There will be some point in your career as a 20-something when someone will break your heart, and bad. By bad I mean, you may think you’re having a nervous breakdown and will have the desire to be hospitalized. In some cases, this actually may happen. Here’s how to deal:
Suck it up: When I was crying at my desk, my older, married co-worker sat down and looked me straight in my tear-stained eyes and said, “You have to understand, this guy might be one of a bunch of different guys you will date until you find someone who’s really in it to win it,” he said. Putting this person who had just knocked me on my ass within the context of a long line of potential douche bags down the road somehow made it hurt a bit less.
Advertise: That same co-worker promptly wrote a personal ad on Nerve.com for me, which roughly said something like: “Awesome chick looking for guy who isn’t a total douche bag,” or along those lines anyway. I wasn’t exactly in the mood to date, but 200 responses later, the idea that there are definitely other fish in the sea really hit home.
Therapy: My theory on why the 20-something breakup hurts so bad is that it goes deep. As you become a “real,” fully developed grownup, a lot of the childhood issues that can sometimes be responsible for making poor romantic decisions (or taking a partner’s rejection way too seriously) come into play, and this is perhaps a good time to address them, before they bite you in the ass in your 30s or 40s. Additionally, a shrink is especially adept at feigning interest while you dissect “what went wrong” for the 100th time, whereas your poor friends are not getting paid to indulge your potentially destructive and ultimately boring rehashing.
Relating: Older friends will be happy to tell you all about their big 20s meltdown, and they will also tell you that in your 30s, breaking up is much easier, because by then you know that people are generally crazy, so you can’t take it personally. I used to visit this trashy U.K. website called Loveshack.org, where people would post all their pathetic relationship dramas and give each other questionable advice. It was better than Melrose Place and oh-so-educational.
Celibacy: I made a promise to myself that for one month straight, I wouldn’t even think of getting down with anyone so I could totally concentrate on self-improvement and my friendships. That took a lot of pressure off even thinking about romance, and helped me not dwell on all the awesome sex I used to have with my ex. I did some traveling, volunteer work, redecorated my apartment, and took up Motocross and English-style horseback riding.
Whoredom: After a month of exceptionally good behavior, I rewarded myself with having loads of safe yet wholly casual trysts. And although I wasn’t looking for anything serious, I met some really nice people who I could imagine breaking up with in a more healthy, less traumatizing way sometime down the road.