A Seven-Step Guide to Heartbreak

Cup of Jo editor Caroline and her long-time boyfriend recently broke up, and her heart was in a blender. Here are the seven things she did next…

I used to have a boyfriend. And then we broke up.

After three years, we arrived at the decision that we didn’t want to spend our lives together. It was that simple, and it was that complicated. I will refrain from sharing any further details (until some distant day when they inevitably manifest as essays).

The truth is, I’m notoriously bad at saying goodbye. I can barely part with leftovers or recycle old magazines. Severing ties with people? Don’t get me started.

There’s the denial period, where you bolt awake at 3am and suddenly realize he’s gone, followed by weekends that stretch on endlessly. “You’re better off!” everyone swears, and intellectually you agree, but you don’t feel better off. You feel way worse, which is why there’s snot running down your face.

“You didn’t do anything wrong!” friends counsel, like a gaggle of well-meaning defense attorneys. But your righteousness can’t accompany you on Saturday morning coffee runs or bicker over which Netflix movie to choose. You miss that. You grow nostalgic for the time your partner forgot to put the seat down and you fell into the toilet in the middle of the night. Everything looks bleak.

Since wallowing in a tub of ice cream is only fun for about an hour, here are seven things I’ve learned, including tried-and-true advice from people wiser than me. I hope it may bring you some comfort, too (if and when you need it).

1. Listen to your friends. But don’t listen ONLY to them.
Your friends know you and why you’re amazing. Lean on them. But unless they’re licensed therapists or the Dalai Lama, resist the urge to take their words for gospel. Some friends would have you rebound immediately, while others insist on months of dating detox. Only you know what feels right for you. Seek the advice of a therapist, if it helps, or even the words of a seasoned advice columnist. I’m especially partial to Ask Polly, whose tough-love answer to this question is one of the best things I’ve read (on the internet, at least).

2. Remember: You are not alone.
Countless people have felt just as bad as you do. Whenever I’m in a funk (and, frankly, even when I’m not) I love to turn to the brilliant archives of Modern Love, where there’s an essay to match almost any situation. It’s weirdly comforting to know that smart, sane, kind people have gone through horrible divorces, cheating scandals and massive relationship anxiety. Not in a misery-loves-company way, but in an inspirational they-came-out-the-other-side-and-so-will-I sort of way.

3. Connect with something bigger.
…and suddenly, the relationship seems small. If you’re spiritual or religious, go to temple or church or synagogue. Find a meditation group. Seek out a feel-good guru. It can be anyone from an energy healer to a masseuse to a yoga teacher to a free online talk, like this one. If reflection feels painful, sign up for a class. The important thing is to connect in a way that makes you feel restored, refreshed, and part of a greater whole.

4. Take two aspirin, feel better in the morning.
The most startling (and useful) discovery of all: Can taking two aspirin actually ease the pain of heartbreak? Turns out the answer is YES. No prescription necessary.

5. Cut yourself some slack.
Forgive yourself for the choices you’ve made and forgive your partner for theirs. Take stock of what you contributed and what you’ve learned. Anger and resentment are unproductive emotions, and the sooner you can own your actions, the faster you’ll be on your way to feeling as good as new. It’s fine to make mistakes. Apparently everyone ignores dating dealbreakers, anyway.

6. Read something.
Namely, this book. I read it over the course of two days and it CHANGED MY LIFE. Sometimes you’re on your way to a breakthrough and something gives you the little push that finally makes it happen. This book did that for me, and I’d highly recommend it.

7. Go hug something.
Anything but your ex. In the wise words of Oprah, Knower of All Things:

“Romantic love is not the only love worth seeking. I’ve met so many people longing to be in love with somebody, to be rescued from their daily lives and swept into romantic bliss, when all around there are children, neighbors, friends and strangers also yearning for someone to connect with. Look around and notice—possibility is everywhere.”

Then one morning you wake up and the sun looks a little brighter. Your leg wanders over to the other side of the bed and instead of missing a presence there, you think, “OMG YES I HAVE SPACE.” The world, which had contracted so painfully, feels huge and full of possibilities. And holy crap, they might be even better than before.

There is always tomorrow. Thank goodness for that.


P.S. Four things to say to a friend after a breakup, and Mindy Kaling’s wonderful loneliness advice.

(Written by Caroline Donofrio. A version of this post originally appeared on Caroline’s site and I thought it was too lovely not to share)

  1. Lauren says...

    Thanks for introducing me to Ask Polly archives. There is one particular break-up story she responds to that reflected a lot of the patterns I saw in my own relationship. I always refer to that advice piece when I feel down. It helps me a lot.

  2. Chandler says...

    I am currently going through the on and off again cycle with the boy I have called my best friend for 4 years. I refund myself constantly blaming me for everything because he seems to always turn it all on me everytime anything happens. I am heartbroken and weak. I have cried and begged for him to just see the light so many times. I am to the point of feeling depression and anxiety constantly. I spent my whole college years with him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with this man. I love him so deeply and it so hard just having to let go and do what’s best for me.

    • Alexandra says...

      Hi, Chandler, I hope you’re doing better now. What makes it so hard to let go is that we can’t see ourselves being happy without that particular person. But please, believe me, that’s temporary. I know it may seem so permanent but it’s not. You will be happy again, with or without boyfriend. And if you know letting go is what’s best for you, that’s what you should do. Take good care of yourself and know you won’t be heartbroken forever.

  3. Haley Davies says...

    Caroline thank you for sharing this and thank you other readers for all of your wonderful comments. this was a much needed read this morning.

  4. Hello Caroline!

    Only just stumbled on this entry but couldn’t have been at a better time. I ended a long term relationship of four years in May this year and I surprise myself even at how unexpectedly long it has been and I’M STILL RAW.

    Jumping into another relationship right after, ending that and then encountering a fling a month or two back and ending it now just before NYE and while i’m only a few months shy of the big 3-0 – 2017 really takes the cake for worst year of my life.

    Looking around, everyone’s moved on to a new phase too, friendships are no more the same. The pain and additional shame of being alone during the festive season is almost unbearable.

    I’m glad I’ve found this post today, will head down to the nearest bookstore to grab a copy of the that book you recommended for Oprah for my solo NYE weekend. Thank you!

    (from halfway round the world)

  5. kr says...

    i’m a week out from a breakup and the initial 48 hour shock has subsided but in its place is that low hanging pain that tends to rise in my throat around 8pm every evening when i remember i’m going home to an empty bed. this post was very helpful and i appreciate you sharing it, caroline. just knowing that a lot of other people have gone through this makes me feel better. <3

  6. Mel says...

    I am going back to this post many years later. My fiancee just broke off our relationship and cancelled our wedding. We are supposed to be getting married in two weeks. We have been together for the last 8 years… and now I feel like I am mourning both him and the life that we had planned together. I am scared. I don’t know where to start. However, this post has given me a new outlook on my situation and let me know that I am not alone xx

    • Julia says...

      Mel, I’m so sorry to hear that! It can seem terribly intimidating to feel as if you have to “start over” again without your partner. Something that really helped me was telling myself that the more time passes, the better I will feel, and the stronger I’ll be. Don’t let someone else define you and your happiness. Seek comfort in your family and friends, and seek out new experiences that allow you to make happy memories. Although things may be very hard right now, you will heal and you will be happy again :)

    • Stacy says...

      I’m also coming back to this post, after my fiance ended our engagement last night. We’ve been together nearly 7 years, with the wedding planned for June 2018. I’m devastated, but reading these posts gives me a little glimmer of hope. It’s going to take a long time though.

  7. Daniela says...

    I read this when it was first posted, and as I left an 8.5 year relationship last night (after knowing him for ten years – we met when I was 17 and I am about to turn 27 in a month) I immediately went back to read it again. I am going back to the apartment we shared to sleep there alone tonight (I spent last night at my parent’s) and know it’ll be painful. Thank you for this post.

  8. Julia says...

    I know this is an old post, but reading it helped a lot. My boyfriend of a year and a half broke up with me just over a week ago and it has been incredibly painful and hard. We were long-distance, so the times we would see each other we would spend weeks at each other’s houses with our families. He was my first everything, and I honestly believed he was the one I would spend the rest of my life with. He would always talk about when we finally move in together, and spend our lives together; however out of nowhere one day he ended it, saying long distance wouldn’t work for him as he realized it would be over 5 years until we would move in together (I’m in university and he got a job offer in a neighbouring country) I’m still heartbroken but have been trying to see the bigger picture.

  9. Nina says...

    This is a old post, but still, maybe I can help someone with my comment. I also was heartbroken, crying, desperate. But one day I was looking at my bookshelves and looking for a book to read and saw Don Miguel Ruiz’s Mastery of Love. I bough it on a whim a couple of years ago, together with Foster Wallace’s book. Then I was still happy in my relationship and I never read it. Such mistake. This book really opened my eyes and I saw my action and the actions of my ex in totally different light. I wasn’t angry anymore, I didn’t feel sorry for him or myself, I started to feel compassion. And from then on, I have it on my nightstand and read it when I feel I’m sinking again in old patterns.

    • Thank you for this. I am going through major heartbreak and thought that only COJ would have some post that might ease the pain. Thank you for this belated comment. I will buy this book because right now, I’ll take anything that might help.

  10. joseph says...

    Revenge Your Ex

    Each day hundreds of men and women seek revenge on their ex-mates for a
    variety of reasons, usually because they got dumped or where cheated on.
    Revenge comes in many ways. It typically starts by using social media to
    vent, and then escalates from there. Now sites like “Get Revenge On Your Ex”
    for a fee will help you get pay back or revenge.

    So what is the best way to get revenge besides slashing her tires, posting
    nude photos of her and so on.

    The best way according to the web site Right Choices 101 is to live your
    life well. This is true no matter who you are seeking revenge on. Coworkers,
    past bosses, bad friends or ex-lovers. Put your energy into succeeding and
    enjoying your life, not wasting your time, energy and resources on revenge
    that can end up costing you much more. Plus, when you seek revenge, you send
    them a massage that you have not gotten over the relationship. It’s much
    better to show you are indifferent and don’t care.

    According to Kenneth Agee of A Foreign Affair, a service that specializes in
    helping men find young beautiful foreign women, “The best revenge is to date
    or marry a women 10 years younger than your ex. This will piss her off to no
    end. No woman ever wants to be replaced with a younger, more attractive
    woman. Just like a man never likes to get replaced by a guy who is wealthier
    or more successful.

    I will never forget one of my first clients we took to Saint Petersburg,
    Russia.” says Agee, “The client told me that two days on our tour was better
    than two years of therapy. Having hundreds of attractive women fighting over
    you gets your ex out of your mind pretty quick.

    I personally went through break up when my ex ran off with another man. But
    a short time later, I met a new lady who was ten times better. I ran into
    that man who stole my ex and I gave him a big thanks. In fact, I could not
    thank him enough. He was stuck with an older nagging women, while I was now
    with a young, beautiful, caring women. Plus, my ex had gained about 100
    pounds. I don’t look at that fellow as any kind of enemy but as the person
    who saved me from my ex and years of suffering.” This is the best a revenge
    when you win without lowering yourself.

    Other sites like “Get Over Her Now” give practical advice and tips for
    getting over a past relationship.

    Top Tips from Get Over Her Now:

    Start making platonic relationships with as many women as possible, old,
    young, skinny, fat, cute or ugly. This greatly helps you get back in the
    game of socializing with the opposite sex. And it opens up lots
    opportunities to meet their cute attractive friends in a more relaxed
    environment. This also helps you build your game and confidence.

    Improve yourself, start working out, get up early every day and exercise.

    Buy new clothes. Dressing better makes you feel better and improves your

    Focus on work and getting a promotion or raise. Don’t let a break up effect
    your work negatively. Put that extra effort into work and it will pay off
    with a better position and more money. This will also build your confidence
    and help attract better quality women.

    Any time you are depressed, improving yourself helps greatly. When you feel
    depressed, don’t sit and watch TV and then sleep-in late. Get out and do
    something that will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Take a
    class, go hiking, fix something you’ve been putting off.

    Don’t start drinking. Drinking will always have a negative impact on your
    life. Don’t drink while depressed or when you are trying to get over some
    one. After all, drinking is for celebrating. So if you are not celebrating
    something, don’t drink. A quality women is not going to be attracted to
    someone who drinks a lot or has a drinking problem.

    Don’t sleep in; sleeping late increases depression. Get up as early as you
    can and go for a walk, take a hike, or go to the Gym. Research shows getting
    up early and exercising can eliminate depression. You will have no game be

    Don’t binge eat. If you start gaining weight, you will feel less self-worth
    and lose your confidence. Confidence is a quality that women are extremely
    attracted to.

    Conclusion, the best revenge is when you improve your life so well that she
    realizes she made a big mistake. And satisfaction comes when you meet
    someone so much better, you are glad the ex is gone. After all, if you are
    seeking revenge, how great could she really have been in the first place!

  11. Jen says...

    Thank you for this. Especially the Ask Polly post. It’s helping me see my spark after a breakup.

  12. Claire Bou says...

    Thank you so much for this post, I consulted it after a bad breakup and it helped cope and realize I was not alone. Now, my best friend’s heart is broken and I have come back to this one article for help, trying to help her mend it. We skyped and both admitted we looked at it again, and just that was enough to make her smile again!

  13. Anonymous says...

    I wondered if you’d consider writing a post about dealing with a breakup when you are the “dumper” not the “dumpee”? I recently broke up with my boyfriend of six months and, although I know it was the right thing to do, I am grieving more than I thought I would. I feel sad, guilty, and upset because it ended without closure. I am having second thoughts, which I know is irrational because I was certain about my decision. Truth is, there was nothing really wrong with the relationship except a lingering gut feeling it wasn’t right. Now that I’ve broken it off, I can only remember all the good things and not the reasons I was unhappy. I was the one who wanted to move on, but I’m struggling to move on. Any advice?

    • Chelsea says...

      Feeling exactly this way, but a year and change after you.

    • I am SO in your boat, Anonymous, Broke it off after 7 years because there was a nagging feeling that it wasn’t right, right from the beginning. He was an incredibly kind, loving, and wonderful man…but it didn’t feel quite right, ever. I felt like an idiot for wanting to leave this perfect guy. I am certain that this decision is the right one, but I feel so sad and lost without him as my best friend.
      My advice to anyone who is feeling this way is to read Dear Sugar’s (aka Cheryl Strayed’s) advice on leaving a relationship even though nothing is terribly wrong, but you feel a nagging sense of wanting to leave:

      Hope this helps someone,

  14. good step

  15. Esther says...

    Thank you. A million times, thank you.

  16. Kelsey says...

    Oh my, this was just what I needed from someone coming from a very similar perspective. Ended an (almost) 3 year relationship, and so bad at saying bye to things that I’ve been known to have trouble saying bye to inanimate objects. These tips are seriously the best I’ve read. This will help get me though. Thank you!

  17. Hi! I first read this when you posted it and I didn’t pay much attention to it. I’m re-reading it now cause I’ve just ended my first serious relationship. I was with my boyfriend (now ex I guess) for over a year, he was my first everything but after much talking we both came to the same conclusion as you and your ex. It feels horrible right now, and although I know it’s gonna get better I feel like it won’t. I’ll just wait for the storm to pass, I guess! Thank you for the post, feels good knowing someone has been through something similar.

  18. Barbara says...

    I’m re-visiting this post. The first time I read this was when you had freshly posted it and it was a year after my difficult break up. I remembered tearing up to your words and feeling so raw still. I would get angry with myself that I still felt so sad a year after…. Even more time has passed now and I’m here to say, it gets better. I still have moments when the memories make me tear up, but I now feel confident and an overall happiness, when in the past I had thought I’d never be able to fully feel like this again. Time is a wonderful thing. I wish for anyone out there who may be in the thick of it to know that you too will be okay. Those feelings are terrible. Don’t get angry if you slip a sad thought even years after. I will say it again.. Time is a wonderful gift, though that doesn’t mean it goes fast.

  19. I found as I was going through my last breakup. The site gave me the courage to get out of my relationship and the confidence to meet new friends and try adventures. I’m happier than I’ve been in a long while and can’t for what’s In-store for me down the line.

  20. prudence marule says...

    Ok, EVERYONE HAS GOT TO (yes I’m screaming)… read the Ask Polly article, Link in point 1. – Polly’s answer is the stuff of legends.. its the kind of brutal honesty i know i would NOT immediately appreciate if i had written this letter (which is likely since i found a kindred spirit while reading it) but i may (after months of slating Polly), maybe… go back in a month or so and re-read and look for the wisdom..

    I love the response: You know what makes a spark? A real human being with a bad attitude who’s tired of moving shit just to sit down in a motherfucker’s apartment.

    I’m going to print this and put it up somewhere!

    thanks Caroline.

  21. Hi Klara! The book is WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE by Oprah Winfrey. The link above should be working now, if you’d like to try again. xo Caroline

  22. Hello! The link for the book that changed your love is unfortunately not working. Could you please write the name in the comments? I am going through really hard post-break-up episode and I would really love to read it if you loved it so much. Thank you lots and lots and I hope you’re having a great day.

  23. Thank you for this post.

    My boyfriend just passed away last month and even though this is a different situation, in some ways it feels like a breakup…but much worse.

    I think I’m going to go out and buy some aspirin.

    • Anna says...

      Hi Sofia,

      I know it’s been a few years now, but sending you lots of love and hugs from NYC.

  24. I wish I had read this when I went through a tough break up a few years back. A lot of these tips took me time to learn, but they helped, especially connecting with something bigger. Thanks for sharing.

    S. Roderick

  25. love the last little line about space in the bed. that sudden realization that you can move around?! wonderful! also, new bed sheets are a great little pick-me-up :)

  26. What I’ve learned over the years is that heartbreak is so different for everyone, and there are luckily a million ways to get through it. You just need to find one way that works for this moment, and then tackle the next moment when it arrives.

    These suggestions, from Caroline, definitely resonated with me. I recently wrote an article about my own breakup:

    Disclaimer: I run the site Mend that published it – A few other commenters have posted links to my site already, which made my heart smile.

    Wishing you all well and sending so many hugs,

    Founder of Mend

  27. I know it is sort of an odd thing to say but I work in Psychology, I have training in therapy but I am not always the best at giving advice to friends… I am impartial and speak from a loving friend position not a therapist position! So even us therapists should be taken with a grain of salt if we are friends!

  28. That was one of the most helpful break-up post I have ever read. Maybe it’s because I’m right in the middle of a break-up and it all hit home for me, either way I love it.

  29. I am so sorry about Caroline’s break-up. But surely now is the time to get that hair cut we were all voting on a few weeks ago.

  30. Such a great post you got here. Thanks for letting us read this. It can really be a great help to mend a broken heart.

  31. Oh isn’t this so true! What helped me was keeping a journal of my emotions. Getting them all out on paper and then throwing that journal away when I was ready. Also, I made a promise to myself to smile. Even if it wasn’t genuine, even if it was difficult some days, but smiling helped me see that there is a bright side to all of this. That perhaps, it was a lesson learned and nothing more. All of these tips are great!

  32. I sold some of the gifts from my ex on EBay, then spent the money on wine. It felt great :)

  33. This was a really wonderful read – I am currently in a relationship, but this advice would have definitely helped during my last break-up and can even help people going through difficult periods with their partners – be it just a lot of fighting or during a break.

    rae of love from berlin

  34. Thank you. I just went through a really tough break up and it was nice to see had that you can get through it. I have really been struggling so seeing this kind of made me feel more uplifted. I’m sorry you had to experience this too.

  35. Hope you deal with this. Great post, btw. I am also single after a 6 year relationship. The only thing I would like to share is a question: what suddenly or magically happens to two people that, for an amount of time ( either one year, 2, 5, 10 or 28) were together and wanted and loved oneaanothere, and suddenly don’t anymore? What changes?

    • Ellie says...

      People grow and change, it happens organically. It is very new to have one partner for so many years. I read somewhere that throughout the eons the average amount of time couples have together is 7 years. Historically it was because people died easily either due to fighting in battle, from childbirth or from illness, pre-vaccines.

  36. One of the best things I read after my last breakup was Alain de Botton’s Essays in Love – a friend passed on her copy and I’ve since given new copies to all my friends who’ve had rough breakups. Seems weird to read a book about a relationship breakdown when you’re going through it yourself, but it really did help.

  37. Wow Beth, that really is good to hear. I mean it. It sounds pathetic but I’ve been searching everywhere online for some kind of acknowledgement that our situation exists! We’re not mourning a break-up, technically, and in a way that’s harder because in my case I can’t talk to anyone about it! For me it’s about mourning this lost life, this other life I might have had with him… I wish you so much luck Beth anyway, and the same goes for all of you amazing ladies. xx

  38. As I read these comments, I’m so comforted to know that others out there are experiencing the pain that has been the driving force in my life for the past two months.
    Caroline, your sweet and raw account of what’s helped you is uplifting beyond what I can express.
    Regardless of my countless friends and family members who have lovingly expressed that I need to move forward, it just takes time. It takes slow, tough, sometimes agonizing time. And I’m in the thick of it. I miss him every moment of every day. But I know I’ll reach my threshold when I’ll smile more than I’ll cry and I’ll love more than I’ll hurt. And most importantly I’ll think of myself a million times more a day than I’ll think of him. We women white knuckle our way through break ups and try to hang on when we should let go. Today, after reading this, I’m finding there’s beauty in the release.

  39. I really love this. I think everyone is different – we all heal at different rates and in different ways – but somehow Caroline managed to hit the nail on the head.

    Well written, yes, of course, but also super great content and terrific and fresh links.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    (I love, love, love your blog, Joanna.)

  40. Angharad– don’t know if you’ll see this but I am going through exactly the same thing you are. Reading your almost exact description of my same situation made me feel better and less alone. I think this happens a lot, more than we think it should. And for you and anyone else going through a breakup or not, I started working through this amazing app called Happify. Really helped me focus on what I already have and what I can work on to be a happier person. Good luck everyone :)

  41. I came across this poem t the right time in my break up (don’t know who it’s written by, though!).

    For a star to be born, there is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse. 

So collapse. 
 This is not your destruction. 

This is your birth.

    It helped me to remember to let myself feel everything and to accept those feelings. I came out the other side, you will too.

  42. Yep! Buy new sheets and make them FLORAL dammit. Get the ruffle bedskirt. Get a kitten he would’ve been allergic to. Wear the dress he thought was too short. Spend the money he didn’t want you to spend. Celebrate his absence.

  43. Writing is good for the soul after a breakup. First I wrote 12 letters to my ex (that I never sent) and then I wrote and published a book on breakups.

    I don’t know if I healed first and wrote, or if the writing healed me. But I do know that it was important to get it out, because as many have said here, this pain is a strange one, and can damage us if allowed to fester.

  44. Caroline and Joanna, Joanna and Caroline, how I love BOTH of you! I could read this post for a week with all of the lovely resources and links included.

    And here is one of my own: the book “He’s Just Not That Into You: You’re Daily Wake Up Call” was my refresher that I went back to again and again in the decade that I was single (very, very single…continuously…for a decade). It’s not what people think of when they think of the more famous version of book – this is just a collection of inspirational one liners. In some ways it is not as kind and nurturing as other things to lean on post-breakup, but in other ways it is very empowering and, truly, gives you the wake up call that so many of us need.

  45. Breakups are so difficult. I’d add to be kind to yourself, and not judge your feelings. I went several years beating myself up over the ‘should have’s’ and ‘what if’s…’. Indulge yourself. I love bubble baths. Trying to focus on health is always a positive! And sometimes the best friends are the ones who simply listen to you, and do not put their experience onto yours. Read more, write more, rest…take care of yourself! I haven’t dated in several years, and I’m ok with that. Learning to be ok within yourself, within the life you have, can be a huge blessing.

  46. Love this!

  47. Girl I wish I would have read this last year! I was going through a break up and felt paralyzingly isolated. It was horrible and awful. These are a few things I did…I pitched or boxed up anything that we shared, reminded me of him or that was his. It is now stored away and a far corner of my attic. I threw away new pairs of underwear and any clothes that he liked. I got new bedding and cut my hair.

    I kept asking my roommate what I could do to feel better. She was honest and so loving, she said “Holly, you won’t for a long time, but hang on because I PROMISE one day it will.” She was right. Around the one year anniversary mark I felt the cloud lift. It was nothing I did to make it lift, but it was like I “got over the hump” somehow.

    Also I would recommend the book, Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. It’s great for any life altering situations.

    In moments where you feel like you aren’t sure you can’t get up the next day, hang on.

    My heart is very sad for your heart. Hang on, hang in. It will take some time, but you will come out on the other side of the

  48. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your thoughts and suggestions! This couldn’t have come at a better time in my life…it’s so easy to feel so alone in going through a break-up!

  49. This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you Joanna, thank you Caroline.

  50. I went through a rough break up of a 5-year relationship after college. I found that buying new music and walking around San Francisco whilst listening to said music made me feel much better. It’s always nice to start a new “soundtrack” after/during such a rough transition. Those CDs are still some of my favorites. Also, eat almond croissants or whatever pastries you enjoy :).

  51. I love this. I, too, am working through a broken heart, one that is taking me what feels like forever to recover from.

    I love Kash’s comment about recognizing that this struggle is a low point, and it’s not forever. Some days I think I won’t ever get over this, so it helps to focus on the big picture of my life, a life wherein I have loved before and will surely love again.

    In the meantime, the thing that’s helped me most has been just to let myself mourn the way I need to on that particular day – be it by bingewatching The Office on Netflix, re-reading our love letters and packing them away, or treating myself to new red lipstick. Whatever it takes.

    Hang in there, Caroline! You are not alone in this. xo

  52. i totally agree with everyone saying this is important and sincere, unlike 90 % of all other blog posts in my feed. thank you.

  53. Thank you for writing this, Caroline.

    I too am going through a rather monumental breakup with my boyfriend of four years. It’s been a tough few months – magnified by my upcoming 30th birthday and the very unfamiliar feeling of being single as I look towards this milestone. My best friend keeps reminding me that it’s okay to still love him, but to acknowledge that just because you love someone doesn’t mean he’s the right one for the long haul.

    Be present (both in the good and bad moments), take care of yourself and try to focus on the positives. We’ll get through this.

  54. Very, very well written, Caroline. I went through a break up with someone I dated for 5 years, and we ended it in a similar fashion – sadly coming to terms with the fact that we just weren’t right for each other. I connected deeply with this post. Everything you said was spot on (especially the snot running down your face bit). Hang in there – it DOES get better, and you WILL find the man that you’re supposed to be with.

  55. Great advice — and lots of hugs to Caroline!!

  56. Caroline…thank your lovely sweet heart for sharing!! As trivial as it may sound a new lip colour never goes a miss in a time of change. Because when you do rally around and go on that “feel better” night out with your girlfriends…I bet you catch your self in a shop mirror or in the bathroom, looking at that slightly new look and metaphorically or not think I am new, I am different because of this break-up!!
    Thinking of your mending heart!!

  57. Oh my god, the Ask Polly link is incredible. Thank you Caroline. I hope you feel better, I really do.

    I’m heartbroken right now, but for weird hard-to-explain reasons, because I’m still married, and I love my husband, but the ‘break-up’ took place outside the marriage, even though I haven’t been having an affair… it’s to do with an old love of mine coming back into my life and then leaving again… Anyway your words and the Ask Polly link have really helped. Thank you so much, you’re amazing.

  58. Caroline – You are a doll. And an amazing writer.

  59. I’m going through a pretty huge breakup myself at the moment – thank you so much for sharing, and so glad to discover Caroline’s blog. Reading this helped a lot, you’re a wise little lady Caroline :)

  60. so sorry about your breakup. this is wonderful, constructive advice.

    I went through a breakup awhile back and I think i actually posted a very rambly and weird comment on here back then… haha… lots of WHAT WILL HAPPEN NOW? feelings pouring out uncontrollably. i try to remember that often painful experiences are required to bring about change — like a middle school growth spurt or having your braces tightened. i hope you only feel MORE yourself once the smoke clears. in retrospect, that has been the result of every breakup i’ve ever had. This just makes you MORE YOU — and what could be better than that?

  61. after a particularly painful breakup in college (first time i was the one dumped!) i found a lot of comfort in a little book on Buddhism. the idea of attachment being the root of all pain really resonated with me – attachment to people, things, ego, identity. everything in our lives is meant to be temporary. i’ve turned to it again and again whenever i faced difficulty letting go of anything.

  62. Married for 8 years, divorce (not my choice) should be finalised nedpxt month. Fabulous advice, Caroline. One thing to add : revel in doing all the things your ex hated that you stopped doing while you were together. It gets better!!

  63. I’ve had my share of break ups. Shew. I like listening to the savage lovecast. Dana Savage says, “Every relationship fails until one doesn’t.”
    So. True.
    You’ll get through this, Caroline! I loved the Ask Polly article. I have read it three times from my desk this AM : )

  64. My heart broke and healed 100 times over in that post. It spoke so much of that super human feeling you feel when something you loved had to go, where you are completely exposed to the universe and life. Thank you so much for sharing x

  65. Caroline, I’m sorry for your loss. My ex and I broke up in April, it’s been a difficult few months, and still feels hard even now. (Also, I hate the word ‘ex’, it doesn’t really do great justice in describing who he was to me)
    I think one of the most difficult, but also exciting things during the break up process was just learning how to be by myself. Oddly enough, I’ve learned a lot about myself through doing so. I’ve spent my summer and fall Saturday mornings at the farmers’ market, I’ve started going to church and meditating (as suggested!), I’ve gone back to practicing yoga, and I’ve actually become a vegetarian (through no real intention, it just seems to be my preference!). Even though it’s been hard, I know that it needed to happen, and I’ve been able to reconnect with myself as a result.
    Thank you for this post. I wish you all the best through this journey.


    PS. I bought new sheets/bedding as some of the comments suggest, and it was an awesome investment. I feel like royalty when I climb into bed every night! I recommend.

  66. What a great piece! I too take solace in the fact that other people have gone through the same struggle and come out on top. Also, one thing I have been reflecting on a lot, is being grateful for the experience, even if it ended painful.

  67. Time is the most infuriating yet empowering answer to breakups. You cannot speed it up, unfortunately, but there is comfort in knowing that there’s no stopping it either. Healing will come each and every day, even if it’s hard to tell.

    Be strong, be lovely.

  68. I went through a terrible breakup that took a toll on me for about a year. My best advice: start new routines that you are excited about. I moved abroad (drastic, I know), but it was something I had always wanted to do. Obviously Paris helped me get over him a lot, but so did the little things I didn’t do before: peppermint tea before bedtime, switching to a more zen yoga class, spending Saturdays at museums. You’ll get through this, I promise!

  69. The best breakup advice I ever had was from an old boss and friend who told me to do something for myself. In a relationship you always consider someone else and never just focus on YOU.

    I’d always had very scruffy, short, broken fingernails and looking after them became my thing. Every night I had in, I’d sit and work on my nails. They got stronger and started looking really good and I took pride in them. It became my special, personal time where I was just looking after myself and feeling good. It was so therapeutic.

    I also took up running and that was (and still is) my head space time and it has the same effect as doing my nails. It’s really helped my self-esteem – in my appearance and mentally, because whenever I was worried about something to do with him I’d either have resolved it by the end of the run – or be too exhausted to care!!

    Thinking of you Caroline. Remember, it’ll be ok in the end – and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end. You’ll get there.


  70. My friend just started an online community called Mend:

    It’s for people who have just experienced heartbreak! Hope it helps.

  71. Oh Caroline, I am so sad for your heart–what a rough thing to go through. This is a great list!

    My favourite (? not sure if “favourite” is the best word here) trick for getting over a break up is twofold… I like to stay off social media as much as possible (detox! don’t check his facebook/twitter/instagram/google results/old emails/anything! for six weeks. just get that stuff out of sight) and to remember something that an old friend once told me. She had just had an awful breakup, from a relationship that had lasted something like seven years–and she told me that one day she was crying, alone, on the floor of her bedroom, when she kind of told herself “this is the low point. here it is. it’s arrived.”–and that by acknowledging those low points as distinct moments, she was able to not let them characterize her whole life.

    Anyway, I’ve always found it helpful to do the same–when I’m the thick of a breakup, i always tell myself “this is a low point–it’s not your whole life, it’s just a low point in it”

    xo. hope you are feeling better.

  72. Oh Caroline, I am so sad for your heart–what a rough thing to go through. This is a great list!

    My favourite (? not sure if “favourite” is the best word here) trick for getting over a break up is twofold… I like to stay off social media as much as possible (detox! don’t check his facebook/twitter/instagram/google results/old emails/anything! for six weeks. just get that stuff out of sight) and to remember something that an old friend once told me. She had just had an awful breakup, from a relationship that had lasted something like seven years–and she told me that one day she was crying, alone, on the floor of her bedroom, when she kind of told herself “this is the low point. here it is. it’s arrived.”–and that by acknowledging those low points as distinct moments, she was able to not let them characterize her whole life.

    Anyway, I’ve always found it helpful to do the same–when I’m the thick of a breakup, i always tell myself “this is a low point–it’s not your whole life, it’s just a low point in it”

    xo. hope you are feeling better.

  73. I’m sorry to hear it.

    To this list, I would add: do something that makes you feel strong. For me, that was signing up for a triathlon. It gave me purpose and helped me remember that I am strong and capable. It made me feel less dependent on that one person.

    I also agree wholeheartedly about looking for other kinds of love. My friends were so invaluable to me during my breakup.

  74. Jo says...

    I love Ask Polly. She is the best. My therapist recommended this book ( when I felt ready to think about dating again. It was good for an overanalyzer like me to work through what I want in a partner.

  75. I recently went through a break up and I’m pretty sure my quick recovery was due to binge-watching The Good Wife (plus a strong network of supportive friends). Seeing this strong female character make her own way after separating from her husband resonated with me.

  76. I read once that the body actually misses the physical touch – they recommended a massage!

  77. Great post, I’m sorry to hear of the split. It is always hard and some people take more time than others to heal. Focus on yourself, your family, your friends and anything or anyone else who loves you. This always helps.


  78. Caroline,
    Sorry for your loss
    Happy to gain your insight and advice
    P.S. You can stretch the tub of ice cream to a few hours by making root beer floats.

  79. This is good advice, especially no.5. Thank you Caroline! As someone who has only recently gotten over a break up, I’d add: If you feel angry, allow yourself those feelings for a while, then move on. While I agree it’s not productive to keep wallowing in anger, I think it was good for me to admit that my fiancé (who left me) had treated me badly and made mistakes (even though he wasn’t the only one who made mistakes in our relationship). At first I focussed too much on what *I* could have done better and tried to think and say only nice things about him. Even though I’m glad I didn’t go about badmouthing him, I’m also glad I allowed myself to be angry and see the breakup wasn’t all my fault. I guess I needed it so I could fall out of love with him. :)

  80. Very wise! I hope they are working for you and you’re feeling better :)

  81. Wow, great writing!

  82. Check out this amazing website: (Incidentally created by my brother’s ex-girlfriend after their break-up!) It offers everything a broken heart could need to get through this tough time…

  83. Thank you for sharing this Caroline! It’s been almost a year since my last breakup and it’s only now that I’m finally learning to love and take care of myself.

  84. You choose well with Caroline, Joanna! Your writing styles/vibes are very similar, and it makes for seamless reading of the blog! Cheers!

  85. These are some great tips! I am in a happy relationship but I feel that this will be very helpful when it comes to talking to some of my friends going through a similar problem.
    Caroline I hope your back to your happy self soon!

  86. em says...

    i loved this post, i just shared it with both of my sisters :)

  87. There was a This American Life recently about breakups. It features a woman who, with the help of Phil Collins, dives headlong into the wallowing self-pity of losing her boyfriend. Honestly, She seems like a total nutjob, but it may feel good to commiserate and know that you’re handling it better than she did!

  88. Thank you so much. This is exactly what my heart needed today.

  89. BTW, Caroline, I hope you feel better soon. <3

  90. So nice to have something real and tender among my other frivolous blog feed posts. Thank you for posting this, I’m sorry for your pain, I’ve definitely been there too.

  91. I´m so with you. I am currently going through a breakup – SINCE MAY!
    The problem is i didn´t want to break up but i had to. And my ex still calls me, texts me… he´s still trying to be with me which make it SO difficult. The conflict is complex – but if you reduce it to a minimun: it simply doesn´t work for me.
    So, i will follow your guide and hope this book will help me. Also i am getting a dog – so No. 7: soon be done! =)

  92. She has a beautiful writing style, a great read, Caroline!

  93. so… i’m 31 and i never broke up with anyone (nor the other way around). yes, there’s still time (knock on wood) but i had to leave a comment because the softness, the calm-ness and the captivating writting kept me in. i’ve dodged the break up until now but i’m aware of my surroundings and these advice seem so spot on. may this new side be full of light and smiles, caroline :) you sure have the ability to write beautiful things on your new blank book of life :)

  94. Caroline! I’m with ya sister. It’s bittersweet to walk away from something good but it’s important not to settle. Heartbreak allows for a lot of personal growth. Channel it. Xoxo

  95. Thank you for this post. I have recently split from my fiance and boyfriend of 4 years over the same reason–simply realizing that we want different things out of life. As you put it perfectly, it is both as simple and as complicated as that.

    It’s hard yes, but time truly does heal all and all of these tips are great for moving forward step by step. In the end, it’s all about doing what makes you happy–whether that be yoga, writing, whatever it is. It’s about finding positive ways to take care of yourself.


  96. Along the lines of new sheets – I recently left my boyfriend of nearly 6 years and had this compulsion to throw out almost all of my underwear and buy new ones. It was a bit costly but something about all the new underwear made me feel better. It’s weird I know but I think I just didn’t want to wear some of *his* favorite pairs…or something like that.

  97. Thank you – I read this on Caroline’s site first. I totally understand all of it…and it’s right on. She’s a fabulous writer – you did good by hiring her!

    Attitude and time is everything. My ex walked out on me after 28 years of marriage. I just celebrated my 10th anniversary with my second husband (I met him online). It was a blessing in disguise, but it sure didn’t feel like one at the time!

  98. My breakup advice: buy new sheets. It feels good to sleep in a refreshed bed that’s newly ALL YOURS after sharing it with a former partner (even if you didn’t live together).