Breakups can be debilitating. I’ll never forget the first time I had my heartbroken. It was my sophomore year of high school and I finally got the boy I’d been pining away for to date me. However, one week into our short-lived romance, I caught mono AKA “the kissing disease” and he broke up with me.
This was ironic considering the only kiss I’d ever experienced was three years earlier during a seventh-grade dance when a boy shoved his tongue down my throat as I kept my eyes open the entire time, wondering why “Stairway To Heaven” felt like the longest song in the history of the world!
Long story short, getting dumped by my one-week high school sweetheart left me feeling something I’d never felt before, utterly devastated. From that day forward, my approach to anything that brought me pain was to avoid or ignore it. If someone hurt me, I demonized them to make myself feel better and justify why they shouldn’t be part of my life anyway. These tactics worked in the short-term, or so I thought until I found myself running right back into the exact same situation.
The long-term effects of sidestepping my feelings were emotionally detrimental. If any of this sounds remotely familiar, then I highly suggest Pema Chodron’s, “The Places That Scare You: A Guide To Fearlessness In Difficult Times.” While many of her teachings can be applied to any situation in life, I found them particularly helpful in the context of a breakup.
Instead of fearing my emotions, I am learning to listen to them and find my own sense of closure through dealing with the discomfort. In doing this, I’ve actually noticed a positive ripple effect in so many other aspects of my life beyond dating.
Obviously, remedying heartbreak is a lot of trial and error. What works for one person may not work for another, but after discussing the topic with three friends and three relationship experts, I noticed a few commonalities between those who experienced success in moving forward after a breakup.
How To Get Over Someone, According To Friends
“Everything coming to mind is probably what you shouldn’t do, haha. Like partying a lot, wallowing, and hooking up with guys who didn’t deserve me. But if I think harder, the things that helped me were being open with my friends and letting myself feel the feels.
Pushing them aside was never a good solution. Also, focusing my energy on something to just get me out of my rut like school, work, self-care, friendships, hobbies, etc. Almost like a ‘fake it til you make it’ approach.” - Jolene in San Francisco, 26-years-old
“I wish I could have put things into perspective, but you really feel like the world is against you fresh off a breakup. I think the best advice I got was to try to do things for myself that I love—get a pedicure, buy some magazines, get a fancy coffee, join a yoga studio. I think therapy and podcasts are also very helpful.” - Adrianna in New York City, 32 years-old
“In a time when we consume digital content about us or tailored to us, telling us how to feel or what to do, I like to immerse myself in environments that have nothing to do with me, like a museum or a park. I find it helpful to remember that our tragedies are one of the millions that have happened, that my narrative isn’t the be-all and end-all—the world will go on. I think the best thing you can do is not engage with an ex until you are more excited about your future than your past.” - Whitney in Chicago, 32-years-old
How To Get Over Someone, According To Experts
According to Grazel Garcia, LMFT, couples therapist, “In relationships, couples may find it difficult to feel vulnerable and therefore unintentionally create emotional distance from their partners as a way to protect themselves. When our emotions are not nurtured in relationships, we begin to feel uncared for, unimportant, unloved and these feelings can lead to emotional distancing that lead to breakups.
Individuals, regardless of gender, mourn relationship losses differently. The best way to mourn a breakup is to find healthy distractions. Based on my clinical experience, partners mourn breakups successfully when they have:
A strong support system. Friends or family are always helpful in providing distraction and emotional support to those who are grieving a relationship loss. Being with people helps prevent the isolation that results in a depressed mood.
Engaging in pleasurable activities such as hobbies that can help improve one's mood.
Exercise, mindful meditation, and learning breathing and grounding techniques help alleviate emotional tension.
Reaching out to psychotherapists is always helpful. It is beneficial to everyone to have the guidance of a non-biased professional find healthy ways of grieving a loss especially to those who are not able to open up easily to friends and or family members.”
According to Shirin Peykar, LMFT, psychotherapist and founder of Let’s Talk Divorce, cutting ties is a helpful way to start the healing process is to cut connections to your ex. Delete, unfriend, or block if you need to. This way, you can keep your focus on your healing. It’s often triggering to see what your ex is up to, especially if he/she appears to be happy on social media. Cutting the connections goes for friends and family of your ex as well. However, you’re welcome to communicate to them that maintaining the connection is making it harder to move on, but that maybe in the future you’d welcome their friendship in your life.
Practicing self-care can help fill the void of the relationship with things you love to do. Try to incorporate creativity as an outlet. Invest in your friendships, hobbies, and things you enjoy. Although it’s hard to find pleasure for a while after a breakup, one day you will feel joy. It’s important to invest in your self-care during this time too.
Embrace your feelings as they come up. This is a tough one for so many people because it’s so painful. We tend to think the pain will eat us alive or last forever, but it won’t. It will pass, but we must go through it to learn the lessons each emotion is trying to tell us.
Stay in the present through meditation, mindfulness, and getting out in nature. After a breakup, we tend to obsess or ruminate on everything that’s happened. It’s important to bring yourself into the present to lessen the thinking and increase the being.
According to Erika Martinez, Psy.D., CDWF , “My best bit of advice is to ...stop and actually feel your emotions. Too often people try to keep themselves busy with work, social activities, food, drugs, etc. to keep from feeling the hurt, and the hurt goes unprocessed only to later fester in future relationships.
Rather than denying them or suppressing that swell of emotion, let yourself be immersed in it. Listen to what those feelings are there to tell you about the end of the relationship, about yourself, and your former partner. If you feel like your emotions may overwhelm you, get some professional support so you don't have to do it alone—this can significantly cut down the breakup recovery time.
Find someone who you feel safe sharing your breakup story and emotions with. Also, take some time to take care of yourself. Maybe it's a spa day or an afternoon mediation. Do whatever will help you heal and feel grounded in your new normal.
Create a full life, socially and professionally, and fall in love with it. Go do and explore things that you've been meaning to, but couldn't or wouldn't because you were in a relationship. Take advantage of not having to take another person's preferences into account in your decision making.
By all means, do not jump into dating sites and apps, or into another relationship. I get the desire to fill this newly vacant and painful space in your life. Dating sites and apps are a distraction from your pain, and a new relationship forged in the pain and grief that accompanies a breakup will tend to be high intensity and short duration, compounding the hurt you're already feeling.”
Breakups are inevitably painful, but from my own experience and many others, there are some ways to set yourself up to be successful in moving forward.
Reach out to family, friends, or a trusted professional and share how you feel. Take space from your ex by disconnecting on social media or eliminating reminders (at least for a little while). Throw yourself into what you love like work, friends, hobbies, and self-care. It can be difficult to have perspective when you’re in the midst of heartbreak, but taking the time out now will set you up for a brighter road ahead.