When you go through a breakup, it can feel like you’ll never get over it. Don’t let the pain become all-consuming. Instead, work through it to find resolution and healing for the loss.
Breakups Impact Quality of Life
You don’t need a scientific study to tell you—breaking up hurts. But if you’re trying to get over someone you love, knowing your pain is normal can help.
Research shows that the quality, length, and intensity of commitment don’t matter when it comes to breakups. Breakups HURT, whether deep romance, a short fling, or an online dating match.
They also found that emotional distress was present even when someone wanted to end the relationship. If the relationship quality was low, they experienced a longer-lasting negative impact from the breakup.
Here are a couple of takeaways from this:
- If you’re recovering from a bad or complicated relationship, give yourself space to take more time and care to recover.
- If you were in a short relationship, don’t dismiss how you’re feeling.
How to Get Over Someone You Love
Whether you’ve just gone through a breakup, a crush rejected you, or never even dated the person you care about, these tips are relevant.
The bottom line: we’ve all faced some sort of rejection. Use these tips in your healing process.
#1 Don’t React
You’ve just broken up or gotten rejected, and the flood of emotions is some of the most intense you’ve experienced. You might be overwhelmed by anger, hurt, rejection, and loss, and it might feel like this cataclysmic moment in your life eclipses everything else in the world.
Now is not the time to make big decisions or allow yourself to react with untempered emotion.
Things you’ll regret later:
- Looking for revenge
- Sharing your ex’s secrets and dirty laundry
- Posting to social media
- Begging for them to come back
- Going straight into another relationship
- Making any major life changes
- Engaging in risky or dangerous behavior
The only thing to do right now is PAUSE. Don’t react. Let your body and mind calm down to decide what you should do next with a clearer head.
#2 Deal with Relationship Props
Relationships often leave evidence–their shirt, book, extra charger. It’s time to deal with the physical stuff so you can face the emotional stuff.
You may be tempted to build a giant bonfire to burn every item in your home that has some connection to the person you love(d).
But remember, once it’s gone, it’s gone, and purging your life of that person in a fit of rage is less about processing and finding closure and more about erasing the past. It might feel good, but you may also regret it.
On the flip side, for those struggling to let go, hoarding love letters, ticket stubs, and the cigarette butt they smoked on your first date, there’s a reason for that. Researchers at Yale found that your ventromedial prefrontal cortex kicks in when you have to get rid of an object of emotional value.
In other words, whenever you think about donating your hoody, she used to sleep in, your brain experiences deep conflict and pain. The hoody is yours, it has emotional value to you, and in a way, it’s connected to your identity. Getting rid of it feels like getting rid of a part of yourself.
Pro Tip: Instead of burning, pitching, or donating things immediately, place the items in a box and put it in the back of a closet or somewhere else out of sight. Wait until you’ve begun healing and can think clearly and calmly. Then, if you don’t know whether to keep something or get rid of it, ask yourself some questions. Only you get to decide whether to get rid of something.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Why do I want to keep this?
- Does this make me obsess over my ex?
- Does this object trigger negative emotions?
- Am I holding onto this because I’m waiting for them to return?
- Does this item have other memories associated with it besides my ex (e.g., memories of a specific season in life, place, friends, or family)
- What will I accomplish by destroying this?
- Could I donate this item instead of destroying it?
- Do I need more time before I make a decision?
- Am I putting off deciding because I can’t let go?
- Are there other things besides objects I need to let go of?
Fast Fact: Men are more likely to keep items from their ex than women, but on the flip side, women hold onto items longer.
Pro-Tip: If you need to give something back to your ex, try NOT to do this in person. Mail it. Drop it. Or have a friend bring it.
#3 Rewrite the Narrative
As you recover from your breakup, it’s time to rewrite the narrative. No, we’re not saying you should change the history of your relationship to fit your current frame of mind.
Instead, rewriting the narrative is about moving away from a victim mindset so you can seek out resolution and healing. This will help restore the belief that you are worthy of being in a healthy relationship.
Let’s say your girlfriend was constantly belittling you. Maybe she undermined you in subtle ways in front of your friends, eroding your confidence.
If that happened, you’d feel crappy, probably angry, and honestly, just plain hurt.
Your narrative looks something like this:
My opinions, thoughts, and feelings don’t matter, even to someone who said they loved me.
Healing from that isn’t easy, and neither is letting go.
Let’s try reframing it and flip the narrative to this:
I deserve to be with someone who values my opinions, thoughts, and feelings. How my ex treated me is not a reflection of me. It’s a reflection of them.
See the difference? Suddenly, you’re looking at things from the mindset of strength and resilience, and you’re ready to move forward into healing.
But what if you had an amazing partner? They were always there for you, constantly surprising you with little acts of love and flooding your life with more feel-good chemicals than you’d ever experienced. When a great relationship ends, you may question what went wrong, what you did wrong, or whether it was all just a lie.
Your narrative could look something like this:
It was too good to last, and I don’t deserve to be happy.
I’ll never find this kind of love again.
Flip the narrative to:
I’m thankful I experienced love from someone who cared about me. It’s OK for me to be happy again, and I am worthy of being loved.
Action Steps (5 Minutes):
- Grab your phone, notebook, discarded envelope, or sticky note.
- First, write down the narrative you’ve been embracing.
- Second, reframe the narrative as we did in the examples above.
Action Steps (3-5 Days):
- It might take time to realize what your narrative has been. If you can’t think of anything immediately, keep thinking and processing.
- Write down how your ex made you feel when you have a few minutes (waiting for a friend, between meetings, on the bus). Use the Notes app on your phone to make this more convenient.
- At the end of the week, look over your thoughts and see if there is a pattern or something that stands out. That’s your narrative!
#4 Check Your Expectations
Everyone has expectations.
You imagine how deeply you’ll feel connected to the other person, how nothing else in the world will matter, and how they’ll see you and give you love and acceptance.
But reality rarely corresponds with expectations, and sometimes, expectations (on both sides) can cause a relationship to end.
In 500 Days of Summer, we see how Tom makes the mistake of projecting his expectations onto Summer. Those expectations caused him to react with bitterness and disappointment in this scene.
At other times in the movie, his expectations blinded him to the difference between his fantasies and reality.
Pro Tip: As you process your breakup, accept the good memories and release the bad into forgiveness. But also take time to check what your expectations were.
Action Steps (5 Minutes):
- Think about one of the expectations you had for your ex.
- How did you feel when that expectation wasn’t met?
- Ask: Was that a reasonable or unreasonable expectation?
Action Steps (15 Minutes):
- Make a list of the different hurts and betrayals that you experienced.
- Behind the feelings of pain and betrayal, were there any unmet expectations?
- Weigh whether those were reasonable or unreasonable expectations.
- What expectations did your ex have for you?
- If you didn’t meet those expectations, ask yourself: Is this an area I need to grow, or do I need to release myself from the pressure of their unreasonable expectations?
As you gain perspective on your expectations for each other, this will help you avoid overly romanticizing or criticizing your ex. Perspective goes a long way when you’re trying to get over someone.
#5 Don’t Let Sunk Cost Fallacy Steal From You
Sunk cost fallacy is when you focus on what you have invested without considering present or future benefits.
For example, you were with your ex for 3 years. You share all the same friends, you had planned to spend the rest of your life together, and their mom has been the mom you never had. You’ve invested a lot into the relationship, and you aren’t just losing your ex; you’re also losing other relationships.
Now, even though it’s over, you don’t want to let it go. Sunk cost fallacy makes you believe it’s better to hold onto the relationship, even though there are no future benefits to a relationship that has ended. Sunk cost fallacy causes you to lose more because you’re afraid of losing something already gone.
This can look different based on your situation, but it could include:
- Obsessing over the person
- Believing they’ll be back soon
- Constantly talking about them
- Constantly texting or calling them
- Pretending like your life is the same and nothing has to change
For this to be true, it didn’t have to be a long relationship.
Whether you’ve been with them for 3 months or 3 years, you’ve invested time, money, and emotions into the relationship.
It’s not easy to cut your losses and walk away, but the relationship is over, and it’s time to move on.
- Don’t beg. Texting, calling, and showing up at their workplace looks like begging.
- Talk about it, but then stop talking about it. Rehashing everything with your BFF over and over isn’t going to move you forward. Instead, you’re investing more time and emotion into something you’ve already lost.
- Express gratitude. Instead of romanticizing the relationship or verbally eviscerating your ex, find something you can express gratitude for.
- Be hopeful. Instead of hoping they show up on your doorstep armed with a monologue to rival any Hallmark romance, look forward with hope to the next phase in your life.
Action Steps: When do you obsess about this person the most? Do you think about them first thing when you wake up? Reach for them at night and replay every moment together when you remember they are gone. Or maybe you can’t stop talking about them whenever you meet your friends?
Set a routine and plan for the times that you know you obsess:
- Put a book by your bed. Reach for the book instead of writing a novel in your head about your past life together.
- Instead of laying in bed crying, have something planned that you will do within the first 5 minutes of waking up. This could include making a smoothie, going for a run, doing creative journaling, or doing other activities you enjoy.
- Ask your friends to gently point it out when you start obsessively talking about your ex.
- Find something new to invest in.
Instead of dwelling on what you’ve lost, think about what you’ve gained from the past relationship. Then move on to investing in something new (and we don’t mean a new relationship, not yet). Look for friends to support, skills you can learn, or ways to give back to your community.
#6 Do What’s Right for You
Sometimes, other people seem to have all the answers for your life. They decide you’ve been sad long enough, it’s time to move on, and it’s time to date again.
It’s not what your uncle or best friend since 3rd grade is telling you. Getting over someone is about doing what’s right for you. If that means you need to process a little longer to find a resolution, that’s your business.
What we are talking about is that you are the one who knows what you need.
Compromising is normal when you’re in a relationship, which sometimes means putting their needs ahead of yours. All of that has changed with the breakup. Unless you have a child depending on you, your needs come first right now— it’s time to set boundaries and create some more time for yourself.
Use these sample scripts to set boundaries:
- Thank you for inviting me to your party, but I’m not ready to be around people who will ask me about my ex.
- I’m sure __ is a lovely person, but I’m not ready to start dating again.
- I need some extra space right now, but I appreciate that you’re concerned about me.
- I’m struggling to get over my ex. Do you know of a good therapist?
- When you tell me I’ve been sad long enough, that makes me feel like my emotions don’t matter. Everyone processes a breakup differently, and I hope you can be supportive even if you don’t understand what I’m going through.
How to Get Over Someone FAQs
To get over someone you’ve never dated, start by validating your emotions and then let go of your hopes to be with that person. Then, build other interests, and limit your interactions with the other person. The process is complicated because others might not acknowledge or understand the loss. That’s ok! Many of the steps are the same for you as for someone who has been in a relationship. You likely have shared experiences, and your feelings may be as intense as someone in a relationship.
If you’re recovering after being rejected by a crush, start by acknowledging your feelings are legitimate. Experiencing rejection is extremely painful and can have lifelong consequences if you don’t work through it. Check out this quick guide on how to recover from rejection. Vanessa Van Edwards details the science that proves your heart pain is the same as physical pain.
After a breakup from a long-term relationship, start by removing them from your social media and avoid interacting with them, if possible. If you’ve been living together, have a child, or have other shared responsibilities, try to work through many logistics immediately. If it was a messy breakup and children were involved, look for a mediator to help with logistics.
You can get over a short-term relationship in much the same way as a long-term one—give yourself time and space to process the pain. Acknowledge your feelings are legitimate and that the length of time spent in a relationship doesn’t always indicate the level of intimacy.
Every person takes different times to get over someone, but generally, it takes 11 weeks to start feeling better. This can change based on your personality, attachment style, and the intensity of the relationship. If you’re worried about the length of time you’ve been feeling heartbroken, talk to a mental health professional to get extra support.
Keep These In Mind When You’re Getting Over Someone
- Overcome the paralysis you’re feeling by building new memories and pursuing new interests.
- Remember that moving onto a new relationship ≠ moving on. Make sure you give yourself space to heal before dating someone new.
- Face your feelings head-on. You may be dealing with betrayal, anger, hurt, disappointment, rejection, inadequacy, fear, and even grief. Give yourself the freedom to feel those emotions and work through they will not weigh you down.
- Be willing to learn lessons from both your relationship and your breakup. Be curious about areas you need to grow and what boundaries to have or expectations to let go of.
- Don’t make any big decisions right after a breakup. This includes getting rid of gifts they gave you. At the same time, don’t hold onto things dragging you down emotionally.
- Let go of what you invested in the relationship and begin investing in other things.
- Prioritize your needs and allow yourself to heal on your timeline, not the timeline others may try to push on you.
Be patient with yourself as you work through how to get over someone. Moving on from a broken relationship takes time, but you can heal. Before you move on, find out your relationship pattern with our article, The 5 Relationship Patterns: Which One Are You?