Messy break ups, with all the ice cream eating, embarrassing serenades dedicated to lost loves, incessant phone calls and blubbing are endearingly funny in movies and TV shows. Actually living through one is not. In fact, you can carry scars from a bad break up for years if you don’t apply the right band-aids when the cuts are fresh. Love is a hard thing to get over. Stanton Peele, an international addiction expert, argues that love is even harder to get over than potato chips, alcohol and drugs. Research shows that our brains appear to process relationship breakups similarly to physical pain. So a break up is always going to be difficult and awful, but there are more effective ways than others to get through the pain. Take control while you’re experiencing the loss of a relationship with our best tips.
#1 Do spend a lot of time with good people
You’re going to need good friends through this period, so anyone on your friends list who is prone to passive-aggressive snarking, being overly critical of your choices and opinions, or being generally unreliable should come off the friend roster until you’re stronger (and possibly forever, but that’s for another blog!). But when taking on this advice, don’t be confused by the idea that you have to spend a lot of time with people who are 100% positive – there are a thousand advice blogs out there that tell you never to spend time with people who are ‘glass half empty’ people. Well, you don’t necessarily need cheerleaders when you’re sad. After spending time with particular people, do you come away feeling loved and good about yourself? These are the people to call when you’re going through a break up. You don’t need someone who is too eager to push you into following their advice or wants you to ‘snap out of it.’ You just need people who will make you feel accepted. There’s a great checklist for good friend qualities here.
#2 Do make some healthy changes in your lifestyle
It’s understandable if you feel like you want to do nothing but lie in bed with the blankets over your head, or guzzle alcohol and eat fast food. It’s also understandable if you feel like eating nothing and avoiding anybody. But however understandable these reactions are, you need to make healthy choices when you’re going through a break up. If your stomach is boiling with anxiety and you don’t feel like eating, still try to eat at least three small meals a day. If you’re overeating don’t beat yourself up over it but remind yourself that the good feelings that come with a sugar rush are only a quick fix.
Allow yourself to start enjoying doing things alone again, like taking a long bath, going to the gym or watching TV shows your ex hated. You could go out dancing or partying to blow off steam or go for a leisurely stroll while listening to some new music every day. Do these things alone and enjoy them – but don’t isolate yourself. If you haven’t spoken to anyone for a couple of days, meet a friend for a chat. If you’re kind to yourself by making sure you do one healthy thing every day, you won’t find your break up so hard to process.
#3 Do allow yourself to feel
When you break up with someone it’s usually painful, but when you’re accustomed to compartmentalising your feelings you can shy away from really feeling that pain. You may try to deaden it with alcohol, by constantly partying, and by generally running away from those feelings. As therapist Donna Hunter argues, this is a survival instinct and it’s completely understandable – but totally unhelpful. Avoiding your problems and feelings instead of sorting through them will only make them bubble out in troublesome ways. You can fool yourself into thinking you’re doing fine and then realise months down the track that you actually haven’t dealt with your circumstances at all. Feel it, even if it makes you feel messy for a couple of days. All of this is normal. If you are still feeling an intense pain months after a break up you might need to seek some outside help.
#4 Do remind yourself that all relationships fail until one doesn’t
Some people get caught up in the idea that they’ve broken up with their soul mate and that no love will ever equal the one they have just lost. A far more helpful way to look at it is that if this was the right person for you they wouldn’t have wanted to move on. If you are indulging in idealisation of your ex, check yourself. Come to terms with the reality of your time together. You can do this maturely and acknowledge the good things and the bad and try to be happy for the experience, or if you’re feeling less generous, focus on the fact that your ex maybe wasn’t so perfect after all. Either way, don’t paint a false depiction in your head of a blissful relationship that you will never be able to get over. It’s not real and it’s not helpful. Instead, remember that when a relationship is right for you in the long term, it won’t break up.
#5 Don’t try to win the breakup – on social media or anywhere else
There’s a lot of advice out there on how to win a breakup. Well, it’s shoddy. Nobody wins a breakup because it’s not a competition. If you’re constantly trying to prove to your ex that you have moved on and you’re having a whale of a time, you’re not focusing on what you should – which is actually moving on and not having your emotions linked to your ex. A lot of this ‘winning’ happens on social media these days. In fact, after a person’s status goes from in a relationship to single on Facebook, their data shows that people indulge in 225 percent more Facebook interactions than usual. Don’t spend a lot of time on social media posting photos of yourself in the hope that your ex will get jealous of how happy you are now. Instead, work on actually feeling those things. In fact, taking a break from social media altogether might be the best choice during a breakup.
#6 Don’t spend a lot of time with your ex
You’re going to feel like you need to hash things out over coffee, and there are going to be interactions when you drop each other’s stuff off – and you might even sleep together after the final decision to end a relationship. That’s all normal. However, if you try to be friends too soon it’s a recipe for unhappiness. It’s best to limit the amount of contact you have with your ex to the least amount you possibly can. If there are kids involved and housing arrangements to sort out, obviously this will be more difficult. But don’t socialise, don’t give in to loneliness by hanging out and don’t prolong what is already a painful process.
#7 Don’t rebound date
Getting over someone by getting under someone else is tempting, and in some cases it might help, but don’t jump into another relationship straight away. If you do, you’ll bring all the broken promises, the trust issues and the questionable habits from the old relationship into the new one. When you do meet someone new, you want a clean slate. If you try too soon, your slate will be anything but. By all means, if you feel you must indulge in some casual flings (as long as everyone knows the parameters of this relationship) then go ahead, but don’t get into anything serious with someone new until the past no longer hurts you and you can look back on it without the negativity.
#8 Don’t indulge in anger and seek revenge
Maybe your ex treated you really poorly. Maybe the relationship ended due to infidelity. Maybe you feel you were taken advantage of. Well, it’s okay to punch a pillow and lament how unfairly you were treated. But you need to hold your head high and hold onto your dignity. It’s the only way forward. Your focus should be on you; how you can feel whole again, where you’re going from here, how you will regain your ability to trust, how to approach new love in your life. If you are thinking about revenge, all you are doing is thinking about the past and allowing it to ruin your present. If your ex was so bad, why would you let them do that to you? Move on and trust in a happier future.
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