“She broke up with me”: How to recover and move forward

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson
Updated January 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Being on the receiving end of a breakup can be emotionally challenging and even destabilizing. It might make you question your own self-worth or wonder if your ideas about the relationship were wrong all along. What can you do to restore your emotional well-being if your girlfriend broke up with you? First, you might start by aiming to understand the reasons for the split to help you find emotional closure. Then, there are some self-care practices you can engage in that may help yourself heal and start to feel better over time. Read on for an overview of all of the above.

Understanding the reasons behind the breakup

For many people, one of the hardest things about processing the end of a relationship is figuring out why it happened. If your short- or long-term girlfriend has broken up with you unexpectedly, you may be reevaluating your whole relationship trying to answer the question, “Why did my girlfriend break up with me?” Every couple is different, and it’s impossible to list every potential reason for the end of a relationship here. However, it may be helpful to consider whether your girlfriend may have broken up with you due to one of these common scenarios.

Communication problems

One of the most frequent reasons people give for realizing their relationship isn’t working anymore is having difficulties with communication.

According to a 2021 study on the most common causes for divorce, researchers highlighted two common threads that seem to be necessary for a successful, long-term relationship: “the act of reciprocating communication and satisfaction.”

If your communication with your former partner was infrequent, combative, one-sided, confusing, or dishonest for a long time, it may have been hard to understand where each other was coming from and to resolve conflict—potentially leading to the breakup.

Disrespect or contempt

The Gottman Institute suggests that one of the four signs of the imminent end of a relationship is contempt, which can take the form of mocking, ridiculing, name-calling, or disrespectful body language like eye-rolling. So if your girlfriend perceived that you didn’t regard her feelings and opinions as valid or didn’t hold respect for her, this could be a factor in her decision to break up. This factor might also be related to communication issues, as even people who do respect their partners may not always show it clearly.

Lack of attraction

Sexual and romantic attraction can vary a lot between adults of every orientation, and these differences don’t necessarily indicate a problem. However, if two romantic partners have very different levels of attraction, or if one person’s romantic or sexual feelings or desire for the other person have noticeably faded, this can sometimes be a deal breaker that prompts a breakup. 

Infidelity

Cheating or having an affair is another common cause of relationships ending. Though infidelity may come about due to other problems in the relationship, once it occurs, it can be the “final straw” that causes a breakup. Even in the absence of cheating, jealousy and lack of trust in general can also put a serious strain on a relationship.

Lack of common interests or values

It’s common for partners who break up to say that the two of them have “grown apart.” This could mean that they no longer agree about big questions such as ethics, politics, child-rearing, and religion, or simply that they’ve realized they don’t have enough shared interests. You might want to consider whether a lack of common ground or a disagreement on important values played a role in ending your relationship.

Tips for recovering after your girlfriend breaks up with you

Breakups commonly cause significant psychological distress, with one study even reporting that “depression-like symptoms” such as low mood and anhedonia are not unusual. So what can you do to start to feel more like yourself again after your partner breaks up with you? Many people find that the following strategies help them work through their feelings of stress and sadness.

Avoid contacting her

When you’ve gotten used to spending lots of time with your girlfriend, it can be hard to adjust to separation from her. Many people try to stay in close social contact with their former partners after a breakup. Sometimes this is because they hope to rekindle the relationship; other times it’s simply because they are so accustomed to being in touch that they have a hard time letting go and no longer seeing this person as their closest or best friend. 

However, continuing to see or contact your girlfriend after you’ve broken up—at least in the first few months—is likely to make your emotional recovery harder. Staying in touch with her can reinforce your feelings of attachment to her, which is likely to make your sadness over the breakup persist instead of fading. You’ll probably find it easier to be on your own if you deliberately take some time apart from this person. Many people do better after a breakup if they give themselves at least 30 days without coming in contact with their former partner. This can also help if you're in the "I broke up with my girlfriend" scenario. That way, you’ll be able to have some space to process the breakup and healthfully move on.

Don’t check her social media

The advice about avoiding contact can apply to digital contact as well. The internet gives us lots of ways to “check up on” an ex without seeing them in person, from texting to monitoring their status on social media. While tempting, this practice can affect your emotions in the same way as seeing this person face-to-face, potentially delaying your healing process. Neurological research suggests that viewing a picture of a former relationship partner activates brain pathways involved with habit formation. Clicking on your partner’s profile again and again, for example, may simply reinforce your attachment and make it harder to get over them. You might want to consider muting your ex on social media feeds and blocking or deleting their number for a while so that you don’t contact them.

Find other things to focus on

After a stressful event like a breakup, we may be tempted to go over and over it in our mind for a significant amount of time, thinking about what went wrong and how it could have gone differently. Although we suggested above that you may want to acknowledge possible reasons for the breakup, it’s possible to take this too far. Repeatedly fixating on negative events is called “rumination,” and research suggests it can worsen distress and even potentially contribute to depression or anxiety.

One possible way to avoid this cycle is to keep busy with other things. Choosing to pursue goals and activities unrelated to romantic relationships after a breakup may make it easier to move on by interrupting repetitive thoughts about it, helping you reconnect with yourself, and potentially offering you a way to form new social connections. For example, you might get back in touch with old friends, take up a new hobby or sport, get involved in a volunteer effort, or undertake a creative project.

Avoid suppressing your sadness

Feeling sad or even experiencing symptoms of grief is not unusual after the end of a relationship; having your girlfriend break up with you can be deeply challenging. If such difficult emotions do arise, it’s often helpful to accept and affirm them in a mindful way instead of resisting them. Trying to dismiss, reject, or bury your own sadness might simply make it harder to process, with research even indicating that avoidance may actually prolong the grieving process. Instead, it can be a good idea to acknowledge what you’re feeling without dwelling on or judging it. 

Journaling is one technique that might help with this process. One study suggests that participants who kept daily journal entries following the end of a relationship experienced less emotional distress. One thing the researchers noted as particularly helpful was writing “redemptive narratives”—in other words, trying to find the positive aspects of this negative experience. 

Build up a positive sense of self

Many of us define our own identities at least partly through our interpersonal relationships. Particularly if you’ve invested a lot of time and emotional energy in your romantic life, it may be hard to know who you are after your relationship ends. In cases like these, self-affirmation can be a helpful technique for rebuilding your concept of self, a practice that involves reminding yourself of your own core values. An easy way to get started is to make a list of the things that are most important to your definition of a happy, successful, meaningful life. 

People often find that simply creating this list is helpful. However, you may also be able to enhance the effect by imagining yourself in scenarios that fulfill these important values. For example, if expressing your creativity is important to you, you could picture yourself making a work of art or taking part in a performance. You might want to practice writing or speaking positive statements about how you fulfill your core values, too. Following up these statements and visualizations with action is also likely to increase their effectiveness. If your creative life as a painter is an important part of your identity, for example, picking up the brushes again may make it easier to work through your sadness.

Connect with friends and family

We often rely on our romantic partners as sources of emotional support. That’s one reason that emotional recovery can feel so difficult after your girlfriend breaks up with you: You’ve lost the person who used to help you get through hard times. That’s why many people find spending time with family and friends so helpful during a breakup. 

Having a strong network of support from friends and family can often take some of the sting out of your girlfriend’s absence. This can mean talking with them about your feelings regarding the breakup, but it can also mean simply spending time with them and enjoying their company. Knowing that your loved ones are there for you can be part of the healing process all by itself.

Talk with a therapist or counselor

Even if you have friends and family to lean on, it might also be helpful to talk through your feelings with a professional. A trained therapist may be able to help guide you through strategies for processing your feelings and working toward healing. 

Seeking out the help of a counselor in person might sound exhausting when you’re already dealing with the emotional fallout of a breakup. That’s why it’s often easier and faster to locate a therapist through internet-based services. With a virtual platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the challenges you may be facing. 

Recent research suggests that online therapy may be a viable alternative to in-person therapy in many cases in terms of effectiveness. Online counseling could be a helpful way to start your emotional recovery after the end of your relationship if this format works better for you.

Takeaway

Women don’t generally break up with a partner for no reason; nor does any person, typically. If your girlfriend broke up with you, figuring out where things went wrong could help bring you some closure. Focusing on other sources of positive meaning and value in your life is often helpful too. In addition, you might consider taking some time without contacting or checking up on your ex and putting your focus on rebuilding your sense of who you are without her. If you’re looking for support in this process, you may choose to connect with a therapist who is experienced in dealing with love and relationship challenges.

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