• Emma Louise Alvarez

Moving On After a Breakup: The Inconsiderate Slut Narrative


© Illustration by INJECTION - Mia Hatch


How soon is too soon to move on? Does it really matter?


People (and research) will be quick to tell you that some of the choices you make after losing a partner are choices influenced by grief - that we look for a coping strategy, or way to distract us from painful feelings. This can be through a rebound relationship, whether emotional or physical - it is about a feeling of attachment, lots of sex with lots of strangers or any other choices that are generally categorised as ‘unhealthy.’


But why is that?


It is the more common narrative in society, where even the amount of research around distress in relation to the dissolution of relationships is more prominent than research existing around the potential for personal growth. But this should not affect the choices you make as to how to move on.


I recently got out of a relationship myself. Two and a half years I spent with this person, where at some point I was convinced that we were going to build a life together after university. When we broke up it was the perfect break-up movie scene: he refused to talk to me when he picked up all his stuff and soon afterwards I found myself blocked on all social media. It didn’t take long for me to venture to Tinder.


But I remember talking to one of my friends about wanting to do it ‘right’ this time; I did not want to jump to meaningless sex with strangers. I also strongly felt that, since one of my friends was still close with him, I had to be respectful of the situation. Luckily, I did not feel I was ready to move on; I was scared of being intimate with a new person and even the idea of having to flirt with someone new in order to figure out how compatible you are really freaked me out. This did not stop me from going on several Tinder dates.


My first date surprised me. Long story short, I slept with him and ended up with a sizable hickey on my neck, proudly displayed for all my friends to see. I was surprised to find that I did not feel the need to explain or defend myself. It was time to move on; psychologically there was nothing holding me back, and physically I was comfortable with being intimate again. And I kept waiting for that guilt to hit me. I knew I was ‘supposed’ to feel guilty for moving on, or being happy, or for not being ‘respectful,’ but that feeling never came. I realized that behaving ‘the right way’ after a break-up ultimately means doing what is right for you; not your ex-partner.


While being respectful involves honesty, having good intentions, and considering your feelings as well as the other person’s feelings, it does not mean that you claim responsibility for their emotions. You are very much two separate individuals, and individually you are responsible for your own mental and physical wellbeing. This is where the lines blur; you are allowed to move on, you could consider your ex-partners feelings in whatever your process is, but you should not feel guilty if your moving on causes them pain. This is why the inconsiderate slut narrative is so problematic - it has many negative connotations and attaches an oppressing presupposition on how we are ‘supposed to behave’ after a break-up. It is possible to be honest, and considerate, have good intentions and still want to move on, either physically or emotionally.


There exists an expected level of judgement on our behaviour after we come out of a relationship. And using phrases like ‘being respectful’ (with a heavily judgemental tone) or asking questions as to whether it’s ‘maybe too soon’ to move on are only damaging and inhibiting to that individual, who really only is trying to move on.


There is no one right way to move on. Different people have different processes where it is important to find the balance between being mindful of the situation and the feelings of other people involved, as well as doing what is right for you. If you are comfortable and happy to have (lots of) sex post-break-up then you should not feel guilty or be made to feel guilty by anyone for the way you move on.


In short: Trust yourself and whatever process you choose to move on, you know you best.