Breaking up is hard to do
Breakups hurt, and they can take more time than most of us would like to admit to get over. While there’s nothing wrong with taking all the time you need to heal, there is a myriad of things you should not do while on that road to healing, according to relationship experts. “Because of the swirling of emotions and intensity of them, it is critical to react to the breakup in purposeful and healthy ways,” notes marriage and family therapist, Dr Juliana Morris. “Avoid unhealthy coping skills, as even though they may bring temporary relief and release, it will not be permanent and often adds new problems to the emotional roller coaster you are on.” Here’s a look at the things you should never do to get over a breakup.
Don’t beg for another chance
Of course, you miss your ex and may still be in shock about the breakup, but getting over a breakup means not pleading for a do-over. “If you feel compelled to do so, examine your motivation,” says psychotherapist, Jonathan Alpert. “Do you miss your ex specifically, or do you miss the idea of having a partner? The two are very different,” he adds.
Don’t call or text
Any contact with your ex reinforces and strengthens your attachment, and impedes your recovery, according to dating coach and author of Exaholics, Dr Lisa Marie Bobby. “An important step in healing is to remove your ex from your physical and digital world,” she says. Aim to go at least 30 days without contacting your ex if you want to start getting over a breakup. Thirty days will become 40, then 50… and by then, chances are you’ll be feeling much better and have some additional clarity.
Don’t seek revenge
It’s natural to feel the desire to lash out at your ex, directly or indirectly, explains professor of marriage and family therapy, Dr Ili Rivera Walter, but it’s not smart to actually do so. “When those feelings arise, take a deep breath and ask your higher self: 1) Is it worth sitting in the negative energy of revenge? 2) Is revenge consistent with who you want to be? 3) How will this serve me, now, or in the future?” she says. “Revenge is a two-edged sword that can leave feelings of shame and remorse.”
Don’t date (or marry!) the next person you meet
With revenge still on the mind, and in the heart, it’s very easy to want to replace the missing limb but resist, advises relationship and etiquette expert, April Masini. “After a painful breakup, being single for a while is the best way to ensure that your next relationship is not impulsive, haphazard and doomed for a repeat breakup,” she says. “Take some time to process what happened and where things didn’t go as you had hoped – and what you want to do differently next time,” she says.
Don’t overdo it on the partying
Sure, it’s tempting to drown your sorrows to get over a breakup, but that’s a mistake. “Some people are looking for validation that they’re still attractive or sexy,” says author of The Relationship Fix: Dr Jenn’s 6-Step Guide to Improving Communication, Connection & Intimacy, Dr Jenn Mann. But right after a breakup, if you start drinking, flirting or partying, well, all those things are distractions from the grieving process. “If we don’t take time to grieve and don’t work on ourselves, we are doomed in our next relationship,” she says.
Don’t catastrophise it
Breakups are not fun, but they’re also not the end of the world. When times feel tough, Morris recommends giving yourself a little tough love. “Don’t let the intensity of the feelings make you start doubting yourself, using ‘never’ statements and swearing off dating and love ‘forever,’” Morris says. “It is hard and heart-breaking but you will get over it and move on and you will soon feel better.”
Don’t avoid the pain
To get over a breakup, you may try to avoid your hurt and pain because it’s just too devastating. But you can’t recover from the relationship when you avoid it. Morris warns not to tamp down or avoid your feelings. “Do not expect your emotions to happen in some kind of organised, cookie-cutter way – they will arise at unexpected and perhaps inconvenient times and ways,” she says. “Allow the range of sadness, hurt, anger, frustration, celebration, fear, even hate come to you; face them, experience them and move through them.”
Don’t take to social media
After the breakup, Walter suggests taking an hour or two to ‘break up’ digitally. This includes switching passwords on any social media platforms your ex may have known, closing down any joint accounts, and removing stored phone numbers. “Keeping tabs on your ex on social media will keep you stuck in emotional turmoil much longer than necessary,” she says. “Make a clean break as soon as possible, and set yourself free.”
Don’t kiss and tell
When it comes to bad-mouthing your ex, zip it. That’s not the right move for getting over a breakup. “Trash talk reflects more on you than it does on your ex,” says Masini. It’s not polite, attractive or productive. “It drags you down into the mud when what you need is to rise above.” Even though you’re hurting, try to be the bigger person by staying silent about your ex. The exception to the rule? You can, of course, confide in your close friends and family.
Don’t beat yourself up
Don’t be too hard on yourself when you’re getting over a breakup, advises Dr Guy Winch. “Remember that your ego and self-esteem are already hurting – don’t make it worse,” says Winch. “Be as compassionate toward yourself as you would be to a friend whose heart had just been broken,” he says. If you are struggling to move on, or wish for some outside clarity from someone who doesn’t know your ex, consider talking with a therapist.
Don’t stay home
It’s so easy to wallow in self-pity and check your phone every 30 seconds hoping your ex will text, begging to start fresh. However, many experts believe keeping yourself busy is a great way to get over a breakup. “Find at least two, and up to five, things that you can do every single day for yourself that make you feel great, and that help you fill your time,” says dating expert, Bonny Albo. “Keeping busy, even if it is a bit cliché, does help, and soon enough you’ll have so many new things going on that you truly love and are passionate about, you won’t even have time to think about your ex.”
Don’t lose sight of who you are as an individual
Embrace your ‘me’ time, and cultivate your interests as an individual, as you gradually move on from the relationship. “After you regroup from the loss, have fun in your singleness and learn to establish yourself without the relationship. Take a class to enhance yourself as a person,” says Dr Felicia Pressley. “Now’s the time to learn a new language, join a swim club, or cook – solo.” Perhaps you’ll meet a new friend or a love interest in your yoga, cooking, or kickboxing class!
Don’t neglect any responsibility
No one wants to feel like it was their fault that a relationship perished, but the reality is that relationships are a two-way street. “Although the other person may be mainly at fault, they are not solely responsible for the end of the relationship,” says Morris. Consider examining your part in the breakup to help you figure out what lessons you can take away from it all. Instead of blaming the other person and quickly moving on, marriage and family therapist, David Klow, recommends doing a self-assessment and learning about your role in relationships.
Don’t be a hater
At the end of the day, your ex is a human who is trying to figure out their own life. Release yourself from pain and resentment. “You don’t have to wish rainbows and a hot new romantic partner to your ex, but tap into the love you have for that person and use that goodness to help you move into happiness yourself,” says Morris. This positive energy will be useful for your healing too.
Don’t turn to alcohol or other substances
“Any external coping mechanism, such as the over-use of food, drugs, alcohol or sex, only numbs the emotional pain of the breakup,” warns Walter. “Substance use also goes hand-in-hand with additional risks, such as potential criminal charges, increased substance dependence, sexually transmitted infections and victimisation, among others.”
Don’t see the relationship as a failure
We all fall for a person for different reasons. Just because it didn’t work out doesn’t mean it was a giant mistake. “If you connected to this person, were vulnerable enough to connect in a way where you felt loved and gave love, it was not a failure,” says Morris. “See the purpose and need for the relationship to be completed and how it served you as much as was needed.”
Don’t start a restricting diet
Unless this is a diet you were planning on trying before the breakup, why start it now? “You’ll only binge later to make up for the kilojoules that you’re depriving yourself of now,” says sex therapist and author of Getting the Sex You Want, Dr Tammy Nelson. “Now is not the time for deprivation. Instead, you deserve something sweet.”
Don’t over idolise your ex
In acute relationship withdrawal, it’s easy to over idealise your ex and focus solely on the positive parts of the relationship, explains Bobby. But she warns that this is a big mistake. “All relationships are a mixed bag, and at the very least… you loved a person who did not love you back the same way,” she says. “Remind yourself that love and attraction are complex and just because your ex didn’t feel the same way about you does not mean you’re not worthy of love and respect.”
Don’t jet off somewhere spontaneously
“It might be tempting to jump on a plane and take some time in some romantic-sounding citadel exploring beach resort, but exploring the jungle is not a good way to heal,” says Nelson. This only distracts you for so long until you’re back at home. In other words, it only delays the healing temporarily. “Stay home and watch documentaries instead – you’ll avoid having to get shots and waking up without your mosquito netting,” she says.
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