How to get over a breakup
How to Get Over a Breakup, According to Relationship Experts
Nothing plunges your self-esteem into a pit of despair quite like a bad breakup. Romantic comedy movies and sitcoms would have us believe the process is simple: Turn on a marathon of sad movies in your coziest pajamas, sob into a pint of ice cream for a few days straight and poof! Montage over, you’re a brand new you and out to take on the world. But in reality, once you’ve hit rocky road bottom, you may find yourself slipping into self-destructive habits — ignoring your friends, neglecting your work and generally forgetting about self-care. You’ve been told all your life that there are more fish in the sea (just open your dating app of choice and there they are), but why is it just so hard to bring yourself to cast a new net already?
The answer is: love is a drug. No, really. “Functional brain scans have shown that love is a form of addiction,” says Guy Winch, PhD, licensed psychologist and author of How To Fix a Broken Heart. “We get used to having a certain substance, and that substance is a person and the relationship in our lives. Then during ‘withdrawal,’ we get desperate and act out of character.” Not only that, long-term relationships mean you’ve molded your life around another person’s. You’ve made compromises as well as future plans, and having to let go of that isn’t as simple as swiping left or right. But don’t despair: We asked relationship experts for their best advice on how to get over a breakup, and there are a number of simple steps you can take — none of which involve Ben & Jerry.
1. Rebuild your self-esteem
If your partner initiated the break-up, it’s perfectly normal to start picking apart your physical appearance and personality traits, questioning what’s wrong with you that would cause someone to fall out of love. Instead, reverse that thought pattern. “Focus on what you really value in yourself and what you brought to the relationship, rather than what qualities you don’t possess,” Winch advises. “Write a list and think of traits that speak to your character, emotional strengths, skillsets, abilities and any other quality that has value in a relationship.” If you’re having a hard time coming up with ideas, tap your closest friends and family, who would jump at the chance to share all the reasons they feel fortunate to have you in their lives.
2. Try three new places
“Once a week, find a coffee shop or a restaurant you’ve never been to, and invite at least one friend to go with you,” says Mary Jo Rapini, a psychotherapist and author of Re-Coupling: A Couple’s 4 Step Guide to Greater Intimacy and Better Sex, who gives this assignment to all of her clients who are working on healing from heartbreak. That helps you break up your usual routine and get away from the places that you’d always go to with your former partner. Bonus: You’re less likely to get bowled over by painful memories and it’s also an opportunity to spend quality time with good friends you may not have seen as much while you were paired off.
3. Avoid going after a rebound
There’s a reason why they’re a cliche: rebounds offer a quick boost that’ll make you feel sexy or worthwhile, temporarily. But once that high wears off, you may just feel guilty, according to Rapini. “A lot of my clients express remorse after a rebound because their investment was superficial while other people put their feelings on the line,” she says. When you make impulsive decisions, like jumping headfirst into another relationship, it means you’re trying to find a way to avoid feeling those painful emotions that come with losing someone you loved. “Acknowledge the hurt and understand that being a responsible person means dealing with it,” Rapini says. “Be willing to go into the pain.”
4. Take a realistic walk down memory lane
When your mind eventually wanders and you start reminiscing about all the good times you two had, you’re likely forgetting to factor in the bad parts. (You know, the petty fights, lifestyle differences and pointless squabbles that characterize every relationship). “Your first thought may be ‘Oh, that vacation was so perfect.’ Remind yourself of how you two didn’t speak for 24 hours because you had an argument on the plane ride there,” says Winch. “Remind yourself that you would start every trip so anxious because your partner never got to the airport on time. In other words, make it a point to introduce the negative stuff, because your mind will only reinforce the positive. Keep the picture real.” Remembering what the whole relationship was really like can help you seek a new situation that doesn’t have the same downsides.
5. Write down all of their negative qualities
Mom told you if you don’t have anything nice to say then … well, you know the rest. But we know she’d make an exception just this one time. Go ahead, indulge your inner mean kid for a minute. “Compile a list of all the ways this person wasn’t good for you,” recommends Winch. “Think of every annoying quality they possessed as well as all the compromises you had to make in the relationship. Keep that list on your phone so you can refer back to it whenever you start thinking they were so perfect. It’s natural to idealize both the person and the relationship.” Keeping the qualities that drive you batty will help you take off rose-colored glasses when seeking a new beau, too.
6. Do a social media detox
When you share a lot of mutual friends, unfollowing your former partner isn’t enough to cleanse the timeline of their presence. If you don’t want to be bombarded by their face whenever you log on, limit your social media use until the wound heals a bit. Of course, that doesn’t mean the urge to peek at their profile will go away completely. “Think of things you can ‘check up’ on whenever you have the compulsion to scope out their online activity,” suggests Rapini. “Check on your friend who is overwhelmed with a new baby or call your parents.” While you’re doing everything you can to create distance, your well-meaning friends may be tempted to pass along any juicy gossip they come across. So be proactive and let them know you’re struggling to move on and it’s best if they keep it to themselves.
7. Let go of the idea of “closure”
You know real life doesn’t play out like a rom-com, yet you may find yourself wishing you experienced a dramatic break-up, like a “He cheated on me” or “She was secretly in love with her best friend” scenario in order to move on. Unfortunately what tends to happen more often IRL is that two people slowly drift apart, and after the split, one of you is left wondering, why?? It may be that underneath the desperate need for closure is a desire to get back together. “There’s this fantasy that if you just keep asking, you’ll discover something that will allow you to undo what happened and get back together with that person,” offers Winch. It’s healthier (and better for your long-term mental health) to realize and accept that you just weren’t the perfect match for each other. If the other person isn’t able to articulate why they no longer want to be with you, tell yourself that the fact that your former partner couldn’t go the distance is all the explanation you need to properly close that chapter. “The subtext of those explanations are “I deserve someone who can commit,’ ‘I deserve someone who can love me enough’ and ‘I deserve somebody who appreciates everything about me.'”
8. Focus on things that help you feel grounded
So maybe you can’t bear to go to that spin class where everyone knows you as half of “Amy and John,” but that doesn’t mean everything healthy you did together has to go out the window. If you two loved a particular fitness class, activity or h0bby, you can still take solace in it solo (but maybe switch times so you don’t run into your ex at the gym or studio). “I find that some people give up activities like attending church or volunteering because it was something they did with their partner,” says Rapini. “What you really should be doing is trying new experiences as well as continuing the activities that support your core values. It’s all about balance.”
How to Get Over a Break-Up
Ending a relationship is hard, whether it was your decision or the other person’s decision. You may be dealing with painful emotions and want to deal with those feelings as quickly as possible. There are several ways that you can work through your painful emotions and start to move on, such as writing about your feelings, allowing yourself to grieve, and being cautious about rebound relationships. Keep in mind that getting over a breakup takes time and patience. If things don’t seem to get better with time, remember that you can always turn to friends, family, or even a mental health professional for support.
- Keep your distance. Even if you and your ex have decided to stay friends, break away completely from each other right after the breakup. This means not seeing each other, not being around his/her family members, no phone calls, no e-mails, no text messages, no Facebook, and no IMs. You don’t have to have stop talking forever, but you do need to cut all communication for as long as it takes to get completely over your ex.
- If he/she tries to convince you to see him/her, ask yourself honestly what the point would be. If you’re reliving the past by seeing him/her, it’s not hard to get caught up in the moment and it will be harder to let go again.
- You may have to have some contact in order to deal with the practical aspects of things like moving out, signing papers, etc., but try to limit this to what’s absolutely necessary, and then keep such calls/meetings short and civil.
2. Organize your space. A breakup can signify a new beginning. Therefore, cleaning and organizing your personal space will leave you feeling refreshed and prepared for the new things to come. A mess can be overwhelming and depressing, and will just add to your stress level. Keeping busy with tidying your space doesn’t require a lot of brain power, but it does require just enough focus to keep you from recycling pain.
- Clean your room, get some new posters, clean up the icons on your PC desktop. As insignificant as cleaning up sounds, it’ll make you feel better.
3. Remove painful memory triggers. There are all kinds of things that remind you of your ex––a song, a smell, a sound, a place. Having these items around can make it harder for you to recover from a breakup. Remove all of the things that make your heart ache or your stomach turn. It can work wonders to clear your space of all these triggers.
- If you have a keepsake, such as a watch or piece of jewelry that was given to you by your ex, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it. But for the time being, try putting it away until you have gotten over the relationship.
4. Get out and do things. After a relationship ends, it is okay to have some time to yourself at home. Just make sure that you get back out in the world after you have processed your feelings. Make plans, go out with your friends, and have fun! It might seem awkward at first, but it will get easier and it will help you to feel better. Getting out and doing things is also important because you need to grow and maintain your social network after a breakup. Doing so will help you to move on with your life.
- Don’t feel like you need to go out with other people all of the time. Take yourself out to do things and enjoy the freedom to do what you want. Go to your favorite coffee shop, go shopping, or take yourself on a mini-vacation.
5. Beware of rebound relationships. Often people will quickly enter a new relationship following a breakup; this type of relationship is called a rebound relationship. Rebounding may be common, but it is not always a good idea. When you enter into a relationship too soon after breaking up with someone, you may be masking your negative emotions with the excitement of a new relationship. If that new relationship does not work out, you may have to deal with the pain of two breakups at once. Consider remaining single until you have fully processed your emotions and gotten over the breakup.
6. Continue to take care of yourself. It is common for people to put less effort into self-care after a breakup, but doing so will not help you to feel better. Make sure that you are seeing to your basic needs for mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. If you were not taking good care of yourself before the relationship ended, now is a good time to start. Make sure that you are eating well, sleeping enough, making time for relaxation, and getting regular exercise to feel your best.
- Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Avoid junk food, excess sugar, and excess fat.
- Get between 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Keep in mind that some people may be okay with less than 7 hours per night or require more than 8 hours of sleep per night.
- Exercise for 30 minutes five times a week. Go for a 30-minute walk, ride your bike around town, or hit the pool and go swimming.
- Relax for at least 15 minutes per day. Try meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to help you relax.