I am 25 years old and I am feeling the aftermath of my first break up. It’s only been a few hours but I feel like dying. I’ve recently moved out on my own and couldn’t stay here alone so we practically lived together. He even bought me a puppy to help me feel safe and not lonely. He took away the puppy and I’m here all alone. I can’t do anything – I can’t eat, I can’t watch TV. I already sent him a long text saying I couldn’t live without him. He hasn’t responded. What do I do? I feel utterly empty and lost.
– Doris, NY
So sorry to hear about your breakup. No matter how old we are – 16, 25, or 50 – they hurt. Badly. And right now you are experiencing the brunt of it. The good news is, it will get better. The bad news is, there is some work to do in order to get you there.
First off, the reason this breakup hurts so badly is because 1) it’s your first, but 2) because it sounds like there are some dependency issues. Living alone for the first time is difficult, but it’s crucial to learn how to navigate this world independently before we begin to rely on someone else. It seems like you have used your boyfriend as a crutch to avoid being alone. But, by creating your boyfriend to be the center of your world, you set yourself up for excruciating heartache when things ended. Of course you are feeling completely lost – you jumped out of your parents home and into somebody else’s without coming up for air. Plus, dealing with the loss of your other security blanket – your puppy – only makes things worse.
So, first thing’s first, you have to realize that while the pain of losing your boyfriend is very real, you are also experiencing the pain of loneliness for the first time in a long time. Loneliness is incredibly normal, and most post grads are forced to face it head on in the years after moving out of their parents’ homes. So for right now, let’s ease the pain of one blow so that we can handle the other. Call your parents, your friends, your family members – anyone who you feel comfortable with. Call people who love you and want to help you. They can be here to help you stand on your two feet again while you are recovering from this emotional hurt. Even though he is technically remaining silent, your ex-boyfriend is sending you the message loud and clear that he does not want to be the one to hold your hand through this. That is now your job, and you have a right to lean on a support system.
Once you have started to feel less alone, it’s time to incorporate some individual activities into your daily life. If we consistently run away from being alone – we will never know if we are in a relationship to escape loneliness, or because we are truly in love. We will also continue to feel hopeless – not upset – after every breakup. Trust me, you can do this, you just haven’t given yourself a chance to lead an independent life yet. You need to get to know yourself during this process. Being alone doesn’t mean we’re losers or pathetic, it means we have mastered the art of being comfortable listening to our own thoughts. It’s not easy. And it takes work.
Try your best to start getting over him now. If he doesn’t want you – fine – but that doesn’t mean that YOU don’t have to not want you. You had a life before this boyfriend, no matter how long ago that was, and you will have a life after him, too. Brace yourself for some long days – and a lack of appetite – but you will start to feel normal again if you can balance distraction, reflection, and determination to move forward.
Lastly, it’s our advice to find someone to work through the everyday struggles of a breakup as soon as possible. You can phone a friend, find a counselor, or talk to one of us so that you can emotionally process this traumatic experience. They say that somebody’s first breakup can be just as emotionally devastating as a divorce, and I believe it. So remember that while this is incredibly difficult, you will get through it, and you will come out on the other side able to handle personal adversity without using anyone else as a crutch. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it’s well worth it.