Going through a serious breakup can be one of life’s most brutal and devastating challenges. You’ve spent years cultivating a romantic relationship and building a life together, then one day, it’s over. Just like that, your entire world is turned upside down.
Maybe you saw it coming; maybe you didn’t. Every breakup is different, and it’s those unique variables that only you understand that will determine the severity of the pain and how long it’ll take to heal.
Most of us emerge from the split intact, but not before enduring bouts of depression, insomnia, and sometimes the most negative intrusive thoughts. Even your immune function suffers during periods of heartbreak. But as impossible as it may seem in the beginning, the pain will pass. You’ll get through the breakup.
Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to know how long you’ll need to recover. People often repeat rules of thumb like “half the length of the relationship” for how long it takes to get over a breakup, but it’s just one of many theories. Research studies have suggested durations ranging from 17 months to an amount of time equal to the length of the relationship to let your heart heal.
There’s no scientific answer to this problem.
“I’m a little wary of making formulas like that because some relationships are more complicated than others,” says Dr. Sarah Gundle, a psychologist specializing in breakup and trauma therapy. “I think personally it has less to do with time and more to do with the story. We all tell ourselves stories about events that happened, and we have to get the story right for us to be able to move past it.”
Dr. Grundle says breakups go through stages, similar to the stages of grief:
Hurt and Pain
Coming to Terms / Acceptance
Today, we’re going to go over seven strategies to get us through every stage of breakup grief. It won’t be easy, but with hard work and a little luck, you might find the experience has made you a stronger, better person than you were before.
1. What Did the Relationship Mean to You? Write the Story
During my research for this article; I noticed one strategy being shared by just about every relationship expert: They all suggested that people suffering from a tough relationship should get their thoughts and feelings out on paper.
Dr. Sarah Grundle believes people must develop a story of what the relationship was and what it meant to them.
“Coming up with your own story, a narrative of what occurred, what it meant to you, and why it happened the way it did, and acceptance,” she explains.
The New York-based psychologist encourages clients to reflect on the relationship and whatever positive effects it had on their life, including any lessons it may have taught them.
Grundle even suggests that exes should help each other understand what happened from both perspectives, even if that means answering uncomfortable questions.
“It’s much, much more effective to have two people in the room to do that, but obviously, that’s not always possible,” she adds.
That said, such mature levels of cooperation aren’t exactly necessary. If you’re not on speaking terms or can’t get a hold of your ex, sitting down and writing out the story of your relationship, what worked, and what you’re struggling with can help too. But don’t go easy on yourself! Locate your responsibilities in the breakup as well!
I recommend making a list of everything you can think of — both positive and negative.
Some experts recommend focusing on the negative. They suggest writing down all the unfavorable aspects of their former partner – every annoying habit, every bad trait, all their terrible ideas. They believe that highlighting these shortcomings, which they’ve termed a “love reappraisal,” will soften the blow, and you’ll see the breakup itself in a more favorable light.
You should write these lists of negative thoughts about your ex every day until you start to feel better. It’s expected that the exercise will make you feel worse at first, but it’s a necessary part of healing. According to the experts, negative reappraisal decreases infatuation and attachment to your ex, helping you feel better in the long run.
So, rip that band-aid off and let the healing process begin!
2. Cut Off All Contact with Your Ex
Okay – so this was originally my first step, but I dropped it down one for the lucky few who are still on good enough terms with their ex to get together and recap the failure of the relationship together. Otherwise, the “clean break” is usually my go-to move out of the gate.
It’s much harder to get over someone when they’re still playing a part in your life. Don’t call, text, email, meet them in person, or do anything else. Block or unfollow them on social media. Erase them from existence, if only temporarily.
Research has shown that in-person contact with a recent ex slows down a person’s emotional recovery. When you’re still communicating, it’s almost impossible to move on. It can also lead to bad decision-making — like getting back together, for the time being, only to delay the inevitable.
Keeping your distance lessens the likelihood of you making a mistake by trying to avoid short-term pain, even if it sets you back in the long run. You can always reconcile and be friends again later. I promise it’ll be much easier to navigate once you’ve fully healed.
3. Take a Social Media Sabbatical
While we’re discussing taking a clean break from engaging with your ex, you might want to extend that general plan to social media as well. Depending on how long you were together, your social lives are probably pretty entangled, with lots of mutual friends and followers online.
Take it from me; merely unfollowing your ex is nowhere near enough if the goal is to avoid seeing or hearing about what they’re up to. You’ll see them tagged in other people’s pictures, or some mutual “friend” will take it upon themselves to give you upsetting updates. People live for all that drama!
According to one study, people who stalk their exes on social media “are more distressed, harbor more negative feelings, feel a greater sense of longing, and stunt their personal growth more than those who cut social media ties.”
“It makes it infinitely easier to get over a breakup when you have no contact for a few months. That includes social media, so see if you can take a 30-day online hiatus,” says Jane Reardon, founder of the app Rx Breakup.
“I always notice a big setback after someone sees a mutual friend’s post with the ex in the picture, having a great time, of course,” Reardon adds.
Why risk torturing yourself this way? Do the smart thing and delete all your social media apps from your phone. Start with a week-long goal in mind. Preferably, stretch it to a month if you’re able.
You’ll feel so much better than you would be keeping tabs on your ex and trying to gauge whether they’re happier without you based on social media posts.
4. Rearrange Your Environment
I’ve found that whenever you’re entering a new stage in your life, it’s good to give yourself a fresh, clean start in as many ways as possible. That includes your living space.
For starters, get rid of any evidence of your relationship that’s taking up room in the public areas of your home. I’m not saying you should throw them all away; just remove them as decorations for now.
“If the breakup was the ex’s idea, and you have no children, then throw all those pictures and mementos in a bag and put it out of sight,” Jane Reardon advises.
If you want, toss it all in a box or two and store them somewhere until enough time has passed for it not to hurt to look back. This strategy should result in some empty spaces needing to be filled. Take the opportunity to give your space a bit of a makeover.
“Giving your space a little refresh is great self-care. Fill in the spaces with something fun or inspiring to see,” Reardon says.
That’s excellent advice. This is the place in which you’ll be spending most of your time, so fill it with happy, inspiring images – don’t torment yourself with visions of the painful past. Plus, the new setup will get your mind refocused on bigger and better things to come.
5. Focus on Forgiveness and Gratitude
I try to shy away from being too hippy-dippy with my advice, but I can’t ignore the fact that a healthy perspective is the key to getting over a tough breakup. You’re already going to be down in the dumps; you might as well treat it as an opportunity to develop a mindfulness practice that will better serve you in the future.
Being mindful of your thoughts and feelings is crucial to know yourself better. And to have more successful relationships in the future, you need to know what works for you and what makes you happy.
One study I read about from 2018 found that “adopting optimistic perspectives could turn breakups into positive experiences.” The results suggested that the best way to frame past relationships in our mind is to think of them as “a romantic exploration that may well parlay into a satisfying long-term relationship down the road,” “a learning experience,” or “a chance to find new ways to grow outside of your former relationship.”
However, it takes time and focus to develop this ability to continually monitor how you feel. One key step to take on this road to mindfulness is to forgive – your ex and yourself both. It’s the most important ingredient for any healing process.
It’s only normal to blame yourself for the breakup; everyone does it. You replay all the times you didn’t acknowledge their needs or took them for granted, and soon you’re wallowing in a sea of self-doubt and resentment. It’s one of the more unfortunate ways we process everything that happened. To truly get beyond these creeping thoughts, you must first learn to forgive yourself. Only then can you set your sights on forgiving your ex as well.
Once you’re having some success on the forgiveness front, make some time to add “gratitude” to your mindfulness practice. This step will help you to open your heart again in preparation for whatever relationships are next.
Rather than focusing exclusively on what you lost when the relationship ended, start to consider everything you gained from the whole experience — even if that only amounts to things like lessons learned and where to set your boundaries next time.
Find reasons to be thankful for your experiences, no matter how painful they may have been (or still may be) at the moment.
6. Get Social!
If you’re anything like me, grief can turn you into a bit of a hermit. It’s not the most productive instinct. Don’t take being single to mean that you must be alone. Being around friends and family is crucial in your most trying times.
According to a 2021 study of bereaved individuals, here are some people from whom you should seek support: “friends and counselors who can listen to you and empathize emotionally,” “support groups where everyone shares,” or “pets for companionship and comfort.”
Or you could just start going out more – it doesn’t really matter with whom. Going out in public and having fun is an amazing distraction from whatever ails you. And you’ll develop social skills that will improve your romantic relationships moving forward.
The less time spent basking in your loneliness, the better! So, get out there and focus on having fun until you’re ready to be back on the market.
7. Join a Dating App or Two / Explore Your Options
Fortunately, once you’re ready to find your next romantic partner, there are plenty of tools at your disposal! We cover all sorts of unique dating services on this site. They come with a variety of different specialties, so make sure to check out our dating site reviews and find some that are right for you.
Once you set up a profile and the likes and attention start piling up, you’ll forget all about past heartbreaks. You’re back in the game! And today, it’s easier than ever to find like-minded matches who possess the qualities you now know you need from a partner.
That said, make sure not to jump ahead to the stage too early in the breakup. Sometimes it feels like the right thing to do at the moment, but it only makes things worse. You don’t want to make decisions you’ll regret with a meaningless rebound hookup. Often, if you act impulsively out of spite for your ex, it’ll only make you feel worse about your breakup – the opposite of your desired effect.
Time Heals All Wounds
Ultimately, when it comes to breakups, there’s only so much you can do to ease the pain. It’s going to take time, no matter what. And it’s going to suck, no matter what. But it doesn’t have to linger for years on end and make you bitter and isolated.
The seven steps shared on this page will help you get over a breakup in a way that leaves you healthier and more prepared for relationship success going forward. It’s the smart way to endure the more trying periods of your life and emerge with strength and gratitude.
Once you’re ready to hit the dating market hard again, we’ll be here for you. In addition to our many dating app reviews, we publish tons of blogs like this, sharing dating and relationship advice. We’ll get you set up with the platform and strategies you need to find lasting romantic success.