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Melissa Kantor on Breaking Up
Melissa Kantor, author of the young adult novel, The Breakup Bible, believes that breaking up is the great equalizer. She speaks from experience, having “officially” suffered through three or four major breakups and “all kinds of subtle but horrifying rejections early on in relationships.” Married with two small children, Kantor says “The love I feel for my husband is definitely deepened by all the breakups I went through before we met.” Here, Kantor shares the best methods for going through a breakup successfully.
What are some common thoughts that go through a person’s mind in the first 30 days after breaking up?
“Am I ever going to find someone else?” “It was all my fault.” “I never deserved him/her.” “I’ll be alone forever.” “I have nothing to look forward to.” “My life is a big black hole.”
Can you list the stages people might experience when going through the aftermath of a breakup?
Many people experience the stages of grief [that] Elizabeth Kübler-Ross recounts in On Death and Dying. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
There are real extremes. Often, panic attacks [occur]. Everything reminds you of your ex. Sometimes you experience euphoria when you convince yourself you’ll get back together. That can quickly topple into total despair when you realize that’s not the case. There can be self-hatred: “Why did I put up with all that bad treatment?” You might second-guess yourself. If infidelity was involved, you’re humiliated.
The bottom line: You will feel really bad for a while. If someone tries to convince you otherwise, either he’s never gone through a breakup or is trying to sell you something expensive. But learning to cope with these dark times is important—and ultimately will serve you very well.
What can help people get through these dark moments?
It’s about letting yourself go, but not all the way. “I’ll be damned if I’ll shower/get out of the house today because I need a rest. But tomorrow when I’m out in the world I’m going to look fantastic!” I’m a big fan of presenting your most fabulous self in public, like Melanie Griffith in "Working Girl" after she was dumped.
Of course guys usually don’t worry about how they look. The sad guy in a suit doesn’t look radically different from the happy guy in the suit, whereas the woman who hasn’t put on makeup or [fixed] her hair looks very different from a woman who’s getting all dolled up to go out after work. A man [will] compartmentalize. He’ll play basketball with his friends and not spend every moment thinking about the woman who dumped him.
What should people avoid doing in the first 30 days after breaking up?
You do have to meet your basic obligations—going to work, paying bills, living within your budget. Don’t drop the ball on that big work project, but this is not the time to plan a friend’s wedding shower or bachelor party.
Be gentle with yourself. If someone else in your life is suffering—say, an ill friend—don’t pressure yourself to take on major caretaking. If you can help [your friend] in some way, great. Being there for someone else helps you as well, and puts your problems into perspective. But don’t pressure yourself into taking on more than you can comfortably handle. Right now your most important task is keeping your life functioning. If you fall apart totally, you’re not helping anyone.
Should someone who has just gone through a breakup contact the ex?
Having contact stops you from moving forward. You’re still “in it,” so you’re not letting yourself grieve; and after the first 30 days has passed, you’ll have made no progress toward healing. If your ex asks if it’s possible to “stay friends,” say that for right now it’s not a good idea for you. At some point, that very well might be an option. But right now, things are too fresh.
Any more breakup advice to get past the first 30 days?
You can best lay the groundwork so that this is an experience you grow from by approaching the breakup as a change for the better, even though you are sad. When you try to dodge that sadness, or the realization that the relationship is over, you are not moving forward.
If you keep all your energy centered on your ex—wondering what he’s doing, fantasizing if she’s on a date, endlessly torturing yourself—it’s impossible to begin to reclaim yourself. And you are the important factor here.
When you start ruminating, distract yourself with an activity. Make a phone call. Work out. It might be helpful to make plans, especially on the weekends. Knowing you’re having brunch with your dearest friend gives you something to look forward to and think about. While you don’t want to make any permanent life changes at this juncture, you can make smaller ones like getting a haircut and cleaning your closets.
How can you succeed after the first month of a break up?
Start to contemplate the ways the relationship boxed you in and the times you were unhappy. Were those great times sandwiched between much more plentiful unhappy times? Think about the things you did wrong, not to punish yourself but to help yourself in future relationships.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
It’s all for the best. Everything that happens inevitably is for the best. Yes, it’s a kind of magical thinking but a useful one, as well as being true.
The best thing about change is…
…it provides an opportunity for growth.
What is the best change you have ever made?
I’m a high school teacher. I love it but always wanted to write. In 2002, I began doing that. I began selling articles to women’s magazines and eventually progressed to young adult novels.
For more information on Melissa Kantor, visit www.melissakantor.com.