Following a relationship break-up, a woman’s first instinct is often to sit home, curled up and crying. Scrolling through old texts and photos of happier times—wadded tissues and wine at the ready—she wanders down Memory Lane and wonders:  What went wrong?

Ladies, it’s the worst thing you can do. Dwelling on the past will not help. (Yes. Do as I say, not as I do.) Other do nots:  Do not stalk him on social media or drive by his house. Do not go where you think you might run into him by “accident” and avoid the places you frequented together. Honey, he’s done. You need to be, too. Forget about closure or answers. You won’t get them. And I’ll tell you why.

Years ago when I was writing romance novels I used to give a pretty damn good workshop to writers and aspiring writers on male vs female point of view. Most (ok, many) female writers can’t “do” male VP. And most men can’t “do” female. Male writers’ female characters tend to talk and act and think like men; and women’s male character actions, thoughts and speech are decidedly feminine. Newsflash:  there is a profound difference between the two genders. (Duh!)  Speech patterns, thought processes, expression of emotions . . . they are very dissimilar in men and women. And getting it wrong is getting it wrong.

Let’s take the subject of emotional expression . . . and please, hear me out first, before you jump on the “it’s different now!” soapbox. Most men of my generation were taught early on as little boys to quash their emotions. “Only girls cry.” “Suck it up.” “Be a man.” It’s what they heard—so it’s what they learned. The only socially and societally acceptable emotion they were allowed to show was anger. Think about the high school athlete, who by dropping a pass or missing a field goal, loses the game. Which is more condoned by his peers? His punching of a wall or his shedding of tears? Little Baby Boomer girls like me, on the other hand, were allowed all the emotions in the feelings’ rainbow except anger. This attitude prevails still. It’s just not ladylike to get livid and let loose. Think about it. When a woman gets angry and explodes? Well, she’s either a bitch, on the rag or crazy. (Trust me. I’ve read lots of books on this. I’m not just talking out my ass here. BTW, that’s a characteristic of male speech—vulgarity and profanity. Raised on military bases, where f**k is used as a comma, I am definitely guilty as charged!)

So what does this have to do with break-ups? Let’s connect-the-dots . . . Because men’s toolbox of emotion is basically limited to one screwdriver (anger) with a couple exchangeable heads (blame and distance), it’s their go-to regardless of the situation. Sorrow, guilt, remorse, shame, embarrassment, empathy, compassion . . .  none are very damn likely to occur in a break-up situation. Hence, when the relationship ends, and you want answers and reasons and closure, so you press the point  . . . guess what? He pulls out his anger/blame/distance 3-in-1 tool to fix the situation. And you’re just a crazy bitch on the rag.

So what do you do?  You do you.  (And I’m not talking about reaching into that bedside table drawer.) Get off the couch. Force yourself to get dressed (preferably up), do your hair, put on makeup, high heels if ya got ‘em. Run your errands. The mere fact you’re overdressed as sh*t for RiteAid or Shoprite will garner glances. And likely a comment or two. But I guarantee some woman will probably compliment you on your shoes or outfit. And some man is going to smile, if not strike up a random conversation. (No, you’re not interested in Slick Willy who sidles up next to you at the meat counter with a “Wassup, pretty lady? Damn, girl, you lookin’ fine today.” But trust me. It will help your mood.) And BTW, be extra nice to the check-out people. Smile! Pretend you’re an actress in a movie. How charming and friendly can you be—when your heart is breaking? Think of it as a challenge to pull off for 20 minutes.

And speaking of getting dressed and getting out . . . do it! Take yourself out. Go to that restaurant you wanted to try—but he thought the food was too expensive or trendy or spicy for his dietary requirements. (FYI, a sad reality when dating older.  I once had a guy ask if I could, because of his diverticulitis, remove the seeds when I made eggplant parmigiana! [Ah, the answer is no.]) So what if you’re alone at a table for two! Feign confidence and you’ll come across as mysterious. Again, invent a story, play a role and enjoy the meal and a really, really good wine.

Experts will tell you to hit the gym, get a new hair style, try a new lipstick color. Do something to improve yourself. And do something you’ve been putting off—because when you were coupled, you didn’t have the time. Now you do. (I, for one, am seriously considering taking an Italian class.) Take yourself out of your comfort zone. Take a trip alone, start a blog (Hello?), hell, jump out of a freakin’ airplane! (with a parachute, please) The fear alone will push the hurt to the side, if only, temporarily. Anything that you can do which will occupy your body and mind will serve—over time—to heal your heart.

That’s the way it works—the process of getting over and starting over. Baby steps. A day at a time. One day without crying becomes two, then a week . . . until crying just becomes sadness. And that, too, will fade. With time. Sure, memories will crop up out of nowhere. And they will hurt! Until the day they don’t. When you can laugh or smile fondly and recognize the past as the past—and appreciate the good times (after all, you did love him, so he couldn’t be all bad)—well, then, my friend, you’ll be over him.

So repeat after me:  Getting over a break-up requires time. In the meantime, fill that time with girlfriends, family, new experiences, a refocus on some goal set aside . . .  Buy yourself flowers (or jewelry–I have a couple of really nice pieces in my “F**k You” collection) and borrow from arguable one of the best advertising taglines in the 20th century–JUST DO YOU.

Now, back to that bedside table drawer  . . .

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