How To Get Over A Breakup
Updated February 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Audrey Kelly, LMFT
Breakups are hard- there is no way to get around this fact. Whether you were in a relationship with someone for two weeks or two years, breakups always come with a sense of loss. That loss may be the life that you shared with your partner or the future you envisioned yourself one day sharing with them. While breakups are never easy, there are things you can do to ease the pain and bounce back from a breakup feeling as good as new.
Stages of Getting Over A Breakup
Much like the stages of grief following the death of a loved one, there are stages of grief that most people move through after a breakup. If you recently broke up with a romantic partner, you can expect to experience these seven stages shortly.
- Desperate for Answers: Even if a breakup were not totally out of the blue, you most likely would still have some lingering questions about what went wrong in the relationship. Even if your ex-was very clear about why they wanted to end the relationship, you would find yourself obsessing over what they said, trying to understand their reasoning even more deeply. This can be a very confusing time, and you may find yourself constantly discussing your breakup and your ideas of why the relationship ended with your friends and family.
- Denial: It can be very hard to accept that your relationship is over. You may find yourself daydreaming that the breakup did not happen, or simply forcing yourself not to think about it, in hopes that your ex will change their mind and you will not have to grieve anymore. Denial temporarily delays and numbs your grief but does not make it go away in the long run.
- Bargaining: During the bargaining stage, you are willing to do any and everything to be back together with your partner. You may make statements about how you will completely change to win them back and believe that anything would be worth it to make the pain of the breakup go away. It is important to remember that you alone are not at fault for the breakup, and both partners would need to make some changes for the relationship to work "this time." Do not bear the entirety of the burden on your shoulders. Bargaining is also problematic because it fuels a false belief that you can recover the relationship if you simply change some things about yourself or your behavior.
- Relapse: At this stage in grieving the breakup you may try to restart the relationship with your ex. But, most of the time this does not end well, and can make the pain feel fresh again.
- Anger: Immediately following a breakup, you will most likely feel fear and sadness. Eventually, sadness and fear will turn into anger. While anger is by no means a pleasant feeling, it means that you have let go of some of the fear and sadness you were feeling towards the breakup, so you should view your anger as a positive thing.
- Acceptance: At first, acceptance can feel more like a "surrender"- surrendering to the fact that the relationship is over and there is nothing you can do to change that. But, over time this acceptance will shift, and you will feel more at peace with letting the relationship go, because you want to and not because you must.
- Redirected Hope: As you move through the stages of getting over a breakup, you give up on the idea that you can somehow save the relationship and redirect your hope to other ideas. At this point, you can see a future where you can move on from your ex and be just fine. It can be a bit jarring when you reach this point after holding onto a relationship for so long, but it is also very freeing.
How to Get Over A Breakup
Everyone goes through the stages of getting over a breakup at their own pace. What everyone does have in common is the need to find some emotional outlets or other distractions that can help them cope with getting over a breakup and make the process a little easier.
Therapy or counseling is a very effective method for overcoming emotional struggles, such as the process of grieving after a breakup. Millions of people turn to therapy when they are going through a hard time, and for many people, their therapist is a key member of their support system. When getting over a breakup, a therapist can help you get through the hard days and guide you towards focusing on the positive aspects of the future. And while venting to your friends and family can be a good way to blow off some steam, a therapist can give you actionable advice that will make the process of getting over a breakup much easier.
Power of Positive Thinking
Our internal dialogue, the things we say inside of our head, can have a profound effect on our mindset and emotions. This is especially true when going through a hard time like a difficult breakup. Try to speak kindly to yourself and think positively about the future rather than spending your time lamenting the loss of the relationship or thinking about the past. Try saying these affirmations to yourself when you wake up in the morning or at any point throughout your day:
"I want to be happy": This may seem silly because everyone wants to be happy, right? But this is not always the case when getting over a breakup. You may find yourself wallowing in feelings of sadness or anger about your breakup and taking comfort in them. But, in the long run, this will only hurt you. By saying the phrase "I want to be happy," you remind yourself that making an effort towards feeling good pays off, even if being sad over your relationship brings you some sort of short-term pleasure.
"I love myself": Self-love is always important for your confidence and overall mental health. It is especially important when getting over a breakup, when you may feel as though you have lost the love of another person. Telling yourself that you love yourself every day can help you gain better control of your emotions in the wake of a breakup, rather than letting your ex-have control over them by spending much of your time and energy mourning the relationship.
Cut Off Contact
This one may sound like a no-brainer, but anyone who has been through a breakup knows that it is easier said than done. When you are in a relationship with someone, you become very emotionally invested in the person and their life. Even after breaking up, there will likely be a lot of loose ends that you feel the need to tie up, and both of you may continue reaching out to one another.
You are also used to talking to this person constantly and feel the need to still reach out to them and ask about their day "as a friend." You may think this is harmless, and that it is helping you get closure. But most people who have been in the situation know that continuing to stay in touch with your ex-makes them significantly harder to get over.
To get over a breakup, you need to stop communicating with your ex- completely. Stop answering their phone calls and texts and stop reaching out to them in search of answers to what went wrong in your relationship. Staying in touch with an ex is dangerous because your emotions can take over, and you may find yourself wanting to get back together with the person. All relationships end for a reason and talking to your ex will just make it harder to move on.
Cutting off contact from your ex extends beyond just texts and phone calls. In today's world, cutting off communication means removing the person from your social media feed, too. You can unfollow or unfriend them or block their updates from showing up on your screen. Whichever you feel is the appropriate option for your situation, it is important that you do so until you have adequate distance from the breakup and feel that you can see photos or status updates from this person without having an overly emotional response. Continuing to follow your ex on social media will just keep them very present in your mind and slow down the process of moving on.
Everyone knows that exercise is good for your physical health, but it also can be beneficial for mental health. When you exercise, you get a boost of feel-good endorphins, which can significantly boost your mood. When you are feeling down about your breakup, exercise can help bring you out of your emotions for a bit and put you in a more positive mindset. Plus, it is a great distraction, and can make you feel accomplished and that you are bettering yourself.
Fitness is important for your health, but it is also a confidence booster, which everyone needs at least a little bit of following a breakup. It will cheer you up even more if you blast some of your favorite songs while you get your sweat on, too.
Exercise is just one of the things you can do to occupy your time following a breakup. It is important to fill your days with people and activities that make you happy, even when you feel like you would rather just sit on your couch (a day or two of this immediately following the breakup is okay, but do not make a habit out of it).
The more time you spend inside and alone, the more you will contemplate your relationship and why it ended. Thinking about these things too much is very unproductive and will most likely just make you feel more upset about the breakup. Rather, try to keep yourself busy by spending time with friends, or doing activities that make you happy. If you do not have any hobbies, the days and weeks following a breakup is a great time to try new things and find something that interests you and you want to continue doing.
Some great ideas other than exercise are painting or drawing, spending time in nature, or learning a new skill that interests you. The important thing is that you spend time doing things that make you happy- in other words, "do you." Doing these things on your own will make you feel confident and prove to yourself that you do not need your ex for you to be happy.
Be Honest with Yourself
While in the early stages of getting over a breakup, you will spend a lot of time trying to figure out why your relationship ended. Often, in the early aftermath of a breakup, your beliefs about the relationship are not quite accurate. To get over the breakup, you need to be brutally honest with yourself about the flaws of the relationship that caused it to end. Most of the time, relationships end for a good reason.
And, if you cannot think of any reasons why it ended and you feel that your partner broke up with you out of the blue, it shows that there was a flaw because your partner did not feel the same way about the relationship as you.
Trying to get out of your head and see the relationship for what it was can be very difficult. One way to ease the process is to let all your thoughts out in a journal. Often, when you look at your thoughts on paper, you can see things from a different perspective. Journaling can be a wonderful emotional outlet in the wake of your breakup, as well as a useful tool for seeing the relationship in a new light.
Focus on The Future
After a breakup, you will feel very compelled to spend all your time thinking about the past and your former relationship. But, therein lies the problem- your relationship with your ex is in the past, and no matter how much time you spend thinking about it or being upset over it, you cannot change the fact that you and your former partner are now broken up.
It is not easy but do your best to focus on the future. It is hard to believe in the wake of a breakup, but you will get over it eventually. And, your next relationship will be even better because of the lessons you learned from your past relationship.
If you are having a hard time managing your emotions on your own, do not hesitate to reach out to a therapist or counselor. Everyone has the strength within them to get over a breakup, but a therapist can help you find it within yourself. Breakups are always hard, but you can take comfort in knowing that you can, and will, get over it in time.