There is no weaker or more vulnerable time in our lives than that following a breakup. Staying strong after a breakup can feel impossible. You see other people who do it and think they must be the types of people who wake up at 5 am every day to work out and never touch a carbohydrate, they have super-strength willpower that mere mortals can’t hope to achieve!
It’s hard no matter what the circumstances, although some circumstances make it significantly harder than others, like being cheated on or left for another woman. It doesn’t always matter who broke up with who or if it was a mutual decision, it’s painful and it’s far too easy to get sucked back into a situation that you know isn’t right. This is why breakups rarely stick after the first attempt. You usually need to hurt each other several times before it finally becomes permanent. It’s torture, and the sad thing is … we do it to ourselves.
So what are the secrets? How can you stay strong after a breakup so you can move on to better things?
Take The Quiz: Can You Get Your Ex Back Or Is He Gone Forever?
Don’t Run From Your Emotions
There is no way around it. You need to confront your grief and deal with it. Don’t slap on a smile and pretend everything is fine when you’re silently suffering. You can’t run from your emotions, they will always find you.
– Remember you’re not alone. Heartbreak can be incredibly lonely and isolating. You feel like this pain is yours and yours alone and no one else can possibly understand how you feel. Yes, every relationship is different, but a broken heart is a broken heart. Pretty much everyone has been there and we all understand.
I have been to the deepest darkest depths of heartbreak, the soul-shattering, self-esteem ruining, questioning everything about myself place. And I felt like I was embarking on the road not traveled, like no one in the world could ever understand. But plenty can. And this is a big reason I started ANM. I wanted to give expression to the feelings so many of us experience in isolation.
– Feel your feelings. You have to let those painful emotions out or they will continue to circle throughout your being and eat you alive. Maybe you feel foolish, maybe you wish you could be stronger, but denying your feelings will just make things worse.
Let yourself cry, let yourself feel sad, let yourself scream and be angry. Just let it all out. But put a limit on it. Don’t spend months on end in the same PJs with a gallon of ice cream always by your side. Give yourself grieving deadline. Allow yourself until X point to feel sorry for yourself and after that, pick yourself up and make a resolution to move on.
Whatever you do, don’t take your rage out on him. This means you don’t call and yell at him, don’t ruin any of his things, don’t post on his social media accounts. This is a completely private and personal process that doesn’t involve him.
– Write it out. Personally, writing is extremely therapeutic for me. I like to journal when I’m having a hard time and am always amazed at what comes out. When going through a breakup, I used to write letters to the guy that I never planned to send.
After a breakup, no matter how many “closure talks” you’ve had had, it always feels like there was so much left unsaid. Or maybe you wish you had said certain things differently or explained yourself more clearly. But it’s never enough. No matter how many times you try to hash it out, you never feel satisfied. That’s why writing it all out helps. It will help you gain clarity on exactly how you feel, and may allow you to just air out all the nasty things you feel toward him but couldn’t say.
– Revise your faulty thinking. A breakup can bring out the drama queen in all of us. Take a look back at your writing and see how you might revise some of your statements. Turn “I’ll never find anyone like him” into “I will find someone better suited for me.”
Take any forms of “I wasn’t good enough” and turn it into “We just weren’t the right match.” Try to examine areas where you use hyperbolic language or statements like “always” and “never” (I always screw things up … I’ll never get the love I want) and remind yourself that nothing in life is absolute. Don’t re-write the story of your life based on one thing that happened. Chances are, if you dig deeper into your memories you’ll realize that your statements aren’t true. And even if all your relationships fall apart, that isn’t because you’re fatally flawed, it’s because that’s the nature of dating. Nothing is going to work out until something does!
Also, watch out for areas where you idealize him and the way you felt. Maybe right now you think you’ll never love anyone as much as you loved him, but everyone feels that way after a breakup and the majority do go on to find love, to find an even better love!
– Lean on your people. Seek out support from your friends and family, that’s what they’re there for! Don’t try to do this alone, that makes everything ten times worse. When someone significant is no longer in your life, there is a big gaping hole in your heart. One way to fill it is with the love and support from other people in your life.
It may not plug it up completely, but it will do the job so that you can breathe a little easier and just be able to get through the day without completely unraveling. Sometimes it may even help to talk to a good therapist, or even a life coach or spiritual adviser. There is nothing like an objective third party to really help you gain clarity and perspective.
Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed. Like I said, almost all of us have been there. Seeing other people who have been through the depths of despair and emerged will encourage you and will make you realize that someday you will get past this and you will find happiness again.
How to Keep Yourself Strong
Now let’s look at how to avoid common pitfalls that can set you back after a breakup.
-Follow the no contact rule. It is absolutely impossible for you to stay strong after a breakup if you’re still in contact with your ex. Period. If you want to move on, you have to cut off contact completely. If the prospect of never seeing him again is just too much to bear, then don’t think of it as forever. Maybe someday you can be friendly, maybe someday you’ll even be able to get back together and make it work, but that should not be your focus right now. Right now, your focus is on moving on and staying strong.
Don’t call him, text him, message him via social media, leave comments on his posts, show up places where you know he’ll be, or do anything that puts you in contact with him. I’ve written a lot about the no contact rule and why it’s so crucial to follow after a breakup so you can read more about it here and here.
– Get rid of the mementos. How will you get over him if you have a huge framed photo of the two of you looking happy and in love right next to your bed, or if you never take off the bracelet he bought you for your birthday? You won’t. You have to get rid of all of these things. If throwing them all away seems too harsh, then just put them all in a box and hide it away somewhere inaccessible, like an attic or on a really high shelf that you can’t easily access.
As far as digital reminders, delete delete delete. Again, if you can’t delete, then just take the pictures down, put them in a folder, transfer it onto an external hard drive, and put that in the box with your other mementos.
– Stay busy. As they say, idle hands are the devil’s playthings. If you’re home alone and bored, you are highly likely to make a mistake, like calling him or stalking him endlessly on social media or just wallowing in your sorrows. Don’t do this to yourself!
Stay busy. Go out with your friends, go see a movie, take a long walk in the park, maybe even try to go on a small trip with your girlfriends (going to a new destination where there is no chance of running into him can be highly therapeutic). Take up a new hobby or try a new class.
Another great way to stay busy is to exercise! This will keep you busy and get your endorphins pumping, which will make you feel amazing. Challenge yourself by trying out new classes. Zumba, Salsa, Yoga, Pilates, Barre, SLT, Soul Cycle, Pole dancing, the options are endless!
– Be positive. A breakup can take a devastating toll on your self-esteem. You may spiral into thinking terrible thoughts about yourself. I’m not pretty enough … I’m not smart enough … I’m not good enough … I’ll never get the love I want. Stop all of that immediately!
Here is a secret many people don’t realize. You have full control over the thoughts that enter your mind. You don’t have to let yourself go down that negative, destructive path. You can choose to think positive. When negative thoughts creep in, just kick them out. When you start singing that same old song about how you’re not good enough, stop immediately and replace those thoughts with the opposite. Maybe you don’t feel that way right now, but you will once you tell yourself those things enough times.
Think about your attributes, think about what you have to offer, think about the people in your life who truly care about you. This is where to put your focus rather than feeding the negativity monster and giving it more control over you.
Be Your Best Self
A breakup can be an enormous time for personal growth if you do it right. If you handle it wrong, you can be the cause of your own undoing. The choice is yours.
Here is how to emerge even better than before:
– Do what you love. We all have something that drives us and makes us feel alive. Maybe it’s sports or art or creativity or travel, it’s something. Do that thing! Get back in touch with who you are at your core.
And try and have fun! Spend time with people you love who make you laugh … and try to laugh a lot! Try to get out as much as you can and do things you love with people you love.
-Self-care. This is a major buzzword these days, and there is no better time to play the #selfcare card that after a breakup! Treat yourself to a massage, a manicure, a facial, or all three! And let’s not forget about the retail therapy. Go through your closet and clean out things you don’t wear and maybe invest in some new pieces that make you feel absolutely amazing.
I would be careful about making rash decisions like a new haircut or color. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, but just don’t do it impulsively. Think it through and consult some of your girlfriends before potentially making a mistake!
But the point is, treat yourself. Do things that make you feel good and enjoy every second of it (just also be sure to be responsible and not max out your credit cards!).
– Give back. There is no better way to get out of your own head and forget about your own pain than to give to others. And there are countless ways to give back. Wherever you live, I guarantee there are charitable organizations you can get involved with. Giving to others is a proven way to feel better about yourself. You would think it’s the opposite, but that’s not the case.
Giving takes us beyond ourselves and can boost our sense of compassion. It will also make you feel good about yourself to feel like you are making an actual difference in the world.
Letting Go and Moving On
The final stage is about acceptance, letting go, and moving on. It’s about accepting that what’s done is done and leaving the pain behind you while taking the lessons learned with you so that your next relationship will be even better.
– What did I learn from this? After a relationship ends, I think it’s so important to take stock in what you learned from the experience. After some time has passed and you’re in a more clear-headed space, ask yourself some questions. What did I do in this relationship that I will never do again? Why did I stay when it wasn’t working? What did I learn about myself in this relationship? How did this relationship help me grow as a person? In what ways did I compromise who I am for the sake of the relationship? What did I learn so that I can be even better in my next relationship?
Try to identify if this relationship was part of a pattern. Do you repeatedly go after the same kinds of guys and experience the same painful endings? Do you feel like you’re re-living the same situations over and over again? If this is the case, you need to identify why this is and why you keep going after things that are proven to be not good for you.
Also look at the type of guy he is and compare that to the type of guy you usually go for. What do they have in common? Maybe you need to re-think what it is you think you want and need in a partner.
MORE: How to Move On For Good
– Forgive. Maybe he doesn’t deserve your forgiveness, but who cares? This isn’t about him, it’s about you. Holding onto anger an resentment is poison and you’re only hurting yourself.
Maybe he did something inexcusable. You don’t have to say the behavior is OK, but you can forgive him for what was done. You don’t even need to tell him you forgive him, just silently do it on your own. Forgive him for what he did and try to just move past it.
Remember that everyone has their own baggage and their own issues and that’s what leads us to hurt others and make bad decisions. Put this sort of spin on it instead of seeing him as an evil person, and then taking it a step further and deeming all men evil scumbags. You’re not saying what he did was OK, you’re saying it no longer has power over you. It no longer has the power to crush you and send you spiraling.
You need to forgive to feel again. So let go of the negative emotions and try to go back into the dating pool with a clean slate.
MORE: How to Move on Fast
– Visualize your next relationship. Maybe you don’t have a new guy on deck, but you can still imagine what your next relationship will be like. I don’t care how “perfect” your ex was, there were problems in the relationship as evidenced by the fact that he’s your ex. Maybe you fight a lot, maybe he couldn’t commit, maybe trust was missing, maybe you weren’t fundamentally compatible, there are countless reasons for a breakup. Now is the time to move on and focus on what comes next.
Try to imagine being with someone who is on your wavelength, who wants the same things you want, who loves you as much as you love him, who is committed to making it work. Imagine a relationship without fighting, one where you just get each other and feel amazing around one another. And get excited about it.
Really spend time thinking about what it will be like to have an enjoyable, loving, happy relationship. Really let yourself believe and feel the fact that happiness after your ex does exist.
– Fall in love with yourself. When you’re in a relationship, it’s so easy to focus exclusively on the other person. You think about his needs, his wants, his desires and oftentimes, you forget that you also have needs, wants, and desires!
In the course of a relationship, you may have always abandoned certain things you used to love, maybe because you chose to spend time with a person you love instead. Get back into those things that gave you joy and made you who you are. Pursue your hobbies and passions. Get back in touch with what you love about yourself and really nurture those areas.
True love starts with you. If you don’t have love on the inside, you won’t attract it from the outside so make self-love your priority for now.
– Let time do its thing. It’s true that time heals, but remember it isn’t a passive process. It’s an active process. You need to follow all the steps listed in this article, and then let time do the rest. Because in time, you will feel again and you will move on.
Right now maybe it feels impossible, but I swear you will get there. Refer back to this article as many times as you need throughout the process, maybe even print it out as a reference.
And if there is one takeaway it’s this: a breakup doesn’t define who you are, all it means is you weren’t a match and now you are free to find someone who is better suited for you, and that’s a good thing!
MORE: The Best Breakup Movies
I hope this article helped you learn how to stay strong after a breakup. Now, what if you really believe he’s the man for you and you feel certain that it can work out? Look, I know it’s totally possible because I actually married an ex-boyfriend! Staying strong after the breakup is still crucially important because you need time to process and to change and grow. Can you get him back after that? Yes, it is absolutely possible. There will come a moment when a guy will ask himself, “Did I make a mistake by letting her go?” And at this moment he may come to realize that you are in fact the right woman for him. What does it take for him to realize this? Read this article to find out: Do You Want Your Ex Boyfriend Back? Use This to Get Him Back...
Take The Quiz: Can You Get Your Ex Back Or Is He Gone Forever?
How to Stay Strong After a Breakup:
- Don’t run from your emotions. Deal with your grief and let yourself process everything you are feeling so you can heal.
- Stay strong by cutting off contact, removing anything that reminds you of him, and staying busy and positive.
- Focus on being your best self. Do things you love and spend time with people you love. Focus on things that make you happy.
- Let go of the past and focus on a hopeful future.