When my boyfriend told me, just shy of our one-year anniversary, that he didn't want a girlfriend anymore, I almost choked on my savory pork belly dish and $12 cocktail. This candlelit dinner had seemed to be to signal that our relationship was on the upswing, and my boyfriend—who had been drifting a bit lately—was back. I couldn't be more wrong. This wasn't a let's-try-again reunion dinner; It was our last supper.
My nervous system began to shut down. I went numb as I nearly tackled the waitress ("We need our check! Now!"). I was out the door in a shot; He was right on my heels. When we got to the subway station, I told him to give me back my keys. He resisted: "Can't we wait till I come by and get my--"
"No. Now," I said, fighting back tears (and failing). I stood there, rigid, as he wiggled each key off the chain, dropping them all into my hand with cold finality.
I cried the whole way home. What else was there to do? I got off a stop early so I could call my sister who answered sleepily, from her cozy bed in a suburb of Massachusetts. I was stunned—and furious. How could he? Why?!
In the wake of an emotional rupture like that, you do what you need to do: You call and email everyone in your support system. And then you wait. For the pain to wear off, for the healing to begin. I sought the unwavering support of my girlfriends, who rallied around me, even coddled me. My friend Renee texted, "I’m so sorry you two broke up. Should I hate him now? Tell me and I will."
That's why I love girlfriends; they’re angels in a crisis. They told me all the things I felt like I needed to hear: "I'm so sorry, honey. But he didn’t appreciate you." "You know you can and will do better." This is the role of girlfriends: to turn in the wagons, nurse you back to health, point out the flaws and, in many ways, hang lights in your darkest corners.
At a business lunch the next day (which I almost cancelled), I looked and felt like crap. I had been crying all night. "You want him back?" a man I'd known—a former colleague—boldly interjected. I was mute. Of course I did. I wasn't the one who wanted to end it.
This guy—we'll call him P.T. Carlito—continued to say the most outrageous things to me. He suggested he could show me how to get my ex back in a matter of weeks. He also said I was far too needy and straight-up crazy ("You know that, right?"). He said that if I wanted to get different results, I had to change my behavior, trust him implicitly and do exactly as he said. He was aggressive, obnoxious, cocky. I didn't believe a word he said.
Not to mention, this guy has no business offering me advice. He's just some middle-aged dude, married for 20 years. Just a guy, just some dingbat who hadn't dated in forever. Who was he to tell me who I am and how to date? The feminist in me threw up a little in her mouth.
I was willing to listen to him once he made a wager—because of course I would come out on top. There was no way this guy could possibly do what he explicitly claimed he could do: Get my ex to come crawling back on his hands and knees.
My problem, P.T. said, was that I wasn't choosing actions based on what I ultimately wanted; I let my emotions gain the upper hand and dictate my responses instead of the other way around. "No wonder you're a disaster," he said.
And what's most embarrassing of all? I am a relationship expert! It's true. I help other people all the time. But like even the best surgeon, I can't operate on myself. No one has that talent. I needed that outside perspective. I just hated that it had to be coming from him.
"I'll have him crawling back before the end of the year," P.T. said, mouthful of arugula with a dribble of dressing on his lip.
"What?" I asked, incredulous. It was already late November. "Don’t you understand? He's never coming back."
"Before the New Year. You can count on it. I'll bet my $1,000 to your $10. I'm that sure. And by the way—begging for you to come back to him. Begging. You better just be careful what you wish for.”
I scoffed, blew my nose, and entertained the idea. Why not try? What did I have to lose?
P.T. leaned in and aimed his fork at my forehead. "But I will need three things from you," he insisted. "One, do exactly as I tell you to. Two, write a story about what a genius I am. You got that so far?" I nodded. "And three, when you do get him back, I need you to sing the song for me." What song? "I got the beeessst daddy in the world...I got the beeeest daddy in the world," he crooned to the tune of that American spiritual, "He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands." He then broke into hysterical idiot laughter.
I cringed. It was a deal with the devil. We shook on it.
Rule 1: Cut Off All Contact
Later that same evening, I was sipping a potent mezcal cocktail at the Soho Grand with P.T. and a few other colleagues, my finger hovering over the "unfriend" button on Facebook. I felt like I was about to step off a cliff.
"Do it," P.T. said firmly. "Trust me. It’s the best thing for you." I did it. In a single gesture, my ex was instantly evicted from my digital circle of trust. I cried a little. Moving on to Twitter didn't feel quite as painful, since ceasing to follow someone doesn't feel as final as Facebook exile.
This was the first lesson: Doing the opposite of what you really want to do: Cut off all digital contact. "This process is not going to be easy," said P.T. "It feels like the wrong thing. But it's not. It’s about strategy."
And it's something women are rarely taught, by the way. We're told to nurture, to empathize—but not strategize. We're never shown how to act wisely in spite of our emotions in order to get the best possible outcome for ourselves, the thing we want. Feelings should be acknowledged, endured, managed, but let them rule your actions and your reactions, and you lose.
What happened: My ex not only watched my feeds more closely, he started tweeting and retweeting me in ways he never did when we were dating. Once I'd taken him off my radar, I had his full attention. (And turns out my Facebook posts were public, so he saw them anyway. Whoops.) But rest assured there was no "poor me" public ranting about it. None. Keep reading...
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