How To Get Over A Breakup Like A Grown-Up
It's like the air has been punched out of you.
Even if you saw it coming.
Even if you initiated it.
Breaking up with your romantic partner is one of the most painful life experiences you'll ever have.
The longer the relationship and the more intertwined your lives have become, the more agonizing the pain.
You loved this person. You had hopes and dreams about your future together. He or she was your companion, confidante, and lover.
There is a chemical bond that occurs between two people who are romantically connected, and it's hard to dissolve that — even if it's the best thing for both of you.
If you initiated the breakup, you might feel guilt, confusion, sadness, anger, regret, and loneliness. You might also feel a huge sense of relief if the relationship was going south, but even the relief is tinged with grief.
Most healthy-minded, compassionate people don't enjoy causing pain to someone they care about.
If you were the one broken up with, well, you may just want to go crawl in a hole and die. It feels like an assault to your very being.
You might wonder, “Am I not lovable? Am I not desirable? What's wrong with me that he/she doesn't want to be with me anymore?”
You will likely go through the typical five stages of grief and loss:
- Denial and isolation
Loss is a natural part of life, and even thought it is incredibly painful, it can teach us many lessons if we choose to accept them.
It's hard to see those lessons during the initial tsunami of emotions that come with splitting up. But once the emotional chaos calms a little, you'll do yourself a favor by approaching this painful life passage with mindfulness.
Here are some ideas on how to get over a breakup maturely:
For The Initiator
If you are the initiator of the breakup, you may have an easier time of it.
If you have met someone new, you have a soft landing pad that distracts you from the end of your previous relationship and gives you something exciting to look forward to.
Or if you've experienced pain, frustration, or conflict in the relationship, or you've simply a come to the realization that the romance has run it's course, breaking up may feel like the best and most obvious decision for your life.
Here are some things to consider:
Break up the way you'd want to be broken up with.
Would you want the person you love to send you a text or email saying goodbye?
Would you want them to pack up and leave before explaining what's going on?
Would you want them to initiate an argument so they'd have a good “reason” to slam out of the door?
Breakups can happen during or after a big fight when tempers are hot and hurtful words can be hurled all too easily. But this is no way to end a relationship with someone you loved and still care about on some level.
Even if he or she has given you good reason to end things, end them with dignity and kindness. Have a personal, face-to-face conversation (yes it will be uncomfortable and painful) to express your feelings clearly and kindly.
Try to communicate your reasons for the breakup without resorting to insults, shaming, or lies.
- If you are leaving because you met someone else, be gently honest about it, as your former love will find out anyway. You might say something like, “This is hard to say, but I've met someone I'm attracted to, and it would be unfair to you if I remained in our relationship when I have feelings for someone else.”
- If you are leaving because you've lost romantic feelings for your partner, you might say, “I care about you very much, but I don't see a long-term future in our relationship. I want to give us both the opportunity to find the right person.”
- If you are leaving because of constant discord or fighting in the relationship, you might say, “Our constant arguing and disagreements are pulling me down and making me very unhappy. I simply can't live like this any longer, even though I care for you very much.”
- If you are leaving because of a specific behavior or character issue with your partner, you should be honest but kind, saying, “Your lying to me so many times has undermined my trust in you. I just can't continue in a relationship with someone who isn't honest.”
Whatever the reason, and whatever you say, you'll likely be met with anger, tears, questions, or even pleading. The best way to end it smoothly is to state your case, answer any legitimate questions, try not to get defensive, and end the conversation relatively quickly.
Don't drag it out.
If you've decided to end it, then end it fast. You may still feel conflicted or confused, and you may still have feelings for this person. But it doesn't help either of you to drag things on with the weight of this pain between you.
If you are living together move out as soon as possible, or go stay with a friend until you can find your own place.
Try not to get caught up in endless conversations about the relationship or rehash all of the good and bad parts of it. Don't feel like you have to be the therapist or listening ear for your ex because you feel guilty.
Block calls, texts, and social media connections.
You may be tempted to continue to stay in touch with your ex, but at least initially, it's best to cut off all communication until you both begin to heal.
If you don't have the self-discipline to stop calling, texting, and scanning your ex's social media pages, then block them or unfriend them.
This isn't to be mean or spiteful. It's simply a necessary way to allow both of you to regain your footing and move on.
Give yourself permission to feel what you feel.
You may feel happy the relationship is over and ready to move on with your life. You may feel sad and lonely and wish you could contact your ex to talk about old times.
Whatever you are feeling is OK. You don't need to feel guilty for making a decision that you feel is best for your life. And if you've made the decision mindfully, you can trust your own judgement while still feeling somewhat conflicted and sad.
If you feel grief, give yourself the time to grieve over the loss of the relationship, especially before jumping into another one.
Stay busy and active.
Don't sit around analyzing the breakup or vegging out in front of the TV. Go do some of the things you didn't or couldn't do when you were in a relationship.
Spend more time with friends and family. Take up a new hobby or re-energize your fitness routine. Commit to a goal or project that requires focus and concentration to keep your mind from wandering back to your ex.
Find the lessons in your experience with this person.
Relationships are laboratories for personal growth. We learn so much about ourselves and about what we do and don't want in a partner with every relationship we experience.
Ask yourself what you learned from this person, both good and bad. What would you do differently in the next relationship? How do you need to change and grow?
Look for ways you want to be a better partner and what you want in a relationship regarding communication, intimacy, conflict resolution, and compatibility.
For The One Broken Up With
Many of these same strategies list above apply to relationship partner who has been spurned.
- As much as you may want more explanations or one last night together or one more attempt to win him or her back, don't drag it out. Don't beg or cajole. Try to cut the cord quickly so you can begin to heal.
- For the sake of your sanity and dignity, if you're partner states he wants to end things, let him go. If she intimates she has feelings for someone else, try not to make a scene or create a huge drama. Don't gossip or trash him or her with your friends and family.
- Allow yourself to go through the stages of grief I mentioned earlier. You can't rush yourself through the healing process, especially if the relationship lasted several years or you were living together. You don't have to be superman or woman. It's OK to cry, to be angry and hurt, and to feel confusion.
- If your ex hasn't blocked you on your phone or social media, do it first. Yes, you will be tempted many times a day to call, text, or see pics of him with his new love — but make it really difficult for that to happen. You'll only make yourself more miserable if you stalk.
- At first you may be in such painful shock that you can't do anything except stay home and nurse your wounds. But push yourself to be around supportive friends and family. Try to stay busy with activities to keep your mind engaged and that you enjoy. Don't spend too much time alone with your negative thoughts.
- Look for the same lessons from your experience with this person. What did you learn? What would you change? How have you grown? You can take all of this information into your next relationship to ensure you choose the right person and to make sure you are the person you want to be in a relationship.
In addition to these strategies, you'll want to consider the following:
Nothing relieves stress, anxiety, and depression like good old-fashioned exercise — especially aerobic exercise. Go out and run, take a fitness class, jump on a rebounder, play basketball.
Do anything to get your heart rate up and your body moving and sweating.
Work on your self-esteem.
You may feel jilted and unlovable after a breakup. Why didn't this person want me? What's wrong with me that he/she didn't stay?
Whatever the reason for the breakup, if the relationship wasn't working for one of you, then it wasn't working for both of you. You can't maintain a satisfying, happy connection unless both partners are equally committed.
Dating is a process of discovery. It takes time to figure out whether or not two people are meant to be together for the long term. He or she found you to be wonderful and compatible for a period of time, but ultimately something didn't mesh.
That's not an indictment of your character or your lovability.
Don't allow yourself to sink into negative self-talk and self-doubt. The mature way to respond is to acknowledge that things simply didn't work out with this person, but there is someone out there (or many someones) who is the right match for you.
Address any legitimate issues.
If your partner broke up with you because of a legitimate issue (ie: verbally abusive language, cheating, anger management problems), this is a great time to explore and work on the issue.
No one is perfect in relationships. We all bring in baggage from past loves, old wounds, and childhood experiences. Our love relationships are the places where we attempt to heal all of that baggage. But sometimes we don't express our wounds in the healthiest ways.
Think about the issue or complaint your ex communicated as a reason for the split, and examine for yourself if there is any truth in it. Be open to acknowledging what you need to change in order to be a healthier partner in your next relationship.
This might involve counseling, coaching, or reading self-improvement books that focus on the issue.
Date with caution.
You may have friends and family encouraging you to jump back into the dating scene. It certainly can help your self-esteem to have someone new show interest and attraction to you.
However, if you've recently been through a breakup, you are still dealing with so many emotions — emotions that you will carry into any new relationship.
The best socializing after a breakup is with people who allow you to be yourself, without having to worry about impressing, flirting, or being “on.” Dating can be exhausting, and you need all of your energy focused on feeling better and getting stronger.
If you do decided to date, it might be worthwhile to communicate to this new person that you are still in recovery mode from the ending of a recent relationship. Let him or her know that you'll need to take it slow.
Try not to unload all of your pain and anger about your ex onto this new person, especially at the beginning. That's a surefire way to put a quick end to this connection. Save those conversations for your friends, counselor, or family member.
For many people, having sex with someone creates a chemical bond with them that feels like love. You may miss sex after your breakup and find yourself wanting to jump into bed with someone right away.
You know yourself best related to your emotions around sex. If it creates the potential for more angst or a premature commitment you don't want to make, then take this slow as well.
As you work on healing, rebuilding your confidence and self-esteem, and developing positive skills to take into your next relationship, you might enjoy reading my book 201 Relationship Questions: The Couple's Guide To Building Trust And Emotional Intimacy.