How to Get Over a Breakup, According to 13 People Who’ve Been There“I’m becoming more and more my new self every day.”
Whether you’re the one throwing out, “it’s not you, it’s me,” or you’re on the receiving end of that sentiment, breaking up can often feel like a breakdown. Severing ties with someone you once cared for (and maybe still do) can change both the smallest and biggest details of your day-to-day life—like having to get a new Netflix account or a new...place to live. Even if you’re weeks or months past the split, those tough feelings can sneak up on you like your ex’s dad at the UPS store. There should really be a rulebook for how to get over a breakup.
It’s normal to feel a whole lot of hard-to-handle emotions in the aftermath of a breakup. Grief is a big one, says therapist Tina Setteducate, LMFT, coauthor of BreakUp & BreakOut. You’re grieving the loss of a relationship and your potential future together, she explains. You might even be spiraling over whether you’re worthy of love or a healthy relationship. Plus, if you were cheated on or felt your partner never made an effort to treat you how you wanted to be treated, you could be dealing with a sense of betrayal too, Setteducate adds. And, honestly, those are just a few of the most common feels that can come up.
Because nothing is fair, those post-breakup emotions don’t always follow a logical trajectory either. One day, you feel like a 2007 Kelly Clarkson banger; the next, you're on such a deep, deep Adele level that you can't get out of bed.
But even if it takes a while (as in months or years) before you’re over the breakup, the pain will eventually lessen, says Jennifer Klesman, LCSW, author of You Can’t Stay There: Surviving a Breakup One Moment at a Time. “It's going to hurt and hurt and hurt and hurt for a very long time, and then one day it won't,” she assures.
In case you need proof or just some inspo, we asked people on the other side of their breakup grief to share how they got through it.
1. I got the best support from friends.
“I was a mess when we broke up. Worse than I like to admit. I hate thinking back to how devastated I was because it literally felt like I wouldn’t be able to move on ever. I did move on though, and I can attribute that to having great friends. My friends were the people there for me when I was at my lowest, and they helped build me back up.
My biggest piece of advice for people going through breakups is to turn to that support system. It might be tough because sometimes you lose that when you’re in a relationship, but I was lucky enough to have friends who were there for me during the breakup no matter how absent I regrettably was during my relationship.
I think I became whole again because my friends empowered me. I engaged more in school and went out more with friends, and, eventually, I was able to apply for grad school and move to a new town. I promised myself I would never let a man, or anyone for that matter, make me feel that way again.” —Michaela A., 28
2. I moved my body.
“[Before the breakup,] I realized we didn’t have the same values and communication wasn’t there. I was the one who decided to end the relationship, and I think there is a stigma that you can’t be sad if it was your decision. It was more painful than I expected, and I allowed myself that time and sadness to process my decision and the aftermath. I also made sure I talked to my flatmate, and she gave me space to cry and understood that I was hurting.
I find physical movement helps me, so I made sure to carve out time to move my body in whatever way felt good. I did a lot of Pilates from home in my living room, and, for me, it meant that I was concentrating on one thing in front of me, moving each part of my body, and focusing on my senses. It allowed me to switch off in that moment, as I couldn’t think about anything else. Initially it was a distraction, but now I take a class most days, and it sets me up for the day. It gives me an hour to myself and teaches me to be gentle with myself regardless of what is going on around me!” —Kate D., 30
3. I started doing things by myself.
“I ended the relationship because, although we loved each other, we were bad for each other. Even though we both tried, we were mentally better apart than together. Doing things by myself—going to movies by myself, traveling by myself—taught me how to gain independence. I also learned that I don’t need to rely on someone for my own happiness. Instead of using someone else to make me happy, I had to learn how to help myself. Now, I travel to different places all over the world, and I’ve made closer connections to my friends.” —Annie B., 20
4. I remembered why we weren’t a fit.
“I wouldn't necessarily recommend this one to everyone, especially if the breakup happened on good terms, but one of the things that helped me was thinking about all of the bad memories. Those helped me remember why she wasn't the type of person I wanted to be with. Sure she was good on paper, but she wasn't a good girlfriend or even a good friend to people in general. If I caught myself feeling sad or missing her, I’d try to remember the reasons why we broke up.” —Andrew S., 27
5. I took time to focus on healing in different ways.
“I used to be the type of person who would immediately get into a new relationship as a coping mechanism to get over the previous relationship. During the pandemic, I learned how to truly heal and recover from my breakups. I went to therapy for the first time to talk about what I experienced and to face both my actions and my exes' actions. I learned how to heal from breakups from books like All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks and Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After by Katherine Woodward Thomas. I found solace in hearing from experts who studied love and relationships, which made me feel less alone. I listened to podcast episodes about love and healing, my favorite being On Purpose with Jay Shetty. Finally, I leaned into nurturing my mind-body connection through meditation and exercise, like long-distance running, yoga, and boxing, to get one step closer to healing from my breakups.
Each modality allowed me to move forward in a different way. Physical exercise gave me the strength to feel powerful, meditation calmed my mind, books gave me the knowledge of what I was experiencing, podcasts humanized my pain and made me feel hopeful, and therapy gave me tools to process the trauma and prepare for a healthier future.” —Caitlin N., 26
6. Therapy let me heal.
“My therapist taught me how to love myself. I spent much of my life wrapping my identity around my romantic partners without realizing it was codependent behavior. She taught me about boundaries, which was so foreign to me. Unfortunately, I didn't have a great example from my parents’ marriage, so I learned I had a certain threshold for vulnerability in my relationships and kept choosing emotionally unavailable people. I kept choosing what I thought I deserved. But my therapist helped me pick up the pieces to regain my confidence and self-worth. I'm forever grateful to her.” —Jenn P., 31
7. I cut off communication with my ex.
“I was distraught after breaking up, but I still had my final NCAA Championship in a week, so I basically bottled it up and spent time with friends and teammates. After the NCAAs, I was staying with my grandparents, where I just completely fell apart. I was in tears for hours, but my grandmother was so helpful and listened to me. However, once I found out that my ex had gotten together with someone only two weeks after we broke up, I was distraught all over again.
After briefly texting with my ex, only to basically be told the breakup was my fault even though he was the one who dumped me, I made the decision to block him on social media for my own peace of mind. I also deleted some photos of us together so I wouldn’t be tempted to look back at old memories and feel sad.
With social media, I feel like there’s this expectation that you need to keep following people or else it shows unkindness or animosity. However, I learned that couldn’t be further from the truth. You are in control of the content you want to see from others. And if what you’re seeing doesn’t bring you joy or deflates your self-worth and makes you question your own value, it doesn’t belong in your feed.” —Sierra
8. I took time before I got back out there.
“Getting over my breakup after spending years with my ex was a process. Especially with today’s level of connectedness on social media, it almost feels like a race to be OK before you see them with someone new. So, setting boundaries on Instagram was a must. Relying on friends and family to cry and vent to was also a huge part of the process, as was talking to people who have experienced loss and pain in relationships.
But, the most important part was making time to heal. It gave me a deeper understanding of myself and what I really value in a relationship. And after slowly trying out the dating world again, I realized that there’s a better match out there for me.” —Adam S., 29
9. I turned to my support system.
“We had broken up previously because he cheated. When we got back together, he treated me even worse than before he cheated, so I finally built up the courage to leave. I self-sabotaged for a long time, but, in the end, it was spending time with people who made me feel loved and secure that helped bring me out of a really dark place.” —Lauren G., 28
10. I had to feel my feelings.
“One important thing for me was that I knew I needed to just feel it. I knew I needed to let it all go. So I had crying sessions. I would make a playlist of sad songs, songs I knew would hurt like hell, and just cry. I’d cry for around an hour and scream the lyrics. I feel like it helped me to not bottle it up, and that helped the anger go away instead of toward the people who didn't deserve it. And it also helped me process the loss and accept it.
With time, there was an organic progression from very sad breakup songs to more empowering breakup songs. It took me a month to truly say, ‘OK, this hurts, but I am going to be fine.’” —Andrea A., 24
11. Journaling helped a lot.
“We had broken up before because of different religious beliefs and because he had anxiety and depression that he didn’t want to recognize or deal with, and so his solution was to break up. But then he realized he wanted to be back together. The final time he said he really wanted to try it again, it took everything in me to say no.
I journaled my heart out, whether it was an angry rant, a confession of my love or how depressed I felt, or even letters to him. All you want to do is talk with them, so writing to them helps you process what happened and how you feel about it. Writing a love letter to yourself—identifying all you deserve and are looking for—gives you hope for a future relationship (if you want one).
I had journaled before sporadically but not on a consistent basis. Journaling this time felt easier because I felt like I had so much I wanted to say that I didn’t get to. Releasing my emotions helped me to separate them from myself. I realized this is how I feel and what I think about what just happened; those feelings and thoughts are not me and don’t define me as a person.” —Molly, 24
12. I got the professional help I needed.
“We were both alcoholics. I was ready to quit and she wasn’t. I began my road to sobriety and reached out to behavioral health help through my insurance. I got on antidepressants, joined AA, and took a two-month leave of absence from work. That was back in November 2021. I had a manic episode in December of that year, where I didn’t sleep for 10 days and ended up hospitalized. After this, I was put on antipsychotic medications [for my bipolar disorder], and it took five months to feel better. I used alcohol and marijuana to self-medicate, but therapy taught me how these drugs actually made my condition worse.
Getting sober made me realize how addiction can keep you in a toxic relationship and that I need to love myself before I can be in a healthy relationship. Learning that was key to not going back to my ex, as much as it hurt. Her drinking couldn’t be my downfall.” —Karina Q., 38
13. I gave myself space to rediscover who I was.
“After going through something as traumatic as a breakup with an abuser, recovery may seem impossible. You’re left with so many unanswered questions, a shattered self-esteem, and a skewed sense of reality.
After my last breakup, I’ve actually leaned into spirituality, like meditation, aura cleanses, sageing, and so on. In my experience, I needed time by myself to relearn who I was, to heal, to rebuild, and to grow. This may be one of the most important steps post breakup, in my experience.
I think I’m still learning who I am, TBH. I’m still actively healing, but I’m becoming more and more my new self every day. And I think my new self is a mixture of the old pre-relationship me, but I’m just stronger and wiser and more self-aware now. I know and truly understand my worth is not determined by how someone treats me. And I know I will never again give a person so much power that they have the ability to completely break me.” —Steph K., 26
These quotes have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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