Post Breakup Email: Don’t do it!

Don’t do it! Don’t answer that text! (That’s what everyone tells you.)

But you do it anyway. And you pay, big time.

Here’s what happens: You’ve said goodbye to your lover. You’ve finally done the godawful, painful, gut wrenching break-up talk. Maybe there were tears. Or a stun gun that made you emotionless. Or you screamed at each other. Or you had breakup sex (it happens a lot). Or you set a date to “revisit” the relationship. Perhaps you said, “It’s not you, it’s me”. Or, “I will carry you in my heart forever, no matter what”. Or, “Get the hell out of here, you lousy (son of a) bitch!” Whatever, it’s awful. But it’s done. You leave.

Then, the pain lives in your body for weeks. You truly understand the meaning of “broken heart”. You can hardly talk to other people. At work, you do nothing more than push papers around. Your friends want you to get out of the house, but you don’t want to. You’re too angry, hurt, lonely, decimated, sad, despondent, and damn it, you miss him/her. No matter what your reason for the break up, you f)&(&*^^ miss him/her.

You ache to connect, though you know it’s a mistake. You’d be simply checking in. After all, you shared so much. He/she had become a part of your soul.

At the same time, there’s a little small voice inside saying, “I’m taking baby steps to heal. Please don’t talk to him/her. Not yet.”

Then the text arrives. It’s a simple “Hi. How are you?”. Isn’t it amazing the amount of meanings you can read into those four words? He misses me! She’s lonely! He still cares! Maybe we do need to talk! He/she thinks I’ve moved on and I still love him/her! Ad infinitum.

Senior man sending text message

Stop. Pause. Breathe. This is your evil twin sending those thoughts to your brain. Whatever it means, it doesn’t matter. You need to heal. If you respond, you will rip wide open the scab that has delicately filmed over the wound. Instead, grit your teeth. Swear, cuss, cry, beat your fists on the wall. Do whatever you have to do NOT to respond.

You do all that, but then…

The justification. “I can’t be cruel. I owe him/her a short reply, at least.” You answer the text by saying, “see email”. Bingo! The sold out performance has begun, and the curtain rises on the tragic, pathetic, self-punishing and all too common first act of “Post Break Up Email Drama”.

Act one: you confess how hard it’s been, how much you miss her, but it’s the right thing . She writes back confessing the same, but that it has to be this way for now. Act two: You both rehash all the reasons it won’t work. This could take weeks. Act three: At some point, you have to say good bye again. You request: please don’t write back. He writes back to say he won’t write back. You respond with thank you. He replies: No worries, I understand. This, too, could go on for weeks.

At some point, it ends. Then, there you are. The play is over. The theater is empty. The drama has ended. You’re alone, sad, heartbroken, despondent, and lost – all over again.

With a few scene changes, most of us have done this scenario, sadly. What do we have to do to learn that it takes time to heal emotionally? Connecting within 6 months of a break-up is fodder for agony. The second time around, however, our friends aren’t as patient. Our support system isn’t as solid. We have to handle it ourselves. It’s pretty much mental torture. You’re right back at square one. And it aches worse than the first goodbye.

Why? When we break up, we’re ending an addiction to this person. Not exactly heroin, but our brain has become accustomed to the habit of this person, good or bad. Even our sense of smell is addicted. You simply can’t go back to the habit – at least not for awhile. I tell my clients it has to be at least 6 months. Every time you make contact, you can consider yourself back on day one, with a fresh six months to go.

Furthermore, we have to get the 30,000 foot perspective. At six months, you can rationally look at that person and objectively see if the fit is right. Right now, you’re too close to it. You hurt too much, and you’ll do anything to stop the hurt. That includes create stories in your mind of how you wanted it to be, and maybe it can work after all. From the six month distance, you can make up your mind with less distractions. If he/she finds someone else in that time, you can deal with it, then. The blinding flash of the obvious is that perhaps he/she didn’t care as much as you thought. Or, they couldn’t take the loneliness. Or, here’s a concept: maybe the breakup was the right thing to do, and this will free you to move on. Then, there’s always the possibility that you might find someone new. So be it. All’s fair in love and war.

Affairs of the human heart make work problems look like a walk in the park. When you’re tempted to text, email, or call, say, “STOP!”. Listen to that little voice trying to heal. Do everything you can to resist. Wait 6 months.

However, if you give in and call, know you’re in good company with the rest of us. But if you can be wise, and wait 6 months (it’s not that long, really), you will give your emotional health a big boost and that unbearable heartbreak will mend much faster.

When that first text comes in, hang tough. You’re giving up instant sugar gratification that will only cause you to crash harder. Instead, you’ll be rewarded with healing and that horrid knot in your stomach will disappear faster. Delayed gratification is always harder, but guaranteed worth the effort. You can do this!

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