Like all the single ladies (and a lot of the married ladies!), I like to watch trash TV as a guilty pleasure when I’m getting some mindless work done on a weekday evening. Lately I’ve been binging “Buying Beverly Hills,” a shameless knockoff of Netflix’s Selling Sunset with even more stagey dialogue and manufactured drama. It’s the last place I’d go to for dating advice, but one of the men on the show—a young realtor—gave a more junior real estate agent some advice that struck me: to have a quick “five-second funeral” if a deal goes wrong, then move on.
Apparently Joey Ben-Zvi didn’t come up with the concept; it seems to be passed around real estate circles. The idea is that if something goes wrong during your day—whether it’s a 20-million-dollar real estate deal going sour, or getting stuck in traffic and being late to an important meeting—you give yourself five seconds to feel your feelings and then just carry on.
I don’t sell a lot of houses, but this immediately reminded me of a new approach to my love life I started this fall. I’ll admit it: I’m a serial crusher. My best friends could spin a truly harrowing tale of the many guys I’ve fallen for over the years (this peaked my senior year in college, when I’m pretty sure I had a new crush every month). Frequently, those crushes ended in nothing, usually with the realization sinking in that he just wasn’t into me, or that he was dating someone else, or that he was moving away. I used to agonize over these moments, letting myself get far too emotionally involved and then being devastated when it didn’t pan out.
I’ve learned some lessons since my college senior year about not falling too hard too fast, but I’m still dating, and I still love—or at least like—easily. I’ve learned not to let myself get obsessed, but rejection still stings when it comes up. Enter the five-minute funeral (since I’m not operating on a real estate agent’s tight schedule, I decided that five seconds was too short!)
Employing the “five-minute funeral” for dating setbacks
There are many small setbacks in a dating life that come short of breakups: you ask someone out and it goes wrong; that cute guy on the dating app finally ghosts for real; your ex posts a picture with his new girlfriend; another friend passes a milestone that you’ve been waiting for; and so on. At those times, I try to give myself space to feel my feelings with what I’m calling a five-minute funeral: driving for five minutes while listening to music, calling a friend to rant, or just having a good old-fashioned cry in the shower. Then I pick myself up and move on.
Here’s how it can help.
01. I get a chance to feel my emotions.
As a longtime (and recovering!) emotion represser, I struggle with feeling my feelings at times, especially around love and relationships, which can bring up powerful feelings of shame and loneliness. But a real emotion (if you let it run its course naturally) lasts about 90 seconds. If we repress our emotions or return to them because they feel unresolved, we can put ourselves through pain longer.
I have two great songs to recommend if you want a soundtrack for your five-minute funeral. The first is a song I recently discovered called “Note to Self” by Jim-E Stack and Empress Of. This line phrases it best: “Just let it knock you down / Don’t fight it, let it bring you back around.”
For a long-term crush, my favorite five-minute funeral soundtrack is Taylor Swift’s “The Moment I Knew” (almost exactly five minutes!). It’s about realizing someone doesn’t really care about you and you deserve better. It’s a tiny bit melodramatic, since it’s about her boyfriend not coming to her birthday party; but it’s perfect for leaning into the drama of a moment that might not look like a big deal from the outside, but was a big deal for you. That’s what acknowledging your emotions looks like—making space for a big feeling even if your inner critic thinks you should just move on. If you “let it knock you down,” I’ve seen time and time again that it will “bring you back around.”
02. It gives me closure.
Closure—for a buzzword, it’s probably a little overrated. Someone else isn’t in charge of your emotional life—you are. The five-minute funeral brings that principle home. Maybe that guy you had a crush on will not have a touching moment with you where he says goodbye before moving to the big city for his new job. Maybe your mom won’t actually apologize for asking in front of your whole extended family whether there’s anyone special in your life.
But something I’ve learned from therapy is that it isn’t fair to say that someone else made you feel something. It’s much healthier to say to yourself, “He said x, and I felt y.”
This isn’t to say that you can’t involve others in your five-minute funeral—might I recommend the option of a tearful voice memo to your best friend?—but that at the end of the day, your emotions are your own, and having a five-minute funeral reminds you that you can handle them yourself.
03. It makes me more resilient.
The more you let yourself feel your emotions, the more your inner self will trust you. It sounds cheesy, but I promise it’s true.
If you know you’ll have the space to grieve something that you wanted—even if it’s as seemingly small and silly as a Hinge match or a coffee date—you’ll feel freer to want things again, opening you up to new possibilities. You’ll know that if this one, too, doesn’t work out, you will do what you’ve always done: take five minutes to feel your feelings and then move on to the next thing to hope for.
Labeling this process has reminded me that these little heartbreaks are normal, something that’s sometimes hard to remember when in the throes of dating drama. The fact is, dating often involves a lot of disappointment before you meet Mr. Right, and if you let yourself be thrown into despondency by everything that falls through, you’ll put yourself through a lot of torture you don’t need.
I like to think of all the busy realtors holding their five-second funerals every day. Failure and disappointment are part of life, and having a prepared mental file folder in which to place those less-than-favorite moments of my day helps me realize just how much of my day is not spent mourning.