Getting over a break up in 9 healthy steps.
For most people, getting over a break up looks like it will take an eternity. For many of my patients getting over a break up meant eating unhealthy, listening to sad songs, using reminders like pictures and letters to retrieve wonderful memories, and isolation from others. In many cases, this is a great recipe for depression, I’d say. Unfortunately, getting over a break up is mainly a mental process and requires some time and effort. However, if you follow these nine steps to getting over a break up, things won’t have to be that difficult. As you will see, getting over a break up is more about Not doing things, rather than doing things.
If getting over a break up is too difficult for you, please contact us for a first, free of charge, session. We can coach you through this process. (Depending on your health insurance, treatment may be reimbursed).
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1. Put hope to bed.
When it comes to dealing with a break up, hope is your most lethal and addictive drug. the worst imaginable drug. Getting over a break up is impossible if you somehow hope to get back together with your now ex-partner. However, this is easier said than done, as killing hope is the first and most important step towards recovery. It’s important to realize why your relationship ended, but perhaps more importantly, is to stop thinking of the nice memories the two of you had. Like in every relationship, you will have experienced enjoyable and fun activities, but this will also be the case in your next relationship. People have the tendency to idealize people and memories from the past, it’s somehow easier to remember the fun things and ignore the negative things. This can be dangerous for you. So accept those memories as memories and don’t use them to convince yourself that there might be chance to get back together.
2. Avoid contact with your ex.
By keeping in touch with your ex, I can guarantee that getting over a break up will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. It’s common to continue keep on sleeping with your ex once in a while, or to talk about nice memories. And perhaps you and your ex stay in touch simply because saying goodbye is too painful or because being alone is too difficult. But staying in touch is the easy way out and has nothing to do with getting over a break up. The most effective way to move on is simply by terminating all contact, or when you can’t avoid your partner due to work or education, keeping the biggest distance possible. This means no eye contact, no hugging, no small talk. Remove them from Facebook, Twitter, and everything else. All their posts will bring back memories and that is something you want to avoid. At the same time, it can become more and more difficult for you to be out of touch with your ex when you are emotionally weak. If you do feel the urge to get in touch with them, then write it down on a paper (and throw the paper away) or call your best friend. For some people it’s even good to ‘relax’ a bit to get the other out of the system. For some people it’s important to switch their phones off when they are drunk, as they may send messages to their ex partners.
But can’t we stay friends? The chances that you and your ex-partner can stay friends without benefits and without certain feelings (and without negatively affecting your future relationships) are very, very slim. I wouldn’t even risk it, because staying in touch with your ex will make it incredibly difficult to move on and find a new partner.
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3. Erase or neutralize reminders.
For many patients it’s very difficult to forget about their ex-partner because of all the reminders everywhere. From pictures and certain songs to favourite dishes and restaurants, to favourite movies, habits, and certain scents. Every single reminder can throw you back down memory lane and make you feel sad again. Erasing and neutralizing reminders will help you in getting over a break up faster, because there will be less to bring you back to your past relationship and its memories. Sometimes erasing reminders can feel wasteful, such as holiday pictures or gifts. Others are impossible to erase, such as songs and locations. But you can neutralize them. Listen to ‘your favourite songs’ a lot on different locations and in the presence of others, visit locations with others, erase certain habits or start doing them with others. Why is this effective? Right now you associate songs, dishes, locations, and so on with your ex-partner and this brings back memories. By adding new experiences in combination with these songs, locations, and so on, your brain makes the memory of you and your ex-partner (for example at that restaurant) less strong and less important.
4. Crying is okay.
Crying is a way to get rid of feelings of grief, sadness and other painful emotions. People usually feel better after crying for a while. Repressing emotions will make you cranky, more quickly annoyed and will make you experience more negative emotions throughout the day. If you repress your feelings too much, you will have an emotional break down at times and place inappropriate. This could be at a party, in the office or while shopping for food. You don’t want that! A good idea is to meet with your close friend, parents or put on a good movie and allow your tears to come along with the rest of your emotions. A piece of advice for those who have trouble crying: the moment you feel a little bit of emotion boiling up: stop talking, close your eyes and think of the most painful memory you have of the break up. And allow yourself to feel it. You can probably feel the tears behind your eyes… all you have to do is let them flow.
5. Restore your social life.
Feeling down after a break up is normal. But do not drown in your own sadness. Make sure you see your friends regularly and show up at social activities. Do not isolate yourself. Getting over a break up is not something you can do all by yourself, because you will always be accompanied by your memories. Isolation leads to inactivity and that may lead to more symptoms of depression. I know it is hard to get yourself together and go out, but trust me it will make time pass faster and eventually make you enjoy life more and more. But, do not rush to all the parties and other social activities just because it makes you temporarily forget about your ex. Unfortunately, this simply does not work. As said before, getting over a break up requires time and effort, and sedating yourself with distractions doesn’t stop you from processing what happened.
6. Don’t sedate yourself with a rebound.
A rebound is nothing more than a distraction from your emotions in regards to your ex. The moment you have a rebound, you’ll see that you simply suppress those feelings accompanied with your previous partner, and that the whole getting over a break up process comes to a halt. And in the end, you will break up with your rebound and you’ll find yourself in the same place as you were before. For most people, a rebound is nothing more than a way to sedate yourself. It makes you feel good for a while, but the moment the sedative stops working, you feel even worse than before. Allow yourself to get over your ex before you start dating again. And if you do think you met someone special, take it slow so you don’t overwhelm yourself (and be honest to that new person about your previous relationship… communication is so important).
7. Stop torturing yourself.
‘What if….?’ ‘Why didn’t I…?’ and other questions are perfect torture tools for those who are dealing with a break up. People want to learn from their mistakes and analyse where things went wrong. This is very good, but do not torture yourself with ‘what if’ questions, because you will never find out. Such questions only make you feel more miserable and stop the process of getting over a break up, rather than speeding it up. On top of that, you probably blame yourself for much more than you actually should. Instead of torturing yourself, accept that this relationship wasn’t meant to be and that you have learned from it.
8. Talk about it with a good friend.
Talk about your feelings, your experiences and about all the negative things about your ex. Analyse your relationship and ask for your friend’s honest opinion about it. People usually sugar coat their relationship in the beginning, so having an honest friend to take away all that sugar coating can be very helpful. It may open your eyes a lot sooner compared to if you had to do it all by yourself. Allow your friend to cheer you up and be there for you, and by all means do not disregard your friend’s opinion because it hurts your feelings. This necessary a part of letting go of your past relationship and accepting that the process of getting over a break up is examining and discussing all the bad stuff. If you feel the need to defend your relationship or your ex-partner, take a step back and think about where those feelings are coming from. Starting conflict with a close friend will only isolate you more and make getting over a break up even harder.
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9. Write a letter to your ex without sending it.
Most people still have many unresolved issues with their ex-partner. They may wish to share their feelings or tell them what a horrible person they are. Please, don’t keep these feelings in, because it will make you feel worse over time. Instead, allow yourself to write it all up in a letter. Write a letter to your ex in which you say everything you need to: about sex, about their habits, behaviours, friends and family. And when you are finished writing it, throw away the letter or burn it.
Please, do not contact your partner or send it to your partner, because you will only provide a window for your partner to get in touch with you again and this will only slow down the process.
Getting over a break up can be a long and intense process, but by there are a lot of things you can do to speed it up.
Hoping for a last chance, hoping that your ex-partner will return to you, slows down the recovery process and could even make it impossible for you to move on. Therefor it’s important to put hope to bed and accept that the relationship is over. If it’s too difficult to accept that the relationship is over, then try to avoid contact with your ex-partner. Try to avoid calling or seeing him/her, and if that’s impossible, try to avoid eye contact and reduce the time spend with your ex. By avoiding contact with your ex-partner, it becomes easier to get your ex-partner out of your mind.
Sometimes it’s difficult to stop thinking of your ex, because there are so many things to remind you of your ex-partner. An effective way to reduce the impact of these reminders is to erase/destroy or neutralize them (songs, for instance) by exposing yourself to them for a long time in different situations and circumstances. For some people exposing themselves to such reminders causes them to cry and makes them feel sad and depressed. But crying is okay. Crying is a way to get rid of your negative emotions. You’ll see that you’ll feel better after crying over nice memories.
Feelings of sadness and depression are pretty normal when people are trying to get over a break up. Most people feel like withdrawing and staying at home, but by isolating yourself you won’t feel better. Therefor it’s important to restore your social life. Go out and meet up with friends and acquaintances. Make new friends and try to distract yourself a lot. But be aware, don’t sedate yourself with a rebound. A rebound lifts your mood and is a great distraction, but it won’t help you to getting over a break up. Instead, talk about your recent relationship with a good friend. But don’t torture yourself with all these “what if”-questions, because they won’t make you feel any better about yourself. Turning to a friend can make you feel a lot better, and if that isn’t enough consider writing your ex-partner a letter about the way you experienced the relationship, without sending it of course.
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