It feels like you got shot in the gut, you’re confused, and you don’t know what to do. I know there’s a ton of expert material out there on this, but this article is different for one reason: I just got dumped too, and yeah, it fucking hurts.

I’m writing this for myself as much as I am for you. I’m no genius, no expert. I’m only a hurt guy next to you. And we’re gonna pull each other out of this mess. What we do right now, bloodied and battered, is what defines us. We can choose to be weak, lay on the cold ground and await the artillery shelling of emotion, or we can choose to become the stuff of legends.

So tie a rag around that fresh wound, know it’s going to give you hell, and let’s get the fuck out of this miserable place. We’re charging ahead, limp and all. Feel the pain like a sprinter feels the burn of that last lap. Feel it! Accept its presence. Yes, it exists. Yes, it’s intense. But it exists to be conquered, and you’re the only person that can do it. Don’t back down, don’t back off. You’re built to overcome this. Yeah, it’s damn tough, but so what? It’s the difficult things that develop us.

Take responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings, pull up your britches, and never forget this is for the best. I promise. Your mission is to prosper without him or her, to be independent. The way you handle this emotional scar will determine if it becomes a great personal story of overcoming adversity or a permanent emotional deformity.

Antoine de Saint-Exúpery said in Wind, Sand, and Stars: “What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.” So let’s take the next few steps together:

Accept It

It’s over, man. They’re gone. This is the hardest part. Even if she comes back, do I really want a girl who rejected me? You should never accept someone who doesn’t want to be your partner. If Eva Longoria doesn’t see my potential, she’s not right for me. It’s that simple. If they dumped you for shit you need to clean out of your life, then you need to fix it not for them, but for yourself.

Every time I catch myself thinking about her, I repeat out loud: “Neediness leaving the body.” Don’t wallow in your loss. Be thankful for the good times you shared, and use it as motivation to find the next one! Your worth has nothing to do with their approval of you. If you think about it, we don’t really miss them, we miss the idea of them.  We miss a lost wax casting of them. We don’t miss them as much as we miss their effect on us. We miss being with someone who is attractive, smart, funny, and likes us. But guess what? That’s not them anymore. The irony is, if we ever end up with them again, it can only be because we prospered without them.

Do Not Blame Yourself

It’s so tempting to jump down the rabbit hole and obsess over “What if I did X or didn’t do Y? Would things be different?” Frankly, it doesn’t matter. It’s part of the past, and the past is dead. We are who we choose to be today, and that is the only thing we can control.

Guilt over the past and worry over the future are both useless emotions that retard our ability to live today in relaxed confidence. I yell out loud “Stop! Stop! Stop!” every time I begin to entertain thoughts of self-pity. Don’t let anything interfere with your ability to enjoy today.

Sad man in a truck with his head on the steering wheel

Just remember: on the timeline of your whole life, this is likely a minor event, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Act Attractive

They may still want to be your friend. They may hate your guts. They may send mixed signals. They may call and text all the time. They may never contact you again. They may act aloof, and still call you to wish you a happy birthday (this happened to me at the time of writing). They may be confused and hurt and do all of the above. None of it should affect you.

Public Enemy #1 is to overreact. Most people will behave out of anger or anxiety—both are forms of unearned worship. Take him or her off the pedestal and don’t read into their actions. Don’t try to figure out why they would do this or that. There are too many variables to know the motivations behind that particular action at that particular time. Over-analyzing never added a second to anyone’s life. You’re going to be fine with or without them. If you have to alter your identity to win them back, then you’re not really winning anything.

Be cool and focus on what’s in your control, not what they’re doing. Don’t go out of your way to talk to them, and don’t go out of your way to avoid them. Both are reactive. Allow yourself a narrow range of laid-back reactions to them, because it’s not about them anymore. It’s about taking care of you.

A good rule of thumb here is to scale back your interaction according to the severity of your pain—the more you hurt, the less you should talk. If they keep calling you, calmly tell them, “Hey, I appreciate it, but I don’t see the point in us talking anymore. I don’t see you as only a friend, so please respect that.”

Success here is defined by the extent to which they don’t affect your emotional state. Don’t interact with them until you can be relaxed and confident about it.

Do Not Chase

Not only does this drive them away, but it reveals a neediness and desperation. That’s not what relationships are about. Psychologist Wayne Dyer sums it up perfectly in Your Erroneous Zones:

A relationship based on love… is one in which each partner allows the other to be what he or she chooses, with no expectations and no demands. It is a simple association of two people who love each other so much that each would never expect the other to be something that he or she wouldn’t choose for himself. It is a union of independence, rather than dependence.

Wayne Dyer

She is who she is, and you shouldn’t try to change her. Respect her choice, and don’t be deluded into acting like she’s the only girl for you. She may have had chemistry with you for that period of time, but she’s not the last cup of water in the Sahara. You don’t need her. You may feel like you do, but you don’t. You need food. You need air and water. You need an unconditional faith in yourself. You don’t need a particular man or woman.

Besides, believing that he or she is better than everyone else is an insult to literally millions of other people that you would find attractive and intelligent. I remember when my girl walked away, it felt like that entire demographic of girls walked away with her.

“I’ll never find someone like her.” Don’t believe that shit! Whatever her characteristics (black, white, athletic, Christian, Muslim, intelligent, funny, caring, driven, laid back, etc.), THERE ARE MORE LIKE HER.

Fuck that, there are more better than her.

Your lack of discovery in no way makes her special.

Disclaimer: I highly recommend taking some time off to get over your ex before jumping back in the dating scene. The timing is different for everyone, but generally, you should wait until you can avoid comparing the new person to your ex. The new person deserves as much of a blank slate as possible. The worst thing you can do is immediately start dating a new person in order to “fill the void” the ex left behind.

Get Rid of Any Reminders of Them (Within Reason)

Every day on my commute, I pass three road signs for an exit adorning her first name, followed by another exit with her nationality. These factors are out of my control, and I give them a Jay-Z brush off my shoulder every time. Everything that’s in your control? Get rid of it. You need to get your mind off this girl. Life is too short to sacrifice even one second of your sanity, so change the station immediately when Gavin Degraw’s “Not Over You”—or any other shitty breakup song—comes to haunt your ears.

The past is dead. Leave it in the grave instead of reliving it.

Do Not Be Jealous

Don’t compare yourself to the people they talk to and date. Their choices reflect only on them, not you. Your self-worth is more important here, how you feel about yourself for yourself, not compared to some random other sap. Jealousy is a result of allowing something out of your control to dictate your emotions.

Never show signs of jealousy. Let them go. Ironically, that’s the most attractive thing you can do.

Hang Out With Friends Every Day

Self-explanatory. Exhaust your contacts list until you’ve hung out with everyone who lives in town and talked on the phone with everyone who doesn’t. Friends are a wonderful resource to keep your spirits up.

Do Not Check Their Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat/Whatever

If you can resist looking at their social media profiles, then unsubscribe from her Facebook updates so it doesn’t appear on your News Feed. If you can’t resist, quietly unfriend them. Don’t make a big deal out of it, and don’t tell anyone. If anyone brings it up with you, admit you unfriended them and you did it because you felt like you needed to. There’s no shame in pain. You don’t owe anyone further explanation or justification. It’s your choice and you live by your own standards.

Throw Yourself Into Hobbies/Work

Take something on your bucket list and do something today to take a step toward it. You have no excuse! Every large undertaking ever accomplished was broken down into steps small enough to be done in a single day. If you want to be a pilot, find a program and research classes. If you want to go skydiving, call and commit to a day. If you want a six-pack, focus on eating clean and working out today. Take a step each and every day toward your goal, and how can you not reach it? Don’t let money constrain you. Create a savings account and deposit a set amount each month (before you even spend anything on food!) until you have enough. I’d rather die hungry than have dreams unfulfilled.

The intensity of your goals should at least match the degree of your emotional investment in the girl. If you’re still obsessed with her, you’re not busy and focused enough.

Refocus Daily

Dr. Dyer sums it up perfectly:

You have become habituated in mental patterns that identify the causes of your feelings as outside yourself. You have put in thousands of hours of reinforcement for such thinking, and you’ll need to balance the scale with thousands of hours for new thinking.

Wayne Dyer

Pull the lesson from it and move on, but never search for the lesson at the expense of moving on.

Remember, it is never the calm seas that reveal the strength of a vessel. The way you weather the storm shows what material you’re made of. You’ll make it.

(Cover image: “A Portrait in Darkness” by Sean McGrath is licensed under CC BY 2.0)