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Updated 21 May 2014

Break-up survival kit

Getting dumped must be one of the worst experiences out there. Here's how you can get through it step by step.

1
Everyone has been there. Remember the devastation you felt when your best friend got another best friend and you threw up behind the swings? Getting dumped when we have grown up is no less traumatic, except we seldom have a roundabout close by.

Let’s be honest here. Even though we feign surprise at our sudden unwanted single status, there were always signs, which our egos were loathe to interpret as the beginning of the END.

Remember that slight unwillingness on your partner’s side to make plans anything more than a week into the future? That sudden unavailability at short notice? The sudden lack of interest in all matters sexual? The sudden fatigue at 10.30 pm on a night out? We see these things, but we don’t want to see what they mean, so we believe those glib excuses to spare ourselves the pain.

And then, of course, the CRUNCH. Usually introduced by sentences like, “We really have to talk” (This actually means “I really want to talk”) or “I need more space” (This actually means there’s someone else).
Or worse – the unimaginative “This no longer works for me” or the dramatic “I would like you to meet Judy/Mark”.

At this point the person who is being dumped (the dumpee) has a choice between only two things. Firstly, to walk away with dignity – yes, I'm sure someone managed that in 1990, or to walk away eventually after behaving with a distinct lack of dignity.

The possibilities here are endless. These include throwing things (including the dumper), shouting and yelling, threatening self-annihilation, inflicting bodily harm, burning down the house and generally behaving in such a way that three different neighbours call the police.

But what then? The phone is quiet and that deadening feeling in the pit of your stomach does not go away despite the alcohol, the hamburgers, the endless chocolates and two days of fasting.

Apart from dealing with the death of a loved one, being dumped is one of the worst things you will have to go through in your life. You feel worthless, unattractive, uninspiring and about as interesting to the opposite sex as a wet dishcloth.

You are convinced that it was all your fault and that it would not have happened if you were more attractive, more intelligent, better company, wittier or fabulously wealthy.

Your self-image lies somewhere on the bottom of the swamp, and as far as you are concerned, the world might already have ended last week – you would not have noticed anyway.

There are a few things you can do to survive this ordeal:

  • Give yourself adequate time to mope. Lie in bed for a weekend. Groan and gnash your teeth and get it out of your system. You don’t want to carry this with you forever.
  • Get hold of your friend who did not like your partner (there is always one) and, over a bottle of wine, find out exactly why. Ask for gruesome details.
  • Make a list of the 10 worst things your partner ever did to you or made you feel. Photocopy this and stick it up all over the house, so whenever you miss your ex-partner, you can look up and see this list. Ask yourself whether you aren’t relieved that you are not in any of those situations right now.
  • Take joy in your new-found freedom. Be impulsive and do things on the spur of the moment and enjoy the fact that you do not have to inform anyone.
  • Rely heavily on friends. Use their shoulders to cry on, but also organise activities with them that have a bit more scope than weeping and wailing.
  • Know that somewhere along the line someone is going to dump your partner, who will then find out how you are feeling right now.
  • Accept that friends will choose sides. The less you do to try and win them over, the more likely they are to choose your side. Vitriolic nastiness about ex-partners, even if justified, is not an endearing feature in people.
  • If you are very depressed or suffering from insomnia, get help from your doctor. A therapist could also be of great help to get you through this difficult time and also to work through personal problems with which you might be struggling. Why should you suffer unnecessarily?
  • If you have been dumped for someone else, fantasizing about torturing the two of them to death, although vastly pleasant, will not get you anywhere. Be consoled by the thought that however rosy their romance might be now, sooner or later the new partner will start to complain about the exact same things that really irked you. The hyena guffaw is only cute in the first week of a relationship.
  • Accept that maybe this person just did not deserve you and that you now have the opportunity to grow and explore other avenues.
  • Don’t fall into a rebound relationship. This will only postpone your problem, not solve it.
  • Hard as it may be, consider the fact that the other person is probably not going through the same trauma as you are. Is he/she really worth all those sleepless nights and gnashed teeth?
  • Refuse to be a victim and don’t let yourself be traumatised by constant contact with the ex-partner. And above all else, remember that looking good and feeling happy is the best revenge.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated May 2013))

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