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How to deal with heartbreak: 12 no bullsh*t tips

empaths and narcissists

You can expect to experience every emotion known to humankind when you experience a break-up.

You’ll find yourself thinking and feeling things you’ve never thought or felt before and it can just make the whole recovery process even worse.

You know your mind is racing but is it telling the truth? Are you the problem? Are they the problem? What really happened here?

All good questions, but not the ones you need to be focusing on right now.

I’ve been through the same thing. It’s not a fun experience. In fact, it’s pretty downright terrible.

But right now, you need to double down on yourself and get your mind back to square so you can figure out what to do next.

Bouncing back from a break-up is different for everyone, but a lot of the process is the same.

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In this article, I’m going to outline several things you can do to deal with heartbreak after losing the one you really wanted.

1) Measure the loss properly.

A lot of people will see a break-up as a sign that they have lost everything in their lives.

We often attach ourselves to other people and derive a lot of our personal value and worth from them.

The trick to getting over someone is to remember that you had a life before them and you’ll have a life after them.

It’s important that you tell yourself that now.

The fact of the matter is that millions of people have been through the painful stages of a breakup before and they’ve successfully healed their broken heart to become a better, stronger human being.

I can vouch for that. It took me at least three months to fully recover from a terrible breakup. You might be quicker, but it’s also okay to accept that it might take you longer.

But just like any other wound – you will eventually heal.

According to research published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, it takes 11 weeks to recover after a relationship ends.

However, another study found it takes about 18 months to heal after the end of a marriage.

The important thing to remember is that you must choose to let go.

According to psychologist and author Dr. John Grohol:

“Making the conscious decision to let it go also means accepting you have a choice to let it go. To stop reliving the past pain, to stop going over the details of the story in your head every time you think of the other person.

“This is empowering to most people, knowing that it is their choice to either hold on to the pain, or to live a future life without it.”

You are worthy of love. Remember that while it might be a big loss for you, it’s a bigger loss for your partner.

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Allow yourself to believe that it’s true. You might feel worthless right now, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

2) It’s okay to be hurting

A common feeling people have after a breakup is to feel shame for feeling so depressed about the end of the relationship.

Not only are you feeling bad about losing a significant relationship, but you begin feeling bad about feeling bad! It’s a cycle nobody wants to get lost in.

The truth is, relationships are the foundations of everyone’s life. Humans are social creatures. We need each other to get by. We derive meaning from our relationships.

So when a relationship ends, especially one that was so crucial to your life, you lose a big part of yourself. That’s why you feel so empty right now.

You don’t need to beat yourself up about it. It’s completely normal.

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Breakups can seriously disorient your life, especially if you’ve defined yourself by your relationship. Without your “other half” – who are you?

Psychologists suggest that this is due to the “self-expansion theory“.

This idea says that two people in a healthy relationship grow together which makes life more meaningful and fun. This is how people derive happiness in a healthy relationship.

Yet, when the relationship you’ve been using to self-expand falls apart, then the breakup can threaten to do the opposite.

I honestly felt like I lost a significant part of life. The future I was working towards suddenly disappeared in an instant.

My life revolved around my girlfriend for 5 years, and when it ended, it felt like those five years were completely wasted for building something that’s collapsed and is now making me feel like sh*t.

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But that’s exactly what needs to be accepted. Yes, you’ve lost a part of yourself. Yes, you’re feeling sh*tty right now. But when you’re able to accept those two things, you’ll open up opportunities to build new meaning in life.

And in the end, accepting your emotions and finding new meaning that replaces the meaning you’ve lost is ultimately the key to dealing with heartbreak.

3) Accept your negative emotions and get them out of your system

One of the reasons why breaking up is so hard is that people resist the urge to be sad. We try not to cry.

We try to put on a brave face, and so all of that sadness, rage, and hurt stay bottled up.

As psychologist Henry Cloud puts it:

“Endings are a part of life, and we are actually wired to execute them. But because of trauma, developmental failures, and other reasons, we shy away from the steps that could open up whole new worlds of development and growth.

“Take an inventory of the areas of your life that may need some pruning, and begin to take the steps you need to face the fears that are getting in your way.”

But it’s vital that you take the time to face your negative thoughts and feelings. If you’re feeling sad, accept that you’re feeling sad. It’s only by processing your emotions that they will begin to dissipate so you can get on with your life.

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I bottled up my emotions and pretend everything was okay. But all that did was prolong my pain.

The truth is, you need to understand and accept your emotions before you’re fully able to move on.

When I look back, it wasn’t until I accepted how I was feeling that started to properly move on.

According to research, avoiding your emotions causes more pain in the long-term than facing them.

If you expect yourself to feel happy even after the breakup has ended, not only are you living a lie, but those negative emotions that you aren’t processing will fester in the background.

Research suggests that emotional stress, like that from blocked emotions, has been linked to mental illness and physical problems like headaches, insomnia, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders.

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I can relate to this. I felt pretty terrible after the relationship ended. I wasn’t sleeping well, and I felt so consistently exhausted that I struggled to get through the day.

It’s much more adaptive for us to recognize the reality that we’re feeling pain. And by accepting who we are and what we’re experiencing, you don’t have to waste energy avoiding anything.

You can accept your emotions and then move on with your actions.

Of course, the question is: how are you supposed to accept your emotions?

If you’re wondering how you can understand your thoughts and feelings, this is something that helped me.

I grabbed myself a notepad and wrote down what I was thinking and feeling.

I’ve never been particularly good at expressing my feelings verbally, but I found that writing them down helped clarify what I was thinking and feeling.

Writing has a way of slowing down your mind and structuring your thoughts in your head.

In fact, psychologists encourage it.

Psychologist Dr. Michael Zentman explains:

“Personal journaling can be helpful for some people. I say personal because going public with these feelings on social media can often inflame the situation. It may feel good to have a bunch of people publicly attack an ex, but, in the long run, this will not contribute to healing.”

For the first time since my relationship ended, I felt like I actually understood why I was feeling the way that I was. And that made it a lot easier to accept.

Remember:

A huge part of the process of healing your broken heart is to understand your emotions and to accept them.

Journaling will help you express your feelings in a safe environment. No one is going to read what you write.

If you’re wondering how to start writing, ask yourself these 3 questions:

1) How am I feeling
2) What am I doing?
3) What am I trying to change in my life?

These questions will enable you to understand what you’re feeling, and prompt you to think about the future.

And the bottom line is this:

You need to understand and accept your emotions before you’re fully able to move on.

Acknowledge that humans have the capacity to be sad and allow yourself to feel sad. You’ll not only feel better, but you’ll allow yourself to be more human.

4) What was the relationship really like?

A common thought after a breakup is to believe that “you’ll never find someone as good” or that “he/she was perfect”.

I was telling myself those things. And looking back, I can’t believe how ridiculous it sounds!

The truth is:

Nobody is perfect. And if the relationship ended, it means that the relationship wasn’t perfect, either.

But I know that right now it’s hard to tell yourself differently when you’re feeling the way you are right now.

So to see reality for what it really is, ask yourself these 4 questions:

1) Were you really happy ALL the time during the relationship?
2) Did the relationship hinder your life in any way?
3) Were you happy before the relationship?
4) What annoyed you most about your partner?

If you’re honest when you answer these questions, you’ll begin to realize that they weren’t as perfect as you think they were. You were probably exhibiting some of the classic signs of when to leave a relationship.

You might even see that your life has opened in many ways that weren’t previously possible.

5) Remember you can’t control other people.

While the sting of a break-up can last for a long time, you might find yourself wishing to get back together with your ex so you can just stop feeling that way.

When you are going through a break-up and trying to get back your normal, it’s important to remember that there is nothing you can say or do to get them to come back to you if they don’t want to.

And ask yourself if that is what you really want or are you just trying to make the pain stop. It can be disorienting to figure out how to move on by yourself, but it is possible.

There is one essential thing about moving on that you cannot controltime. It may take you 3 months or maybe 3 years, but you have to let the process run its course.

According to dating coach Erika Ettin:

“It’s hard to get over an ex — we’ve all been there — and I think there are two components to getting over someone: time, and eventually, somebody else. But everyone’s ratio is different of the time to the someone else. But the ratio that is never appropriate is zero time.”

6) Don’t go back to your partner even if you have the choice

Why do we tend to go back to our exes, even when we know it’s a mistake?

According to psychology author Peg Streep, it’s because of intermittent reinforcement—a reward conditioning method in which you are given what you want only sometimes, which makes it want you more.

Streep explains how this happens during the breaking up process, saying:

“When your lover/spouse/boss/friend says what you’ve been waiting to hear or acts the way you’d always wanted some of the time, you’re much more likely to get so very hopeful and give him or her just “one more chance” or to “wait and see what happens.”

If you recognize yourself in this situation, Streep advises:

“You need to pull back and realize that there’s no pattern involved, just a lucky coincidence, and stop hoodwinking yourself. Optimism isn’t always your friend.

“Keep in mind that some people in relationships often manipulate their partners using intermittent reinforcement as a way of asserting their power. Don’t fall for it.

“Remember that you deserve to be treated and responded to in ways that make you feel whole all of the time, not now and again.”

Now this is only my opinion and it’s not going to be the same for every case – but my advice is not to go crawling back to them.

As much as you might want to get back together with them, the relationship ended for a reason, and unless you can be sure that that problem won’t happen again, then the pain of getting through the heartbreak will benefit you in the long run.

Because if you go back to them, who is to say that you won’t break up in 6 months time?

And then you’ll be in the same position that you’re in now – but perhaps hit even harder.

This is coming from someone who went through a tough breakup and 6 months later, I’m incredibly glad that I went through with it, rather than going back to the relationship.

My life has opened up in many ways that wouldn’t have been possible if I stayed with my partner. I believe I’ve grown in many different ways and learned more about myself.

Marilyn Monroe said it best:

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” – Marilyn Monroe

7) Say, “oh well” and move on.

One of the ways to live a less stressed out life is to just shrug your shoulders and say, “oh well.”

Sure, it might seem harsh as you ugly cry into your pillow to tell you to “buck up”, but the truth of the matter is that the feelings you are having are triggered by thoughts in your head.

If you decide that it’s no big deal, then you won’t have to redo your mascara three times a day.

What’s more, you remind yourself that you have power over the situation, the situation doesn’t have power over you.

Bestselling author Joseph Cardillo says:

“Close the door on invading memories of times and places that remind you of the breakup. These will consume your good energy which you need for daily activities and to keep you happy and healthy. A negative spiral here can cause a lot of problems fast.

“Instead this is the time to make shifting your mindset into a place where you feel at ease and comfortable a priority.”

It’s how you make the situation mean that is going to dictate how well you move on after losing someone you love.

You can be matter-of-fact about it or you can be dramatic about it. You get to decide.

8) Get your identity back.

Stop referring to your relationship as “we” and start taking back control of your life and refer to yourself as single.

Using “I” language is a great way to help you realize that you are in control of your life.

You might not be able to control your partner – or ex-partner, as is the case now – but you can decide how you show up and who you want to be in the midst of this chaotic time.

When you’re going through a breakup, especially if you were the one that didn’t end the relationship, you’re self-esteem can take a beating.

You might think that you’re not good enough to meet someone as good as your ex. You might think that you’ll never meet someone as perfect for you.

But the truth is, relationships end for a variety of reasons. The fact that the relationship ended might have nothing to do with you.

And if you start feeling bad about yourself, then it’s not going to help you move on from the breakup.

Not only that, but it might start affecting other areas of your life.

In the end, your relationship with yourself is the most defining factor in shaping how quickly you’ll recover from this heartbreak.

The less you love yourself and understand yourself, the more frustrating your reality will be. It’s important that you work on your self-esteem.

There’s no benefit in hating yourself. So make sure you’re kind to yourself.

Think about how you treat yourself. Here are all the ways you could take care of yourself:

– Sleeping properly
– Eating healthy
– Writing down your thoughts and emotions (as we discussed above)
– Exercising regularly
– Thanking yourself and those around you – Avoiding vices and toxic influences
– Reflecting and meditating

Appreciating yourself is more than just a state of mind – it’s about habits and actions that you do every single day.

9) Tell your brain a different story.

In some cases, people experience physical pain as a result of heartbreak. We equate our thoughts and feelings so closely that we forget they are two different things.

Because our brain can’t determine the source of the pain, and chemicals released in reaction to our thoughts, our feelings of heartbreak feel like someone is hitting us in the chest with a baseball bat.

If you tell yourself that there’s no bat, and really, no danger, you’ll be in a much better place.

To help the situation, you should try avoiding places or things that remind you of your ex and expose yourself to a new and unfamiliar environment.

I knew the kind of places my ex usually hangs out, so I made sure to avoid them. This made a lot easier to eventually forget about them and move on with my life.

According to psychologist Melanie Greenberg, avoiding running into your ex-partner allows you to develop new routines:

“Conditioning theory would suggest that places, people, or activities associated with the ex-partner may be particularly likely to trigger “cravings,” so you may want to avoid these for a while and try to develop some new routines.”

10) Ignore your gut for a while.

You might be tempted to do things on a whim because you are newly single and feel like you need to stretch your wings a bit, but that will just lead to trouble.

As a rule, make decisions from a place of power, not in reaction to what is going on right now.

Early on I forced myself to go out with my friends, drink and try to meet new girls. But all it did was make me feel tired and upset the next day. My heart wasn’t in it and everyone I met I compared to my ex-partner.

In the end, I should have given myself time to process my emotions and thoughts before deciding to see other people.

According to psychologist Dr. Karen Weinstein:

“Identify all of your feelings especially the impulsive, darker, angrier ones, but try not to act on them. Acting out can include behaviors ranging from excessive drinking, overeating, shopping, to obsessively texting your ex, online stalking of your ex, [or] promiscuous sex.”

Your thoughts have a powerful hold on you when you are feeling pain and anger and sadness and they can win over if you aren’t careful.

Question everything you think you are telling yourself and choose to ignore it for a while.

11) Complaining doesn’t help and people hate it.

Sure, you want to surround yourself with supportive people during these difficult times, but don’t abuse that support.

Don’t fill their ears with sad sob stories about your relationship. Get it all off your chest and move on.

If you continue to live in the past, you tend to take them with you into the future.

According to award-winning psychologist Jennice Vilhauer:

“Nothing hurts more than when someone you love does something that causes you to reevaluate who you believed them to be. When someone betrays the trust you gave, it is painful.

“But letting another’s actions limit your ability to move forward means he or she still exerts control over your life.

“Forgiveness isn’t about letting the person off the hook for his or her bad behavior; it is about your emotional freedom.

Getting over heartbreak is not about time, it’s about thoughts. And if you perpetuate “poor me” thoughts, you’ll live in that space a lot longer and miss out on the rest of your life.

12) Live a new life.

One of the things that happen to people when they experience a break-up is that they try to go back to the way things were before they were with their partner.

This is a big mistake.

Not only are you a different person now, but your brain also works in different ways and you’ve gotten a lot wiser to yourself.

Rather than look to the past for the answers of how to move on, just move on with your head held high.

Vilhauer adds:

“Self-forgiveness is an important part of self-love. In hindsight, you may feel that there are things you could have done differently, but it is impossible to know what different outcomes could have been.”

“Every relationship, if we let it, can teach us something about ourselves and give us greater clarity about what we need to be happy. Acknowledging your role in what went wrong with a relationship can be an important part of the learning process.”

You won’t find what you are looking for in your past. You’ll need to keep an eye on the future to figure out how to get where you are going.

Don’t wait to live your life until you feel better.

Do things that make you feel better right now. You deserve to be happy and to live a life that is full of good things.

If you are covered in tissues and wearing the same pants for three days because you think nobody will ever love you again, you’ll be right.

Don’t be right about that kind of stuff. Be right about how awesome you are and go out and keep living your life so that you can remind your brain that your thoughts have no power over you.

You have power over you.

As we have mentioned above, it’s important that you find new sources of meaning. You’ve lost a lot of meaning in your life and it’s time to rebuild.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to go out and meet new people. You may not be ready for that.

Instead, it may be more beneficial for you to find new hobbies and interests that allow you to develop new goals and meaning.

And one of the best ways to find new meaning in life is to find things to get passionate about.

Ask yourself what makes you happy. What makes you feel free?

You could even open up a notepad and jot down any ideas of new passions you could get involved in.

Is it traveling? Helping others with something you’re good at? Building an online business?

For example, if you want to travel more, start to think of new places you can go to and plan how you’re going to get there. Already you have something you’re working towards.

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Notable replies

  1. Thank you for this article. I’m going through a breakup and I found your tips extremely helpful. Especially (but not exclusively) the part about letting the sad happen. I try to be tough, (why!? Lol), but it truly retards the healing process and makes me feel worse, even!

    So, thank you, thank you, for this public service, Lachlan! Keep it up, man!

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Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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