Breakups are never fun. In many cases — and probably in your case, considering you’re reading this — they’re downright difficult. Whether it’s a short- or long-term relationship, deciding to go your separate ways is often a difficult decision to make. Because breakups don’t just affect our present but our future. Namely, the beautiful visions we had of our future with our now-ex. The bubble bursts and we’re forced to find a new way forward. But how?
The answer to this question isn’t clear-cut. The specifics matter: The duration of your relationship, the cause(s) of your breakup, your emotional strength (or fragility), your current headspace, whether you live together or have children together, whether you still love them (or ever loved them), whether you want to remain friends. And the list goes on.
If we could ask you for the specifics, we would. But we can’t, so we’ve created a universal guide for how to get over a breakup. This guide answers the most frequently asked questions about how to survive a breakup — read the sections that apply to you and skip the sections that don’t. Hopefully, you find something in here that helps.
What Are the 5 Stages of a Breakup?
The definition of a breakup is the end of a relationship — this means loss and loss means grief. So, it’s no surprise that the 5 stages of a breakup are the 5 stages of grief, reimagined:
- Denial: In the denial phase of a breakup, you don’t want to believe it’s true. You listen to your heart and ignore your mind’s insistence that you accept the reality of the situation.
- Anger: Anger can manifest in various ways. You might harbor anger toward your ex for breaking up with you: “How could he do this to me? I hate him.” Or, you might even feel angry with yourself: “Why didn’t you try harder? You could’ve made this work.”
- Bargaining: This stage of breakup grief is finding a way to make the relationship work or convincing your ex you have to stay together. “We can fix this, I’ll be more attentive and stop drinking,” or, “We can’t break up — what about the dog? The cats?”
- Depression: The next phase is depression, which — like anger — can manifest in different ways. You might toss and turn at night, unable to fall or stay asleep. You might also lose interest in your favorite hobbies or feel completely hopeless.
- Acceptance: And finally, accepting the reality of the breakup. While the stages that come before this can be pretty rough, you will eventually make peace with your breakup (though sometimes this takes talking to a professional counselor — and that’s okay).
Keep in mind that the above stages don’t always go in this order. You might jump between stages before you reach the acceptance phase. The reality is that every breakup is a little different — and your grief process will probably be different from your sister’s or your friend’s grief process.
What Should I Do Immediately After a Breakup?
The first moments of your newly single life (whether you led the charge of the breakup or not) can be jarring. Thoughts swarm: “Did that just happen?” “Did we really break up?” “What now?” “I regret this.” “Maybe that wasn’t the right thing to do.” “I can’t believe they actually broke up with me.” “This sucks.”
Talk about overwhelming. So, what should you do immediately after a breakup to deal with the overwhelm and pave the way forward?
- Sit with your thoughts and feelings. I know, this probably isn’t the advice you wanted to hear. But allowing yourself to have those thoughts and feel those feelings that resulted from your breakup is one of the most important things you can do right now. You might feel tempted to ignore them instead (like most of us do), but that’ll only prolong your recovery process.
- Find an outlet. After you take a little time to process this yourself, get those thoughts and feelings out of your head. Write them down in a journal, talk to your best friend or your mom, and channel them into your next painting or kickboxing class. If you keep them inside your head, they just might consume you. Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but in all seriousness — this is important.
- Unplug. Now we’re at the part you were looking forward to. Once you’ve taken a little time to reflect on how you’re feeling and unleashed all of your complicated thoughts from the confines of your mind, get out. Get out of your apartment, get out of town, get out of breakup mode. Ask one of your friends (our guess is it won’t take much convincing) to spend a fun day or weekend with you. Make reservations at a restaurant you’ve never been to before (certainly never with your ex); sign up for a pottery class; hike that trail you’ve been meaning to check out. The world, as they say, is your oyster.
These three action items will help you navigate the beginning of your breakup. But remember — you’ll probably jump between the stages of breakup recovery. You’ll probably feel rejuvenated and hopeful after the getaway with your friend. But the next day, you might feel down and in disbelief again. That’s okay. That’s normal. Cliche but true: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Surviving a Breakup with No Contact: Does Silence Work After a Breakup?
A challenging decision that you and your now-ex will have to make is whether or not you’ll stay in contact. It’s important to set some ground rules (if your breakup was amicable enough to have this conversation):
- Is it okay to be friendly every now and then?
- Do either (or both) of you need to cut ties completely?
- Is it acceptable to check in on one another?
If the breakup was particularly difficult for you — say you were blindsided by the breakup — it might be best to cut off all communication. Why? If you stay in contact, it’ll be more difficult to get over the breakup and move on. Agree to give each other space. No texting, calling, or sending each other funny memes on Instagram. If you’d like to be friends down the road, you can check in with each other after you’ve had some space to process the breakup.
If instead, the breakup was mutual or easier to come to terms with, you might not need to go silent… but it’s still something to consider. Think about it: If you continue to talk to your ex on a regular basis, those feelings that you have for them will probably stick around. You’ll continue to rely on them for emotional support and you’ll probably feel guilty if or when you start seeing someone else. So, yes, a clean-cut is likely the way to go here.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from a Breakup?
You guessed it — the answer to this question is one that’ll change for every person and every breakup out there. You might bounce back from a breakup within a few weeks or months. Or, you might grapple with a breakup for a year or longer.
Whether your breakup recovery time is weeks, months, or years, it’s important to know that there is support available. From your friends and family members, of course, but also a professional. Many of us think of counseling or therapy as a solution for more “serious” problems like depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. But the reality is that counselors and therapists help people with a range of mental health concerns, many of which are not diagnosable disorders.
That said, it’s also important to know that breakups can lead to the development of mental health conditions, like those we just listed. And talking to a professional about any difficult feelings around your breakup before you start to feel worse can help you prevent that from happening.
How Do You Get Over a Breakup Faster?
Is it possible to expedite the breakup recovery process? Aside from putting real time and effort into healing from your loss, the answer is probably no.
There is not a hack or a button you can push to fast forward through the painful part. Sure, that’d be nice. But pain is also essential to the human experience. Without pain and suffering, the good stuff wouldn’t feel so good, would it?
How Do You Know If a Breakup Is Final?
Remember when we talked about the denial phase in the breakup recovery process? If you’re wondering whether or not your breakup is final or you’re insisting to yourself and others that it isn’t truly over, you’re probably in that phase right now.
Again, that’s okay and normal — but when you’re feeling this way, it’s important to remember why you decided to break up (or if you were on the receiving end, why they decided to end things). Here are several common reasons that people decide to break up:
- Trust issues
- Emotional abuse
- Growing apart
But what if you broke up for a reason that you grappled with then and still grapple with today — say, you decided to part ways because of long-distance or because you were longing for more independence. That’s more complicated. But if you and your ex do decide to revisit your romance, engage in one important exercise first: Start by asking yourself if the reason you broke up still holds true. If it does hold true, ask yourself if it’s still important. And then take it from there. And remember, there are experts you can talk to — couples therapists who literally specialize in helping people with relationships.
How Do I Get Over the Love of My Life?
So, there are breakups… and then there are breakups with the person you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with. These breakups are, of course, especially painful — you’ve talked and dreamed about your future together. You’ve envisioned life together 10, 20, 30 years down the road; you’ve started to build this very life together.
Breaking up with and getting over who you thought was the love of your life is going to be really hard — but that’s just it. You thought this person was the love of your life. While there’s no denying that this process is going to be gut-wrenching, it can help to think about what (or who) lies ahead.
This love that you found can be found again. In fact, you can find this love tenfold. With the person you’re really meant to spend the rest of your life with (if you believe in fate and all that). There’s someone out there who you will one day find. They might be going through a terrible breakup right this moment themselves. But when you find each other, you’ll understand and be thankful that it didn’t work out with the person you thought was the love of your life.
How Do I Stop Thinking About My Ex?
Are you still thinking about your ex after your breakup? Again, normal. You’re probably going to think about your ex a lot, immediately following your breakup. And months or years down the road, you might still think about them from time to time. Especially if you spent a good chunk of your life with them. However, if these thoughts are obsessive and they’re making it difficult for you to move on or they’re having a negative effect on your life, there’s probably some work for you to do.
Refer back to the tips we shared earlier. Try journaling, talking to your friends about how you’re feeling, and channeling any negative emotions left behind by the breakup into your favorite form of exercise.
A final piece of advice here for those with fresh or recent breakups: The more you try to stop thinking about your ex, the more you’ll probably think about your ex. Focus on the recovery and healing process instead.
How Do You Deal with a Breakup When You Still Love Them?
You can end your relationship in an instant, but the same can’t be said for love. You can’t dispel those feelings that quickly or that easily. Think about how much time you put into building that love.
However, you can ease the pain and tap into some happy feelings. Here’s a list of small things that can have a big impact on your mood:
- Put on your favorite sweater.
- Treat yourself to coffee out.
- Burn a new candle.
- Buy yourself some pretty flowers.
- Cuddle with your pet on the couch.
- Make homemade pizza.
- Put on reruns of your favorite show.
- Sit in the sun.
- Turn on your favorite podcast and go for a walk.
- Redecorate your apartment.
On the surface, these probably sound silly or ineffective. In reality, each action item above can move the dial on your mood. Try one. And when the heartbreak creeps back in, take some advice from the Dalai Lama. “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” It might not feel very lucky now, but one day, you’ll look back and be thankful for every string of events that led you to where you are (future-you can’t wait to show you).