The Better Breakup Checklist: How To Deal When A Relationship Ends

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

It’s a pretty well-established truth of life that breakups are the WORST. And what do you know? The holidays have officially been declared break-up season. Unlike a summertime breakup where you can be all “whatevs I’m going to the beach,” with a holiday breakup, you’re faced with the prospect of going to holiday parties stag, the pressure of New Year’s Eve, and a long, bleak post-holiday winter.

After my first real breakup (right before the holidays, natch), I thought I would die. I couldn’t imagine how anything could hurt so much, and I dissolved into a mess of chick lit clichés— drinking, shopping, and overeating—to ease the pain. But I’ve since refined my technique and have come up with a list of do’s and don’ts that I refer to immediately after the big B.

Do Call Your Friends

One of the best parts of being a woman is that women are really good at taking care of each other. Female friends know to immediately report for breakup duty whether that means cupcakes and bad movies, joining you for spin class, or bringing you a home-cooked meal. Let them do it. You’ve probably done it for them and if not, you will.

Do Reflect, But Don’t Ruminate

Many of my breakups have been no-fault, just not compatible situations. Maybe yours isn’t, maybe you made some really bad choices and have some soul-searching to do. Even if your breakup is more in the former category, you can probably still learn something. It can be helpful and cathartic to talk to you mom/ girlfriends/ therapist and try to figure out what that lesson is, to a point. This can easily slide into the dangerous territory of pouring over old emails and texts trying to figure out the exact moment it all went wrong. Don’t make the split all your fault and turn it into a reason to hate yourself. Love just doesn’t work out until it does.

Do Exercise

You’re hurting, and exercise will not make it one hundred percent better, but it will make it twenty to thirty percent better guaranteed. Endorphins, man: it’s science. Getting your body moving also helps you release your emotions: whether it’s some particularly aggressive kickboxing or a nice cathartic yoga cry, this is a huge do.

Don’t Crash Diet

He did not break-up with you because he thinks you’re fat. And if he did? He did you a favor because he sucks. Don’t channel your loss of appetite into a starvation diet and then fantasize that you will run into him eight pounds lighter and it will change everything. Take care of yourself as though you were recuperating from an illness; eat nourishing food at regular intervals.

Don’t Contact Him

If you’re one of those people who maintains a healthy friendship with all of your exes, congratulations you magical unicorn, I’ve never met you. What you really need right now is space. Your brain is detoxing from your ex and needs to time to heal. Hopefully you’ll eventually be able to look back on your ex with fondness, but for now: no calls, no texts, no emails, and especially no Facebook-stalking. Obviously this is more complex if you have kids, dogs, or houseplants together but the more space you can take from him in the moment, the better. If you’re really meant to be friends later on, there will be time for that.

Do Start A New Project

Have you been meaning to learn to tango, volunteer in that after-school program, or write that novel? Congratulations! Now that you’re down one boyfriend, you’ve got some free time with which to make it a reality. Even if your new project is just a long-list of to-dos like cleaning out your closet and going to the dentist, checking this stuff off while you’re too bummed out to do much else will free up time to make out with new people when you’re over your breakup.

Don’t Self-Medicate

One time after a breakup, I had tequila for lunch and went home in the afternoon to watch Melancholia on Netflix. Poor choices all around. A good stiff drink can sound really appealing when you’re sad but alcohol is a depressant, and more than a drink or two is guaranteed to make you feel worse, to say nothing of the hangover. Keep it to a glass of wine with a good friend and save the partying for when you’re feeling better.

Don’t Rebound

“The quickest way to get over someone is to get under someone else.” Quipy but wrong! More likely you will either enter into the new relationship like an emotionless robot (which might make you feel kind of cool and powerful until it makes you sad) or you will transfer all of the feelings you had for your ex onto some poor new unsuspecting person. There are exceptions to this rule of course, but remember that Stella only got her groove back until he turned out to be a gay conman.

Do Feel Your Feelings

I’m all for resilience but finding your inner strength doesn’t mean denying that you have feelings. If you’re sad, be sad. If you’re angry about the way you were treated, get angry. If you’re disgusted with yourself for staying in a bad situation for too long, let that in. These feelings are all there to show you something; acknowledge them and learn from them, don’t rush yourself to breeze through the process.

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    • Lindsey Conklin

      SO well said! Friends and exercise are the best ways to heal. And also: “he did not break up with you because you’re fat. And if he did? He did you a favor because he sucks.” –I LOVE THAT

      • Andrea Dunlop

        Funny how easy it is to slip into magical “if only I were thinner” thinking, no matter how smart and evolved you are.

    • Samantha_Escobar

      “Don’t contact him” is one of the best possible advice pieces I’ve ever gotten. Contacting your ex is almost invariably a bad idea until way after you’re over one another. I also don’t look at their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or anything else because I think that it only prolongs the stress and mental exhaustion being heartbroken gives you.

      • Andrea Dunlop

        Seriously- ever little digital scrap you see just feels like a punch in the gut!

    • Kaitlin Reilly

      Do not watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. You need several months of closure before you even attempt that.

      • DollyDynamite

        Especially do not watch it lying in bed next to him two weeks after you break up when it’s ‘your film’ which you first watched together at the beginning of the relationship and massively identified with the characters. Shitty life decisions, i am making them.

    • Daisy

      “I dissolved into a mess of chick lit clichés— drinking, shopping,
      and overeating—to ease the pain.” Yep, sounds just about right. We broke up on Christmas Eve. F***in Christmas Eve. The rest of the holidays are hell, thank god I still have a fulltime job to attend to, or I would die.

      • Andrea Dunlop

        Ugh! That’s horrible, I’m so sorry. DO cut yourself some slack if you fall off the wagon. Big digital hug to you.

      • Samantha_Escobar

        If it makes you feel any better (it probably won’t but hey–camaraderie!), I have gone through 3 breakups on Christmas; 2 on Christmas Eve, 1 on Christmas Day, all on Christmas Suck. Fucking holidays.

        I’m sorry you’re going through it right now, f’real. I second Andrea’s big e-hug.

    • Eileen

      My personal favorite – the jewelry he gave you? The goofy souvenir pictures, the Christmas card from his mom, the notes he left that say nothing but “You’re cute, I love you”? Yeah, you’re going to want those someday even if you cannot look at them without crying at the moment. Put them in a box and hide them in the back of your closet/dresser/bookcase/somewhere you don’t have to see them but they will be safe.

      And no, don’t contact him. Hide him on Facebook/et al. and don’t look at his page. If it doesn’t make you sad, it’ll make you angry, and you don’t want to be that, either. Nobody goes from being in love to being friends without a break in between.

    • Alexandra Mitchell

      My boyfriend broke up with my last night. This would have been my first NYE with someone to kiss at midnight. Instead, I’m going to be at home alone. This happened to be the first thing on my newsfeed when I got on to change my relationship status.

      • Andrea Dunlop

        Oh man, I’m so sorry! NYE is cursed I swear. I hope the list helped a little! Big e-hugs to you.

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      by working off of a home computer. pop over here B­i­g­2­9­.­ℂ­o­m

    • Genevieve Patterson

      Thank you for these tips. I find a way to heal everyday. Feeling the pain is agonizing. Trying to be patient with the process until I start to feel better.

    • Lyn

      I found the community at to be exceptionally helpful when trying to get over a breakup. This article on heartbreak and healing I keep coming back to:

    • AMANDA

      I heard so many things about DR Lawrence and every story has been so great. so here is my story, me and the father of my son has been off and on for 3 years its been a very stressful relationship. he cheated on me and I was very hurt, it was miserable for me so in returned I cheated because I wanted him to feel the pain but he never cares so we went apart, so he went back to his ex.i wanted him to leave her and let us come back together, I love him so much and I just want him to feel the same way feel for him, lucky for me DR Lawrence was the one who brought my lover back to me,