In my peri-collegiate years, I had a habit of mixing tapes to cope with the aftermath of thwarted relationships. You could gauge the depth of my heartbreak by the amount of Sade I put into the mix or the depth of my anger by the amount of early Melissa Etherige.

Another favorite for the angry tapes was the Eurythmics' "You Hurt Me. I Hate You." Subtlety clearly was not my priority.

This survival technique worked well when I was 20 and dating for sport: no real objectives, a "long-term" relationship could be counted in semesters. But as I've, gulp, aged and arrived at the point where I am dating because I want to find someone with whom I can build a home and family, the pathos of a relationship's end has a different tone.


What if the man I am supposed to marry got frustrated and moved to Brazil?

It involves hopes dashed and expectations crushed. More so, it beckons the inevitable, weary march back into the dating pool, wondering if the man I am supposed to marry got frustrated too and settled for Plan B. Or, maybe he took that job offer in Sao Paulo, Brazil, ensuring that we won't meet again unless I decide to take my pale skin south for Carnival.

Around that time is when I announce that I am going to get a cat and become one of those spinsters who wills her life savings to her feline companions.

KEEP HOPE ALIVE

If you actually start looking for Fluffy, it's time to snap to attention.

Even after a very hard breakup, it's essential that -- beyond whatever feelings of despair you may feel on the surface -- you remain aware that somewhere, deep down, there IS a kernel of hope. If you can't find it, keep looking.

Particularly for older singles or anyone who has dated a lot, it is natural to feel hopeless when it doesn't work out especially if you thought it might. (And especially if you feel that you've already gone out with every other available person in your gender/age target group and have already been told that you're "too picky" for ruling out hermaphrodites.)

If you can't find a kernel of hope, keep looking.

Just as Sony doesn't pack extra parts in a stereo case, God didn't create you to be alone.

RESIST THE URGE TO WALLOW

After a recent breakup, two or three weeks slipped by without my noticing. I was upset and confused about my feelings, and embarrassed at not being able to bounce back into the swing of things. So I hid.

"You're doing WHAT?" a good friend roared at me. Hiding, she bellowed, is the WORST possible response. She's right.

Wallowing is an understandable but totally counter-productive answer to disappointment. It does nothing except compound your misery and, often, turns a minor setback into a devastation zone that affects other areas of your life, as well as future relationships.

Post-ratiocination, you're called upon to walk the fine line between feeling your feelings and giving in to the inertia that makes your bed, the TV, excessive eating and other quasi-depressive activities seem far more seductive than is productive.

If you need time to recoup, fine. By all means, take it. But set limits on it to ensure you don't pine away.


Be proactive: set a moping time.

Ask your friends if you've been moping for too long and set a deadline. Give yourself until, say, next Thursday to welter in misery. After that, pledge to begin moving beyond your funk. Or at least to try.

Alternatively, try setting aside a period of time each day: you're allowed to wallow between, say, 7 and 7:30 each night. If you find yourself thinking about HIM (or HER) at 9:13 a.m., tell yourself you'll think about that during the allotted time.

Don't laugh. It works.

Perhaps the best way to combat the urge to wallow is to give your intellect a say.

FOCUS ON THE PROCESS

Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but it's not readily available to you while you negotiate an emotional morass. What is available to you, though, is hindsight from the past.

How many times in the past did you waste several weeks moping only to run into the object of your thwarted affection and wonder, "Oy! What was I thinking?!" Or, once through a difficult period in your life, how many times have you realized that you learned something important from the ordeal?

Focus on the knowledge that, given time, you'll be able to look back on your experience and take important lessons from it.

This may not seem like a helpful thing to hear when you’re still smarting, but you have to intellectually acknowledge that you will take something positive out of the pain you’re feeling now, even if just now you haven’t the foggiest notion of what it is.

ACT THE PART

You have to trust that, in time, it will become clear. Until then, pretend.

You'll be amazed at how much acting like you feel a certain way helps you actually feel that way.

Acting like you feel a certain way actually helps you feel that way.

I remember a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I received an e-mail telling me that an ex-flame had gotten engaged. Sure, I was a little jealous of his fiancée and a little annoyed at the fact that he was getting married and I wasn't. More so, I dreaded the inevitable looks of compassionate pity from people asking if I'd heard. Staring at the screen, I decided that I would be happy for him. And if I wasn't actually happy, I'd act the part.

It worked.

The first two or three times someone asked me, in a concerned tone, if I'd heard the news, I sunnily replied that I thought it was great and I was sure they'd be very happy. After that, I was surprised to realize that I meant it.

With a breakup, tell yourself that you know it's for the best. That you know something good will come out of it. That it's better it happened now rather than later down the road when you would have had more invested or, worse yet, if you had gotten married and ended up in a lawyer's office.

Keep telling yourself until you listen.

LEARN WHAT YOU CAN AND MOVE ON

As things start to become more clear -- and you see what was wrong with the relationship and what you should have done differently – identify areas you can work on. Consider enlisting the help of someone you trust (a rabbi, or a really smart friend) to break down the problems. Identify those you can do something about and those over which you have no control. Work on the first set.

Determine what qualities this man or woman had that you want in future suitors, and what traits he or she exhibited that you don't.

GET UP AGAIN

And, when you're ready, get back on that horse.

After my recent disappointment, I knew I needed to date right away or I'd fixate on my former beau. But nothing in the way of romantic action appeared –- in spite of my efforts –- for weeks.

Once it did, I immediately started to worry that I'd be comparing the New Guy to the Old Guy, and of course New Guy would come up short.

Much to my surprise, I was wrong.

I am comparing New Guy to Old Guy and thinking, "Wow! Old Guy was never this considerate." "Wow! Old Guy didn't listen to me this well." "Wow! New Guy and I have much more compatible outlooks."

In other words, Old Guy saw before I did that our relationship, however great it seemed, wasn't The One. Part of what hurts so much about being dumped is that it wasn't your decision.

It's essential to remember that God works in strange ways. Sometimes, He gives you the clarity that a relationship isn't meant to be. Sometimes He gives it to the other person.

If you trust that God loves you, you'll want to go wherever He takes you and understand that the He's taking you there for a reason.

And if that doesn't work, go get a Gloria Gaynor LP and blast, "I Will Survive." Because you will.

 

The author thanks Rabbi Noach Orlowek and Rebbetzin Holly Pavlov for some of the concepts in this essay.