How to Survive a Breakup This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

When he says, “We need to talk,” it will take you a moment to realize that everything is about to change from this point forward. And in your hesitant silence, he’ll assume you’re ready for the worst and will sit you down to talk. It’s important, he’ll say, because it’s been on his mind for a while now and it’s really bothering him--how long has it been bothering him? But now, as he sits across from you on his bed, you will find yourself suspended in this moment, unable to move or react or escape. It’s inevitable, this talk.

You will have spent every day with this guy without asking yourself why he takes forever to get ready. Why he has so much literature on Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky. Why he won’t take down that picture of him and his ex at Christmastime from a few years back. Once, you turned the picture around, just so you wouldn’t have to look at it.

He will have pulled you from the loneliness that swallowed you from before you met him, and eagerly, you will have given in to those captivating, oceanic baby blues. Spending so much time with this guy means spiraling deep down into the throes of falling in love even if it’s only been two months. But he’s so polite and sweet, and he opens doors for you and talks about the future, albeit somewhat ambiguously, and being a woman, you think it means something. It’s summertime, and the long days will be filled with dates together. You’ll spend every waking moment together, getting slices of cake at Rick’s Dessert Diner or going to Monday night 90’s trivia downtown. And then there will be the times when he tackles you onto his bed and kisses you like you’re the most beautiful woman in the world. Between his hungry lips against yours he’ll mumble things about you being ‘beautiful’ and tell you he’s falling for you and your stomach will swell with butterflies. And just like the talks of the future, this is another kind of lie. But between the kisses and moments of elated passion, you cannot remove that Christmas picture out of your mind. From under the waves of happiness you can still make out their smiling faces from in front of a Christmas tree.

Your best female friend will say, “What did you expect? They dated for four years and broke up six months ago. Did you think he was over her?”

This is what you learned from past relationships: It always takes a significant amount of time to get over someone. Six months isn’t so significant.

The guy will talk about moving into his own apartment, travelling to Seattle and San Diego and Portland. The guy is a government major and works in politics so he’ll craft these sentences so artfully it will be impossible to tell if you’re included as well. When he asks if you would consider moving in with him, note that this is a rhetorical question. Keep it on file, but don’t start packing your belongings just yet.

Sometimes, he’ll leave you to yourself while he freshens up in the next room or helps his frazzled mom out around the house. You’ll stare at the picture, now recently turned back around, and see the love magnified between their still, little 4x6 inch bodies. And you’ll feel a slight pang of jealousy that there isn’t a tangible love between you two. And you’ll begin to notice the little things he doesn’t do for you, and it will begin to nag at you incessantly.

Your mom will say, “Talk to him. Be extra affectionate and see if he responds to that.”

He’ll take you out to dinner most nights, sometimes places where you will sit by candlelight. He’ll have this fierceness in his eyes and you’ll know he wants you. When you finally get back to his place, you’ll shove your lips into his passionately. But he’ll slowly push you away, insist that he can’t or he’s tired or he needs to brush his teeth, yet will refuse to go and do it. You’ll subconsciously think to yourself, something’s wrong, but your conscious will drown it out with feelings of passion. Surely, everything’s right, right?

These are things you’ll think you know, but don’t: He’s still sleeping with you, buying you dinners and calling you beautiful, so he must be falling for you, right?

A little before your three-month anniversary you’ll start to notice some drastic changes. He’s become moodier and doesn’t text you as often as usual. You’ll find yourself anxiously anticipating that vibration in your pocket with no follow-through. This will disappoint you, but you’ll brush it off with excuses like “he’s busy” and you’ll try to forget (you won’t). You’ll also notice that you instigate everything-- from the communication to the intimacy. You’ll feel slightly (severely) underappreciated and neglected. It won’t feel good, and you’ll try to hold back the tears every time you’re around him. If he sees you unhappy, then it will make him unhappy. You’ll remember that, in the beginning of your relationship, he said he is very in-tune with other people’s emotions. If they’re happy, he is. And if you are unhappy, he will be, too.

Your best female friend will say, “That’s not right. Boyfriends are supposed to be loving and affectionate, even if they don’t love you yet. What’s his problem? You can’t stay with him.”

Your mom will say, “Are you sure you’re not being too needy? Neediness pushes people away.”

But you haven’t said or done anything at all.

The distance will continue to grow between you, and soon, you won’t be able to stand it anymore. You’ll find yourself staring at the ceiling late at night, paralyzed by thought of this failed relationship. You’ll nitpick possibilities of what went wrong, and you’ll begin to feel part victim, part perpetrator. You’ll suddenly feel this need inside the pit of your stomach to talk to him. You’ll promise yourself you’ll do it tomorrow.

Tomorrow will come and you’ll be sitting on his bed, eating five-dollar pizza and watching him download a movie to watch. You try to map out your words, but it all will come spewing out at once. You’ll tell him he isn’t as affectionate lately. You’ll say it hurts your feelings. You’ll ask what’s wrong, did you do anything, how can you fix this? He’ll sigh, and then he’ll say, “We need to talk.” You’ll instantly regret speaking up.

He will tell you over pizza and flat Japanese beer-in-a-can that he simply isn’t falling in love with you. He’ll say he doesn’t know why, but he just doesn’t feel a thing for you. He’ll sweeten the blow by clarifying he is attracted to you, just not in love with you. You’ll feel your heart sink lower and lower into your body, so low that it feels like it isn’t even there anymore.

You ask him why he doesn’t kiss you anymore and he will say, “Because I’m not in love with you. I only feel comfortable kissing people passionately when I’m in love with them.” Pain will cloud over your eyes; you’ll feel like a kicked puppy. He’ll apologize, though not enough to sound completely genuine, and you two will spend another two hours hashing everything out, from why he can’t be affectionate to whether or not he’s still in love with the girl in the Christmas picture (he’ll deny it). Unfortunately, due to your bad eyesight, it’ll be too late and too dark by the time you’re finished talking, so you hesitantly accept his offer to stay the night. You’ll awkwardly sleep in your clothes and feel the tension and distance between your bodies all night. As your body seizes and convulses with sobs you’ll be aware at how still and quiet he is. You and he are in the same bed, but you feel absolutely alone.

The next few days you’ll spend in a trance-like state. You’ll constantly wonder if you and he really did break up, and if so, why. You may spend quite some time stewing over what you could have done better instead, and there will be moments where you will wish you would have kept your mouth shut.

Your mom will say, “You did the right thing. If he made you unhappy, why stay with him?”

Your best female friend will say, “If you weren’t worth his time, why should he be worth yours?” You’ll recall she took that advice directly from the pages of a breakup survival guide you bought from the bookstore. Pathetically, you’re reading it as much as possible. Even more pathetically, it’s helping, in conjunction with a few pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and really bad TV.

The days will seem to drag on longer since there’s no communication with him. You’ll feel lost, like part of your routine is gone, and this will make you feel increasingly lonely. The initial sadness from the breakup will slowly fade, but it’s substituted by an irreplaceable loneliness that eats right through you. You’ll hang out with your best female friend as much as possible, and you’ll greatly appreciate her reaching out to you when she thinks you’re falling off the deep end again. Your mom will also be your outlet for when you find yourself thinking in circles over the breakup. And your dog will be your go-to companion for when you can’t sit and stew about it any longer. You and your dog will end up taking numerous walks a day just as a distraction. There will be many distractions needed. Meanwhile, that stupid Christmas picture still haunts you. You’ll once again be reminded you won’t have Christmas with him.

And one day, shortly after you have been fighting with yourself not to call him and resisting the urge to stalk his Facebook page, you’ll realize you’re over him. There will be a moment of mental clarity when you finally understand what your best female friend was saying all along. If you aren’t worth his time, why should he be worth yours? She’s right. It’ll be the day when you will comfortably leave your cell-phone unattended without fear you may miss a precious call (and if you do, so what?). It’ll be the day when you don’t agonize over every detail in that stupid, framed 4x6 inch Christmas picture. It’ll be the day when you see he is now friends with his ex again, and shockingly, you’re not surprised. You figure it won’t be long before they’re back together taking more obnoxious Christmas pictures together.

This is what you learned from past relationships: It always takes a significant amount of time to get over someone. A few months isn’t so significant, and neither is he.





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