Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

11 Breakup Survival Tips (That Don’t Involve Positive Thinking)

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Breakups are as much a part of the human experience as a breathing oxygen and not licking cactuses. It’s actual science that going through a breakup does the same thing to your body as withdrawal from an addiction, activating the part of the brain associated with motivation, reward and addiction cravings.

As well as this, emotional pain triggers the same pathways in the brain as physical pain. 

That’s the bad news. The good news is that it will get better. 

If you’re going through a breakup now you’ll probably want to file that under ‘B‘ for ‘But you don’t get it – no-body has ever lost like I’ve lost.’  Yes. It’s highly possible that humankind is unfamiliar with the level of wretched misery you’ve fallen to now, but read on anyway, because the ugly truth is that the only way through a breakup is straight through the middle. Here’s how to start with that:

  1. Don’t make any big decisions.   

    Tattoos, relationships, work and cutting off your locks. It might seem seem like a good idea to get ‘Just Breathe,’ or ‘Live Life‘ tattooed in times roman 120pt on your forearm but seriously, if you need these sort of reminders so badly as to have them embedded into your skin, then you’re in no position to be making life-lasting decisions. They might all turn out to be great decisions one day, but make them when Rhianna stops singing ‘Love the way you lie’ in your head. ‘Just gonna stand there and watch me bu…’ Don’t. Just don’t.

  2. Unfriend him (or her) on Facebook.   Do it right now. We’ll wait.

    He’s not going to be posting sad faced ‘missing you’ selfies from the places you used to go – and anything else, you don’t need to know about. Keeping up the follow will swallow you whole. The only reason to have him there is to check he’s not getting on with his life too happily without you. He will be. So will you, without him, just as soon as you stop the Facebook stalk. If you’re going to keep him friended, just rip your heart from your chest, hand it over and tell him to squeeze. It will hurt a lot less.  

  3. Exercise. Just not at the gym he goes to. At the same time he goes there.

    Possibly the only exercise you’ll feel like doing is hurling ‘that’ photo of both of you across the room but if you can manage something more active (though perhaps less cathartic) you will feel better afterwards. Cortisol, the stress hormone, will be making itself at home inside you. One way to take the fire out of cortisol is to exercise. Exercise will also stimulate the brain to release endorphins (the feel good chemicals) and you’ll already be short on them so you’ve got nothing to lose. You don’t have to work up a sweat – going for a walk will do. A caveat though: If the activity involves walking slowly past his house or climbing up the stormwater pipe to get a look into his window, it doesn’t count as exercise. It counts as stalking. 

  4. Get rid of texting capacity if you’re going to have a drink. A couple of drinks won’t make you Shakespeare. They just won’t.

    Alcohol is a depressant, so if you’re on a downhill slide it’s best to stay away from it. If you are going to have a drink though, protect yourself at all costs from the temptation to drunk text. You’re human. You’ll want to. But don’t fall for the courage that comes in a bottle of decent pinot. It’s been fed by slightly hammered wisdom and it won’t end well. Never. Ever. Just give your phone to a friend you trust and tell her to feed it to a pack of wolves before even thinking of giving it back to you. Unless you’re totally – totally – sober. You won’t need to explain why. She’ll get it. 

  5. Connect with friends and family. 

    The real ones. Not the ones who you haven’t heard from since the last crisis. The real ones who will sit through ‘Love Actually’ with you for the 37th time and eat microwaved Indian from the dodgy plastic container it came in last night because you used the last clean plate three days ago. One of the reasons a breakup hurts so much is because it messes around with the primal need to be connected to other people. You might not be able to be with the one person you want to be with, but spending time with your tribe will feed the human need for connection and will bring a much needed boost of oxytocin (the happy hormone) you’ve been missing. And those real friends? On the way out the door they’ll pop the dishwasher on before telling you they’ve organised for both of you to do salsa dancing classes to get you out of the house. Don’t argue. Just go. There’s a good chance you’re starting to smell like a week-long temper and it will only get worse.

  6. Give your bedroom a bit of a reno. And get some sleep.

    Buy new sheets, new pjs and new scented candles for your bedroom – nothing that reminds you of him. Get rid of anything that makes you think of what you’ve lost. And then remind yourself that you haven’t lost it because it wasn’t there. Otherwise he would be too. Shake away those sepia dusted images of the two of you at your almost-but-not-quite spring wedding staring longingly at each other or the buffet. Keep your ‘OMG My Wedding Yay’ Pinterest board though. It will still come in handy one day. If you want it to. It just won’t be with him – and that will be okay, you’ll see. And stop falling asleep on the couch in your day clothes. 

  7. Eat Healthy. Or don’t. Whatever. Just don’t keep it going for too long.

    You’re doing it tough.  You’ve got enough to worry about – you don’t need to get sick on top of everything else. Give your body what it needs to function. Eat healthy and eat regularly. Of course, the occasional crowd-pleaser bucket of fried chicken won’t hurt. Everything in moderation. Or in a delicious crunchy coating.

  8.  He’s gone. He’s not coming back. But you are.

    Every breakup survival needs a breakup comeback. When the time is right, plan for yours. Do something you wouldn’t have done while you were with him – and no – that doesn’t mean hooking up with Russell, the 40-something from accounts with the earring and gold bracelet who threw you a cheesey line at office drinks. He’s not the only man to own a guitar and being able to play the first four bars of The Simpsons doesn’t make him a musician. Leave Russell where you found him – possibly texting Shona, Shaniqua and Shaniya – and instead learn Italian, cook French, buy new lingerie (with you in mind, because you deserve it), plan a girls trip to Morocco – or if you’re budget’s gasping for breath, a girls’ trip to Target for your new lacy knickers will do fine.

  9.  Don’t meet up for coffee as friends. Actually, don’t do anything as friends.

    There is nothing in this ‘let’s be friends’ thing for you. No doubt you’re a mature, emotionally together lady-human who can deal with this just fine, and deal with it you will … until he wants to introduce you to his new friend Sally – ‘Sal’ – the pilates instructor who snacks on kale and beetroot juice and drops a quick line about the movie they saw last night together. Together. As in, to-geth-er. Rational heads don’t necessarily follow broken hearts. There. I said it. So when they go to the movies, you (quietly) go to ‘What. A. Jackass. Did I ever really know him no I don’t think I did because we’ve been untogether for three months now which is practically five minutes in breakup years and now he’s watching movies with some girl and that can only mean that they’re shagging and she says his name like they’re practically engaged and I can’t believe this did he ever really care about me at awwwwwwlllll?’ Sound familiar? Nope? Well maybe just me then. At any rate, you loved him once remember. And he loved you. It’s hard to go backwards from that.

    If you can take the dignified high road and forgive and forget and be friends, good for you, but you might be heading for trouble. You’ve been there. Done that. Nothing to gain from doing it again. In this sort of relationship, someone will always want more. And it probably won’t be him – especially if it’s only been weeks since he was outta there. If he is the one that wants more, then still ‘no’. A few weeks is never enough for him to ”find himself’.  He’s not a remote that slipped behind the couch. It’s never that simple. Never.

    Of course, if you have kids together you will have to stay on friendly terms (at least in front of the kids). It might not be easy but you’re a woman who will always love your kids more than you’ll want to hate any man so you’ll be fine. You’re phenomenal. And that’s why you’re his loss. Remember that.

  10.  Look for what it can give you.

    Sometimes when you’re down it’s because there’s something down there you’re meant to find. As part of your breakup survival, look for the gems. What can you learn? Why did you choose the relationship? What’s the wisdom that’s left for you when everything is said and done? Everyone comes into our lives to learn from us or to teach us. What have you learnt? The fact that it’s over doesn’t mean it wasn’t important. It just means it’s run its course and it’s no longer the right one. Use it as a step up to the one that is.

  11.  You only have to get through today.

    Don’t think too far ahead. It still has the imprints of you and him with your perfectly behaved children, that spring wedding and you running that marathon (actually, keep that one – just don’t have him at the finish line ready to receive you and your gazelle-esque stride). Just don’t go there. Unless it’s to make real plans for something fun. You only have to get through today. You can deal with tomorrow when it gets to you. Just put one foot in front of the other and it will get easier. Promise.

Above all else remember that the path to wisdom and a happy life is often littered with shards of broken hearts, including our own. And keep going. You’ll get there. 

What are your breakup survival remedies? Let us know in the comments below …

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130 Comments

Carrie

I’m going through a break up and read so many pages similar to this as well as anything else you can think of
I know everyone is different but I find it helps to read other stories and realise u are not alone
Everyone told me to keep busy but no one seems to remember the pain in ur heart when u lay in bed alone or go to the shop and see his face food and no longer need to buy it the facial expressions etc
It’s all in your mind and it’s ok to cry
I think of him most the day I know his routines and it kills me to think he’s talking to other girls and carrying on – this is what I found helps me
– no contact
– no memories left about
– wash all clothes , bedding, curtains a u may not feel up to it but having everything fresh really does help
– talk to your self – pretend your talking to a therapist talk through ur relationship talk about the good and bad say the questions etc just let it out,
– cry, it really does help, eventually u will get fed up of being a mess – everyone does
– see people even if u just stare in to space – u may not want life to carry on but it does and seeing it is a step closer to believing it
– read other stories. People go through a lot worse or a lot better but we all feel the heart break, tell your story just let it out
I’m not over my guy yet I suffer with depression and having him was masking it I have only 1 friend also
I hope some of my tips help, even though I’m not fully healed I feel a lot better than when he first left and I could barely lift my head off the pillow and thinking about suicide
You may not believe it but there is light at the end of the tunnel and remember there’s a reason u broke up, a reason for the arguments, don’t kid yorself it was perfect. When you find the right person that person will stick with you through good and bad to work out ur relationship not make excuses
This is just my personal thoughts please don’t judge today is the first day I saw some kind of light and i just want to help it’s been a week and no I’m not fully heeled like I said I still cry and think there’s nothing out there for me but today he hasn’t clouded my every thought.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Carrie thank you so much for sharing this. I know it will help others who read it. I love your insight. Things will get better, but they do take time. Stay strong and keep moving forward. Love and healing to you.

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Star

Thank you for your article. My ex broke up with me after 2 years. It was a very long, drawn out break up, over 5 months. I kept giving him chances as we had been trying to fix all of his issues with ‘us’. At times it was almost like I was persuading him to stay with me. He broke up with me for the 3rd time two months ago and I’ve managed to refrain from contacting him because the last time was the hardest but I’m still so so sad. I miss him and I don’t know how to feel normal or to move on. I’m exhausted from trying to feel better..
Any advice would be much appreciated…..

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Hey Sigmund

Star I know it feels bad right now but that’s because you’re adjusting to a new normal. Give it time and be kind to yourself in the meantime. You will get through this.

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V

I just stumbled across this article while looking for tips on how to deal with an unexpected breakup. I feel a bit silly because for me, it hasn’t happened yet, but I feel it coming and think it’ll happen sometime between tonight and the end of the week and I really don’t want to sink into a dark place. This article (and the comments) really make me feel less alone and is one of the most genuine articles I’ve read about handling a breakup.

My situation is a bit different (and I feel stupid for even being as hurt as I am). My last long term, serious relationship ended about 3 years ago due to some pretty serious physical and emotional abuse. I took the time I needed (mostly – some scars will likely never go away entirely) to get over everything that had happened and then started dating again. I’ve dated a LOT of guys over the past few years, all of which didn’t work out for various reasons.

A couple of months ago (which is why this feels silly), I met a guy who I truly, honestly thought would be it. We click so well, things were progressing really well – met each others friends, went on a trip together, celebrated the holidays together, communicated well, etc. Beyond that, he really made me feel wonderful and treated me better than I could have ever imagined. Even when I was unhappy or something bothered me, he knew exactly how to handle things so it just felt really natural.

The last time I saw him was for New Year’s – everything went great and we left on good terms. Then I left, and initially I noticed that it seemed like he was being quieter than usual. I didn’t say anything but felt uneasy. After a couple of days, I asked him if everything was OK and mentioned that he had been quiet – he just answered me with an “I dunno” and wouldn’t tell me what was up (said he is feeling down/weird and doesn’t know why when I asked if it’s related to us). I told him that I hope that we can get through whatever and I’m here to support him in any way I can and stopped contacting him to give him space.

Then today, to confirm my bad feelings, I went on the dating site where we met and he’s been active on it literally all morning (and, if I recall, with an updated profile…) which REALLY stings, especially given that things aren’t even officially over.

Again, I feel a bit ridiculous because we weren’t together for very long, but I feel more hurt now than I have with long-term relationships due to the unexpected nature of it and confusion over what went wrong. I know that I’ll probably never know, but I’m afraid that if I’m feeling this bad before it’s over, it could be very easy to end up in a downward spiral and get into a rut.

What you said in an earlier reply about “the harder you love, the harder you fall” is 100% accurate. I’ve always been hesitant initially (fear of getting hurt, because it has happened so many times), but when I fall, I fall hard. Logically, I know that I will eventually find the right person and this will probably pass sooner than I currently feel like it will, but the thought of losing someone I saw a real future with is pretty devastating. I get the feeling that he’s taking the time to think things through clearly before he makes any decisions about us, which means I’m still holding out a bit of hope, although I don’t think he would really need that time if he felt the same as I do.

Anyway, I just wanted to get that off my chest (I haven’t spoken to anyone all week and deleted my social media while I process things) and thank you for this article. It is really, really helpful and reassuring to read.

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Hey Sigmund

I really want you to know that there is absolutely nothing silly about the way you feel. It doesn’t matter how long you were together for, love is love and when it feels as though it’s changing it is so incredibly painful. Everything you experience with older relationships – hopes and imaginings of a future together, trust, connection, vulnerability – they are as valid for you as for any other intimate relationship. Whether you have been together a short time or a long time these things will feel just as intense and important. Your pain is probably also intensified by the confusion of not knowing what was happening and the betrayal of finding him on a dating site.

I hope this doesn’t stop you from loving hard and deeply when the time is right. It’s what the strongest, richest and most nourishing connections are built on, and that you can do that is such a gift. What you are feeling now is not because you loved too hard, but because this relationship is no longer the one that is where you are meant to be.

Let yourself feel whatever you need to feel. Everything you feel will be valid and normal and completely understandable. There is someone who is waiting to find exactly you, I know that, but first honour whatever feelings are in you around this one. They are all important.

Love and strength to you. I imagine this man doesn’t realise what he may be letting go of.

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Thursday

Hey Karen, I got this linked to me as I’ve just broken up with my girlfriend of 2+ years. Thanks for sharing it , it’s really one of the only help articles that feels “human” and non-generic.

The Facebook/social media advice is a real tough one to follow through with. I’m not holding out on the idea that we’ll get back together again, and I don’t think that’s such a good idea anyway, but I hold her in such high esteem and think she’s an incredible person, such that I think getting rid of her on my social network is removing what will be the last vestige of contact that I have with her.

I guess nobody really prepares you for what real heartbreak feels like. It hurts everywhere, all the time, and nothing helps. Last night, I cried all night. I had a nice sleep and when I woke up this morning, for 10 seconds, I felt okay, until I impulsively picked up my phone to check that message I used to get from her every single morning for the past two years, wishing me a lovely day and that she loved me, or failing that, just a simple love heart. My heart sank, and I don’t want to do this for the next x amount of days – I know that’s going to be a lot of days.

Nothing about the break-up was messy or mean. Her reasons for wanting to leave were ones that she needed to do to grow and to become a better person in herself – how could I protest to that? I don’t sympathise with her reasons, because I think what all that she aimed to do could have been done while we were together, just as we did for all that time we were together. But I don’t know what’s going on inside her head, she was never so great at articulating those deep, visceral feelings that were so important to her, but most times it was never a problem, and we did so well.

And I think that’s what hurts me the most, that we did so well, that it worked, that it ended so greatly. I almost wish it ended badly. I wish there was something I could be fed up with, something to hate, something to define my emotions against. Right now, all I remember is that I was with someone beautiful, who saw me for who I was, who understood me, who cared for me, who accepted my flaws and highlighted my strengths. And from everything she said to me when she decided to part ways, it seems that I did the same thing for her too.

I don’t know how to process that – the fact that you can have two people that love each other so deeply not just as lovers, but as human beings, and respect each other’s own private and internal lives and fulfill each other’s emotional needs, and yet have it still end.

I’m kinda scared and don’t know what to do.

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Hey Sigmund

Take things one day at a time. I understand that scared, confused feeling – that deep pain and wondering where it ends. I really do. At the moment, it is difficult to imagine letting go of this person because your focus is completely on her. In time, that will change. Spend time with people you like to be with and do at least one thing each day that is self-nurturing. In time, your focus on her will lessen and you will be able to see new possibilities. You will adjust to a new normal but it will take time. The ache and the anticipation will lessen. You are going through an emotional, physical and mental withdrawal. That is why it is so painful, but as with any withdrawal you will move through it. Be kind to yourself, be patient, and even though you might not feel like it, be open to what comes next. You will get through this, I promise you.

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Thursday

Thanks for taking the time to respond Karen. I’ll keep all that in mind, thank you for the support and kindness.

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JV in MI

I saw your comment to Karen and just wanted to let you know that I absolutely understand when two people love each other and still can’t make it work for various reasons. It is very hard to accept no longer being a part of a couple and move on. I went through a situation about 1 1/2 years ago and I still have moments that feel like I have been punched in the chest. Please try every day to talk to an old friend, find an activity that makes you happy, and keep active! Find a good friend that will be your break up buddy and they will be there when you need to pick up your phone and text out of habit! It really will help your recovery! I wish I could talk to you and tell you that you WILL get through this, maybe a little scarred, but you will slowly heal. I can’t say I’m totally ‘over’ the heartbreak, but I am definitely on the mend and a better woman than I was before this happened. I have a better focus on what I want and what I can leave behind and feel I have become more compassionate to others around me who are experiencing grief from various forms of loss. You will be just fine…. just be patient with yourself.

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Thursday

Hey, thanks so much for the care, it’s nice to know somebody’s genuinely looking out. It’s nice to hear that despite the heart break (I’m only learning now that the term is so cliche-laden that it doesn’t nearly begin to signify all the horrifying emotions and pain), that you’ve grown and learned from it to be a better woman than before it happened.

A part of me knows that days eventually get better, it just takes lots of those long and painful days, and persistence on my part to do the right thing. As you said, I’m doing my best to do things that make me happy, be social and so on. I like your suggestion about a breakup buddy,too.

Though I will say, when you mentioned that you still get strong emotions about it despite going through it a year and a half ago, I guess this is the idea that really bothers me, maybe the one that scares me the most. And it’s not to say that in future that I won’t be proven wrong, But if I know myself thus far, I really do feel like the emotional scars here will translate into ‘traits’ like being hard of heart, with a serious aversion to opening up while also being hurt and depressed about being closed off and alone in the romantic sense. It’s a bit hard to articulate at this point. Maybe it’s related to a fear of being alone, or rather, the resentment directed at no one and nothing in particular about being loveless, and ending up with a really defeatist point of view.

Some time ago, I read an article summarising the findings of a study that suggested that generally, after a break up, women are hit harder emotionally but tend to reconcile it over time, whereas men in general take longer, or never get over it at all. I didn’t read the methodology or anything like that so I’m taking it with a grain of salt. But it kinda hit home with me when I got to talking to several friends and colleagues, some close friends of mine, all men, who have had long term, or at least serious partners they were in love with and then broken up. And it seems to be a common story that they never really seem to quite get over it, even years down the track, they just carry it with them and it still troubles them more regularly than they’d like.

So yeah. The next several weeks is going to be a real struggle, particularly because I grapple with depression and anxiety from time to time anyway, so this kind of situation has just put me in constant red alert as far as coping and self care goes. I feel like it’s just depleted me entirely, and the last time I felt like this was when I was full blown depressed in 2013-2014. But it’s really the affect on my persona in the long term that worries me the most.

But I’ll not end it on a grim note. I’m still feeling terrible and confused, but I’m functioning and doing okay.

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Kelsie

Fell head over heels in love for the first time in my life, and experienced my first gut-wrenching heartbreak. We were together for over three years, and it took all of the strength I had to just get out of bed in the mornings. This article saved my life. Both literally and figuratively. So thank you. Thank you for posting something real, and not the cliche bullshit that no one ever wants to hear.

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Sophie

I loved this article and it brought great comfort and hope to me during a terrible break up. What do you do in terms of moving on if you didn’t break up for classic reasons? My boyfriend had been long time separated from his wife – she had post natal depression and after several tough months with their baby she moved back to her native country. Divorce was due to happen but she was also mentally unwell and different countries made the process very complicated. We met randomly, and fell deeply in love – I’ve never been happier with someone. 3 months ago she turned round saying she was better and they needed to try again for the sake of their young child. He and I were both so distraught but he said he owed it to his little girl and if his wife was better, they had to try one more time. He said he loves me so much, doubts it will work with his wife but he can’t not try. How can I even begin to move on when these are the circumstances and nothing has gone ‘wrong’ or changed in terms of our feelings for each other? Usually I’m so pragmatic and can accept stuff as black and white. I feel so so stuck and can’t help but visualise him coming back to me which is so unhealthy. Please can you advise as best you can? I’m in such a dark place where any logic/rationale I apply to my situation (this has happened because it needed to) falls aside. It also really doesn’t help that he lives three streets away from me and I’m terrified of bumping into them as a family

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Hey Sigmund

I can imagine how devastating this must be, but it still sounds as though it is something that needs to be dealt with in the same way as any other breakup – a letting go so you can move forward. Otherwise, you’ll stay stuck and keep waiting indefinitely. That isn’t good for either of you. Let yourself adjust to a new normal that doesn’t have him in it. This is a situation of circumstance, rather than a falling out of love, but they are just as powerful in terms of keeping you apart. It sounds as though there will always be room for you in his life, and I expect it will be the same for him. Having said that, you don’t want to be grieving indefinitely. This will catch you in a negative spiral that will be so hard to get out of. Right now, you will be going through a physical, emotional and mental withdrawal. This is why you’re feeling stuck. Be kind to yourself and let yourself move forward. It’s really important that whenever you’re able, you spend time with people you care about, and do something each day to pull yourself out of the wanting and sadness and ‘stickiness’. Even if it’s just going for a walk or going to the shops to buy a bottle of milk – anything that will break up your pattern. In time, your body, heart and mind will adjust, but it will take time. Moving forward doesn’t mean closing the door to him. It means closing the door to the grief that you’re feeling and moving forward from that. I wish you strength and love.

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Nova

I had almost the exact same thing happen 6 weeks ago – wonderful LTR with boyfriend who was divorced from his mentally ill wife. Long story short, she suddenly and unexpectedly recovered from several years of psychosis, and he felt obligated to take her back when she asked for another chance. They have a teenager. I was completely devastated.

I know this is permanent, but I’m finding it so difficult to accept, as we were very much in love right up till the abrupt end. I have no bad feelings toward him, and I know the decision caused him a great deal of pain. I am trying to adjust, but the bizarre circumstances seem to make this more complicated than a normal breakup.

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Sophie

Nova, so random that I decided to revisit this post I wrote nearly a year ago and then saw what you had experienced..

My heart and soul goes out to you… it is a situation nobody can understand unless they’ve been in it – both from our perspectives and our (ex) boyfriends’ position. Any cliche breakup advice goes out the window doesn’t it? A terrible choice for them to make and no dissolution of feelings, making it virtually impossible to gain closure and move on from.

I have thought to myself often this past year how any future potential breakup will be a walk in the park compared to this one. Breaking up because feelings have changed? Easy!

I’ve just hit the year mark since it ended and it has been an incredibly tough year emotionally trying to work through this. I am further on from where I was when I wrote my post last year, but I still have a way to go.

If you would like to email or chat, please do. As mentioned, it is a rare and particularly horrific way to break up and attempt to move on and a problem shared is a problem halved. Sending you lots of love and strength, I completely get what you are going through. xxx

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Nova

I completely agree with you. This would be so much easier to accept if we’d been fighting and angry, but we were very much in love right up to the end. It’s as though he suddenly died – yet he still lives a mile away.

It is so hard to know there is nothing I could have done differently. No one, doctors included, predicted this course of events. I immediately went completely no contact, mostly out of self-preservation, as I was in shock over the situation and had no idea what to do.

Now I’m in weekly therapy, and I try to stay busy, which helps, but I’m still struggling with feeling like I”m in a Lifetime movie. I lost my best friend and now feel like I was a mistress, even though I know that was not the case. I wonder how they’re doing, but as terribly as I miss him, I think that contacting him would only make me feel worse.

I hope I feel somewhat better in a year – right now, I’m just focusing on getting through each day. I’m sorry you are going through this, too. f you have any advice specific to our situation, please let me know – this is such a strange place to be.

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sophie

Dear Nova, at the risk of sounding like a weirdo I have been thinking of you! Mostly because I felt my own situation and the complicated and ‘unique’ circumstances surrounding it were singled out to me – mental illness, the pull of children, impossible choices, divorce/separation and old partners returning after ‘recovering’, both of you (likely) being miserable with the results of that choice, everyone (including professionals) being surprised at the outcome etc. I could go on… To read how similar yours was to mine is unnerving – I am sad another person has to go through something like this.

I thought I could give you a little advice on how I have got through the year and be of some help? When it first happened (around the time of writing this on the lovely Karen’s post – thank you again, Karen) I was in such an incredibly dark place. I think if I could rewind time from the start of my breakup to now, I would do a couple of small things differently which might have had a big impact on my ability to recover. The first would have been to set aside my pride and dignity and ask him questions and get answers I needed to hear – even if they were horrible. Nova, I think a huge part of this year has been so painful for me because I haven’t known things – the situation I was left in popped me into fantasy land. I’ve NEVER had a breakup before where I’ve imagined them coming back to me. Yes, one would think that if he made his decision to breakup with you and go back to the wife and child then that speaks for itself/he hasn’t come back for you so what else do you need to ask? But I think as we both know it was a painful decision for them to make, and so it’s not quite as black and white. Many people (of professional standing, not just friends) said they were sure he’d be back in the new year and I needed to sit tight and let him do this….. this was SO detrimental to my happiness.

My main advice is this – there’s no point going no contact, as I did too immediately, if you are actually in constant contact with him in your own head by thinking a million different outcomes and fantasies.
I wish I had asked more questions when he told me he was going back to his family. I wish I had asked him if he was happy a few months in, even if he had lied to me and said it was working out that would have helped. Because all I did was imagine him being miserable and missing me, the unfairness of the situation would rear up even more viciously and make me feel x100 worse. The only time I heard from him was on Christmas day, wishing me a wonderful day. When I replied and he said how ‘amazing it was to hear from me’, a whole new fantasy came into my head of him being unhappy with her, and that Christmas was the most likely time for them to fall apart and as he was clearly contacting me on this significant day it might mean he was coming back. He never did, I never heard another word, and I spent months wondering AGAIN. What I am saying here, is ask the hard questions that will yank your head out of wondering/ imaging scenarios occurring because of what THEY have fed/given you, even unintentionally.

My second point is this – do not berate yourself for not being ‘over it’ at any stage, even if plenty time has passed. This was my second biggest blocker – I was almost panicking at six months post-split that I was not even close to being over him. In fact, I felt worse than I did in the first three months. I was so hard on myself, my therapist (who I also saw weekly for a little while!) really drilled this into me and reminded me that it was the worst thing I could have done to try and feel better. I am now just over a year post-split and I still have hard days when I miss him loads, even writing this now makes me emotional, but I just quietly accept the magnitude of the original loss and that is why I am still getting waves of sadness.

Alongside other cliché but good breakup advice, is this more simple tip. I would indulge in as much meditation and self-care as possible. My mind was like a treadmill on high for MONTHS and meditation let me properly rest, which is different to the oversleeping I did. The best two books I read over the past year were ‘The Wisdom of a Broken Heart’ by Susan Piver and ‘Letting Go: The Art of Surrender’ by David Hawkins. Both were absolutely amazing, and the only ones out of several that I felt stayed with me after reading.

I hope bits or all of this helps you too. These are dark times but the self-awareness you will gain and ability to deal with anything in the future is one of the small silver linings… xxxx

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Nova

Thank you so much. It is so enormously helpful to hear from you.

I’ve thought about contacting him but can’t imagine how that conversation would not break my heart all over again. I will always want more than what he can give me, I don’t think he has answers to any of my questions, and I certainly would not get any closure. We are still connected on social media (I know, I know, bad idea), so I can see that his family life is moving forward. That’s all the information I need, unfortunately.

He emailed me a couple of weeks ago to express that he constantly thinks about me and is tormented by guilt. Simply receiving this threw me into a fresh emotional tailspin for days. I don’t think the note was as much about missing me as it was about the fact that he feels like an a-hole. I didn’t respond and still have not contacted him, and last week was his birthday. Again, instinct for self-preservation is overriding my concern for him.

Getting a bit better – eating normally again, yay! – but so weary of cycling through sadness and anger at this situation. I’m sticking with therapy and will take your mediation suggestion. I agree that if I can get through this, I will be able to get through anything — just hoping to make it through the holidays.

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Sophie

Dear nova

I just wanted to write to see how you were doing – your last message filled my heart with many similar emotions and I know how hard it all is. There’s something extra difficult about Christmas too – I know it is what we make of it but it takes the resilience of an ox to not dwell on a sad and tender heart at this time of year. How are you feeling as the weeks crawl by? I don’t know if your situation has changed at all or not, and whether your mood has lifted or you are still in those exhausting waves of anger, grief and sadness on wash rinse repeat.. I was listening to a podcast earlier today and it talked about transcending our pain and suffering and when we do, to make it an even more meaningful experience by helping others in a similar situation. You popped into my mind although we haven’t met! Just wanted to let you know that however you are feeling, I am sending love and strength your way. I wouldn’t say I’m out of the woods yet myself but I’ve made progress and if I can help in any way, whether that’s you venting on here or going round in the same agonising cycles, I am here.

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Nova

Hi Sophie,

Well, I made it through the holidays, which was my goal. It was very difficult, as I couldn’t help but think about our past holidays together, and found myself getting unexpectedly teary out of the clear blue, even when with family — and I had not cried in a while. I feel like everything associated with Christmas just set me back a few steps emotionally.

I know he was thinking of me as well, as on New Year’s Eve he “liked” several FB and Instagram photos taken on our New Year’s trip last year. That was really hard to take. I feel that he means well but doesn’t understand I find these little gestures painful, not romantic or nostalgic. Like on his birthday, when he posted a photo of the gift I gave him last year. I never respond or “like” anything of his.

I have not disconnected from him on social media because we live in a small town, and we don’t hate each other, and I thought it would show that I’m being mature about everything – but I’m rethinking that decision now. It may be time to cut those last tenuous ties, too. I know all advice says I should have done that immediately, and logically I agree, but I’m finding it hard to make that very final break. It would be far easier if I had reasons to hate him. : /

Thank you so much for writing again. Your encouragement is really helpful. Wishing you a happier 2017!

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Elizabeth :)

I need some advice on how to get up and get moving. Your advice is very helpful, but my unplanned breakup sucked the energy right out of me. This is a month an a half after the breakup and I’ve hit a wall where sleeping and laying on the couch is all I can do. This was what I call my “cold turkey breakup”. Out of nowhere, my boyfriend got extremely drunk and physically attacked me. After a concusion and a handful of ugly bruises, he ended up in jail and because of the PFA order, we haven’t talked or seen each other since two days after it all happened. (Accept the two days in court where we were on separate sides of a room.) I feel I did the right thing. I reported it after the first time, which I know is not common. I have supportive friends and family surrounding me. This past week, though I’ve fallen into a hole and can’t climb out. Is it possible that 6 or 7 days of “me time” with zero activity is the next necessary step? I feel lifeless. I have seen a psychologist and have been on anti anxiety and low doses of anti depressants since before I even dated him, so I am really hoping that this is just a normal part of the breakup process after a very serious and unexpectedly abusive relationship. Has anyone else been here before?

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Hey Sigmund

Elizabeth, you DEFINITELY did the right thing! You are so brave and so strong, and things will get better from here. You’ve been through a lot in the last 6 weeks, and it is going to take some time for you to adjust – physically and emotionally. I need you to know how normal your response is. Add to this the trauma of the physical abuse, and the way you are feelings makes sense. There is a very good reason you’re feeling the way you do. Here is some information that will explain things and the comments on this page from others might also be really helpful for you https://www.heysigmund.com/your-body-during-a-breakup/. I know you might not feel like it, but exercise (try for a 30 minute walk each day), spending time with people who care about you and sleep will help to nurture your brain and ease the physiological changes that are a normal part of breaking up. Exercise is really important. It has been found to cause the same changes in the brain as anti-depressants, and it can also help you to sleep better. Omega 3 will also help to strengthen you. Here is another article that might help https://www.heysigmund.com/recovering-from-a-breakup/. Other than that, keep being kind to yourself. You have shown amazing self-respect by getting yourself out of bad situation. Now is your time to heal from the experience. Love and strength to you as you keep moving forward.

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JLM

Dear Elizabeth,
Please take Karen’s advice. I’m still trying to recover after a year and a half but when I get down from time to time, taking a bike ride, getting on the treadmill, or going for a fast walk really helped. Put on your favorite music and just MOVE. I have worn out several pairs of shoes but so worth it and have lost almost 30 pounds. Look better than before the break up and feeling proud of myself these days. It gets easier so please be patient with yourself. I have way more UP days than Down now so I’m getting there. You will also. Good Luck! You are not alone.

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Elizabeth :)

Thank you both for your responses. Every message reminding me that I’m not in this alone helps! I will definitely read the articles you provided links to, Karen. This week has been one thousand times better than the last, so I’m feeling more hopeful now than before. I’m going start the 30 minutes per day of exercise and see how long I can stick with it. I appreciate you all!

Sincerely,
Elizabeth 🙂

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Celina

Thanks for the great article. My ex broke up with me 3 months ago on our 2 year anniversary. She said her love for me had diminished 6 months prior to breakup. One of the key reasons she cited was character incompatibility. I begged her for a 2nd chance to work on it but she refused. She said it was impossible to get back together as well. She unfriended and blocked me on Facebook before I did. We haven’t contacted each other for 3 months. I believe she has moved on way before I did. I’m still in the midst of moving on. I saw her 4 days ago at the train station but I pretended that I didn’t see her as I was afraid to be hurt again. I believe she saw me but she did not say “hi” to me as well. I hope oneday we could be friends and that I would no longer have any feelings for her.

Regards
CK

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Hey Sigmund

I’m sorry you’re hurting like this. Keep moving forward and know that it does get better. I wish you love and strength as you move towards a happier version of yourself, which you will do.

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Amanda

Thanks so much for this article. Its been almost a month and he says we can be friends until all my feelings are gone and I can treat him like any other guy friend. I cant help but thinking that with time and us both being able to focus on ourselves we could try again. He said he didn’t want to hold onto that but if we have interested in seeing that in 6 months we can make plans then. I don’t know if I should hold on or let go. I’m trying to let go but that fantasy is still so alive in my head. He seems to be fine, moved on, living life. I’m a mess!

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Hey Sigmund

Oh no! It’s an awful feeling when you’re heartbroken and he seems to be getting on with things. The things about holding on is that it will keep you stuck. If he wants you, he will know where to find you. Perhaps in six months you can try again, but make the decision in strength, not because you’re worn down and weakened from waiting for him. He’s told you that he just wants to be friends, so it’s important that you believe this. Your pain is still very raw, so give yourself time to heal and to find the strength and clarity you need to move forwards. There is no hurry, so be gentle with yourself until you’re ready.

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Andi

So, I didn’t date for four years because I’ve never been good at it.

Met a guy, dated two+ years and we always bared our souls to each other.
He broke up with me 3 weeks ago, via email, while out of the country. I am stunned. I feel he was trying to coax me to break up with him. Of, course I didn’t. So, after a laundry list of reasons he finally did it. Ambiguously. I sent some really super , mean, emasculating responses back.

I’ve been reading tons about recovering from a break up. This article does help, but, dang, when will I ever trust myself and judgement again?!

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Hey Sigmund

Hi Andi. What an awful way to break up! It sounds as though you just haven’t found the right man yet. Don’t let that make you shy away from relationships though. 2+ years is a long time, and it sounds like one in which you were both able to be open and vulnerable with each other, so clearly you are able to be in a relationship in a really positive, rich way. A bad ending doesn’t mean a bad relationship. All relationships, even the good ones, have something we can learn about ourselves. The best way to avoid the same mistakes, or getting into a relationship with the same types of people is to learn what you need to learn. Don’t stay away from them though – I can tell from your comment that you’re too good for that. The world needs more connections built on loving, open hearts, not less.

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Meg

Woah. This was so spot-on. I actually did the breaking up and I am still pretty devastated about the whole thing. It just wasn’t meant to be. I feel like I’ve had the wind knocked out of me now that it’s over… These tips were amazing! Thank you so much! Sometimes the breaker-upper has it rough too.

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Hey Sigmund

Hi Meg. You’re so right! Ending a relationship is always awful. Whether you’re the one who has been left or the one who is leaving, an ending usually comes after there’s been a lot of effort put in to holding onto it and making things work. Sometimes, for whatever reason, all the effort in the world won’t make a difference if the combination of the two people in it doesn’t work any more. That’s the heartbreaking bit – for both of you. A breakup always takes readjustment and time to get used to a different reality – one without the person you loved, and maybe still do, in it. I’m pleased you enjoyed the article.

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Meghan

Just three nights ago it happened. Surprisingly yesterday I felt strong as a bull, but today has been one of the “just get through days.” Alas, this article is awesome, genuine, touching, and a real reminder of humanness. I laughed continuously, which is a feat today. THANK YOU! and THANK YOU!

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Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome. This has only just happened so you’re going to have good days and bad days. What you need to remember is that even the worst days come to an end and there’s always a better day coming – always. I’m so pleased that even on a barely there day you were able to have a laugh – that’s awesome. And so are you – you’re going to get through this and you won’t look back.

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Brooke

I was googling break up tips and advice and I found this article. Thank you so much. It has been almost 24 hours since my 2 & 1/2 year relationship ended, and I feel so alone and lost. We had been through a lot and he cheated about two months ago, and yesterday he admitted that he hasn’t put in effort to fix things because he just doesn’t feel it and didn’t miss me and just felt like we were forcing things. He was my comfort and since I’m home for the summer (from college) it sucks because he is also home. It is so tempting to go and talk to him and see him because im in denial and I love him. I just don’t want to believe that it’s over. I also can’t help but blame myself because I feel as if I could have changed something. I feel so awful because everything we had planned now I learned was apparently out of guilt on his end. I tried blaming myself by saying that I was too controlling, but I guess he really didn’t care that much after cheating. It’s so hard to accept since he WAS my best friend and my girl friends just can’t replace him. Anyway, thanks again. I appreciate any advice you have posted and will post in the future.

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Hey Sigmund

Your hurt is really raw and I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. I know how awful this is for you right now – I really do. But you need to listen to this – You deserve somebody who thinks you’re wonderful and who is going to be want to heap you with love and kisses to prove it. He’s out there somewhere, waiting to meet you and it will be easier now that this man who hasn’t been able to treat you as you deserved to be treated has moved along. I know that you’re aching for your ex-partner – of course you are – he’s been a huge part of your life for two and half years, but that doesn’t mean he was the best man for you to spend forever with. There is a big gap there now, but it will heal. I know that you’re so lonely and sad and probably very confused right now, but that will pass. What you’re going through is physical as well as emotional and for now, it’s important that you take the time to heal. Take good care of yourself. I promise you will get through this.

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Amy S

Thank you for this post. And for your response to Brooke. It’s what I needed to hear. I, too, am fresh out of a devastating (to me) breakup after a long term relationship/living together, and while I try to tell myself many of these things, it’s nice to see the validation from someone else. I will get through today, surely.

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Hey Sigmund

This is such a hard time for you. Any breakup is awful but hen you live with someone for a long time, there’s a big gap left behind when they leave. This will pass though – it really will. I know it probably doesn’t feel like it right now, but you will get through this and there will be an amazing life waiting for you – just wait and see. Stay strong, lean on the people who love you and be very quick to do beautiful things for yourself – you deserve them.

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angelic

Hi- thank you for the tips. I have been dealing with the breakup for over a year. I thought I was going to marry this man- we were together for almost 7 years. I made a bad decision few months after breaking up and still feel awful about it. Even though, I was the one who broke up with him because of how the relationship was and found him cheating; it has been a difficult road. we still talking as friends and every time I see him i just feel more the pain… I dont know if all of this will really go away and become better =( I kind of wish it was only a nightmare and no my reality right now.

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Hey Sigmund

You’re very welcome. I’m so sorry you’re going through such a tough time at the moment. It doesn’t matter who breaks things off – if it’s separating from someone you loved and someone you imagined spending the rest of your life with, it’s always going to feel awful for a while. I now it’s easier said than done, but the more you are able to stop regretting what’s happened, or wishing it was different, the more able you will be to move you. You’ll get there anyway, but pulling yourself away from living in the past will help it along. We all make bad decisions sometimes – there isn’t a single person on the planet who hasn’t – but it’s important to forgive yourself so you can move on. I know it feels awful now, but it will get better.

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Rachel

I had been with a guy for about a year and a half and he was not only my boyfriend but my bestest friend in the world! He was the sweetest guy I had ever met and really helped me so much! We would talk about things we planned on doung together, places we would go, getting married and the family we would have together one day and he was just the best thing to ever happen to me. Then, one day out of nowhere he texted me and told me that he didn’t love me anymore and it just broke me so badly. I’ve had breakups before but none of them hurt this much. I want to thank you so much for writing this article because it helped me to see that i CAN get better and find someone else one day who will truly love me….

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Hey Sigmund

There are so many different kinds of breakups – all awful – but the unexpected ones must be the worst of all. There must be so many unanswered questions for you. No wonder it hurt you so much. What I know for sure is that you will get better and there is someone waiting to stumble upon you and fall completely in love with you in the way you deserve to be loved – completely and wholeheartedly. You will get better – absolutely you will – and there will come a time when you see that the wisdom, insight and strength you have received from going through such an awful experience will make you a better person than you were before it. It’s a cliche, I know, but I also know that it’s true. You’ve been through an awful time, but it’s going to get better.

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Rachel

Thank you so very much! This is exactly what i needed to help me through this time.

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Joleen

Hey, Rachel! So sorry to hear about your heartache. I can relate and wanted to let you know someone out here is rooting for you. Try the suggestions in the article. They have helped me. Time will ease the pain so hang in there. I am still feeling the heartache almost a year later but I’m moving forward. You will too♥

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Rachel

Thank you so much! knowing that you have made it a year and are able to continue on is such an encouragement to me. I have already taken the suggestion about talking to close friends and it has helped me immensely and I plan to do the other suggestions as well!

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Devyn

Thank you so much for sharing this information with the world. I have recently gone through a very hard breakup and I can admit to many of those items on the list, especially the ones about remaining friends and my obsession with stalking on social media. Simply by reading this article, I can feel myself become more motivated to move on in a healthy way. It has been 2 months and I am still feeling like there was something that I could have done to fix our relationship and that there is still a chance for us in the future- I know that I am wrong. My only question is regarding spending time with your “true friends”, my ex boyfriend and I had the same friends and now they are all obsessing over the fact that he is single and they don’t even care that he was the one that hurt me. What do you suggest I do? I have tried connecting with new people but like you said, I need true friends that will come over and take care of me because they know I need it.

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Hey Sigmund

I’m so pleased the article has helped you. If it’s only been two months the pain can still be very raw. Everything you’re feeling and thinking now is so normal and it will get better. True friends can be hard to find but keep trying – they’ll be out there and there’ll be someone who will be waiting to meet you. Sometimes a true friend can come from making a deeper connection with someone who is already in your life – sharing an experience or a meal, showing interest in their story and sharing yours. It’s often the way that friends in a group tend to think as a group, so that may be why your friends are acting the way they are acting at the moment. Your best friendships may also be yet to be found and the place to find them is where you think your ‘tribe’ would hang out. What do you love to do? What would you like to learn? What would you like to try? Where would you like to go? If you follow that, it’s likely that the people you find there will be similar to you and it will be easier to form a connection. It might be something completely unexpected and random that hasn’t occurred to you before. Be patient and open when someone comes into your life (or someone who is already in it shows up more). Remember that true friendships are about looking after each other and about having fun too. You deserve that.

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jane

I’m in the middle of a very messy breakup after 17years and an incredibly successful blended family of 5 children who were really close and now they don’t speak to each other. He walked out last June now April and I feel it still. He’s had 2 women since then and I don’t know if he’s still with one. Now comes the settlement and court battles. How do I get over my passionate anger? Why doesn’t he feel anything while I’m devastated?

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heysigmund

I’m so sorry you’re going through this. One of the worst things about breakups is the unanswered questions, or the answers that just don’t make any sense. People change and that’s no reflection at all on you. Who knows why these things happen. As someone who feels deeply about everything, I completely understand why it baffles you that he seems to feel nothing. Some people are just better at pushing things aside and moving on. That doesn’t mean you weren’t important to him, it doesn’t mean that at all. People deal with things differently, they move on differently and sometimes it’s impossible to understand. The most important thing is that you don’t take it personally or as a reflection of how he felt about you or your relationship.

I wish I had the words to make this better for you. You will move through this. I promise you. You’re heartbroken now and I know how hard it is to imagine this getting better, but it will. Now is the time for you to take care of yourself and when you can, to put a bold heavy underline and not look back. It’s the regret, and ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s’ that will keep you stuck. For now, you just need to get through today and if you can just go the next hour without looking back. When you start to feel yourself going there, pull yourself back. Then make it two hours, three, a day and then there will come a day where you don’t wake up with a heavy heart thinking about him. I wrote this post last night about what to do when separation gets messy. It might help: https://www.heysigmund.com/when-a-divorce-or-separation-turns-ugly/ . I wish you all the very best and will be willing you through this.

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Maria

I wish I had had this article to hand a few years ago when I was going through a very painful break-up (totally unexpected and unexplained). I made all the mistakes you mentioned, like trying to stay friends, taking about 2 years to disconnect on social media, but I’m finally recovered and better than ever. Thanks for the sage advice -I must remember to come back to this article for any future break-up breakdowns <3

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heysigmund

Breakups make us all do crazy things. I’m so pleased you’re through it now. It sounds like it wasn’t easy. These things have a way of making us stronger, wiser, braver and better than before. Thank you for taking the time to make contact.

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Kristen

It has been since August 2014, two months after our daughter was born since we have been split up. I am still not 110% over it, and all I can say is that if you believe any at all that there’s still hope for your relationship then you won’t ever move forward. I’m stuck in that mindset of maybe it was cause of our daughter that we just couldn’t work cause he’s not ready to settle down. I am moving on slowly though. Our daughter is 10 months old now. And, being a single mother isn’t so fun.

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heysigmund

It takes time doesn’t it. The harder you love the harder the fall – but I would always choose loving hard any day. Your life has changed so much in the last ten months – a breakup and a baby. One of these would bring enough life stress on its own but to have two. Don’t make the mistake of attributing the cause of your relationship breakdown to your baby girl. The timing was bad – definitely – but babies don’t break relationships. They make them harder for a while, but they don’t break them. The reason relationships break is because the two people in it aren’t right together any more. Sometimes a fine hairline fracture can be exposed as more when the relationship is put under stress but the fracture has to be there in the first place. You deserve somebody who wants to be with you and who will catch you when you’re too exhausted from sleepless nights to stand up on your own anymore. Someone who will fix the beginning of those hairline cracks with kisses and ‘I love you’s’ and promises not to leave. Not someone who will leave at that very point. That doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with him, what it means is the relationship wasn’t right anymore. Being a single mother is one of the hardest things you can do. What makes it harder sometimes – motherhood generally, actually – is the talk about how motherhood is pure bliss – sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. It can be exhausting, lonely, tireless and thankless. But it is a privilege and the best thing you’ll do, without a doubt. And it’s okay to have days – weeks or months even – where all you can do is breath and the bliss seems a little out of reach. That stage will pass. I promise. Keep moving forward. There will be good things ahead for you. Difficult times never last.

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Joleen

I had the most painful breakup of my life after almost 4 years of my life last June and just finally starting to heal. It’s April. Be patient with yourself. This article is right on with advice. You WILL heal in time. Heartbreak is awful but know you will get through it!

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Michelle

Although some of this helpful, it needs #12 What If You Have A Child Together?

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leilani bond

the past few months I’ve thought I was insane. because nothing really got through to me, no advice, no help at all. but just reading this article I can already see myself getting better. I just want to say thank you for writing this

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heysigmund

You’re welcome! I’m so pleased the information has found it’s way to you. Thank you for making contact and for taking the time to leave a comment.

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Karla

I know this is all helpful but i think im at that stage where none of it helps me right now… but the tips are great

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CD

I found this site as a site design tester, and it’s the only site I’ve kept pinned to my browser, because of the content! Definitely worth it – thanks for saving my sanity! Keep the good articles coming!!!

Reply

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