Breaking up never hits you with its full potential and heartache until the first night. Suddenly, you forget about changing his name in your phone to Satan the day before, and all you can remember is his damn cologne on your pillow. It’s like he pressed his face to it before he left, knowing you’d have to sleep eventually, and boom, insert sappy love songs.
You probably already burned the sweater he gave you, but if you hadn’t, you know you’d be sobbing into it right now. All at once, every mean word you said to your girlfriends about him washes away. You just want to eat a bowl of ice cream and watch a romance movie whose terrible accents and plotline two days prior would have made you throw up.
You wonder if you’ve lost hold of your lady balls and how it came to this, when two weeks ago you wished you were single and with someone else, and now… waterworks.
Why is it so difficult to forget somebody you were once romantically involved with even if you weren’t in love with him or got hurt? There’s no way he was even one fifth as great as your mind would like to paint him right now, and you know that. You’ve never been so dependent on another person until this point and it makes you angry.
As a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need someone like him in your life… why can’t you just move on? Sure you can put on your best “I don’t need him” face, but deep down, you know it stung a lot and will for some time. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason behind your sudden mood swing, but there is. This is all very hard, but you too can learn how to stop caring about someone unworthy of your love.
The science behind it
There’s actually science stacked up against you on this one, beyond just saved emoji filled texts to back up your feelings with. This doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it; but in the initial stage of a breakup, the cocktail of neurochemicals you brain has been soaking in for however long is dried up with the removal of that person.
Studies show that falling in love forces the brain to send off dopamine and the bonding hormone, oxytocin. After some time in a relationship, your brain develops a tolerance to all these chemicals, as you would with any drug. Yes, you heard right, love is literally a drug.
When someone you love leaves you or you them, your brain loses the tolerance it has built up over time to this process. Once again your brain craves the blast of initial neurochemicals it was used to and you go through legitimate withdrawal. Scientists compare this phenomenon to what brains on cocaine withdrawal look like with similar scan patterns. Not saying if you can take heartache you can take cocaine, but you get my drift.
Okay, we get it, our brains want to shoot up on love juice and get on with the day, but since they can’t, here we are sitting alone, eating lukewarm easy mac, and filling our brains with carbs instead of cuddling.
What does this have to do with you feeling like your ex was better than he was all of the sudden? While not as scientific of an answer, this is a little something I’d like to call “The Gatsby Syndrome”. To clarify, the process where humans look back nostalgically to memories as far better than they were in reality, and constantly make attempts to move backward to meet these glorified times.
Based off the character Jay Gatsby from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work, I think “The Gatsby Syndrome” is something most people can relate to. Seeing someone in the past, no matter how recent, as better than they truly were.
Suddenly, that one time you went on a picnic and drank flat soda is the most romantic thing you’ve ever experienced, and you swear the air was so crisp you could catch it between your teeth. Which leads you to thinking about how his hands looked that day holding the blanket, and that they were big, muscular hands, which makes you think about his arms, which would always hold you with the right amount of pressure.
Now you’re snowballing downhill and sounding like a cheesy fan fiction plot, and you wish you could kick yourself for being so pathetic. This is about the time you have two possible options. You can get crazy, stupid drunk with your girls, and make out with the sketchy mustached guy in the corner while calling him the wrong name once or twice.
If that doesn’t suit your fancy, you can accept the tears, try not to do too much damage to the ice cream, and let it happen. While either option is equally viable, what’s more important is what you do afterwards.
Besides singing Taylor Swift and burning love letters, there is an alternative plan that can help you beat the love withdrawal and make sure you don’t go back to someone who doesn’t deserve you.
Release the pent-up feelings
No, I don’t mean egg his house or forget about those feelings with a bottle of Jack, but really, let the initial outburst run its full course. The first night of a breakup, talking about your feelings is great and a really beneficial practice.
After you’re alone though and not looking forward to spending a night in your bed running through every sad thought you’ve ever had, you need to take a more active approach. Whether it’s taking a hammer to a block of ice and ranting aloud or burying something symbolic in the ground, sometimes, a simple activity to commemorate the breakup can really help.
By taking away your focus from reminiscing on every moment you two shared together, you can symbolically end the relationship concretely for your psyche.
Oftentimes, we need closure, but life doesn’t always work that way. If you can’t get closure from the other person, you can find it from yourself. By doing something alone that’s silly or deep, you create a concrete mini-ceremony for your mind that will subconsciously force your brain to accept that something irreversible has happened.
If burying a picture of you together or breaking apart something nondestructive like a block of ice gets you through the night… you do it girl, sacrifices must be made.
Make a physical switch
Many people will tell you not to let your breakup show in your appearance. And while this is very true for your figure, and you shouldn’t eat your feelings, a little style change can make a difference when it comes to your attitude. Whether you take this as a little shopping (not over-board remorse buys, but a one skirt type trip), a new haircut, or a change in your daily makeup, is up to you.
You don’t have to cut your waist-length hair to your chin or completely change your wardrobe, but a slight change can remind you that you’ve reached a new stage in your life. For instance, getting a new purse would remind you each day from here on out that this bag marks a difference in your personal life and a difference in you.
As a newly single woman, you have to combat your mental state, while allowing yourself to fully feel all of the pain that comes with any breakup. In the scheme of things, if a cheap, new purse can bring more peace of mind, open that wallet and march to the closest Tj Maxx.
Find a new outlet for your efforts
Along with making that small first step to the next stage of your newly single life with a physical change, comes the mental change. Anyone trying to quit an addiction will tell you that taking up a new habit can really help. Smokers will chew gum or candy, because replacing one habit with a new similar one is a great way to help your brain make the mental switch.
Don’t take this similar new habit as latching onto a new partner or multiple one night stands, because jumping into relationships before you are ready is doomed from the start.
If you really think you have a new partner ready to go right after the old one has just left, they should wait it out if they are truly interested in you. It will give your new relationship the best possible chance at success, if you are sufficiently over your prior engagement.
Now that you’ve decided you need a new hobby that isn’t another breathing human being, it’s time to reflect on something that you can do for yourself. Whether that’s taking the initiative to try something you never had time for before or enhancing your relationships in your career or with your loved ones is up to you.
Whether you decide to start taking flirty girl fitness, learn to finally cook that family-recipe your aunt always made, or try to make weekly girl’s night a priority, is not important. As long as you are doing something productive for yourself, it’s a worthwhile strategy.
Allow yourself to be sad but not pitying
You are going to cry and you are going to be annoyed with your mental resolve for faltering. It will happen at the most inopportune times, from when you’re at a restaurant and you see something on the menu that reminds you of a past date, to when your best friend tells you about the sweet text her man just left her.
Accept that your amount of tears reflects your own right to grieve, and not the amount of power your ex has on your current life without him.
That being said, cry because you are experiencing intense emotion, but not because you feel sorry for yourself. It’s unfortunately very easy to sink into self-pity, especially when you feel like a relationship or ending of one was unfair. Remember that feeling slighted in this world has never helped anyone progress and that your life is more than simply a tally list of what you deserve.
Also remember that the universe has a funny way of dropping people into the laps of those who are ready for that. You won’t be alone forever, no one ever is. When you’re ready and when you’re emotionally capable of committing yourself, you will find someone again.
Keep yourself open
Don’t let your sadness of today hurt the way you look at the world tomorrow. Know that right now you have been dealt a low hand in the game, but don’t allow yourself to be bitter or vengeful. You can be angry, and breakups save room for lots of anger both at the other person and how the relationship ended. Be angry, be sad, but don’t be hateful.
Don’t allow a breakup to alienate you from your friends or family. Instead, let it pull you closer, and be open in your communication with them when you can be.
The scariest part of breakups is the notion that you are now alone and without that other person who has taken up so much of your time. You’ll think that your life is somehow lesser than it was before. That couldn’t be farther from the truth because your life value can never be placed on another person. Life shifts are painful, not because the idea of the future is scary, but because newness requires a bit of loneliness first.
In order to reach the next chapter in your life, accept the initial loneliness with good faith that it will lead to better things.
Share this article with anyone who has just gone through a rough breakup and could use a little tough love or could just relate to this. Let us know what you think about our method for how to stop caring about someone, when the person you deserve is still very much out there and probably trying to get over someone as well.