Sex + Love

Cures for Love

Rituals to get you to the other side of heartbreak.

2. Problem: Stuff, old.

A weird thing about human beings is that even when they’re not around anymore, their stuff still is: a pen doodle, a neglected scarf. Giving their things all the way away can be hard to fathom, especially at first: These objects are your last tangible connections to someone you may never see again. I recommend handing them over to a trusted friend on a permanent-borrow basis. Write up a contract for you both to sign:

rookie_permanentborrow

Download a PDF of this contract here.

You can also combine your post-breakup detritus with that of others: The performance artist Nate Hill created a character called Death Bear who would show up at your doors (at your request) in a freaky black PVC bear costume to “take things from you that trigger painful memories and stow them away in his cave, where they [would] remain forever, allowing you to move on with your life.” I was inspired by Death Bear’s story, and since 2004 I’ve hosted my own and my friends’ painful romantic memories on my bookshelf in this improvised “No No! Bad Thoughts! Box.”

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Or vibe on this quote from the young aristocrat Sebastian Flyte in the novel Brideshead Revisited : “I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I’m old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.” Try doing the opposite: Bury something precious in every place you’re miserable, and when you’re happy, you can come back and dig them up and remember. (I love Emma D’s DIY tutorial on burying your secrets.) It helps to draw a map to help you locate them later:

maps for girls #3

But maybe you’re no longer attached to these things at all. Maybe, in fact, you never want to see them again. You could donate them: to charity, to a friend, or to art. The Museum of Broken Relationships may be accepting donations again by the time you read this: “Unlike ‘destructive’ self-help instructions for recovery from failed loves…[the museum] offers a chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the Museum’s collection.” The online Too Hard to Keep Archive collects photos that are too painful to look at “so they may exist without being destroyed.” (In the case of digital photos, the curator, Jason Lazarus, instructs the sender to delete the images upon receipt confirmation.)

If that’s not dramatic enough for you, draw inspiration from the recently divorced Rebecca Gibbs, who disposed of her wedding ring by launching it into space. “It was uplifting, liberating, and it was really supposed to be a positive step, which it was. It was also a lot of fun blasting a rocket into the sky,” she said.

Sky’s the limit! Personally, I recommend fire. Before you ask, “Um, can she recommend fire on Rookie?” let me tell you that my BFF/fellow Rookie Marie reports that disposing of a single Michael Jackson glove left behind by her ex by throwing it on a hot grill was both safe and “v. therapeutic.”

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3. Problem: Stuff, new.

At the hand-on-the-car-door-handle last moment of a breakup years ago, I pulled a dollar out of my wallet, wrote “this ca$hmoney is my proof” on it (after Duane Michals’s This Photograph Is My Proof), and then tore it in two so each of us could keep one half. After he left my car (and me, for good), I couldn’t stand to look at my piece of the dollar, but I didn’t want it to go away forever. (I was also holding out hope for a future in which we might put the dollar back together as friends.) So I put it in an envelope, and a weird practice was born: the Emotional Envelope.

The Emotional Envelope is useful when your relationship to a person is in that kind of middle space—you need to take a hard break from them after the romantic relationship is over, but you still harbor genuine fondness for them as a person, and you can’t wait until you can get to hang out with them again as friends. (And I advise a hard break: There’s almost never such a thing as a seamless transition from a romantic relationship to a platonic one. Your only hope of sustaining a real friendship in the future is to enforce at least a few weeks of ZERO CONTACT before you try hanging out on these new, un-smoochy terms.)

So let’s say you’ve just ceased contact so hard their children will be born unfriended from Facebook—good job! And yet, unbelievably, they remain stubbornly in your daily life, in the form of the thoughts that form in your head when you see something they would have enjoyed or you come across a little gift they would love. Or you want to tell them something really really badly, like when you’re struck (repeatedly, square in the face) by a memory of a shared time that was so moving or beautiful that you want to make sure they remember it too. Yikes. These compulsions used to fuck me all up: I’d email the person JUST BECAUSE THEY MIGHT LIKE THIS FUNNY PICTURE and bam, my heartbreak clock was reset to zero. If this is you, too, may I suggest making an Emotional Envelope of your own?

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Take out an envelope (I like the manila kind) and address it to “Future _____.” (Fill in with the name of your ex. I’m going with Dylan for this hypothetical, because in my case that was his name. Things were so good between us and then I don’t know what happened!) Whenever you see something you want to tell Dylan or give to Dylan but can’t/won’t/shouldn’t, into the Emotional Envelope it goes. I like to write memories down on little index cards as an exercise in perspective.

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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