Break-ups are HARD.
The situation varies case by case — our ex-partner may have chosen to stop nurturing the relationship, giving it the much-needed time and energy it deserves, which can make us feel rejected, unlovable, and not good enough. Or, perhaps it’s you that has made the decision to stop pursuing a relationship that you wanted at one point in your life, which can feel like “giving up” or second-guessing the choice. Regardless of which partner officially broke it off, the bottom line is that the relationship was not working out. You and your ex both deserve a loving, kind, honest, trustworthy, committed, and healthy relationship. Sometimes two good people just don’t work out, and that’s okay.
We might not have control over which relationships work out, but we do have control over how we react after a break-up. The following is a guide from a therapist (one who’s gone through plenty of break-ups, I might add) on how to survive the weeks after the end of a relationship and the heartbreak that often arises:
1) The “No Contact” rule (<60 days)
Yeah — I said it: Absolutely NO CONTACT. This means no calling, no texting, no social media messaging (or stalking, for that matter), no “accidentally” running into them. We are going cold turkey. This will be difficult, terrifying, and you will feel as if your soul has been sucked out of your body. You will literally (like, literally) be going through withdrawal. During this time you are more prone to relapse, but if you pull it off, giving yourself this space (at least 60 days of it, to be exact) is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.
It gives you the opportunity to distance yourself from what we often can’t see because we are too close to the situation.
It allows you the time to explore, re-evaluate, and identify what it is that you truly want for yourself, in a relationship, and in a partner. And ultimately, it makes you stronger and more confident if after 60 days you decide you want your partner back. So, when facing the urge to reach out, do something (anything!) else, and remember why you broke up in the first place.
We have all heard about the stages of grief, however, not all of us know that they don’t only apply to a physical death or loss. We grieve in all aspects of our lives, from the loss of a friendship, the loss of a partner, the loss of a job, the loss of our vision of the future, or the loss of our favorite shirt that ruined in the washing machine (this happens quite often for me, unfortunately). We all grieve, and it serves a purpose, so let yourself do it! Your ex-partner is gone and the future you pictured with them is gone, too. Give yourself permission to be sad, cry, be angry, disappointed, and hurt.
Grieving is never linear, so ride the emotional waves and eventually, you will reach the shore of acceptance.
Acceptance will come and go, but it will level off and one day, you will wake up and realize you have let go.
3) Strengthen yourself (physically, mentally, and emotionally)
This is the fun part. This is the beginning of your new, more fabulous life! This is where YOU decide what you want in your future and become stronger as you CREATE it. In the wise words of Ted Mosby, “Sometimes things have to fall apart to make way for better things.”
Take the time to really explore and identify what it is that you value, what is important, and what type of life you want to live.
Strengthen yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. After a break-up, it can be easy to let go of ourselves, but DON’T! Trust me when I say that is one of the worst things we can do. I know you may not have the energy to go out and do these things, but do👏 them 👏 anyway 👏. At first, you may need to push yourself, but eventually, it will become second-nature because you will start feeling the benefits. After a break-up, our self-worth takes a hit, and it’s normal to experience thoughts about whether you’re good enough or lovable. Try to not let these thoughts stop you from creating your new fabulous life. You are worthy and if you find yourself hitting a roadblock, don’t hesitate to seek out a therapist. Break-ups can trigger a lot of unresolved inner conflicts that we often aren’t aware of and therapy can be a very effective solution. After all, the last thing you want is to run into your ex and have them see that you’ve completely fallen apart without them.
4) Strengthen other relationships
When we are in romantic relationships, we often distance ourselves from friends and family because we (understandably) love hanging out with our significant other all the time.
But maintaining strong, healthy bonds with our friends and family is essential in and out of a relationship.
Keeping your own platonic friendships allows you to maintain a separate identity and support system outside of your relationship, cultivating independence and personal strength. So, take this time to nurture your relationships with people who accept you for you and who motivate you to do better. If you have distanced yourself from family and friends, don’t pretend like you haven’t. Openly talk about it with them, and if they truly care, they will understand (just don’t do it again, buddy).
5) Schedule your time in advance
Here is where I talk about balance: yin and yang. If crying yourself to sleep after writing 20 angry letters to your ex (that you’ll never send!) is your yin then you have to balance it out with your yang of going out into the world with your best outfit and your “game face” on!
Yes, we need to give ourselves time to feel our emotions and process our experience, but we also need to find balance with healthy distractions.
And no, I’m not talking about one-night stands or drunken nights full of substances that will most likely leave us feeling worse the next day. I’m talking about distractions that will make you and your relationships (romantic or not) stronger. Rekindling friendships with those you care about but also with yourself is crucial. So, give this a shot: Schedule your time beforehand — for example, one week in advance. Fraction your week evenly into Independent Social Activities (events you can participate solo but will meet people at), Alone Time (spending time alone with your thoughts and feelings ), and Friend/Family Dates (social interactions with friends). Make these activities as fun as possible. For example, if you have scheduled Alone Time for you to cry your eyes out, at least get yourself cozy with a blanket, pumpkin spice candle, and some high-quality tissues.
Last, but not least…
6) Take it one day…or one hour…at a time!
I know you don’t want to hear this, but it WILL take time to fully heal. You will have ups and downs, you will feel like you’re finally moving on then suddenly, you will feel as if your heart was ripped out of your chest — you will experience it all. So be gentle with yourself and focus on just getting through each day (or each hour).
Do what you need to do to comfort yourself — take responsibility for your own happiness.
It will get easier with time and distance, this I promise you. You’ve got this!