BRENT STOLLER

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Advice for the Modern Man: How To Get Over a Broken Heart

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Broken Heart

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(Questions have been modified for space and clarity.)

Two years ago, I was dating this girl, but it did not end well — she broke up with me in a Facebook message. For whatever reason, I still can’t get over her. I’ve tried everything from focusing on myself to dating other people, but nothing has worked. It doesn’t help that we live in a small town and she’s my neighbor. How do I get over the past and move on in a healthy way?
–Can’t Get Over It; Fenton, MI

Everybody gets over breakups in their own way. Some need to get busy; others need to wallow in misery.

But no matter how you go about it, you have to do three things before you can move on:

  1. Achieve closure
  1. (Re)Discover hope
  1. Give yourself time to heal

And you have to do them in that order. To reap the benefits of one, you must first complete its predecessor.

Think of your recovery as a security alarm system — not only do you have to have the right numbers for the code, you have to enter them in the correct sequence. Otherwise, you can’t pass through to the other side.

This is where you’ve gone astray. While you’ve taken positive steps — focusing on yourself; dating new people — they’ve been taken randomly and without direction.

Here’s how to get back on track…

CLOSURE

If I had to guess, this is the step that was never completed. Which makes sense, because closure is elusive under ideal circumstances. It must turn into Barry Sanders when your ex lives three doors away.

You got dumped through Facebook, and by the sounds of it, rather abruptly. All breakups are difficult to stomach, but when it comes out of nowhere, the impact is that much more devastating.

Do you know what happened? Do you know what went wrong? Did you get to tell your side of the story?

While I believe post-relationship communication should be cut immediately, I also believe in both sides saying their peace. It’s essential for processing the emotions of the breakup’s aftermath.

You can write in a journal and pour your heart out on a therapist’s couch (both worthwhile tactics), but until you express what you’re feeling directly to the person you’re feeling it about, they’re not 100-percent purged. And they will continue to linger.

Don’t let this hurt haunt you anymore. It doesn’t matter that it’s been two years — you have to erase this relationship from your rearview mirror.

I’m not saying confront her on her driveway, I’m saying find a way to respectfully communicate to her your pent-up emotions.

Like sending her a Facebook message.

HOPE

It’s hard to have hope when you’re hung up on the past.

While it’s great you’ve been dating other girls, you’ve been doing so with your ex hanging over your head. (And living down the street.) How much of a chance could you be giving these new girls?

Hopefully, by bringing closure to this relationship, you can begin focusing on new ones.

The concept of hope qualifies as a “Chicken or the egg?” conundrum: Do good things happen as a result of it, or is it the result of good things happening?

There’s a case for each, and there’s truth in both. But if I had to pick one I’d want my unborn children to believe, I’d pick the former.

Hope, more than anything, is a mindset. It’s looking ahead instead of looking behind. It’s thinking about what’s possible, not what’s past.

Yes, meeting an interesting girl, for instance, can shift your outlook. But why not shift your outlook now? Why not decide that from this moment forward, where you go isn’t up to your ex or to the next date you have, but instead is up to you?

TIME

There’s no substitute for time. Considering it’s been two years, that’s the last thing you want to hear, but it does heal all wounds. Eventually.

We all heal at our own pace, and it’s rarely as quickly as we’d like.

Take this exchange from the classic Swingers, starring Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn:

Mike: How did you get over it? How long did it take?

Rob: Sometimes it still hurts. You know how it is, man. It’s like, you wake up every day and it hurts a little bit less, and then you wake up one day and it doesn’t hurt at all. And the funny thing is, is that, this is kinda weird, but it’s like, it’s like you almost miss that pain.

Mike: You miss the pain?

Rob: Yeah, for the same reason that you missed her…because you lived with it for so long.

I’m dating myself with this reference (the movie premiered in 1996), but it’s worth it, because the scene perfectly captures the relationship recovery process.

Throughout the movie, the main character, Mike, does everything possible to get over his old girlfriend.

He plays NHLPA ‘93 with his friends; doubles down in Vegas; and leaves a soul-cringing series of voicemails in hopes of winning over new women.

But it’s not until closure, hope and time collide that he finally breaks through and leaves his past in the past.

Then he gets a date with Heather Graham.

What do you think? What advice would you give this reader? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

This article originally appeared on the Good Men Project.

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