The pain of the end of a romantic relationship can be chaotic and leaves so much space for a lot of us to feel lonely and lost. After a breakup, the new identity of just being a “me” after having lived as an “us” is painful.
While once fused with another, our brains literally wired together and separated only by our skin, we are now missing a former part of ourselves. That is both the beautiful gift and the curse of deeply loving another person. The pain is a sign of how much love there was, and there is so much beauty in that. But there are things you can do to make your journey after a breakup one of healing.
Here are 9 ways to heal after a breakup:
1. Don’t think in terms of success or failure.
A successful relationship is not about its length of time but how good of a partner you were. Many romantic relationships should end, and that’s often a good thing.
2. Don’t do a lot of creeping.
Fully let go, which means leaving the relationship psychologically as well as physically. If you are still in pain after a breakup, don’t go seeking out their social media. This keeps your ex still psychologically very present in your life.
3. Stay open to the hurt, and don’t avoid the pain and residual feelings.
You are wounded. We don’t treat emotional wounds with the same respect as physical wounds. (Your boss will better understand the special needs of a broken leg than a broken heart, for instance.) But you need to. Ask for what you need, and honor that you do have an injury.
4. Self-care is important.
Focus on truly nourishing and healing activities after a breakup. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercise and lots of socialization with friends. Self-care is sometimes misunderstood and does not include doing things that deplete you.
5. Learn from it.
Prior relationships can show patterns and problematic relational capacities we have. Looking back at our flaws is how we can learn to be better next time.
6. Don’t bash your ex or let your friends bash your ex.
Endless conversations about how shitty they were only keeps you trapped and feeling bad. Also, leave your hurt feelings off your social media. Not only will this not heal you after a breakup, it markets you as someone who can’t handle their hurt feelings.
7. Don’t shy away from dating and sex.
8. Hold space for a future relationship of some kind.
Maybe you romantically get back together, maybe not. But friendship with a romantic ex is a gift. You get to maintain and have in your life all the non-romantic things you valued in each other. It’s a sign of health to be friends with exes, because it shows you know how to leave romance with integrity.
9. The pain of ending a romantic relationship is not an excuse for bad behavior.
Lovingly work your way out, the way you worked your way in, and take care of yourself. Fold new people and exciting things into your life to replace some of the hurt and loneliness.
How have you helped yourself heal after a breakup? Sound off in the comments.
Dr. Chris Donaghue is a lecturer, therapist and host of the LoveLine podcast, a weekly expert on The Amber Rose Show, and a frequent co-host on TV series The Doctors. He authored the book Sex Outside the Lines: Authentic Sexuality in a Sexually Dysfunctional Culture and has been published in various professional journals and top magazines, including The New York Times, Newsweek, Cosmo and National Geographic. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
This article was originally published on Nov. 17, 2018