So, you’re getting over a breakup. Sorry to hear it, my friend. It sucks and, especially at the beginning, your relationship troubles can feel all-consuming.
You can’t sleep. You can’t eat. You have obsessive thoughts about what went wrong, what you could have done differently, and how you can potentially fix things. You wonder if it will always hurt this much and how you can ever love again.
The good news – and, believe it or not, there is good news – is that these feelings won’t last forever.
With a little patience, a little perspective, and a strong dose of the reality-based advice I’m about to share, you’ll not only recover from this breakup and fully get over your ex, but you’re going to be happier than you’ve ever been before. Here’s how we’re going to get you there.
1. Embrace the grieving process
Volumes have been written about grieving the death of a loved one. There are self-help groups just for the bereavement process alone. But make no mistake, when you’re getting over someone, you’re also grieving. The life that you built with your partner has ended. You suddenly have a huge void where your ex used to be. No one to fall asleep with. No one to listen to you at the end of every day. No one to travel with. No one to check in on you by text. No one to hug. No one to go to couples’ events or to take home for family holidays. It’s no exaggeration to say that your old life has come to an end and now, you’re given a chance to reinvent yourself.
But that doesn’t mean you have to reinvent yourself TODAY. Part of grieving is just allowing yourself to feel sad without feeling guilty about it, no more than you’d feel guilty for mourning the death of your own parents. Sadness tends to come in waves. Sometimes, you’re distracted with work and you’re fine, and then it hits you like a ton of bricks. The physical reminders of his presence in your home. The flashback to that time you were at your happiest. That moment when your song plays on the radio and all the positive memories come flooding back.
You may find it’s hard to experience joy at all – like, anything you’re supposed to do that’s fun will only feel miserable. And that’s okay. Time is the best healer of all. So allow yourself to be sad. You have every right to be. This, too, shall pass.
2. Cut off your ex entirely.
I get it. You love him. You miss him. You’re best friends. Just because you’re broken up doesn’t mean that has to change.
These are the things you tell yourself because, despite the fact that your relationship has ended, you don’t want to lose him entirely. The problem is that as long as he’s in the picture, you’re not actually allowing yourself to heal. You’re living in the past. You’re holding out hope that things will change. You’re not accepting the breakup. You’re fighting it.
Your ex-boyfriend may not be a bad guy but since he’s not the right guy for you, you need to cut him off. I know it sounds harsh and potentially hurtful, but it’s ultimately for the best. If you’re trying to get sober, you quit alcohol entirely. If you have a broken ankle, you immobilize it so you can’t walk on it. Ceasing all ex-boyfriend-related activities is the only way to move on.
Believe me, I’ve tried staying friends with exes and all it did was prolong my agony. The best breakup I ever went through was a woman that I broke up with who completely cut me off afterward. Unfriended me on social media. Stopped returning my texts. Not because she was angry at me or punishing me but because no-contact was the only way she was going to heal quickly. You can’t move on if you’re constantly in the presence of the person who hurt you, and you can’t move on if you’re actively comparing your ex to new guys.
Wish him well, tell him that you love him, you’ll miss him, and that this is just what you’ve got to do to begin your healing process. He may not like it, but he’ll understand.
3. Realize that you’re mourning the loss of a dream
You’re in pain because you broke up with your ex. That much is true. But one of the core things that will help you get over him is understanding that if your relationship ended, it may not have been as great as you thought it was.
It can be hard to hear this, but it doesn’t make it any less true. In my book, Why He Disappeared, I talk about the idea that the man who breaks up with you is, by definition, not your future husband. Similarly, if your relationship deteriorated to the point that you had to end things, clearly your partnership wasn’t meant to be – no matter how much you loved him or he loved you.
So when you’re feeling sad about your situation, recognize that you’re more likely to be mourning the death of your fantasy relationship than the reality. In your fantasy, your chemistry and love would be strong enough to make things work. In reality, something was fundamentally wrong. Maybe he’s chronically unemployed. Or depressed. Or critical. Or verbally abusive. Or suffers from addiction. Or claims he wants to commit but refuses to do so. Or doesn’t make you feel like a priority. Or doesn’t resolve disagreements kindly. There are any number of reasons that decent people don’t make for good partners.
If you want to get over someone in a healthy way, look at him through this clear lens. Your relationship wasn’t as great as you wanted it to be. That’s why it ended. Don’t cling to the fantasy that it could have been any different. Sometimes two people aren’t meant to be, no matter how much they wanted to be.
4. Use this opportunity to reconnect with yourself.
If you’ve been in a relationship for a long period of time – or maybe you’re a serial monogamist – a breakup can be a chance to remember who you are without a partner. Relationships have the potential to be great, but when they go bad, they have many downstream negative effects: a loss of self-esteem, the realization that you may have wasted your time on the wrong man for too long, the fear that you don’t trust your own judgment with guys moving forward.
So instead of just diving back into a relationship, which can often take over your life and define you, how about taking a moment to breathe. Now that you’re not talking to him every day, spending the night at his place a few times a week, and obsessing about where things are going, you have the freedom to reinvent yourself. Write in a journal. Go to therapy. Catch up on reading. Embrace your unencumbered ability to do whatever you want whenever you want. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll remember who you were before you met him, and fall in love with her all over again.
5. Use this opportunity to reconnect with those you love.
Being in a bad relationship can be draining, especially when you’re in the final weeks and months of something that is just not working. You spend so much time “working” on yourselves, talking it out, going to couples counseling, and brooding about your next move that you inadvertently isolate yourself from your friends and family.
When you realize it, it can be embarrassing. You didn’t mean to stop calling your best friend but you didn’t want to admit things were falling apart. You didn’t mean to cut your sister out of the loop but you felt shameful that your relationship was coming apart at the seams. But your loved ones understand. They know that you’re the same person you were and that you need help moving past this latest breakup and learning how to get over someone.
So lean on them. Plan a girls weekend at a spa. Go home to visit your parents to get some TLC. Surround yourself with people who lift you rather than drain you, who see the best in you instead of criticizing you, who remind you that you’re loved unconditionally, no matter what.
It’s not a magic way to get rid of all of your negative feelings but if you have a support system, lean on them. It not only helps you recover from your past relationship but it forges a deeper bond with your older relationships.
6. See your breakup clearly
When you’re reeling from a breakup, it’s hard to take an objective look at what really happened. Usually, you’re hurting so much that you can’t see things clearly. Either you beat yourself up for what you did wrong that caused him to pull away, or you are so incensed with his behavior that you don’t take any responsibility for the demise of your relationship.
And hey, sometimes, it’s really not your fault. If the guy cheated on you, that’s on him. But if the guy cheated on you and you stuck around for two more years, only to find out that the cheater continues to treat you poorly, you have to take ownership.
Most people look at their partners with rose-colored glasses. You are so dazzled by his intelligence, his wit, his charm, and the times that he treats you well, that you lose sight of the bad stuff.
Part of this is healthy because relationships require patience and tolerance. But what if you tolerated bad behavior? What if you accept a man who gives you the silent treatment? What if you continue to go out with the guy who body-shamed you? What if you ignored the fact that he said he didn’t know what he was looking for and probably never wanted to marry again?
If you accept the unacceptable, you can’t be too surprised that your self worth is shot and that your romantic relationships always end in heartbreak.
7. Learn from your mistakes.
We all have subconscious patterns. The men you’re attracted to aren’t always good for you. The guys who are good for you aren’t always attractive to you. That’s life. What you don’t want to do is get stuck in your patterns. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, all of us are a little insane.
If you always go for the hottest guys, don’t be too surprised if many of them are narcissistic players.
If you always go for the richest guys, don’t be too surprised if many of them care more about their jobs than you.
If you always go for the smartest guys, don’t be too surprised if many of them are stubborn, moody, insensitive or socially awkward.
Similarly, if you’ve been hurt in love, the answer to your problems isn’t staying alone for the rest of your life. That’s just a way of avoiding risk…which will protect you from getting hurt, but also protect you from being able to find love.
The best way to avoid heartbreak in future relationships is to take stock of what actually happened – and realize that the other person couldn’t be wrong 100% of the time.
If you think your ex was insensitive or selfish, you may be right, but that doesn’t mean that he deserves all the blame for the demise of the relationship. Perhaps you’re too sensitive. Perhaps you were overly critical. Perhaps you expected him to read your mind. Perhaps your expectations for him were unrealistic. Perhaps you let your emotions get the best of you when you didn’t get your way. Perhaps you didn’t trust him and constantly wanted to talk about your relationship because you’d been abandoned before. It’s hard to do this kind of honest appraisal, but if you want to grow and be healthy for your next relationship, you’d benefit from spending time looking in the mirror, instead of blaming your ex.
Put more succinctly: if your ex treated you poorly, why did you stay for so long? And how can you make better choices the next time around so you don’t have to feel like a victim of selfish men?
8. Cultivate gratitude
You can’t overestimate the pain of losing a man who you thought was “the one.” At the same time, you have to remember that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Millions of women survive breakups every year and you’ll be no different. Instead of investing your entire identity on your relationship status, take a look at the rest of the blessings in your life. Focus your energy on those things. Maybe you’re a kind person with a lot of love to give. Maybe you’re a bright person who can solve others’ problems. Maybe you’re financially successful and can afford to do nice things. Maybe you look great for your age. Maybe you have deep meaningful relationships with friends and family. Maybe you have a profound sense of awe and wonder when it comes to nature. Maybe you have an abiding faith in God.
There are so many things to be thankful for, it would be a shame to lose sight of all of them just because your relationship ends. In a separate study on positive psychology, researchers point out the value in journaling 3 things every day that you appreciate. As I say to my wife when she seems exhausted, “It’s a bad day; it’s not a bad life.”
The most important thing you can do for yourself in times of crisis is to isolate the crisis. Your relationship ended. That’s all. You don’t have a fatal disease. You weren’t in a crippling car crash. You haven’t been unemployed for a year with no place to live. Yes, you’re hurting, but eventually, you’ll get to the other side of this. Right now, you’re hurting all the time, but in the next few months, if you follow the steps above, you’ll stop obsessing about your ex and will forget this uniquely painful moment. One day, in the not-so-distant future, the clouds will lift and you’ll wake up feeling good.
When that happens, you’ll come to the following inescapable conclusions:
- Your breakup was ultimately a good thing because it freed you up to seek a healthy relationship.
- You found new reservoirs of strength and learned to appreciate what was solid and important.
- You are resilient, self-aware, and will not make the same mistakes ever again.
- You will not wallow in negative beliefs or stay in broken relationships out of fear.
- You are not going to be a passive participant in your love life. You will carve out time for self-care, date with a sense of trust and abundance, and find a man who makes you feel good.
When you’re clouded with negative emotions, it may be hard to get over someone, but I promise: you can do it and be happier than you ever imagined.
For now, though, it’s okay to be sad. Tomorrow will be a better day.