- Moving on when you’re still in love with your ex
- Feeling stuck
- Accepting what’s happened
- Getting the wider perspective
- Looking after yourself
- What if I need more support?
- The 7 things I did to get over a big breakup — and why research says they work
- 1) I said yes to every social invitation
- 2) I nourished by body with healthy food and exercise
- 3) I reconnected with old friends
- 4) I cut off all my hair
- 5) I blocked my ex on every social media channel I could think of
- 6) I downloaded Tinder and started dating again — casually
- 7) I threw myself into my work and career
- 5 Psychologists Reveal How To Get Over Your Ex In 30 Days Or Less
- 5 reasons why you still can’t get over your ex
- Getting over the Ex: 12 Basic Tips
- How To Get Over A Breakup And Move On From An Ex
- Move On From The Past With The 6 Stages Of Getting Over Someone
- How To Get Over A Breakup
- What To Do After A Breakup To Mend A Broken Heart
- 1. How To Handle A Breakup Today
- 2. How To Get Over A Breakup Tomorrow
- 3. How To Get Over A Breakup Next Week
- Pooja Parikh Traveled Across The World For The HS Diagnosis That Changed Her Life Forever
- Top 10 Survival Tips:
- 1. Accept whatever you feel.
- 2. Don’t isolate yourself.
- 3. Get your diary out and filling it in with different activities, especially on the weekend.
- 4. Get rid of the relationship reminders.
- 5. Break away completely from each other right after the breakup.
- 6. Stay away from the places you used to go to.
- 7. Keep a journal.
- 8. Keep reminding yourself that your happiness isn’t dependent on your ex.
- 9. Try to view the breakup as a chance for a new beginning.
- 10. Focus on being in the present.
- How to Let Go: Learning to Deal with Loss
- Every Loss is a Partial Loss of Who You Are
- Toxic vs Healthy Relationships
- (Optional) You Might Be in a Toxic Relationship If…
- Why It’s Harder to Let Go of Toxic Relationships than Healthy Ones
- How to Get Better at Accepting Loss
- STEP 1: Understand that our memories lie to us and convince us that EVERYTHING WAS TOTALLY AWESOME BACK THEN, even though it wasn’t.
- STEP 2: Surround yourself with people who love you and appreciate you for who you are.
- STEP 3: Invest in your relationship with yourself.
- STEP 4: If you were stranded on a desert island and could do whatever you wanted to do—do that.
- STEP 5: If you lost an intimate relationship, don’t be afraid to stay single for a while.
- Eventually, Everything is Lost
Moving on when you’re still in love with your ex
Sometimes, when a relationship ends, both of you feel that calling things to a close was the right thing to do.
This isn’t always the case though, if you didn’t want things to end and you still have very strong feelings for your ex it can be a real struggle to move on. Indeed, part of the problem may be that you don’t want to move on – what you really want is for your ex to change their mind and come back.
We speak to a lot of people who are in this situation – particularly on our free online counselling service Live Chat. And although there’s no single, simple solution, there are a few things that might help you gain perspective and – with time – begin to accept what’s happened.
The process of getting over the end of a relationship often mirrors the famous ‘loss cycle’. This cycle ends with ‘acceptance’ – being able to understand and acknowledge the truth of a situation, even if it’s painful. However, this is often much easier to understand in theory than it is to accept emotionally.
You may be perfectly aware that your partner no longer wants to be with you. They may have even said this. But somehow, you just don’t feel things are over.
You may go over and over things in your head, thinking that if you’d just done one thing differently then the outcome might have been different. Or maybe you just want to make contact one more time so you can understand why they don’t want to be with you.
You might also wonder – sometimes obsessively – about how they’re coping with all of this: whether they’re also upset, or whether they’ve completely forgotten about you. These thoughts can be reinforced by social media, which can imply someone is having a great time and is completely carefree even when this isn’t always true.
Accepting what’s happened
A lot of our work in these situations is focused around helping people move towards a more realistic understanding of what’s happened.
Sometimes, this process can be difficult. It can be blunt. Ultimately, you may need to accept that it does take two people to be in a relationship. And if one of those people doesn’t want to be in it, then there is no relationship.
If you feel like you and your ex can have an amicable discussion about the end of your relationship and that having this would be genuinely helpful, then there are circumstances when this can work. But it can also mean putting yourself in a potentially painful position. Often, hearing why a relationship ended can be as unpleasant as the end itself.
It can be useful to get an outsider perspective – or even a few – before doing anything. Talk to friends and family. People you can trust and who you know will listen to you. If you feel like you’d benefit from a truly objective opinion, there’s no shame in seeking professional help with a counsellor.
Getting the wider perspective
One thing that can be helpful when struggling with unresolved feelings following the end of a relationship is thinking back and consider the bad sides as well as the good.
There can be tendency to ‘cherry pick’ and only think about the stuff you miss. But no relationship is perfect. Recognising this can be an important part of understanding why things ended. It can also mean avoiding similar situations in the future. Obviously we only have so much control over what happens in relationships, but if there were any behaviours that contributed towards things ending this time, being aware of these can be very useful.
Looking after yourself
Of course, this is all easier said than done. Being in love with someone who doesn’t want to be with you is painful. Sometimes it’s hard to cope.
If you’re struggling, it’s important to focus on yourself and make sure you’ve got the support you need. You may want to think about coping strategies. What helps you to feel better in the moment? Some people want to be by themselves, some like to give themselves something to do to stay busy.
Sometimes, the end of a relationship can be an opportunity to do some of the things that you didn’t have time to do before, like concentrating on your hobbies or seeing people you haven’t seen in while.
Again, talking to your friends and family can be really important – reminding you that there are people who care about you and want to make sure you’re ok. Although wanting some time to yourself is natural if you’re finding things difficult, isolating yourself is not a good idea. If you’re finding it really hard to cope, do get in touch. Sometimes the act of talking things over is enough to relieve some of the pain.
And sometimes, re-negotiating boundaries in terms of your social network may be necessary. You and your ex may have shared a lot of friends, or have been close with each other’s families. It’s going to take time to figure out what things are going to look like in the future, but for now, the focus needs to be making sure you’ve got the space to regroup and recover. Sometimes, seeing different people for a little while can be necessary.
What if I need more support?
Relationship counselling isn’t just for couples we see lots of people who are getting over a break up – having someone you can talk to openly can really help.
You can talk to an expert Relate counsellor online or find your nearest Relate.
The 7 things I did to get over a big breakup — and why research says they work
Tom and I broke up a few weeks before he was due to start medical school.
Our relationship had been a whirlwind. We had known each other since childhood but had been dating for just 10 days before he moved down from Connecticut to Pennsylvania and into my small one-bedroom apartment. A few months later, we were planning our wedding, deliberating what guest favors we would choose (DIY terrariums were under consideration), and stopping in at jewelers to try on engagement rings. I was elated, effervescent, convinced he was “the one.”
Then all of a sudden, we were on the rocks. Arguments interrupted even the briefest phone conversations. Weekend trips ended in tears and yelling.
One afternoon at the end of my workday, eight months after our relationship began, I found myself sitting in my parked car, dialing his number in a moment of panic and confusion. “I’m not getting what I need,” I told him.
In the nights that followed, I had the dramatic push-pull experience that everyone experiences immediately following a breakup: on top of the world and triumphant in my decision one moment, certain that my ex would come crawling back, confident that I had made the right call, and then suddenly heartbroken, afraid, and completely numb, somehow all simultaneously. I cried into his voicemail. I sat by my window and listened to “A Case of You” on repeat. I wallowed.
When I spoke to Brian Boutwell, an evolutionary psychologist at St. Louis University, he gave me some insight into the science behind my sadness. He said that being in love involves the same neural circuitry as a cocaine addiction.
“Falling in love presents very much like an addictive process,” he told me. “You have this drive to get that fix in the form of being around the person that you care about.”
So my breakup was a cocaine withdrawal? Boutwell says yes.
“We have this pervasive idea that, ‘oh, it’s just a breakup, it’s not that big of a deal,’” he said. “Whereas emotionally it can be quite a big deal, and can be a risk factor for depression, which is no clinical condition to take lightly. There is a real analogy of the, quote, broken heart. There’s some physiological rationales behind that thinking. can jeopardize one’s health.”
This description rings true to me: After the breakup, I felt physically ill, exhausted, and devastated. One of these particularly low moments, I scared myself into anger — at my ex, at myself, at this entire stupid situation. How dare he not fight harder for this relationship? How dare something end that was so promising and beautiful? But most importantly, how dare I — an outspoken feminist, constantly touting women’s independence, glory, power, resilience — betray women by behaving like my life was over because of something as trivial as a breakup? What had really happened here? I had lost a man, a friend, a partner, but I hadn’t lost myself.
So I embarked on a quest to reclaim myself, to turn this breakup into an opportunity for renewal and self-discovery, rather than an excuse to feel sorry for myself. I tried all sorts of things, from reconnecting with old friends to blocking my ex on every single social media channel imaginable.
Here’s a list of everything I tried, along with an honest assessment of how each one worked for me. I also wanted to know how my experiences lined up with the scientific consensus on what helps people get over breakups, so I asked relationship researchers to weigh in on my list.
For the first few weeks following the breakup, I vowed to accept every social invitation that came my way. This was the best decision I could have possibly made. I bought myself new bathing suits and went to the beach. I took selfies in the sun. I went to cast parties and had a snuggle pile on a damp lawn with other tipsy theater kids. I kissed my co-stars and crooned along to Sara Bareilles and played Never Have I Ever around a fire pit. I went clubbing for the first time since I started seeing my ex. I found my freedom.
The clubbing was especially liberating. After the breakup, I reveled and rebelled. I went out to gay bars and embraced my bisexuality, distancing myself from my previous relationship and reasserting my queer identity. I danced on the tops of bars and on club stages. I wore my shortest skirts, highest heels, and reddest lipstick. I dove into my Snapchat story with gusto. I got number after number, smiled as widely as I could, and left the clubs exhausted, sore, satisfied, and solo. I slept starfish on my bed and gave myself permission to take up all the space.
The experience of accepting these invitations not only allowed me to create new friendships but also reminded me that I could be single without being “alone.” I am the kind of person who gets lost in their partner — I plan my weekends and evenings around them, I try to reserve my free time to spend by their side, and, in doing so, I neglect my own friendships and relationships. I forget how to effectively self-care. I allow myself to become isolated and dependent.
After my breakup, I extended friendship feelers in all directions. I let myself be swept along to late-night karaoke and cozy taverns, polo matches, and long walks through Newport. I basked in new people, and found myself feeling more and more at home in my own skin.
Downsides: During the beginning of the breakup, accepting these invitations probably won’t feel genuine. You may feel guilty for going out, or you may go out only to obsessively check your phone for the night, convinced your ex will text you. You might feel dirty for dancing with new people. You might feel ashamed for having fun, while the sad parts of you try to suck you back into the dark hole of Netflix and order-in pizza. Go out anyway. That old adage — fake it ’til you make it — rings true.
Expert opinion: Grace Larson, a researcher at Northwestern University, told me that this desire to accept invitations was likely driven by my need to regain self-concept after the breakup. Going dancing was a reclamation of my independence.
According to Larson, “One of the things we found in our study was that when people were able to really agree with statements like, ‘I have reclaimed lost parts of myself that I could not express while with my partner’ … that predicts people being less depressed. That predicts people being less lonely. That predicts people not ruminating on the breakup anymore.”
2) I nourished by body with healthy food and exercise
The farmers market became a weekend staple. I went shopping with my aunt and bought myself lush greens, miniature summer squash, ripe orchard apples, frozen lemonade. I gave my body what it wanted. I planned recipes. I made mug after mug of green tea and French-press coffee. I absolutely spoiled myself. If I saw a bar of chocolate I wanted at the grocery store? It was mine. Those vegan marshmallows? Why not? The world was my oyster.
Going to the farmers market and creating a treat-myself food mentality was delightful. Coming home and realizing I would have to eat these bounties by myself? Not so much.
Fortunately, my attempts to be good to my body didn’t stop at food. I bought a beginner yoga pass at a local studio, and the entire experience was incredible. I breathed slowly, stretched, shook, and repeated the mantra: I am the only person on my mat. The practice of yoga became a way to ground myself in my own body and my own presence. It was about taking care of myself and healing after an emotional trauma. It allowed me to recognize the way I was hurting without indulging in it. It was glorious. I left the studio feeling powerful, calm, and whole. Even if the feeling only lasted for five minutes, those five minutes were beautiful.
In addition to the yoga practice, I joined a gym close to my home and started attending group workout classes. My ex was a personal trainer and a football player: strong, hard-bodied, and confident in the presence of other athletes. I was a curved, uncoordinated gym-phobe who preferred to work out in the safety and privacy of my living room. I had balked at each one of my ex’s gym invitations.
Now I went to spin classes, barre classes, and a gym boot camp. I met with a personal trainer and planned out a way to reach my fitness goals. I supplemented my gym classes with long walks and choreography rehearsals for the show. I started to see progress. On the days when my motivation to exercise just wasn’t there, I forgave myself. Breakups suck. Sometimes they require lazy nights in front of Netflix and some order-in Chinese food (extra duck sauce and the largest order of lo mein I can get, thanks). My progress wasn’t rapid-fire. I didn’t go vegan. But the trainers at the gym recognize me, and a few even know me by name. That’s something.
Downsides: If you choose to use food as a means to cope with a breakup, do so with a friend. Eating kale by yourself and trying to stay happy is just a bummer all around. Additionally, it is really tempting to grab excessive amounts of sweets and junk to treat yourself. DO NOT. I repeat — do not. You will feel sick and crampy, and you don’t want to make things harder on your body when it is already coping with a massive emotional blow.
As for the workout component of this, there will be days when you think about the gym and you Just Can’t. On those days, you might feel worthless or lazy or like nobody will find you attractive ever again. Forgive yourself, give yourself a rest, and treat your body in other ways. Take a bath with some essential oils. Spend the night giving yourself a pedicure, complete with freshly lotioned legs. Take a long walk through the park and practice mindful breathing. You do not have to sweat every day. You only need to be kind to yourself.
Expert opinion: Grace Larson told me that it’s important to create healthy physical rhythms after a breakup. Breakups, she said, throw our daily routines into disarray: “In order to counteract this chaos and disorganization, it’s even more important to eat regular meals. It’s more important to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. It’s even more important to set a new, steady schedule for when you’re going to exercise.”
3) I reconnected with old friends
Effectiveness: 10/10 (MOST IMPORTANT)
My best girlfriends live in Maine and Massachusetts. Before Tom and I broke up, my relationship occupied most of my time. My lady loves fell to the wayside as I basked in the bliss of romance.
After the breakup, I was able to reconnect. I spent weekend after weekend taking long drives to binge Netflix and wine, snuggle, cry, and process my heartbreak out loud with people who loved me. I made the women in my life my priorities. I spent hours on the phone, catching up with the people I had lost touch with. Nothing feels like home quite like being barefoot on your best friend’s couch with a glass of red wine and a handy box of tissues.
These women reminded me that there were pieces of my past unburdened, or possibly even strengthened, by the breakup. Marie took me on long walks with her puppy, and the two of us sipped mimosas over brunch. She rooted me to my most loving self. She reminded me that I was still (and always had been) lovable. Olivia pulled me out of my comfort zone. She brought me rock climbing and to Walden Pond. She helped me celebrate my independence. She talked me through asking my ex for my things back. Marie and Olivia helped me rebuild a foundation of my strongest, happiest, and most present self. They reminded me that all was not lost.
Downsides: If you’re going through a breakup and live a long distance from your best friends, using these visits as a coping mechanism may be more challenging. If that happens: SKYPE! FaceTime. Plan phone calls. Make sure to hear their voices.
Also, when you’re in a heartbreak space, it can be challenging to remember that your friends have other commitments — partners, jobs, social lives — that they also need to tend to. When they are unavailable, remind yourself that it is not because they don’t want to help you feel better. It’s impossible to pour from an empty glass. Your biggest supporters still need to recharge between snuggle sessions. It’s not because they don’t care. It’s because they want to care most effectively for you AND themselves.
Expert opinion: Larson told me that breakups disrupt what psychologists call our “attachment systems.”
“In the same way that an infant child is reliant on their mother or their primary caregiver to soothe them … adults still have a strong need to connect deeply with one other person,” Larson said.
“And normally there is this process, when you go from being a little kid, your attachment bond is with your mom or your dad, grandparents, a close caregiver. When you transition into adolescence, that attachment bond becomes your closest, most intimate friends. And then when we become adults, our primary attachment is likely to be to a romantic partner.”
The question, as Larson put it, is this: What happens after a breakup, when you can no longer rely on your partner to be your primary attachment?
“What happens for a lot of people is they switch that attachment back to those people who in an earlier stage of life may have been the primary attachment. Your attachment might snap back to close friends, it might even snap back to your parents, or it might snap back to an ex-lover.”
4) I cut off all my hair
I went through the panicked must change everything impulsivity soon after the breakup. I made the decision to get a dramatic haircut, and chopped off about 10 inches. The new look upped my confidence and gave me back some of my sass. My ex had loved my long hair. Getting it cut off felt like reclaiming my body as my own, asserting my autonomy, and taking a risk. I left the salon feeling as glamorous as Rachel Green.
Downsides: The 30 seconds of panic after looking in the mirror for the first time post-haircut. But only those 30 seconds.
Expert opinion: Larson put this impulse in the context of both evolutionary biology and identity reassertion. She said, “Everybody knows you’re newly single. You’re going to try to be attractive — that makes perfect sense. In light of the research, it makes sense that you would try really broadcast this new, strong identity.”
I’m a Facebook stalker. I’m a rabid Instagram follower, a Snapchat checker, and a general social media addict. Immediately following a breakup, this quality was poison. I was thrilled to be able to show off my new life and my happiness, but a single update from my ex would leave me devastated and confused and missing everything about him.
The day he started posting pictures of himself with other women, I spent the afternoon feeling ill, angry, and betrayed. So rather than give up my social media accounts and the small comfort they brought me, I blocked him. On. Everything. I blocked his snaps and his Instagram feed. I blocked him on Facebook. I deleted his email address from my address book. I removed his number from my saved “favorites.”
The blocking was a very wise move. Not only did it stop me from seeing any potentially heart-wrenching posts, but it also kept me from posting unnecessary fluff, to make my life look exciting and rewarding on the off chance that my ex decided to look at my profiles. My life is exciting and rewarding, and not feeling the need to prove it helped me to actually participate in and enjoy it.
Downsides: Not being able to see what your ex is up to is actually really challenging. When you’re used to being a part of someone’s every day — when you care about their happiness, how successful they are, whether they are reaching their goals — the sudden disconnection of social media removal can feel overwhelming.
But I promise it helps in the long run. You can’t dwell on whether they are seeing other people. You can’t go through all of their recently added friends, or check to see who might be liking their photos. The pain of not knowing hurts much less than the pain of constantly obsessing — trust me.
Expert opinion: When I spoke to Larson about this habit, she referenced the work of Leah LeFebvre, a professor at the University of Wyoming who studies dating and relationships. Larson told me, “When you post glamorous pictures as evidence of your exciting new life, LeFebvre and her colleagues would call this ‘impression management.’ In contrast, they consider blocking or unfriending an ex as part of the strategy of ‘withdrawing access.’”
According to Larson, “These researchers argue that they are both part of the process of dictating the storyline of the split (“I’m the one who is winning in this breakup!”). … These tactics serve to demonstrate — to yourself, your ex, and anyone else who’s watching — that you are self-reliant and flourishing in the wake the breakup.”
6) I downloaded Tinder and started dating again — casually
This was the scariest part of my post-breakup revolution. I vowed not to have a serious partner for at least a year after Tom and I broke up. However, he was the last person I had kissed. The last person I had shared a bed with. The last person who had played with my hair and warmed my (always, always) cold toes. When I thought of intimacy and flirtation, I immediately thought of him. It made the concept of dating an absolute nightmare, which is precisely why I (re)downloaded Tinder and started talking to new people.
At first, I felt cheap and guilty, as though I were betraying my ex or making false promises to these new matches. But after a few weeks, I met some wonderful people. I went for coffee and out to lunch, and got to know men and women who were brilliant, accomplished, ambitious, affectionate, warm, whose company reminded me that I myself was bright, charming, and desirable. These people treated me like I was exciting, and so I felt exciting.
Downsides: You will feel guilty. You will feel confused. You will feel unsure of yourself. You might feel dirty, or ashamed, or cheap. You might feel like you’re using other people. You might feel dishonest. Dating again after a breakup, especially soon after a breakup, is not for everyone. Having sex with someone new after a breakup, especially soon after a breakup, is not for everyone. Listen to your body and your instincts. If you feel gross or uncomfortable during a date, it is okay to cut that date short, go home, get in the bath, and listen to Josh Groban until you feel cozy again.
Expert opinion: St. Louis University’s Brian Boutwell says that dating after a breakup is a good idea because it’s almost guaranteed to result in one of two options: It will make you realize there are other fish in the sea, and therefore help you get over your ex; or it’ll inspire you see the good things about your old relationship, and therefore lead you to the decision to get back together.
“There is the potential for an evolutionary payoff in both respects,” he said. “You might either regain your old mate or you can move on, acquiring a new, maybe more promising mate.”
7) I threw myself into my work and career
The breakup might have hurt my heart, but it helped solidify my career and my professional goals. Since the breakup, I’ve been offered two competitive jobs in public health and a fellowship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I have been motivated to study for graduate and law school entrance exams. I have been able to dedicate myself to my work, with no distractions.
The freedom of not needing to consider another person’s aspirations has been a saving grace for my self-love, as I’ve enthusiastically fed my ambition. I accepted a new job with a better title, and transitioned back into a field of work that I am passionate about, gender-based violence prevention. At 22 years old, I gave my first lecture to university students, on sex trafficking and wartime sexual violence as human rights abuses.
I’ve submitted presentation proposals to three academic conferences, written several papers, and co-authored a book chapter on sexual violence prevention. I have joined the Toastmasters public speaking group, improved my rhetorical skills, and explored opportunities in political journalism. In short, I have achieved, in spite of — and because of — the heartbreak. I have learned never to underestimate the power of a woman in love, or the power of a woman recently out of it.
Downsides: There are no downsides here!
Expert opinion: “Breakups make you feel out of control,” Larson said. “They take agency away from you.”
As a result, she said, “Not only are you going to feel more attractive and more valuable if you’re really kicking ass in your career, it’s also an area where you can exert total control.”
These were the steps I chose in order to feel most empowered and soothed during my heartbreak. This is not to say that I am completely over it. When you truly love someone, I’m not certain there ever really is an “over it.” But I am confident and happy. My life feels gloriously like my own, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to have gotten to know myself even better.
Katie Bogen is a clinical research program coordinator at Rhode Island Hospital.
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5 Psychologists Reveal How To Get Over Your Ex In 30 Days Or Less
Getting over exes is nearly impossible. You can block them on social media, delete their digits and avoid any and all places you might run into them.
But in the end, none of that will matter. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. This means that no matter how much you try to erase them from your thoughts, they will find a way to show up again.
I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes, I find myself getting all nostalgic and weepy over ex-boyfriends I haven’t spoken to or seen in a year or two. I sometimes wish we were back together, laughing at our inside jokes and pretending that our relationship was really good.
The problem is, in doing so, I forget about the times it was actually pretty bad.
Since most of us don’t have any effective ways to really kick our exes to the curb, I figured I’d ask the people who truly know how to get that job done.
By the way, those people are never friends. Friends give the most biased and sometimes useless advice when it comes to getting over someone you deeply loved.
That’s why I asked five psychologists about the tricks they have for getting over an ex in 30 days or less.
1. Date Yourself
There is a philosophy called ‘dating yourself’ that is a perfect mindset for anyone to have if they want to get over their ex. Essentially, ‘dating yourself’ is where you treat yourself how you would want or expect a significant other to treat you. This can include things like giving yourself a bubble bath, buying yourself flowers or treating yourself to a nice night on the town.
– Jennifer Seiter, founder of Ex Boyfriend Recovery
2. Get busy.
It takes about a month to form new neuropathways in one’s mind, so the best thing to do is to get busy and pack your day with activity. Most people sink into depression when a relationship ends. This is especially true for the person who was left. Doing things YOU like to do with other people will lift your mood and distract your mind from ruminating about the relationship. Exercise is always a great bet. Clearing out clutter is also a great way to feel better fast. Tackle that closet, drawers in the bathroom and even your car! You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and recharge. Another great thing to do is get away. Plan a weekend jaunt with friends to a place that will feel great, and go. Look at the next 30 days, and write a list of things you would like to do that you’ve been blowing off. You’re free, so go do these things. In 30 days, you’ll be reconnected with yourself with a fresh perspective on the relationship and a fun new life.
– Dr. Sanam Hafeez, NYC based licensed neuropsychologist and teaching faculty member at Columbia University
3. Live and learn.
Learn from the past. Stop and take stock of what’s changed in your life since you began that relationship. And don’t forget to ask yourself things like, ‘What did this relationship teach me? What parts of it worked? What parts didn’t work for me? Did I have a role in the negative? Is there something I can do to change that in the future?’
– Dr. Erika Martinez, licensed psychologist
4. Think of what you won’t miss.
Yes, breakups are like trauma that can be healed quickly. It’s common to go back and forth from missing your ex to being angry. The problem is, your brain can’t start putting this in the past unless it understands that your ex was not ALL GOOD or ALL BAD. You job here is to pair the things you WILL miss about them – when they pop into your mind – with the things about them that you WON’T miss.
– Dr. Paul DePompo, ABPP and author of the book, “The Other Woman’s Affair”
5. Surround yourself with people who love you.
Don’t isolate. You don’t have to go right out and date again – in fact, I suggest going slow with that – but you should have a social life with friends and family. Even if you don’t think you feel ready to see people, see your closest friends and spend time with them. They’ll help you heal, and remind you that you still have people who love you.
– Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist and author of “It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction”
5 reasons why you still can’t get over your ex
It was Alexander Graham Bell who once said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
Who knew the inventor of the telephone was so good at giving advice that can be applied to your dating life?
Now, breaking up is never really easy to do. But for some, the process of getting over a failed relationship can linger a little longer than for others, which sometimes begs the loaded question: why can it be so difficult to get over an ex?
READ MORE: How to start dating again after ending a long-term relationship
It’s a question that leaves many reeling from a breakup befuddled as they try to move on.
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Even science has attempted to solve the mystery.
Last year, Stanford University researchers found people tend to “carry a heavier burden from rejection” when they feel that who they are as a person has been revealed or exposed.
“Few things in life are more traumatic than being rejected by someone who knows you well and then, with this insight, decide that she or he no longer cares for you or wants to be with you,” Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford, said in a statement. “The experience of being left by someone who thought that they loved you, then learned more and changed their mind, can be a particularly potent threat to the self and can drive people to question who they truly are.”
Sometimes, though, the reasons why someone can’t get over an ex-partner can be a little more complicated.
“It’s hard to accept when someone doesn’t want you anymore,” relationship expert Shannon Tebb of Shanny in the City says. “It’s like an attack on your personal ego and you feel like you’ve failed at something, and it’s really hard to accept when something doesn’t work out.”
According to Tebb, there could be several factors preventing you from moving on from your ex. And once you become aware of what may be stopping you, then you may be able to finally take the steps you need to in order to bounce back from your emotional limbo.
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1. You can’t face the fact that it’s over
“A lot of singles can’t completely come to terms that it’s over,” Tebb says. “So you’re maybe holding to the idea that you can still fix it. You don’t want to let go because you’re focusing on the positive times and you’re not really focused on where you went wrong and why the relationship ended.”
Tebb says that sometimes people can’t accept that a relationship’s over because they didn’t see the end coming.
“They may not have noticed the signs that it was starting to fail,” she says. “So you refuse to start over because you’ve invested so much time into this relationship that you just can’t get over them.”
2. You’re keeping tabs on them
Social media has made it easier for people to keep track of those they know. This can be a problem.
“You’re still kind of creeping them on social media and maybe you share common friends,” Tebb explains. “You haven’t removed them from your Facebook and you haven’t removed the old photos of you as a couple. You can’t get over your ex because you haven’t removed them fully from your life.”
3:54 Breaking up in the age of tech Previous Video
Also, avoid looking up your ex. Practising this restraint is the healthy thing to do – otherwise it can come back to bite you when you see your ex has moved on in the form of another relationship or even marriage.
“If you’ve had an amicable breakup and you see your ex is engaged then you can congratulate him or her and make it a positive thing,” Tebb says. “But if you’re not talking to each other and it wasn’t a good split, then the feelings of jealousy will arise. You’ll get mixed emotions, which is common and normal. So if you’re feeling upset and vulnerable, you need to talk to someone who can listen to you vent. But if you are seeing stuff on social media, get off of it.”
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3. You haven’t had closure
“Maybe your boyfriend ghosted you or just all of a sudden told you it’s over and hadn’t given you an explanation,” Tebb says. “So you haven’t had that closure that you needed in order to move forward.”
Whether it be with relationships, a job or a stage in life, getting closure for any significant moment in one’s life is important, psychiatrist Abigail Brenner says.
READ MORE: Should people stay friends with their exes after a breakup?
“Closure means finality; letting go of what once was,” she wrote in Psychology Today. “Finding closure implies a complete acceptance of what has happened and an honouring of the transition away from what’s finished to something new.”
To do this, Brenner says one must grieve the loss, take responsibility for their actions, focus on the positives and make a plan for the immediate future. This, she says, will force you to make things happen and move on.
4. Low self-esteem
“It’s that fear that you’re never going to find anybody again and it’s a major fear,” Tebb says. “And it’s scary getting back out there, especially if you’ve been in a long-term relationship.”
And because people are comfortable with the familiar, it makes it all that much harder to let go.
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“You believe that you’re never going to get that again,” Tebb says. “So you’d rather fix it and work on it when really you can’t change someone else’s mind. Once they tap out, it’s pretty much done.”
5. The relationship was all about the other person
Sometimes people will give up their lives for a relationship – and whether it’s by choice or not, the relationship becomes very one sided.
So when a breakup happens, a feeling of abandonment might creep in.
“You were so enthralled with them that it’s scary to go back to your own life by yourself,” Tebb says. “It’s an adjustment – and it’s hard to adjust from something you were comfortable with. You were in your comfort zone with your partner, so the minute you’re out of that you become fearful, sad and angry.”
How to bounce back
There are a few things people can do to help them get over an ex. The first, Tebb says, is to avoid situations where you’re most likely to run into your former partner.
“If you know they always hang out at a certain bar, don’t go there,” she says. “Just try to separate yourself from places where you might bump into them.”
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Tebb also advises to remove the ex-partner from social media and doing a cleanse from the home. This means getting rid of anything they left behind.
And when you feel ready, begin dating again.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Getting over the Ex: 12 Basic Tips
We have all been there: you were smitten for someone and for whatever reason – he said it, she did it, you loved her, she didn’t, the list goes on – the relationship bit the dust. No matter how you rationalize it, the tough pill to swallow is there is no magical, one-size-fits-all solution on how to get over an ex. That being said, harboring these negative emotions of self-doubt, sadness and anger will keep you feeling less than stellar and prevent you from moving on with someone who is a better match for you. But before you give yourself too much trouble for not being past the angst from a twosome that parted a few weeks, few months – or er – years, remember you’re not the only one wondering how to get over an ex boyfriend. Or how to get over an ex girlfriend.
You’d be surprised how many men and women are going through the motions and dating, but don’t actually have a good chance of those relationships lasting. In other words: you can go on dates and tell yourself that one relationship will stick, but if you are not fully over an ex, none of those new situations will likely be either lasting or good. But what will help? Some of these expert-curated tips on how to get over someone fast:
Before you hop up on your high horse or claim you don’t need to let your emotions run their course, remember the more you try to deny how you feel, the less likely you are to release those feelings. It’s healthy, mature and responsible to be honest about your ever-changing emotions. Part of the solution of how to get over an ex is understanding disappointment and tears provide progress.
2. Cut off contact – including social media
You could be doing well on your way to moving on– not thinking about or feeling sad about that past flame for month –but one quick review of a social media account can set you back for months. Instantly, you may feel sad, or you may tell yourself that your ex is happier than you or that they found someone else. While it’s true you shouldn’t trust what you see on social media, it also shouldn’t matter. You can only really get closure by releasing your connection to them in all aspects, including digitally.
3. Don’t try to be friends
You may want to understand how to get over your ex girlfriend, but the trouble is she’s still your best friend. Or he still comes into your mind all the time. Here’s the deal: don’t still hang out with his buddies. Don’t text him when his favorite song plays on the radio. The easiest and healthiest way to get over someone is to initiate clear boundaries.
While it’s true ‘out of sight’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘out of mind,’ intentional space can certainly make the process of moving on smoother.
4. Get rid of reminders
How to get over someone quickly? Remove those physical reminders that bring them to the front of your mind. Throw out his magazines and toothbrush lying around your house. Don’t ask for your stuff back. Stop cheering for his team. Don’t wear his old shirt to bed. Let yourself mourn and start fresh, with no lingering reminders or memory triggers of what once was. (If you hate ketchup and it’s only in the fridge because he’s addicted to it, toss it.)
5. Stop analyzing and regretting
For when you’re wondering how to get over an ex boyfriend or how to get over an ex girlfriend, one of the most important steps to take is accepting the decision. No matter if you made the choice or he or she did, don’t let yourself second-guess it. Stop analyzing the play-by-play of your relationship. Don’t get stuck in the ‘would haves’ and ‘should haves,’ stop looking for reasons and explanations, and learn to accept the finality of the breakup.
6. Stay active
Remember that punching bag at the gym? Use it. Too many days on the couch will only make you start resenting yourself. Don’t let a breakup justify sloth-like behavior. Clear your head with some physical activity. Join a running group, find an intramural team, play basketball at a nearby park. Even taking your dog for more walks is good for both the body and soul. A little fresh air can go a long way when your brain is taxed and your heart is weary.
7. Take advantage of your new freedom
Now that you’re single, take advantage of the extra time and freedom such a status allows. What have you been missing since you and ‘the ex’ got together? Enjoy a few more girls’ nights out (or guys’ nights out), take a class, spend more time with your family, and indulge in a few guilty pleasures. One of the many solutions on how to forget the ex is to pursue happiness in other areas. Look at this next chapter in your life as a fresh start. Get organized. Purge. Evaluate what your dreams, priorities and bucket-list items are — and start chasing them.
8. Remember their faults
It might sound harsh, but if you only try one of these steps, make it this one. When memories float around in your head, things can get confusing. You can also overlook a lot of key memories when you get sentimental and romanticize the old relationship. But if you write a list of facts–statements they made or behaviors they engaged in with you–these notes can help you have a-ha moments where you think, Why would I romanticize someone who pulled these awful stunts with me?
9. Visualize a dead relationship
Here’s one tactic for moving on from your ex: visualization exercises or even hanging up pictures can help to incite a mental click that motivates change. You could visualize a coffin being lowered into a grave, and tell yourself that the old relationship lies inside that coffin; you could hang a picture of a hearse or a skeleton and keep it by your office at work or by your bed in your bedroom. Trust me: If you keep these symbols around you, they will start to motivate change.
10. Call up the guys and girls
You’ll find it easier to forget about the ex by getting back into your social circles. Call up your friends and make plans with them – even if you don’t feel like going. This will give you a chance to catch up on the important gossip, laugh a little bit and feel a little more normal. Friends can be a really amazing source of support when you’re feeling terrible. You can also go over the details of the relationship and breakup as much as you want without having to pay an hourly fee – feedback and opinions are included.
11. Work on improving yourself
When you’re feeling lower than low, one of the greatest things you can do is work on improving yourself. Start a new, healthful diet to feel better about your health. Take a few classes at your local community college where you can meet new people and broaden your horizons. Go on a trip. Do things that make you feel better about yourself. Being proactive is a great way to speed up the healing and gain new self-esteem and confidence. How to move on become much clearer with a new perspective.
12. Ponder the possibilities
The well-worn axiom says, ‘When one door closes, another opens.’ Clichés usually aren’t much help when trying to mend a hurting heart, but that one just might. Even though you’ve lost someone dear to you, another person even better suited to you could be right around the corner. Or ready to walk through the next doorway. Yes, the person from your past may have been great, but the person in your future could be even greater. Spend lots of time dreaming about what lies ahead, rather than lamenting what’s in the past. Learning to let go and move on from a former relationship isn’t easy. How to get over an ex means you must open your heart to someone new. Expect new love to appear at any moment. Looking ahead with anticipation will help you stop looking back with longing. Romance can appear anywhere, anytime. Your job is to be fresh and ready when it does — not stuck in the past.
How To Get Over A Breakup And Move On From An Ex
When you’ve had your heart broken, it’s tough to find ways to move on. You may find yourself thinking about the person day and night, wondering what you could have done differently and wishing for a reconciliation. It’s an intensely painful process and one that can seem unending. At times, you may worry that you’ll always be alone or that you’ll never be able to fall in love again. However, there are practical ways to get over a breakup, and you can be happy again. Keep reading to discover how to get over a breakup today and finally move on from an ex.
The first trick is to think of moving on from a broken heart in stages. For example, what you need in the first few days is not the same as what you’ll need a month or so down the line. Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect, and how to promote healing at every step of the way.
Move On From The Past With The 6 Stages Of Getting Over Someone
Moving on from a relationship is a grieving process, as it moving on from a crush or dealing with unrequited love. Everyone experiences that grief differently, but it tends to involve six major stages.
- Denial: You’re in shock, and can’t accept what has happened. Letting go and moving on requires first acknowledging the truth of your situation, and with a breakup, this usually begins to develop within a day.
- Anger: You start apportioning blame and perhaps even contemplate revenge. Although anger can be invigorating, getting stuck in this stage is toxic. Progress your rage through talking, writing or engaging in therapy. You have to express it if you’re going to move past it.
- Bargaining: When people ask about how to move on from the past, they’re often really still in the bargaining stage. When you’re here, you imagine being with your ex again, immerse yourself in memories, and may feel drawn to melancholy music. This is a natural part of grieving, but it’s also dangerous. If you spend too much time bargaining, you close yourself off to the present and to real chances for happiness.
- Depression: Often experienced at the same time as bargaining, the depression stage is all about losing hope for reconciliation. While this hurts, it’s also necessary. It’s a precursor to fully accepting reality.
- Acceptance: You start to reason about what to do after a breakup, and can resume thinking about the future. You may still feel sad, but there will be a new pragmatism and honesty to your perspective.
- Recovery: Finally, you find yourself feeling “normal again”, responding to life the way you used to. You know how to be happy alone, and you may notice that large chunks of time pass without any thoughts of your ex. When you reach recovery, you are ready for a new chapter of your life to begin.
How To Get Over A Breakup
When you’re learning how to forget your ex-girlfriend or figuring out how to get over your ex-boyfriend, it’s extremely helpful to have a realistic timescale in mind.
(And if you are ready to move on and manifest true happiness, be sure to sign up for the Love Tool Kit today to get your own love guides and worksheets! Completely free. .)
As noted above, there are six general psychological stages. However, you can also think of the hardest part of your breakup in terms of three main, early time periods… today, tomorrow, and next week.
Here’s what you can do to help yourself move on during each of these.
What To Do After A Breakup To Mend A Broken Heart
1. How To Handle A Breakup Today
If you’ve just had your heart broken, everything in your world has changed. Consequently, you should be completely focused on self-care.
Figuring out how to mend a broken heart comes later. Right now, it’s all about damage control.
Here are some of the best things you can do to process your feelings and take the first step on the road to learning how to let go of someone you love:
- Stay away from social media. You’ll likely regret angry updates and photo purges at a later date. Unplug from the internet, and avoid the temptation to send rash messages. Save any communication for a time when you can think more clearly. If you need help with this stage, be sure to read our guide on how to do a technology cleanse ().
- Reach out to one person. It’s too early to explain your breakup to everyone. That said, it’s important you not be alone. Pick a close friend or family member who can support you and check on you and don’t be afraid to ask them for what you need.
- Get rid of reminders. If there are things around you that remind you of your ex, put them away for now. They’ll only hinder your recovery and may bring you down when you’re starting to cope.
- Treat yourself. Do something that reliably makes you feel better. It might be watching a favorite movie, ordering takeout or eating your way through a tub of ice cream. However, avoid self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.
- Don’t judge your reactions. You might cry buckets, or you might not cry at all. Don’t worry, there is no “right response” to a broken heart.
Affirmations For Healing A Broken Heart
Breakup affirmations can help you at this early stage.
(TIP: And when you are ready to start dating again, be sure to check out these affirmations for overcoming dating insecurities!)
Try saying the following out loud, repeating as many times as feels right:
- “I can and will heal from this heartbreak.”
- “I forgive myself.”
- “All things happen as they are supposed to.”
- “I am whole by myself and don’t need anyone to complete me.”
- “I will feel my sadness, but I will not get lost in it.”
- “There is something better waiting for me.”
- “I have lived and loved, and will be happy again.”
- “I will be better than I’ve ever been.”
- “There will be opportunities to find love again.”
- “I release the past.”
2. How To Get Over A Breakup Tomorrow
In the days after a breakup, figuring out how to get over someone is partly about finding a balance between actively processing your feelings and getting relief from them. For example:
- Get outside. Even if you just go for a walk around the neighborhood or go to the store, get out the house. If you can stomach some exercise, even better!
- Engage your brain. Give your mind something to do other than pine. Instead of ruminating on how to get over a breakup, do it by turning your attention elsewhere. Pick up an absorbing book, go to an art gallery, or express yourself creatively.
- Let more people know. Of course, you don’t need to tell everyone. However, when learning how to get over a breakup, acknowledging it out loud helps you move past denial. Consider drafting a brief message covering what you want to say, and sending it to other friends and family.
- Arrange to see loved ones. Best friends and close family members can be wonderful company at this time. Again, make sure you tell them what you need, whether it’s a friendly ear or a funny joke.
- Make a motivational playlist. Fill it with songs that make you feel empowered. Dance if you feel like you can.
3. How To Get Over A Breakup Next Week
As you finish the first week after a breakup and work your way towards a month, your needs change. You’ll still be dealing with challenging emotions and should rely on your support network, but you’ll also be building energy for the future.
This is an ideal time to reinvent yourself. Doing so draws a symbolic line under the old relationship, and also emphasizes the positive side of major life changes.
Ways To Reinvent Yourself After A Breakup
There are so many ways to interpret the idea of reinventing yourself after a breakup.
Allow yourself to be guided by inspiration and by what feels authentic.
Here are some good ideas to get you started:
- Change your hair. Chop it, dye it or style it differently. Any change, even minor, can make you feel different and boost your self-esteem.
- Buy new clothes. Think about a new type of clothing you’d like to wear, and go for it. Like a fresh haircut, this can rejuvenate your sense of self.
- Listen to new music. Don’t get stuck listening to all the old love songs that remind you of your ex! Explore new artists, and consider seeing some in person.
- Get fresh bedding. Instead of sleeping under the sheets you shared with your ex, get something entirely new—preferably something they’d never have liked that much!
- Rearrange your rooms. If you’re staying somewhere that you shared with your ex, shift the furniture to get a new perspective. If you can afford to redecorate, so much the better.
- Re-evaluate your priorities. Finally, think about what you really want from a relationship. What didn’t work last time, and what could work next time? The lessons you learned from your breakup could lead you to the happiest days of your life.
Learn How To Positively Apply The Law of Attraction To Manifest Your Life Partner…
Pooja Parikh Traveled Across The World For The HS Diagnosis That Changed Her Life Forever
Flickr / erizof
Getting your ex back is all you can think about after hearing a few deadly words; “It’s over” or “This isn’t working for me.” Everything that you’ve counted on and known until now is suddenly gone. Your life plans, your hopes, your dreams and a part of yourself feels utterly lost. You are left with a broken heart and a huge, great, gaping hole in your life.
Getting through the next 60 seconds after hearing those fateful words feels like an eternity and you are sure you now know what dying really feels like.
When you are heartbroken, hurting, angry, confused, feeling lonely and vulnerable, you desperately want things to go back to what they were. At this point, anything feels better than the pain you are experiencing from the breakup and you would do anything to get your ex back.
You know you are getting obsessed with your ex when:
- You try to find any excuse to contact your ex — you want to get that sweater you left at his house or you want to return something he left at your place.
- You can’t resist the urge to text or call your ex.
- You park outside his work place.
- You drive by his house at night.
- You turn up at his best friend’s to find out what he is up to.
- Your thoughts and actions become focused more and more on him … and less and less on you.
What you need to understand and appreciate is that getting through a break up is like getting through the withdrawal of drug dependency. Research suggests the trauma from breaking up seems severe because love rejection affects primitive areas of the brain associated with motivation, reward and addiction craving.
This research helps explain the anguished feelings that can accompany a break-up, as well as the extreme behaviors that can occur as a result, such as stalking, homicide and suicide.
Top 10 Survival Tips:
1. Accept whatever you feel.
Feelings aren’t good or bad, they just are. Realize that the “withdrawal” you are going through is akin to withdrawal from cocaine addiction. Practice kindness, empathy and compassion with yourself.
2. Don’t isolate yourself.
Start getting in touch with your family and friends who you think will understand what you are going through
3. Get your diary out and filling it in with different activities, especially on the weekend.
Initially, you may not enjoy it, but now is the time to keep busy and be with your friends.
4. Get rid of the relationship reminders.
The pictures, cards and letters, gifts. If you don’t want to throw them out, give it to a friend to hold for you.
5. Break away completely from each other right after the breakup.
This means not seeing each other, not being around his/her family members, no phone calls, no e-mails, no text messages, no Facebook and no IMs. Just until you feel that you can converse with him/her on a purely platonic level, without an ulterior motive (like getting back together).
6. Stay away from the places you used to go to.
And don’t listen to “your love songs.” Listen to songs about surviving and feeling strong.
7. Keep a journal.
Write down all the things that were wrong with the relationship and the things that used to irritate you … especially when it is tempting to remember the relationship with rose-tinted glasses.
8. Keep reminding yourself that your happiness isn’t dependent on your ex.
Focus on finding happiness in other areas of your life. Whether that means spending time with your friends and family or signing up for that class you’ve always wanted to take, try new adventures. Do things that you couldn’t do while you were in the relationship.
9. Try to view the breakup as a chance for a new beginning.
Clean, clear and organize your personal space. As you let go of the old, you are creating space for the new things to come.
10. Focus on being in the present.
Every time you start obsessing about your ex, stop, ground yourself in the present by feeling your feet on the ground, listen to your breathing, be aware of the sights, smells and sounds around you. Start off doing this for 30 seconds and gradually build up the amount of time you can do this. You will start feeling more in control of your life, when you can take control of your thoughts.
You know that you are healing when your thoughts, behaviors and actions become more focused on you and less on him and when you are living more in the present and less in the past.
As you move on with your life as a single individual, look for the best in people and you’ll find it. Fall in love with life and you will find that it will love you back!
How to Let Go: Learning to Deal with Loss
Recently, my wife and I passed by the spot of one of our first dates. For the next few minutes, we smiled and reminisced and rehashed a small happy sliver of our overall shared story. That date had been absolutely magical. One of those nights you dream about when you’re an awkward teenager, but as a young adult, you begin to assume it will just never happen.
And then it does. A night that you only get to experience maybe a couple times in your life, if you’re lucky.
And with that realization, to my surprise, I began to experience a faint sort of sadness. I grieved over a tiny loss of myself—that cocky, self-assured 27-year-old who walked into that restaurant having no idea what lay before him. The infinite potential that lay before us. The intensity of emotion that I didn’t know what to do with.
The two people we were that night were now gone. And they would never come back. I would never get to meet my wife for the first time again. I would never get to fall wildly in love in a way that both excited and terrified me at the same time.1 There was a sweet, cocky ignorance to my younger self that has been irrevocably lost. And despite being lost for the best reasons, it still made me sad. For a few moments, I silently mourned my past the way one mourns a distant relative’s death.
And then I moved on.
I’m no stranger to loss. I don’t think any of us are. I’ve watched family members and friends die. I’ve had romantic relationships end in a spectacular explosion and I’ve had them end in a long, drawn out silence. I’ve lost friendships, jobs, cities, and communities. I’ve lost beliefs—in both myself and others.
Every loss is a form of death. In every case, there once existed an experience—a thing, an idea, a person—that brought your life meaning. And now it no longer exists.
As such, coping with loss always involves the same dynamics. In every case—whether it’s the loss of a friendship, a career, a limb, whatever—we are forced to reckon with the fact that we will never experience something or someone again. We are forced to feel an internal emptiness and to accept our pain. We are forced to confront that horrible, horrible word: “Never.”
“Never” hurts because never means that it can’t be changed. We like to think that things can be changed. It makes us feel better.
“Just work a little bit harder!”
“You just have to want it enough!”
These phrases give us a lil’ boot in the ass. They say if you don’t like it, get out there and change it.
But “never” means it’s over. It’s gone. And that’s really hard to bear. You can’t bring a dead person back to life. You can’t restart a broken relationship. You can’t fix a wasted youth or redo a past mistake or un-say the words that destroyed a friendship.
When it’s gone, it’s gone. And it will never be the same, no matter what you do. And this, in a real psychological sense, destroys a small piece of you. A piece that must eventually be rebuilt.
Every Loss is a Partial Loss of Who You Are
One of the most common emails I get from readers is from people who want to get their ex back. Some of them word it more nicely than that—they say they want to “make things up” or “fix things,” but really it comes down to, “He/she left my ass and it hurts; what do I say or do to get them back?”
This question never made sense to me. For one, if there was a tried-and-true way to get an ex back, then no one would ever break up or divorce. The world would be flooded with happily married couples. And I’d probably be out of a job.
But more importantly, trying to “win” back an ex is impossible because even if “it works,” the reformed relationship will never resemble the one of the past: it will be a fragile, contrived affair, composed of two wholly different and skeptical individuals, replaying the same problems and dramas over and over, while being constantly reminded of why things failed in the first place.
When I think of all of the happy couples I know, you know how many of them say, “Oh, he was a total piece of shit, but then he apologized and bought me cake and flowers and now we’re happily married”?
None of them.
What these emailers don’t get is that relationships don’t end because two people did something wrong to each other. Relationships end because two people are something wrong for each other.
We’ve all been through breakups before. And we’ve all, in our moments of weakness, pined for our exes, written embarrassing emails/text messages, drank too much vodka on a Tuesday night, and silently cried to that one 80s song that reminds us of them.
But why do breakups hurt so bad? And why do we find ourselves feeling so lost and helpless in their wake? This article will be covering coping with all loss, but because the loss of intimate relationships (partners and family members) is by far the most painful form of loss, we will primarily be using those as examples throughout.
But first, we need to understand why loss sucks so bad. So I’m going to whip out an epic bullet point list to set everything straight:
- To be healthy, functioning individuals, we need to feel good about ourselves. To feel good about ourselves, we need to feel that our time and energy is spent meaningfully. Meaning is the fuel of our minds. When you run out of it, everything else stops working.
- The primary way we generate meaning is through relationships.2 Note that I’ll be using the term “relationship” loosely throughout this article. We don’t just have relationships with other people (although those relationships tend to be the most meaningful to us), we also have relationships with our career, with our community, with groups and ideas that we identify with, activities we engage in, and so on. All of these relationships can potentially give our lives meaning and, therefore, make us feel good about ourselves.
- Our relationships don’t just give our lives meaning, they also define our understanding of ourselves. I am a writer because of my relationship with writing. I am a son because of my relationship with my parents. I am an American because of my relationship with my country. If any of these things get taken from me—like, let’s say I get shipped to North Korea by accident (oops) and can’t write anymore—it will throw me into a mini identity crisis because the activity that has given my life so much meaning the past decade will no longer be available to me (that and, you know, being stuck in North Korea).
- When one of these relationships is destroyed, that part of our identity is destroyed along with it. Consequently, the more meaning the relationship added to my life, the more significant its role in my identity, the more crippling the loss will be if/when I lose it. Since personal relationships generally give us the most meaning (and therefore, happiness), these are the relationships that hurt the most when lost.
- When we lose a relationship, that meaning is stripped away from us. Suddenly this thing that created so much meaning in our life no longer exists. As a result, we will feel a sense of emptiness where that meaning used to be. We will start to question ourselves, to ask whether we really know ourselves, whether we made the right decision. In extreme circumstances, this questioning will become existential. We will ask whether our life is actually meaningful at all. Or if we’re just wasting everybody’s oxygen.3
- This feeling of emptiness—or more accurately, this lack of meaning—is more commonly known as depression. Most people believe that depression is a deep sadness. This is mistaken. While depression and sadness often occur together, they are not the same thing. Sadness occurs when something feels bad. Depression occurs when something feels meaningless. When something feels bad, at least it has meaning. In depression, everything becomes a big blank void. And the deeper the depression, the deeper the lack of meaning, the deeper the pointlessness of any action, to the point where a person will struggle to get up in the morning, to shower, to speak to other people, to eat food, etc.
- The healthy response to loss is to slowly but surely construct new relationships and bring new meaning into one’s life. We often come to refer to these post-loss periods as “a fresh start,” or “a new me,” and this is, in a literal sense, true. You are constructing a “new you” by adopting new relationships to replace the old.
- The unhealthy response to loss is to refuse to admit that part of you is dead and gone. It’s to cling to the past and desperately try to recover it or relive it in some way. People do this because their entire identity and self-respect was wrapped up in that missing relationship. They feel that they are incapable or unworthy of loving and meaningful relationships with someone or something else going forward.
- Ironically, the fact that many people are not able to love or respect themselves is almost always the reason their relationship failed in the first place.
Toxic vs Healthy Relationships
To dive into why some people have such a hard time letting go, we need to understand a simple dichotomy:
- A toxic relationship is when two people are emotionally dependent on each other—that is, they use each other for the approval and respect they are unable to give themselves.
- A healthy relationship is when two people are emotionally interdependent with each other—that is, they approve of and respect each other because they approve of and respect themselves.
Toxic relationships need drama to survive. Toxic people, because they don’t love or respect themselves, are never quite able to completely accept the idea that someone else could love and respect them either. And if someone comes around giving them love and respect, they don’t trust it or won’t accept it. It’s kind of like that old Groucho Marx trope: “I’d never join a club that would have me as a member.”
Ergo, toxic people are only able to accept affection from people who don’t love and respect them either.
Now, when you have an emotional clusterfuck like this—two people who don’t love and respect themselves OR each other—then obviously, they begin to feel really insecure around each other. What if she leaves me? What if she realizes I’m a loser? What if she disapproves of the pizza toppings I ordered?
As such, these people need a way to consistently test whether or not the other person actually wants to be with them. These tests are accomplished by creating drama.
Drama is when someone creates unnecessary conflict that generates a false sense of meaning for a short period of time. When a toxic person fucks up their own relationship and their partner forgives them and overlooks it, it causes an otherwise shitty relationship to feel non-shitty for a short period of time. And that feeling causes the relationship to feel really meaningful.They say to themselves, “Wow, I gave his dog away, and he’s still with me. This must be true love.” And everything is rosy and peachy and some other pleasant-sounding color…for a while.
Because drama doesn’t last. The underlying insecurity remains. So pretty soon, the toxic couple will need another injection of drama to keep the farce of a meaningful relationship going.
Healthy relationships avoid drama because they find that unnecessary conflict detracts from the meaning and importance already generated by the relationship. Healthy people simply don’t tolerate drama. They expect each other to take responsibility for themselves. Only then can they really take care of each other.
Healthy relationships, instead of inventing conflict to affirm their love and mutual support, minimize conflict to make more room for the love and support that is already there.
Let’s go back to the example of my nostalgia for when I met my wife. If our relationship was toxic and I were a perpetually insecure fucktard in my relationship, I could have responded to my small amount of sadness and grief by picking a fight with my wife, blaming her for the loss of that young excitement and new-relationship passion, bitching at her that things aren’t the way they used to be.
The resultant drama would do two things: 1) it would give me a sense of meaning again; here I am, fighting for a more passionate, exciting relationship with my wife! And goddamnit, she has to agree with me and do something about it! And 2) after being a total dickhole to her for an hour or three, the fact that she defended herself, placated me, or made an effort to resolve the (imaginary) conflict, would once again prove to me that she loves me and all would be right in my heart’s world…at least until I started feeling insecure again.
Another toxic response is to simply decide that if my wife can’t give me that new excitement, then I’ll just go find it outside the marriage. Banging some rando would reaffirm my insecure feelings of being unloved and unwanted. For a while, at least. And I would tell myself all sorts of entitled bullshit, like “I deserve” to feel that newness and excitement with a woman again. And that ultimately, it’s my wife’s fault that my heart (a.k.a., penis) strayed.
But instead of all this, being the healthy couple we are, I simply mentioned something like, “Wow, weren’t those nights together great? I kind of miss them…” And then silently reminded myself that relationships evolve, that the joy and benefits of love in week three are not the same as the joy and benefits in year three or decade three. And that’s fine. Love grows and expands and changes, and just because you possessed a fleeting excitement, does not mean it was better. Or even necessary at all.
(Optional) You Might Be in a Toxic Relationship If…
For those of you freaking out that your relationship might be toxic and ruining your breakfast every morning, here’s a handy little gray box to help you figure it out.
1. You can’t imagine having a happy life without your relationship. A toxic relationship is a deal with the devil. You resign your identity and self-worth to this person or this thing, and in return, that relationship is supposed to offer the meaning and purpose for your life that you so desperately crave. But what you don’t realize is that by sacrificing your identity to one person or thing (or one person-thing, not here to judge), the relationship generates more insecurity, not less. It envelopes your life, demanding all of your time and attention, rendering all other meaning moot, all other relationships worthless.
If the thought of losing your relationship feels as though your life would be over, then you’re probably cocooned in a toxic relationship.
And look, it’s not just people who are toxic. Workplaces can be toxic. Family members can be toxic. Groups such as churches, political groups, self-help seminars—you can have a toxic relationship with all of them.4
2. The relationship harms other relationships in your life. Toxic relationships are flames that consume all of the oxygen from our hearts, suffocating the other relationships in our lives. A toxic relationship soon becomes the lens in which you view all other relationships in your life. Nights out with friends are dominated by unloading the drama and baggage you’ve accumulated since you last saw them. You find yourself unable to hold conversations that don’t relate to your relationship for more than a few minutes. Compared to your toxic relationship, the world feels like a cold, bland, grey mess. You couldn’t care less. You find yourself compulsively thinking about your relationship, even in places where it’s irrational or inappropriate—at a basketball game, in the middle of a job interview, while calling your mother on a Tuesday, while listening to your kid’s shitty violin recital. Nothing else matters. Nothing else feels like it should matter.
When enrapt in a toxic relationship, friends will find you selfish and unbearable, family members will disapprove and then quietly distance themselves. Some friends or family may try to help, telling you that your relationship is hurting you, but this will usually make things worse, not better. Outside people’s attempts to intervene will only be interpreted as more drama to stoke the toxic flame.
3. The more love you give, the more hurt and angry you become. Because the drama is always calling the toxic relationship into question, the relationship demands all of your thought and energy. But then the relationship only punishes you further for this thought and energy, enabling a downward spiral of shittiness. Toxic relationships are black holes. Not only do they suck you in deeper and deeper, but they have their own force of gravity. Any attempt to break away just stokes the drama flame further, which then sucks you right back to where you began.
Toxic relationships often have a “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” quality to them. When you’re in them, you can’t wait to get away from them. But when you’re away from them, because you’ve lost your identity, you have no idea what to do without them.
Why It’s Harder to Let Go of Toxic Relationships than Healthy Ones
Toxic relationships are addictive because drama is addictive. Like narcotics or gambling, drama is unpredictable; it is numbing and distracting, and it hits you with unexpected rewards of joy or excitement.
What’s worse, is that we become desensitized to drama. We need to find greater and greater conflicts to prove to ourselves that we’re loved. The old conflicts will no longer suffice. You started out with a fight about who takes out the garbage. Now he takes out the garbage. But you still feel insecure and unloved. So you start a fight over how often he calls his mother. So he stops calling his mother (around you at least). But that insecurity remains. So you must up the ante again. Time to piss in his favorite pair of shoes and see how he takes that.
Eventually, the drama reaches a boiling point and the relationship will begin to painfully evaporate, scalding everyone involved.
But something else happens when we’re caught up in a drama spiral. As we up the ante and the drama increases, we become more emotionally dependent on the person, not less. We invest so much into the drama that we come to believe that our partner is far more important to our well being than they actually are.
Drama is therefore a psychological prism—a funhouse mirror—skewing the meaning that a relationship brings us. In our eyes, this person or this group or this activity is everything we need, when in reality, it’s probably the one relationship that likely harms us the most.
Incidentally, people who don’t know how to let go of a relationship are often those who were in a relationship with someone who was either abusive or completely disinterested. That’s because, in these relationships, a breakup changes nothing. When they were together, the person spent all of their time and energy trying to win their partner over. After they split, they continue spending all of their time and energy trying to win their partner over. Same shit, different day.
Similarly, people who are unable to accept the loss of their relationship will badger their ex and instigate drama with them to re-live the sensation of that relationship. But they need to create that drama again and again to keep that feeling alive.
Drama, of course, can infect other relationships as well. People create drama at work to overcome their insecurity of not being valuable or appreciated. People create drama with authorities or governments when they feel an existential insecurity. And people create drama with themselves when they imagine they aren’t living up to some sort of past glory.
How to Get Better at Accepting Loss
STEP 1: Understand that our memories lie to us and convince us that EVERYTHING WAS TOTALLY AWESOME BACK THEN, even though it wasn’t.
I graduated university in 2007, a.k.a., the worst job market in four generations. I struggled after school. I had no money. Most of my friends moved away. And damn, did I miss school. School had been easy. It had been fun. And I was good at it.
Then I went back. I had some friends who were a year behind me, and I spent a day visiting them, hanging out on campus and going to some parties that night.
And man, it was a downer.
I realized something: school had actually kind of sucked. I had just forgotten about all the sucky parts and only remembered the good. Pretty soon I couldn’t wait to go back home and get away.
Our minds have a tendency to only remember the best qualities of our past. We delete the tedious and monotonous and just remember the highlight reel. Ever meet up with an ex a few years later and wonder to yourself, “Holy shit, me and this person dated?!?” Yeah, that’s because our memories aren’t accurate.
Our brain always thinks that there’s one thing that will make us happy, that there’s one thing that will fix all our problems. And the same way we tend to falsely believe that achieving one goal in the future will make us live happily ever after, we also tend to falsely believe that recapturing something in our past will make us live happily ever after.
But in both cases, our mind is simply reaching for something to remove it from the present. And the present is where happiness is. You know, buried beneath all the bullshit.
STEP 2: Surround yourself with people who love you and appreciate you for who you are.
So, your mind is like a chair with a bunch of spindly legs. Some legs are bigger than others. And if enough legs get knocked out, you have to replace them.
Well, relationships are legs on your chair. And when you lose one leg, you need to make the other legs bigger to compensate for its loss. Otherwise, the chair won’t hold your fat ass—which, I guess, in this strange analogy, is your happiness—and you’ll fall over and spill your milkshake.5
What that means is you have to reconnect with people who care about you. It’s these people and these activities that will carry us through and be the emotional bulwark as we begin the hard process of rebuilding ourselves.
This sounds easier than it is. Because when you’ve been destroyed by some loss in your life, the last thing you want to do is call up your friends to go get a beer. Or to call mom and admit that you’re a total failure.
This is particularly difficult for people exiting a toxic relationship. That’s because people who have toxic relationships in one area of life often have toxic relationships in other areas. As a result, they don’t have people who appreciate them unconditionally. Everything is drama. And their breakup in one relationship will often merely be used as another form of drama in others.
My recommendation: If you’ve lost one toxic relationship, why stop there? Use your mini personal crisis as a litmus test to see who genuinely cares about you and who’s just in it for the drama injections. Good people and good relationships will offer unconditional support. Toxic friends and family members will look to adopt the drama of your loss and make it theirs as well. This just makes everything worse.
STEP 3: Invest in your relationship with yourself.
Generally, people who depend on toxic relationships for their self-worth do so because they’ve never really developed functioning relationships with themselves (and no, copious amounts of masturbation doesn’t count.)
What the hell do I mean by “relationship with yourself?”
Basically, how do you treat your own body, mind, and emotions?
This is the time to join a gym, to stop eating tubs of ice cream, to get outside and get reacquainted with your old friend called sunshine. It’s the time to sign up for that course you’ve always wanted to sign up for, to read that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand for six months, to finally floss for the first time ever. Now is the time to also let yourself feel sad or angry or guilty without self-judgment.
And if you find it hard to get motivated to do all these things, use your loss as motivation. If you’re the victim of a disgusting breakup, well, self-improvement is the best revenge against any ex. If you’ve lost someone close to you tragically, imagine what they would have wished for you and go out and live it. If you’ve lost something dear to you in your life, or aged out of a time of your life when you felt important and wanted, commit to building something even better for yourself today.
STEP 4: If you were stranded on a desert island and could do whatever you wanted to do—do that.
One of the healthiest things you can do after a loss is get back to basics: do something for the simple pleasure of doing it. If no one was around, if you had no obligations on your time or energy at all, what would you spend your time doing? Chances are you aren’t doing much of it. And that’s part of the problem. Get back to it.
Of course, there are some people who have no idea what they would do with their time if they had no obligations or no one to impress. And this is an incredibly dire sign. It implies that everything they’ve ever done is for the simple sake of pleasing others and/or getting something transactional out of their relationships. No wonder their relationships went south.
(If you find yourself in this position, there’s that can help you find that direction you need to get started.)
STEP 5: If you lost an intimate relationship, don’t be afraid to stay single for a while.
After losing an intimate relationship, many people’s natural inclination is to immediately fill the void with either another relationship, or by seeking a bunch of attention, affection, and sex.
This is a bad idea. As it distracts one from the healthy activities listed above.
If you’re on the wrong side of a breakup (or even worse, you lose someone to tragedy), even if the relationship was healthy and secure, you need time to recuperate emotionally. And it’s hard to do that if you’re immediately throwing your heart to the next person who comes around.
Stay single a while. Learn to spend time on yourself again. And only re-enter the dating world when you’re genuinely excited to. Not because you feel like you have to.
Eventually, Everything is Lost
Life is a long series of losses. It’s pretty much the only thing that is guaranteed in our existence. From moment to moment, year to year, we give up and leave behind former selves that we will never recover. We lose family, friends, relationships, jobs, and communities. We lose beliefs, experiences, perspectives, and passions. And ultimately, we will one day lose our existence entirely.
If you think back to a hard time in your life, recognize that to get out of those hard times, you had to accept losses. You had to lose relationships and pursuits, you had to lose a lot of meaning in order to create greater, healthier meaning. In that sense, all growth requires a degree of loss. And all loss incites further growth. The two must occur together.
People like to see growth as this euphoric, joyous thing. But it’s not. Real change brings a mixture of emotions with it—a grief of what you’ve left behind along with a satisfaction at what you’ve become. A soft sadness mixed with a simple joy. That night, my wife and I continued walking. And soon, we came across a new restaurant, just opened, that had new things that we wanted to try, new experiences we were prepared to share.
We invited ourselves in.
How to Stop Fucking Up Your Romantic Relationships
Relationships can be complicated and difficult. But few people know that there are some pretty clear signals to know if a relationship is going to work or not. Put your email in the form to receive my 29-page ebook on healthy relationships.
When we’re threatened with the possibility of losing someone we love, we often don’t see the things in front of us including how our own words and actions may be more self-destructing than helpful. This is especially true when you feel like what you worked hard to build (and keep) is slipping through your fingers and there is nothing you can do about it. You feel powerless, overwhelmed and out of control so you desperately try to regain a sense of control.
The sense of having control (and power) in a relationship is very important. But in order to BE in control you have first to let go the need to control.
Doesn’t make sense, right? It actually does when you think of letting go as releasing what no longer fits or works, or what doesn’t advance you towards your goal in order to create space for what fits or works, and what brings you closer to the desires of your heart.
Then why do most of us hold on to what no longer fits or works, or what doesn’t advance us towards our goal?
Because letting go is scary. For many of us it means giving up or giving in, and this is just not an option.
Because of the fear of “being out of control” or “being controlled” many of us are quite reluctant to let go. We hold on to the belief that the only option we have left is to try harder, scheme better, play mind games and manipulate where we can, force, push, resist, and if that doesn’t work, break up with the person before he/she rejects us.
But since we are still in love (and still want to hold on), we again reach out to our ex, but we reach out with the same attitude and reactions. We play mind games, demand our ex takes us back, complain when they don’t text back, threaten them, get angry, give ultimatums and if that doesn’t work, we cut off all contact and all lines of communication (basically run and hide).
After a few weeks or months, we come out of hiding and repeat the same cycle.
First of all, breaking up with someone before they break-up with you or cutting their every access to you does seem like regaining that sense of control (and power) because it somehow stops us from feeling the loss or frustration with our current situations, or at least so it seems. But then, the pain from the end of the relationship takes over and you once again hold on, afraid to let go of the pain (anger, resentment, regret, guilt etc) because if you let go of even that, then you have nothing to hold on to. That is why some of us go into “no contact” for months all the while our ex moved on a long time ago.
In holding on to what no longer fits or works, or what doesn’t advance you towards your goal, in manipulating the outcome of things, in pushing harder and/or resisting the inevitable, you keep yourself trapped in a reality that you most wish to change. Most people become intense, easily irritable, cold and/or bitter making them unattractive and not much fun to be around.
Letting go does not mean giving up or giving in. Giving up is walking away. It is saying there is no more hope, forget the relationship and find someone else. Giving in on the other hand, is accepting defeat and/or foregoing what we want for less.
Letting go means releasing the tight hold or grip and allowing things to unfold without too much effort, struggle or you trying to manipulate the outcome to your favour. It is clearing away unnecessary thoughts, expectations, belief systems and releasing our attachment to how things should be or we think the other person must and should act or be. It is embracing what is while being optimistically open to possibilities, opportunities and to the (yet) unknown.
You are not walking away and you are not settling,. You are just not trying too hard to make things happen how you want them to and when you want them to.
When you let go like that, a new reality appears. The choices available to you become clearer. The actions that you must take towards what you really want and need become more specific. Even more importantly, by taking the pressure off both of you, you change the energy you’re working with and in turn change your reality. A more relaxed and mellow you is a more attractive and more relate-able you!
This is in alignment with a principle of Psychology: If you step out of the way, the power of the subconscious will take over.
If you move yourself (ego, unnecessary thoughts, expectations, belief systems) out of the way, the power of love will take over. You can only realize the power of love when you realize that to let go is not to give up control but to be in control through conscious turning yourself over to something greater than your preconceived notions, limited perspectives, false beliefs and inconsistent optimism; and seeing clearly and listening to what it is you truly want and need. It’s that ability to be still (stop the hassling and DO-ing) and allow yourself to go with the flow of how things are right now – in the present.
In fact if you can fully master conscious letting go (moment -by-moment), you’ll realize the true control and power you have over all your relationships – and life!
Letting go is a choice – a very powerful and effective one!
Related: Let Go To Hold On To Your Relationship