July 26, 2021

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Caitlin Harper

How To Survive A Breakup

Regardless of whether you ended the relationship, you were broken up with, or you and your partner made a mutual decision to part ways, a breakup can be a very challenging time. While it might not seem like it in the moment, there are ways to come to terms with a breakup, cope with any emotions you might be feeling, start to move on, and even use insights and lessons you learned from the relationship in future relationships—here’s how.

Regardless of whether you ended the relationship, you were broken up with, or you and your partner made a mutual decision to part ways, a breakup can be a very challenging time.

The end of a relationship doesn’t just mean you and a partner part ways; it can have an impact on your social situation, your living arrangements, your finances, your family, and of course, your mental health.

While it might not seem like it in the moment, there are ways to come to terms with a breakup, cope with any emotions you might be feeling, start to move on, and even use insights and lessons you learned from the relationship in future relationships—here’s how.

Don’t feel like you simply have to get over a breakup and move on right away

While friends and family might think they’re being helpful by telling you to simply get over it and move on, a breakup can be a serious life event and it’s completely normal to feel some strong emotions around it, including fear, anxiety, anger, confusion, bitterness, loneliness, and more.

“It’s important to remember that the ending of a relationship is a type of loss, and it’s a complicated loss,” said Lauren Fasanella, a therapist and MyWellbeing community member in a recent SmallTalk on MyWellbeing’s Instagram. “Not only are you losing the relationship and all that went with it, you’re also losing the person from your life.”

“Unlike death, the person is still out there, meaning that it is not final like death is,” she said. “You have to allow yourself room to feel the pain and give yourself time to grieve, recover from this, and give yourself time to heal. It’s important to be good to yourself and kind to yourself.”

If a breakup is a kind of loss, that means grief, recovery, and space to heal are part of the process, and that can take some time—it’s not something a night out with your friends will fix.

“Go easy on yourself; coping with a breakup is a process,” said Daniel Sieber, a therapist and MyWellbeing community member. “Allow yourself to experience all the emotions that come up when grieving the loss of a relationship. Understand that it gets easier over time.”

After the breakup, don’t try to force a friendship with the other person too quickly

“It’s very difficult to try to be friends with somebody during the period directly after the breakup,” said Lauren.

That’s not to say that you can never be friends, but especially during the direct aftermath, when you’re both taking time to heal, trying to make a friendship work can be painful and draw out the healing process.

“Try to wait six to twelve months to try to regain a friendship,” said Lauren, “or at least until you reach a point when you feel that you are fully over the relationship. If you continue to talk to the person or maintain some level of contact during the healing process, it gives you a sense of false hope and it delays your healing process by still having that person in your life.”

While it can be hard to adjust to being alone, if you were the one to end the relationship, be respectful of the other person and don’t second guess your decision.

“It's easy to only look at the happy times in your relationship and view it through rose-colored glasses when you're feeling lonely or vulnerable,”  said Daniel. “Be mindful of the positive aspects of your relationship that you would like to experience with someone new once you're ready to date again.”

Resist the temptation to follow them on social media

Cutting ties completely might sound dramatic—just because you follow them on Instagram doesn’t mean you talk to them!—but it’s an important way to accelerate your healing.

“As painful as it may seem in the moment to have to cut ties with the other person, it will really accelerate your healing process,” said Lauren. “And not only should you cut ties with them in terms of speaking to them and meeting up in person, it’s also very important to not follow them on social media. If you do, you’re still keeping tabs on their life and you also may see something that could potentially upset you.”

And if you’re the one being watched on social, it’s okay to block. While it might seem extreme, the social surveillance game has totally changed in the past few years. If you like, you can send a simple note that says, I think it will help us both heal faster if we’re not connected on here anymore, and leave it at that.

So what can someone do to cope after a breakup?

“Try and maintain as much normalcy in your life as possible,” said Daniel. “Stay active through exercise and hobbies; do something different that you always wanted to try. Stay connected with others, but listen to yourself and take alone time when you need it.”

He also said it can be helpful to practice gratitude for the positive things in your life and be mindful of the small joys you may experience on a daily basis. “Keeping a gratitude journal can be really helpful and grounding. Sometimes a breakup can make you feel as though there is a significant void in your life, but maintaining an abundance mindset is important because it's easy to lose sight of all the great things you have going for yourself when grieving the loss of a relationship.”

Here are a few other coping strategies that can help:

  • Avoid using drugs or alcohol to cope
  • Make sure to feel your feelings by sitting with your thoughts, journaling, or talking to someone
  • Stay active through exercise and physical movement
  • Take care of your body with proper nutrition and enough sleep
  • Do things that make you happy—it doesn’t matter how simple (yes, we’re talking puppy videos, rewatching your favorite comedy show or movie, or anything that makes you laugh)
  • Get involved with organizations you care about or donate your time or money to causes that move you

You don’t want to completely lose yourself in your hobbies (a little distraction is fine)—this is a time to work on you

“Try to focus on yourself,” said Lauren. “You want to keep busy with projects that you might not have been able to do because you were occupied with the relationship. You can read books, watch movies, or do anything and everything to keep yourself busy. The busier you are, the less likely you will be to fall into the trap of wanting to see the other person, contact them, or check out their social media accounts.”

It can also be a time to try new things. Lauren recommends:

Activities like these can give you a fresh start with new people, new activities, and a renewed living space.

How long does it take to get over a breakup?

Eventually it will be time to move on, but that timing looks different for everyone and can depend on all sorts of factors. The most important thing is whether you’ve given yourself time to grieve and heal and if you feel ready to move on. Even if it takes a little while, moving on is an important part of the process.

Eventually, “you really want to focus on moving forward with your life,” said Lauren. “You’ll want to look inward, not internalize the breakup, and move forward from this, acknowledging all of the good things that happened in the relationship as well as the reasons why the relationship ended. You can even think about what you can do next time to prevent those mistakes, especially if it’s a mistake that you made. Looking inward will let you move forward with all of those lessons.”

“When the time is right, you will absolutely be able to date again,” she said. “You want to pursue moving forward without writing a negative story for yourself. You want to write a positive story for yourself and approach moving forward with a fresh perspective and a great attitude.”

If you’re struggling to recover from a breakup, a therapist or coach can help

There are a million reasons why you might struggle to cope with and move on from a breakup. If some time has passed and you’re still finding it hard to adjust and move forward, a therapist or coach can work with you to figure out why you might be struggling so much and figure out some additional strategies to help you.

Breakups can be devastating and make a huge impact on our lives, but if we sit with our feelings, practice self-care, and take the time to grieve and heal, moving on is possible. Above all, be kind to yourself—you deserve it.

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About the author

Caitlin is MyWellbeing's Content Lead, a writer, speaker, communication coach, and the founder of Commcoterie, a communication consultancy. She teaches teams how to use professional coaching communication techniques in their everyday conversations, helps leaders engage their teams with effective and inclusive communication, and partners with service providers to activate their programs and offerings with their own clients through inspiring communication strategies. Find out more, including how to work with her, at www.commcoterie.com.

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