The EX Files Vol 1: Coping with a breakup

No one is immune to the culture shock they meet at the end of a long-term romance.

Any relationship that's built up "history" - an insipid trance-word that's worth striking from your vocabulary in affairs of the heart - is a relationship of habits.

And in stripping your life of these habits, from goodnight kisses to daylong cuddle-sessions, the breakup leaves your spirit with a troubling void. For the heartbreaker and heartbroken alike, anchors of the relationship surround you, and at any given moment, they'll remind you to miss what you had.

The first step in the right direction is an acceptance of everything the way it is, from the cold side of your bed to the curious dry feeling in your lower abdomen.

You must let go of the nicknames, the story of how you got together, the convenience of sex, and memories of times and people that are simply no longer there.

You also must bear the mind-screws of knowing that "your" girl is free to be with anyone, that you are no longer the most likely candidate, and that she'll probably wear that cute shirt you bought her for the next date.

By letting go of your need to control and change the situation, your acceptance opens the door to freedom. The next challenge is to embrace it. Not only do you accept the painful void, but you reframe it as an opportunity to fill your life with new people and experiences.

Give yourself permission to be completely selfish for as long as it takes to get back on your feet.

Don't fall to the fallacies that you'll never experience the same kind of connection with anyone else or that the quality of your life must depart with the relationship.

The third step, after you've accepted and embraced your situation, is to embody and thrive in single life, independent of her company.

If you can get out of your house and be who you were meant to be, you can be just as happy or happier as a single guy, and new relationships will flow into your life naturally.

This is not a vague possibility. It's an inevitability. It's the natural consequence of having fun on a moment-by-moment basis. And it's the glory hidden in the pain of even the deepest heartbreak.

It is not without reason women joke that "men are like taxis." Usually, we follow this statement with a series of feeble comparisons as to how "there's always another right around the corner."

If, however, you were on a taxi ride for an extended period of time and then suddenly found yourself out on the street, consider refining the adage: "men are like taxis without their lights on."

Men have only two romantic settings: ready for commitment and not ready. Like a taxi with its lights off, sometimes - if they feel like it - a man not ready for commitment will "pick someone up" for a relationship. Regardless of the merits of the passenger, this impulse pick-up is not indicative of a change in the man's status. He's still unready for commitment; in our metaphor, his lights are still off.

As people are competitive creatures by nature, it is only when a man starts to observe (in those whom he views as peers) a positive correlation between happiness and "settling down" that his "available-for-commitment" light turns on. At that point, it's largely inconsequential who's next picked up - they'll stay for the long haul.

When you find yourself suddenly alone after a long relationship with an unready individual and only the "it's-not-you-it's-me" trope for comfort, it is in your best interest to assent to their excuse. There is base truth in the overused cliché: he simply isn't available to commit. He doesn't have his lights on. Your assets, superior as they may be, can never switch his "ready" light from off to on.

Take consolation in the fact that you were dynamic enough to be picked up despite his unready status; by virtue of having a relationship with one such "unavailable" individual, your attributes must be extremely attractive. Don't delude yourself, however: his passivity in the relationship means that he wasn't emotionally attached to you. But, as his "lights were off," he couldn't attach to anyone: it's not you, it's him.

Attempt to see the situation objectively. You're an individual of character sufficient to attract an "off-duty taxi." This speaks volumes. Certainly, when the right person - with lights on - comes along, you'll be able to flag them down. In the meantime, however, try walking on your own.

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