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The end of a relationship can be devastating and emotional. You may notice your whole routine is off, your mood is more down, and you lose interest in activities that were once meaningful or pleasurable. You may also experience other physical symptoms such as poor sleep quality, low energy, or loss of appetite.
A breakup might lead to questions of worthiness and negative or self-defeating thoughts (e.g., “My whole life is ruined,” “I will never find love again,” or “I wish I didn’t have to start over.”), which can make it difficult to focus or function. As painful or disappointing the end of a relationship might be, the hurt you feel is not permanent. Below are 10 coping strategies, whether you’re going through the breakup yourself or someone you know is.
One of the most common questions I am asked by my clients going through a recent breakup or relationship ending is, “How long will it take to get over a breakup?” Walking into my office in a state of shock, confusion, heartbreak, sadness, or anger, naturally, they want to know when they can expect life to feel normal again.
I smile and say something like, “It depends. However, I can assure you the pain you are experiencing will not last forever. While it feels miserable now, it is temporary. The more you are willing to grieve, face your loss, treat yourself kindly, and move toward closure, the better you will feel.”
How long it will take truly depends on many factors, including how someone behaves after a breakup, who ended the relationship, how the relationship actually ended, and how someone heals and handles loss. For example, distancing yourself from your ex is healthier than staying in constant contact or continuing to be sexual with your ex post-breakup. Feeling empowered to gain closure even when the breakup is hurtful leads to quicker healing than acting in a victimized way and giving your ex all of the power to determine how you feel.
An interesting study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology surveyed155 young adults who had recently gone through a breakup. The survery results found that 71% started viewing the experience in a positive light three months post-breakup.
While there is no exact amount of time it takes to get over a breakup, you can take action toward healing by taking ownership of your feelings and bringing your focus back to you (and away from your ex). Here are six tips:
Understand that grieving the loss of a relationship is natural and healthy. While it can feel like backward movement, grieving is actually the means to moving forward, so don’t rush the grieving process. Allow yourself to experience any emotions that surface. Going through grief will support you in leaving your heartbreak in the past and not carrying negativity and hurt into future relationships. Remember grief is not linear. You can learn more about the grieving process here.
Closure cannot occur if you are denying the breakup, pretending it isn’t real, suppressing your emotions, or staying fixated on getting back together with your ex. As heartbroken as you may feel, accepting the breakup as a factual event is essential in moving forward in your own life.
While it can be tempting to deny how you feel and avoid your emotions, it is important to let yourself feel. Let yourself cry and experience your emotions without going into full avoidance mode or deny reality.
This means not waiting for anyone to give you permission to move on or dictate how you feel. Post-breakup, understand that you can achieve resolution and inner peace without an apology, explanation, conversation, or truce with your ex.
While it is common to crave closure from an ex, especially if the breakup was sudden or he or she suddenly vanished, don’t give your power away and play victim. Take on an empowered approach for being responsible for your own thoughts, feelings, and choices even if your ex is not willing to talk it out with you. Your ex’s ability to communicate or apologize has nothing to do with your own deservingness.
In an ideal world, you might want to be friends, but committing to that in an emotional state can equate to pressure and further difficulty moving on. Remind yourself you don’t have to be friends (and can always reevaluate once more healing has occurred), and give yourself ample time to reflect away from your ex. It is much harder to get over someone when you have continuous interactions.
Along with taking physical time apart, it is important to separate on social media. A good rule of thumb is if it would bother you to see an ex’s post or picture on Facebook, Instagram, etc., or you have trouble stopping yourself from peeking, it’s probably worth unfriending, hiding, or unfollowing an ex. There’s no need to torture or punish yourself, regardless of what went wrong.
When you are in a relationship, you get used to making decisions together and taking your partner’s feelings and desires into account. After a breakup, it is essential for you to turn the arrow inward and take an active role in your own life.
Create new habits that are healthy and bring you joy, and focus on letting your values and goals guide your behavior. Practice self-care through exercise, getting outside and out of your home, spending time with friends, family, and loved ones, joining new social groups, and trying new things.
Over-drinking or drinking to avoid feeling and dealing with your breakup may sound like a solution. However, it just leads to a temporary quick fix and does not address the underlying issues. Also, under the influence of alcohol and without rational judgment, you may find yourself drunk texting or calling your ex, surveying his or her social media accounts for information, or engaging in reckless or impulsive behaviors.
If you are going to drink, make sure you are with friends and you are aware of your limits. Drinking alone when you are experiencing sadness can intensify emotions and loneliness.
There is always a takeaway, a silver lining, a teaching moment in the toughest of situations. Finding the lessons in your relationship and breakup will help you move forward toward happiness and new possibilities. While you grieve, cultivate a positive mindset that resolves the past and leaves any toxicity behind. Imagine the learning you gain from this experience as an open door to a healthier version of yourself and more positive dating experiences in the future.
It may be challenging to know what to do, what to say, and how to support a friend going through a breakup. Here are three tips:
Every breakup is different, so it’s important not to judge your friend’s feelings or how long it is taking him or her to move on, regardless of the length of his or her relationship. When listening, be present and show support by not interrupting and use encouraging language, active body language, and good eye contact.
It is natural to feel impatient or want your friend back, but remember while you can be supportive and helpful, you can’t speed up your friend’s grief process or control his or her behavior. Practice patience and allow your friend to find his or her own way.
And be supportive without taking on your friend’s burden. It is essential to take care of yourself, especially if you are in a caregiving role or watching someone you care about struggle or process difficult emotions. Make sure that helping your friend is not interfering with your ability to function in your own life.
If you are worried about your friend, gently suggest he or she seek out a mental health professional for greater support.
When seeking resolution and closure, it’s worth it not to rush your grief process. Remember the goal is total resolution and a healthy mindset for future dating and relationships versus a fast-paced or avoidant approach. Take your time, let go of inner judgment, utilize your support system, and focus on yourself and your own needs. Remind yourself that you will get through it!