Oh yes, there is a Heartbreak Recovery Plan. I followed the steps mostly by instinct or accident after my marriage went kerflooey in 2005, and after that I went through so much stupid shit out in the dating pool that I had lots of small opportunities to notice what I was doing to get over things, and to consciously realize why it helped. Now I have the recovery process pretty much down to a science.
In case you're curious, here's what I'm gonna do over the next few months to get back on my feet. The steps are more-or-less in order, although there's usually a lot of overlap between them:
I am fully aware that breakups are a first-world problem. I got a widdle boo-boo on my heart? Who cares about that when there are so many actual important things to worry about, like cancer and animal abuse and Disney taking over the Star Wars franchise?
But...I care. Losing The Boy is a big deal to me, so I'm giving myself permission to wallow without feeling guilty or stupid. This may take the form of:
- Putting on my penguin jammies and watching old Garfield specials in the foetal position.
- Listening to sad music.
- Screaming "WHY, GOD? WHYYYYYYYYY?!?!?!?" while shaking my fist at the ceiling.
- Crying until my entire head is a pulsating red snot balloon.
- Making ludicrously dramatic and overblown pieces of art* (exaggeration is cathartic, yo! That painting up there? I made it after I had one date with a guy and he didn't call me).
- Force-cuddling my cat, Birch, until he eventually struggles free and runs under the couch.
- Eating an entire thing of Ben & Jerry's New York Superfudge Chunk on one sitting and spending the subsequent 72 hours on a massive sugar high, unable to sleep because my eyeballs are vibrating too loudly.
I'll rein in the pity party around other people, of course; nobody wants to hear someone drone on in painful detail about their dead relationship and the dissolution thereof. But when I'm by myself I'll be indulging the shit out of my inner drama queen. It's therapeutic.
Be Nice to MyselfWithout The Boy here to make me feel special and loved, I need to make myself feel special and loved. Otherwise the withdrawal period will be mighty harsh. I plan to:
- Buy myself treats and presents.
- Dress up sometimes, "just because."
- Eat lots of my favourite foods.
- Take myself to fun places.
- Spruce up the apartment with some new curtains and stuff.
- Just generally do things that make me feel good.
Obviously, I can't feasibly put on a cocktail dress and make myself a candlelight dinner of fresh salmon every night for the rest of my life, but if I feel like doing it every night this week, I'm goddamn well going to. I'll taper it off as I start to feel more emotionally stable.
It's good to let yucky feelings out, but in a weird way sadness can kind of feed itself - not unlike a car battery continually charging itself as it runs. I'll need to balance my moping and crying with a healthy dose of social time with friends and loved ones. And I'm gonna make sure most of that social time is spent actually having fun, not just whining about being sad.
I'll force myself to go places without my friends and loved ones, too. I went out by myself all the time the last time I was single, but when The Boy moved in with me I kind of forgot how. It's time to remind myself how good independence can feel.
Follow My Bliss
Pursuing hobbies is a way of raising my self-esteem and happiness levels that doesn't depend on anyone else. I used to rely entirely on other people's compliments to feed my self-worth, but that sucked - it made me all clingy and insecure and passive-aggressive.
But if I throw myself into painting (or jewellery making or sewing or...), my technique will improve. The improvement will be tangible; I'll be able to see it with my own eyes, without needing anyone else to validate me. Plus, arts-and-crafts projects totally put me in my happy place, again without needing anyone else. And, y'know...at this point art is how I make a good chunk of my income, so I need to be doing that stuff anyway.
Once I've got a little distance and perspective, I'll start analyzing what actually went wrong in my relationship with The Boy. What qualities of his were problematic, and should I avoid people with those qualities in the future? What qualities of mine were problematic, and can I change them? What could I have done differently in the relationship? What ultimately caused this rift between us, and how can I avoid falling into the same pattern in the future?
I think of this step as "debugging" myself: optimizing my brain for my next relationship, whenever that should happen. It's not about becoming some kind of doormat Stepford wife, mind you. It's about eliminating bad habits and unhealthy thoughts while keeping my core personality intact.
- When I'm past the "Why does anyone bother with dating when all relationships are doomed anyway" phase.
- When the idea of meeting someone new sounds fun, not tedious.
- When I'm able to imagine what I want in a partner without thinking in terms of "...like The Boy" or "...not like The Boy."
- When I can hang out with a guy without constantly mentioning The Boy, thinking about The Boy or finding things in the new guy that remind me of The Boy (that one might take a little trial and error).
- When I truly understand that my date is an individual: if he does something annoying, it's not because "OMG why do guys do that it's so annoying," it's because he, in particular, is being annoying. Yeah, maybe guys I've known in the past have done similarly annoying things, but it's a coincidence, not a conspiracy.
However, it should be said that the ultimate goal of my Heartbreak Recovery Plan isn't to get me to the point where I'm dating again - it's to get me to the point where I feel happy and fulfilled as a single person. That way it doesn't even matter if I find someone new - I'll be fine either way.
*By the way, if I don't make any sad bastard paintings in the next month or so, it means I'm trying to ignore my feelings instead of processing them and you should totally call me out on it. I'm serious. Feel free to comment on this blog post or my Facebook page going "WHERE ARE THE SAD PAINTINGS, MOTHERFUCKER?!"