The Girls’ Kickass Guide to Getting Over a Breakup

March 4, 2009



Now that Zagat’s has announced new Dating (and Dumping) Guides for New York and LA, I’m bracing myself for some nasty stories. Zagat’s selected their dumping grounds based on the number of exits and proximity to transportation (so you can get the hell outta there), as well as the attractiveness of the clientele, so that you can immediately pick up someone else to hook up with. Nice. Is it my imagination, or does it sound like Zagat’s is catering to the Y chromosome crowd here? Sounds generally douchey to me. What kind of a guy would maximize the humiliation of being dumped? I never thought I’d say this, but I’d rather get the text: “sry ur not the 1 4 me.”

Every girl needs a kickass toolkit for getting over a breakup. Getting dumped pretty much happens to everyone sooner or later, and usually we just sort of stumble through it, taking each horrible day as it comes and doing our best to stay sane. Well, you know I am all about strategy, about taking control of your life to get what you want. You may not be able to control being dumped, but you can certainly control your response to it. And I want to help you go through the trauma with the least possible pain, in the shortest period of time. 

Here are the basic tenets of my Kickass recovery plan:

  • Self-pity is highly underrated.

  • Ditto for self-indulgence.

  • Maintaining your dignity will have a huge payoff.

  • Getting over a guy will suck, but can be freeing, energizing, and sometimes even fun.

  • Grieving is an aspect of love. If you love someone, and you lose them, grieving them is a loving act, even when they don’t deserve it. It’s also a way of loving yourself.


So. He broke up with you. You just got onto a great big roller coaster, and you’re going to need to hold on tight.

The First Stage: Shock and Awe

“Shock and awe is a military doctrine based on the use of overwhelming power, dominant battlefield awareness, dominant maneuvers, and spectacular displays of force to paralyze an adversary’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.” (Wikipedia)

This is what he just did to you. He mowed you down like a Panzer tank. Maybe you saw it coming, maybe not. Either way it sucks, and it’s going to suck for a while. You can’t believe it. Literally. Your mind is not capable of absorbing this news immediately. “He is wrong about this! He will come to see his mistake!” Your loving friends will tell you that it makes no sense, something must be going on with him, you guys are perfect together, he’s not going to last the weekend without you, blah, blah, blah.

Don’t believe them. He may, in fact, come back around and ask that you take him back. It happens. But guess what? I have NEVER heard of a relationship that was as good the second time around. When he Humpty Dumptied you he broke something and it is never going to be put back together the same way again.

Still, you hope he will change his mind. In the meantime, you will be saying a variety of cheerful and helpful things to yourself:

  • “This is great! Now I can hook up with new guys!”
  • “Awesome! I’ve really missed hanging out with my girls!”
  • “It will be great not to have to think about anyone but myself.”


But you know the pain is coming. It is coming, and it is going to slam into you like a Kansas tornado.

The Second Stage: Tornado Alley

The tornado hits suddenly, and it blows you right off your foundation. Your life has literally been turned upside down.

There are several things you need to do in the second stage:

1. Respect his decision. It is his right to end the relationship. You hate it, but you can’t change it. 

2. Sever all contact. This is not an appropriate time to think about remaining friends. What is the point? You don’t want him calling to “check in” and see if you are surviving the devastating heartbreak that he inflicted.

3. Go headlong into the pain. This is where the very important self-pitying behavior begins. Here are some activities I recommend:

  • Cry as many tears as your body can produce. Cry until your eyes are puffy and red. Cry until snot is running down your chin. It also helps to wail, if that’s feasible in your living situation. Keening would not be overdoing it.
  • Eat whatever you want. This is not the time to think about your weight. Personally, my go-to breakup food has always been spaghetti with a ton of melted butter. Maybe your thing is Cherry Garcia. Or chocolate. Whatever. Get in some supplies and indulge.
  • Get your friends to rub your back and hug you constantly. You are literally craving physical comfort in this stage and your friends can provide it.
  • Listen to really sappy love songs. Wallow in the unfairness of it all. 
  • Watch sad movies about love relationships that don’t work out. I always liked Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Casablanca is a classic, of course. Titanic. You get the idea.


After a little while, you will get bored of all of the above. You will be crying your eyes out in your dark room, and you will catch a glimpse of the time. You will say to yourself, “Oh, look, Lost is about to come on.” You will wander over to the TV in the PJs you have been wearing for 72 hours, and you will turn it on. And at some point in the next hour, for just a moment or two, you will forget. And the healing has begun.

The Third Stage: Making Deals with the Devil

In the third stage, you concoct schemes to get him back. You’re feeling better than in Stage Two, and you feel empowered in some ways. Unfortunately, you are likely to take the ill-advised step of making a fool of yourself. This is fruitless and will cost you major dignity points. DO NOT, under any circumstances, indulge in the following activities:

  • Drunk dialing or texting
  • Engaging in drive-bys or any other spying activity
  • Making drama in a public place 
  • Trying to talk to him about getting back together, also known as begging
  • Promising to change in some way so that he will want you back
  • Trying to make him jealous by acting skanky with another guy
  • Cornering his friends for updates on what he is thinking
  • Succumbing to the “maybe someday” delusion


You may, indeed you must, do the following:

  • Get his number out of your phone. Yeah, of course you know it by heart, but the symbolism is important. And when he rings, I’ll kill you if you answer.
  • Defriend him on Facebook. I know, I know, exes usually don’t do that, it looks pathetic. Well guess what? More pathetic is your stalking him, reading his wall, trying to figure out which girls are now making a play for him, etc. Defriend him. Immediately.
  • Block him on your AIM. Block him. Don’t just take him off your buddy list. Because when he sees that you’re online and tries to IM you, 1) you don’t want to know about it and 2) he will feel the little rejection of being informed that his message is not wanted. 
  • Pack up everything you have that reminds you of him and the relationship. DO NOT have a bonfire, you’ll regret that someday. For now, just pack it all up into a box and store it away. Tape the box shut, so that you can’t go rifling around in there when you’re wasted.


If you ignored my advice and gave in to your self-destructive urges, there will come a time when you realize that all of your bargaining and desperate measures have only served to make you look like a complete psycho idiot. And then you will stop.

The Fourth Stage: Boiling the Bunny

Boiling the bunny is all about revenge fantasies. These are extremely helpful, and I would recommend spending some time developing a few. Lie down in a quiet place, and roll the tape in your head. Visualize it, hear it, feel it. Here are some I have found useful:

  • Penis in a blender; it’s important to imagine pushing the button, whirl!
  • Hitting him with your car on a dark road and speeding away
  • He impregnates the ugly, gross girl he’s hooking up with and she decides to have the baby
  • Putting something so horrendous online that for the rest of his life, potential employers who Google him will lose interest, and maybe even call the authorities
  • Attending his funeral and fighting the urge to do a cartwheel at the cemetery


I’m sure you can come up with some good ones of your own, or feel free to use mine. Just sub in your own dickhead. 

Here’s the only real revenge worth pursuing: “Don’t get even. Get even better.”

A word about rebounds: don’t do it. Not yet. It’s not fair to you, and it’s not fair to the guy. Wait until you are free and clear emotionally before you get involved with someone new. Right now you need to be on your own, to mend, to heal, and to generally get your shit together.

The Fifth Stage: Seasonal Affective Disorder

OK, this has been fun, but now it’s time to get back to the business of mending your broken heart. Grief is one of life’s seasons. Think of it as spending time in a climate where the sun never shines. It could last a little while. Here are some things you’ll probably be feeling at this point:

  • You realize he’s not coming back. It’s really over. 
  • You feel like shit.
  • You really, really miss him.
  • You focus on memories of the past.
  • You blame yourself and try to figure out what went wrong.


I wish you could skip this stage, because it feels awful. You probably feel like you should be over it, and you’re not, and oh God, you’ll never be happy again. You will be happy again, of course you will, but not yet. There is no way around it, you must go through this. For some women, this amounts to depression. I’m a big one for therapy, so go for some if you need to, keep a journal, keep your friends close. Now is not the time to wallow and be alone. You need some support during this stage, so get some.

There are some things you can do to shorten the duration of SAD:

  • Make a list of his faults. I’m not kidding. It’s important to remember that the relationship wasn’t perfect. It really wasn’t. There was the way he sort of checked out other girls sometimes. And he thought it was funny to tease you about your weight, but it wasn’t funny at all, not to you. When you put your tongue in his ear it tasted like wax. He flared his nostrils sometimes, and they got HUGE. Why did he have to make that screeching sound when he sneezed? You get the idea. Write it all down.
  • Remind yourself every day that you deserve a guy who will love you unconditionally. And he doesn’t. Therefore… deserve better than him.
  • Make some changes. Do something new, find a new source of hope. It could be a new interest, a new friendship, a new exercise activity. Open new avenues in your life.
  • Reflect on the relationship, and think about what you learned. Take responsibility for your own shortcomings. 
  • Spend time with the two chicks: Lit and Flick. Now is the time to remind yourself that happy endings do exist. And the chicks never, ever let you down.

The Sixth Stage: Turning the Corner

You’re gonna be OK. You laugh at stuff again. You even crack jokes occasionally. You’re feeling a bit better. You can envision a time when you will be happy with someone else. You might not be ready right now, but there is the hope of happiness with someone new. When you feel ready, here are some things you can and should do: 

  • Acknowledge that you are wary of getting involved again. New love means the risk of new loss, and that’s scary. Take it slow.
  • Flirt. Yeah, you know you want to. It doesn’t have to be a means to an end. Flirting is fun and an ego boost, so enjoy it for its own sake.
  • Go out at night. Put some rocking music on, get ready for a night on the town, and get out there.
  • Go out during the day. Try to maximize the number of encounters that you have with other people every single day. Ride the bus, go to the library, do your food shopping, take a walk in the park, work on your laptop at Starbucks. Will you meet Prince Charming on the street? Probably not. But you certainly will not meet him in your apartment. Just get out and move. Keep moving. Make eye contact with people, be friendly.


That’s it. That’s the plan. It is the sum of what I’ve learned through my own breakups, and the breakups of many young women who have been kind enough to share their stories. By the way, getting dumped is obviously no fun for guys either. It’s just that I don’t know what it’s like for them. I did find one interesting thing, however. You know I love He Said/She Said at Here’s the convo: “How Do Guys Move On So Quickly?” It’s worth a look.

Finally, I want to let you know that I plan to make a playlist for each of the Six Stages. I have some good ideas for music, but would love some more from you guys. Nominate a song, and be sure to say which stage it’s appropriate for. Then I’ll post them so you can have your own personal Kickass Breakup Survival Playlist!