Adam Aleksandrowicz | 15 minute read
If there’s one thing that gives me a wry warm smile, it’s the sight of a man who’s taken back full control of his life and turned it around to become a new and unrecognizable version of who he used to be. There’s nothing as inspiring as someone who defied odds, had their back against the wall, yet still came out as the winner even under the most extreme circumstances.
Okay, this isn’t the Navy Seals hell week and I’m getting a bit dramatic, but for the guy in the depths of heartache, recovering from a relationship breakdown can feel just like it.
Getting over an ex is one of the hardest things for most guys ever have to do. It can literally wipe many good years from the ledger while you come to terms with not having her in your life and try to rebuild.
I know, this sucks, this hurts, this feels like it will be the end of life as you knew it. But at the same time, it’s probably exactly what you needed.
I’ve been asked this question by a few younger guys this week so I thought I’d teardown some strategies on how to make this process a bit easier and of course shorter. Back in my twenties I was probably the poster child for ‘hanging on’ to the dream of a lost relationship long after a break up so I’ve got some background to the material.
Combined with where I’ve gotten to now after the affair and subsequent breakup with my ex wife, I have a ‘weapons grade’ approach to levelling up your life. Hopefully these 5 ideas will give you the tools to avoid the bullshit sad songs, strip clubs and romance films, lonely nights and empty bottles.
There literally is no time left to lose.
Cease any contact
For a lot of us, severing the ties of contact is far more difficult than it seems. It always sounds great in theory to close down a chapter of our lives by simply choosing to immediately “stop seeing them” and separately going about our lives.
But as humans, our emotions make us more complex than we like to think and it’s invariably very difficult to navigate our way through an immediate future without that person. While we all process loss, pain and sadness differently, it would be unrealistic to think we can move on just because either you or her have decided it’s the right thing to do.
Men have a tendency to retain a nostalgic attachment to a previous ideal far more than women. I think innately we have a nurturing, or perhaps ‘protecting energy’ about us that will always make us feel obligated to be there for the women in our lives. This is natural and it’s the way nature intended it.
And it works really well inside a relationship when she needs the support to help manage her anxiety and emotions, but tends to go against us when we still want to ‘protect’ when the relationship is over.
This is especially difficult when there’s a family unit involved. You don’t unravel a life with someone, your pets, cars and assets, or your children with immediate ease. I’m sure there are more extreme cases where the gravity of an event can numb feelings for someone, but for the most part, guys will try keep the romantic dream alive in their heads and hearts long after she’s moved on.
It’s this blind spot in men which really doesn’t serve us well when the script is flipped 180 degrees. Paradoxically, we selflessly give more of ourselves inside a relationship for her and our families and when this nucleus no longer exists, we continue to stop looking at ourselves first.
But this okay, as it’s a feature, not a bug. Not a great feature mind you, but it’s who we are none the less.
Having fallen victim to my own programming, I can say categorically that recognizing this is paramount to getting over someone and moving on. Even the most hardened of men will always have a story of how one women was his Achilles heel.
The worst thing is, under times of emotional duress your judgement is so clouded, it’s near on impossible to consciously catch yourself declining into thoughts which don’t serve you.
Ironically this is what makes us the stronger sex. The catch is not letting this undermine your own life as your own strength can be used against you.
Ceasing contact is truthfully the only way you’ll avoid the lies which lead to self-sabotage.
Women are 100 times more emotionally nimble than you’ll ever be. When she feels a need to reach out and get in touch, it’s because ‘at that moment’ you ease her feelings of vulnerability. Know that it’s rarely an indication of a firm commitment back to a relationship, but a feeling in the moment.
It’s that same feeling of certainty and safety she’s craving, even if only temporary.
Chances are if you’ve broken up after a lengthy history, there will be some back and forth contact around logistics. I’ve had emails from guys who are still not only talking with exes years after breaking up, but doing crazy things like still mowing their lawns, looking after pets and helping with bigger decisions like purchasing cars.
All of this does, is allow a boat anchor to remain around your mind. The impact this has on your subconscious is to keep entertaining the idea you might still get back together again “one day”.
Yes it’s hard and it the hurt can be gut wrenching, but ceasing contact is the only way to move forward and avoid the handbrake of the sentimental past. As hard as it sounds, severing contact needs to be both physical and emotional. No texting, no emails, no SnapChat, no Insta, no Facebook and above all else, no sleeping together.
You’re worth more than being someone’s crutch, and besides, you’ve got a new life to live.
Don’t become bitter and twisted, hating on all women
Let’s be clear here, your life is not a romantic comedy where everything works out for the nice guy in the end. Life, as great as everything is, can be both beautiful and painfully brutal and breakups are part of the great life lessons we need to learn.
Yet how you frame events that happen in your life can make all the difference on what version you become next. Sitting in a dramatic pool of self-pity and hating on women is essentially becoming a male feminist. This stifles any growth and opportunity for you to improve, learn and become a sharper man of value.
Remember that as a man no one is coming to save you so if you’re not moving forward, you’re essentially going backwards. And sitting still, is moving backwards at the same rate.
Capitulating by throwing in the towel and hating on all women is both childish and the worst kind of giving up. I can’t fucking stand the whole MGTOW movement where men think women are too hard, too difficult, out to get them and should therefore be shunned and avoided at all costs. That’s like saying getting in shape is too hard so why bother.
Being bitter longer term, is a losers mindset. Anger on the other hand, is a malleable emotion we can make use of. It’s okay to be angry, it’s healthy to be angry. It’s just not okay to be a bitter man.
Being bitter is also a downward spiral which can manifest into other, more damaging parts of your life. I’ve known men of immense physical calibre who’ve lost an unhealthy amount of body mass simply through the stresses of bitterness. It’s a sleeper emotion which can silently creep up on you without you knowing it, then before long, you’re underweight, have no friends and live in your basement playing video games.
Self-fulfilling nihilism is a choice that will only make you unhealthy physically, mentally and spiritually.
As men we are predisposed to seek answers, seek solutions and solve problems. This is in our DNA. However the problem we have is thinking that both bitterness, drugs, alcohol and isolation are acceptable ways to numb our experiences. This is just an avoidance strategy with no end game where you come out better.
I’m making it sound uncomfortable because it is. I’ve counselled many men who are clouded by this mental fog they can’t seem to shake. Yet you simply must develop some self-awareness to catch when you’re declining into a darker, dead end space, and reach out for some help if you can’t avoid the mental shackles.
I truly don’t want to sound clichéd but man, there really is an upside to all of this and an opportunity which isn’t easy to see immediately.
When I went through the same predicament of being torn from one self-destructive distraction to the next, I focused incredibly hard on how I could turn the trauma into an opportunity. How could I use it as fuel for growth, rather than petrol to a flame.
Instead, use the time to think about your contribution to the failure of the relationship. Look at it like anyone would analyse a problem in business. It’s one way to reduce the emotion a fraction and consider the facts:
- What do you believe went wrong and what factors contributed to it happening?
- What boundaries did you let her cross, how did you act leading up to the breakup?
- Were you acting like a needy bitch wanting validation for everything you did?
- Were you cold and distant when she needed you to be more available, warmer and caring?
It’s a tricky balance as I’ve found with a lot of guys, myself included in the early days, would take on 100% of the blame for the demise of the relationship. Rather than avoiding these hard personal questions and instead turning to bitterness and booze, sit down and think it out for a bit.
Relationships don’t happen in a vacuum. If they did and you were the only one in it, then sure, but you’re 50% of the team couple that used to be together. That said, good women don’t leave men of pure raw value who treat them well so your actions would have contributed to something.
I have a slightly different spin on accountability that works for me which is worth mentioning. This isn’t instructional, or me telling you how you should feel, but it’s a mental model you should at least consider.
Victor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning) was famous for saying that he believed he was ultimately responsible for everything that happened to him in his life, including being in a Nazi concentration camp. I know right, and we’re talking here about women and breakups! But whatever actions he took leading to his capture, he believed were his own doing and as a result, he was accountable to the decisions he made for where he ended up.
I think this mindset has some utility to it. It avoids blaming anyone else for the troubles in your life and places accountability for your decisions squarely onto you alone. For instance, if you were cheated on, then one approach is you should have seen it coming by vetting better and leaving her before it happened.
It’s the old adage that what you put up with, you end up with. It’s not an ‘absolute true-ism, but I think it’s better than the alternative of apportioning out blame. If you had to choose one angle to take, take the one of responsibility.
Now I’m the first to admit, this is a very extremist view. You might have been an amazing guy, but there was something lacking for it not to work out. It’s like the captain on a mission. If the mission fails, then he’s responsible for the result and the wellbeing of the team. If you were leading the relationship properly from the start, then a stance of ultimate responsibility is a better mindset model to adopt. It also helps you to recognise your shortcomings and move forward.
Work on yourself relentlessly
I touched above on the theme of responsibility and I think it’s worth a second mention under the idea of ‘working on yourself’. Yes, working on yourself is great for a number of different benefits, but you ultimately do it because no one else will do it for you. At the end of the day, you are responsible for you.
Taking this type of pragmatism to yourself means that whatever you become, whatever results you achieve from this moment onwards you’ll do so from the actions and inputs you alone consistently do. So it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labour and invest where the return will be greatest.
When I was first caught myself starring at the enormity of being single, I knew I had a number of different pillars I needed to fine tune. There’s nothing quite like a traumatic event like a breakup to force you to evaluate your progress against some of the measures that make men men.
Perhaps it’s also an example of how we can cruise through life too without pushing to our edges, if it’s not for a hard moment to cause us to look inward and evaluate our priorities.
I deeply respect a man that can sit in his own skin, and openly admit he has a lot of work to do. This takes courage to admit, and to get up off the ground and make something better of himself.
For me, I found solace by focusing on improving on a few common, but key areas in my life. Namely:
As clichéd as it sounds, I joined the gym and started lifting as heavily and as often as I could. It was fragmented at first but with time and small improvements, I gained momentum and a renewed sense of confidence as the results are tangible.
Physical improvement is really the low hanging fruit when it comes to working on yourself as you start to clearly see the benefits of the effort you put in. And because it’s a very selfish thing, your results are for you alone and no one else. It’s the compounding effect of success breeding success which builds the much needed momentum. This is often a simple catalyst for kick starting the mental side of your recovery too.
Use this as a wakeup call to get your health and physical fitness dialled in. There is seriously no excuse not to become fighting fit and under 10% body fat when you put in the work. Don’t allow yourself to be in the same physical shape you were inside the relationship.
Your emotional and mental state is also something you need conscious efforts to improve. As men we can often succumb to the false securities of our mental wellbeing by thinking we’re always “just okay”. This is arguably another fallacy of self-deception where we think we’re okay without really knowing what’s happening in our heads and hearts.
My advice here is to seek professional help if you feel like you’re struggling to make it through the day. Anything and everything we’re going to achieve in life starts with the right mindset and the hygiene of your thoughts will determine the heights of your success. Even if you only want to get your life back into a sense of normality, the rate at which this happens is through your mindset. Don’t feel it’s not “manly” to seek out some help to process through the emotions of a breakup.
I’ve known men who’ve fumbled through the illusion for years that their “okay” to eventually crack at the smallest of things. The quality of your thoughts determines the quality of your life.
Finally it goes without saying that a checkpoint like this in your life is a perfect opportunity to stock take your career, your investments and overall financial position. Granted if you’re going through a divorce this is likely to be front and centre. I understand the real concerns of being taken to the cleaners or divorced raped by your ex. However unless you’ve got the legal upper hand you’re likely to come out far worse off.
This isn’t an excuse for not trying to turn your financial life around and work on improving your monetary situation. I’ve seen men come back from divorce in their 50’s having lost businesses and houses to only build back up and become financially stable once more. There is literally no time to waste in leaving your dent in the universe and what better way to get that promotion, start that business or get that new dream role. Double down and invest in yourself.
Don’t get into another relationship right away
From the men I’ve spoken with there seems to be a divide between those that can move on immediately to another woman and those that can’t. If you’ve had a reasonable amount of experience with women then it becomes easier to remember game and get back out there and start dating.
However most men sit cautiously in the middle where they try swiping apps, go out to bars or even run cold approach in the street but do so out of desperation. For the most, it’s a lengthy process of overcoming self-doubt and gaining confidence before being truly comfortable again with meeting new women. I’ve even spoken to men who’ve needed to take Viagra because of the anxious stress from being with a new person.
All of this is okay. There really is no time limit on what’s normal or acceptable regardless of what your friends think. I’d be bullshitting if I said I personally did it the right way myself. It’s completely natural to want to go and sleep with new people again and prove to yourself you’ve still “got it”. Nothing strokes your ego more than the validation of someone who wants you sexually.
However, from my own experience and from that of other men before you, there are some areas to exercise caution if you’re coming at this fresh and with some emotional damage.
I wholeheartedly think you should try dating again when you’re ready. Maybe even “just before” you think you’re ready so you’re not doubting yourself. There is a lot of upside in meeting new people and opening your mind to new characters and personalities and it does help with moving on.
However this advice comes with 2 massive caveats.
You should totally avoid meaningless sex with low value women. When you start dating again and learning some game, you’ll begin to understand how degenerate our society has become. It’s actually not difficult to have guilt free meaningless sex in today’s world.
However like the sugar hit from a large McDonalds coke, you’ll be left with that slightly sick feeling, yet wanting another one knowing it’s no good for you.
There is no end to how deep this rabbit hole can go if you start on this path.
Yet the other end of this spectrum can be equally damaging. Holding out and saving yourself for who you believe to be the next “one” will also increase the chances of falling for the first woman who shows you any real interest. Getting into another serious relationship is frankly the last thing you should be doing while you’re still working things out in your head.
Chances are if you do, you’ll repeat the same underlying mistake patterns you made in first relationship. Using someone as an emotional crutch if your dealing with feelings of low self-worth is not only bad for you, but a shit experience for them as well. Best to work on your insecurities without hurting someone in the process.
So where is the best middle ground I hear you ask? Well, it’s somewhere in the middle of meeting new people, expanding your social circle, trying dating apps and going to bars and clubs. I’m a believer in dabbling in all of this to try putting yourself out there again.
But just don’t do this when you’re feeling low and in need of a prop up. Do it when you’re ready to have someone new in your life.
Don’t isolate yourself from friends and family
It hurts to say this out loud, but most men absolutely suck at reaching out for help. We’ve been slowly conditioned by society to feel bad for expressing our emotions that when it comes to desperately needing to reach out, were too stunned to know what to do.
I remember thinking the same thing at times that “Don’t mind me, I’ll be okay, I can work this out myself” through the fear of being seen to ask for help. It’s such bullshit macho thing to say to yourself with such little substance. No, I’m not talking about latching onto someone like an emotional leech to drain them of their compassion, I’m talking about reconnecting with your friends and doing things together.
Don’t be afraid to get lost in the distraction of great friends. You’re not avoiding your problems or running away from them if you actively seek out the counsel of friends and brothers. Ask yourself, if someone close to you needed help, even if it was just for a quick chat, how quick would you be to offer up your time? You’d do this within seconds.
A great strategy is to make this year your ‘YES’ year. When someone asks if you want to go and do something, program yourself to say yes for an entire year! Wanna go to the pub and have a meal and a few beers Adam, ‘yes’, wanna go away for a camping trip down the coast and get some waves, ‘yes’, wanna come and see a show in the city and grab a bit to eat, ‘when are we leaving I’ll just grab a jacket’.
You get the idea. Men were born to be part of a bigger brotherhood. We thrive of the interaction, competition and camaraderie of other men. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to have people lend you their ears and their time. It would be selfish not to.
Finally, I don’t want to come across as nihilistic and deafeatest, or hit you with “harsh truths”. But the reality of life and dating is that there really is no “one” right person for you. There are lot’s of ‘right’ people for you when you’re ready to meet them and the world is literally full of great men and women. We get suckered into a fantasy that we are fed by society and equally kept alive in our minds, of how the perfect person is there if we could just be ourselves.
If you’re reading this after a breakup I’m sure you’d agree there isn’t “Only” a single person who can make you happy.
Only you can make you happy through what you do and what you achieve. And this is really the beauty of it all and where I think it’s worth leaving.
You have so much opportunity in your life to be happy. You just need to make that choice.