11 Tips for Getting Over a Breakup, According to a Therapist

·8 min read
Photo credit: Delmaine Donson - Getty Images
Photo credit: Delmaine Donson - Getty Images

“You know if you want to get over them, you have to get under someone else.” “I really want to get over them and move on, but I can’t stop thinking about them.” “Is it normal to think about someone after a breakup?”

These are all real things I’ve heard from patients in my therapy office. Wondering how to get over someone is a universal experience, which explains why there are so many TV shows, movies, books, podcasts, and advice columns that attempt to answer the question.

We’ve all had relationships end, and I don’t just mean romantic ones. Our romantic and sexual relationships are just as meaningful as our platonic relationships—a.k.a. friendships—and our relationships with family members. When these relationships end, we feel the pain of a breakup, regardless of the type of relationship you were in with that person.

So, how do you do get over someone? How do you navigate your feelings and stop feeling the pain? I'm here to assure you it will happen—you won’t hurt forever—and remind you that it won't happen overnight. So, while you heal, here are 11 crucial tips for moving through the pain of a breakup and eventually moving on with your life.

1) Practice self-care as an act of self-love.

We’re given super mixed messages around what self-care means and what prioritizing ourselves actually looks like. Is it selfish, or even narcissistic, to prioritize what we want and need over the wants and needs of others? Typically, if you're asking yourself this question, the answer is no. There is a difference between prioritizing your needs vs. completely disregarding someone else’s. For example, if your friend asks you to go to the bar to watch the game on TV and you know that what you need is a bath and a good night's sleep, you can say, “Thank you so much for the invite. I'm gonna stay home and rest tonight. Let’s do something next week.” While you’re working on getting over someone, it’s super important to pour into yourself and fill up your cup with things you love.

2) Spend time with people you love.

When we have a broken heart or are simply feeling sad about the end of a relationship, it’s crucial to navigate it with the support of others. Whether it’s family, friends, or even your therapist (or some combination of these three), we need support! We’re pack animals, after all. The people in our lives can often reflect aspects of a situation that are harder to see when we’re caught up in some yucky feelings. Try telling your friend something like, “Hey man, I could really use some company tonight. I’m feeling super down about the whole break up. Could you swing by for a couple of hours?”

3) Journal about the reality of the situation.

If you’ve tried journaling but haven’t found it super helpful, here's a different angle to try it from. Instead of trying to follow some magic journaling formula you saw someone preaching on Instagram, write down the reality of the situation. If the reality is that you love someone who doesn’t love you back, write down the story of this unrequited love. If it’s that you were in a year-long relationship with someone and they broke up with you to move across the country, write down this story of loss and heartbreak. When we write things down on paper, it helps our brain make them real. And once we admit something is real, we can start the healing process.

Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images

4) Go to therapy.

Relying on friends and family for support is super important during times of struggle or pain. At the same time, they are not trained mental health professionals. So, depending on the level of hurt you’re navigating, it may be necessary to seek support outside of them. Whether you’re experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression, hopelessness, or something else that feels too heavy to hold alone, a therapist can help you process these experiences and feelings and start to cope, grow, and take steps forward from them. Also, therapists are very good at hearing and seeing patterns in your stories. So, if there’s something that they spot that you continue to repeat, they’ll help course correct you on to a path that is less treacherous for your heart.

5) Acknowledge to yourself that you’re in pain, a.k.a. practicing self-compassion.

When self-compassion gets thrown around, it can sound a little woo-woo or non-tangible. Here’s the thing, though: Self-compassion comes in all different forms, and one of the best ways to be compassionate towards yourself is to acknowledge that you are hurting. It sounds so simple, and yet, it’s so profound. When we don’t acknowledge the pain we’re feeling, our brains can do all sorts of things, like telling us that it’s not that big of a deal, or that we shouldn’t feel as icky as we do—or even that we need to get over it. Well, it’s not that simple. Meeting ourselves where we are will allow us to move forward.

6) Start a new hobby.

First, this is not a tactic to simply distract your mind and fill it with something else. Is that a fun side effect of a new hobby? Sure. But really, this is about allowing yourself to be present in something that you enjoy that’s for you! Whether it’s a dance or pottery class, a book club, or scrapbooking at home, starting a new hobby is a form of self-care. It will help you grow while pouring into yourself, which is a win-win-win when trying to get over someone.

7) Put any photos of this person in storage (or get rid of them, depending on the situation).

Let the caveats begin. If this relationship was abusive or toxic in any way, you might choose to get rid of photos, cards, or other mementos. (Also, I highly recommend seeing a therapist if this was the case—there’s probably more healing to do than simply getting over this person.) Regardless of how healthy the relationship was, having a photo on your wall of the two of you while trying to get over someone or move on is just painful. You may decide later that you want to add one of those photos back into a collage, but at the beginning of the healing and moving on process, don’t torture yourself. Put the photos away.

8) Remember the good times, if it was a healthy relationship.

Another tip with a caveat! If this was a healthy relationship, as you’re mourning and getting over this person, allow yourself to think about the good and happy times as they were: good and happy. We’ll often start to look at the entire relationship through poop-colored glasses to avoid missing the person as much. But that’s just lying to ourselves. To fully move on and get over someone, we have to acknowledge what’s real—and if what’s real is that there were good times, it’s okay to remember those as good times.

Photo credit: Stephanie Noritz - Getty Images
Photo credit: Stephanie Noritz - Getty Images

9) Start dating, or meeting new people in general.

The phrase “to get over someone, you have to get under someone else” gets tossed around a lot, and while it’s not the healthiest statement ever, it has a bit of truth to it. I’m not telling you to go out and have sex with someone just to get over someone else—that’s not super kind to that other person, and not kind to yourself, either. However, you don’t want to keep yourself in limbo if you’re trying to get over someone. Let yourself meet new people, and if it feels good and/or comfortable, go on a date! See what it feels like to sit with someone and share a drink or appetizer.

10) Create containers to feel all of your feelings.

What is a container? Think about yourself sitting in Tupperware with your feelings, and when you decide to leave the Tupperware, you leave the process of feeling your feelings in the Tupperware. That’s what creating a container to feel all of your feelings can do. Set up a time and a place with true limits (for example: "in my room for 50 minutes") and let yourself lean in and feel everything. If you do that, it will tell your brain that there is time for you to feel all the things, and will help you not feel them all when you’re at work or trying to do something else. When we don’t create containers, it can bleed into everything—because we’re not giving ourselves the dedicated space to FEEL.

11) Write down why you broke up, or why the relationship ended.

Sometimes, as time passes, the reasons why we broke up with someone or our relationship ended become less clear, and the nostalgia of what once was sets in. We start to see our past relationship through rose-colored glasses rather than the poop-colored ones mentioned above. If you can come back to a journal entry, or even a piece of paper stating why the relationship ended, you’ll feel more confident day after day and genuinely start to get over and move on from someone.

A final word on getting over someone:

Please remember that you’re a human being with complex emotions. Allow yourself to feel the feelings and keep taking steps forward, moving through them—not avoiding them. Eventually, one day, you’ll wake up and realize you didn’t think about this person as you went to sleep and didn’t think about them, or their absence, when you woke up.

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