How Books Help Us After Tough Breakups

by Averi Clements

Calling things off in a relationship can be painful, especially if you weren't the one who wanted to end it. Despite knowing that you'll be happy again eventually, the pit of sorrow you can fall into after a rough breakup can be a hard one to climb out of, and it leaves many of us searching desperately for something that can help give us a respite from the pain. Some might turn to alcohol, others to our favorite foods, others to That Person we know would be down to help us rebound, but devoted readers know that nothing helps nurse a broken heart quite like the pages of a good story.

Diving into the pages of your favorite novel really can feel like you're spending time with an old friend.

One of the worst things about ending a relationship isn't losing a significant other; it's losing your best friend. While it sucks not being able to kiss them anymore, it sucks way more knowing that you can no longer share the conversations, inside jokes, and pastimes that made you two partners. A good book isn't exactly the perfect replacement for such a special person, but diving into the pages of your favorite novel really can feel like you're spending time with an old friend. Just as you grew fond of your SO's unique quirks, it can be almost refreshing to read about the habits of your favorite characters, whether it's the way the main character dives into danger without a second thought or simply the way the corner of their mouth twitches when they're trying to keep a secret. Being "with" the characters we love isn't the same as being with the real people we love, but when what we're craving is familiarity and the feeling of knowing someone inside and out, a tried-and-true story can be the perfect fix.

Everyone handles breakups differently, but many of us can feel overwhelmed when we're expected to be social when we're going through something so difficult. We often find ourselves caught in a difficult place between wanting to be with people, but also wanting to be alone. In its own way, picking up a good book can satisfy both of those needs. It's like spending time with a group of your best buddies who know that what you need is just to be with people you love without being asked, "How are you really doing?" with that dreaded (but well-intended) look of sympathy. You can be a fly on the wall while your favorite characters go through the motions to create their own story, while you yourself can take some time to stop pretending to be happy for the sake of others.

The characters you've grown so attached to might not be real people, but when we're dealing with heartache, sometimes real people are the last thing we want to deal with.

When all we want is a distraction from our real problems, books give us the opportunity to escape without ever having to leave our homes. Particularly after a breakup, it can be tempting to spend all your money on a plane ticket to anywhere but the town where everything reminds you of your now-ex, but "traveling" to a new world by reading can help you get away without emptying your bank account and shirking your responsibilities. It's not quite the same as that "Eat Pray Love"- style trip to Europe you really need, but it's enough to at least get your mind out of the dark places it goes after you end things with someone you care about. It's amazing how even post-apocalyptic wastelands and creepy dungeons can feel like a better option than your own town when you keep driving by the same restaurants and movie theaters you and your ex used to frequent.

Boyfriends and girlfriends may come and go, but stories don't erase themselves from your life when they get tired of being read.

Above all, though, books are constant. Boyfriends and girlfriends may come and go, but stories don't erase themselves from your life when they get tired of being read. People change, but even though our views of the books we read may evolve as we grow older, their essence stays the same. We never have to worry that that they'll decide they'd rather be read by someone else, or that they don't like the way we change reading positions too often. Sure, the same could be said for plenty of other inanimate objects, but during the times when all we need is to remember that we're worthy of love, it's nice to know that we can rely on the settings and characters we've grown to adore to provide us with a sense of security even as we feel that the world around us is crumbling.

Even the best book can't completely erase the pain of a tough breakup. However, it can make things less agonizing when it feels like your heart is on the verge of shattering every time it beats. Whether you're in desperate need of something new or you're craving the comfort of an old favorite, you're anything but alone if your books turn into your best friends and cheap getaways when you end a relationship with someone you care about.

Images: Giphy; mybookbath/Instagram