The end of a relationship can feel devastating, especially if you still love the person. Maybe you weren’t the one who initiated it and you weren’t expecting it, or you and your partner still care for each other but just know it’s right. Regardless of who broke up with whom or if it was a mutual decision, losing a romantic partner — someone who you probably spent much of your time with, who perhaps you shared a life with, or who at least made you feel seen in some way — can be destabilizing.
Everyone will have their own process for moving on, but if you’re struggling on the journey right now, here are a few helpful tips to make the recovery a bit easier. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to healing from a breakup, so take what speaks to you from this list and leave the rest.
1. Allow yourself to grieve and have compassion for yourself.
It’s okay to be sad. And it’s okay to be sad for what feels like a long time.
People often judge themselves for not bouncing back quickly enough from a breakup, especially when the relationship ended on a sour note or when they were the one who ended things. But no matter how the split went down, breakups can represent a loss — and thereby are often followed by a period of grief and mourning, just like any other loss.
“Let yourself feel all the emotions," dating coach Diana Dorell told Elite Daily. "Denial is a part of the grieving process, and the end of a relationship really can feel like a death of sorts. Trying to skip over how you feel or distracting yourself from your feelings is only a temporary solution."
It’s also important to recognize that, as with any grieving process, healing is not a straight-line upward trajectory. You may grieve, feel better for a month and think you’re all better, and then experience a trigger that puts you back into the grieving process. Have compassion for yourself through the ebbs and flows of your feelings.
Here are a few helpful post-breakup mantras recommended by psychotherapist Alyssa “Lia” Mancao, LCSW.
2. Externalize your thoughts.
Talk to your friends, family, therapist, or another trusted person about what you’re experiencing. You can also journal about your thoughts and feelings as you process. The point is to externalize your thoughts, whether through talking or writing, so the same ideas aren’t continually swirling through your head. Just seeing the words on paper can be cathartic, as can having a thorough processing session with someone you trust to really explore all the questions, realizations, and reflections you’re likely having as you move through the breakup.
In this stage, it’s important to simply focus on what you’re feeling now rather than theorizing what you could have done differently to save the relationship. Later, when decompressing the “what happened” question, you might choose to look at the relationship as a learning experience, considering the behaviors or actions that might not have served you or your partner so you know not to repeat the patterns in the future.
3. Find resources and communities to connect with.
Going through a breakup can feel isolating — but it doesn’t have to be. There are so many resources, self-help books, post break-up YouTube videos, communities, and forums to access where other people going through a breakup can connect, offer post-breakup advice, or just commiserate. Just knowing you’re not alone can help provide some relief.
Here are just a few books, podcasts, and forums out there meant to support those going through a breakup.
- Hard To Do: The Surprising, Feminist History of Breaking Up by Kelli Korducki
- All About Love: New Visions by bell hook
- salt. By Nayyirah Waheed
- You Always Change the Love of Your Life by Amalia Andrade
- Alone: A love story by Michelle Parise
- The Bounce Back podcast by Laura Yates
- Modern Love: The Podcast, filled with short audio stories of love and loss
- Rx break up, a free app with a 30-day guide for getting through a breakup
- Mend, a mental health app with courses all about heartbreak
- No Contact Rule, a simple app that helps you avoid texting your ex
If you are coming out of an abusive relationship, there are even more specific resources to help you heal. There are support groups for survivors, Meetups, therapists who specialize in this area, and other tools providing steps on what to do to move on after experiencing abuse or toxicity.
4. Acknowledge why the relationship ended.
When you’re hurting from a breakup, feeling confused, or destabilized, it can be easy to gloss over “why” things ended if you still love the person. You might find yourself instead focusing on a highlight reel of all the good moments of the relationship. While there’s no reason to demonize your ex, it is important to check in with yourself and be honest about the reasons it didn’t work out. Sometimes, making a list of reasons it wasn’t right can be a good visual reminder to keep yourself grounded.
If the relationship was emotionally damaging or traumatic, acknowledge the ways you were hurt by it. In these situations, you might have felt gaslit or your feelings minimized. Talking to a therapist can be an effective way to dig deep into what really happened and to create a strong narrative about how you were impacted. A therapist, trusted friend, or family member can then help you find ways to rebuild the parts of you that were hurt most through the relationship.
5. Practice the no-contact rule.
The no-contact rule is simple: Don’t text your ex, don’t interact with them on social media, don’t call them, and don’t meet up with them. Cut off all contact with this person, at least for a little while. Additionally, try not to look at photos or videos of them. Put away other visual reminders you may have lying around.
While completely shutting off communication with a person you still love might seem harsh, it can be a necessary step for both of you to really internalize that the relationship is over and to make peace with it.
Importantly, the no-contact rule should not be used to try to get your ex back. “Despite what some people will tell you on the internet, no contact is not particularly effective for getting an ex back,” dating coach Monica Parikh wrote in a mindbodygreen article. “Attempting to use the no-contact rule this way may be a sign that you have your own inner work to do that's a barrier to your relationship working. This strategy can also be unhealthy for you because it keeps you psychologically attached to a past relationship, slowing down your healing process.”
6. Reconnect with yourself.
No matter how much you might have liked or loved this person, remember that your life doesn’t revolve around any one person or any one relationship. The period after a breakup is a great time to reconnect with yourself and all the other parts of your life that matter to you, motivate you, and bring you joy.
What are the things that make you feel alive? What goals and dreams do you have for your future? What have you always wanted to do? What activities make you feel creative, or sexy, or just energetic? Lean into those parts of your life. When you’re moving toward the things you love and care about, it becomes easier to recognize how full and exciting your life is — even without your ex.
7. Give yourself a taste of the joys ahead.
While it’s hard to imagine when you’re in the thick of heartbreak, know that this pain will pass eventually. As cliché as it might sound, time really does heal. One day you’ll wake up and realize you haven’t thought about your ex in quite a while, and when you do think of them, it won’t hurt quite as much as it used to. One day, too, you’ll also feel the bubbling feelings of romantic thrill around another person again.
Find ways of tapping into the pleasure that’s surely waiting for you on the other side of this healing process. Go out with your friends. Flirt with a stranger on the train if you’re feeling it. Schedule a vacation and take bomb selfies. Lean into a new crush.
It’s okay if, for some time, that joy is punctuated with moments of sadness. Just make sure to give yourself those small moments to remind yourself that you’re still capable of feeling happy and that there’s a ton of good things ahead of you when you’re ready to receive them.
How long does it take to get over a breakup?
There’s no set time for how long it takes to get over a breakup. It will be different for everyone depending on personality type, how long the two of you were together, how the relationship ended, how much closure you got, and many other factors. One informal 2017 survey found Americans take an average of about six months to get over a serious relationship, while other research suggests some people feel better about a breakup in as little as 10 weeks. No matter what the studies say, however, the process and timeline is different for everyone. It could take one week, it could take three years. Hopefully, doing the active work to move on, however, will lessen the time it takes to get over an ex.
The bottom line.
Getting over a breakup is often not easy, especially if you still love the person. But with time, you’ll get there. Remember to take baby steps, give yourself a lot of patience and self-compassion, and connect with people who can lift you up and support you in your darkest moments. Most importantly, maintain hope! There are brighter things ahead for you.