If love is the emotional counterpart of hate, it’s unsurprising that the person we care for the most is also the one we unavoidably give the power to smash us open like some sort of depressing pinata and stomp on all the vulnerable candy that falls out. The aftermath of a bad breakup is a danger zone where even the most reasonable person can lose all sense of chill, but you don’t have to let it happen to you. Here’s how to handle the end of your relationship with grace.

Chose defense, not attack. 

When someone hurts us, our first reaction is to stab them back until they hurt as much as we do. All this achieves is a cycle of spiteful interactions that prolong the pain and create a new standard of bad behavior between you that is very hard to come back from. Aggression during this vulnerable time will also make a future friendship with your ex virtually impossible. If he’s cruel, acknowledge the hurt and then cut it off by refusing to react vengefully. There’s no satisfaction in attacking someone that won’t strike back.

Vulnerability isn’t a weapon.

Although we’re compelled to fight it, there’s zero shame in being vulnerable. It’s actually braver to admit these feelings and deal with them healthily instead of denying them behind a false mask of strength. However, don’t fall into the trap of using your vulnerability to emotionally blackmail your ex. This won’t achieve anything except guilt and resentment, and you have to be responsible for your own recovery to feel authentically capable and strong in the future. He has no business in this process.

Distance is compulsory.

Directly after the trauma of a breakup, you both need time and space away from each other to deal with the shock, get some emotional rest, and start to consider your identity as a single person. Don’t prolong the death of your relationship by haunting it. Contact with each other at this time will only lead to more pain and unhealthy interaction. Avoid their favorite places and your mutual ones and see friends separately. If you live together, one or both of you need to evacuate the environment as soon as possible. Distance now will make future contact much easier.

Respect your ex’s secrets.

After a painful breakup, the urge to exact petty revenge can be overwhelming, especially when wine is involved. It may feel like the most satisfying “screw you” ever to reveal all your ex’s deep dark secrets to your friend group during your cheer-up drinking sesh, but this isn’t the path to your dignity. Do you really want to be this petty bitch? Plus, don’t forget that your own deep dark secrets are in your ex’s possession. People talk, and you don’t want to inspire the same ugly betrayal as a response from him. Stay classy and respect the intimacy code.

Keep it off social media.

There are very few social media crimes more cringeworthy than the public breakup. It’ll be so tempting to tap into that feel-good rush from likes and comments when you’re feeling low, but don’t go there. Posting soppy songs, writing bleak yet cryptic status updates, sharing meaningful quotes—don’t be that awful person you hate in your feed. Don’t let your current emotional state tarnish your social image with public drama and pettiness.

Don’t focus on resentment.

If you think your ex’s irritation triggering behavior bothered you when you were together, you can only imagine how offensive it will be with the added context of breaking up. Breakups require a lot of logistical dismantling, especially if you lived together and/or kids are involved. You need to get through these awkward encounters as smoothly as possible, and massive arguments about the past will only mess things up more.

Give your rage an outlet.

 Pain mixed with anger and vulnerability is a dangerous cocktail of human feelings. The healthiest way to deal with these extreme emotions is to express them, but unleashing a whole world of spite in an uncontrolled way will only cause more damage than it’s worth, especially if you aim it at your ex. The trick is to find a way to channel that rage into something positive. This could be something physical like going hard at the gym or something creative like painting—you do you. As long as you get passionate and use that emotion, it will help you stay calm and dignified when you need to be.

Minimize the outbound gossip.

The more established your relationship was, the more shocking your breakup will be to your social group, which inevitably leads to gossiping. This is unavoidable, but you can control the flow of negative information by being discrete about the details. Breakups are difficult, complex, and totally consuming. You’re going to want to talk about it A LOT, and this will probably help you heal—just don’t talk to everyone. Choose a couple of trustworthy people to confide in and go nuts. Confidentially.

Manage potentially hostile communications. 

Love is a risk, so when a relationship explodes into unsalvageable pieces, the emotional fallout can easily become a cruel and personal warfare. This isn’t just unpleasant for you, it’s awkward and painful for the people around you, causing a shockwave of negative effects. Don’t subject anyone to this ugly conflict. If necessary contact is likely to lead to antagonistic communication, limit this to a safe method such as texting or email.

Counteract with kindness.

This is probably the hardest one! After a breakup, it’s natural to feel some hate towards your ex, especially if he’s behaving like an ass, refusing to return your stuff, badmouthing you to friends, or any other obnoxious behavior. It’s important to remember he’s hurting too and just isn’t dealing with it very gracefully. Be the bigger person and be patient and kind. If this is too wholesome for your state of mind, think of it this way—if you get through this crappy time with yourdignity intact, it’ll completely undermine his attempts to bring you down and make him look incredibly petty.

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