I won’t sugarcoat it: Breakups are the WOAT (Worst Of All Time). But there’s a silver lining to the demise of your relationship, and it’s the opportunity to emerge as the best version of yourself on the other side of it. Once you’ve allowed yourself the necessary time to mourn—complete with our good pals Ben & Jerry, and maybe a bottle of wine for good measure—it’s time to enter your revenge era.
Now, we’re not talking about enacting actual revenge on your ex, no matter how much they might deserve it. (Seriously!) The best revenge is actually using your grief as motivation to work on yourself—emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually—which also just happens to be a pretty fool-proof way to move on.
But don’t take my word for it. Please see Miley Cyrus in her post-Liam Hemsworth “Flowers” era (you cannot tell me that releasing the bop on Liam’s birthday was a coincidence), or how ‘bout Shakira’s “Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53,” with lyrics that translate to “women don’t cry anymore, they cash in” following her split from long-term boyfriend Gerard Pique?! Now that’s Revenge Era 101. Even Kim Kardashian seems to be living her happiest life post-split from ex Kanye West, and Emily Ratajkowski is also thriving (see: the success of her podcast High Low and her fun and flirty situationships with rizz daddy Pete Davidson and Eric Andre) after her divorce from Sebastian Bear-McClard, following rumors that he (!!) cheated.
Case in point: Breakups are painful, but the other side can be bright. And while there are plenty of fluffy self-help guides to getting over an ex (and some maybe not-so-expert-approved word-of-mouth recommendations, like “getting under someone else”), we tapped actual relationship therapists for their takes on the formula to a productive and positive revenge era. It'll vary from person to person, but the key is to remember that whatever you're doing to move on, you're doing it for yourself—not so your ex starts crying with regret over that hot Insta you just posted. If that happens, we’ll call it a happy accident. (Just don’t tell your therapist I said so.)
What Actually *Is* A Revenge Era?
Again: Your revenge era isn’t about intentionally seeking revenge on your ex and doesn’t include framing them for a white-collar crime—or anything else illegal, for that matter. It’s a personal journey towards growth!
Once you’ve gone through the necessary stages of grief (aka: the aforementioned Ben & Jerry’s phase), you ~enter your revenge era~ by intentionally dedicating time to prioritizing yourself in whatever ways serve you best. That could look like picking up new hobbies, committing to a daily self-care routine, starting therapy, spending quality time with friends and family, or all of the above. Maybe you teach yourself to cook. Maybe you work harder than ever to get promoted at work, or start a brand new business venture. Maybe you move across the country. Whatever you decide to focus on, you emerge on the other side of your breakup feeling better than ever, and it’s clear as day to you and everyone around you that, that breakup? The one that had you sobbing and questioning the meaning of life? It’s the best thing that could’ve ever happened to you.
Why Is a Breakup Such a Powerful Motivator for Self-Improvement?
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that if you were on the receiving end of the breakup, you probably don’t feel all that great. That post-relationship storm can be confusing enough to make you question everything, so it's beyond normal to need time to mourn. Cry! Ask yourself the hard questions! Take time to heal your soul! But when you’re ready, the best way to get out of that slump is by channeling your heartbreak energy into figuring out what you want next and working towards it.
“I'm a firm believer that when a relationship ends, it is an opportunity to self-reflect and see the areas where improvement is needed,” says licensed couples and sex therapist Kendra Capalbo, owner of Esclusiva Couples Retreats. “We are in a constant state of evolution and growth, and a breakup can catapult us into a period of time where we don’t need to worry about another person’s wants and needs, and can instead focus on ourselves in the most positively selfish way imaginable.”
When Is It Time to Enter Your Revenge Era Post-Breakup?
There’s no correct timeline for how long you’re allowed to be sad or when you should start shifting the focus away from that sadness and toward self-improvement. If you want to cry in bed for a week straight and then (and only then!) shift your mindset into entering your revenge era, all the more power to you. But you don’t have to feel 100 percent recovered to start working on yourself. In fact, working on yourself can be the very thing that helps you recover.
“A positive revenge era can help the moving-on process by shifting focus from your ex to yourself, and if your objective is to truly better yourself, it is a perfect co-pilot to the grief process,” says Capalbo.
How Do You Start Your Revenge Era?
When you’re ready, AASECT certified sex therapist Lyndsey Murray, owner of Relationship Matters Therapy, recommends asking yourself: What parts of me have I lost from this past relationship and breakup? What actions do I want to take to get those parts back?
“This could be focusing on health, or it could be getting back into hobbies and passions that maybe you haven’t visited in a while,” says Murray. All this can remind you that you’re a whole person without your ex, she says—which is easy to forget when you're heartbroken.
If you’re stumped, Capalbo suggests seeking therapy and investing time and effort into friendships (that you may have even neglected during the relationship) as good places to start.
While your revenge era is going to look different than your best friend’s—maybe you’re picking up French while they’re dedicated to a new pilates routine—one thing should be consistent: This is your opportunity to be selfish. Focus on yourself and becoming the best version of you.
What Are the Definite ~Dont’s~ of a Revenge Era?
It’s only natural to want your ex to miss you. You’re human! But try not to let those feelings and desires consume (or lead) your motivations during your revenge era. Capalbo says you shouldn’t do *anything* if you’re doing it in an attempt to get a reaction or win them back, including, but not limited to:
- Jumping into a new relationship, especially if it’s in an attempt to upset your ex or make them jealous. A rebound romance is not the answer or the point of a revenge era, and can actually end up really hurting the person you’re rebounding with. “Rushing too quickly from one relationship to the next doesn’t allow you to develop your sense of wholeness as a person,” Capalbo adds (which, remember, is the entire point). “Look at your revenge era as an opportunity to learn from your past and prepare for your future. There’s no rush to move to the next relationship before truly understanding what happened in the last one and what you want for yourself moving forward.”
- Allowing your breakup to fuel unhealthy habits. It’s easy to turn to negative behaviors as a way to cope, but it’s only going to delay your progress. Make sure your emotional and physical needs are being met—go to therapy, eat regular, well-balanced meals, get enough sleep, and surround yourself with positive people who are going to encourage your progress, not stunt it.
While there’s no "right way" to get over a breakup, a well-executed (read: not destructive) revenge era can do wonders for the soul. And while breakups suck, it might be the first time in a while when you're putting yourself first. Your revenge era should remind you that you deserve to do that every damn day.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.