Time isn’t the only thing that helps…
I’ve weathered quite a few breakups in my time; enough to consider myself an expert on healing a broken heart. But the truth is, sometimes even my best tips don’t ease the pain of a bad breakup.
Every breakup is different. Sometimes, any grief you have over a failed relationship gets burnt away by the fire of your righteous anger, leaving you glad to be rid of your erstwhile beloved, and wondering what you ever saw in him, anyway. Other times you find yourself moping for months, stalking his social media and feeling a fresh stab to the heart every time you see a sign that he’s moved on with his life.
They say it takes half the time you were in a relationship to get over it – so, if you were dating someone for just six months, you need three months to feel completely better, and if you were married for six years, it’ll be three years before your heart is whole. But, widely-held as that belief may be, science doesn’t back it up; it’s just a pop culture reference. (Sex and the City‘s Charlotte famously said it to Carrie when she was in the throes of heartbreak over Big.)
A 2014 study by researchers at the University of Aberdeen found that time may not, in fact, heal all wounds. Acute stress-induced cardiomyopathy, also known as ‘broken heart syndrome’, can be triggered by major stress or trauma – for example, a bad breakup. Physicians have long believed this condition improves on its own over time, but the study showed that even four months later, patients hadn’t made any progress.
If you’re suffering from broken heart syndrome, here are eight things you can try, in hopes of putting him behind you for good and finally moving on…
1. Change your environment
Every time you walk past the coffee shop where the two of you used to go every Saturday morning, it’s likely to trigger a fresh flood of painful memories. So don’t go there. Moving to a new apartment, a new neighborhood, or even a new country (why not?) can be the best thing to do in the wake of a particularly difficult breakup. Think about what you’ve really got holding you to where you are. Have you always wanted to travel? Now’s the time. And if you really can’t move, then at least rearrange your furniture – and find a new weekend coffee spot.
2. Go cold turkey on social media
If you can’t bring yourself to unfriend your ex on Facebook and you find yourself haunting his Instagram feed in the wee hours of the morning, try going on a complete social media fast. Deactivate your Facebook account, delete Instagram off your phone, and block his website in your browser. Or have a trusted friend change your passwords and vow not to tell you what they are for a set period of time – at least six weeks. This will be hard, but it will be worth it. The Internet is addictive, and the break will do you good.
3. Take up a new hobby
Throw yourself into something new, and you’ll have less time to mope and ruminate about the end of your relationship. Train for a marathon, start up a side business doing something you’re passionate about, or go back to school for a different degree – just be sure to choose something that will be all-consuming, challenging, and make you feel excited and alive. Taking the focus off of what didn’t work and putting it on something (not someone) new is bound to help you move on.
4. Resist the temptation to be in contact
Sometimes relationships can be repaired; if you’re both hurting, it might be worth giving things another try. But if you’re absolutely certain the relationship can’t be salvaged and you truly want to move on, then don’t keep on talking, texting, or meeting up for hot breakup sex. Delete his contact info from your phone, block his number – whatever you have to do. Think of it as self-preservation.
5. Sleep with someone else
You may have heard this theory before: “In order to get over someone, get under someone else.” But does it really work? In 2014, University of Missouri psychologists Lindsay Barber and Lynne Cooper conducted a study of 170 college students who’d experienced a recent breakup, and they found that having so-called ‘rebound sex’ didn’t necessarily ease their pain. In fact, while getting hot and heavy with someone new might have temporarily relieved their loneliness and insecurity, it might have actually made it worse in the end. So try this one at your own risk.
6. Keep your perspective
Make a list of all the terrible things that have happened to you, that you thought you’d never get over. I thought I’d never be happy again after my boyfriend broke up with me my sophomore year of high school. I was 16, and I truly thought I’d never want anyone else. Now that thought just makes me laugh. Remembering these things can help you step outside yourself and see your misery for what it is – a temporary, albeit painful, circumstance.
7. Seek out wisdom from others
I don’t mean ask your BFF to go on and on about all the reasons your ex was an asshole (though she’s probably more than happy to do so). I mean read books, listen to podcasts, and read essays online that address what you’re going through. There’s no emotion you’re feeling that hasn’t already been felt by someone else – and most likely written about. Doing this is a good way to gain perspective on your loss, and begin to learn from it. Here’s a good (slightly edited) quote from Elizabeth Gilbert: “Soul mates come into your life to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. A soul mate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, and make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life.” Don’t you feel a little bit better already?
8. Let yourself feel the pain
Sometimes we can’t move on because we haven’t allowed ourselves to truly grieve a loss. If you suspect this might be what’s keeping you invested in your ex and unable to move forward, spend some time processing. Let yourself feel your feelings. The pain might seem too overwhelming, but it does have an end. Go ahead and cry. It might feel like your tears will never end, but eventually, they will. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel, for as long as you feel it. When you’re ready to move on, you will. So don’t force it. Ignore people who give you advice about what you should be doing and how you should be feeling, and listen to your own heart. Time eventually brings everything into focus; someday this will all make some kind of sense, and you’ll be happy again. I promise.
Images via tumblr, tbs, yoyosub, nbc, youtube, funnycutegifs.
Comment: What have you done to move on from relationships that didn’t work out?
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Elizabeth lives in Brooklyn with two daughters, occasional mice and innumerable to-do lists. She runs a nine-minute mile, bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie, and can always be persuaded to sing at a karaoke bar. Follow her on Twitter.