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How to Get Over a Breakup, So You Can Live Your Best Life
Point blank: Breakups suck. Whether you’re the one calling it quits or the one being dumped, breakups can cause an overflow of emotions to occur all at once, which is why it’s helpful to know how to get over a breakup. So we chatted with a couple of relationship experts to learn some new advice, from the best ways to process a breakup to how to move on. Because as the popular saying goes, the only way out is through.
How to process your feelings:
This may not be much of a surprise, but as licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Britney Blair points out, the best way to process a breakup depends on the person.
“Some people really benefit from talking their feelings out with friends or trusted loved ones, while others need alone time and may benefit from journaling or just letting themselves feel whatever is coming up for them,” she explains.
With that in mind, Dr. Blair says that the best breakup advice she can offer is that it’s important to recognize that breakups usually trigger a grieving process—especially if it was an important relationship. “Grief can involve a series of stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) and we do not move through them in a linear fashion,” she adds.
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The tricky part is the grief is felt on both sides—not just the person being broken up with—and that’s totally normal. “A breakup is a loss that brings up emotions,” Dr. Blair says. “Some of these emotions may be painful (sadness, anger, shame, fear) and others may be positive (relief, excitement, etc.).”
No matter what we are feeling, Dr. Blair reminds us that feelings often don’t just go away—they have to be digested and processed. “The best way to do this is to slow down enough to check in with yourself and tune into what you’re feeling,” she suggests. “The reality is, feelings (by definition) are temporal, so they won’t last forever—so long as you let yourself feel them.” That said, if you avoid, deny, or suppress your feelings, Dr. Blair says that they will fester and pop up in ways that may not be so helpful or adaptive.
Knowing that processing the breakup is key, keep reading for four ways to support yourself through the breakup cycle.
How to move on after a breakup:
Take time to journal.
Sometimes it helps to write down everything you’re feeling; other times, instead of writing to yourself, it helps to write in your journal a pretend letter you won’t actually send to your ex. However you choose to write, relationship expert Danielle Laura says to allow yourself to purge every word and emotion you may not have been able to fully express to the person out loud. “Write it all out, holding nothing back,” she says. “When you’re done, you can burn the paper as a symbol of leaving the past behind and releasing the emotions and hurt that will not serve you as you move forward.” Or, you can hold onto it as a reminder of what you don’t want to feel like in future relationships.
Talk to someone you trust.
As beneficial as journaling can be, sometimes you need to have a listening ear and shoulder to cry on when processing a breakup. “Whether this is your therapist, coach, or loved one, allow yourself to be vulnerable with someone who can listen as you process,” urges Laura, who is the author of Unleashing Her Wild and Dear Love. “Many people are verbal processors, so having an unbiased person to process the event and emotion with can be very healing and healthy.”
Before you begin, just be sure to let them know if you just want to be heard or if you want their advice—and make sure they respect whatever you choose.
Have a creative outlet.
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Sometimes journaling and talking things out doesn’t help as much as allowing your pain to flow out of you during a creative endeavor. “For internal processors, having a creative outlet that helps you center your energy and cultivate peace is key,” Laura says. “This can be anything that helps to get you out of your stuck emotions and shift the energy; things like dancing, painting, going for a walk in nature, mediation, or anything else that gives you a healthy outlet to process thoughts and emotions.”
Make a gratitude list.
Taking stock of what you’re thankful for is one of the most helpful ways to change your perspective and process daily life—let alone breakups. “When we can shift our mindset to see the good in every situation, this helps to process a breakup a lot easier,” Laura explains.
While the relationship might’ve not ended the way you have hoped, Laura suggests asking yourself a few questions: “What did I learn from this relationship?” “How am I stronger now because of this?” “What lessons can I take from this into future relationships that will be helpful?” “See those answers in front of you and choose to be grateful for the experience as it’s leading you one step closer to what you truly desire,” Laura adds.
From a short-term standpoint, distractions can be incredibly helpful when moving on after a breakup. Though, don’t get it mixed up—we aren’t saying to distract yourself from the pain and forego the processing step. “You want to make sure you make room to feel your emotions but you don’t want to drown yourself in wallowing in despair,” Dr. Blair says. “After you’ve talked to a friend, cried a bit, maybe screamed at the wall, or listened to some sappy music, get out and distract yourself. This may mean jumping back into the dating pool but agreeing to ‘keep it casual’ until you feel you have fully processed your previous relationship.”
Invest your time into something you’re passionate about.
On the opposite side of distracting yourself with dating is to dedicate your time to something you love and have been wanting to engage in more. “Allowing yourself to be immersed in something that lights you up will help to remind you how much good there is all around you, and how full you can still [feel] even without that person in your life,” Laura says. “[Focusing on these things] ignites excitement back into your life, which helps increase serotonin levels in the brain, activating happiness.”
Get rid of anything that reminds you of the relationship.
This one is controversial because some people want mementos—and other people hold onto things because they think they may end up getting back together with their exes down the road. Nevertheless, Laura says that having clean breaks are the best way to move on after a breakup. “Allow yourself to get rid of any pictures, memorabilia, and items that you two shared,” she says. “Consider also deleting them from your social media accounts, even temporarily. The longer you hold onto that energy of the relationship, the longer you’re prolonging yourself from moving forward.”
Consider doing a social media detox.
Speaking of deleting your ex from social media (even temporarily), Laura points out that emotions are raw and heightened after a breakup, and social media can intensify them—especially if you see your ex posting things that make everything seem worse (like them seeming happy and unfazed following your split). Because of this, she says not only deleting your ex, but allowing yourself a few days away from social media, can help you to regroup, process emotions, and have time to grieve following a breakup.
Write yourself (and maybe them) a letter of forgiveness.
Again, even if you don’t plan on sending it, simply writing down your emotions can help. “Once you’re ready, firstly forgive yourself for everything that happened—that you did or didn’t do—letting yourself release any lingering guilt that may be there,” Laura says. “If you’re feeling courageous, write them a letter, too. Getting out your emotions with a full circle moment of closure is cathartic, even if you’re the only one who knows about it. Do it for you.”
Reinvest in your friendships and social circle.
Sometimes relationships dampen friendships. Because of this, it’s important to revisit them and communicate your emotions there, too—even if (and especially if) it requires holding yourself accountable and apologizing for being a lousy friend while you were in a relationship. “Having a support system to be around after a breakup is important so that you know you’re not alone,” Laura says. “That extra support goes a long way when the heart is healing from a breakup and helps things to feel more manageable.”
The biggest takeaway: there’s no timeline.
No matter what your friends and family, social media, or love articles say, there’s no timeline when it comes to getting over a breakup. At the end of the day, the best way to get over a breakup is to take your time and reflect on why the relationship didn’t work out, whether it’s because of you, your partner, or both. By fully processing and overcoming these things, you’ll be better able to not replicate them and similar patterns in future relationships.
“Taking your time when getting over a breakup is so important because it allows you to see things objectively, notice patterns that may have been at play so that you don’t repeat them in the future, process your feelings so you don’t bring them into your next relationship, and give yourself time to trust yourself again,” Laura says.
With that, we send you a virtual hug and endless support through the process. In the meantime, crank on Charlotte Sands’ song, “I Love You, But”—which is one of our all-time favorite break-up and self-empowerment songs—and focus on the lyrics: “Yeah, everybody is so deceiving/ Just gotta focus on my own breathing / I’m not perfect, but I’m getting well/ Yeah, I love you, but I love myself.” Because, remember, above all else, you have to prioritize yourself.
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