Breakups are usually a messy business, even if you wanted the relationship to end. People often make the mistake of thinking that breakups are hard for the dumpee, but not hard for the dumper who had a choice in the matter. Ultimately, breakups are hard for the dumpers, too, because ending the relationship involves seriously hurting someone’s feelings.
Regardless of whether you wanted your relationship to end or simply had no say in the decision, there are simple techniques you can follow to help move on. While some may believe that the best way to move on is to find somebody else, it’s actually counterintuitive strategies which are most effective in resolving any problem. You’ll see that most of the techniques below have nothing to do with romance, which means that the best way to move on is to take romance off the proverbial table – at least, for the time being.
Relationships can be great, but they can also be a great distraction from parts of your life that could use equal attention. People cope best after a breakup if they keep focused on clear goals. What’s the alternative to setting clear goals after a breakup? It’s not pretty: Men and women tend to sink into sad, depressed or angry feelings, and they simply don’t move on. The real goal is to feel your feelings after a breakup but not live in them. In other words, take a half-hour during the day to write in your journal or talk to a friend about the breakup. Aside from that, you just have to go on about your day. Sure, the relationship is over, but the rest of your life isn’t!
Take a hiatus from socializing with friends (you shared with your ex).
One of the most tempting but hurtful things you can do after a breakup is to spend time with people who are friends with your ex. Inevitably, you’re going to want to do a little digging or your friends will end up sharing details about what your ex is up to lately. The inevitable drama postpones your moving on. Take a few months off from mutual friends and you will make your life a lot simpler and cleaner.
Set a professional goal.
When you’re in the hot and heavy stage of a relationship, you’re usually not too focused on getting that promotion at work, finding a new job, or taking a class to enhance your professional skills. A breakup actually provides an excellent outlet for you to channel all the weird energy that comes with a split into something positive. Ask yourself what would make you happier professionally, and then write clear instructions that you must follow in order to take your career to the next level. When people ask how you’re feeling after the breakup, say this: “It’s sad and awkward, but now I’m focusing more on my career.”
Reconnect with an old friend or a family member.
Breakups are painful because they trigger a sense of loss. If the relationship was halfway decent, your partner probably also became one of your best friends along the way. (That was always the most painful part for me – losing a friend I’d come to love and depend on.) There is no magic potion to get over the loss of that unique person in your life; it’s a mix of time passing, wisdom, and acceptance that will help you truly move on. Yet non-romantic relationships can be a terrific buffer after a breakup, helping you to feel connected to someone who cares about you and to avoid feeling unnecessarily lonely. Think about the friends you’ve lost touch with over the years, and consider calling one of them to say “hello.” In addition, there may be a family member you haven’t had much time to communicate with recently, and a breakup allows for more time and energy to reconnect. If you reach out to someone to reestablish a bond, you may surprise yourself about how much less lonely you feel afterward.
Take on a significant home project.
It doesn’t matter whether you live in 200 square feet or 5,000: There’s some sort of project you could take on at home that can distract you and help you move on. After a breakup, consider changing the physical scenery in your home for a fresh start. Paint some walls, rearrange furniture, and add a bunch of plants or flowers. If you’re prone to organizing, a breakup is a terrific time to clear out your closets, go through your clothes to get rid of stuff you don’t wear, or embark on a major cleaning spree. If you have an outdoor area, plant things in the garden or create a new area for a table and chairs. The point is to pursue a fresh start emotionally by first pursuing a fresh start in your physical surroundings.
No, none of my suggestions have anything to do with how to find a new romance, but that’s the key: Healing from the end of a relationship requires that you focus on the other parts of your life in order to restore overall balance. Breakups can be awful, but they don’t have to be so bad as long as you remember that all was not lost with the loss of that relationship. You’re still alive, you still have emotional connections that have nothing to do with your ex, and you still have the ability to control your behavior moving forward better than anyone else.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.