How to navigate the first stages after a breakup

Gface asks: I recently had to end it with my closest, and practically only, friend. He and I have had a lot of rough patches. He was very manipulative and sometimes brutal with how he was with me emotionally. I’ve broken it off with him before, but I had decided to give him a second chance and we actually ended up dating after that. But once we did, I fell into a serious depression. It was so bad I couldn’t get out of bed or talk to anyone. So I broke it off with him. But we were surprisingly able to remain best friends and it was good for awhile. We went to prom together as friends and right after we got back together. I was happy with him for another couple of months, then things started to get hard again. I was moving 7 hours away from him, and I knew I couldn’t handle that. But quietly I had decided to wait and see how things were after I moved. I thought maybe things would get better once I got my life together. But he actually broke up with me a month after I moved. I was okay with it, I thought it was the right thing and I was actually relieved. I thought we would be able to go back as friends like we did after the first break up, but then things went downhill. He started acting like he did when we were first friends. He was getting clingy, always being manipulative and slipping in certain sentences that made me feel bad if I didn’t feel like talking or if I had even not responded to a text right away. He always got depressed if my life was too busy, and always needed my attention. But when his life was busy he was all of a sudden happy and telling me every single detail of the great day he had. It was getting too hard and I felt like I was getting dragged through the mud, so I broke it off with him. And again, I wasn’t that emotionally impaired. It was hard, but I honestly felt free. Like I could finally be okay again, with nothing to pull me down every time I got up. I even had a friend at the time to distract me while I was dealing with this. He’s actually my ex’s neighbor, and it felt kind of weird to continue talking to him after I ended it with my ex. But he was dealing with something, and so was I, so it felt like we kind of helped each other out this week. Then he suddenly got a little better, and I tried texting this guy but he’s been keeping the conversation short. I don’t know if I did something or if he only wanted to talk to me because he was dealing with something at the time. And I know he’s not ignoring me because of what happened with my ex, because we talked about it. But I keep thinking about how just a week ago he said that if I needed anything, he’d be here for me. And I helped him through a lot this week, and I now just feel like he’s ignoring me. And I literally have no one else to talk to because I don’t have any friends in my new city, and I don’t really like going to family with these situations cause they can’t really help, nor are they the best at giving me emotional support. So I don’t know how to handle my feelings right now. And I don’t know what to do to distract myself from them. I’m beginning to feel quite depressed again, and very alone.

Hi Gface –



Wow I’m sorry you’re going through this. It sounds so tough.


And I don’t know why this is, but this last month seems to have been just LOADED with breakups, and particularly bad ones. People who write me, people I see around me… I can’t help but think some of it is even connected to that weird thing that happened yesterday when the sun got blocked a lot of places!


But with all the pain involved – and again I’m really sorry you’re going through it – I can’t help but notice something else. Which is that it sure looks like the breakup is all for the best.


Your relationship with this guy has been… what’s the word? Convoluted! You and he seem to have been in a crazy dance for a long time, that hardly ever was the way you wanted it to be. Most humans seem to have at least one romance like this, and they learn lots from it, which helps them in other relationships later on.


But it’s like when you’ve just finished a long bout of a bad flu. Your body is exhausted, but it’s actually built lots of new antibodies which will keep you stronger and healthier than you could be before. And you’re ready to jump out and embrace your flu-free life, but… there’s no one there.


Why? Because all your friends have been talking and making plans with each other while you were stuck in bed, throwing up, and coughing your guts out! And they’ll all be very happy to see you again, but you need to call and write them and make some plans before that can happen.


Or maybe you have two weeks of overdue homework you have to do. Or a filthy home that needs to be cleaned up. Or a pile of unpaid bills.


Whatever it is, you have to make up for the time you were down, before you can really be up!


So I’m guessing that there’s nothing wrong about this new friend (your ex’s neighbor). But you need to write him and say “Hey, want to see that new movie next weekend?” Or “Have you tried that restaurant near you?” And accept that he might say yes, but not be able to get together for a couple of days.


And meanwhile, go through your Contacts list in your phone, and see if you can find five other people you haven’t seen in a while. And reach out to them. And again, things likely won’t spring to life in the next hour, but you can start building a life for next week or so. (This way, even if the neighbor doesn’t come around, you’ll still have some fun planned).


What matters most is that you’ve just changed your whole life by ending this relationship with this guy. And giving yourself the potential for a whole new existence.


In fact, here’s another comparison. It’s like when Handsome bought me, and I came to his house from the pound. Did I have my friends from the pound there? Sadly no. Did I have other dogs to play with? No. Did I have a comfortable familiar home to relax in? No – it was all new. And did I have a human I fully trusted, who I understood and loved and could feel that he was my pack leader? Not yet, not for a good long while.


So I explored the new house, and the new yard. And I met Handsome’s friends. And I played with Handsome every change I got. And I tested every boundary (mostly by biting his ankles all the time!). And bit by bit, I built this new experience into the most wonderful life any dog could ever wish for.


But it wasn’t there when I first got there. The only thing that was true was the most important fact: I was out of that pound. I had survived my time there, and would never have to go back.


And that’s where you are. So I understand it’s tough and scary and lonely. But I also know this is where you have to be, to build the life you want.


And deserve!


All my best,



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