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Whether you’ve been together for two months or two years, breaking up is always easier in theory than execution. But despite how tough it sounds, having a “clean break” is not impossible—as long as you have the proper plan of attack. We spoke to three relationship experts, and with their advice, created a 10-step plan to help make your breakup stick. Here’s what they had to say:
Step 1: Sudden breakups are often the hardest ones to stick with, so the key to a clean break is planning in advance. “Even if you want to break up this moment, give yourself a few days to build a good case for why it has to be over," says sexologist Gloria Brame, Ph.D., the author of Sex for Grown-Ups. "Don't break up impulsively or you may go back and forth in your mind a thousand times."
Step 2: While you're mulling over whether you really want to cut the cord, distance yourself from your partner, advises Brame. “If you still feel the same a few days later, you will feel emotionally stronger and more definite that breaking up is the right decision.”
Step 3: As part of the “planning” process, it’s also important to consider how a split will impact all aspects of your life. “Think about financial practicalities as well as any other ties you may have, and ensure that your plans are realistic as a singleton,” advises Paula Hall, a relationship psychotherapist and author of How to Have a Healthy Divorce. If you’ve been living together, you'll need to figure out who’s going, who’s staying, or how rent is going to be covered.
Step 4: Once you’ve made your decision, man up to accepting that it’s completely over for good. Hall says that the reason so many couples find themselves going to and fro is that they’re still feeling ambivalent about the ending. “If you’ve done all the work you can, then you must accept in your head, and your heart, that it’s over," she says.
Step 5: “Do not continue any of the fights or pettiness from the relationship,” suggests Brame. “If your partner tries to engage in negative behaviors, walk away.” Arguments are probably a big part of why you broke up in the first place—why fuel the fire you're trying to put out?
Step 6: Then, start thinking of your partner as history: Put everything in past tense, verbally and mentally. “If you want it to be over, accept that it all happened yesterday and that your life is about today and the future,” Brame says.
Step 7: Social media is great for staying connected, but in this case it’s a surefire way to put yourself through a roller coaster ride of emotions. “Take a social media break!” says sexologist Jessica O’Reilly, Ph.D., author of Hot Sex Tips, Tricks & Licks. “As tempting as it may be to follow his/her every move on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, this will only make the breakup harder. Blocking, un-following, and un-friending are perfectly acceptable post-breakup.” O’Reilly also advises taking the high road when it comes to social outlets: “Remind yourself to stay classy. Public bashing, shaming, and airing of your dirty laundry is never constructive—and this includes passive-aggressive remarks.” Trash talking just makes you look like a bitter baby. Keep it together and act like she doesn’t exist.
Step 8: “Whether you chose to split or your ex did, you will still go through a period of grief and regret,” warns Hall. “Work through your emotions with friends and family, not your ex.” Expect to feel lonely at times, and anxious about the future, she says. “Those are normal emotions. It doesn’t mean you’ve made a mistake.” But the sooner you can get your manhood back, the sooner you’ll forget her altogether.
Step 9: You’re bound to run into situations that remind you of your ex—maybe it's smelling her perfume or going to a familiar hangout. “Whether these encounters leave you feeling happy, sad, angry, or entirely indifferent, fret not," says O’Reilly. "Every breakup is significant, and even relationship memories from long ago can make you emotional. Missing an ex is not necessarily a sign that you should get back together.”
Step 10: The best way to bounce back from a breakup? Start doing more of the things you love to do as an individual, and set some goals for yourself. “Did you ever feel that if your partner wasn't there, you'd being doing X? Do X now," says Brame. "Whether it's flirting with someone new, going to a place you were always curious about, adopting a pet, or getting to the gym more, you have the freedom now, so do it. The best way to move ahead is by actually moving ahead and picking up a new interest that will keep your mind occupied."