “compatible,” wrote about a sex session in greater-than-necessary detail, or complained about a problem that could have been solved by better communication. Yawn. (Boozin’ aside, though: laughing at old diary entries is one of the best-ever ways to turn a sad situation into a funny one. You’ll feel so much lighter once you’ve cackled at your own misery.)

Have sex.

So many options! You could stay in and have sex with yourself. You could get it on with your current partner, if you have one, and reflect on what a better sexual match they are for you than your ex was. You could get your ass on OkCupid or Tinder and find a hookup for the night, and use that stranger-wang/stranger-tang to exorcise your break-up demons. You could finally ask out that cute friend of yours for whom you’ve had the hots for ages. You could sign up for a cam site and jerk off for horny randos (this is especially effective if your ex would have hated you doing this).

We all move on from break-ups at different paces. If you – like me until recently – have been stuck in a dry spell since your relationship ended, it might be enormously healing for you to get back out there and get laid. It’s kind of one of those “you won’t learn to swim until someone pushes you into the pool” situations, except you have to be the person to push yourself into that pool. The confidence you gain from even one decent fuck will help propel you forward into more. Break-ups can decimate your self-image, but there are ways to deal with that, and sex is a fabulous one.

Dream up an ideal partner.

Grab a big sheet of paper. At the top, write a phrase that stirs romantic feelings in your heart, like “DREAM LOVER” or “MR. SO SO RIGHT” or “BANG-BUDDY EXTRAORDINAIRE.”

Then make a list of all the qualities that matter to you in a partner. They can be physical, mental, emotional. They can be hobbies and activities that person would love, interests they’d have, goals and ambitions that’d be on their bucket list. You can refer to pieces of celebrities and exes you particularly like: “Jack Black’s sense of humor,” “Emma Stone’s smile,” “high school girlfriend’s confidence,” “college boyfriend’s nerdiness.” If you’re artistically inclined, you can draw or collage some imagery into this spread, to amp up the lovey feelings you get when you look at it.

Now look over your whole page and let the feelings well up in you. Imagine how it would actually feel to meet that person, to flirt with them, kiss them, fuck them, hold their hand in public, laugh hysterically with them, cry on their shoulder, fall asleep in their arms. Let those images feel real and seem attainable – because they are attainable and they will be real, my love.

Whether you believe this type of visualization makes magic or just feels good, the fact remains: you need to convince yourself of your inherent value, and of your ability to attract better and better relationships into your life. I think visualizing your dream partner would be an amaaaazing way to cap off a breakupiversary party, because it would set your sights on the future – right where you oughta be looking.

 

Have you ever celebrated or commemorated the anniversary of a break-up? How did you do it?

5 Things I’m More in Touch With, Now That I’m Single Again

God, I can’t believe that prior to my break-up this past weekend, it had been over three years since the last time I was single. I mean, wow, man. In high school I sort of conceptualized myself as a “forever alone” type, so it’s truly astonishing to me that I was in a relationship for that long – that someone actually liked me enough to want to be with me and stay with me.

But what’s even more astonishing is that I wanted to be single again, which is what prompted the break-up – and that I’m enjoying the hell out of it already. Yeah, I miss my ex occasionally, like when I see a movie he would’ve liked or when something hilarious happens to me that I wish I could tell him about – but the benefits outweigh the costs and I am loving the single life.

Here are 5 unexpected things I’ve been getting back in touch with, since my break-up…

1. My natural cycle.

Well, not quite yet, but soon. Yes, an exciting announcement: I’ve gone off hormonal birth control!

While I dig how it’s kept my periods regular and my skin relatively calm, I’ve never been thrilled about pumping myself full of hormones, especially given that I’ve got a family history of breast cancer, a fact that doesn’t bode well when mixed with estrogen. And of course, birth control comes with a host of possible side effects, which, for me, included increased cramps, premenstrual irritability, depression, and sometimes suicidal ideation.

I’m looking forward to seeing what my ovaries and uterus will do when left to their own devices. A couple years before going on HBC, I was diagnosed with a benign ovarian cyst that really messed with my cycles, but it had shrunk considerably at the time that I started on the pill, so it’s possible it’s gone completely now – in which case, I might actually have regular periods! Hooray!

2. My natural vaginal aroma.

Uh, yeah, totally TMI. Sorry-not-sorry.

When I’m sexually active, I’m always worrying about vaginal smells, even though I consider myself body-positive and my partners have always told me not to concern myself with that stuff.

I mean, when I knew I was going to receive oral sex for the first time at age 16, I snuck away to the bathroom and gave myself a pre-cunnilingus scrubdown with DivaWash. And the girl told me I tasted slightly soapy so probably I shouldn’t have bothered.

Well, anyway. Now that no one’s face is down there regularly, I’m being less obsessive about keeping things pristine in that region. And it’s nice. I’m discovering that I actually don’t hate the way I smell. Maybe it’s the changes I’ve made to my diet and exercise routine lately, but the fragrance is actually kind of… sweet. Earthy. Natural. Lovely. Hmm…

3. Flirty energy.

Holy shit, this is blowing my mind.

I may have mentioned here before that my ex and I had an “arrangement” – a compromise between his desire for total monogamy and my complaint that the lack of flirtatious possibilities in my life was making me feel dead inside. (It’s possible that I’m a bit melodramatic.) We had negotiated that we were both allowed to flirt with and kiss other people, on a don’t-ask-don’t-tell basis. (That part wasn’t my idea. You might be able to tell from my blog that I always prefer to talk things out and be 100% honest, but the boyf just wasn’t into that.)

Well, despite this tiny negotiated degree of openness, I never felt quite right about flirting with other people while I was “taken.” I hated hiding it from my partner, and I felt like it was somehow dishonest to the people I was flirting with, too – like they’d believe it could go further than it actually could. Kissing was the hard limit; some folks tried to push past that boundary, thinking surely it would be okay, and I always had to stop them, even though it felt really unnatural to do so.

Obviously, all this guilt and concealment also meant that I couldn’t blog about my adventures, lest they be read by the boyfriend or by a relative or family friend who didn’t know about our monogamishness and wouldn’t have understood it if they did.

Now that all barriers to flirtation have been wrecking-ball’ed into oblivion, I can flirt as much as I damn well please. I haven’t really taken advantage of this fact yet – hell, it hasn’t even been a week yet – but just the option is making me feel giddy and enlivened. And if anything does happen, I can blog about it with wild abandon!

4. Being sexy in public.

By “in public,” I mostly mean “online,” because that’s the kind of person I am: an introvert and a geek. But I’m working on it.

Another thing my boyfriend didn’t like me to do was post naked or otherwise scandalous pictures of myself online. When you’re living in monogamy-land, this sort of makes sense, but every time I mentioned it to my poly friends, they’d be outraged on my behalf. “He doesn’t own your body!” they’d cry. “You can do what you want with your own tits and ass!”

I had really conflicted feelings about this, and I still do – but the fact remains that I do indeed hate the feeling of someone thinking they get to decide what I do and don’t do with my body. Sure, I understand why a monogamous partner wouldn’t want me to share my sexuality with another person… but I don’t consider my naked body to be an inherently sexual thing. Posting those pictures isn’t sexual for me; it’s an act of self-love, a confidence booster, a bold declaration of my womanhood and body-acceptance and unconventional beauty. It feels good, not illicit, and it feels like something I ought to be able to make my own decisions about.

Well, now that I’m single, I can. I’ve been posting as many (anonymous) naked pictures as I feel like posting. I’ve been enjoying the comments, guilt-free. Ohhhh yessss.

5. Being alone.

I don’t mean being single. I mean being physically alone. Being in a room that no one else is in. And not stressing that I “should be” spending time with someone. Just being.

The death knell of my relationship was when I realized that spending time with my partner had started to feel more like an obligation than a joy. It was another thing on my list that I had to do, like completing my sociology readings and emptying the dishwasher.

I have great love and fondness for my ex, but when someone is your Boyfriend-with-a-capital-B, it’s expected that you spend a lot of time with them. They expect it, and so do other people in your life. As an introvert, and someone with a lot of schoolwork and work-work on my plate, that got to feel like a lot of pressure. And the pressure to spend time with him sucked the joy right out of it.

Last night I was lying in bed reading a book, and I stopped and just thought to myself, “There is nowhere I’m supposed to be right now. There is nothing I’m supposed to be doing. There is no one who’s disappointed that I’ve decided to take tonight for myself.” And that realization was BLISSFUL. I sank down into the covers, took a long sip of tea, and buried my head back in my book. Mmm, heaven. Sheer heaven.

Look, I’m not saying the break-up didn’t make me sad. It did. And I’m not saying I’m never lonely, because sometimes I am. But by and large, I can see that this was the right decision for me. I’m thrilled with my life right now, even though I’m busy as hell with school and work and people keep asking me in hushed tones whether I’m “okay.”

I am more than okay. I’m reclaiming myself.

What was the best part of your last break-up? Got any advice for me on this journey of “finding myself” again?