Relationships are like a river. They’re easy to jump into, but horrid to climb back out of. Nothing in life can prepare you for your own relationship breakdown. Here are five things you should do after a break-up but probably won’t.

Be direct.

When I had to break it off with my first long-term girlfriend I managed to tell her everything apart from how I was actually feeling. This was partly due to juvenile inarticulation and a wimpy bid to avoid any conflict whatsoever. Try and expand on  phrases like ‘ummmmmm’, ‘aaaaaaaaaaaah’, ‘I don’t know’ (ask yourself, ‘what would you say if you did know?’) and the classic *stares off into space for ten minutes*. Even though words feel like birds after an oil slick, at this point honesty is the best card you can play. The most likely cause of the breakup is that you’ve fallen out of love. Communicating this simply and effectively is a real hand up from a murky flow of confusing sentiments.

Don’t be their friend.

Break-ups are very disorientating for the soul. You will see your partner in severe distress (ie throwing lamps at you), and your first instinct will be to comfort them. Fact: You can’t help someone through your own break-up. This is easier to avoid at first as you’re powered by adrenalin, but two weeks down the track when your ex sends you a remorseful message, your own feelings of guilt and loneliness can drive them back into your arms. You don’t have to be cruel, but you can be ‘cool’ to be kind. Acting distant will help get the message across. As the breaker-upperer it’s your responsibility to maintain the transition from glorious lover to shithead ex.

If you want closure, start with your legs.

Great line huh? This is the title of an actual self-help book. The only things guaranteed in life are death, taxes and ex-sex. It’s the romantic equivalent of rewarding yourself for quitting smoking by having a cigarette. After a couple of months of misery and angst, when the dust settles and you spy each other from across a crowded chat-room, the temptation to jump into bed and make everything sweet again is a runaway train of bad ideas. With every high there must come a low and the next day you’ll feel an emotional hangover worse than the break-down itself. No one needs an awkward breakfast with someone who knows all their secrets.

Space, man.

How much contact you have after a break-up is one of the world’s biggest grey areas and something you have to work out together. My suggestion is less is best. When the heart is freshly injured, any contact tends to just prod at the wound. Deleting each other online can be a symbolic gesture of your lives being cleaved apart. The challenge will come three weeks later when you’re in some bar on a Saturday night tipsy and depressed. All urges to make a ‘boo-hooty call’ should be shouted down by a cocktail of friends. At this point it’s about respect for the relationship you once had – don’t wake the dead.

Make it about you.

There has never been a better time to become completely self-absorbed. After all this time obsessing about your relationship, you’ll realise how much you’ve been neglecting yourself. Crack some toast and tea, stick your headphones in, cuddle up to a DVD marathon and begin to feel solid again. The great twist is while you feel like you might disintegrate like old lace, you’re actually as tough as old boots. Get excited about your own life prospects – write, draw, sing, waterslide, exercise, flirt, laugh, listen to Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’, eat cheese, start a club, make adventures, be gentle and know, beyond any shadow of a doubt that bruises heal, memories fade and life does get easier.