Getting over someone you once or even still love can be very challenging. However, there are scientifically backed ways to help alleviate the heartache and jumping into another relationship is not one of them. Sure it may help take your mind off of your exe, but if there are any unresolved issues within yourself that haven’t been dealt with, you can quickly find yourself living out the same relationship with the same issues, just with a different person. Trust me, I’ve been there.
They say time heals all wounds and science says that is largely true. Give yourself time to get over the relationship. It’s a lot like grieving when someone close to you has died. You wouldn’t expect to get over that very quickly, so why expect any different when it comes to the death of a relationship?
I remember after the end of one of my relationships, I just kept thinking I wanted to get over it and forget about that person right now and for some reason, that only prolonged the process. Don’t stress about it. The day will come when you realize that you haven’t thought about that person in a day, or two or more.
It may feel like it’s taking forever for that day to come, but research suggests that we overestimate the amount of time we think it will take for us to get through the rough patches of a break up.
With that being said, below are some ways to help speed up the recovery process.
Avoid Social Media
Specifically, avoid checking up on your ex on Facebook, Instagram or what have you. Seeing if he or she seems happy, has moved on or is talking about you, will do nothing to help you move on.
A study in the journal Cyber-psychology found that people who checked up on their exes’ Facebook page are more likely to have negative feelings towards the person, more likely to desire the person and less likely to grow from the break up, which should be one of your main goals.
It can be very tempting to just “see what they’ve been up to” but try by all means to avoid falling into that trap, even if that means unfriending, blocking, unfollowing or just avoiding social media all together until you are strong enough.
Avoid The Halo Effect
It’s no uncommon that after a breakup, we start to minimize the negative qualities of the person and the relationship, while amplifying the positive. We can start fooling ourselves into thinking that this person was someone that he or she surely was not. Don’t pretend that your ex was perfect.
Instead, dating expert Andrea Syrtash recommends making a list of five ‘must-haves’ and five ‘can’t-stands’ in a potential partner.
Syrtash recommends making a meaningful list and instead of writing down things like, “Must be over six feet tall and have brown eyes”, try “I must find this person attractive”.
Once you’ve completed this exercise, you might be surprised to find out that none of your exes were truly suitable for you.
When I did this exercise I realized that two of my exes I probably never should have dated seriously because they were missing some major qualities on my “must-have” list. Learning that helped me to start looking for more suitable partners while helping me let go of the idea that any of my exes were right for me and that I was somehow missing out on something with them.
Don’t Assume The Breakup Means You Suck
Your ability to deal with a breakup has a lot to do with the way you see yourself according to a 2016 paper in the journal Personality and Social Psychology.
One of the authors, Lauren Howe, states: “In our research, people reported the most prolonged distress after a romantic rejection when it caused their self-image to change for the worse. People who agreed that the rejection made them question who they really were also reported more often that they were still upset when they thought about the person who had rejected them.”
If however, you have thoughts such as, two people can both be good, descent human-beings and still not workout because they simply don’t belong together, you’re likely to suffer less and move on faster.
Challenge the story you tell yourself regarding what the break up reveals about you.
During one of my breakup I initially told myself that I sucked and didn’t deserve to be happy, but I quickly had to change my narrative by remembering how much of myself I had lost during the relationship (i.e., traveling) and how happier I would be doing those things again and especially if I could find someone to do those things with.
Writing down how you feel about the break up can help, but mostly you need to write about the positives of the break up. What did you learn? How did it help you grow?
After one of my breakups, a good friend of mine asked, “What did you learn from her because she was a very good teacher”. At first I was perplexed, but then I realized what she meant. I had put up with and dealt with a lot of toxic issues in that relationship and some of the most powerful things I’ve learned about relationships came from the pain and suffering I went through in that one.
I had to stop telling myself how much I would miss her and start appreciate how much I enjoyed coming home to peace and not having to walk on egg shells.
A study published in 2015 in the journal Social and Personal Relationships found that writing in a redemptive way about how you turned suffering into a positive experience can help you cope better.
Maybe during the break up you learned to follow your gut instincts, to not settle, to not allow someone to make you feel small or that you are stronger than you ever thought you were.
Write a redemption story! Don’t simply journal about how bad you feel. That will only make you feel worse.
Talk About It
Of course as a therapist I’m going to recommend talking about the breakup, although some people may think that talking about it will only make things worse.
In a study published in 2015 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers found that people who participated in research about their break up by filling out surveys and talking to experimenters reported less distress about the breakup and themselves afterwards.
Simply talking about it with a good friend or even a therapist if needed can help you rebound in a healthy way, so don’t avoid talking about it out of fear that it will keep you stuck.
Breakups suck and sometimes they can be devastating, but they don’t have to leave us feeling shattered, empty or lost for long. Like adjusting to anything new, it takes time and that’s okay.