Monday Roundtable: Breaking Up and Fucking Up

All of us do things we’re not proud of after a breakup. Or maybe you are above and immune to that, but those of us in this roundtable unfortunately are not. Here are ours!


Heather Hogan, Senior Editor

The most fucked up thing I do after a breakup is completely and totally cut the person I broke up with out of my life in every way forever (with one very important exception). I think what’s extra fucked up about it is that I don’t even really have a good reason to do it; I’m honestly probably just trying to avoid the mistakes I’ve seen lesbians make on TV? The things that make it hard to be in a relationship with me are the things that make it hard to be in a broken-up situation with me. 1) I don’t like the process of getting things done; I like the doing of things. I don’t like fights that drag on for days. I don’t like problems that won’t resolve because one person won’t just make a hard choice and get on with it. I don’t like the hypothetical this-and-that of what could have been. So all of the dramatic mulling over every emotion on earth that goes on after a breakup, I just want to skip that part and be moved on with my life. It obviously doesn’t work that way, emotionally, but I’d rather work out what’s in my head and my heart riding my bike and yelling at random rude men on the street than endlessly process with someone I’m never going to be with again. Which brings me to the second thing that makes me an impossible asshole. 2) I like to work out everything on my own and then announce that I have decided to do a thing, rather than including literally anyone else in my decision-making process. I’ve gotten a lot better at that second thing now that I’ve been with Stacy for so long; we talk about most everything and I understand and trust that sharing my thoughts around big decisions with her makes both of our lives better. I don’t know if that first thing will ever go away, though. Processing makes my brain itch.

Carrie Wade, Staff Writer

I haven’t broken up/been broken up with often so there’s not a ton of evidence to go on here, but the only things I’ve done consistently afterward are cry and clean my house. (Basically I do this – a Virgo move if there ever was one.) I am an extremely boring person to break up with and consider that an achievement, thank you very much.

Kayla, Staff Writer

Because I have never dumped anyone and have only been the person dumped in my breakups, I have a very bad habit of… doing everything I can to try to get that person back for, like, probably way too long. This often consists of

1. Texting them a bunch
2. Emailing them a list of things I think they should read, couching said email as “just a list of reading recs and definitely not my attempt to get you back”
3. Getting drunk and then following up the reading recs email with an email trying to get them back
4. Posting a lot of thirst traps
5. Subtweeting the shit out of them.

Listen! I’m not proud of any of this behavior. But I’m always the one who didn’t want to break up, and getting dumped brings out a lot of insecurities in me.

But once I realize it’s for real for real over, that’s when I get to the more reckless post-breakup behavior. I go out dancing and drink a lot and eat very little. I shit-talk my exes to all my friends, and in college, I would roast them in stand-up sets (yikes :/ ). As for the things I want to do but don’t: ACTUAL REVENGE! I have rage fantasies that I never act on because when it comes down to it I’m not a very revenge-y person unfortunately. Sometimes, I can’t even picture myself going off in my own rage fantasies so I will fantasize about one of my more aggressive friends telling my exes off (and sometimes consider actually asking them to do so). If they treated me badly, I fantasize about telling all of their friends and loved ones exactly how they mistreated me, but I never cross that threshold either. I keep on subtweeting, and one time I had an ex who favorited every single subtweet that was about them out of spite and I wanted to be like…….ok but I could have been so much meaner!!!!!! I hate that I end up being meaner to myself than I am to the people who hurt me.

How do I transition out of a phase of post-breakup-behaviors? UhhHHHHh therapy! And usually… jumping into a new relationship. The sign that I’m truly done with/over someone is when I publish words about the ways they hurt me or about our breakup in a more formal manner than a subtweet. Anyway, this roundtable is an attack.

Rachel, Managing Editor

It’s drinking! If we’re just taking the odds overall, it’s drinking. Sometimes it’s a classic Leo post-breakup breakdown of going way too hard in a normal social drinking situation and blacking out in concurrence with sleeping with my ex’s friend, or my friend’s ex, or trying to sleep with someone’s current girlfriend while they’re standing right there, etc. More often, especially as I get older, it’s the weirder and sadder drinking alone in the kitchen, cheap wine out of a jar. I don’t text or call my ex, I don’t post ominously on social media or subtweet, I don’t do anything dramatic or that anyone else would even know about — I just get drunk and inward and isolated and ignore totally sincere texts from friends telling me they’re there for me. (A side effect of breakups for me is being a shitty friend, which is also a side effect of drinking, which is, you know, here we are!) I think at the core of it it’s because I want to do something self-destructive because regardless of who initiated it breakups always make you hate yourself (or at least always make me hate myself) while also not looking at the thing making me feel that way, but I’m too proud to do it in a way that the ex would see or know about because then they’d know how much it affected me. (Related, it is rare for me to stay in touch with exes.)

I think in the past I’ve transitioned out of this period by finding a new project or focus to direct my energy toward as a different distraction — a new job, a new person, a new life path. Once I applied to grad school and moved across the country! That was cute. Probably what I should do instead is like sit with my feelings or whatever until I can process them appropriately, and if I am ever able to do that I will definitely buy my therapist an edible arrangement.

Erin, Staff Writer

I’ve had like, 1.25 breakups as a grown person, so I can’t really say that I’ve established a routine around them. If my last breakup is any indication, though, my thing is to sort of go on an emotional/physical tear of temporary encounters until I’ve overwhelmed myself and everyone around me. This is exhausting, and so I don’t know if I so much as made an active decision to transition out of doing what I was doing as I did just hit a point where I started to buffer before ultimately powering down. What I think I should have done in that year or so’s time was to have gotten a jitterbug cellphone and only had the ability to call home or 911.

Creatrix Tiara, Staff Writer

My last major breakup I didn’t end up eating very much because I lost all appetite and energy. I lost quite a bit of weight and got comments about it, which made me cringe because it wasn’t a good reason to be told I ‘look good’! Getting back into a normal diet and normal eating habits was very difficult — honestly it probably only changed for good when I went back to live with my parents a couple of years later and they forced me into a normal 3-meals-a-day-plus-snacks routine.

Al, Staff Writer

Okay, so the like normal fucked up shit that I do after a breakup is social media based. I block them on all my accounts before they can block me, which means that I can usually go and spy on them, but they can’t spy on me. Which is important because I post a lot of subtweets after I break up with someone. Usually, it’s just a lot of me calling my ex-partner useless, or a bunch of tweets that just say “[redacted]”, or 240 characters of “haha” even. I also spend way too much time spying on my exes! Because I don’t want them to be talking about me in the same way that I’m talking about them! It’s really bad y’all, but then one day, I realize it’s been a few days since I’ve checked on them, and then one day I realize I don’t care anymore. That’s when I unblock them and decide whether or not I want to build a friendly relationship with them.

Here’s what I want to do when I go through breakups: move to rural Massachusetts (I have the perfect house picked out on Zillow) in the middle of the night and tell no one. I want to just disappear; I change my name, change my history, and start over. But I don’t, because changing your name is actually really hard, and to be honest, if I lived anyplace rural, the only people I would ever speak to would be my Instacart delivery people, which feels a little unhealthy.

Laneia, Executive Editor

Well, I guess if you consider torching that bridge and never looking back “fucked up”, then I have to say “torching that bridge and never looking back.” I, however, do not see that as fucked up, no ma’am. I see it as a healthy coping mechanism that prevents me from saying anything to them that I might one day regret! Which is like, really smart and considerate of me. When I realize that something isn’t working for me and my life, I want to end it in all forms as soon as possible, and nothing says End It like a fiery smoky bridge collapsing into the abyss. *chef’s kiss*

Again, if you’re counting bridge burning as “fucked up”, the way I transition out of it is… I do not? I just don’t! Unless I’m forced to interact with them because of some external factor that’s entirely out of my control (like, just hypothetically, if we share children, for example), I avoid thinking about them and especially talking to them. I have, in fact, dropped everything and left a library after seeing an ex. Just walked right the fuck on out of there. Went and got those books on another day.

I think the number one thing I want to do after a breakup is never ever date again, ever. And we see how well that has worked out. So.

Molly, Staff Writer

I tend to go feral after a breakup. I have trouble feeding myself properly, I don’t sleep at normal or good intervals, and I indulge in anything that makes me happy. This could be a TV series, a dessert, a strain of weed that knocks me sideways — whatever makes me feel good, I’m doing it. Funnily enough, I’m transitioning out of one of these periods right now. I had what I’m calling my Dirtbag Summer and I indulged every whim, and it was fun and felt wild and free, but it’s not sustainable for me. The transition looks like me smoking less, buckling down more, and being more present in thinking about my future.

BUT if I REALLY wanted to indulge myself, I’d have been off this continent months ago, living as a shepherd in the south of France. I like to look up plane tickets, to think about how I could escape my life as it is and start over elsewhere. I like to think about all the ways I could hurt my ex, the worst ways, the most pointed ways, and how I would deploy those. Then the anger leaves my body and I am glad I didn’t, because I know I’d just be sad instead.

Still, though, you don’t get to break my heart and not hear about it for a while.

Archie, Cartoonist

I feel like folks might write down “going on a binger” or “having a sex-rampage” as some of the fucked up things they do after a breakup – both of which I have a tendency to do — but I don’t actually think they are fucked up. I think they are very human and very normal and maybe can be done a little carelessly at times but not inherently harmful for the folks involved.

Probably the most fucked up thing I do after a relationship is absolve myself from any/all guilt I might have about ending the relationship — no matter what kind of dumpster fire I may have participated in causing. And I have been a part of some pretty epic dumpster fires.

I don’t like to linger in ‘what could have been’ or ‘what I should have done’ or ‘why did I lie/cheat/check out/etc’ for very long. Ideally I’d probably journal or something about it and learn a lesson about myself from every relationship — but I’m not good at that either.

Riese, Editor-in-Chief

Historically, sort of like Molly said in her answer, I tend to enter indulgent periods where my #1 goal is “fun and pleasure and getting through the day!” rather than “caring for my personal health, fiscal responsibility and well-being,” which means alcohol, Xanax and spending too much money on travel and a post-breakup haircut. Also, obviously, hooking up with abandon! (When I still lived in New York this usually meant “hooking up with exes” but now I’m older and all of my exes are married and I don’t live in New York anymore!) I lose my appetite and then lose weight, which for me is especially dangerous ’cause I’m already very thin. Unfortunately, I have tended to transition out of a post-breakup bender by either moving or by entering another Very Serious Relationship as quickly as possible. But I think the best way to transition out is to go to therapy, reconnect with your friends and yourself and remind yourself how great it is to have a vibrant community of friends rather than just a relationship + work, which is what I’ve been trying to do recently.

Like Archie says I’m not certain that those benders are necessarily “bad” — the bad stuff for me is probably the post-breakup analysis, which I can stretch out for literal years. YEARS. I only cut exes out of my life completely forever if they were abusive, although I do unfollow all my exes on all social media regardless just ’cause I don’t wanna know what they’re doing without me. If the breakup was mean or messy or if either of us still want to get back together, you kinda have to take space until that feeling passes. But after those feelings have settled down, eventually I prefer to be friends with exes, especially if they’re in the same city as me or we have friends in common. I don’t like having bad blood with people (I hate conflict!) and, I don’t know — I was recently talking to a poly couple who aren’t looking for a marriage/kids lifestyle and I asked them what they would consider a successful relationship to be and they said it’s one in which when it ends, there is still a strong and lasting friendship there. I think that’s valid even if some people think it’s crazy! It’s so hard to find people you connect with in this life, and often exes are some of the very few people one connects with. Especially for me. Generally I’ve had pretty drawn-out breakups so we do a lot of processing together — I really want to understand what happened so I can do better in the future, and it’s hard to do that without the other person’s input.

But, and especially if I’ve had to cut that person off entirely or vice versa, I eventually go crazy on the inside! I obsess, I over-process, I talk to my friends about it all the time, I re-read chats I had with friends at the time about my doubts and fears and our fights, I re-read my journal, I write a lot of post-breakup drafts of emails and letters and texts. I write lists of all the things I didn’t like about my ex. I let myself feel all the negative feelings I didn’t feel at the time and then I dress up in those feelings like armor. The next day I will suddenly remember only the positive things about my ex and think oh wow I ruin everything and then I will dress myself up in those feelings like the grim reaper.

This is particularly dangerous for me ’cause I’m not great at discussing my feelings in the moment, and I often say things I don’t mean during fights or tough conversations for a lot of reasons, like that it felt true at the time until I thought about it a little more, or that I felt insecure and I was protecting my own ego, or that I thought the thing I said would make the other person feel better about themselves. Or because they were a manipulative asshole who gaslit me into agreeing with things that I don’t actually agree with!!!! So usually I walk away from a relationship feeling like there were 100 things I said that I wish I hadn’t and 100 more I should’ve said but never did, and then I obsess over what the ex might think of me if they think those things I said were true, and if it might make them feel sad or bad about themselves, or if it might make them think I’m a bad person, and what they might say to their friends about me… it goes on and on and on! If I’m worried I said something that might’ve hurt their feelings or sense of self, I have a very hard time not reaching out to apologize, despite the growing awareness that this is not normal or healthy behavior, apparently. I usually write a few prolific essays about the breakup, I never publish them.

So like my life in general, my worst post-breakup habit is writing things that never see the light of day.

Carmen, Staff Writer

By far my biggest post-breakup “bad behavior” is the loop that plays in my head. You know, that loop of every bad decision? Every fight? Every hurt feelings (yours, theirs, whatever)? I obsessively rewind them like it’s ESPN instant replay. I change camera angles. I’m my own sports analyst, calling fouls and arguing with referees (in case you couldn’t guess, in these scenarios, I’m also the referee). It’s exhausting. My brain has never been good at “quiet time.” On my best day, I still have to work three times as hard as the next person just to trick it into being still. Nothing feeds my brain’s worst impulses like regret and uncertainty. Unfortunately, that’s what the first few months after a break up are all about.

I’m not sure how I transition out of that phase, to be honest. I guess I try replacing the negative loop with a positive one? What did I learn from this relationship? Notice how much happier I am without (X,Y,Z partner’s bad habit)? Didn’t my friend make a such funny joke yesterday? Oooh, what am I going to do this weekend? Shit like that. It doesn’t always work! That kind of diligence takes a lot of retraining. Months, even. My worst break up? It took the better part of a solid year. Every day feels like starting back at square one.

Stef, Vapid Fluff Editor

Well, a cool thing I learned after my last breakup was to not date anyone seriously ever again, because if you can’t do that you can’t get dumped! I was really terrible during that entire breakup, twitchy and miserable and walking around feeling like Wile E Coyote when he accidentally shoots a cannonball through his own chest. It was great.

Anyway, after I break up with someone I am really gutted over, I have a ritual of listening to Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn album and eventually topping off my misery with a rewatch of the Angela Bassett/Whitney Houston classic Waiting to Exhale. I either eat too much or stop eating entirely. I alienate my friends. One time I burned an ex boyfriend’s t shirt on my roof! They tell you that time heals all wounds and that eventually you feel better, but in my experience you just end up drinking more.

Alyssa, Cartoonist

Oh, god. I am a lot of fucked up things after a breakup. I feel like I’ve done it all: black out drinking (and ruining Valentine’s Day karaoke for everyone), fucking that person that my ex used to feel jealous about (a very charming behavior), torturing my roommates and close friends with cyclic play by plays of my every thought and emotion. My mars in leo teams up with all my other leo and explodes in a shiny display of loud discontent…

…to everyone except the person I’m breaking up with. That person doesn’t get access to me at all! Because above all things, my worst (but maybe sometimes also best) break up trait is my tendency to cut-and-run. I don’t contact you to try and make things work, or to talk about how sad I am. I am not one for pining or renegotiating relationship dynamics. I have a very short window period of trying to salvage a broken relationship, before I’m overwhelmed and bail.

I’ve never really been the breaker upper. I’m loyal to a fault, and am wounded most when someone I love takes advantage of that or not been that for me. I rarely resolve that.

In terms of transitioning, I don’t know that there’s ever been a real consistency with it. Some break ups have affected me so much more than others. I think I eventually get to a place where I know I need to give myself time and let go of things. One thing I am proud of even when I’ve not been at my best, is that I do always seem to come around and work to move through whatever I’m dealing with. When I get to a place where I’m putting myself out there in developing new relationships, I like to know that I’m ready, and mean it when I tell a person I can commit to them. I think the biggest piece to transitioning to healthier decision making is being honest with myself about where I’m at emotionally and not denying it or lying to myself (or others) about it. I wish I were better at a lot of things, but nothing more than wishing I were better at maneuvering relationship changes (i.e. finding ways to reconnect and be friends with exes). I hate the cut-and-run.

Vanessa, Community Editor

Here are the things I do after a breakup: take a lot of space, buy a book about polyamory, get a (fake) piercing, hook up with a bunch of people, drink more, go out dancing more, leave town! I don’t know if these things are necessarily “fucked up” – my ex-girlfriends have not always liked the part where I take space, and my dad is not particularly into my fake septum piercing – but they definitely represent a pattern of what my breakup behavior looks like, and are probably worth examining further in therapy and my journal!

I think what these behaviors represent, if we’re going to be real for a moment, is a desire to come back to myself and to have ownership of my time and my whole life again.

I also think that if a friend told me that every time she ended a serious monogamous relationship she bought herself a book about polyamory, I would make some intense meaningful eye contact with her and gently say, “What do you think that might mean, babe?” or “Why do you think you keep doing that and then entering 2-4 year long monogamous partnerships?” but you know, since I’m the one doing it and not a close friend I can just avoid thinking about it too much and keep hooking up with random babes from Tinder while telling everyone who will listen that I am going to be single by choice for forever! Okay! Can’t wait to find the best sushi restaurant in this new town I just moved to! Bye!

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24 Comments

  1. I like to collect things and Exes aren’t one of them.

    I am not a fan of change so I tend to hang in long after it’s over hoping that somehow it will get better to avoid change. Never does. I know, I’m an idiot like that.

  2. Once again friends, your timing with these round tables is absolutely impeccable. Thank you for this, I really needed it today. It’s nice to see that my terrible post-breakup habits are not unique to me, and everyone does stupid and shitty things when they’re feeling sad and lonely.

  3. I love these round-tables.

    After reading these, I’m feeling better about my ‘cut you off and you don’t exist to me anymore’ trends, including friends, family, and partners.

    Like, that usually comes after many, MANY concerted efforts to solve whatever problem ‘with’ the person, i.e. being in a relationship. Once it’s clear that that process isn’t working, it makes perfect sense to me to end the relationship which means nooo tallllking or interacting or anything.

    Probably the unhealthy part is the buckets of guilt i feel about cutting ppl off. Why even feel guilty? idk.

  4. I’m a fan of drunken tearful oversharing with random acquaintances, listening to melancholy music and sobbing, convincing myself that love is a lie, and avoiding everything that reminds me of my ex. I’ll know I’m over her when I can use her lentil soup recipe again without feeling sad.

    My only breakup habit that I absolutely stand by is that I avoid people’s social media forever, unless they reach out to me years later. Maybe my ex is off dating someone new, or saying petty things about me, or traveling somewhere I always wanted to go with her, but I’ll never have the chance to ruminate about it. If she wants me to pine over her photos, I won’t give her the satisfaction, and if she just wants to move on, I won’t be creeping on content not intended for me.

    • Yes I am person who will go back and overanalyze all past conversations like a psycho but I’m never tempted for even one second to ever look at their social media. I also unfollow anybody who might post pictures of them on their own social media, and tell my friends not to tell me anything they see of my ex on social media (although 90% of the time they’re like oh don’t worry I unfollowed them the moment u said you broke up). I’ve never understood the temptation, literally nothing good can come of seeing an edited presentational version of your ex’s life! But I don’t really know anybody else who does this, it seems like stalking your exs social media is what everybody else is doing.

      • There has to be more of us! We could form a Social Media Cold Tofurkey Club.

        Most people I know who stalk their exes’ Instagram are actually really good with boundaries offline but the regular rules of boundaries don’t seem to apply on the internet and everything spirals out of control. Why not just stop?!

        • I’ll join your club! I blocked my ex-wife. I didn’t unfriend my ex gf because I didn’t want to offend her but I muted her so I never saw anything she posted (and was never tempted to look) and I have just looked now on the grounds long enough has passed with no contact that it would make no sense to be friends andI discovers we are no longer FB friends so she must have unfriended.

          I am FB friends with my first gf, but that was only after bumping into her years after we split up and had had no contact, and it was purely due to mild curiosity.

  5. Judging myself too harshly.

    For instance believing my eating takeout food for a whole week after the break up of an 18-year relationship was hideously irresponsible. That taking two hours off work to go have a panic attack in a coffee shop instead made me the worst manager ever.

    Not offering myself the love and understanding I wouldn’t question giving others.

    And…perhaps that fucking up for many of us in all our different ways is because when our hearts break, our ability to love, to love ourselves has to heal as well.

  6. Vacillate between blaming myself and blaming them, trying too hard not to hold a grudge while maintaining a sovereign like air of being too above them to care or regret anything. Which is fancy talk for say nothing to no body about it and thinking too much, but I’m and INTP if I’m not thinking I’m probably dead or conscious.

    Eventually I reach some sort of ¯\_(-_-)_/¯ eh apathetic state which is one of the reasons why I think I don’t tell anyone, they’ll get needlessly concerned.

  7. This makes me feel like I have healthy behaviour. But I think my unhealthy behaviour is in the relationship – staying with someone and not being happy and not seeing how that will change, yet not feeling able to/ready to end things.

    • oh, i do that too! which adds to my post-breakup overanalysis problem, in that i have to parse out the difference between “things i did wrong because that’s who i am as a person” and “things i did because i didn’t think the relationship was working anymore but for some reason kept that to myself, only to have it come out in other ways.”

  8. What a weird coincidence that the day I search up “breakups” on your site, this article was posted. It’s nice to read how other people deal with breakups. For most of my breakups I was the initiator and felt almost no sadness. Except for my first ex (a fucking mess of a relationship and breakup), my exes were the ones to delete me on social media. This new breakup is the worst because it came out of the blue and I was truly in love with her. She proposed to me after 6 months of dating, then cheated on me, then we worked it out and were more in love than ever. All of a sudden she came at me with an “I don’t love you as much as I loved you before but I don’t know why, and anyways we were always fighting and I would never have gotten over the things that we fought about”. I have no idea what to do; she still wants to be friends but I can’t get over the fact that we won’t have the future we planned together. I keep messaging her asking her “what ifs” questions and asking if there was a chance we could be together in the future. I can’t bring myself to cut contact with her; she’s the only true best friend I have right now and to exist without her completely hurts. But seeing her in person hurts more. So I guess I’m at the “denial and drink as much as possible then sob about all the things that won’t happen” stage, which is fun.

  9. This was so good, love the Roundtable always. I have the hardest time letting go of the families (when supportive and loving) of some my ex. Never know how to act with someone who has basically adopted you into their home

  10. Does anyone else go the exact opposite direction and go full repression/celibate until you don’t feel anything anymore? I’m genuinely curious. I’ve never met anyone else who does this, and I’m not sure if it’s a normal response to a breakup or if it’s just because my major breakups have been serious, traumatic messes. I kind of wish I was a bender type, because forgetting how to feel romantic/sexual/confident/lovable/desirable is very real and super difficult to overcome.

    • Meee! Definitely! It’s been 9ish months and just the last 2 months or so have I had cameo appearances of a sex drive, but the idea of being physically *and* emotionally intimate with someone else still makes me nauseous. It feels like major progress to be in a place where I wish I lived in a place where sex work was safe and legal so I could hire someone to come take care of business, and then they would leave with no cuddling or talking about feelings after (which is distressing, because real me loves cuddling and talking about feelings! Especially at the same time!)
      So I dunno, maybe we’re both fucked. I clearly have some shit to work out. But know that you are NOT alone, and you ARE lovable and desirable! Hang in there!

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