Time heals all wounds, sure, but you didn’t come here for advice like that.
Today I’ll be sharing with you the unconventional 8-step journey I’ve developed after several breakups that can help you move on from your ex once and for all.
Why a breakup hurts so much
A breakup is painful for one simple reason:
Someone is out of our life who’s become an integral part of it.
Research shows that breaking up with someone is like losing a close relative. According to Psychology Today:
When a breakup happens, it can feel like an opaque curtain has descended around you, separating you from the rest of the world. You move around as if in a bubble. Even the most familiar things—scenery near where you live, the voices of people you know—seem alien and far away. Even the brains of people grieving the end of a relationship look like the brains of people
A breakup is the ultimate rejection—and no one likes rejection.
When you think about it, social rejection is painful because early on in human history, to be rejected from the tribe meant certain death.
In today’s environment, rejection doesn’t carry with it the same risks, but our brains haven’t evolved to keep up.
The physical pain of rejection
A study conducted by the University of Amsterdam looked at what happens when we experience an unexpected rejection—the type of rejection like getting dumped.
Normally, the body’s nervous system goes into flight or fight mode when it reacts to a threat.
Our heartbeat quickens, breathing becomes more intense, and more blood gets sent to our vital organs.
In the presence of danger, we prepare ourselves to fight.
This is not what happens when you get dumped.
The study participants experienced a sudden response of their nervous system. What does this mean?
- The vagus nerve sends a signal to the heart and stomach.
- The butterflies we feel in our gut are the contractions of our digestive muscles.
- Our airways constrict, making it harder to breathe.
- Our heart rate slows down so much that itliterallyfeels like our heart is breaking.
The more unexpected the dumping, the more severe this reaction is, and the greater the physical pain.
The more you feel like your world is falling apart, the more you feel like your soul is breaking and that you’ll never be whole again.
The last time I broke up with someone was in 2007 after a 4-year relationship. I didn’t follow this protocol and the results were predictably disastrous, especially because booze was involved.
In fact, memories of that tragic experience and the shitty relationship I rushed into afterward is what prompted the development of this guide.
Maybe you’ve already been dumped, and you still haven’t gotten over it.
Maybe you’re still experiencing the regret of breaking up with someone, and are convinced you made a mistake.
Whatever the reason is for you being here, these 7 post-breakup tips will help you move on.
1. Leave with dignity
So you just discovered that it’s not going to work out. Your first reaction is likely volatile. You want to scream, shout, call names, crash an airplane.
Handle the situation with class and dignity. This isn’t to make the other person feel a certain way. They’ve made their choice, and you aren’t it.
It’s not malicious. It’s a simple case of choosing their desires over yours.
The benefit of behaving with dignity is that it can actually influence how you feel. While we smile in response to feeling good, it’s been proven in multiple studies that the inverse works just as well. You can change your mood by smiling.
Smiling lifts your mood, lowers your blood pressure, and boosts your immune system.
Even a forced smile in the face of tragedy can help you maintain your emotional poise and more quickly recover from something as devastating as a breakup.
“It would appear that the way we feel emotions isn’t just restricted to our brain—there are parts of our bodies that help and reinforce the feelings we’re having,” says Michael Lewis, a co-author of the study. “It’s like a feedback loop.”
Also, keeping your cool makes you a stronger person. If you later decide to be friends, it increases the possibility of that happening. Above all, it allows you to retain your personal power.
A wise man once said, “no one is responsible for how we feel except ourselves.”
You are the only one who decides how you feel about anything. To develop this read my blog on how to live for yourself.
2. Take Tylenol to ease the pain
The pain from a breakup is real. So real, in fact, that taking Tylenol (acetaminophen) helps to alleviate it.
A 2010 research study found that acetaminophen can reduce physical and neural responses associated with the pain of social rejection, whether in romantic relationships, friendships or otherwise.
In two experiments, participants took acetaminophen or a placebo daily for 3 weeks. Doses of acetaminophen
While this is a case of treating the symptom rather than the disease, it’s a quick dose that can make it easier to deal with the initial blowback from an unexpected breakup.
The road to recovering from a breakup is already long and hard. There’s no reason to unnecessarily endure extra suffering.
3. Use technology to end the relationship
Many people hate the idea of breaking up over email or text, and they give many reasons why, but it’s all nonsense.
The real reason people make a big deal about breaking up from a distance is control.
Heartbreak makes us believe that crying, pleading, yelling, and threatening will make the other person reconsider their position.
It’s perfectly natural to feel this way, but that doesn’t mean you have to act on it.
What’s the difference between breaking up in person and breaking up online?
Is it that much better to get into a messy ordeal in person?
It doesn’t make a difference once you understand the science of breaking up and what your body and mind go through.
We set up so many dates via phone and text (and cancel quite a few too) that cutting off a relationship that way shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
I should note here that there are obviously some relationships where this isn’t applicable.
If you live with someone or are married to them, you have to handle things in person. If you’ve taken more than a year of their time, you “owe it” to them.
But for those of you second-guessing yourselves after falling head-over-heels for someone on Tinder 6 months ago, you shouldn’t feel like you have to do it in person.
4. Bury the past
You don’t have to burn down the house you shared, but you should get rid of anything your ex gave you. The sight of those things or pictures of you two together will cause pain.
A breakup is a painful and traumatic experience. Your goal is to get over it as quickly as possible.
When you relive good memories, you’ll be forced to deal with the fact that you no longer get to experience them.
While it’s impossible to erase internal memories, it is not impossible to get rid of external reminders and triggers. You’re effectively trying to erase all signs this person was ever in your life.
The longer you can go without an external reminder, the more quickly you’ll heal from the trauma.
Think of it like a scab over a wound. If you keep picking the scab off, it will take longer for the damage to heal.
Furthermore, when it heals, it will leave a scar. Reminders of the past are the psychological equivalent of ripping the scab off.
Jewelry, games, pictures, clothing, underwear, and the like; put all that shit in a coffin and bury it for 8 to 12 months. By that time, you may decide you want it. Or you can leave the past buried.
Either way, you have to systematically remove any reminder of the person from your life until you’re able to deal with them without the intense, parasympathetic reaction.
Controlling your environment is one of the keys to getting unstuck in life and also applies in this situation.
5. Don’t have sex with your ex
Sleeping with an ex-partner right after a relationship ends might be the worst thing you can do during the post-breakup healing process.
The deeper you loved them, the more negative emotions this will make you feel about yourself.
For starters, your brain will think you’re still in a relationship. You’ll expect the relationship treatment but get casual treatment instead. You can’t meet quality people because your ex will take priority.
You’ll never be able to find new love. This is because sex releases a chemical in your brain called “Oxytocin.”
Oxytocin is a hormone that your body makes when you have sex. It increases feelings of affection, love, and euphoria. Oxytocin helps make the physical act of sex pleasurable. But it can also push someone to feel like they need more and want more from their partner.
Instead of meeting new people, you’re worried about your past relationship. This causes irrational jealousy. You won’t give a new person your full attention. Instead, you are living in the past.
This can happen without post-relationship hooking up, but it’s impossible to overcome if physical contact continues. It’s best to find a new relationship. If finding a new partner is something you stuggle with, then read my guide on getting into relationships.
6. Don’t ask about your ex
Don’t get your private eye on and spy on their social media accounts.
Don’t ask anyone how they’re doing or who they’re seeing now.
None of these helps the healing process.
Just let them exist in their world. You will significantly reduce the time spent in the depressing dregs of recovery.
Treat them as if they are effectively dead.
7. Give your heart time to heal
It takes a lot more time than you realize to truly move on from your ex. A LOT MORE.
How long, exactly?
A 2009 study revealed that it takes an average of 18 months for you to completely get over a person.
What exactly does it mean to be completely over a person?
Generally speaking, you’re completely over someone when you can be in their presence with no change in your emotion—positive or negative. What we fail to realize is that getting over someone is more than just getting into another relationship.
The ultimate goal is emotional neutrality.
You’re neutral when thinking about the former lover or seeing them causes no reaction. Many people never reach this stage. If you were in a serious relationship, don’t think you’ll be there in 3, 6, or even 12 months.
Maybe you will, but if you’re like most people, you won’t be. Give yourself time.
8. Don’t let a breakup determine your self worth
It’s easy to take rejection as an assessment of your character. There may be things to learn from your last relationship, but as long as you are committed to improving, then you don’t need to beat yourself up.
You were just the wrong person. Even if they were the right person when you got with them, we all grow and change.
Sometimes these changes bring us closer together. Sometimes they drive us apart.
Either way, these changes are the only constant in a relationship.
A relationship can only last as long as two people go in the same direction at approximately the same speed.
If you are going a different way at a different speed, then one of you has to be willing to adjust course. This doesn’t always happen, and it’s not personal when it does. It’s just their decision.
Though it may be hard not to see this as an evaluation of your character, remember that you’ll eventually find someone better suited for you than that person.
9. Let yourself go through the grieving process
Grief is normal, but don’t let it linger. If you are grieving, give yourself enough time to do so, but you eventually need to take action and start getting back to the business of living.
When we lose someone close to us, many emotions accompany it. We feel sadness, anger, fear, confusion, and even guilt. These feelings are natural. They are part of our human experience.
Grief is a process. It takes time to heal.
10. Tell someone how you feel
When we lose someone close to our hearts, we often feel alone. Talking about it helps. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with others who care about you will make you feel better.
Your friends and family will understand. They already know. They might not say anything because they are afraid of saying something wrong.
They just need to know that it’s ok to talk. The only way they know is if you talk to them first.
11. Get professional help
If you find yourself struggling with depression, seek out counseling. Even if you don’t think you’re depressed, talking to a therapist can help you process emotions you didn’t even know you were struggling with.
A therapist will listen to your story, evaluate your situation, and provide advice. He or she can help you manage your moods and cope with difficult situations. Counseling can help you learn ways to deal with loss. You’ll also learn coping skills to use if you ever deal with this again or if you have to help a friend.
12. Take care of yourself
You deserve to take good care of yourself. Remember, you are important too. This means that you have to do real self-care. Not overindulgent nonsense to distract you from the problem, but real activities that help you manage the pain.
Eat healthy foods. Exercise. Cook. Talk to your friends. Try to sleep well. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Make sure you get plenty of rest. Do things that relax you. Spend quality time with loved ones. Enjoy hobbies. Find activities that bring you joy.
13. Accept the Reality of the Situation
The first thing you’ll do every morning is wake up and wish it was a bad bad dream. Unfortunately, it’s your new reality. Your partner doesn’t want you anymore. This is hard to swallow, and it makes me sad to even write this, but this acceptance is important.
If you don’t face the truth about the relationship, you’ll never move forward.
Acceptance is the first step toward moving beyond the pain. When you accept the truth, you stop blaming yourself for what happened. Instead, you take responsibility for your part in the breakup. Recognize that maybe you did something wrong.
This may seem counterintuitive, but it helps you accept that this person is gone so you can move on.
Don’t hope that things will miraculously change. There are no fairy tales here. Your ex won’t come crawling back to you. He or she might try to contact you, but there’s nothing you can say or do to bring them back.
If you still feel like he or she wants to reconcile, you’re fooling yourself. They’ve moved on. They probably wish you well, but they aren’t thinking about you. They’re focused on themselves.
Tell yourself this and believe it.
14. Rely on Your Support System
When we are down, it’s easy to think that no one wants to help us deal with us.
We often forget that our friends and families care about us and want what’s best for us. Even though you might feel embarrassed or like a burden, remember that no one wants to see you suffer alone.
15. Ditch your breakup timeline.
There’s no set timeframe for healing from a relationship breakup. Some people feel better sooner, while others take longer. But there are some things you can do to help speed up the process.
When you’re ready to move on, don’t put off making plans. You won’t regret getting out of bed every morning if you know you have something fun planned for the day. And if you’ve been holding onto the hope that he or she might change his or her mind about breaking up, block them from all methods of communicating with you so that embrace the idea that they aren’t coming back.
If you’re still thinking about him or her, try talking to someone else. This could be a friend or family member who knows what you’re going through. Or maybe you can talk to a professional therapist. Whatever works best for you.
Recap of how to get over someone and move on from a breakup
- Break up with dignity
- Talk to people
- Get rid of a breakup recovery time frame
- Take Tylenol to soothe your broken heart (a little-known secret)
- Use technology to keep distance when the relationship ends
- Bury everything about your old relationship
- Don’t sleep with your ex-partner
- Don’t ask about your ex
- Give your broken heart the amount of time it needs to heal
- Don’t let a breakup determine your self-worth
I’m not a relationship expert, but my philosophy on getting over someone—and I’ve got more experience than I’d like to admit on both ends of the spectrum—has served me and others well.
It can be summed up as follows: step out, move on, don’t look back—and don’t get on your back.
If you do this, then it won’t take a lot of time before you’re happier with someone else in the next relationship.