By: Jenny Foughner
Love is a battlefield, y’all. One minute you’re strolling through the park and talking about your dreams, and the next you’re arguing about produce and fighting over methods of toothpaste conservation. Finding yourself suddenly under siege in what used to be friendly territory is certainly disconcerting, but if you’re the kind of guy who traditionally surrenders at the first sign of strife – even against your better judgment – then you’re never going to be the kind of guy who enjoys the spoils of victory that await those who fight the good fight to the bitter end. It’s not easy, but coming back from the brink of breakup is possible; all you need is some heavy artillery and a willingness to embarrass yourself in public if necessary.
If you’re a sad sack who’s lamenting the loss of the best thing that ever happened to him, then get up, dust yourself off, cry me a river, and get back on that horse, boy. It’s not over till it’s over, but it will absolutely be over if you don’t at least try one of the following:
The Grand Gesture
Anyone who’s ever seen a Hugh Grant movie knows that the Grand Gesture is the most cinematic way to get back in a lady’s good graces. Cads everywhere have been scoring for decades with the help of this deceptively difficult (but actually quite foolproof) technique, and you, lucky man, can join their proud ranks if you follow a few simple guidelines. Most importantly, Grand Gestures are the stuff of grand drama, so if you have to ask if your plan qualifies as “grand,” then you’re probably not thinking big enough. Running through the airport to stop an airplane is a Grand Gesture. Traveling across the country (or across the world) to fight for your relationship is a Grand Gesture. Climbing a fire escape when you’re deathly afraid of heights is a Grand Gesture. Selling your Red Sox season tickets, which for years were your only source of happiness, to prove to the world and yourself that you’re ready to take the next step in your life is a Grand Gesture.
Conversely, sending flowers, leaving a few messages, and drinking away your sorrows do not qualify as Grand Gestures. You can’t possibly expect a girl to take you back if you don’t give her a damn good reason to, and the best way to do that is to do something that involves long journeys, public embarrassment, personal sacrifice, dramatic declarations of affection, or, in the best-case scenario, some combination of all of the above. Think epic, think theatrical, and think right now, because if you give yourself too much time to think about it, you’ll probably wimp out.
The 2 AM Show of Desperation
Tragically, most women are born with a ‘caring’ gene that prevents them from ignoring pathetic crying messes, especially during the wee hours of the morning. It’s not the most valiant way to go, but if you’re really desperate, then showing up at her doorstep at 2 AM weeping and wailing about how you’re nothing without her could get you a short stay of execution (if not a full-on reprieve). I’ve known more than one girl to succumb to this technique. It comes off as sensitive and needy, which is something tons of girls secretly wish their men could be, probably because it takes the pressure off of them for always being the ones with the feelings… I don’t know, it’s all too Mars v. Venus for me. What I do know, however, is that while this takes little to no planning, it does carry a fair amount of risk should you end up shunned and alone and crying on a doorstep in the middle of the night. Buuuuuuut, if you’re bound and determined to let this be your way back into love, then don’t let me stop you; knowing the universe, there will probably be another girl on another doorstep who will come to your rescue, and she might end up being hotter than your ex.
The Heartfelt Confession
The emphasis here is on “heartfelt,” because simply arguing with your girlfriend that she’d be stupid to break up with you will only get you as far as being dumped. Confessions only work when they are honest (or honest-seeming, which we’ll address in a minute) and sincere, which means letting go of your need to win the argument and focusing on proving that you have the ability to admit when you’re wrong (or at least the confidence and smarminess to convince a girl that you believe you’re wrong when nothing could be further from the truth). Sometimes this can be better accomplished in a letter than in person – for one thing, letters don’t have shifty eyes, and you do – which has the added benefit of potentially being ghostwritten by someone who knows how to put a sentence together. It likely contradicts everything you’ve ever known, but admitting that you’re wrong (and that you have feelings) is a ridiculously easy way to get back together with someone, as long as you can make it believable.
The Cool-Off Period
It may seem like a line, but many women actually require “time apart” to get their thoughts in order before giving it another go with the men who have wronged them. If a girl says “I need to be alone for a while,” then one of three things is happening: (a), she’s backhandedly trying to get you to fight for her, (b), she’s trying to let you down easily, or (c), she’s legitimately confused and in need of some thinking space. It can be difficult to discern which of these scenarios you’re currently starring in, but there are some tell-tale signs that can illuminate the situation: for example, if she cries or displays some other intense, frustrated-seeming emotion, then she’s probably testing you – she’ll say she wants space because she wants to see if you can man up and tell her to get it together because you’re not going anywhere. (I know, it’s silly. I’m sorry.) If she says it off-handedly or has that “I just found a puppy on the side of the road” look in her eyes, then she’s probably just afraid to tell you straight up that she doesn’t want to be with you anymore and thinks that this will soften the blow (I know, it’s dumb, but we should all be sorry, because we all do it.)
If she really needs time, though, then she’ll say it sincerely and offer you a specific length of time to work with, at which point your best bet is to give her what she’s asking for. If you don’t, then you’ll be entering stalker/crazed ex-boyfriend territory, from which no gesture – no matter how grand – can save you, but if you do, then the odds are in your favor, because 90% of these situations end in reconciliation. It’s a scientifically proven fact.
The 360-Degree Transformation
I (of course) saved the trickiest for last because I have a sneaking suspicion that this one is more the stuff of relationship lore than of actual reality. However. Every so often there is a case of a man being propelled into dramatic self-transformation after a devastating breakup with the love of his life. As unbelievable as it may seem, it might even happen to you one day. The tricky part comes when you realize that this one, more than any of the others, has to actually be genuine, otherwise you enter the realm of pretending to be someone you’re not in order to be in a relationship that you’ll ultimately come to resent. And that sucks. But if you feel like you’ve suddenly seen the light, woken from a deep sleep or experienced some other dramatic moment of enlightenment, then you owe it to yourself and your relationship to fight for the girl who gave you a new lease on life.
Often times simply showing up as the new-and-improved you is enough; she probably broke up with you (or came close to doing so) because she didn’t think you’d ever become the guy you unexpectedly became. Thus, your very presence is all the awesomeness she’ll need to be proven wrong. Sometimes you have to work your way back in gradually, though, and while this can feel tedious, it’s actually like a non-annoying, real-life version of Groundhog Day in which you know what mistakes not to make and what kinds of things she likes in bed. In other words, you’ve got it made.