Here’s one thing they never teach you in school: what to do after a breakup.
Love is the most profound human experience. It’s something most of us go through a few times during our lifetime. And there’s nothing quite like it.
Unfortunately, like many things in life, there’s sometimes a hiccup.
Because with love comes heartbreak.
I don’t know about you, but my break ups have been messy, intense, confusing, and painful.
Although what to do after a break up won’t look the same for everybody, there are some things we can all do to make it easier.
Here are 15 no bullsh*t steps you can take after a breakup that will help you move on.
1. Take your time
How long does it take to get over someone?
According to science, it takes about three months for someone to get over a breakup.
A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology suggests it takes approximately 11 weeks for people to develop “strong coping strategies” after a difficult breakup.
However, that may only apply to short-term relationships. A separate study suggests it may take two years for people to get over a marriage or long-term relationship.
Here’s the deal though:
It’s no contest. There’s no timeline. It takes whatever amount of time it takes.
Hurrying the process won’t help. Just let yourself grieve.
One day, you’ll just wake up and realize you’re over it. But for now, take your time.
2. Decide whether you actually want to move on (or get back with your ex)
One way to move on with your life after a break up is to do so without your ex. In other words, accepting the break up is permanent and simply moving on.
However, here’s a piece of counter-intuitive advice that you don’t often hear after a break up.
If you still love you ex, why not try to win them back?
Most relationship ‘experts’ and probably friends of yours generally say “don’t get back with your ex”. Yet this advice makes no sense.
True love is extremely hard to find and if you’re still in love with them (or think you guys will fall in love down the track) then your best option may be get back together.
Usually getting back with your ex is only a good idea when:
- You’re still compatible
- You didn’t break up because of violence, toxic behavior or incompatible values.
If you fit this bill, then you should at least consider getting back with your ex.
But how do you go about it?
The first thing you need is an actual plan to get back with them.
So, whenever someone asks me for advice on getting back with their ex, I always tell them to check out relationship coach Brad Browning.
He runs a popular YouTube channel with around half a million subscribers, where he dispenses practical advice on reversing break ups. He’s also recently published a best-selling book which provides the most practical ‘blueprint’ for doing this that I’ve come across.
Although there are a lot of self proclaimed “gurus” who claim to specialize in this area, Brad is the most authentic I’ve come across. He genuinely wants to help you get back with your ex.
I first learned about Brad Browning after watching one of his videos. And I’ve since read his book from cover to cover.
If you want to get your ex back, check out his free online video here. Brad gives away some free tips you can use immediately to win them over.
A few months ago I read an eye-opening claim from a relationship psychologist: that over 90% of all relationships can be salvaged. While you may think that number is unreasonably high, I tend to think it’s on the money.
Over the past few years, I’ve been in contact with countless Ideapod readers who are happily back with their ex. And getting back together was the best thing they did.
These couples broke up for relatively trivial reasons or because of circumstances out of their control. None of their relationships were toxic ones.
So if your relationship fits that description, then you need to get to work to repair your relationship. And I believe Brad’s advice will be invaluable to you.
Here’s a link to Brad’s free video again. If you want an actual plan to get back with your ex, then Brad Browning will give you one.
3. Their social media is off-limits
Unfriend. Unfollow. Block. Do what you have to do, but by all means necessary stop looking at their social media.
I’ve been there. The impulse to know how they’re doing is too hard to ignore.
You want to check what they’re doing, whether they’ve deleted your photos and whether they’ve changed their relationship status.
But doing this can do you more harm than good. Even science agrees.
One study suggests the harm of stalking your ex on social media.
“Keeping tabs on an ex-partner through Facebook is associated with poorer emotional recovery and personal growth following a breakup.
“Therefore, avoiding exposure to an ex-partner, both offline and online, may be the best remedy for healing a broken heart.”
A separate study suggests that the more time you spend on social media, the more distress you feel over a breakup.
Out of sight, out of mind is the key.
Trust me, it’s just easier when you don’t constantly see what they’re up to, who they’re spending time with, and how they are living their life without you.
4. Don’t try to suppress your feelings
Don’t pretend that everything is okay when it’s not.
It’s clearly not okay.
I know what it’s like to have nothing left but your ego. You don’t want to look like the injured party.
It’s difficult for anyone to admit that they’re vulnerable. Our society has programmed us to be ashamed of our “negative emotions”—pain, anger, heartbreak.
But right now, it’s best to let all your emotions out. It’s okay to feel sad.
In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, scientists found that it’s essential to face your feelings head-on.
The study’s lead author, Sandra Langeslag, director of the Neurocognition of Emotion and Motivation Lab at the University of Missouri St. Louis, says: “Distraction is a form of avoidance, which has been shown to reduce the recovery from a breakup.”
You don’t have to show the world how hurt you are but don’t try to hide it through a bunch of bad decisions you may regret later.
5. Cut off contact
It’s easier said than done, but it’s crucial to cut off contact with your ex. And not just on social media.
But the best bit of cutting off contact with your ex is this:
In the event that you do actually want to get back with your ex one day, cutting off contact is actually an extremely effective method to help you achieve this goal.
However, you have to cut off contact in a very specific way.
One mistake people make is to simply cut off all communication. No texts. No phone calls. No coffees. No contact whatsoever.
Although you definitely need to give them (and yourself) some space, cutting off all communication like this is actually the wrong move. Instead, you want to make it appear like you really and truly don’t want to talk to them right now.
The perfect way to do this is to send this “No Communication” text.
— “You’re right. It’s best that we don’t talk right now, but I would like to be friends eventually.” —
Just a word of warning that this text needs to be sent to your ex at the right time after the break up for it to be most effective.
However, the brilliant part of this text is that you’re communicating with your ex that you don’t really want to talk to them now. You’re essentially saying that you don’t need them to play a role in your life anymore.
Why is this so good?
Because you induce a “fear of loss” in your ex which will trigger their attraction for you all over again.
I learned about this text from Brad Browning, who I mentioned above. He has helped thousands of men and women get their exes back for good.
Check out his free video here where he reveals several other tips and techniques you can employ right now to reverse your break up
If you really want your ex back, then Brad’s advice will be invaluable for you.
There comes a time after a break up where you have to reflect on the relationship. What went right and what went wrong?
Because the most important thing is not to make the same mistakes in your next relationship. You don’t want to deal with heartbreak yet again.
In my experience, the missing link leading to most break ups is never a lack of communication or trouble in the bedroom. It’s understanding what the other person is thinking.
Let’s face it: men and women see the word differently and we want different things from a relationship.
In particular many women simply don’t understand what drives men in relationships (it’s probably not what you think).
The hero instinct is a new term in relationship psychology that’s generating a lot of buzz at the moment. It claims that men have an instinctive need to step up to the plate for the woman in this life. This is deeply rooted in male biology.
In other words, he needs to feel like your hero. Because when a man loves you he wants to provide for you, protect you, and be the one person you can count on.
The kicker is that if he doesn’t get this feeling from you then he is much less likely to be in a committed, long lasting relationship.
I know it might all seem kind of silly. In this day and age, women don’t need someone to rescue them. They don’t need a ‘hero’ in their lives.
But this misses the point about what the hero instinct is all about.
Although you may not need a hero, a man is compelled to be one. And if you want him to fall in love with you, then you have to let him.
The interesting thing is that the hero instinct is something women can actively trigger in their man. There are things you can say, messages you can send, requests you can use to trigger this natural biological instinct.
To learn what these are, check out this excellent video by James Bauer. He’s the relationship expert who discovered the hero instinct.
I don’t often recommend videos about new concepts in psychology. But I think this is a fascinating take on what drives me romantically.
7. Write it down
Did you know that keeping a journal has a bunch of mental, emotional and physical health benefits?
Writing down your thoughts has a therapeutic way of validating your emotions as well as putting things into perspective.
In fact, a 2010 study proves the positive effects of writing on your “mood, cognitive processing, social adjustment and health” after a breakup.
In my experience, writing helped me express myself without any judgment. It was a safe space for me to practice letting go.
It may sound silly or simple at first, but you’ll be amazed at how less lonely and more productive you feel after writing your thoughts down.
8. Pick yourself up
Nothing can ruin your self-esteem like a bad breakup.
In fact, losing your confidence and self-worth can be the single-most disruptive aspect of life after a relationship ends.
You end up questioning everything—especially your worth as a person.
But don’t let this self-doubt ruin your life.
Work yourself from the inside out.
Try to remember who you were before the relationship. You were a whole person with your own desires, dreams, and goals. You felt good even without somebody.
And you can feel good again now.
According to licensed psychologist Brandy Engler: “It’s better to tell yourself that you are on a path to learning how to love better and keep your eyes on that goal of improving your ability to connect and love so that the next relationship will be better.”
So be open to new opportunities for self-development. Go back to your favorite hobby. Work out. Eat well.
Take care of yourself.
(Interested in finding out about the stages of a breakup and how to work through it? Check out our comprehensive guide.)
9. Save the “let’s try to be friends” for later
In fact, save it for a whole while later.
Don’t make the mistake of immediately trying to be friends with your ex right after breaking up.
Why? You need some space apart to heal.
Trying to be friends is also a way of trying to pretend that everything is okay. In fact, you will only make things harder for both of you.
How you feel for this person is not friendly. You either have some unresolved issues that left you resenting them, or you still want to be with them romantically.
Either way, you both need to establish some boundaries.
According to Husson University psychology professor Dr. Christine Selby, you can only be friends if: “You must both be willing to admit that you don’t work together as a couple. Maintaining a healthy relationship post-breakup requires both people “to recognize what worked about the relationship and what did not.”
10. It’s over. Start accepting it
Are you still holding out hope that you are getting back together? Let those expectations go.
It’s over. And you should start believing it.
It’s hard to accept defeat. We treat relationships like an investment. We put effort, time, and a lot of sacrifices into ultimately, something we cannot control.
The toughest lesson I’ve ever learned with love is that you can’t make someone love you. You can’t force them to stay. You can’t beg them to do what you want.
So don’t bargain. Stop rehashing ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys.’
Practice saying to yourself:
“This is what is happening. I have to accept that things are different now.”
11. Don’t let it affect other aspects of your life
Pain is a distracting thing. It has the power to incapacitate you. But don’t succumb to it.
Wallowing with the heartbreak may affect your work or your social life. Try not to let it. It’s not the end of the world.
You might not feel like it, but you still need to live your life. This means you still need to go to work, or to your classes, or any other occupation you have. In fact, keeping busy can help you feel better. And it lets your focus go to other, more important things.
According to Dr. Guy Winch, psychologist and author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts:
“Avoiding such activities deprives you of important distractions and squelches important aspects of who you are as a person. On the other hand, engaging in activities you used to enjoy, even if you can’t fully enjoy them yet, will help reconnect you to your core self and the person you were before the breakup.”
Don’t stop seeing your friends, too. Let them make you feel better. More often than not, it’s your friends that can give you comfort in this time of need.
12. There’s no such thing as “closure.” Stop finding it
“Getting closure” is perhaps one of the most overrated advice you can get. The truth is, there’s no such thing as getting some closure.
Some people are more prone to seeking closure, while some avoid it entirely. And that’s where the trouble is—we crave answers from other people.
But the thing is, we can’t control what they say or whether or not what they say will give us the answers we need.
Truthfully, I don’t believe that closure is crucial in moving on. If we live our lives always seeking answers and clarity from someone else, we will never be satisfied and content.
Here’s all the answer you need:
People break up because relationships are no longer working. For whatever reason, you no longer make each other happy, or you’re going your separate ways in life.
It’s not a math equation you need to be solved. Life just happens. People break up.
The closest thing you get to closure is accepting the fact that the relationship is over and there is nothing more you can do about it.
13. Don’t jump to the next relationship
Some people change relationships like they change clothes.
These are the type of people who are terrified of being alone.
The worst mistake you can make is to enter a new relationship without fully mending from the last one.
You’ll bring in the same issues into the new relationship. You’ll make the same mistakes, unload the same baggage—it’s a nasty cycle. Worse, you start depending too much on relationships and not yourself.
If you want to be a happy individual despite having or not having someone else, you need to be okay with being alone.
Relationship and marriage psychologist Dr. Danielle Forshee advises:
“You have to force yourself to gain new experiences that are really uncomfortable. What I’m essentially asking people to do is take the brain path that is covered in leaves and boulders and climb over them, sift through them, get caught in the thorns, and on your way, you’ll finally experience that you can pave a new path.
“You can find happiness and pleasure in the end, and it will become easier over time.”
14. Find yourself
As cliche as it may sound, you really need to rediscover yourself.
Breakups have a way of making you feel broken as if you’re suddenly incomplete.
Being in a relationship involves being with another person—having a teammate, considering someone else’s wants and needs.
You live your life with someone else. And now you’re suddenly alone.
This is why it’s important to practice self-reflection.
Reconnect with the parts of yourself that weren’t attached to your ex.
What I mean is, rediscover the things you loved doing or what you’ve always wanted to do, even if you have to do them alone.
Have you always wanted to go mountain climbing? Do it. Have you ever tried “dating yourself?”
Right now, the only thing that can help ease the feeling of uncertainty is to find the things that ground you. Finding yourself is never an overrated task.
15. When you’re ready, be open to new possibilities
Breakups can be traumatic. And once you’ve moved on, you might feel like you don’t want to deal with relationships again.
But heartbreak is a part of life. And sure, it hurts like hell. But try to remember how it feels to be in love. There is nothing quite like being loved by someone who chooses to love you.
So as much as it scares you, try to be open to new possibilities. Give love another chance.
Besides, science says that the key to happiness is having new experiences.
According to a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, people who invest in new experiences are more appreciative of the world, ultimately becoming more happier with their life.
Don’t stop yourself from gaining new experiences in love just because of the past.
You’ve learned valuable lessons from your past relationships that will help you navigate your future ones better. Don’t close your heart off to the possibility of love again.
16. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself
Here’s the thing hardly anyone ever tells you. After a breakup, you will do stupid things, crazy things, embarrassing things.
In the heat of the moment, when the pain is still fresh, you might end up saying or doing things you will later regret. And you will feel bad for it. You will beat yourself up.
I know I did. I felt ashamed of my feelings and the things I said and did because of them.
But berating yourself will only make it worse. Now is actually the time to respect yourself more.
Being kind to yourself has mental and physical benefits that will make moving on a whole lot easier.
According to a study conducted by the University of Exeter, self-compassion is tantamount to healing.
Lead researcher Dr. Hans Kirschner says:
“These findings suggest that being kind to oneself switches off the threat response and puts the body in a state of safety and relaxation that is important for regeneration and healing.”
“Our study is helping us understand the mechanism of how being kind to yourself when things go wrong could be beneficial in psychological treatments. By switching off our threat response, we boost our immune systems and give ourselves the best chance of healing.”
Remember to be easy on yourself. Love and pain make us do stupid things.
But we still learn from it. Don’t blame yourself too much. Don’t over-analyze every little thing you do.
And most importantly, don’t apologize for how you choose to move on. Everyone has a different process of dealing with pain and loss. What might work for other people might not work for you.
Respect your process. Give yourself a break. This journey will not be easy. And if you don’t believe that you are strong enough, who will?
(To learn more about the process of moving on, check out our no-nonsense guide to becoming a more resilient person here).