And you’ve come to the right place. Because I’m going to be brutally honest.
It’s a good-news-bad-news situation.
The good news is, you’re on the right track. The first step to moving on is wanting to. Because you’ll never be able to fully move on if you’re still in denial.
The bad news is, it’s not going to be easy.
I know a lot of content out there paints the moving on process in a pretty little picture—you need to love and rediscover yourself, blah, blah.
But the truth is, moving on is an ugly process. Before you can pick up the pieces of your life, you need to face some hard truths. It’s going to be scary.
And it’s not the same for everyone. We all have different ways of coping with loss, of reacting to hurt and rejection, and we all heal in our own good time.
There’s no clear-cut path to getting over someone. So what do you do?
Even though I can’t tell you what to do from point A to Z, there are some things you can keep in mind to ease the moving on process a little bit.
Here’s your brutally honest guide on how to get over someone.
Why heartbreak hurts
We call it “heartbreak” for a reason. When we lose someone we love, it feels as if our hearts are literally breaking.
That’s because heartbreak is just as real and intense as physical pain.
A 2011 study suggests that the brain registers heartbreak the same way it registers a broken bone.
So no, you’re not imagining the pain. It’s as real as you feel it. And trying to suppress or ignore it will only make it worse.
But why is it so painful?
I believe the most painful part of a breakup is the fact that you’re losing one of the most important people in your life. Suddenly, they’re not a part of your day anymore. Suddenly, there’s a big gaping hole in your life that they use to occupy. It’s losing them, literally, that hurts.
According to a 1992 study by psychologist Arthur Aron and his team, when we form close, intimate relationships, we have a tendency of intertwining our sense of self to our partners.
In short, we begin to think of our partners as part of us—confusing their traits, values, and goals with ours, that when we lose them, it literally feels as if we’ve lost ourselves, too.
How to get over someone: 14 brutally honest but actionable steps to moving on
1. Prepare yourself for a not-so-smooth ride
I will say it again. It’s not going to be easy.
And the sooner you accept that there’s not going to be a shortcut, the better off you’ll be.
I can’t tell you how long it takes, either. While research says that it takes 11 weeks to feel better after a breakup, you can’t really put a timeline for moving on.
Yes, you want your ex back, but you’re going to deal with this in your own unique way. You won’t take any advice you don’t feel like taking. You won’t move on until you decide it.
So brace yourself. Getting over losing someone you love will take as long as you need it. Just embrace your own process.
2. Be realistic with your narrative
When we’re hurt and rejected, we become either of two things:
- The victim: “It wasn’t my fault. I did nothing to deserve this. I am completely blindsided.”
- The perpetrator: “It was all my fault. I should have seen this coming.”
And that’s okay. It’s completely understandable to be either of both. You’re in pain, grieving and confused.
But don’t confuse your perception to the reality of the situation.
The truth is, a breakup is only as excruciating as you decide it should be. And playing the victim or perpetrator card will only define your version of reality, because the stories we tell ourselves can shape how we can move on from a breakup.
According to social psychologist Dr. Lauren Howe:
“One strategy for making breakups a little easier, then, might be to consciously consider the narratives we create about the experience. A person might think: I was bad at communicating in the relationship; I guess I just can’t open up to people. Another story might be: I was bad at communicating in the relationship, but that’s something that I can work on, and future relationships will be better. Maybe a healthy habit of questioning our own narratives can help us to make better ones—stories that promote resilience in the face of pain.”
In short, look at things as the way they are. I know it’s hard to look at things objectively when you’re hurt. But taking a step back and seeing the situation clearly is the first step to getting over someone.
3. Allow yourself to feel
Allow yourself to feel to the absolute bottom of your emotions.
What I mean is, don’t bottle it up. If you feel pain, feel it ’til it’s there. If you want to cry, cry until the tears stop flowing.
I know it’s not comfortable. But if you want to move on, you need time to feel everything. That involves confusion, pain, regret, and being lost.
The biggest mistake people make after a breakup is trying to skip the difficult part. We think that if we keep ourselves distracted or busy, that the pain will eventually go away.
But breakups require an entire grieving process. It’s not something you can just pretend never happened. If you do, it will always stay with you and create emotional baggage that you’ll carry onto your future relationships.
4. Find things that give you meaning
While I told you not to distract yourself, there is one way you can do to speed up the moving on process: find new sources of meaning.
Call it what you want: finding yourself, reconnecting with yourself—just find something that gives your purpose.
Take back what you lost. And for most of us, it’s our sense of self, our identities. We feel so lost because we were so wrapped up in someone, that we lost part of ourselves.
So go ahead and find it. Rediscover your drive and passion. Find a new hobby. Surround yourself with people who support you. Draw strength from things that give you joy.
Just because you lost something, doesn’t mean you can’t gain anything anymore.
5. Be kind to yourself
Sometimes, we’re the hardest on ourselves. And a breakup can bring out the worst in us. It can make us so critical of our actions and emotions, that we forget to practice self-compassion.
A breakup is not the time to criticize yourself more. This is actually the time you need to be more kind to yourself.
According to psychologist Melanie Greenberg:
“When you feel low is the time to be kind to yourself, rather than criticize. Try to lift yourself up and think about your own positive qualities. Give yourself credit for trying to make things work, even if you didn’t ultimately succeed. Think about what you might say to a dear friend in this situation and direct these comments to yourself.”
Remember, you’re only human. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
6. Take this time to reflect on what you truly want and need
When I experienced an excruciating breakup, one of my biggest mistakes was trying to push everything away. As a result, I refused to reflect on why my relationship ended, why I felt the way I did, and what I could do next to be emotionally healthy again.
But knowing what was internally happening to me, and getting that sense of control over myself could have avoided me the unnecessary bad decisions and reckless mistakes.
So instead of trying to push everything way or being consumed by your emotions, it’s very important that you take this opportunity to try and make sense of them, instead.
You’ll end up learning a thing or two about yourself, how you connect with others, and what you want in your future relationship.
7. DON’T jump into a new relationship
“The way to get over someone is to get under someone”
Wrong. You won’t do yourself any favors by jumping to the next available person.
I get it. And I don’t blame and judge people for trying to ease the pain by jumping into the next relationship after a breakup.
But that’s just not a healthy way to deal with loss. If you do that, you’re ignoring some pretty heavy emotional baggage and deep-seated emotional issues that you need to process so that you can create a healthier and better relationship with yourself and a partner in the future.
According to therapist Eileen Purdy:
“In order to position yourself toward the healthy ‘starting anew’ path versus the ‘rebounding’ path, wait until you’re feeling strong and grounded in yourself before jumping into anything. If it’s taking awhile to feel this way, look into some help in this arena. Consider talking to a good friend, family member or counselor.”
8. It’s okay to ask for help
In our society, we can never afford to be seen as weak. We are only allowed to be positive, happy, and strong. Any vulnerability is a weakness.
It’s especially true in the way we see breakups. The one who is left crying is the poor, weak one, the one to be pitied.
As a result, we tend to act brave and unaffected because of our pride.
But the truth is when you’ve lost someone, being strong is the farthest thing you feel. This is the time you need to surround yourself with people who love and support you.
So it’s okay to ask for help. It’s not a weakness, but a strength. And in fact, you’re doing your loved ones a favor by allowing them to take care of you in this difficult time of your life.
9. Take better care of yourself
So you’ve spent days and nights in bed crying. You’ve had days when you didn’t shower. You drank yourself into oblivion.
That’s enough now. Eventually, you need to start taking care of yourself again.
It might mean a new hairdo and wardrobe. Maybe it means eating healthier and exercising. Do yoga. Practice meditation.
Because how could you feel terrible when your mind and body feel healthy and strong?
Psychologist Loren Soeiro advises:
“Good self-care will help you through the times when you feel your lowest, and a sensible restriction of the people, places, and things that remind you of your ex may help to keep you from feeling that way for very long.”
10. List your ex’s negative qualities
According to one interesting study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, highlighting your ex’s bad qualities can help you move on faster.
The study gathered 24 heartbroken people (ages 20-37), who had been in long-term relationships for an average of 2 and a half years. Researchers then prompted them to highlight their ex’s faults. They found that “negative reappraisal decreased love feelings and made participants feel more unpleasant.”
Try it. List your ex’s flaws, mistakes, and bad qualities on a piece of paper. It might paint a better picture as to why the relationship didn’t work out.
11. Take responsibility
But your ex is not the only one who has bad qualities. I’m not saying that you deserve to be left or that it was all your fault. But no matter what the circumstances are of your breakup, you’re also not completely innocent.
Two people don’t break up because they did something wrong, it’s because they’re just wrong for each other. And you have to acknowledge your part in that.
But it’s important to remember that, taking responsibility is not the same as blaming yourself. It only means acknowledging your part in what made the relationship not work.
12. Cut them off, completely
How can you forget someone if they’re still in your life? If you really want to start getting over someone, you need to cut them off from your life completely.
I know it’s incredibly hard to just stop seeing someone who has been an integral part of your life. But there’s no middle ground here. One of the first things you need to do is to block them out.
That means no calls, no texts, no seeing them in social media.
Why is this so important?
Psychology professor Gwendolyn Seidman explains:
“If you’re still attached to an ex, but want to let go of the past, constant reminders will only make that harder, because contact with an ex (direct or indirect) is related to sadness and love for that person. Keeping tabs on an ex via Facebook is also related to that combination of negative feelings and longing. While feelings of attachment to an ex may motivate the contact in the first place, it is likely part of a cycle where the contact itself increases those feelings.”
It might be tempting to try to check up on what your ex is doing. But seeing them live their life without you is not only incredibly painful, but it also defeats the purpose of moving on.
13. Don’t go back to them…
There are many reasons why couples break up. And this doesn’t apply to every situation. In some instances, getting a second shot at the relationship can prove successful.
But in my opinion, if you’ve already exhausted every effort to make the relationship work, and it’s still not good and healthy for you both, it’s always a bad idea to go back to each other.
If there are legitimate reasons for the breakup, reasons that make the relationship toxic or unhealthy for you, then it’s better to just move on, take your lessons, and apply it for a better and healthier relationship in the future.
In this case, it’s perfectly alright to cut your losses and move on.
14. Learn how to be okay with being alone
I think this is something many of us neglect to learn: how to be comfortable with being alone.
Society makes us believe that we need to be with someone to be considered “complete,” that we’re broken half of a perfect unit.
And while it may be true that there is a different kind of joy and meaning in spending your life with someone you love, it’s not a necessity you need to always chase after.
You don’t need a partner to make you whole. You have everything you need to have a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
A life partner is simply icing on the cake. It’s not something you can “force” if you’re not internally ready for it.
When you learn how to be alone and how to thrive while being alone, you set the precedent for every good thing that can happen. You learn to love and accept yourself. You even learn how to enjoy yourself.
So while you may initially think that a breakup is a setback in your life, it’s actually an opportunity for you to be with yourself, get to know yourself, and to find the strength you didn’t know you had.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn is that you need to be a complete, healthy, and fulfilled individual to be able to cultivate a healthy long-term relationship with someone.
You may not believe it just now, but you’ll come up with the same conclusion as I did.
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