Timeline of a breakup recovery
Excerpted from If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse: Questions and Thoughts for Loud, Smart Women in Turbulent Times, by Gina Barreca, published on Tuesday by St. Martin’s Press.
You’ve seen those timelines illustrating how your health improves from the very moment you stop smoking, right? Such charts come from august groups like the American Cancer Society and prove that simply stopping something that’s bad for you makes your life infinitely better.
Now, let’s consider the idea of how leaving a bad boyfriend could improve one’s life immediately—if one could just stop letting one’s heart break over him.
(This would apply to anyone leaving a broken relationship, but I’ll stick with heteronormative language here, since that’s what I can best speak to from experience.)
Here, then, is my timeline, with associated benefits, for exiting a rotten relationship:
Within eight hours: Mascara stops running because fewer tears stream down face. Need for tissues decreases.
Within twelve hours: Desire to commit mayhem and throw objects decreases. Ability to form sentences not containing swear-words improves dramatically. Need to make sarcastic, critical, ironic, malicious, vengeful comments about everything in immediate environment becomes less constant.
Within twenty-four hours: Sniffling becomes intermittent, but savage ripping up of photographs increases.
Within twenty-four to thirty-six hours: Chance of making pitiful phone calls during the day decreases. Anger sets in, but ability to look in the mirror without weeping returns. Ability to shower and put on clean clothes increases. Need to talk about the horror of the relationship is almost impossible to stop. (Warn your friends.)
Within forty-eight hours: Ability to taste and smell improves. Anger is paired with increasing sense of relief and gradual re- awakening of self-esteem. Chance of making bitter phone calls in the middle of the night decreases.
Within seven days: Full, restful sleep is again possible. Anger becomes tinged with ability to laugh at various relationship miseries. Friends no longer fear hysterical outbursts. Ability to move about in public increases.
Within one to three months: Circulation improves. Walking, eating, sleeping, and exercising all become easier. Chance of calling him up and slamming down phone without speaking significantly decreases.
Within three to nine months: Energy increases. Flirting becomes possible.
Within one year: Excess risk of heartbreak drops to near normal levels. New interests replace sense of being shackled to the past. Ability to see erstwhile lover in a crowd without gasping and weeping now possible.
Within two years: Wondering why it was ever such a big deal in the first place is typical here. Big miserable memories turn into little events you barely remember. You might even be able to recall certain moments with a smile, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
The important thing is this: you’re healthy again.