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7 Things You Should Do Immediately After a Breakup


On our list of least favorite things, breakups fall somewhere between guac being extra and sold out Beyoncé tickets—basically, they suck. Whether you had your heart broken or you were the one to end the relationship, the post-breakup etiquette rules are always a bit hazy. We’re really sorry that he or she wasn’t the one, but we’ve got a silver lining for you: Her Campus had the opportunity to speak with Jodi R.R. Smith, president and owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting—and she’s breaking down what to do right after a breakup.

1. Take the high road

In all cases, but especially in the event that you broke up with your significant other, you need to take the high road. “If they put up a nasty post about you on Facebook, don’t respond,” says Smith. “If they scream at you and say they never want to talk to you again, tell them, ‘I validate your feelings,’ and walk away. Don’t get pulled into any emotional backlash that is happening.” People are going to ask why you broke up, but you shouldn’t be telling them. Obviously you’ll want to talk about the breakup with your closest friends, but you don’t want to make your ex look bad to your circle of friends. If a mutual acquaintance or classmate is really pushing you for details, Smith suggests a number of phrases you can use:

  • “We were young and we were in love and now we’re not in love.”
  • “The relationship ran its course.”
  • “Sometimes things just don’t work out.”
  • “S/he is a great person, just not a great person for me right now.”

“You don’t owe anyone a giant explanation of your breakup,” says Smith. If people ask what happened, don’t feel pressured to rope them into the drama.

Smith also suggests giving your ex a little bit of space. “When you’re the one doing the breaking up, give the person the space to be in the places that are familiar to them,” she says. “Go to the Starbucks on the other side of campus or study in a different library so that you’re not causing more pain.” While breakups are never simple, you can help make things a little less complicated by being the bigger person.

2. Process appropriately

It’s important to resist the urge to process the breakup on social media. Instead of sub-tweeting or posting a tearful emoji to your Snap story, call or text your bestie(s) and meet for coffee, drinks or just a walk around the park. Rather than text-ranting to your big, just talk it out. “Process it face-to-face in a place where it’s not going to be documented for posterity,” says Smith. Attempting to understand what just happened is key to accepting it, but you don’t want your emotions coming back to bite you later on.

3. Protect your emotional well being

Smith recommends at least temporarily blocking your ex’s feeds so that he or she is not popping up in your social media while you’re trying to move on. “You’re the only one that can protect yourself,” she says. “And you need to protect your emotional well being. Even the most emotionally healthy person will be tempted to cyberstalk their ex, and that’s not healthy.” Smith suggests blocking them for at least the first month or so, after which you can decide whether or not you want to see what’s going on in their lives. You may also want to unfriend them so that they’re not cyberstalking you. “Make sure that all your privacy settings are what they need to be,” says Smith.

After her relationship ended, Caitlin Duncan, a senior at University of New Haven, deleted all photos and conversations from her phone. “It was torture to sit there and read our old conversations and look back on old photos,” says Caitlin. “I also hid his Facebook posts and muted him on Twitter because I really couldn't bear to see his posts. I didn't want to unfriend/unfollow him, so using the mute feature was helpful.” While you may not want to erase all of your digital memories, if it helps you move on, it may be the right thing to do.

You don’t necessarily have to block your ex’s cell phone number, but Smith does recommend not answering it when you see their name or number pop up on your screen. “Just because they’ve called you or are in the process of calling you, does not mean that you should answer it,” she says. “Let them leave a message. Listen to the message, and then decide whether or not you want to respond. And sometimes you just have to delete. You don’t owe them an explanation.” You know yourself better than anyone, so do what you need to do to make the best of a bad situation.

Related:6 Things You Should Never Do After a Breakup

4. Wallow (a little)

Believe it or not, it’s okay to wallow! “I think that when you’ve had your heart broken, to shake it off and pretend like nothing is wrong doesn’t do anybody any good,” says Smith. “What you’re not allowed to do is to become consumed by the wallowing. If after about the two-week mark you still suddenly burst into tears for no reason, then it’s time to get professional help. But for the first fourteen days, eat a lot of ice cream, cry a lot, watch really sappy Ryan Gosling movies. Really feel what’s going on.” You heard her—break out the Ben & Jerry’s, add a bunch of chick flicks to your Netflix queue and grab some tissues—you’ll need them.

5. Celebrate you

Once you’re done wallowing, it’s time to celebrate you. Smith explains that this means different things for different people. “For somebody that might mean going out and buying a whole new wardrobe or going out and cutting off their hair and having a totally new style; for other people it’s an opportunity to refocus on the things they really love,” she says. “Oftentimes when you’re in a partnership, what happens is you can’t always do everything you like to do, because you have to compromise…that’s part of being in a relationship. Now you’re not in a relationship, so if they didn’t like watching foreign films, go to a foreign film festival. Find the things that you really like to do and do them.”

This means you need to get out of the house (or apartment or dorm room) and connect with people. While you may want to continue moping around in your pajamas, trust us, this will be better for you. Smith suggests helping out at a homeless shelter or volunteering for a breast cancer walk—just do something to get yourself busy again that will help keep your mind off of feeling sorry for yourself. It may sound harsh, but it’s worth it in the long run.

6. Find your own closure

Smith explains that for twentysomethings, the amount of closure we’re going to be able to get after a breakup is pretty minimal. There’s nothing that the other person can really say to make us feel any better. So, don’t look to your ex for closure. Instead, focus on you and your feelings. Get a journal and write about it. “I’m a big fan of journals,” says Smith. “I find that people process when [they] actually have to sit down and write something out. Write the person a letter or write your future self a letter. Write a short story about the different ways that this relationship could have gone. Find the way that works for you. If you need to, it’s perfectly fine to go and see a counselor and talk about why you’re having a hard time moving on.”

Some people like to get rid of every single thing that reminds them of the other person. “If you want to do that you certainly can,” says Smith. However, she recommends taking the stuff and boxing it up, putting it under your bed, in the back of a closet or in storage. When it comes time to move, open up the box and see if there’s anything that you’d like to keep, because it’s nostalgic or meaningful for you. If not, then donate it, give it away or send it back to the person. Again, it’s all about what works for you and your process.

7. Start to move on

While Smith cautions against jumping right back into a serious relationship, she acknowledges that there are many ways to get over a relationship—whether that means having a one night stand or remaining celibate. “You need to decide what works for you,” she says. “But what I caution people against is going out, having a one night stand with somebody and then feeling worse about themselves in the morning. So think about what’s going to make you feel better and do that.” It’s going to take time to accept the breakup and begin to move on. Don’t feel like there is a right or wrong way to deal with your emotions—just do what works for you. You may not know what that is right now, but through trial and error, you’ll figure it out.

Breakups definitely aren’t fun, but they’re a perfectly normal part of your college years—and beyond. You have to kiss (and date!) many frogs before you find your prince or princess, so don’t give up. Like Smith says, “This too shall pass. No matter how hard it is…it goes away, you get over it and you’ll go on to live a complete and happy life.” It gets better, collegiettes!

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