Getting over a breakup is never easy, regardless of who initiated it. One of you’s going to get hurt—and often both of you will.
It’s messy: there’s name calling, tears, regrettable accusations flung. And once it’s happened, you have to face the aftermath regardless of whether you wanted the relationship to finish. The turmoil’s coming either way—so it’s best to learn some coping mechanisms until you’ve truly moved on.
Some people rebound, rushing into a new romance to cope with the loneliness. Others indulge in vices, isolate themselves, or immerse themselves in work or a hobby. Every coping mechanism has one thing in common, though: it centres around avoidance.
But to truly move on, you need to go through a recovery period—or you could jeopardise your future relationships and happiness. When you’re living it every day, the recovery period can certainly feel chaotic—as chaotic as the breakup itself, or worse. But when you really condense it, there’s a fairly standard trajectory we all follow when we’re getting over a breakup. Its three phases take vastly different amounts of time depending on your disposition, as well as on the length and quality of the relationship you’ve come out of. But at least by knowing how the recovery period works you can glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel.
To call the first stage of the recovery period grieving is not an exaggeration, as is sometimes assumed by those lucky enough never to have experienced a painful breakup. During grieving you may be overcome by emotions. You’ve lost your partner. You feel empty. Life seems grey and pointless without them.
Those feelings are completely normal—but don’t let them rule you.
You may be drawn to the idea of closing yourself off from the world, even from those closest to you, or else simply deny yourself the ability to feel anything at all. Try not to give in—in the long run these behaviours serve little purpose other than to make you feel worse, forcing you to ruminate even more than you already are.
Instead, really feel your emotions. They’re real, and—unfortunately—they do deserve to be acknowledged. If you try diminishing their importance or dismissing them altogether, you only create more problems for yourself to face somewhere down the road. The aim is simple, if profoundly difficult: accept that it’s over.
One popular and effective method you can adopt during grieving is journalling. Regardless of whether you’ve kept a diary before, journalling can provide relief from all-consuming emotions. When you write, remember that it doesn’t matter what you put down or whether you’re following a structure.
The action of writing is itself where the catharsis stems from. Your writing does not have to be cohesive, and it doesn’t have to make sense to some hypothetical reader peering over your shoulder. It doesn’t even have to be coherent to you—you can just let the words flow in a stream of consciousness.
Many people feel almost physically lighter once they’ve had a journalling session, like a weight’s been lifted from their shoulders. It can be tricky knowing where to start, but if the prospect of simply grabbing a pen and writing whatever comes to mind feels daunting, try gratitude journalling instead.
That way you can follow a simple structure and focus only on what you’re grateful for, right here, right now. That can seem like a mammoth task if you’re in the throes of misery—but there’s always at least one big thing to be thankful for in your life. By identifying what yours is, you orient your mind that little bit more toward the positives and away from the negatives. Even if only for a moment, you’re focused on hope and potential, not hung up on loss.
If your grieving process is impacting your quality of life—you’ve stopped taking care of yourself, your diet’s suffering, you’re struggling to get out of bed—you should reach out to a friend or relative, if not to a counsellor or therapist, who will be well versed in situations like yours and able to support you.
And whatever you do, avoid contact with your ex. The temptation to get in touch can be utterly overwhelming—that’s only natural when someone pervades your every waking thought. Or you might want to ‘check in’ on what they’re up to either by obsessing over their social media or contacting their friends or family. Do everything you can to resist these behaviours—they’ll invariably make you feel worse, and you’ll only exacerbate your suffering and prolong the grieving phase.
There’s a harsh truth about breakups that you may not have considered, but at some point you’ll have to contend with it: you may never get closure from your ex.
But that’s okay. Not every relationship ends well—but every relationship ends for a reason. And once you’ve accepted that and grieved, you’re ready to start healing.
This phase of getting over a breakup is all about self-care. It’s about me time, reconnecting with your own wellbeing. You can start as simple as it gets: sleeping properly, eating healthily, drinking fluids, getting fresh air. If you can, get active, too. Exercise, join a gym, walk, run—whatever it takes to get those endorphins pumping and your self-esteem growing once more.
You could also take up a hobby, learn a skill, take a class, or else rediscover a passion which fell by the wayside when you got into your relationship. Perhaps you can take this time to travel to places you always wanted to visit, and spend time with friends and family, maybe rekindling dynamics that went lukewarm while you were ensconced in your relationship.
But also, take time to simply be at one—and content—with yourself, with your own company.
And once you’re balanced, it’s time to get social beyond those you already know. Perhaps you’ve already begun building bridges with people you’ve met in your self-care activities, but if not then make a conscious effort to put yourself out there, whether with friends, acquaintances, or colleagues.
Look at someone in your life who has a thriving social scene of their own, and either emulate what they do or get involved with theirs!
And whatever you do, avoid social situations where you know you’ll bump into your ex. Perhaps you need to even avoid their friends—not only to limit your chances of encountering your ex, but also because being with them may prevent you from moving on and spreading your wings.
Consider getting involved with your community. You could join a club or do volunteer work. Not only will this help you meet people, but it will also boost your self-confidence and make you feel fundamentally good about what you’re doing.
Finally—social media. It’s omnipresent in our lives, so this is an especially tricky obstacle to overcome. But whatever you do, stop looking at your ex. This can quickly become a pernicious habit, impossible to stop. If you have to, block them. You could even ask a friend to change your password so you can’t unblock them.
If you’re obsessing over your ex, you may well need to take such a drastic measure. Because if you’re not going to come off social media, you need to ensure you’re not going to be looking at your ex. You may even wish to extend blocking to their friends and family.
Remember, you’re not doing it out of spite—these people were likely a huge part of your life. But if you’re going to be seeing your ex via their profiles, you’ll entirely negate the effort you’ve expended in avoiding your ex’s profile.
Once your healing process is well and truly underway, you can begin assessing where you are with the breakup, and put your relationship under the microscope. You need to analyse the good and the bad. Look at the mistakes made by both of you, not just your ex.
Don’t overgeneralise or simplify: in most breakups there is no dichotomy of villain vs victim. There’s just an inherently messy and infinitely nuanced set of interpersonal dynamics which sadly meant you weren’t right for each other. So take that lesson, and apply it to your future relationships. Because you need to know what you value and what you’re looking for—and perhaps those things have changed.
Evaluation can do that. It enables you to paint a picture of your ideal future, and get on the path to finding someone you can build it with.
Breakups are hard—but they’re not forever
You may never truly get over your ex. When you think about it, that is the ultimate risk we all have to take when we fall for someone. But what you can do is work on yourself, your own health, wellbeing, and happiness until such time you’re in a good place to start dating again. You’ve grieved—you’ve healed—and you’ve survived. Don’t underestimate the work that took. Be proud of yourself—then get back out there and find someone who truly deserves you.
Oh—and if you’d like a little assistance with that, well—we can help. Drawing Down the Moon is a multi-award-winning dating agency. Our world-class matchmakers are renowned for successfully pairing intelligent, empathetic, and compatible people looking to settle down. We’re experts at bringing together highly eligible singles, so get in touch today and let’s find you the one person who will make your ex utterly pale by comparison.