How To Get Over Someone After A Breakup

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated May 13, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It can be challenging to realize that you may be in a relationship that no longer meets your needs or isn’t progressing as you had hoped. While ending the relationship may be the healthiest choice, you may have lingering feelings for your ex even after breaking up. Learning to get over someone after a breakup may lend you a sense of closure and help prepare you for healthier relationships with yourself and others. 

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Why are breakups so painful? 

A breakup may involve the suffering of loss at many levels: your relationship with your ex, the goals that you and your partner held, and even some of the mutual friends you once had. You may experience significant changes to your daily routine, causing you to seek a new sense of structure in your week. Research has shown that the end of a romantic relationship can be so emotionally difficult that your body may experience it similarly to grieving the death of a loved one. You may experience bereavement symptoms such as insomnia, intrusive thoughts, and reduced immune response.

As with grieving any loss, the process of moving on after a breakup can require patience and self-acceptance as you move through these emotions.

When to move on from a relationship 

If you’re unsure whether you should move on from a relationship, consider whether the following unhealthy aspects are present in your relationship: 

  • Communication feels difficult, unhealthy, or impossible 
  • You break up and get back together repeatedly 
  • It feels like you make all the sacrifices
  • You have trouble trusting your partner 
  • Your core values aren’t aligned
  • You don’t like how you act when you’re around them 
  • One or both of you have stopped making an effort
  • You argue often 
  • Your emotional needs are not met 
  • You are not caring for yourself in your relationship 
  • You feel bored or no longer in love with your partner 

Pay attention to your partner for indications that they are unwilling or unable to repair the issues between you. If your partner is abusive, you may be at risk of physical danger by continuing to stay in the relationship.

If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7.

How to move on from a relationship 

You may have invested deeply in your former relationship and find it challenging to let go of what you have built together. While it can take time to get over a broken relationship, there are several methods you can try to process your lingering emotions and move forward. 

Love regulation 

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology involves using cognitive or behavioral strategies to reduce the intensity of lingering romantic feelings. The study evaluated the efficiency of three love regulation methods, including: 

Negatively reappraising an ex

The study found that focusing on negative aspects of a former partner’s behavior or personality reduced love feelings but left partners feeling worse.

Reevaluating the feelings of love

Reevaluating the feelings of love, called love reappraisal, encouraged participants to accept their lingering feelings. These study participants didn’t experience a change in love feelings or mood but showed a reduced response to emotional stimuli. 

Distraction

Distraction involved talking to participants about unrelated activities they enjoyed, which improved participants’ mood but did not affect their feelings of love for their former partner.

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Recognizing the futility of the relationship 

It may be beneficial to remember the reasons why you broke up. This is not the same as dwelling on negative emotions that build resentment toward your former partner. However, remembering that there was a valid or healthy reason for leaving could help redirect your thoughts whenever you entertain the idea of returning to the relationship.  

Address your emotions 

Take time to mourn your relationship if you need to. Even if you were the one who decided to initiate the breakup, you may nonetheless experience grief and other powerful feelings, such as confusion, anger, sadness, resentment, jealousy, and regret. You may also find yourself in situations that intensify your negative feelings as you process the separation, such as running into your ex in public, seeing their social media posts, or learning your ex is dating someone else. It can help to identify these emotions and allow yourself to experience them as they arise. Ignoring or suppressing your feelings may prevent you from moving on to experiencing other, more positive emotions in the wake of a breakup, such as a renewed sense of energy towards making positive changes in your life. 

Consider going “no contact”  

Staying in touch with your ex immediately after a breakup could complicate your attempts to let go and move on. Communicating with your ex may have been a part of your daily routine that you now struggle to fill. Try to avoid calling, texting, or reaching out to your ex at least until you have established a new sense of routine in your life. One way to create a new routine is to reach out to a close friend whenever you feel the urge to call or text your ex. 

Start a new hobby or learn a new skill 

Finding ways to enrich yourself by learning a new skill or hobby could be a rewarding method for staying distracted as you get over your ex. A creative hobby such as painting or creating music may allow you to channel your emotions as you grieve. For example, studies indicate that expressive writing through journaling can improve mental health and help you express emotions. Joining a dance class or team sport may be another healthy way to rebuild your weekly routine and develop new relationships. 

Try to learn from the breakup

While breakups can be painful, they can also bring positive changes to your life. A breakup can serve as an opportunity to examine the patterns in your relationships where you have room for growth. It can also help to reflect on the positive changes that have occurred in your life post-breakup, such as more time to devote to your other friendships and interests. According to research in positive psychology, the emotional pain of a breakup can be mitigated by focusing on – and journaling about – the positive outcomes that came out of your decision to end the relationship. By doing the work of self-reflection after a breakup, you may find yourself more prepared to build a happier, healthier relationship in the future.  

Visualize the possibility of new relationships 

It may feel difficult to imagine starting over with someone new after a breakup. You might feel that no one else will understand you as your former partner did. Like the journaling exercise mentioned above, visualizing or focusing on the positive possibilities of new relationships can help reframe your thoughts. You may also reflect on other difficult times or breakups in your past that eventually led the way to growth and new relationships.

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Reach out for support 

A network of supportive individuals may help you through a rough breakup. Connecting with others could make you feel less alone and encourage you to pursue other interests or activities. Social connection, as opposed to isolation, has been proven to affect mental health positively. Practicing self-care after a breakup can be beneficial regardless of how the relationship ended. 

Therapy after a breakup 

If you are struggling to get over your ex and move on with your life, it may help to speak to a licensed therapist. Whether in-person or online, therapy can help you examine your feelings and work through them. One common technique applied in talk therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), in which a therapist helps the patient to reduce their negative emotions by reframing how they think about the experience that caused them to feel sad or depressed. CBT is one of many approaches a therapist can take when helping you through the grieving process post-breakup.  

Online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy for alleviating symptoms of depression through CBT. Another advantage of online therapy is the speed with which it can match you to a licensed therapist who specializes in your area of need. Online platforms such as BetterHelp can match you within 48 hours to a therapist. You can even specify whether you would like a therapist who specializes in relationships, marriage, or LGBTQ+ relationships. 

Takeaway

Getting over your ex after a breakup can be difficult, but breakups can also be opportunities to develop healthier habits and explore new friendships and hobbies. Speaking to a licensed therapist can also help you examine and work through your lingering feelings and find a sense of closure.
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