‘Sleep on any texts’: How to handle your break-up with (some) dignity

Yeah, you’re crying again


Everyone gets dumped.

And to some extent, this is good for you. Blistering heartbreak teaches you about yourself, and it teaches you that people are essentially unknowable and therefore trying is a fruitless exploit. What’s more, after the dust settles, you will likely acknowledge that the reason this relationship ended is because it was not working. The dust may take several months to settle, but it will settle.

There are, though, certain ways to accelerate your recovery. I asked Tab writers – all of whom have been on the coalface of a blistering dumping at some point – for their tips on how to handle a break-up with some dignity. Obviously, a lot of them are about social media.

Unfollow them on social media

We’d advise this is one of your first acts. However, do not de-friend. De-friending is too obvious, too petty. It suggests you are ‘not OK’. They’ll realise what you’ve done pretty quickly – the first time they settle in for their first post-break-up stalk – and they will screw up their face, and think very uncharitable thoughts about you.

Unless it ended awfully – really, horrifyingly badly – then just unfollow them. They won’t know, but you won’t have to see any of their updates.

Don’t slag them off

Firstly, nobody really cares, but more importantly, the second you start bitching about them it’s guaranteed to find its way back to them and they’ll respond in kind. At best, you look petty and attention-seeking; at worst, like you’re really not over it. Incidentally, this will also put anyone else off dating you: mud-slinging is cruel and unnecessary. People will be worried you’ll be as vicious about them one day.

This – obviously – also applies to your sex life. Definitely do not talk trash about your sex life (‘three years and he never made me come’, etc). General rule: don’t say something about someone else that you wouldn’t want them to say about you.

This is also important on social media. Even if you’re not following each other anymore, don’t forget that their friends you forgot to delete will probably still see it and might send the screenshots to your ex. And don’t do the kind of weird, soul-searching status that will accidentally go viral on Reddit. Call a mate, call your mum (who has to listen to you). Play. It. Cool.

If you see them around, pretend everything is fine

But only if you can actually do this. If you can’t, hide behind something (seriously – I once hid behind a tree).

Do not pretend you know better than your friends who have gone through break ups – they’re right, you can’t stay friends

You think you know better, that you can totally handle it. You’ve been close for years so it just doesn’t make any sense you know? We can’t just not speak ever! Look around you. Listen to your friends. They are right. You need to go cold turkey.

Do not speak to them. Do not like their profile photos. Do not send them things you think they would find funny at 3am. Don’t revisit old inside jokes or gossip about mutual friends. It’s boring, it’s lonely, it’s quiet, but it is imperative. Talking to someone and sustaining that friendship, pretending it’s not ‘weird’ for either of you, is like picking at a scab over and over again, peeling off a grim plaster to pull off little bits of skin at the edges with “I saw this and thought of you lol!”. Give up, rip the plaster off quickly, get it over with.

And for God’s sake don’t ever look at their tagged photos.

Stop hitting up your mutual friends for information on them

Ben is your mate. Ben is also friends with your ex. It’s always been like this, and it was never a problem while you were together. You never really had any interest in hearing what Ben and your ex got up to on their boring lads nights out together: who they met, what they drank, where they went out afterwards, how fucked they were, what they talked about, did they take anything, who any of the girls in their tagged photos are.

But now, inexplicably but predictably, you care about that. It’s hard to have a conversation with Ben now without bringing up your ex. You laugh carelessly and bring up a photo you’ve seen on Facebook, or a shared memory, and Ben is suddenly guarded. Or you ask how much they’ve been in contact, what they’re up to, do they seem happy, do they seem sad? You’re costing your friendship over inconsequential gossip, stop it, and stop it now.

Get snapped in pictures with other boys/girls

Ideally ones they were always a bit neurotic about e.g. girls or guys you work with, one of your mates who they were always a bit funny about. Make sure their arm is draped around you. Not in an obvious way, so it looks staged. Just in a way that would appear – to  someone who is feeling a bit sensitive –  like you’re probably shagging. And like you’ve wanted to for months.

Yes, it is petty. But it will make you feel a bit better

On the other hand, be a bit elusive

Definitely make sure there are a few fit pictures of you on social media. But don’t go overboard. You will look like you are trying too hard, because you are. Don’t share everything you’re doing. You want them to hear on the grapevine that you’ve been at that house party – which they will, because on some level people are loving your drama. But you do not want them to see the evidence of your attendance smeared across Facebook. That cheapens it. Remember: the imagination is far wilder than a drunk group picture. If they can’t see you, they’re going to imagine much worse. They’re going to imagine you getting off with EVERYONE. They’re going to get suspicious that their housemate – who was also at that party and didn’t get home till 9am the next morning – actually shagged you, and not the other person whom they hooked up with that night.

Uh ohhhh

Always sleep on any texts

I once sent my ex-boyfriend a BROKEN HEART EMOJI. Obviously, this is totally humiliating, and unacceptable behaviour, even in the 21st century. The first sub-rule of this rule is do not use emojis in any correspondence with your ex.

Anyway – you’re supposed to have deleted their number. Obviously you haven’t (what if you need it? FOR WHAT) and you’re composing three or four texts to them in the ‘Notes’ app on your iPhone every day. This is, to some extent, fine. It is therapeutic. It helps you to exorcise some of your rage about being chucked by someone who can’t grow a beard properly. But absolutely do not send these texts. Always wait until the next day. Because inevitably – and it is inevitable – you will compose most of these texts in the evening, after the distractions of your day have ended and you have too much time to think. Or worse, after the distractions of your day have ended and you are drunk. And you are not – whatever anyone tells you – at your most eloquent when you are drunk.

Maybe you’ll still send the texts the next day. It’s more likely you won’t, or you’ll cut them down by about eight lines so they all fit on a single iPhone screen. NEVER SEND ONE THAT EXCEEDS THIS LENGTH. Basically have some dignity. We all text people we shouldn’t but this is actually one of the most surefire ways to feel shit – and one of the most avoidable. Put your phone down and have a fucking shot.

Go on Tinder

You don’t actually have to go on any dates, but just replace the time you’d spend messaging them on talking to some other guys. It’ll show you the sheer number of other people out there.

On the other hand, do not spend too much time on Tinder as it will show you the sheer number of people out there who you would never, ever consider dating.

Do all the stuff you didn’t have time to do when you were together

Remember all the stuff that made you quietly resent your relationship? Like whenever you said you were going to the gym and then she said she couldn’t wait till 9pm to eat and could you just come straight back? Or when you said you wanted to go out on Saturday and he reminded you – piously – that you’re meant to be joining him for lunch with his godparents on Sunday so it’s probably better ‘we’ get an early night?

Go to the fucking gym and then go straight out.

In fact, go out, all the time

But not too much that your mates notice and start worrying about you and saying things like “is Harriet, okay? She’s been drinking a lot lately”. The rationale behind this is, it keeps you busy, drunk and ensures you are seen by more attractive members of the opposite sex than if you were crying into another episode of Girls at home. If you’re not ready to pull yet, that’s OK, at least they’ll know you’re out there for when you are ready. Hell, you can even practice talking to them, because if you’ve just come out of a long term, the chat isn’t going to be quite there.

The girls’ night out is a cliched break up ritual for good reason, so who cares if it’s a Wednesday night out and only Marie and Chantelle are heading out? Join them, it’ll be fun, or at the very least another one of those “post-break up phase” stories.

Goodbye my lover

But don’t sleep with someone straight away unless you genuinely want to

If you’re just doing because you’re upset, it will probably end up making you feel worse.

Make hanging out with mutual friends your problem, not your friends’ problem

Your mates are being ‘there’ for you. And that means both of you. Which is fine. Playing territorial is the sort of cruel, despotic behaviour

It will be tough but have a chat post-break up to figure out how you’re going to handle birthdays/nights out with mutual friends. Going to the same thing might be too tough right now so find a way to alternate who goes to what and don’t get too pissy about the stuff it means you’ll miss. If you can do all this and be grown-up about it, your friends will think much more of you than if you turn every Friday night into an argument.


Wallowing is lazy. One writer says that her friend gives people 30 days to get over a break-up and then tells them they’re being pathetic. She thought he was being insensitive until she realised he was right. If you spend three months feeling sorry for yourself you will get over it – but you’re going to waste three months feeling sorry for yourself.

If it was their fault, they’re not worth it. If it was your fault, apologise and move on. Force yourself back into a routine and focus on filling your time doing things you love, or find something new to love.

Do not find a new person to love

That is displacement. It does not end well. 

Realise that, sadly, it’s unlikely you’ll get back to being friends any time in the immediate future

It’s a cliche, but time and space is the only way to stop feeling so shit about the whole horrible mess. This is one of the worst things because they are likely to be the person you text when you wake up, when you put on that coat they helped you choose and throughout every moment of every day. But no matter how well you know each other, for one reason or another, you’ve decided not to be together any more. You have to accept that or you’re going to get paralysed by the past. 

Every time you want to call them, have another friend to call instead

There’s normally one point in the day that’s the worst – the walk home from work, that quiet moment before you go to sleep, which makes you think about them the most. Any time you get the urge to call them at this point, have a designated friend who you ring instead. Tell them before and they’ll know why you’re calling, and can distract you with other things or remind you why you shouldn’t be calling them.

Breed rats

Rats won’t leave you. Not like Becky.

Wise advice courtesy of Grace Vielma, Roisin Lanigan, Bella Eckert, Daisy Bernard, Craig O’Callahan, Eleni Mitzali, Josh Kaplan, Caela McCann, Katrina Margolis.