Breakups can be so hard, and they can be amicable; no matter what, no one really wants to go through them. The loss of your relationship can bring on intense heartache and stress. But if you’re looking for some help getting through it and want some suggestions about how to make it a little easier, read on.
Think through everything thoroughly, but not obsessively. Go ahead and mull it over, as many times as necessary, within reason. Consider all the reasons you two broke up. Even if it sometimes seems as if there wasn’t a good reason, there certainly was one – and probably more than one. Understand that you enjoyed being together for a while, but if the relationship was not what both you and your partner wanted for life, it would have ended eventually, no matter what. In this case, better sooner than later. Thinking about the reasons why it ended can make it much clearer to you that it takes two people to start a relationship, but just one discordant person is enough to end it. It may also help you avoid many missteps in the future if you can identify areas where you contributed to the demise of the relationship.
Don’t rethink your decision. If the breakup was your decision, keep in mind that only thinking about all the good times you had with your partner may cause you to forget the reasons why you broke it off. By the same token, try not to second-guess the situation if the decision to end things was not yours. It’s very common to romanticize the good parts of the relationship, convincing yourself that maybe the bad parts weren’t so bad after all, that maybe you could just live with them. Or that maybe if your ex would know just how you feel, he/she wouldn’t want to break up after all. Don’t play this game with yourself. Accept the situation and work on moving forward.
Keep your space. 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 – not necessarily as a permanent measure, but until you feel that you can converse with him/her on a purely platonic level, without an ulterior motive (and yes, wanting to get back together counts as an ulterior motive). 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.
Cope with the pain appropriately. It’s okay to feel like you have messed up – accepting responsibility for your mistakes or shortcomings is healthy. On the other hand, you must also accept that you are a good person, and that you did your best and you’re not the only one who made mistakes. Of course, a stage of denial is completely natural, but acceptance is the key to being able to start moving on.
Deal with the hate phase. This is when you want to just scream because your rage feels boundless. The amount of anger you feel depends on how antagonistic the split was, the circumstances, and how long it took to make the final break. You may resent your ex for wasting your time. You may realize that the breakup was inevitable (hindsight will reveal clues you failed to notice at the time). You may even feel a lot of anger towards yourself, but let go of that feeling fast! It’s a waste of time and energy to rip yourself apart over something you no longer have the power to change. There are so many positive things you can do with your emotions and energy. Although it may feel good to replace your feelings of love towards your ex with hate, this can still lead to complications and mixed emotions of love and hate which are never a good thing.
Talk to your friends. You want people around you who love you and who will help you feel good about yourself. Surrounding yourself with compassionate, supportive friends and family will help you see yourself as a worthwhile person, and you’ll find it easier to get steady on your feet again with your loved ones around you in a comforting net.
Write all your feelings down. Write in a journal or try writing poems. The most important thing is to be absolutely honest and don’t edit yourself as you go. One of the best results of writing it all down is that sometimes you will be amazed by a sudden insight that comes to you as you are pouring it all out onto paper. Patterns may become clearer, and as your grieving begins to lessen, you will find it so much easier to understand valuable life lessons from the whole experience if you’ve been writing your way through it. No relationship is ever a failure if you manage to learn something about yourself. Just because it didn’t work out doesn’t mean it wasn’t a necessary part of your journey to becoming who you’re meant to be.
Make a list of reminders. One of the best tricks to help you stick to your resolve is to make a list of all the reasons your ex was not the one for you. Be ruthless and clear––this is not the time to be forgiving. What you’re doing is creating a picture for yourself that will call up an emotional response when you feel tempted to think that “maybe if you just did this or that, it would work out…” Write down what happened and how it made you feel, being clear about the things you never want to feel again. When you find yourself missing your ex in a weak moment, and think you might actually be getting too close to the telephone, get out this list, read it over a couple times, and then talk to yourself, “This is the truth of what it was like. Why would I want to go back and torture myself again?” If you’re caught in a low-self-esteem trap, thinking you don’t deserve better, imagine this happening to a friend of yours, and think what you would say to your friend: “Get as far away as you can! That relationship was no good for you!”
Out with the old, in with the new. 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. The added bonus is that keeping busy with tidying your space doesn’t require a lot of brain power, but does require just enough focus to keep you from recycling pain. Occupying yourself with such tasks designed to make your life better and easier will also occupy your mind enough to help you through the residual 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.
Remove memory triggers. There are all kinds of things that remind you of your ex––a song, a smell, a sound, a place. Once the grieving period has had some time to process, don’t dwell on painful feelings or memories. There are probably things that are pushing your buttons without your conscious recognition. Try walking around each room in your house with a box and removing things that make your heart ache or your stomach turn. Really focus and look carefully. You may realize that the little blue bird-shaped box sitting on the mantel has become pretty invisible for the last couple years, but when you take a conscious look at it, you notice that every time you turn towards that corner of the room and it catches your eye, you feel a sharp little pain in your solar plexus. 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, and it’s a reminder of the good aspects of your relationship, there’s nothing wrong with keeping such a thing, but for the time being, try putting it away for later, when you’ve given yourself some time and space. Put these reminders far away from you, such as in a box in a place you’ll never go. Out of sight, out of mind.
Find happiness in other areas of your life. Whether that means spending time with your friends and family, signing up for that class you’ve always wanted to take, or reading every book on the New York Times bestseller list, remind yourself that a relationship is one part of life, but even when you are in one, there are personal pleasures that you can always enjoy on your own. Indulge in those things now. As they say, the best revenge is living well.
Stay active. Exercise improves your mood and alleviates depression, and the distraction will help keep your mind off your situation. Go running outside, visit (or join) the gym, or just go for a walk, maybe with a friend, and think of releasing the anger or sadness with every step. If you don’t exercise regularly, here are some ways to motivate yourself to work out:
Do something small, right now. Going all the way to the gym, or getting decked out in your jogging gear, or doing whatever it is you feel you should be doing obviously seems like too much work. So just do ten push-ups or jumping jacks. Easy. And usually, it’s just enough to get your heart rate going a little bit, and make you feel like a little more exercise wouldn’t be so bad…
Get halfway there. If you want to go to the gym, but just don’t feel like it, at least just drive yourself to gym, and tell yourself that if you still don’t feel like working out, you’ll go home. Odds are, though, once you’re there, you won’t feel like driving home. (But if you do, that’s okay too. But you probably won’t.) Then tell yourself you’ll just walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes, even if your exercise routine involves much more. Just telling yourself to do one more thing, without having to commit to anything else, will make things much easier. And before long, your endorphins will take over.
Let go of the negative emotions. Understand that there is no benefit in holding on to heartache, regret, and hatred toward another person. Realize that although it is over, your relationship with that person was unique and special in a lot of ways. You can congratulate yourself for being brave enough to take a risk and fall in love, and encourage your heart that even though love didn’t work out this time, there will be a next time.
Remind yourself of the negative things. Not necessarily all negative, but the “turn-offs” of that person. For example, the less attractive you find them, the quicker you’ll get over them. Your mentality has to strictly be all bad characteristics about this person, without sounding hateful, or “hating” on this person. (Ex. his/her hair always had a funny smell to it, he/she never brushed his teeth, he/she never bought anything for my birthday, he/she had the ugliest smile I’ve ever seen, he/she had the most annoying laugh, ETC).
Crying all night is okay. In fact, studies show that crying over your breakup all night well help you get over your breakup faster. Also don’t constantly text or call your ex because that will make him/her dislike you more.
Remember that your ex may be trying to get over you, as well. Be sensitive to that, and keep your distance. If you’ve decided to stop seeing one another, do just that: stop.
Write a letter to your ex, but do not send it. Sometimes it just helps to get all of your feelings out. However, sending it is not a good idea. This letter is just for you, so write out everything you wish you could have said and be done with it. It doesn’t do any good to rehash the breakup over and over again, so just pretend you are telling them how you feel for the last time. Tell them how they hurt you. It doesn’t hurt to look back on the relationship and analyze how you changed for the better because of it! Tell them that too. This can help you let go of them, and realize that your relationship did have some positive effects. Ultimately, they make you who you are today.
Write a story. Think back to when your relationship with this person began, and document it from beginning to end. This may be very painful, but it will give you a broader perspective. When you get to the final chapter, finish off on a positive note and write “The End”. If you’re writing in a notebook, close it forcefully, take a deep breath, and put it on a bookshelf. If you wrote on looseleaf papers, fold them, put them in an envelope, and seal it. You may choose to keep the story, or you may choose to shred it or burn it. The very act of documenting your relationship and closing the book, however, will help you find closure emotionally.
Make a list of the good things that emerged as a result of this relationship. Look at the problem from a completely new angle; look at the positive side. See if you can identify 10 positive outcomes of this experience.
Have a symbolic ceremony. People still hold funerals for the deceased whose bodies were never found, and you can still have a formal way to say goodbye to relationships that were never resolved. Gather all of the things that remind you of this person and burn them, or donate them to charity. Give a eulogy to the relationship, and say it out loud.
Keep your dignity. Many times, it’s our own ego that causes the pain; we feel rejected and deceived, embarrassed. We doubt our self worth and adequacy. A breakup, especially one in which your partner has cheated on you, can really undermine your self-confidence and shake your self-esteem to the core. Help rebuild your inner stability by impressing yourself with accomplishment – volunteer, take a class, do things that remind you of your value as a person.
Stop telling “the story.” How many times this week did you tell “the story” about how badly you were hurt and how horribly you were wronged? How many times a day do you think about this hurt? It is a stake driven into the ground that keeps you from moving away from this hurt. Also, if people ask your side of the story, keep it short. If your ex broke up, because he felt he felt like you were a burden or kept playing videogames all day, tell them; ‘He wasn’t ready for a relationship yet. He needed more time to work on his hobbies.’ It’ll make him sound foolish and silly. BUT if you tell them he chose videogames over you, or that he called you a burden, this makes people think you had a part in this too. (Because ‘he wouldn’t just call her a burden for no reason, right?’)
If your ex has left you for another person then ask yourself: If s/he said s/he wanted you back, would you really want him or her? Would you ever trust him/her not to break your heart again? Would you be hurt, angry, distrustful when s/he is 10 minutes late calling you, wondering where she is, who he is with? Though you may believe that the answer to all your prayers would be a reconciliation with your ex, if it did happen, you might find that Mr. Spock from Star Trek was right when he said “You may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.” Also, tell yourself (out loud if you’re alone in the room and you’re confronted with a picture of the new partner online) “Well, now she/he has to deal with his/her farts..” Instead of picturing them having fun (you don’t even know if they have that much fun for real) you picture that girl, in your situation before, where your ex hurt you. You picture her sitting on the bed, waiting for him to finish the videogame. Or you see him complaining to her, about the pizza being burned or the smelly toilet. And you sure know how to make a good pizza, but you won’t help them with it. 😉 So they are miserable together and you’re right here, far away from those problems.
After some time passes (how much time depends on the length and/or intensity of your relationship and how dependent you let yourself become on your ex), you will start to feel better. This does not mean that you should jump into another relationship right away, especially a serious one. Take it easy. You have all the time in the world to feel better, and just because you meet a nice guy/girl does not mean you should get involved. Your emotions may still be unstable and the first person you meet may get a version of you that is not completely healed. It may even take years to heal from your past relationship.
If you find yourself compulsively checking your ex’s MySpace, Facebook, or any other social networking profile, help yourself out and use a program or browser extension to block the URL to that profile. It also helps to take them off your friends list. Even if things ended on a clean slate, it can be too painful or uncomfortable to see what the other person is up to.
Watch for stalking or menacing behaviors, and if you notice anything, report them to the police immediately. This person is probably just difficult and not dangerous. But don’t take any chances. If necessary, get a restraining or protective order and call the police each and every time it’s violated; you will need the paper trail if the stalking escalates.