The other night I was having dinner with some girlfriends, one of whom just went through a fairly miserable breakup. (Is there really another kind?)
"Nothing is worse than the first week back on your own," she said.
Annie Adams, the protagonist in my novel The First Husband, would definitely agree. She has such a bad first week after her longtime boyfriend leaves her that she goes to her local bar, has a bit to drink and marries the first guy she sees. Probably not the wisest idea. But how do you get through that first week in one, graceful piece?
Here is a seven-day plan to help make that first week after a breakup as pain-free as possible:
A Terrible Tuesday
Studies show that more breakups happen on Monday than any other day of the week. So let's assume you're waking up on Tuesday morning, feeling a pit in your stomach as you recall the awkward conversation from the night before.
Maybe it's officially over. Maybe he offered up some non-committal let's take a break speech. Either way, for all intents and purposes, he's gone. At least for now. And the first thing you undoubtedly want to do is replay the evening in your head.
Go for it. This is your day to obsess and mope. Call your best friend and have her come over to help. Go through the story with her in exhaustive detail and let her tell you that he's a jerk. Or, if it makes you feel better, let her tell you that he'll come running back. Either way, it's fine to stay up until 2 a.m. watching your favorite movies and thinking about how you and your ex are way cuter than even Harry and Sally. (They broke up for a while and got back together, right?)
If your best friend is doing her job, she'll remind you that they did. Then she'll pour you some more wine.
No Woe-Is-Me Wednesday
You may wish you hadn't had so much wine the night before, but you're getting out of bed anyway. First stop: The shower. (Easy enough.) Baths often get the spotlight for making troubles melt away, but most of the time they just make you cold.
A warm shower will leave you feeling ready to face the day -- and will get you into the bathroom, where you need to spend some time trying to look your best. Fix your hair and apply your favorite lip gloss. Whatever leaves you feeling pretty. Not because you're going to run into your ex, but because you're probably not. And it's a good lesson to teach yourself that the most important person to look beautiful for is you.
Now, step two: go into the kitchen and grab your biggest garbage bag. Fill it with all things that remind you of your ex. And quickly. (This is not the time to linger.) Just grab old photographs, anniversary letters, the gorgeous scarf he gave you for Valentines Day.
Don't worry, you're not throwing anything away permanently, you're just putting the bag somewhere where you won't have to see it until you are out of the muck. And, if you find yourself thinking too much, just remember: This doesn't mean you can't ever wear the scarf ever again. It just means you aren't going to wear it while you are getting over him. Even if you think it's making you feel better, what will really make you feel better is a new scarf.
Go and get one.
Skip The Ice Cream Thursday
If I promised you there was something you could do that would make you feel more in control and at least 75% better, wouldn't you want to do it?
Here's the thing: exercise will do just that. You know this, secretly. Every time you move, endorphins jump right to the front of your brain. And you deserve some of those guys jumping around there about now.
You don't have to go to the gym, but you have to do something active. Take a yoga class, go for a bike ride. Try rock climbing. Maybe that is a little ambitious, but ambitious is good right now.
Music is also good right now. Turn it up high while you exercise. The world is a whole lot less scary and isolating when you are running like a fool as Robyn sings "Hang With Me." (She's talking to you, you know.)
Here's an incontrovertible truth: Freedom, when you're in the middle of a break up, means freedom from Facebook. And that's exactly what the (aptly named) Freedom application delivers.
Freedom is a type of software that makes it possible to temporarily disable the Internet on your computer.
Before you go out on Friday night, turn it on -- and set the timer to last for the entirety of the weekend. You will not send late-night emails. You will not cyber-stalk. You will not angry-tweet. You will not get caught up in who he may or may not be seeing. Freedom means you're above it.
And you have to be. There is no way to turn that program off.
And don't worry, if you need your computer for work, Freedom has a sister application called Anti-Social, which keeps you off all social networking sites.
So your work won't be figuring out what his status update
-- Feeling like a sandwich and a night in -- means. (Does he mean with you? Does he want you to make that buttery grilled cheese? Should you bring it over right away?)
No, no and no. Make the sandwich for yourself. The only status updates you should pay attention to are the ones he gives you directly.
Super Saturday (And Sunday)
As much as we all wish this weren't true, the first weekend after a break up can be a bit of a bummer. There's no way around it. There's only getting through it and knowing that once you do, it won't all feel so unmanageable.
To make it easier, you're going out. But not out to a club that will make it seem like your ex is the only good one left in the world. He isn't.
Instead, go to your favorite restaurant. Or your favorite bar. You know, the one your ex never wanted to go to because it was too far from his work. Or because it was too far from his pals. Or because it just didn't matter to him that you loved it. That should have been enough reason to take you there, so tonight, spend time with real friends, people who are willing to follow you off the beaten path. Enjoy yourself.
On Sunday, do it again. Not the same restaurant, necessarily. But today should be a day to do something and be somewhere you enjoy. Spend time with the friends who are going to make you enjoy it more. And to celebrate getting through the first weekend, order your favorite dessert. You had no ice cream Thursday. You've earned it.
A Less Manic Monday
You are starting a new week. Your first week without him. You may still be thinking of him a lot, but you're not thinking of him all day long. This is something to be proud of.
So now for forward motion. Make a plan today to do something fun. It can be simple, like buying tickets for a concert next month. Or it can be something bigger, like planning a trip.
You've been talking about going to Mexico or Paris. Or Wyoming. You've wanted to get lost in the beautiful mountains and experience something entirely new. New is good. It is significant.
And, look... you can see a glimmer of it already, that thing you have been wanting, something significant, something beyond a relationship where you weren't appreciated the way you deserve to be.
So grab that plane ticket and get ready for the things to come. You're taking off.
*Much like a diet, the breakup plan can be revisited at regular intervals as needed.*
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