Universal Breakup Advice


I believe that most breakups are similar. Formulaic even. The characters change, but the plot often remains the same.

In early 2013, I wrote the below email to a friend who was battling the emotional fallout of a breakup. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in it I was unconsciously sharing all of the advice I wish someone had given me, when I was in her place. We were different people, who had battled different breakups, at different points in our lives, and yet the advice needed – was the same.  It almost always is.

Heartbreak seems to be one of those universal feelings that affects almost everyone, and often more than once. You’d think with all that experience we’d be able to talk about it with more authority. But somehow heartbreak – and the advice needed to overcome it – still remains one of the hardest to put in to words.

Here are some words:

My dear. I didn’t know. I wish I had, sooner. 

I’m genuinely sorry to hear about X. The thing is, from a friend’s perspective, it was hard to watch at times. Don’t get me wrong, I like(d) X.  I saw why you liked him. But he never stepped up, and that’s ultimately just not enough. It’s not enough to have random dates, fleeting moments of sincerity, but always lying underneath this unhealthy, persistent uncertainty about where you stand, and what you mean to him.

Regardless of how it ended, and in what fashion, don’t look back and wonder if ending the relationship so severely was unnecessary, or overly dramatic. Some wounds need to be fully amputated in order to heal properly. And I’ve often found that when you leave the wiggle room, that wistful thought of  “maybe this could work out in the future,” you never really move on, fully. Don’t punish yourself for being smart enough to recognize that this needed to be done, and brave enough to carry it out.

You have the right to be sad. You also have the right to feel good about what you did. You put yourself out there – and that’s more than most people are capable of, often myself included. And well shit, it didn’t work out. And it might hurt for a bit – both heart and ego. But it won’t last – it never does. The most important thing is that you now have clarity. A clarity that I think you’ve probably needed for a while. It wasn’t the answer you were looking for, but living in denial for the next six months would have ultimately led to a lot more pain than confronting the situation now. Never self-doubt.

And yes, it will be painful. But you are already seeing silver linings, which is very telling that this wound might not be as deep as you think. So thrive off of that. Thrive off all the other great relationships you have. Know you will always have my support too. And definitely don’t get consumed by what X is thinking. You will never know what he is thinking or why he feels this way, so sitting around and guessing is not only a waste of time, it will keep you trapped in a relationship that no longer exists.

You have your clarity about the ends, it no longer matters about the means.

I love you.