What to do after a break-up

Breaking up ain’t easy. Whether its smooth — “this is the best thing for both of us. We happily envision an ongoing friendship” or a less peaceable dissolution, the right steps to take in the aftermath are never clear-cut, and are always subject to circumstance. Cohabitation, a shared pet, mutual friends, an altered life direction — not to mention the kaleidoscope of emotions that go swirling about — are some of the variables in a tricky equation. Whatever your position in the wake of a break-up, there are opportunities galore for personal growth, and the sooner you start evaluating the best way to move forward, the more discomfort you save yourself in the future. And your future self, after all, is who you’re looking to build up.

When its clear that a relationship is at its end, a new beginning can be the toughest thing to reckon with. Not a new romantic beginning, but a new way of life — from how you self-identify or find purpose, to who you’re going to sit inside with during a blizzard and binge on some combination of Netflix, GrubHub and canoodling — and everything in between.

So, first things first. Take an inventory. Grab a Moleskine or the Notes app in your phone, and give your emotional baseline a top-to-bottom appraisal. How do you feel? Sad, angry, fearful, indignant, relieved, et al. Really dig in, even if it hurts.

Examine your role, thoroughly, honestly, and without delay. What were things that you did right, and not so right? Stay away from “but” — “I was a little selfish this past year, but he was” — stick to you. Rigorous honesty will be your biggest ally.

Next, begin the Herculean task of finding a lesson. The schmaltzy cliches are all true. Lessons are blessings and they come from mistakes. Jot down a list of “lessons” you can take from your role in the relationship — independent of your ex’s shortcomings — even it feels forced. These lessons will be the foundation for your next relationship, whenever it is, and if you store them away in your subconscious, you’ll use them with the person you were truly meant to be with.

Mourning is natural. Whatever form it takes on for you, determining how long you need to do it is paramount. At a certain point, resisting a new involvement with someone, or even a traditional date, isn’t due to mourning, its due to fear. Finding that fine line is easier said than done, but it will be of enormous value on the road ahead, and to your future self.

Are you still carrying things with you from your ex? It may not be so obvious. Maybe you’re noticing the way your date holds her silverware, or measuring a guy’s ambition to that of your ex, or downright judging who they are without all the background. Petty or otherwise, preemptive judgment is a surefire way to prevent yourself from finding a connection and beyond.

After a healthy recipe of all-of-the-above, decide if you’re ready. Dating with reservations and reticence isn’t fair to yourself, or the other party, and it will only develop resentments. But if you’ve done the work on yourself since the infamous break-up, your next connection will be the best one yet.

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