Etiquette for Exes: What Next After a Spectacular Breakup


The Legendary Ex cut you off with the coldness of Marie Kondo throwing away dog-eared books from your childhood. No feelings and all business: “Goodbye.” That’s how the Truly Rich do it, right? With faces impassive and feelings frozen in bursting hearts. And it appears very clearly that you and the Ex will never get back together, so what do you do now?

Moments after
Do not cry. You are, after all, part of the Truly Rich set, and your feelings can also be sheathed under a well-arranged face (or a refreshing dose of Botox—don’t get mad, get beautiful!). If tears must fall, do it in the darkness of your room or under the cover of a rain shower or in the style of Meryl Streep, with just one traitorous droplet sliding gracefully down your cheek.

A day later
Do not beg. Okay, maybe just once to check if the Ex was pulling an elaborate practical joke (you got me good, Ex!). If reasons for the breakup are unclear, you are entitled to one phone call and a solid explanation. If the Ex throws around the phrase, “I’m not just into you,” take a breath and proceed like your lawyer: “Kindly elaborate in full.”

What you should NOT do is wail into your iPhone like a banshee. Please, sirs and madams, maintain dignity. When the Ex coughs up a satisfying reason (“It was your strong preference for kale that ultimately made it unworkable” or “You do not spark joy in me anymore”), KonMari that phone call immediately. 

Three days later
It’s okay to grieve. I am not speaking from experience, but I hear that the opening melody of “Run To You” by Whitney Houston (I know that when you look at me…), the season-appropriate “Miss You Most at Christmas Time” by Mariah Carey (Every other season comes along and I’m all right, but then I miss you...), or a preview of what-might-have-been via Shania Twain’s “You’ve Got A Way” are all excellent hosts for your broken emotions. Turn up the speakers and dim the lights for the best experience. Do this alone.

Five days later
Oh. My. God. Do not go buck wild as if you have been freed from a Catholic convent. Do not suddenly wear crop tops everywhere. Do not make the switch from Carolina Herrera to Versus Versace. Do not shave your head, walk barefoot outdoors, and eat Cheetos all day. You are still the same person (just, you know, alone).

The first weekend
If it’s just too much, I say share the burden via a Netflix-and-cry session with your TRBFFs (Truly Rich Best Friends). All those hours spent on the phone listening to them expound on the most elegant way to throw a unisex party for two children of different ages (solution: do not do it) must now be paid back in full by a mandatory staycation at your house. You will watch the following (many spoilers ahead):


Notting Hill, especially the scene when Julia Roberts instructs a journalist to ask his question again: “Yes. Anna, how long are you intending to stay here in Britain?” And she responds, while training her eyes on Hugh Grant, “Indefinitely.”

Love Affair, especially the part when Warren Beatty discovers that the reason why Annette Bening did not keep their rendezvous many years ago. It was because she was struck down by a car—and then they embrace.

An Affair to Remember, the original Love Affair, expecially the part especially the part when Cary Grant discovers that the reason why Deborah Kerr did not keep their rendezvous many years ago. It was because she was struck down by a car—and then they embrace.

The Bridges of Madison County, especially the scene when La Streep battles her emotions in silence. Should she fling the car door open and leap out of the truck to runaway with her lover, Clint Eastwood, or not? She did not.

Bridesmaids, especially the part when Kristen Wiig unleashes the most jaw-dropping meltdown at Maya Rudolph’s Paris-themed bridal shower. Because this is what you want to do right now: rage incoherently.

One week later
After going through most of Kübler-Ross Five Stages of Grief, including my personal favorite stage, All the Cheese at the Spiral Buffet, you should tackle the task of divvying up the assets. I know this can be awkward (and tasteless), but your years together were filled with very fabulous gifts.

So, should you request for the return of two puppies you gave him for Christmas? What about your discontinued Guerlain fragrance, which the Ex brought on a trip to South America as “a reminder of your skin.” You thought you’d get it back, but the Ex came home with the present of breaking your heart instead.

But really, if it is a family heirloom like a Cartier wristwatch from 13 Rue de la Paix or a sentimental piece such as the shawl crocheted by your abuela, please ask for it back. The rest (the handwritten letters, photos, both physical and digital, the clothes) are debris that must be swept away or thrown dramatically into the sea.

Three months later
They say, in the age of social media, your exes live forever, and that is very much true when, with just one tap of an app, you can check if the Ex still wears that favorite green sweatshirt (or is now too large to fit in it—ha!). But checking on your Ex, often and always, through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram is called stalking, and thus highly discouraged.

Do not like all of the Ex’s posts about cathedral ceilings or leaf-embellished plates. Do not send the Ex a message with a loaded “Hello” accompanied by the desperate Face Throwing A Kiss emoji. Do not call the Ex. These may lead to a rekindling of the familiar, which will almost always end up in another mess.

watch now

I know of one smart Truly Rich who deleted all the social media apps on her device just to avoid the very temptation. For months, all she did on her iPhone was the offline game 2048. She is now a champion of both the game and her heart. I suggest this.

I’d also like to add that monitoring your Ex is very dangerous, because one day you might see on the Ex’s newsfeed a photo of Your Replacement, who may happen to be technically smarter (and also 10 years younger than you; I have no words). You will feel very sad. Needless to say, you are barred from contacting Your Replacement—even if an Alexis-Colby-versus-Krystelle-Carrington face-off sounds appealing.

Nine months later
As my mother once said in one spectacular moment of self-pity: “Get over it!” Goodness, it’s almost been a year. For the sake of everyone around you, unless you are asked about how you are feeling about your lost love, and provided that it is a very close friend or your mom who is asking, do not talk about him anymore. If I hear you warble about how you belong together one more time, I will have no other choice but to pick up a most hateful piece of bread and make you eat it. Do not be a Debbie.

When you finally run into each other
Because Manila is a convoluted Venn diagram, you will bump into the Ex at some Truly Rich soiree or another. I am certain you will be dressed well for this moment, because you are always immaculately turned out—and because you have been preparing for this inevitable encounter every single day since the breakup. How to act? In the most positive manner that your heart can bear.

Do not stand beside each other and only speak through your eyes, which will be either glossy and mournful or piercing with hot anger. Ignoring your Ex just makes the situation even more uncomfortable for the both you and the people around you. What to talk about? How about we start with a simple “Hello.” (Not Adele’s “Hello.”)
Final thoughts
Can I just say that once you’ve freed yourself from the idea of the Ex, you will find yourself opening up to many joyful things. Maybe you’ll fall back into an old hobby like the photography of flowers (which he never approved of) or enjoy the company of new friends, one of which you may find is worth trying all of that again. But right now, do yourself a favor: Wipe the tears from your eyes, dress up in your most delicious clothes, and delve into something unexpected like, say, penning an advice column about really expensive hearts. 

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C.C. Coo
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