Breaking up is painful enough without dealing with a bunch of misinformation.
It seems like everyone has some “wisdom” about breakups they need to share with you after you’ve been dumped.
But it turns out most of what they have to say is either a massive oversimplification or just flat out wrong.
Today I’m going to take on breakup myths one by one and tell you exactly why they’re bullshit.
Now, let’s talk about breakup myths. Here are the most common and most harmful myths about breakups that you’re bound to encounter as a recently single person:
1. “You should never be friends with your ex”
Being friends with your ex is probably the most hotly contested topic when it comes to breakups. Many people claim it’s impossible. There will always be feelings there and sooner or later it’s going to all come crashing down.
My opinion is… if you’re unsure at all if you can be friends with your ex then I’d just avoid it. It’s very easy to blur the lines here because it’s difficult to understand the motives behind a friendship like this. It will often have explosive results.
And in any case, wait a serious period of time before pursuing any kind of friendship.
This is especially true for those trying to get their exes back. You may think that being friends with your ex is a great idea–keep them close and slowly work your way back into their life and their heart. Unfortunately this NEVER works.
Since you have an agenda you’ll never be able to be a good friend to your ex and even if it may feel like you’re growing closer, you’re really just creating a situation where you’re both going to end up hurt. So DO NOT be friends with your ex if you’re even considering trying to win them back.
But just because it’s not for everyone doesn’t mean it’s for no one at all. I know some people who maintain close friendships with their exes to this day and it all worked out fine. And this is just one reason why sweeping generalizations like this are not to be trusted.
2. “You just need closure”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: closure is a myth. Reaching out to your ex to talk and talking the breakup to death never solves anything and often leads to more of the drama you were trying to escape when you sought closure in the first place.
You need to ask yourself “what do I mean when I say that I want closure?” I think you’ll find that what you’re looking for is acceptance of the breakup and the ability to move on. These things aren’t as simple as you want them to be.
You’ve had these conversations already. Your ex isn’t going to suddenly say some magic phrase that will make you feel okay about everything. And making them jealous and regretful that they ever broke up with you isn’t actually going to make you feel better–it can be a great strategy if you’re trying to get them back but that’s a whole other discussion.
Really this acceptance of the breakup is something that only comes with time. Time away from your ex will help you contextualize the relationship. It will allow you to clearly see what didn’t work and why this breakup had to happen. Right now you’re too blinded by love and sadness to see clearly so maybe you should stop looking so hard.
3. “They’re your ex for a reason”
This is something that I hear constantly and it really bugs me because it’s so dismissive. Because when people say this they don’t mean “there was a reason for your breakup”– That’s obvious. What they’re really saying is “you should never be with this person again because you broke up.”
I take issue with that. There are so many reasons that relationships hit rough patches and even end. Some of these reasons are impossible to overcome and spell the end of the relationship but many more are solvable. Oftentimes it takes a breakup to make you realize the problems you had and how to solve them.
Here are just a few problems that are fixable even if they led to a breakup:
- Lack of affection
- Financial troubles
- Long distance
- Lack of commitment
- Sexual issues
And many more. So don’t let anyone tell you that they’re your ex for a reason.
In fact, studies have shown that half of all couples have broken up and gotten back together at least once. That’s 50%! People make mistakes and go nuclear instead of trying to fix things. Then they realize that they made a mistake and work to overcome whatever issue they were having. It happens every day but people don’t talk about it because they’re embarrassed.
4. “It takes X amount of time to get over someone”
Here are all the different theories I’ve heard about how long it takes to get over someone after a breakup:
- Half the length of the relationship
- One month for every year you were together
- The same amount of time as you were in the relationship
- Seventeen months and 26 days
- And Ten thousand drinks, however long that takes
That last one is from the show How I Met Your Mother but these are all equally stupid because they’re simplifying a complicated issue.
This may feel melodramatic but getting over a relationship is a lot like grieving the loss of a loved one. It activates similar parts of our brain. It creates a profound sense of loss, sadness and regret. And it can feel like the world is ending now that you’ve lost this person you cared so much about.
Beyond that, breaking up can cause a lot of damage to your self esteem and self image. You knew who you were within the relationship and without them you’re just not sure anymore. It feels like a rejection of you as a person and that can often hurt the most.
So it’s no wonder that breakups can take a long time to recover from and that this recovery period takes different amounts of time for different people. There’s no predicting how long it will take. Some people date someone for six months and aren’t ready to date again for a year. Others end a ten year marriage and start dating a week later.
And just because you’re able to date and even fall in love again it doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily “over” this other person.
I guess what I’m saying is that this is complicated and you shouldn’t feel bad if you’re taking a long time to get over someone. You’re on your own journey.
5. “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone”
The thing about street wisdom is that it often contains a bit of truth. I tell many of my clients to start dating soon after the breakup, especially if they want their ex back. Dating after a breakup–even if you don’t feel like it–can have huge benefits.
Just seeing what’s out there will give you perspective on your breakup. Basically you’ll see that you do have options, even though you may feel like a slug right now. And beyond that, dating will help repair some of the confidence you lost with the breakup.
And dating can actually pull you out of the funk you’ve been in. The whole process of meeting someone–whether on the apps or in real life–talking to them, flirting, setting up a date, getting ready, and then going on the date and putting your best foot forward not only distracts you from the bad feelings, it shows your mind that you’re capable of at least seeming normal, attractive and interesting for a few hours. And acting normal is often the first step to feeling normal.
And if you’re trying to win your ex back then dating someone new can have HUGE benefits. In this case it’s not only going to give you a ton of confidence but it will also make your ex jealous. A lot of times your ex won’t truly worry about losing you until you’re with someone else and it can be a new relationship that makes your ex realize that they can’t handle life without you. The human mind is weird that way.
But just because dating can be helpful right now doesn’t mean that jumping into bed with the first person you meet is going to help you get over your ex. It’s not necessarily a bad idea if you think you can handle it, but don’t think that it’s going to magically fix all the bad feelings you have and give you the peace of mind you’re looking for.
What it can do, if you’re not careful, is create a new and intense attachment to someone you might ordinarily not want to be with. So don’t be afraid of dating and having sex after your breakup but just be aware that it comes with its own risks and challenges.
6. “Now you’re free”
If you’re reading this, I don’t have to tell you that this one is BS. Breaking up can come with a sense of relief and freedom if your relationship had become difficult but it’s never a completely clean break. And that’s because you cared about this person. Your lives were enmeshed. You depended on one another and you had made all these invisible connections that changed both of you.
I know it’s nice to think that with your ex out of sight, you can now pretend like the whole thing never happened and return to your carefree single life you had before you two met.
So even though there may be good aspects of this breakup, don’t let anyone try to convince you that it’s all good and that you should actually be happy that it’s over. Even the worst relationships change who we are and when they’re ripped away, it can be a long and difficult process to rebuild.
7. “Men get over a breakup more quickly than women”
This is such an oversimplification that it’s not even funny. In reality, every person is different and while there may be some general trends here, we don’t have enough information to make this call.
I’d say that men tend to be less likely to show emotions than women and are more motivated by sex. This means that many men will quickly try to hook up with someone new after a breakup and many women will interpret this as him being over them when it’s not an indicator of that at all.
We do have one study that can tell us more about how men and women respond to breakups. Researchers at Binghamton University surveyed 5000 people in 96 countries. They found that men experienced less pain post breakup, or at least they said they did. Here’s a quote from the lead author of the study, Craig Morris:
Men report more feelings of anger and engage in more self-destructive behaviors than women. Women frequently feel more depressed and participate in more social behaviors than men. Women’s behaviors could be argued to be more constructive strategies as a result of their tendency to preserve the relationship, whereas men choose destructive strategies for maintaining their own self-esteem.”
So you see it’s not as simple as people make it out to be. Men and women have different coping strategies in general but that doesn’t mean that men feel the breakup any less than women.
There you have it. Now you can see through some of the misconceptions that surround breakups and decide for yourself whether you want your ex back or want to move on. Either way, it’s nice to know that you’re acting from a place of truth rather than fiction.