Breakups suck. There’s no way around it.
It’s painful to lose a person who you thought would be there forever.
But there are simple steps you can take that are guaranteed to stabilize your emotions, get over this breakup, and put your ex firmly in your rearview mirror.
So start following these steps today if you want to stop thinking about the breakup, get out of that funk and move on and start a new life.
Step 1. Mourn the breakup
Many people try to skip this step, and if you’re here, I’m guessing you’re one of them. You want to get past all this as quickly as possible, and I understand why. You don’t want to really face the feelings associated with this breakup. They hurt too much.
If you really dig in here, you’re worried that you’ll have to accept hard truths about yourself, your ex and the relationship. You’re worried that you’ll fall into a pit of depression and you’ll never recover from it.
But, as with so many things, the only way out is through. You can push these feelings down, ignore them and distract yourself constantly until you stop thinking about your ex all the time but those feelings will still be there, buried just beneath the surface.
If you never face them, they’ll come up in unexpected ways and end up hurting you and any future relationships you form.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the science. A 2015 study out of Binghamton University looked at how men and women respond to breakups. They found that women reported more emotional pain immediately following a breakup than men did.
But when they checked back months and then years later, the women were more likely to have moved on fully from the breakup. Men, on the other hand, were more likely to feel the same emotional pain when thinking about their breakup and their ex.
This doesn’t go for all men or all women but it does point to an important point: you can’t avoid emotional pain altogether…all you can do is put it off until later. And ultimately, by doing this you’re actually going to feel more pain in the long run.
Here’s another study for you. Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester found that people who bottled up their emotions increased their chance of premature death from all causes by more than 30%! And their risk of being diagnosed with cancer increased by 70%! Yikes. You don’t want to fall into this trap.
So do what it takes to mourn the breakup. This means spending real time sitting with your feelings without trying to change them. Think about what your ex meant to you, what you lost and what you’ll do next.
It’s going to suck to really FEEL that pain that you’ve been avoiding but I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly it will fade once you stop running from it.
Step 2. Accept that it’s over
Unfortunately this step is often the hardest. If you want to get over a breakup you first need to truly accept the breakup.
And you’re probably saying: “I want to accept this breakup but I don’t know how. What am I supposed to do here?”
Well, if you’ve truly mourned the breakup which we covered in step 1, then you’re already well on your way to making this happen. But to TRULY accept the breakup, you have to monitor your thoughts and feelings.
Every time thoughts of your ex come up, you need to remember that you’ve chosen to accept this breakup. You can’t force thoughts out of your head…but you can deal with them as they arise and you need to make this a habit if you want to get out of this funk and move on.
So every time you think about your ex, remind yourself that while these thoughts can feel very powerful and dangerous, they’re in the past and they can’t hurt you anymore.
If you’re finding it really difficult to accept this then you must make what I call a declaration. This is going to feel a little silly but it really does make a difference, believe me. I want you to get out a piece of paper–you can use your phone but paper is a much more effective tool here–and I want you to write down the following, filling in information based on your particular situation:
My relationship with _______ is over. We broke up because of _______. This makes me feel _________ (sad, angry, hurt). But I’ve decided to move on and find happiness elsewhere. I wish them the best but they’re no longer a part of my life. I’m excited for my next chapter.
Now I want you to read this to yourself. Then I want you to say it out loud. Then I want you to say it one more time.
Now, any time you start to feel like you’re slipping back into old patterns, like you’re thinking about your ex too much…you’re playing the “what if” game or imagining scenarios where it MIGHT maybe, someday work out between you… I want you to return to these statements.
I want you to think them in your head or say them out loud again. Many people carry this piece of paper with them to look at when they’re feeling weak. It may feel stupid but it really does help ground you and remind you of the path you’re on.
Acceptance is never easy. And it’s not a one time thing. You’re going to have to accept this again and again. Even if you know that you’ve done all you could to accept it with your mind, body and soul, times will come when those memories come flooding back and it’s like you’re right back there on day one, wishing that you could just hold them in your arms.
This is how the brain works. It can feel like you haven’t made any progress at all, like you’re going to feel this way forever, but you won’t. In fact, this is a normal part of the healing process. You’re working through things subconsciously and that’s why your feelings are rising and falling like the tide.
But what if you’re not there yet? If you feel like you can’t accept that it’s over, that’s okay. This is not ideal but in some situations it’s too soon or there’s too much history or you feel like you need to hold onto the possibility to stay alive. If that’s your situation, then here’s what you need to do.
Ask yourself: what would I do if I DID accept that it’s over? How would I behave differently? How would I treat them? How would I talk about them? Be really honest here and take your time. Really imagine how your life would be different…how YOU would be different.
So I’m sure if you really accepted this was over you’d probably stop trying to impress your ex. You’d stop looking to them for attention and approval because you’d know that there’s no point, right? Why would you try to win someone over when you KNOW that they’re no longer going to be an important part of your life moving forward?
Are you still looking for the approval of your kindergarten teacher? Probably not, right? Because they’re not a part of your life anymore. This is how you’d treat your ex if you really accepted the breakup.
Now you need to act out the life that you imagined. Pretend that you do feel this way and act accordingly. This will be difficult and will often feel pointless. You may ask yourself, why should I pretend I’m over them when I know I’m really not? Well the more consistently you can do this, the faster you’re going to move on.
Step 3. Erase them from your life
This is the most concrete step on this list and it’s one that’s important to do as soon as possible if you want to move on from your breakup. At the same time, I know it can be difficult because you’re still holding onto the idea that maybe, some day, in some way, they’re going to come back and you’ll have another chance.
If you find yourself unable to proceed with this step, go back to step 2 and repeat it. Now, if you want to move forward, you need to stop looking backwards.
You need to remove yourself from their life FULLY, and you need to remove them from yours. The first and most obvious step is to move out, if you live together. I know that this isn’t always possible in every situation but until you make this happen it’s going to be a true uphill battle. So do what you have to do. Accept a downgrade in your living situation if need be. It’s going to be worth not seeing your ex making toast every morning.
Imagine this ad for an apartment:
Floor to ceiling windows, in unit washer and dryer, shared bathroom…with your ex. See how that’s not appealing? I’m sure you wouldn’t even bother booking a viewing for that place. So why are you living there now?
On top of this, you need to look at other ways your life is tied to your ex’s. One is your belongings. Either you have shared property or you have each other’s stuff strewn about in your living space. Maybe you borrowed their hair dryer and they have your tennis racket, whatever.
Every possession you have of your ex’s is a little string tying them to you. Not only does it remind you of them every time you open the dishwasher to see their “luck of the irish” coffee mug, it also makes you think “When are they going to come pick this up? Am I going to have to see them? What am I supposed to say?”
Get their stuff out of your house to get them out of your head. It works.
And the next step is social media. Many people find it really difficult to move on from breakups today because they have to see their exes on social media all the time. It can be really hard to resist the urge to look them up, check in on them and see what they’re up to since the breakup. It’s like a scab that you just want to pick.
But you need to clear them out of your social media too, if you really want to fully move on. They won’t be out of mind until they’re out of sight. And you don’t even have to block them or even unfollow them for this to work.
You just need to mute their accounts wherever you follow them. This may feel rude or like you’re losing something but those feelings will pass as you realize how much better life is not being forced to see photos of your lost love every time you want to check instagram.
Step 4. Start something new
Often we feel crushed by a breakup because we thought the relationship was our whole future. We felt like we had no other path forward than through this other person and now that they’re gone, it’s like “what now?”
Unfortunately, you’re the only one who can answer that question. But the good news is that you don’t have to answer it right now. You have time to find your own path.
But there is a way to get there faster. You essentially need to prime yourself to move on and start your next chapter. This will show your brain that there is life after love. You’ll see that you can still act despite how you’re feeling and that you will still get results.
And to do this, you need to take one small action. And you need to do it today.
This could be as simple as planting a plant in your garden. Actually that might be one of the BEST actions you can take. It will be very powerful to see that plant grow and know that time is passing and with every new shoot, every new leaf, you’re one step closer to moving on.
But if you don’t have a garden, do something else. Sign up for next month’s fun run and get training. Join a photography class. Make plans to have a dinner party next week. Anything that hints at a future that’s different from where you are right now IS a positive step and it will help you get over your breakup faster than you can imagine.
You need to start building a new future without your ex in it if you want to make it past this. Because it’s coming whether you want it to or not.
Step 5. Get some perspective
It’s easy to look at breakups as 100% bad. Now I’m not going to tell you that breakups are great and that they only make you stronger…breakups suck. There’s no way around that. But there are positive aspects to just about any life change, if you know where to look. And that includes breakups.
First off, breakups can force you out of a rut that you were stuck in in the relationship. This could actually be the reason that your relationship ended…it’s very easy to get stuck in one place without even realizing it. Now you have an opportunity to shift things up and forge a new path. It might not be an ideal opportunity but it’s the one you’ve got.
Breakups can also be wake up calls for a lot of people. Maybe your relationship fell apart because of a personal problem you had. Maybe you drink too much. Maybe you don’t have a job. Maybe you weren’t an attentive partner.
Take stock of your behaviour in the relationship and see what needs to change and then change it. It’s not going to be easy but it is worth doing if you want to make it work next time. Even if you never want to date again, it’s worth fixing this issue just for your own peace of mind.
Or maybe your relationship ended due to a lack of compatibility between the two of you. Now is a good time to unpack where the friction was. If you can do this effectively, you’re going to find out what you need to look for–and avoid–in your next partner. Chances are you already have some ideas about this one.
And not only breakups, but it’s also easy to look at relationships in a very black and white way as well. You think “well the relationship is over so I wasted those months or years on this person.” As if you don’t die of old age together on a porch somewhere then your relationship meant nothing and was just a huge waste of time, money and energy. But I think we all know that’s not true.
The relationship may be over but that doesn’t mean you’re back to square one. You’ve gained things from this relationship that you didn’t have before. This could be as simple as a few good memories you shared but it’s often more than that.
I think any relationship teaches us lessons about ourselves and about the world around us. And this includes even the worst relationships. It shines a light on our priorities, our shortcomings and our needs. It shows us what we’re willing to put up with and what we’re not.
In this way, looking back at the relationship can be really informative. But that can wait until you’ve healed a little. For now, just don’t go around thinking that this whole relationship was just a waste of your time. You aren’t who you are when you first met this person and that’s a good thing.
Step 6. Check in with your self esteem
Breakups hurt the most when they damage our self image. So if your relationship didn’t even feel that significant and you’re crushed now that it’s over, chances are this is what’s going on.
The obvious one here is if your ex said a bunch of hurtful things during the breakup that made you feel bad about yourself. This is quite common and can really add to the pain of the breakup.
It sucks thinking that the person who claimed to love you could think so negatively about you and actively try to hurt you in this way.
But they also hurt our self esteem because they make us feel like we’re not as loveable as we thought. Even someone who’s had a life full of love and happiness has that moment after a breakup when they’re lying in bed alone and they think “this is it. I’m going to be alone forever. No one could love a person like me.”
These thoughts will fade with time but they can be extremely damaging to our self esteem and self image if we never fully process them. The good news is that just by being aware of our thoughts we can take their power away, fully.
So remember that you do have value and you are worthy of love. I mean, we’re here talking about your breakup which means that someone chose to love you. Love is never a one time thing in life. There’s always another opportunity.
And if you decide you want to give it another shot with your ex, check out my latest article about just that subject.