How To Handle A Breakup: Healthy Ways To Move On
There are many reasons that one or both people might decide to end a romantic relationship, from differing life goals to a dysfunctional dynamic to simply growing apart. Whether you initiate the breakup or your partner does, coping with the aftermath of a breakup can be challenging. After all, this person likely was likely involved in your daily life for however long you were together, so parting ways often represents a significant life change. Plus, many breakups are characterized by conflict, distance, or other factors that can exacerbate the pain. Whatever the situation may be, you can read on to find some tips on healthy ways to work through a breakup and move forward.
Difficult emotions in the wake of a breakup
After you’ve found the answer to, “How should I break up with her / him / them?” or have been on the receiving end of a breakup, you’re likely to feel a variety of difficult and even conflicting emotions. You might experience sadness, confusion, frustration, shock, anger, relief, guilt, or other emotions that can result in distress.
Even if you initiated the split, you may still feel the hurt often associated with two peoples’ paths diverging. Simply being aware of this fact may help you validate your own feelings rather than judging or trying to change them, and that’s often a good place to start on the road to healing.
Tips for healing from a breakup
There’s no one answer to the question of how long to get over a breakup, since it can vary widely by individual and by situation. Though the timeline can vary, the method is often similar. In other words, there are certain healthy coping mechanisms that have been shown to help many people through this type of situation. If you’re looking for relief as you navigate a breakup in your life, you might try some of the strategies below. Remember that patience and gentleness with yourself are often key as you move through this time.
Set healthy boundaries
Deciding on and then communicating boundaries that are healthy for you after a breakup may support your recovery. First, you might choose to set boundaries with friends or family who want to know the details of the split. If you’re not ready or willing to share them, you can communicate this gently but firmly. Second, you might also choose to set limits on communication with your ex-partner. Many people choose to implement a “no-contact” policy with their ex, whether it’s for a month, six months, or even for the foreseeable future. Or, if you still have to see them regularly—such as at work or school—you might offer up parameters to guide your interactions, such as no hugs or physical affection, no non-work or non-school conversation, etc.
Journal about your feelings
Recent research indicates that writing about your feelings after a breakup may have positive effects because it helps the writer engage in cognitive processing. In other words, writing about your feelings encourages you to become aware of and maybe even examine them, which is often the first step toward processing and working through them.
The study referenced above also indicates that although some people may at first use journaling as an opportunity to vent, it can be more helpful to use it to focus on the positives of the situation. This may not be possible to do right away when your feelings are still fresh. However, the study reports that “positive reinterpretation of the break-up experience” through written reflection is more likely to lead to positive breakup outcomes than venting, so it could be something you might try engaging in after some time has passed.
Take care of yourself
When going through an emotionally difficult period, it can feel challenging to maintain healthy routines; however, engaging in these habits may actually help you recover. Creating or sticking to a physical exercise routine, for example, can help boost your mood because it’s associated with the release of endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals.
Eating well could also help you feel better emotionally. A 2019 review of research on the topic suggests that a diet that’s rich in nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables may be associated with “psychological benefits following stressful periods'' like breakups. Remember that it’s typically recommended that you consult your doctor or nutritionist before making significant changes to your eating habits.
Mix up your routine
Many couples fall into routines together, meaning they become likely to engage in the same activities and spend time with the same people regularly. A breakup can represent an opportunity to diversify your life after being in a routine with someone, and there can be benefits to seizing it. For example, it could be valuable to try joining clubs, picking up hobbies, volunteering, or otherwise getting exposure to new activities and new people after a breakup. Experiences like these could potentially increase your self-esteem, expand your social support network, allow you to discover new sides of yourself, and help you find joy after the often-difficult and draining experience of a breakup.
Reach out for support
Finally, leaning on your social support network can also be helpful during this time. As reflected in a 2022 study, having adequate social support may help increase our levels of resilience during stressful situations. Family, friends, and community members can offer their time, care, encouragement, and a listening ear, all of which can be helpful to an individual who is trying to get back on their feet emotionally after experiencing the end of a relationship. If you don’t have a strong social support network, putting yourself out there to meet people and try new things as described above may help you form new connections.
Finally, seeking the support of a therapist is something that many people also choose to do after a breakup. A qualified mental health professional can provide you with a safe, nonjudgmental space in which to express and process your feelings about your past relationship. Since research suggests that reflecting on a breakup may aid in emotional recovery, sessions with a therapist can be especially valuable in this way. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety after a breakup, they can also help you address these.
In-person therapy sessions are not a convenient or affordable option for everyone. That’s why an increasing number of people are turning to online therapy. You can log on to these sessions from anywhere you have an internet connection, and the costs are generally lower than for in-person care since providers have less overhead to pay for. If you’re interested in exploring online therapy, you might consider a 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 from the comfort of your own space. Research suggests that online therapy can be as effective as in-person sessions in many cases, so you can feel confident in choosing whichever format that feels best for you.
How do I get over a breakup I still love?
Getting over an ex-romantic partner you still love can be difficult. That said, a few strategies may help make the healing process more manageable, whether you still love your partner or not. These include:
- Engaging in activities that don’t remind you of your old relationship
- Seeking out new friendships, or reaching out to acquaintances you’ve lost touch with
- Resisting the urge to contact your ex, even if you still love them
- Reconnecting with old hobbies and interests
- Practicing self-care, such as regular exercise and healthy eating
- Using mindfulness techniques to stay focused on the present moment
- Allowing yourself to feel both the negative and positive emotions that may be connected to the breakup
When you still love someone after a breakup, having a strong support network can be especially important. Consider reaching out to a family member or a trusted friend and looking for ways to socialize that don’t involve your ex. If a broken heart is causing you significant distress, you might also consider talking to a therapist or counselor.
What are the five stages of a breakup?
The five stages of grief are a psychological model for the different emotions a person may experience after a loss. People may also experience them after the end of a relationship.
In the context of a breakup, the five stages of grief may include:
- Denial: Denial, the first stage of grief, tends to be a coping mechanism. A person may feel confused, resist the reality of the breakup, or hold onto the hope that the relationship can be saved.
- Anger: The second stage of grief involves anger. This could include anger at one’s former partner, at an external event that may have caused the breakup, or, if cheating was involved, anger at the third party.
- Bargaining: During the bargaining stage of grief, a person may search for ways to get back together with their ex. This might include contacting them, making promises, or even asking others to intervene to restore the relationship.
- Depression: The depression stage of grief tends to set in when it becomes clear that the relationship is truly over and cannot be restored. A person may experience feelings of sadness, heartbreak, or hopelessness.
- Acceptance: In the acceptance stage, a person gradually comes to terms with the end of the relationship. This can take time, and they may still feel occasional sadness, but in general, this is when they begin to move forward with their life.
It can be worth remembering that not everyone may experience all five stages of grief after a breakup. If they do, they may not always happen in the same order.
How long does it take to get over a breakup?
There is no universal timeline for getting over a breakup. The healing process can be gradual, lasting anywhere from a few weeks to multiple months. This can depend on factors like the length of the relationship, the reason for the breakup, and the individual.
What is the hardest point of a breakup?
The hardest point of a breakup can be different for different people. Some people may feel the worst immediately after the breakup, while for others, it can take several weeks for the emotions to set in. Others may even feel the worst before the breakup actually happens if they know it’s coming.
Why is silence powerful after a breakup?
Ending relationships can be hard no matter what, but silence can be a helpful tool for processing breakups. Although it can be tempting to stay in touch with your ex, this can make it harder to move on, and it may even end up making you feel worse.
Going “no-contact” for a while after a breakup can be powerful because it can give both people space to process their emotions and adjust to being apart. This often means eliminating all forms of contact with your ex, including phone calls, texts, and other interactions. Some people may delete their ex’s number or unfollow them on social media. People who work with their ex may even look for a new job. How long this period lasts can depend on the individual and the time it takes to heal from the breakup.
Who suffers more in a breakup?
Research suggests gender may play a role in the painfulness of a breakup. In a 2015 study, researchers had more than 5,000 people rate the pain of breakups on a scale of 1 to 10. Women reported higher levels of emotional and physical pain. That said, this can be highly individual, and breakups can be painful for people of any gender.
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