Breakups are the ever-loving worst. Trite but true, it doesn’t matter if you are the dumper, the dumpee, were dating for six months or six years, nothing is more crazy-making than breaking up. The how-to on the breakup itself is completely subjective, and a topic for another time, but what really matters is what comes next: the transition to being single.
Breaking up is a time of great change, and is often attached to some of life’s worst things (see Exhibit A: moving) but there’s a way to navigate it with minimal damage: your friends. During a breakup most of us revert to a less capable version of ourselves – sometimes you feel like a teenager (I’m going to stay out all night and no one can stop me!) and sometimes like a toddler (I don’t know how to do anything – waaaaaa!) and it falls to your friends to do the parenting. They’re the ones keeping you from running headfirst into sharp objects and making truly tragic haircut decisions. Without them, it is highly likely you will end up with baby bangs and a cold sore. Kidding! Sort of!
The thing is, when you are going through a breakup there’s probably a lot of ways you need help. One person could theoretically help in all the ways you’ll need, but it is really more of an “it takes a village” type of situation. In honour of my own recent breakup and the incredible, mind blowing, world’s best friends who got (and are getting) me through it, I’ve compiled a helpful guide to the five friends you will need to survive your own split. Read carefully to identify which fits your own skillset too – it’s likely a friend will be calling on you to be one of these five in the future.
One of the great and also terrifying things about no longer being in a relationship is the freedom. You can literally do whatever it is your broken little heart desires. It will feel weird however, to suddenly be making decisions without considering the opinion or feelings of your now ex. You may hesitate on ordering a Caesar at brunch because your ex thought day-drinking was gauche. You may feel like a cheater when you consider flirting with the hot bartender. You may feel like a lazy jerk for spending a whole afternoon reading on the couch when you know your former significant other would have pushed for an afternoon hike or some productive errand running.
The fantastic part of the newly solo experience is that it is absolutely appropriate to make selfish decisions. Enter the enabler. This is your friend who will always say yes to your late night text looking for a drinking buddy (even during the week). They will be the world’s best wingman, shoving you in the path of hotties, navigating you away from vultures, and happily waving you out the door of the bar with a rebound, even if it means you are ditching them. This person doesn’t need to be single, but it helps if they are, as they then won’t have a significant other at home getting increasingly irritated by their late night shenanigans with you.
The enabler is crucial to one of the most important breakup steps – letting things get messy. They won’t judge you when you decide that Wednesdays are now Whisky Wednesdays. They will keep the secret when they see you making out with a wildly inappropriate guy in the stairwell of your local. They will keep an eye out for you, but they won’t baby you. The enabler’s job is making things fun, and after the trauma of breaking up, you most certainly deserve to have some.
The Voice of Reason
Let’s just say, your brain after a brutal split is not exactly operating in its usual way. Decision-making becomes alarmingly complicated. If your relationship was serious, you have a lot of important decisions to make – for instance choosing an apartment, replacing furniture, navigating the division of property and on and on. If left to your own devices you will likely make some…odd choices. For instance on a recent trip to Ikea, I ended up buying a six pack of shot glasses, but no light-bulbs for the lamps I had picked. This is why you need a voice of reason.
Your voice of reason friend is the one who will remind you that you don’t under normal circumstances actually like pink, so it’s probably best not to buy all-pink bedding. They will point out that while storing your nail polish in the fridge is a good idea, it would also probably be wise to put some food in there. They will be there to veto the classy cut-offs and side-boob baring tank ensemble you think is totally fine to wear to Sunday brunch. When you text them to come out on a Tuesday night they will come, but they will also convince you to just have one since you have an early meeting the next day (the voice of reason will remember this – you probably won’t).
It’s important that your voice of reason friend is not judgmental. They will never mock you for the weirdo things you want to do during the post-breakup crazy phase. They simply act as a bit of a Jiminy Cricket, gently guiding you back towards the things that under usual circumstances, you would choose to do yourself. When you look back on this time, you will thank heaven that your voice of reason friend talked you out of moving to Fiji, Miley Cyrus-ing your hair, and living entirely on white wine and peanut butter.
The Efficiency Expert
Even if you didn’t actually live together, breaking up is a logistical nightmare of finding all the things you left at each other’s places and returning them to their rightful home. If you did live together and have to face moving out, or having your ex move out with half the furniture, you are in for a terrible, no-good time. On top of the breakup emotions, and the aforementioned crazy decision making, you will have to organize ways to get your things from place A to place B, and then do all of the things that making moving terrible: cleaning, painting, the works. You will not be capable of doing any of this alone. You need an efficiency expert.
This is the friend who knows how to get shit done. They will write what’s in your boxes on the outside. They will remind you that you need to confirm the delivery of your new mattress and the cable installation. They will ensure that your moving day is not a complete clusterfuck by quietly sheepdogging everyone into staying on track.
My own efficiency expert made my recent move possible in every way. From finding a free couch, bookshelf, dishware, and on and on, to tracking my shopping list at Ikea and showing me what the total would be before letting me take it all to the register, to calmly driving through rush hour traffic to pick up the free couch she’d arranged while I sobbed in the fetal position in the passenger seat, she was the captain of the S.S. Breakup ,and I would likely be in a cardboard box in an alley without her. Find yourself one of these and be sure to worship them appropriately – they are your lifeline.
Breakups make you feel ALL the feelings, usually in short, mind-altering bursts all the time. It doesn’t matter if you did the dumping or were dumped, you are probably angry, sad, weirdly elated and vaguely hysterical all the ever-loving time. The sadness and rage and “what the F just happened to me???” emotions are unavoidable. You are going to have some white nights and dark moods. Someone is going to need to be there to remind you that it won’t always feel like this, that you are attractive and worth something, and that you won’t be alone forever. They’ll probably have to repeat those things on a loop for a few months. Enter the optimist.
Nobody likes a Pollyanna, constantly spouting sunshine without any basis in reality. On the other hand, your bruised ego and distorted sense of self require kid gloves, a fairly steady infusion of compliments, and some very well developed listening skills. Not everyone is cut out to hear the story of what your F—ING EX did the other day. Almost no one wants to hear that story five times. The optimist will listen, and each time remind you that it is a perfect example of why that is your ex. They’ll tell you that now you’re over, you get to choose differently the next time around. They’ll tell you that it’s ok that you feel crazy right now, and that it will get easier day by day. They will remind you that you will meet someone new when you’re ready, and that you don’t have to rush. They will tell you stories of their crazy exes to cheer you up. They’ll hug you when you cry.
The optimist will always take your calls, and will unfailingly find the silver lining. They won’t trash your ex (unless you really want them to) and they will flatter you until you feel lovely. They are essential to your emotional wellbeing, and if you have one of these people in your life, you would probably do exactly the same for them.
Once you’ve moved past the initial stage of breakup management you will need to move on to stage 2: relearning how to be single. This is not just about sharpening your flirting skills or dipping your toe in the dating pool. No, more than anything you will just need to wrap your head around how to fill the disposable time you suddenly have that was previously earmarked for couple things. Instead of you and your ex’s Sunday ritual of brunch, grocery shopping, errands and HBO, you will get to choose what Sundays look like. And Saturday nights. Basically your whole weekend will be a blank canvas. If you were in something long term you probably have a lot of couple friends, and while they are wonderful and fantastic and you’ll still hang, you will also need to stake some claim in the land of single folk.
This is where the connector comes in. This is the friend who knows what bar in your neighbourhood has the highest ratio of hot people of the opposite sex on any given night. They are plugged in to the choice house parties and outdoor film screenings and fun (aka free booze guaranteed) art openings. They are always out, and they want you to join them. They know everyone, including their backstories and their current relationship status. You need the connector to get you out to places you wouldn’t know to be on your own. You’ll find if you start going with them to things, you will begin to be in the know yourself, and there’s a priceless freedom in the feeling of being plugged in.
The thing to remember about the connector is that they will only keep inviting you if you accept invitations, so even when you don’t feel like it, go. Being out will make you feel better, but more importantly, it will help establish a new sense of self – who you are single vs. who you were in a relationship. Once you’ve begun to figure that out, you’ll be officially on your way.