Deidre called me, bawling. Three months had passed since her former fiancé, Mac, had sent her a text message ending their engagement. She still hadn’t heard from him. In our previous session together, I counseled Deidre to stop all contact with her ex. Deidre was in detox and starting to regain her power. But she still struggled.
"He popped up in my Facebook feed this morning. There’s a picture of him, raising a mug of beer and laughing with his friends," Deidre wailed. "He is having the time of his life; meanwhile I’m picking up the pieces after he blew up my life and walked away."
Who hasn’t experienced Deidre’s anger and despair after an inexplicable and heart-wrenching breakup? Social media (especially Facebook and Instagram) can pour salt on fresh wounds—intensifying the pain.
In my upcoming book, Take Back the Power: Breakups Done Right, I teach the importance of strong and nonnegotiable boundaries. "Commando-style" no-contact rules are the foundation of regaining your equilibrium:
1. Stop trying to maintain a friendship.
You were lovers. Now, you’re not. Stop pretending to be friends, especially if you’re secretly hoping to re-establish a romantic relationship. Not only does this rarely work, it’s also completely disingenuous.
If you share children in common, be polite but short and to-the-point in your communication.
2. Drop him—and all his friends—on social media.
I know, I know. This feels harsh. You like his friends (and hate to hurt their feelings).
But, it’s time for you to prioritize your own feelings. Your mental and emotional sanity come first. Reinjuring yourself—with a stream of pictures of your ex and his friends—will ruin your day unnecessarily. Although social media rarely paints an accurate picture of another person’s inner reality, grief makes it hard to stay rational.
For now, you don’t need to know anything about him. And he doesn’t need to know anything about you.
3. Don't do anything!
Do not call. Do not text. Do not drive by. Do not invent emergencies (e.g., "my dog is sick") or fake holidays ("e.g., our 3½-month anniversary"). Do not do anything. DO NOT—and I mean DO NOT—initiate contact.
4. Do not do anything.
Go reread No. 3. Reread it 10 times. Then, read it some more.
Yes, asking friends, "How’s he doing?" is contact. If you’re wondering whether you’re breaking the rules, you probably are. In the early stages of detox, call a good friend and ask her advice. She’ll tell you, "Don’t do it!"
5. Circle the wagons.
Speaking of good friends, you’d be wise to tell your inner circle. Let them know that you’re hurting. You may need to spend the night. Ask for a shoulder to cry on. They will fill you up with love. And laughter. Your heart will ache a lot less. In the place of the hurt, you’ll feel grateful that God loves you so much as to bless you with a tribe of friends as good as these people.
6. Exclude the frenemy.
Frenemies will act sad when they hear your bad news. But as soon as you turn away, their fingers will shake—from a desire to text the world. Spare yourself this pain. Keep these frenemies so far away from you that they are literally sitting in Antarctica. (Sorry, Antarctica, but they had to sit somewhere.)
7. Do not ask to meet.
Let him reach out to you. In advance. Like a week in advance. Two weeks if you’re still mad. Because you’ve got a life! Busy people never accept last-minute invites.
8. Do not compete with him.
At some point, you will hear that he’s been seeing someone new. Be cool. Relax. By that time, you’ll be seeing other people too. Hotter. Cooler. More spiritually evolved people. (Win!) Or, by that time, you will have knocked nine things off your bucket list, including learning to surf in Hawaii. (Win!) Or you’ll have done one thing that was off-the-charts cool, like penning an album about heartbreak. (Win!)
9. Know your worth.
Have you ever pined for an item at the Dollar Store?
I didn’t think so.
People long for that which is precious and rare. Remember how you had to mow 4,322 lawns is buy your first MacBook? I bet you still consider that the best computer you ever owned.
Never lower your value or act as if you could be on a shelf at the Dollar Store.
If he dumped you, he is not the prize. You are. Hold your head high. And always know that you’re a rose in a sea of thorns.
10. Find a creative act that you love.
Transform your pain into something beautiful. Paint. Sing. Write. Magic happens when pain and artistry converge. You transcend to the next level of consciousness because you’re doing something valuable and positive. (And you’ll skirt around the typical vices like drinking to oblivion or falling in "love" a week later.)
Instead, vulnerability and sadness are your muse. Your heart breaks open. You feel everything. From death, life springs forth again.
P.S. If all else fails, play Gloria Gaynor’s "I Will Survive" on repeat. Heed the words:
At first I was afraid, I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side
But then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong
And I grew strong
And I learned how to get along