Breakup apps

This week, I came across something I didn’t know existed: Breakup Apps – self-help apps to guide you through a breakup.

The one I stumbled across was ‘Mend‘, mentioned in this post in Jill’s Adventures in Dating.

I tried to find out more about Mend, and came across ‘Breakup Boss‘ as well.

It feels particularly relevant to me, as I’ve been having a relapse lately, in getting over the Whippersnapper. I think the combination of Balthazar’s birthday, and the terrible dates I’ve been on, have made me start pining for him. After the horror of CAPS LOCK GUY, I longed for how wonderfully case-sensitive WS was.

Since we broke up, all those months ago, I’ve got into a cycle.

He shows me something that makes it clear we could never be together, and makes me not even want him. First, he ended things in a shit way, then he sent me lots of abusive messages, then he sent me lots of manipulative messages, everything from ‘I love you’ to ‘I want to die’, then he ignored me when I needed him, and most recently, I found out he lied throughout our relationship.

Seeing the real him is like looking directly at the sun by mistake.

It hurts and I instinctively look away. I know it’s bad for me and I don’t want it.

However, after that, for a while, the after-image of the sun is everywhere I look. The after-image looks the same, but different. The shape is exactly the same, but the colours are different.

After a while, it’s like I forget how bad it was looking at the sun; I keep seeing the after-image of his shitty actions and thinking Maybe it’s not so bad. 

The acceptability of the after-image, plus the rose-tinted memories, plus the unsatisfactory explanation for the breakup, make me think Why aren’t we together again?

I’ve still blocked him on everything, but I really miss him and I’ve been feeling sad again.

So I particularly felt up for trying one of these breakup apps.

In some ways, I should need this less than the average heartbreak victim – I’m a qualified therapist, most of my friends are qualified therapists, and I’m actually having counselling.

Nevertheless, I was curious, and even wondered if I could create something like this myself. I decided to cast my professional (and heartbroken) eye over it.

I thought I’d try Mend first, as that’s the first one I heard about.

I downloaded the app, which was free (but you have to pay for certain features – I thought the first week was free, but then I had to pay for something on Day 2 – just under £10 for a month).

After logging in, there was an audio clip to listen to, less than a minute long.

A jolly American lady with a warm, soothing voice assured me she had come up with the idea after a breakup, and that this was an opportunity to learn about myself.

I felt soothed and supported, in spite of myself.

Then I had to fill in some details about myself and the breakup. The way it was set up, it looked like I was typing into a conversation with someone replying, rather than just filling in an online form, which also felt nice.

There was a thing I could click on, if it was ‘an emergency’. Out of curiosity, I clicked on it. It took me a webpage with disclaimers and then some emergency contacts in case I was at risk of harming myself. As a healthcare professional, I approved.

Then, there was another audio clip. As I was at work and had been fucking about for ages, I decided that had better wait.

That evening, I was putting some makeup on in my car while I waited for my friend, who I was meeting for dinner. I thought ooh, I could listen to that thing!

I put it on, while I continued with my makeup.

Again, the lovely American lady spoke with her soothing voice. She was congratulating me on taking this step to heal, and said this was the first day of ‘the rest of my love life’, which the sarcastic Brit in me couldn’t help raising a slight eyebrow at.

She told me to close my eyes and take a deep breath. I hesitated, as I was halfway through hunting around in my handbag for my blusher, but thought I’d better do as I was told.

It was great. She told me to let go of the tension in my shoulders. My shoulders dropped by about 6 inches.

I hadn’t realised how tense they were, but, of course, I had just come off the South Circular road in Clapham.

She said some more cheering things, before saying “Before we finish, close your eyes again, and take another deep breath… in…”

I breathed in.

This is good – a nice long, deep breath in.

This has been quite a long in-breath.

Bold choice, but good. Sometimes people do it too quickly in deep-breathing exercises.

This has been quite a while now. 


When do I breathe out?

I was starting to feel a bit dizzy, so I opened one eye and peeped at the phone in my lap.

“Playback error. Reload?” it said on the screen.

I breathed out and burst out laughing. It had stopped playing.

I tried to get it to reload, but it wouldn’t. I wasn’t sure if it was my phone, the 4G or the app.

Now I’ve been using the app for a week, and I already feel so much better.

Each day, first she asks me to rate my mood, by choosing from a selection of 5 progressively less smiley faces.

Then, there is ‘training’ – a voice clip, about 3 minutes long, to listen to. These are on a variety of topics. So far, we have covered things like:

  • why missing an ex feels like withdrawal from a drug
  • waiting for closure
  • letting go of unanswered questions
  • dealing with the question “will I find someone like him again?”
  • saying goodbye to the future you had planned together
  • performing a breakup ritual

Looking at the app and the website, it’s hard to say what the advice is based on, other than “we work with experts across the field.” This actually bothers me a bit.

However, so far, everything is completely compatible with CBT and Psychology.

For example, what she says about trying to find closure, and letting go, stopping searching for answers, completely fits with what we would say in CBT about worry and depressive rumination. The way she related missing your ex to evolution and brain chemistry is exactly what we would do in CBT.

So, you listen to the three minute talk. If I had the choice, initially, I would have chosen for the information to be text I could read, rather than audio, but now, I actually think it’s better that it’s audio. It’s more engaging, and it really feels like someone who cares about me is dishing out this wisdom. I’ve tended to listen to it while I go for a walk out of the office at lunch time.

Then, in a text conversation, she asks me how I found the ‘training’, then I can type into the ‘journal’ how I think it fits with me.

After that, she gives me a tip for the day (e.g. thinking of three things I’m grateful for). Then, there some additional things I could read if I wanted to.

Things that have helped so far:

  • the idea that two opposing things can be true at once – he loves me and he doesn’t want to be with me. For ages, I’ve been confused and tried to figure which one is untrue, but now I accept they are both true.
  • identifying and normalising what I dwell on, and letting it go
  • rating my mood (again, a staple of CBT)

Even from day 2, I felt better. I think just labelling myself as someone who wants to get over this, but also, someone who is allowed to feel like this, has really helped. Before downloading the app, I was seeing myself as someone in the right thick of it, who shouldn’t be.

And, one of the biggest changes, is the main emotion I have for him. I’m not sure exactly what from the app has caused this shift, but my primary feeling for him has changed from compassion to pity.

My compassion for him has been a really barrier to getting over him. It’s probably a combination of being a therapist, and the kind of person I am, and also the way he talked to me, coming to me with his problems, and knowing he was suffering a lot with his self esteem and body dysmorphic disorder.

I believed he was such a great guy, and yet he has treated me badly. Rather than thinking Maybe he’s not that great, the more badly he treated me, the more I would think He must be really suffering. 

I think it would be best if I could feel anger towards him, but instead of angry fireworks, all I’ve managed to generate is a few damp squibs.

The compassion has been a barrier to getting over him, because it makes me long to help him and relieve his suffering, and makes me forgive everything.

Now, in the last week, it has shifted to pity. It feels like such a relief. I still recognise his suffering and feel sympathy, but there’s less of an urge to relieve it.

I know it’s not my responsibility, and he doesn’t deserve my help, and that he could get help so many other places. I even sent him a link, months ago, to the NHS service that could help him.

Instead of burning frustration that he won’t help himself, and in turn, be with me, I feel detachment. The fact he is doing nothing to take responsibility and help himself makes me like him less.

These are things I don’t like about the app:

  • on the home screen, it looks like this. One of the things that makes me feel worst about breakup, is how long it’s gone on. I feel like such a loser for not being over it yet, and seeing “260 days since the breakup” reminds me I’m like a loser. In the early breakup days, it would feel more appropriate and relevant, but in the early days, I think I’d just plan to get drunk and hang out with my friends. The very fact it’s taken so long, makes me think I need a more structured intervention. I’d prefer it if it showed a graph of my smiley faces, or rated my progress in a different way.
  • there seem to be a few bugs, like it crashing when I halfway through breathing in that time. Also, I think the order of the audio clips might have been changed, because there was one where she recommended writing ‘another letter to him’, when I don’t think we had written a first one.

Overall, I like it. And not just because she says things like this to me:

I’m going to continue with it for the month, and will write again about my progress.

Then, assuming I’ve got any heartache left over, I’ll try Breakup Boss and compare the two.

15 thoughts on “Breakup apps

  1. This app sounds like headspace and seems soothing. I sure wish I’d created it!!! I just read this post and your prior. I haven’t had an ex die but I have had break-ups and then something bad happened to him. It’s hard not to get the two things twisted. I’m not always sure they’re related to each other. I do believe that people feel pain and that can lead them to making decisions in distress. But we can’t always blame ourselves. Maybe my sentiments are overly simplistic right now. I don’t mean to sound insensitive. Instead, if the relationship could have worked longer, it would have. I’m sorry he died, and I’m sorry his mum feels such deep grief. I can’t begin to imagine how that feels. She might not understand how her son could never come back—even though it’s been a long time. And I’m sorry you suffered his los also.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed this post and I learned something new. The idea of this sounds fabulous, and it might have helped me in the past when I pined for several months over a guy who really broke my heart. Instead I wrote lists of why he was crap for me, why he was such an arsehole and why he was not the person I thought he was. I appreciate your detail and the depth of your honesty, and better yet, your ability to write it down and still be eloquent and entertaining!

    Liked by 1 person

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