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Recovering from a Breakup: Proven Ways to Heal (From Science)

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Even if your heart tries to pull its broken self together to tell you it’s for the best, and your head – foggy and sad – tells you the pain will pass, the agony of a breakup can be relentless. When you’re recovering from a breakup, it’s important not to hurry things along – it’s your time to reset, recharge and draw wisdom from the experience – but what if your healing could be strong and complete … and quicker?  Science may have just found the way. 

New research has found that broken-hearted ones who reflected more on their relationships over a nine week period had a stronger overall recovery from their breakup. 

An important part of the healing is a process called ‘self-concept reorganisation’, which involves rebuilding and strengthening the sense of who you are, independent of the relationship.

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Relationships have a profound impact on the beliefs we have about ourselves, whether we realise it or not. During the course of a relationship, it’s very normal to ‘intertwine’ with a partner. Goals and directions change, as well as wants and needs for now and the future.

This isn’t because you lose yourself, though certainly that can happen, but because intimacy involves opening up to another person – opening up to their love, wants, needs, feelings, opinions, love, goals, dreams. When that happens, you can’t help but be influenced and eventually move in the same direction. Sometimes that involves adjusting your own sails. It’s all a healthy part of being with someone fully, and part of the unpredictable magic of relationships.

A breakup means the undoing of this merging, which is painful to go through. However strong and independent a person may be, the fracturing of a relationship can also mean the fracturing of the self-concept. One of the most painful parts of a breakup is that it up-ends things as you’ve come to know them. The familiar is gone, plans are changed and the future all of a sudden has too many blank spaces where happy things used to be.

 

Part of the healing is re-establishing who you are without your partner. Anything that can repair and re-strengthen the self-concept, will accelerate healing.

So, to get you back to strong, based on science …

  1. Talk. Go on. Go for it.

    There are a couple of ways that talking about a breakup might help to facilitate healing. The first is that talking about the relationship will help to bring a different perspective to things. It’s not called a ‘breakup’ because it’s working well. Being in love or being in like-a-lot can blur things, hide things and dress things up, sometimes at the cost of clarity. There will be a level of insight that will throw itself at your feet when you talk about the relationship from a more distant perspective.

  2. Find your story.

    Talking helps to construct a story of the relationship that gives meaning to the experience – including the experience of the relationship, the breakup, and perhaps most importantly for healing, the recovery. Let me explain …

    If you tell the story of your breakup as one of rejection and a lost happy ever after, recovery will be slow, kind of like ‘walking through quicksand’ type of slow. It’s really easy to get stuck in this narrative when the thoughts are locked in your head and want to be with you at 2am. On the other hand, talking to people in your tribe will help you find a way to understand your story from a position of strength. This might involve finding the lessons, the learning and reframing the experience as, say, an ending, rather than a rejection.

  3. An emotional release – journalling.

    Having an emotional release is an important part of healing. Journalling is one way to do this as it allows you to capture and give definition to the thoughts and feelings that are swirling around inside. Journalling doesn’t have to be done every day to have an effect. Even a few times a week will help the healing. 

  4. Write – as though you’re talking to a stranger.

    Writing repeatedly about the process of the breakup as though speaking with a stranger about it, is another way to move towards healing. As well as being an emotional release, it also encourages a fresh perspective and new insights.

  5. Reclaim yourself – what’s been neglected?

    Reclaiming a strong self-concept – establishing who you are outside of the relationship – is critical and will be enormously supportive of a recovery. Think about the parts of yourself that might have been pushed aside during the relationship. When you’ve found these, find ways to build them and nurture them. 

  6. And expand them.

    Find new ways to expand your self concept. When you feel ready, (or maybe a little before then) take up new interests, establish new goals or re-establish your direction. Given that your need to connect has been messed with, anything that will give you the opportunity to connect with others who will also see you as your own, unique person will really help the healing process.

A breakup is an ending, not a rejection. It might not feel like that initially, but it’s an important thing to remember. When your heart has been broken, it can take a while to find your way back to whole but you will get there. Healing from a broken heart is as much a physical process as it is an emotional one. It’s very similar to recovering from an addiction, which is why it feels so hard and so damn painful.

Above all else, remember that there were things about you that were beautiful, strong, vibrant and extraordinary before the relationship. Nothing has changed.

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220 Comments

Amanda

How to make the pain stop after a break up? Can’t eat or sleep, I feel depressed. How can I make myself feel better and sleep better?

Reply
JB

I recently ended my most important relationship I’ve had in my life. This person was my first real, adult relationship and we both had serious and open conversations about marriage, kids, etc. We fell in love fast and hard, but after one year of dating I was seeing and feeling something I couldn’t shake: the thought that we weren’t eachother’s person. Despite being so sure about my feelings and love, I realized that this was a relationship that wasn’t meant for a lifetime of marriage, love, and joy. It was a horrible realization and I broke down completely. After some serious & emotional conversations and a month of these thoughts consuming me, I ended things. Last night we had the “clarity” chat and it was even more difficult. She is hurting and going through the same feelings of loss and depression. She is such a wonderful person, but I know that I am living my truth and the pain we both are experiencing now will be worth finding the partner who is right for both of us. This has been a horrible time and I don’t know when it will change for the better, but I truly believe it will and that faith is what I will continue to lean on when the days, nights, weeks, and months become too much to bear.

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E

It’s hard for me to write this, I’ve been with my fiance for 10 years, due to get married in 2 months. Celebrated our 10 year anniversary couple of weeks ago, unfortunately a few days ago. He cancelled everything, throwing our relationship and wedding out the door. He said he is going move abroad and sort his life out, get a job and work long hours to earn more. Hes not been happy for the 10 years we been together. I never got that impression, every photo shows him smiling, the times we went out together seem real, but hearing hes never been happy hurts. Hes changed from when I first met him, I’ve changed but my feelings never. He said he cant provide me the happiness I want, house kids and hes not ready for anything like that. Sometimes I think it’s my fault, why did we wait 3 years to get married, why didn’t we get married in Vegas when he said. Why did I not support him more. He suffers mental health, so I wish I was there for him more, already I cried non stop for 4 days and 4 nights, he is a huge part of my life. I want to support him through the hard time, but my heart will always belong to him. I dont see myself being with another guy at 28 years old. Am I just hoping one day he will come back to me, once hes sorted his life out? Maybe.
I think being with someone who has mental health and gambling addiction only made me love him more, despite, how hard life is already. I’m hurting from him, but always wishes for his happiness like the one he provided to me for 10 years.
He truly is the love if my life, sometimes, I think I want to end my life like that. No matter how much love and support my family are giving, nothing compares to him.

Reply
Hloni

I’ve been a relationship for 6 months,introduced the guy to my 13 and 11 year old boys.He has a 4 year old son and the baby mama has created so much drama for us its crazy,he says his on my side but he doesn’t behave that way especially when she fetches the child,he constantly remind me that she’s the mother of his child,a few hours ago i decided to end the relationship because he even started getting physical abusive with me,how do i tell my kids it’s over between us?please help

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Whits

You know everything in life is temporary nothing lasts forever, i just recently came out of a 2year relationship as well the way he broke up with me was totally sad! i gave my everything into this relationship and im sure we all do that we put ourselves last for a guy we do anything for them and ive learnt that you just hurting yourself in the end letting go does less damage than holding on. to all my ladies going through a break up my advise to you would be block delete forget no matter how difficult it is especially if a guy doesnt appreciate you for who you are and the role you played within his life, one thing ive also noticed is that you meet them when they have nothing and you go through the struggle with them but once they start climbing the ladder with you and once they reach the top you no longer good enough. the pain you may be feeling today is preparing you for the strength you need tomorrow i truly believe whats meant to be will be. dont beat yourself about a person that doesnt care or love you its their loss on day someone will walk into your life and make you feel like a queen and you’ll look back and ask yourself did i really cry so much over this 1 person then you’ll realise nothing lasts forever time does heal so give time the opportunity to do its job. lastly never ever ever run after a person that disrespected you or just left you like that for whatever apparent reason and NO SECOND CHANCES if he did the first time he’ll do it again.

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ileeana

I just got dumped by my boyfriend of 6 years. There were so many external pressures – people creating drama. And not being sure about whether or not we wanted children. I don’t think he did it the right way either. He was mean about it, and just cut me out of his life. Its been a couple of days now, and I don’t know how Im going to get by. There are so many memories, moments I’m still grateful for…but he was so cold when he broke it off that im not sure i could trust him again if he ever came back – if he ever would come back. it is so horrible to give your entire heart to someone, and then have them exit from your life and then that’s it. they say 50% of couples reunite after break ups …if its meant to be, it will be. but im utterly, totally devastated.

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Radoan

For me, love is the totally fake word when you are showing it to someone else. I started my relationship after a long breakup. I said that i will not be able to forget you if you leave me. She said never. But she did after enjoy her time. Now she is saying i am not the person who can make her happy. She wanna be alone. But this is very surely false. She can’t stay or live single.

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Cynthia H

Thanks for the article. My boyfriend of six months and I broke up recently and it’s been a very difficult time for me. We are both in our forties and 20 years ago were close friends all through college. He was a close confidant and someone I could feel safe and myself with. I even stood for him at his wedding to a mutual friend. I moved across the country and started a new life as he did, we communicated a bit. Last summer I reached to him to see how he was doing to find out he was divorced for two years and living a single life. He had recently gone through some devastating loss and was managing work and single dad.

He admitted to me that he had always had feelings for me but was too shy to try anything. Deep down I knew this to be true. He asked to visit me and I agreed. He came out for the weekend and we spent a wonderful time together and it quickly became a close long distance relationship. We were committed to seeing each other every few months and talked on the phone most nights and shared our daily routines. I felt very valued, safe and happy, we had the same trusting relationship all these years and shared a lot of joy together.

Although everything seemed amazing to me, I was having an issue with the fact that he couldn’t climax during sex and didn’t seemed too overly concerned over and he didn’t seem too interested in sexting or keeping things hot between visits. After some gentle prodding, I found out he was watching porn 4-5 times a week and able to climax from only that. I felt confused and less desirable because of that and asked him to research the affects porn has on the brain and for him to consider stopping. I was clear with my need to have my man get pleasure from sex together and for it to be a joint experience. He explained why he had done it and I understood.

He agreed and said he would try as our relationship was worth it. After the no porn, things were amazing, he was finally expressing some of his needs and really desiring me. I was proud of him and encouraging him every step of the way.

Flash forward, a month post porn ban and he began to have difficulty at work and financial pressure from his ex. He retreated for a weekend and then sent me a text explaining that he was finding all of this too difficult, the distance and our future together. He said he loved me so much and didn’t think he could give me what I needed and was so scared of failing me.

I was devastated and tried to pull him back to work within his limits and not too just give up something so lovely. I am very much an open and honest person about my feelings and give a lot of love to those I care about, I am a giver

We agreed to give it another try and he would get some help, it’s only been a week but I still feel the distance and was beginning to feel very insecure about the relationship. I thought I would be able to support him through this time but am feeling hurt and don’t want to keep giving to someone who is incapable of trying. I broke it off this morning and will likely never hear from him again.

I want to grieve, move on and heal but I still have so much hope for him to change and be the better man. I have a good support network including a lovely therapist so I know I will get through this and be stronger, I just would appreciate some perspective.

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Joanna V

My boyfriend of seven years moved out of our house two weeks ago. He took everything he owned and vanished. I have not heard or spoke to him since. We both have a son each from a previous relationship and having been living together as a family for the past four years. I have not seen my stepson and he has not reached out to my son. My family and life are completely ripped apart. The pain that I am feeling is complete agony. I have no contact information for him at all. I have no idea where he is. I have not been eating, or sleeping. I feel like a zombie walking around in space. This is the hardest thing I have ever been through in my life not sure how I am going to make it.

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ileeana

my break up happened two days ago. i haven’t been eating or sleeping either and feel nauseous. you wrote this a month ago…do you feel any better now that some time has passed?

Reply
alex

Did anybody fall in love with their best friend? and then get your heart crushed

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Sammi

Yes, although it was more complicated than that. He was never ready for a (serious) relationship with me. I now think he might not have had real feelings for me, but was just attracted to me. When I thought we were really getting together he told me he had no feelings for me. And now he’s with someone else.
He wants to stay friends. He’s having a lot of fun with his new gf now, while I’m in pain.
Don’t know what your experience was?

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Surfah man

Hi , my daughter just broke up today, again with her boyfriend of a year. I was against a steady relationship while in school because I know that things can get complicated, at a time in life when u should be socializing with peers and keeping things light, but no. So my daughter has so much going for her, a loving family, she is an National Honor student, was the schools Senior Homecoming Queen. She’s working 2 part-time jobs while attending school and applying for Colleges. Her boy friend seems like a nice guy, but he comes from a hard background. His parents abandoned he and his brother whom are now being raised by their Grandparents. The boys are well behaved polite, respectful and have manners. But the boyfriend has control issues, and I know my daughter fears him or does not want to disappoint or make him wait. At times when I had to drop her off to meet him she would show signs of being nervous and stressed out about being late or making him wait. He doesn’t have a car so he either catches the bus or walks to his destinations. They get into arguments when she’s late or when she can’t meet or go out with him. Thankfully they have not engaged or have taken their relationship to that next physical level. I explained to her that we as parents would not be OK with their having sex. We feel that they are too young to get into that complicated and heavy a relationship. Now that this breakup is occurring again for the 3rd time, I told her that’s enough. Why put yourself through this again, you both have to realize that you are both not happy and agree to move on, because you both care about each other. So now she is in sorrow mood feeling bad but it was her first attempt at Love. When you put in effort into a relationship and things don’t go according to plan you may beat yourself up about it, but that’s Life and how we Learn about ourselves and grow. Wish me Luck as I try and do my Fatherly Best to help my Baby to Mend her 💔

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Harvetta W

I cant even imagine being with her it hurts so bad when didn’t have nothing I was there she I accurse of people this my assumption was right she always put other people before I’m truly in love with her and if feels though I don’t want no one else I’m in so much pain lord please help me I’m distress yes I’m gay

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sehmat

I had a breakup recently and I tried getting out of it. But I am not able to forget him. Now I will definitely refer these points. Thank you so much for sharing these post.

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Thabii

I just got dumped few days ago

He told me his tired of my insecurities
Today I saw him by the airport he walked passed me as if I’m a stranger

I’m hurt I cried but I told myself I need to pull myself delete him off my life and move on no matter how painful it is I don’t have a choice

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Amanda

I can’t cope with the pain of my break up. Can’t eat or sleep, I feel depressed. Can’t sleep without the sleeping pills or wine. And to make things worse I think I’m getting addicted to them. How can I make myself feel better and sleep better?

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Nelly

You need to do some self-care; gym, dancing class, massage, buy new clothes, new haircut, new cute assesories, new shoes, buy a piece of jewelry that resembles your straight and self worth. Also, meditate, hike, church and surround yourself of positive people. Built a support group…. time will heals just put the effort. You need to start feeling strong and beautiful again. Take something natural to sleep like melatonin after a nice warm shower.

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Jenny B

24 years…and I still cry over the loss. Maybe it’s more about the pain of shocking rejection from the most important person in the world to me..at the time. I feel guilt for allowing myself to be held captive by this man who had our home and life ready! There was no closure, explanation or ability to apologize.

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Love

I hope you are better now and stronger than ever I’m going through this now and I hope and pray I will get through this for my sake and kids

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Sierra Z

I recently got dumped out of no where a few days ago. We had a perfect relationship and barely any problems or arguments. He was so good to me and my family, friends and I would have never saw this coming. The reason he said we should break up, was because he didn’t feel ready for a relationship. Like I said this happened out of no where. Im so hurt and confused on why he would completely shut me out and become so cold to me. He acts like as if he doesn’t even know me and didn’t just spend many months saying how much he loves me and how im such a great girl. It feels like he wont come back, and what hurts the most is that i still love him so much and he acts as if im just a stranger.

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Jeimi

The same story happen to me and what I believe is guys fall out of love easily, we have to be strong and wait for the right guy to come along. We can do this 💪 unfortunately when you show a guy you care for them and you love them, they get scared and run away. Irony of life 🤷🏽‍♀️

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Rose

Oooh my gosh sooo true! Every damn time I dont want a guy, they leech on and be so wonderful to win me over. I finally say yaay okay lets do this. Nope. Mine just left me at my friends wedding last weekend, after 2 years.

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Nelly

That happened to me too. But I felt at ease bc the love of your life will not do that. That simply opened the apportunity for the your other half to come to your life. Even painful experience are blessings in disguised. Be strong time will heal. 3-6 months and you will be back to normal.

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Scott

Nonsense. Men experience relationships exactly the same as women; and, it turns a wide gamut depending on the person and the circumstance. I guarantee anyone who thinks with bitter stereotypes that they are hurting themselves, slowing/stopping healing, and not taking responsibility for their part in the breakup. The sooner and faster blaming stops the better.

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Maya A

It happened to me the same exact way. After he said he could not live without me. Then the coldness as if I was a stranger.

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Lucy

I recently got dumped. Our relationship was so complicated. I blame myself for putting myself in that situation in the first place. I moved to different country for work, a few weeks later I met this guy (a gentleman). We then very quickly started dating and were head over heels for each other. Then he tells me he is separated with a kid and he works very hard just so the child can have a better life. He is separated but does not want to divorce his wife because he feels it would be betraying his principles. He told me if I still want to continue the relationship, I shouldn’t expect marriage out of it because that is the one thing he cannot give me. I was so stupid and I agreed and told him we could live in the moment. Then, things got really serious between us and he told me he loved me and honestly I love him too. However, I’m confused because I’m not supposed to expect anything out of it,he even told me I could go on dates with other guys but if I see potential in the guy I should tell him so we could just stay friends. This crazy agreement went by for about 5 months until he just abruptly ended the relationship because it’s what best for me. He confused the hell out me, i fell deeply in love with this guy and now I can’t even concentrate at work. How can you tell me that you’re in love with me and then just dump me over text. I’m in so much pain at the moment and I can’t even talk to anyone about it.

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Juke

exactly similar cases for me as well, i was with my girl for almost 4 years, i met her through her sister and her sister was my best friend girlfriend. we were get to know each other for over 1 year and finally when she was at abroad i called her and fly as i could think i could be with her forever, so i flied to the abroad and finally i proposed her, she was studying at abroad at the time, we had kinda long distance relationship for 1 year, and finally she changed to my home town.and we get back to normal as, as people comes and go through our life and try to ruin everything, btw our strings kept together, as i had to work out of town we were again long distance relationshp, btw i can barely see her every month for 2 days. time passes and thing started getting crazy, there was 1 guy 10 years older then her, he was a rich guy and he had a huge crush on her, he started taking her dinner and get her expensive stuffs which i couldnt get her, things get worse and worse, mean time i even dont know whats going on. one time i get to her i found smthng weired. and she started saying to me he was abusing her, and shee gets depressed. so she went to a psychiatrist and started counselling. through the times i try to help her as much as i can i gave all of my best effort. finally she was recoverd. and she had a guy as a best friend after some months, they started to hangout and get together when im not in home town.as she always says that im not financially settled, and show wont be able to have a good life with me. i tried my best to make the life she wants and show her all the happiness. after some days her birthday came. we celeberate her birthday with her family. and next day i had to leave to work again and before i left one of her sister called me and says that her best friend is going to give her surprise when i left. i was suspecting somting wrong past months. so i decide to see whts goin on .so waited and unfortunately i found she was sleeping with her best friend. i caught them together and still she denied when i saw all on my eyes. it was a time my life was like set on a fire. btw also i realized that she is not worth having in my life, btw my question is always, why SHE WASTED 4 years with me, so i decide to end up with her and i end up. after all i blockedher on social media and all, and she started calling my friends and family and started making rumors. btw still i didnt cared because i loved her, i loved a wrong women. btw everything happnd for a reason. after 4 weeks laterly i found out they werre engaged. and i smile my self and says to my heart ‘ i m happy for her, and its my time to moved on get a better life i deserve better’ im trying to be strong and have self confidence, btw this is the hardest times. i had to deal with it till the tright times comes, in this world everything is temporary. time wil heal./

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Lerato

Ohoo dearly this is so painful…get yourself a better life and try to focuse more on what’s best for u heal and make a good memories for you and only you…surround yourself with possitive people so that they can build and guide you…i wish u well…take care! X

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