This Is the Secret to Getting Over a Breakup, According to Relationship Experts

This Is the Secret to Getting Over a Breakup, According to Relationship Experts

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Nothing plunges your self-esteem into a pit of despair quite like a bad breakup. Romantic comedy movies and sitcoms would have us believe the process is simple: Turn on a marathon of sad movies in your coziest pajamas, sob into a pint of ice cream for a few days straight and poof! Montage over, you’re a brand new you and out to take on the world. But in reality, once you’ve hit rocky road bottom, you may find yourself slipping into self-destructive habits — ignoring your friends, neglecting your work and generally forgetting about self-care. You’ve been told all your life that there are more fish in the sea (just open your dating app of choice and there they are), but why is it just so hard to bring yourself to cast a new net already?

The answer: love is a drug. No, really. "Functional brain scans have shown that love is a form of addiction," says Guy Winch, PhD, licensed psychologist and author of How To Fix a Broken Heart. "We get used to having a certain substance, and that substance is a person and the relationship in our lives. Then during 'withdrawal,' we get desperate and act out of character." Not only that, long-term relationships mean you've molded your life around another person’s. You’ve made compromises as well as future plans, and having to let go of that isn’t as simple as swiping left or right. But don't despair: We asked relationship experts for their best advice on how to get over a breakup, and there are a number of simple steps you can take — none of which involve Ben & Jerry.

1. Rebuild your self-esteem

If your partner initiated the break-up, it’s perfectly normal to start picking apart your physical appearance and personality traits, questioning what's wrong with you that would cause someone to fall out of love. Instead, reverse that thought pattern. "Focus on what you really value in yourself and what you brought to the relationship, rather than what qualities you don’t possess," Winch advises.

2. Focus on your positive qualities

It's easy to get down on yourself when you get dumped. To remind yourself how very worthy of love you are, get out a pen and paper or your Notes app and put it down in black and white. "Write a list and think of traits that speak to your character, emotional strengths, skillsets, abilities and any other quality that has value in a relationship." If you’re having a hard time coming up with ideas, tap your closest friends and family, who would jump at the chance to share all the reasons they feel fortunate to have you in their lives.

3. Try new places

"Once a week, find a coffee shop or a restaurant you've never been to and invite at least one friend to go with you," says Mary Jo Rapini, a psychotherapist and author of Re-Coupling: A Couple’s 4 Step Guide to Greater Intimacy and Better Sex, who gives this assignment to all of her clients who are working on healing from heartbreak. That helps you break up your usual routine and get away from the places that you’d always go to with your former partner.

4. Lean on your network

After a breakup is the perfect opportunity to spend quality time with good friends you may not have seen as much while you were paired off. If you've neglected your pals or family members, ask them to try out those new places with you or pick back up on traditions you had that may have fallen by the wayside. It's hard to wallow when you're making new memories with people who love you.

5. Avoid going after a rebound

There's a reason why they're a cliche: rebounds offer a quick boost that’ll make you feel sexy or worthwhile, temporarily. But once that high wears off, you may just feel guilty, according to Rapini. "A lot of my clients express remorse after a rebound because their investment was superficial while other people put their feelings on the line," she says.

6. Don't get bangs

Look, we get it. You want to do something drastic when your relationship ends, but step away from the scissors (or whatever your coping mechanism of choice might be). When you make impulsive decisions, it means you’re trying to find a way to avoid feeling those painful emotions that come with losing someone you loved. "Acknowledge the hurt and understand that being a responsible person means dealing with it," Rapini says. "Be willing to go into the pain."

7. Take a (realistic) walk down memory lane

When your mind eventually wanders and you start reminiscing about all the good times you two had, you’re likely forgetting to factor in the bad parts. (You know, the petty fights, lifestyle differences and pointless squabbles that characterize every relationship). "Your first thought may be 'Oh, that vacation was so perfect.' Remind yourself of how you two didn't speak for 24 hours because you had an argument on the plane ride there," says Winch. "Remind yourself that you would start every trip so anxious because your partner never got to the airport on time. In other words, make it a point to introduce the negative stuff, because your mind will only reinforce the positive. Keep the picture real." Remembering what the whole relationship was really like can help you seek a new situation that doesn't have the same downsides.

8. Write down all of their negative qualities

Mom told you if you don’t have anything nice to say then ... well, you know the rest. But we know she'd make an exception just this one time. Go ahead, indulge your inner mean girl for a minute. "Compile a list of all the ways this person wasn't good for you," recommends Winch. "Think of every annoying quality they possessed as well as all the compromises you had to make in the relationship. Keep that list on your phone so you can refer back to it whenever you start thinking they were so perfect. It’s natural to idealize both the person and the relationship." Keeping the qualities that drive you batty will help you take off rose-colored glasses when seeking a new beau, too.

9. Do a social media detox

Especially if you share a lot of mutual friends, unfollowing your former partner isn’t enough to cleanse the timeline of their presence. If you don't want to be bombarded by their face whenever you log on, limit your social media use until the wound heals a bit. Of course, that doesn’t mean the urge to peek at their profile will go away completely. "Think of things you can 'check up' on whenever you have the compulsion to scope out their online activity," suggests Rapini. "Check on your friend who is overwhelmed with a new baby or call your parents."

10. Don't give in to the urge to gossip

While you’re doing everything you can to create distance, your well-meaning friends may be tempted to pass along any juicy gossip about what your ex is up to. Even though it might feel like scratching an itch in the moment, fixating on them won't help you move on. So be proactive and let your network know that you don't want to know and it’s best if they keep the dirt to themselves.

11. Let go of the idea of “closure”

We all know real life doesn’t play out like a rom-com, but you may find yourself wishing you experienced a dramatic break-up even if you didn't. Unfortunately what tends to happen more often IRL is that two people slowly drift apart, and after the split, one of you is left wondering, why?? Instead of beating yourself up looking for answers, it's healthier (and better for your long-term mental health) to realize and accept that you just weren't the perfect match for each other. If the other person isn’t able to articulate why they no longer want to be with you, tell yourself that the fact that your former partner couldn't go the distance is all the explanation you need to properly close that chapter. "The subtext of those explanations are "I deserve someone who can commit,' 'I deserve someone who can love me enough' and 'I deserve somebody who appreciates everything about me.'"

12. Realize you aren't getting back together

Lots of times, people who tell themselves they're fixating on closure are actually looking for another chance. "There’s this fantasy that if you just keep asking, you’ll discover something that will allow you to undo what happened and get back together with that person," offers Winch. But most of the time, that's not going to happen and even more of the time, it's not a good idea anyway. The sooner you let go of that idea, the sooner you can heal. And this should go without saying, but resist the urge to hook up with your ex. Nothing good will come of that (trust us).

13. Focus on things that help you feel grounded

So maybe you can’t bear to go to that spin class where everyone knows you as half of "Amy and John," but that doesn’t mean everything healthy you did together has to go out the window. If you two loved a particular fitness class, activity or h0bby, you can still take solace in it solo (but maybe switch times so you don't run into your ex at the gym or studio). "I find that some people give up activities like attending church or volunteering because it was something they did with their partner," says Rapini. "What you really should be doing is trying new experiences as well as continuing the activities that support your core values. It’s all about balance."

14. Feel your feelings

Getting dumped hurts; no two ways about it. But as those of us who have tried to eat, shop or drown our feelings know it doesn't work. Instead, let yourself stew a little. Acknowledge that you're hurting and that it'll pass. But the key word here is "a little." Set a timer for 10 minutes or so and let yourself really wallow. After the timer goes off, do something that feels good like going for a walk, reading a great book or taking a relaxing bath to remind yourself that you're worth it.

15. Take a break from dating if you need to

Nobody gets over a breakup at the same rate, so don't beat yourself up if it takes you some time. Conversely, if you're ready to hop right back on the apps, that's fine too! Don't force it, either way. The same way rebound dating can hurt if you aren't ready, wading back into serious partner-seeking can backfire too.

16. Consider therapy

Even the strongest support network needs reinforcements now and then. If you're finding that your post-breakup blues are interfering with your life, aren't lifting as quickly as bad feelings normally do or you just want to talk it out with an objective third party, therapy could be the ticket. There's strength in seeking help.

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