Back in the Dating Pool

by Sara Stillman

Break-up survival guide
by Sara Stillman

An American Demographic survey found that men are more likely to deal with a breakup by drinking, while women would rather write in a journal. But if you really want to get over a breakup, follow these nine easy phases...hey, it worked for me!

Phase 1, Self Pity:
You feel like crap and you're allowed to feel that way. So, cry, throw-up, pity yourself, smoke cigarettes, stop eating and wallow in your sadness. Soon, you'll start looking as pitiful as you feel.

Phase 2, Self Medication:
Drinking is over-rated. Instead, find friends with Xanax so you can sleep through the night. Self medication gets a bad rep for no good reason.

Phase 3, Self Indulgence:
You need to start putting yourself first, and if you can't spoil yourself, who will? Forget the rules: Eat ice cream for lunch, splurge on the something you'd never usually buy yourself, treat yourself to a massage.

Phase 4, Self Help:
Get a good therapist. By now, even your best friends are getting tired of listening to your sob story, so it's time to start paying someone who can't tell you to shut up and move on.

Phase 5, Test the Water:
You're getting sleep, seeing a therapist, and lost enough weight from your break-up diet to fit into your skinny jeans, start going out. Everyone will look like they suck. They probably do. Accept it and move on.

Phase 6, Test your Strength:
Say goodbye to your ex: Stop calling and stop letting your ex call you. Most of all, stop denying that the little conversations mean nothing. They are holding you back from moving on. Face it. While you're at it, give all the clothes that he left at your place to Good Will.

Phase 8, Test the Scene:
Go on a date: Even if you have absolutely no interest, could care less if there's a connection, and don't feel like making conversation, it's good to get out there. Expect to think only of your ex during and to be miserable afterwards.

Phase 9, Enjoy Yourself
Some dates will suck, but all it takes is one that doesn't. When you find yourself getting excited about someone new, smile. Your road to recovery is all downhill from here.

Everyone I know starts the New Year off full of hope, so I was surprised to learn — through some less than scientific research — that January is the most popular breakup month.

Sure enough, Tom and Penelope ended things during this frigid winter month, as did the love birds that were Bennifer. Then in a shocking confirmation of tabloid rumors, Hollywood power couple Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt announced their split on January 7th. So if you find yourself reading this, heartbroken and miserable, take comfort: You're not alone.

In fact, nearly 60 percent of people between the ages of 18-34 have recently gone through a breakup, according to a survey conducted by American Demographics.

Miraculously, even the most painful breakup wounds heal: Penelope Cruz had a thing for Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck is now dating Jennifer Garner and Jennifer Lopez married Marc Anthony. And, believe it or not, even you may decide that you're ready to dive back into the dating pool. Of course, you probably won't be ready to get hitched just months after a heartbreaking split, a la J.Lo...but there will come a time when you'll want to get out and enjoy yourself. "It took several months," says Sam, a 27-year-old L.A. stylist who was in a year-long relationship. "Then one day a cloud lifted. I was sick of feeling sorry for myself. I was ready to move on."

Ready or Not?
But thinking you're ready and actually being ready are two different stories. Angel, a 27-year-old Marketing Manager in NYC, was in a relationship for over a year. "A month after my breakup I went out with this horrid man," she confesses. "I was trying too hard. I had to step back and say, 'I'm not ready yet.' That first date, when you go out with someone after being in love for so long, you are looking for feelings that you aren't ready to have yet."

When I talked to Jaime, a 27-year-old writer from L.A., she was getting dressed for a blind date. She and her live-in boyfriend of three and a half years had just broken up a month before. "I don't think I'm in a place right now to date anyone," she confesses, "Which makes me wary about going out with this guy tonight. I want to tell him I'm PMSing and five pounds heavier than usual, but you can't say that on a first date! I'm not sure how it's going to go, but you never know until you try."

Sam has tried, tried and tried again. "Going out with new people gives me perspective on my last relationship," he says. "Now I have a good idea of what I want and what I don't."

With dating new people, comes hooking up with new people — and that can be really strange after being in a serious relationship. Susan, a 26-year-old editor from New York, actually had a panic attack the first time she went home with a guy. "I was lying in his bed when I felt him take his boxers off," she recalls. "I jumped up, ran to the bathroom and threw up. I hadn't seen another guy's penis in four and a half years and the thought of it freaked me out."

Angel agrees: "The first week after my ex and I broke up I kissed two different guys," she says. "It was horrible. I was so used to being with one person who I was madly in love with."

Breakup Epilogue
Just a few months after her horrible hook-ups, Angel kissed someone on New Year's Eve. Someone she actually liked. "It is so liberating to kiss a new boy and think about someone new," she says enthusiastically. "You don't know what's going to happen or what to expect, but in the end you get to take control of what you want. I feel more focused and awake and alive than I ever felt."

Susan is now dating someone wonderful. "I don't even think about my ex anymore," she says. And Jamie actually had fun on her date. "I don't know if he's my type," she says, "But we're going out again on Sunday."

Yes, dating again can actually

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