The Bad Breakup Recovery Plan

Nothing brings on an emotional apocalypse like being ditched by the woman you love. It’s Cupid’s evil twin kicking you in the gut, and it seems the only option is to wallow in misery. With your confidence broken, it’s hard to face the world again.

The truth is, many have been there before and lived to tell the tale. We talked to relationship experts to find out the quickest and most pain-free way to turn your mindset around -- because it is, after all, all about attitude -- and get back on that horse. This is their advice.

1. Avoid the Rebound
“Don’t wallow in your bad feelings and then stagger out there before you’re ready,” says Tina Tessina, a relationships counselor and the author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again. “You’re just going to set yourself up for the same situation all over again.”

If you’re still feeling like a basket case, you’ll come off like a basket case, and that’s not the “you” you want to put out there. There’s a difference between allowing some time to let the wounds heal and pining over a lost cause.

2. Do Something Manly
According to David Wygant, a relationships expert and the author of Always Talk to Strangers: 3 Simple Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life, it’s important to get away for a weekend. “Book a vacation. I don’t care what your budget is. Go away by yourself or bring a great friend and do something manly,” he advises. “Go kayaking or sailing on a lake, go for a hike, go camping with the boys.”

Whichever activity you choose, the most important thing is to go with trusted buddies and to make yourself a promise. “You must make a pact that you will not weep the entire weekend about how much you miss her.”

It’s too easy to get in the habit of feeling depressed. Doing something manly serves as a reminder of all the other things we enjoy. It gives us the confidence to carry on.

3. Figure out What You Want
The healing process is about forging a new commitment to yourself and identifying your needs in a partner. “This is really important,” says Wygant. “Make a list of what your future girlfriend needs to be like -- what she needs to look like, yes, but also how you want to feel around her, what you want to do with her. The clearer you are about what you want, the more fun dating is going to be when you get back into it.”

Without knowing what you’re looking for, you’ll keep walking into the same situation as before: “The same exact woman who is going to teach you the same exact lessons,” says Wygant. You don’t want to end up back where you started.

4. Take a Position -- Serious or Casual
It’s worth developing the same kind of understanding for your current state. “Do you want to date casually for the next six months to a year and not get involved with anyone?” asks Wygant. “Then be good with that.” This isn’t a feeling to hide either. Girls will actually respect your honesty.

Whether you decide to keep things casual at first or look for a serious commitment, simply taking a position bolsters your confidence. It puts you in control of an aspect of your life that was earlier stripped away.

5. Now Get Back in the Game
Once you’re feeling good, you’ve considered what you want in a relationship, and you’ve identified your needs, it’s time to get back on that horse. “Pick five places where you enjoy meeting women,” suggests Wygant. These could be coffee shops, the gym, a running club, wherever. But remember: This is about recommitting to yourself and meeting like-minded individuals. Choose the places you’re comfortable in. “Those are the places you go to meet people because then you’ll always have something to talk about,” explains Wygant. “Then you won’t get frustrated during this whole process.”

6. Have an Abundant Mindset
Developing an abundant mindset is like always seeing the glass as being half-full. It eliminates your suffering because you believe that even better relationships will come. “This is not the end of the world,” says Tessina. “It may feel like it at first, but it’s just the first experience of many.” Or, as Wygant says, “This is not the only person in the world that is ever going to love you.”

So don’t feel down. Recognize the breakup as the opportunity it is: a time to reconnect with yourself and to determine your own path in life and love.

How to Fight

There’s nothing like the beginning of a relationship. That giddy, soft-focus feeling, when every mushy pop song out there seems to be written just for you. But what about the day the music stops? The first time a couple fights is like Cupid’s arrow in reverse; just like that, all the gooey love turns into yelling and name-calling. It’s a shock, especially after that glorious honeymoon period. Both sides end up wounded and wondering, “What could have gone so wrong?”

Not to worry -- good news is at hand. Not only is nothing wrong, but there are all kinds of ways it can get better.

Learn the Ground Rules
“Some people believe that happy couples don’t fight,” says psychotherapist and relationship expert Dr. Patty Ann Tublin. “Not true. The difference between happy and unhappy couples is how they fight -- constructively or destructively.”

The key is to fight fair, and that means obeying a few simple ground rules. For instance, stay on topic. “Don’t say ‘Oh and another thing … ’ and drag in all kinds of different issues,” says Tublin. “Stick to the subject.” Another important rule: If things start to get out of hand, remove yourself from the situation. “If there’s name-calling and shouting, just say, ‘This conversation isn’t productive anymore. Let’s revisit this at another time.’”

Check Your Expectations
Even before the argument begins, it helps to recognize what’s normal. According to Alisa Bowman, author of Project Happily Ever After, not every dispute needs resolution. Relationships have limits. “Your significant other is not going to be your everything,” explains Bowman. “You won’t always agree, and you won’t always be able to convert the other side to your view -- sometimes you have to agree to disagree. And that’s OK.”

Equally important is understanding that there’s no such thing as winning. “If you win,” says Bowman, “then the other half loses, so in the end you both lose. Your relationship is in worse shape than it was before.” What’s more, the “loser” may harbor resentment, which may in turn fuel the next fight. And so the cycle continues.

Step Back
In Bowman’s experience, many fights boil down to a feeling of not being heard, but we react to this feeling dysfunctionally. “We raise our voices, and that just escalates the fight. It causes people to shut down. Paradoxically, the louder you yell, the less you are heard.” The solution, she says, is to say less and listen more. “If your girlfriend’s yelling at you, don’t fight back. Listen and ask questions. If you know how to do it, you feel really powerful. You can say to yourself: ‘I know I’m a good person, you know I’m a good person, you’re just forgetting it right now.’ It's like a Jedi mind-trick.”

There’s nothing easy about Jedi mind-tricks, of course, especially in the heat of battle. But you can practice without having lots of fights. “Everyone knows someone who talks too much or who’s angry and bitter,” says Bowman. “They’re the ones you practice on. Just practice listening.”

Understand the Triggers
Couples tend to fight over relatively trivial matters, but beneath that complaint, there often lies a more profound emotional issue. “It’s usually a core issue from childhood that’s triggered when we fight,” says marriage counselor Sharon Rivkin, author of Breaking The Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy. “And in order to really fight fair, we need to know what we’re actually fighting about. So I ask people: ‘Why did it make you so mad when he arrived late? Have you ever felt this way before?’”

Digging into one’s childhood to process a blowup over tardiness may sound a bit extreme, but the very act of asking these questions and looking beyond the fight is itself helpful. “No one knows what is going to trigger your girlfriend into feeling upset until it has happened,” explains Rivkin. “But once you learn what that trigger is, you gain empathy and compassion for her. It will bring you closer.”

Act Early
Finally, don’t wait for your 15th fight to start putting this advice into action. “Your first fights are precious, because at the start of a relationship, you’re more likely to be kind,” says Rivkin. “Once you let resentment build, then that can change -- some couples actually try to trigger each other into fights, and it becomes all about blame and shame.”

So when that first fight starts, embrace it. The honeymoon period may have ended, but your real relationship is just beginning.

Learn What Women Want and find out more about men’s style from our sponsor.


The MLT Girl Panel: Measures of Manliness

If you’re like most guys, you’re getting increasingly comfortable wearing pastel-colored clothing, futzing around in the kitchen and investing in grooming products. Times are a-changin’, and there’s science to support it: A 2008 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that men’s perceptions of masculinity differed substantially from what are considered stereotypical masculine traits.

But have you ever stopped to wonder what women think about all this? And even if they approve of the trend in theory, are they sexually attracted to men who embrace traditionally feminine behaviors that society has suddenly deemed not-so-girly? We turned to the Men’s Life Today Girl Panel to find out.












… make dinner.

“Cooking is definitely becoming more manly. I think it can be really sexy.” -- Jaye

“My boyfriend is so proud when he makes an omelet. I just wish he knew how to cook more!” -- Colleen

“Guys who can cook turn me on. When a guy cooks for me, he makes me feel like he wants to take care of me.” -- Erica


… remove body hair.

“A guy who manscapes is a) probably sexually active, b) probably somewhat hairy and c) hygienic, which are definitely pluses. I like a man with some hair, though.” -- Erica

“My boyfriend (thankfully!) doesn’t really have enough body hair to manscape. I wonder what that says about his masculinity.” -- Colleen

“I think male grooming is a good thing, but it becomes too much when the guy spends more time on his grooming than I do.” -- Jaye

… care about what they wear.

“I don’t have an issue with guys spending time picking out outfits as long as they don’t spend as much time on it as I do, and as long as they have other interests too.” -- Jaye

“When a guy subscribes to a fashion deal site, it says he’s trying to watch how much he spends and stay up on the latest trends, which is cute. It’s not cute when a guy has nicer clothes than I do.” -- Erica


… hit the beauty salon.

“I don’t want to see my man at my nail salon.” -- Erica

“While well-manicured nails are nice, seeing a guy get them done is a definite turn-off. I will not be turned on after picking you up at the nail salon.” -- Samantha


… wear pink.

“Wearing pink is totally acceptable if done right. It shows me he’s confident and comfortable with his sexuality.” -- Erica

“Wearing pink is iffy. It can make a guy come off as feminine or too preppy. I prefer more masculine colors.” -- Samantha

… cry during a movie.

“Shedding a few tears at a movie is cute; it shows that the guy is human and in touch with his emotions.” -- Natalia

“I want someone to comfort me during a sad movie, not the other way around. Huge turn-off.” -- Jaye

… bake.

“While cooking is very sexy, a man with a cake … not so much.” -- Samantha

“I don’t have a problem with baking, especially if it’s for me! It would show me that the guy thought I looked great and could actually eat the sweets.” -- Jaye

… wear a bag.

“Man bags are OK. Guys have computers and books and other stuff they have to lug around. Why shouldn’t they be practical?” -- Natalia

“A backpack is the only acceptable man bag.” -- Samantha

How to Get the Girl

Does this sound familiar? You’ve finally worked up the guts to ask an attractive woman you’ve started hanging out with on a date, and she replies with a sympathetic smile and a cliche: “You’re a great guy. But I would hate to ruin our friendship.”

If that’s you, you’ve probably wondered why it is that the guys who treat women like afterthoughts -- rather than the amazing catches they are -- always seem to get the girl. We asked relationship experts this very question, and here is what they said: They don’t.

“It’s a myth that nice guys finish last,” says advice columnist, on-air host and author Andrea Syrtash. “Kindness is consistently ranked as one of the top attributes both men and women are seeking.” If you’re batting zero, say our experts, you don’t need to take a crash course in cruelty; you just need to change your strategy.

Learn the difference between nice and too nice.
Women appreciate kindness, but when a man is so overly accommodating that he no longer presents a challenge, he becomes a doormat, and that’s not a major turn-on. Next time the object of your desire reaches out on a Friday night after her other plans have fallen through, say no. And don’t be too eager to help her assemble furniture or to take her to the airport. “You can still be a support, but you don’t have to be available all of the time,” says Syrtash. “You’re not leaving any intrigue, any element of surprise … and those are all essential elements in a courtship.”

Exude self-confidence.
Self-described “dateologist” Tracey Steinberg agrees that nice guys do not finish last, but insecure guys do. “Women want a man who knows what he’s doing,” says Steinberg. She suggests prepping yourself mentally by telling yourself, “I’m on top of my game. I treat women well, and any woman I choose to spend time with is lucky.” It may take a while before your new attitude takes hold, but Steinberg promises: “When you have that mindset, you get much different results.”

Make your intentions clear.
You may be trying to create the impression that you’re the perfect gentleman by always being on your best behavior. According to Jordan Harbinger, co-founder of The Art of Charm -- a program that teaches men how to meet and attract women -- this is a perfect way to signal that you’re not interested. If you want to send the opposite message, you’ve got to generate some sexual tension. “Flirt and banter,” says Harbinger. “When there’s playful teasing, that brings in a little bit of mystery.” He also suggests acting sooner rather than later. “Many guys wait a year before they finally make a move. By then they’ve missed the window by 364 days.”

Protect yourself.
Harbinger calls the secret hope that one day your crush is going to wake up and fall madly in love with you “the friendship fallacy.” His modus operandi? “I’m not friends with any girls I secretly want to date. I either date her or we become friends with benefits or -- if she’s not interested and I am -- I don’t have a friendship with her.”

It’s also true that some women really are attracted to bad boys. Your object should be to avoid them at all cost. “A woman who’s only interested in jerks will be a nightmare to date,” says Syrtash. “The jerk might land her, but he will have his hands full soon enough.” Says Steinberg: “Don’t waste your time.”

And you can take heart in the fact that you will be vindicated eventually. “Sooner or later, a woman who dates a string of jerks is going to get sick of it,” says Syrtash. “If she’s healthy and intelligent, she will come to realize that kindness ranks very high in terms of what’s great in a man.”

By the time she reaches her senses, however, you’ll long since have moved on to a woman who values and loves your kindness and confidence -- proof positive that yes, indeed, nice guys can finish first.


My Best Date Ever

If your girl rolls her eyes whenever you suggest dinner and a movie (i.e., every night you go out), it’s time to step up your dating game. We asked the girls of the Men’s Life Today Girl Panel™ to describe the best dates they’ve ever had, in hopes that their stories will lead to a story or two starring your girl and you.


A high-altitude hike:
One of the very first dates I went on with my boyfriend was a hiking trip in the Pocono Mountains, which are near his house. It was a perfect opportunity to get to know each other and create some memorable inside jokes. To this day, we still laugh about a fellow hiker who veered off the trail and nearly went somersaulting down a cliff. Plus, the bird’s-eye view of the mountains, forests and rivers was romantic and gave us a breathtaking backdrop for our first pictures together. -- Stella

A sunset cruise:
One of my most unique dates was a simple walk in New York City. We went downtown and boarded the Staten Island Ferry (a commuter ferry) for a “sunset cruise” of the Statue of Liberty. Once we arrived on Staten Island, we had dinner and drinks near the ferry. It wasn’t the most glamorous date, but it was unlike anything I’d ever done before. -- Arielle

An impromptu road trip:
 My date invited me to get coffee at his favorite coffee shop. He picked me up and drove to a tiny town about an hour away. It was a beautiful spring day that was perfect for a ride, and the town itself was charming. We walked around and checked out the antique shops, took in the river views and, of course, had that cup of coffee. -- Natalia

A “Dinosaur Day”:
We started at the Museum of Natural History and spent the afternoon checking out the fossils. Then we went uptown to my favorite BBQ place, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Picking a theme made it more fun. -- Michelle

A day off:
My boyfriend and I both called in sick to work. We walked around a park, got pastries, played Ping-Pong at a pool hall and then got dinner -- all while the rest of the city was working away! -- Hayley

A surprise picnic:
My boyfriend surprised me with a packed picnic basket (salads, cheeses and drinks) all ready to go when I got home from work, and he took me to a romantic place in a nearby park to enjoy it. -- Stacey

A seaside exodus:
My boyfriend and I decided to check out a seaside town on the countryside that we’d heard was beautiful. We hit a ton of traffic, and it took us almost seven hours to get there; we still felt really lucky to have that time together. We arrived just before the sun set and we sat on the sand to soak in the last rays. Afterward, we went to a lounge and played a low-key game of Scrabble. -- Lauren

A better-than-a-movie date:
My boyfriend and I are both big movie buffs, so for the Oscars he took me to a viewing party hosted by a comedian who told jokes during the commercial breaks. -- Michelle

A medieval battlefield:
We went to a park that’s part medieval museum. The topic didn’t really interest us, but the snow-covered architecture was gorgeous. We threw snowballs and watched the sun set. Something about finding a new place to explore together was fun and romantic. -- Colleen