How To Get Over a Breakup. Real Advice From a Clinical Psychologist
Breaking up is hard to do. Whether it’s been a long time coming or it feels like a sudden crash and burn situation, the relationship that you put your heart and soul into has lost its heartbeat and that is rarely an easy pill to swallow. Maybe you expected to be with this person forever…or perhaps you knew it wasn’t permanent but you still weren’t ready for it to end. Or maybe you were the one that ended it. Whatever the case may be, you are probably feeling a whole lot of feelings right now that can be extremely hard to deal with, especially since you don’t have the one person you would normally lean on to talk to anymore.
The good news is, you will not feel like this forever. Let me say that louder for the people in the back. YOU WILL NOT FEEL LIKE THIS FOREVER. This too shall pass. I know that doesn’t make it easier right now, but it’s still important for you to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You are brave. You can do this.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET OVER A BREAKUP
Some common questions I get when I work with people who are going through a breakup, is “How long should it take to get over a breakup?” or “How long is too long to be sad about this?” or “What are some ways to get over a breakup faster?” The answer to all of these is; it varies. It all depends on how close the two of you were, how seriously you were taking the relationship, what your relationship history is like, what your childhood consisted of, and what your zodiac sign is. I’m kidding about the last one.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET OVER YOUR EX?
It’s hard to say exactly how long it will take you to get over your relationship. There is no getting over a breakup timeline. One equation I’ve heard is that if the relationship was less than a year, then it will take six months to get over it, and if it was more than a year, it will take at least a year until your heart heals. I’ve also heard that it takes 1/2 of the time that you were in the relationship to get past it. However, these are just ideas, and while they may be true for some people, they still might not be true for you. I’ve definitely never seen any scientific studies backing that up and anecdotally, I would say those timelines only hold true for some.
What IS true is that however long it takes, it’s important you let yourself grieve for what you’ve lost. This means grieving for the person, the relationship and the hopes, dreams, and ideas that you had about your future with this person. Sometimes, it also means grieving the idea of the person that you were with or the security of being in a relationship even more than the person themselves.
STAGES OF GETTING OVER A BREAKUP
The grieving process involves the usual stages of denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, and acceptance. However, they don’t always go in that order, you may experience them multiple times, and you don’t always go through all of the stages either. Each person grieves in his or her own way and no one can tell you how long this should take. Also, sometimes, you may think that you’ve finished a certain stage but then find yourself back in it again. This is normal. You aren’t back at square one, you are continuing to heal in your own time. For more on the stages of grief in a breakup, check our other blog post.
STEPS TO GETTING OVER A BREAKUP (healthy ways to get over a breakup)
FEEL YOUR FEELINGS
As I’ve said, the grieving process is necessary to go through when you are trying to get over a breakup. As much as you might want to skip the anger or the sadness, these emotions are very important to go through in order to heal. In fact, if you try to skip over feeling your feelings, you will probably end just up prolonging your heartache. This means no numbing out (or at least try to limit that).
Some ways you may be tempted to numb out are by:
- drinking alcohol
- eating crappy food
- doing drugs
- sleeping around
- dating someone new right away or dating around with multiple people right away
- binge-watching TV
- working more than usual
- staying really busy so you don’t have time to think
None of these are terrible if done once in a while, but if they become regular habits and are being used to avoid feeling sad or to avoid any other feeling, you are not letting yourself go through the grieving process and need to slow down and really allow yourself to sink into those hard feelings. I know it hurts but the only way out is through. Anything else is just a temporary bandaid.
ACCEPT THAT IT IS TIME TO LET GO
When you finally get to the acceptance phase of your grieving process, it’s important to tell yourself that breaking up was not a mistake. Resist the temptation to play the game in your mind where you mentally go over all of the things that you could have done or said differently to make the relationship work. If it didn’t last, there’s a reason for that. You didn’t make a mistake and there is nothing that you should have done differently. You might not know the reason right now, but one day you will look back and thank the Universe that this didn’t work out. Sometimes rejection is the universe’s protection.
Garth Brooks sings a song called “Unanswered Prayers” where he tells the tale of a man who prayed for his high school crush to like him back but she never did. In the song, he ultimately thanks God for not answering that prayer because he ends up marrying the love of his life; not his high school crush. For those of you that follow country, you know Garth married a fellow country icon, Trisha Yearwood. Now if this song is an autobiography, I’d say he came out winning. I see this type of thing happen more often than not and it’s beautiful when you finally find out why the one you thought you wanted didn’t work out.
The moral of the story is: What is meant for you will always find a way. Even if it doesn’t seem like it right now, the Universe truly does have your back and everything is happening FOR you, not TO you. If the Universe is taking people out of your life, let them go! This is all part of your soul’s evolution and growth.
FORGIVE YOUR EX
It’s impossible to get over a breakup without forgiveness. Of course, this is easier said than done. Maybe your ex cheated on you, lied to you, or constantly put you down. All of these behaviors are really hard to forgive. Until you remember that forgiveness isn’t actually for the other person, it’s for you.
Holding on to anger for something that someone else did doesn’t hurt that person, it only hurts you. It’s like drinking poison and expecting someone else to get sick. That’s why you have to let it go. Otherwise, the anger will fester inside of you and bring you down.
Getting to the point where you can feel grateful for what you learned from your ex is an amazing sign of healing and growth.
As hard as it is to forgive your ex, forgiving yourself can sometimes be even harder. Yet, it’s necessary if you want to move on.
The trick to forgiving yourself is to stop playing the tape of all of the things that you think you did wrong. Stop thinking that you should have known better, that you never should have gotten into the relationship in the first place, or that you somehow ruined a good thing. Remember, if this relationship was meant to last, it would have.
Look at this experience as something that you learned instead of something that you messed up. I believe that all relationships are learning experiences, whether they last or not because they help you learn more about yourself.
Sometimes, the thing you need to forgive yourself for is buying into the belief that you didn’t deserve better than the relationship you had. If you were in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, this is a big one for you to forgive yourself for.
GETTING OVER A BREAKUP WITHOUT CLOSURE
Sometimes it’s not possible to have the closure that you want with your ex. In fact, it’s often not a healthy and self-honoring choice to “seek closure” with someone who is likely to hurt you again by attempting to reach out to them. Luckily, you can still get the closure that you need without ever having to speak to your ex again.
HOW TO GET OVER YOUR EX
Write A Letter That You Don’t Send
Light a candle and set an intention for the deepest level of healing to come forward. Ask for grace and be open to feeling freedom and forgiveness in your heart.
Here’s a sample format that you could use. Write as much as you can after each prompt until you feel complete:
I’m saying goodbye because… or I’m letting go because…
I forgive you for…
I forgive myself for…
Thank you for…
Perform A Ritual
- Burn a letter that your ex sent you.
- Give away or give back any of their possessions you still have.
- Write down all the dreams you thought would be fulfilled with your ex, burn the paper, and as you do, say something like “I’m letting this go to make room for something better. Please allow whatever comes forward to be for the highest and best good for all involved.”
- Take a cleansing bath with candles, Epsom salt, and your favorite essential oils. Visualize or speak out loud all the positive and negative memories you can recall from your relationship. Let out any pain or mourning. Then let the water drain while you are still sitting in the bath and watch it go down the drain, imagining all of your pain and sadness going with it.
- Go on a solo trip somewhere you have always wanted to go or go with friends or a group travel company if you don’t want to travel solo. This is less of a ritual and more of an adventure, but hey, it helps.
BEST WAY TO GET OVER A BREAKUP
The single best tool I can offer for getting over your breakup is to remind you that some relationships were never meant to last. Most relationships have an expiration date after the relationship has served its purpose in your life. Your ex showed up exactly when he or she needed to in order to help you learn something, to help you grow spiritually, or to help you get in touch with a part of yourself that had been dormant for too long. He or she was necessary for your soul’s evolution, but now you don’t need him or her anymore. Believe it or not, you unconsciously drew in this experience so that you could heal deep wounds that you’ve been carrying around with you ever since your childhood.
THERAPY TO GET OVER A BREAKUP
Realizing that you unconsciously drew in this experience helps you to see why this had to happen. But sometimes that can be really hard to accept and it can be even harder to heal the wounds the breakup uncovered without the help of a counselor. Your wounds were uncovered so that you could see them and learn how to heal them. It wasn’t a punishment, but rather, an opportunity to learn how to do things differently this time. Sometimes we need a little help with this and if that is the case for you, I’m here to support you. This is such brave work, and I am SO proud of you for diving into it. You are a spiritual warrior and there is a valuable lesson buried underneath all this pain. If I can help you in this journey of growth, change, and evolution, I’d be honored to stand by your side.