Sex + Love

Cures for Love

Rituals to get you to the other side of heartbreak.

Collage by Minna

Collage by Minna

It’s 10 years ago and I’ve just been dumped. I’m feeling a combination of frenzied restlessness and total paralysis. I am projecting a breakup furor so nuclear that you’d need tinted glasses to even look at me. My friend Joe kindly suggests idea after idea—watch a movie, take a walk, sit still, be alone, be with people—and one by one I shoot them all down. Then he remembers a technique his therapist used on him when he was a child: “Cut a heart out of red construction paper, then tear it into pieces until it looks like your heart feels. As you heal, you can tape the pieces back together.”

Fuck it. I have paper and scissors but no tape, which is OK as I am never getting better. I cut out a really nice fat heart and stab a jagged diagonal through the middle. Then there’s crying and ripping, and friends come over and we cut out more hearts and tear them in half and take these broken hearts out running all over campus and we paste them up on buildings and bulletin boards and there’s more crying (me) and high-fiving (us) and at some point I pull on a hooded black cloak because if I feel like death I should also look like it, and check it: I have swapped paralysis for action, emotional self-destruction for creation, and somehow several hours have been clocked toward a state of healing I don’t even necessarily believe in! Hell yes, I thought. IS THERE OTHER STUFF LIKE THIS I CAN DO?

To answer that question, I embarked on a research project that consisted of dating people and then breaking up and getting my heart broken over and over and over and over again. The feeling has not gotten any less devastating—the shift from “girlfriend” to “ex-girlfriend” status always leaves me utterly paralyzed by the pit of shiny and well-meaning jellyfish I have come to understand as my heartplace. What has changed is that I now beast through the aching immobility of heartbreak by conducting specific rituals, exercises, and experiments, all designed to snap me out of paralysis and to channel my angry energy into making things instead of destroying everything. These activities are like magic tricks that turn my rage into forward motion. It’s the nudge I need to get moving through and finally out the worst part of the crushing despair that tends to follow my breakups. And so now I’m presenting to you—or to those among you who are currently staring at your own broken hearts in helpless horror—my personal collection of cures for several common post-heartbreak problems. May we all blaze a warpath of vengeful healing.

1. Problem: Compulsive obsessions.

These typically occur right after your breakup is final, but they can really strike at any time. Possessed by the angry scorned spirit of your choosing, you feel compelled to cry, scream, write the most intense poetry, look at every picture of the two of you together, read every one of their texts starting from the day you met. These desires are often, at least for me, accompanied by feeling like total shit: My heart hurts so bad that I can’t stop myself from doing these things, but my brain is still sharp enough to side-eye my heart’s desires as excessive, dramatic, and most of all embarrassing.

Here’s how I cure myself of these destructive urges: I flood them with exactly what they’re asking for until they’re sorry they asked for it in the first place. Whatever it is that you want to do, do it. Then do it and do it and do it again and again and again, and eventually you will be dying to do literally anything else.

You can’t worry about what this behavior looks like to others (all fools). You have to commit. Got the cries? Set a timer for three hours. (YES, THREE HOURS.) Now, cry for three hours. (NOT A MINUTE LESS.) As you cry, observe your feelings. Take notes, even. In hour two, is your reason for crying the same one you had when you started, or has it shifted? Have you cried for every reason you can think of and now you’re struggling to come up with new ones so you can make it to the three-hour mark? Entertain the possibility, then, that you won’t spend eternity crying over the person who stomped on your heart. Are you wasting precious time obsessively cyberstalking your ex every day? Reset your timer: three hours of straight cyberstalking. Go to their Facebook timeline. At the top left is an option to view “Highlights” or “All stories.” Select “All stories,” and read everything from the very beginning. Note the moment you get sick of learning that they “liked” Twizzlers and which Linkin Park lyrics they found ~totally inspiring~. This feeling of apathy might last only a second or two, but it’s important. If you’re capable of not caring what your heart’s enemy is up to now, while you’re deep in the cycle of compulsively obsessing about them, that’s a small indication that shit will actually be OK at some point. It’s a taste of how you will soon feel all the time.

Generally, the more dramatic the gesture, the more satisfying the payoff (and—not unrelated—the higher your chance of cracking up laughing at some point). By the time you’re done force-feeding your addiction, you will hopefully have exhausted the part of your heart that kept asking for more, more, more. You might even feel a little peace. The only way to find out if it’s going to work is to try it. If you do and it doesn’t work, at least you’re three hours farther from that bullshit thing you just went through.

If you feel up to it, follow up your experiment hour for hour with something genuinely medicating: I recommend YouTube videos of Dachshunds trapped in shirtsleeves. Or some fine leather goods. The less you feel like you deserve it, the more you should go for it.

Important! Applying this principle to anything self-destructive/self-harming is cheating. This is about riding the beast, not oblivion. (If you find yourself unable to break this cycle, and/or if it’s affecting other parts of your life, shout out to a trained professional.)

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35 Comments

  • spudzine June 12th, 2013 12:58 AM

    OMG you have no idea how much I needed this right now. Like actually. I mean, sure, I haven’t actually been in a romantic relationship, but these tips actually help with a bunch of other reasons. I’m getting through some hard times and difficult feelings, and these ideas are kind of like therapy for me. Also, I hope this doesn’t come off as uptight, but there’s a spelling error in the first paragraph about the Emotional Envelope in the second page.

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/
    http://emotwins.tumblr.com/
    http://rockogirl.tumblr.com/

    • Anaheed June 12th, 2013 1:21 AM

      Not uptight at all — thank you!

  • poethelena June 12th, 2013 1:19 AM

    All of the above. Thank YOU heartbreak buddy.

    • Lola June 12th, 2013 9:39 AM

      yo we’re gonna do this! ❤

  • Tyler June 12th, 2013 1:58 AM

    I love love love this.

  • thenoisythinker June 12th, 2013 3:08 AM

    Thank you. I really needed to read this.

    thenoisythinker.blogspot.com

  • giov June 12th, 2013 4:04 AM

    I’ve recently created a playlist called “june” which contains, in no particular order: songs begging him to come back (mostly by the cure), songs telling him to get fucked (mostly by lil kim), songs that remind me of him (mostly by of montreal) and songs with the name amanda in it. also, “all my little words” by the magnetic fields, jeffrey lewis’ whole discography and joy division. (and the postal service, but we don’t talk about that).

    • Alltomorrowsparties June 12th, 2013 3:51 PM

      LITERALLY just added “All My Little Words” to my current breakup list! Stephin Merritt makes for the best wallowing

  • thisisaflag June 12th, 2013 6:07 AM

    Agh, the Too Hard to Keep archive is so sad and beautiful! In the wise words of the Wizard of Oz, “hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.”

  • Sophie ❤ June 12th, 2013 6:46 AM

    This is really cool!

    http://plainlysophie.com

  • gogobionicgirl June 12th, 2013 6:54 AM

    Thank you so much for this! currently going through a summer breakup..

    already have a friend holding onto belongs

  • joannna June 12th, 2013 7:15 AM

    Thank you so very much for this article. It’s been already 9 months since my bf left me and I still find myself looking at pictures of two of us together, writing letters to him about how I feel and how I miss him (not sending them, of course), and wondering how is his new gf like, or imagining two of them having sex. I’ve always thought it’s embarrassing and pathetic and felt like shit doing this, but I couldn’t not doing this sometimes. It’s kinda relief, to get to know that it’s normal, it’s ok, that other people go through this too and there is nothing wrong with me. Reading this article, I thought about all those stuff I’ve read and heard about heartbreak. I mean: websites, magazines, my friends, my mum, culture and society even maybe. Everyone says: fuck that jerk, forget him, just stop thinking about him, don’t text him, don’t cyberstalk him, throw out the photos and just pay your attention to something else: working, creating, hanging out with friends, etc. What a bullshit, actually. All of those advices, although they were said with good intentions, just made me feel guilty and ashamed, that I’m not able to do the right thing, that I’m weak and pathetic. I tried to deny my feelings and pretend to be strong, but it failed, and that made me frustrated. I really like the strategy you suggest: to do those ‘embarrassing’ things, until being totally bored with it. When you’re bored with something, it becomes less important, less serious to you. It’s not such a dramatic act, but just a boring activity. After reading your article, I told to myself: What I feel, what I do, is ok. I allow myself to feel that way, I accept that. I guess accepting my feelings and commiting to myself, that I feel what I feel,
    is already a healing act. Thank you again.

  • lxmldrt June 12th, 2013 9:07 AM

    Minna’s piece for this article is AWESOME

  • momobaby June 12th, 2013 9:22 AM

    I love this! It’s written with such a light heart it lets you laugh at something that’s usually painful.

    http://littlerebellia.blogspot.com

  • LittleMissE June 12th, 2013 9:53 AM

    Perfect. <3

  • Kirala June 12th, 2013 10:27 AM

    This is great! Definitely wish I could have found something like this during one of my (many) heartbreaks!

  • jfate June 12th, 2013 11:50 AM

    “the pit of shiny and well-meaning jellyfish I have come to understand as my heartplace. ”

    BEST METAPHOR EVER!

  • elliecp June 12th, 2013 11:56 AM

    This is perfect.

    http://roseandvintage.blogspot.com/

  • Mollie June 12th, 2013 12:00 PM

    This is the best best best.

  • Mollie June 12th, 2013 12:00 PM

    So many good links!

  • strawberryhair June 12th, 2013 1:34 PM

    Oh Lola <3

  • emseely June 12th, 2013 1:53 PM

    Or you could do what I did and send a pathetic text asking for closure, to which the boy never responded x.x I need to get over this thanks for the help rookie!

  • Rose June 12th, 2013 2:01 PM

    LOLA YOU ARE MY HERO

  • Merliss June 12th, 2013 4:52 PM

    THANK YOU

  • nancyboy June 12th, 2013 6:53 PM

    Oh, man, this is so good. I broke up with my partner of four years and FIANCE of once year recently. They promptly began dating a person who doesn’t like me at all (as in, once screamed at me that I should kill myself!). I reacted by compulsively defriending my ex on every social media thing in existence and then throwing the engagement ring they had returned to me off a bridge. So. Freaking. Good. I was really surprised, I thought I would feel embarrassed and possibly regretful about that particular gesture, but punting that ring off a bridge at 2 AM was so satisfying and just thinking about it makes me feel good.

  • lauraunicorns June 12th, 2013 8:21 PM

    This is excellent. I love that there are a bunch of suggestions for doing different things based on your FEELS because there isn’t one right reaction for painful feelings and sometimes you just have to LISTEN TO YOUR HEART, YO.

    lauraunicorns.tumblr.com

  • marengo June 13th, 2013 12:17 PM

    This is EXACTLY what I needed, thank you :’) I emailed a photo to the Too Hard To Keep blog.

  • takebackyourpower June 13th, 2013 1:55 PM

    Holy god this was GENIUS. Where have you been all my ex-loves, lola?
    Am I the only one who went on an ex cyber stalk after reading this?
    I am still grieving a relationship that ended three years ago. Life gets better, feelings change, but they don’t go away. Is it part of the laws of physics? Love can not be created or destroyed, it just changes forms…

  • notthestate June 13th, 2013 7:42 PM

    wow. this is literally THE BEST advice i have EVER READ. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING THIS I KNOW THE CAPS ARE NOT NECESSARY BUT I AM SO BROKEN HEARTED I HAVE BEEN FOR MONTHS NOW AND I DIDNT THINK I WOULD EVER SEE THE LIGHT BUT AFTER READING THIS I KNOW I CAN DO THIS AND YOURE A WONDERFUL BEAUTIFUL PERSON FOR WRITING THIS AND THIS SERIOUSLY JUST MADE ME FEEL A GOOD 27% BETTER

  • Cactus Woman June 15th, 2013 12:02 AM

    Not only is the advice amazing and true, the article as a whole is extremely well-written. I wish I could give advice and write as well as you do. A dozen rounds of applause for Lola!

  • Kaylee Holliday June 21st, 2013 12:24 AM

    this makes me not want to sleep for a million years/ run away to a far away place and change my name.. thank you heartbreak buddy.

  • cleopatrapaws September 7th, 2013 2:30 AM

    I’m so happy I saw this article. This is incredibly inspiring and it was just the push I needed to get over my breakup woes. I was crushing on a 29 year-old man for a year until we finally went out last month and dated until a couple weeks ago when he met someone else and ceased all contact with me. With my own investigative work I figured out what had happened and why he had blocked me on Facebook. So, I just wanted to say, your article has certainly made an impact and I’m sure I’m not the only one to see this mid-heartbreak and be incredibly moved by it. I’m now ready to move on and kick some ass

  • Lydiarose September 15th, 2013 3:38 AM

    This is so helpful, gives me some hope that this feeling will some day stop..

  • Chanteclair September 25th, 2013 12:24 AM

    Lola, you’re awesome.

    “I was so lonely one time that I listened to Prince’s “Erotic City” 100 times in a row to see if it counted as getting laid.”

    I just played that song on my smartphone while taking a cab during the day. i forced the cab driver to make conversation with me, talking about prince and sheila e.

    Having a guy break up with you because he had “just met the most beautiful girl in the world.”

    Yup yup.

  • TinyWarrior October 8th, 2013 12:25 AM

    I needed this desperately. THANK YOU, LOLA! xox