Courtesy of ABC Family
Courtesy of ABC Family

Breaking up is always messy. Whether you are the one who is being dumped or the one who is doing the dumping, it’s not easy. However, there are ways to maintain your sanity during the difficult time that is the breakup as well as ways to initiate one without making you look too much like the bad guy.

The immediate aftermath of a breakup is not pretty. It involves a fair deal of crying depending on how invested you were as well as how blindsided you were. But allowing yourself to feel sad is an incredibly important step for feeling better in the future. You may go through the cycle of emotions that one experiences when encountering grief: denial, anger, bargaining and depression. Now some may skip over several of these steps, but for the sake of being thorough, I am including all of them. Either way, you need to experience the emotions you feel wholeheartedly; do not try to filter them with destructive behavior (drinking, gambling, etc.) as this will undoubtedly make you feel worse in the near and distant future. It will also make it remarkably more difficult for you to get to the next stage of the breakup: acceptance.

Taking time for yourself can be a way to help you move on. Hang out with your friends who can help cheer you up. Laughter is the best medicine for a reason; it works. Do things that make you smile, like a hobby, watch your favorite movie (preferably a happy one) or reading a really good book.

Sometimes, the best way to get over these things is to distance yourself from them. This may be tricky though as there are some who simply cannot avoid encountering people, places or things that are associated with their exes. There are those of us who have mutual friends with our exes — the poor individuals caught in between the tears and angry words. There is always the very real possibility that sides will be picked and some of these friends will be lost in the custody battle. These losses are somewhat of an aftershock of the initial breakup and you’ll feel it just as much as the first. My advice therefore is the same: let yourself get through the pain and then let yourself be happy.

Another aspect of ending a relationship that is never fun is the returning of items. I always think of this as a kind of exchange of prisoners. Hopefully, you ended things on good enough terms that you and your ex are able to arrange a time and place to return the jackets, borrowed books and cell phone chargers that you both left in the care of the other without incident. However, for those who did not end things so cleanly, a word of advice: do not take it out on the other person’s stuff. Destroying your ex’s belongings will not make you feel better. Sure, you’ll get some frustration out, but that’s only dealing with the surface of the issue. Return their possessions intact and you will come out of it the bigger person and respected by most.

My last piece of advice is also the most difficult to write: how to break up with someone. This is not something that should be taken lightly. You are most likely going to be hurting the person whom you are breaking up with, but I will try to assist you in making the blow a little softer. First, begin weaning yourself off of them in person and in contact. Take time in responding to them, but do not take so long that it seems like you are ignoring them. If you constantly spend time with them and act like everything is fine, then the break up may come as out of the blue and will leave them more distraught than necessary.

Second, it should most definitely be in person. Try to be direct but don’t be brutal. You should explain why you would like to end the relationship with a firm tone that won’t come off as harsh. Do not leave it ambiguous, it needs to be clear that you are ending the relationship. Give them the closure that will help them move on.

Third, try not to use cliches. I know that this can be difficult as every reason to break up with someone has been said and done, but you should at least be able to avoid things like, “It’s not you, it’s me,” “We can still be friends” and “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.”

And finally, reassure them. Let them leave with the knowledge that though you two may not have worked out, there are billions of people on the planet and the odds are pretty good that they will meet someone else.

The end of a relationship isn’t easy and will leave its mark on you. You’ll be sad and times may get tough, but at the end of the day we’re still only in our 20s. There’s so much ahead of us that getting hung up on someone is letting life slip by. You never know when someone new will cross paths with you, and more often than not, this special someone will come as a surprise.