Moving on from a bad breakup is nothing like how they show it in romantic comedy movies and television series. It’s impossible for someone to magically heal a broken heart after watching a sad movie while eating a tub of ice cream and crying all night.
In reality, mourning a lost love can be agonizing and may feel like being stuck at rock bottom. Those first few weeks can make you feel like your world has crumbled in. During this whole time, you find yourself falling into self-destructive patterns.
Why moving on is so hard
The people in your life must have advised you that there are more fish in the sea (sometimes just at the palm of our hands through our favorite dating apps) now that you’re fresh out of a bad breakup. But why is it so difficult to toss a new net already?
Falling in love involves the same neural circuitry as cocaine addiction. We get used to intaking that fix or that feel-good substance—which in this case, is that person and relationship in our lives—that when you break up, it’s like you’re in a drug withdrawal. But, over time, through practice, self-control, and trying new things, you will eventually heal.
Similarly, we grew up in a world that stresses “forever” as a relationship goal—where an ending must be a letdown. But, don’t despair. Breakups are often the shocking prelude to a new and improved life (one that can hopefully, finally, include a life with someone you complement with).
How to Move On from a Bad Breakup
While moving on seems like miles away, the very fact that you’re here is already a win. Your next step? Take in these tips we got for you.
These guides aren’t stages, though, but a universal pattern—a map. So, take your time and go through a phase that seems right at the time.
1. Give yourself time to feel the pain
An end of a relationship, one that you’ve invested your heart and mind to, is heartwrenching. You just lost a significant part of your life, someone who’s been a constant feature in it. You shared your dreams and envisioned a future with them. And, realizing that won’t be happening can be distressing.
If you’re fresh out of a breakup, grieve. Give yourself time to feel the pain. Have your breakdowns, if you must. Bawl if it’s too much, and eat that whole tub of ice cream if it’s the only thing bringing you comfort.
“Anger and sadness are sometimes two sides of the same coin,” says Clinical Psychologist at the University of Windsor Dr. Antonio Pascual-Leone said in his TEDx talk. So, it’s perfectly okay to feel sad one day, in denial the next, angry the following day, and back to feeling miserable. Let yourself drown in sadness because otherwise, you’ll only have difficulty moving on.
2. Distance yourself—online or IRL
Going through a breakup in a time where social media can be your stalking tool can be very tempting and confusing. So, have a social media detox if you feel tempted to check your ex’s whereabouts online. It’s also best to delete their number—although it might be useless if you already memorized it—if you’re itching to call them.
While it can be temporarily satisfying to fulfill your curiosity by stalking them online or contacting them, it might not make you feel good in the long run. It’s especially true when you find out your ex seems to be moving on more quickly than you.
Moreover, you placed all your happy moments on your social media page. You may have already uploaded your milestones online, from romantic dinner dates to spontaneous adventures. And, having a reminder of those days may bring you more pain.
Additionally, it’s best not to stay friends—at least for a while. Let your heart heal first and get accustomed to the idea that you’re no longer together. Staying friends with your ex may make it more challenging to rebuild yourself or open your heart to someone new.
3. Go out with your friends
Moving on from a heartbreak is distressing, so don’t do it alone. Go out with friends and talk about it as much as you can until it no longer hurts.
It’s also best to just let your friends drag you, to wherever, for hangouts or parties. Post-breakup, your brain is looking for that feel-good substance you used to enjoy from hanging out with your ex. So, go out on a date with your best friends and try to stay away from painful thoughts—when you can.
While your friends are there to listen to you, they’re also there to pull you out of the pity party, especially if you’ve been staying there too long.
4. Let go of lingering bad feelings
When you repeatedly replay the breakup scene, you tend to play the blame game and hold a grudge. You might find yourself bearing your emotional baggage or unfinished business. All this will be destructive to your healing process.
So, let go of your ex and forgive them for hurting you.
5. Embark on a new and solo adventure
“Travel can help heal a broken heart,” says Dr. Jessica O’Reilly. “…as it changes your routine and ensures that your brain changes in response to novelty.”
So, moving on from a bad breakup also involves a fresh pace in a new place. No—you don’t have to do it like the movie Eat, Pray, and Love. You can always start by breaking your routine.
Instead of spending the weekend on your couch all day, go somewhere you two have always wanted to visit but didn’t get the chance to. You can also try a new hobby or enroll yourself in pottery or baking courses.
Switching your habits and channeling all your free time on something creative can help ease your post-breakup pain. It also helps expand your circle, experience new things, and fix your crushed confidence. Ultimately, moving on is easier when you embark on a new and solo adventure.
6. Do the opposite of the things they’ve always loved about you (and vice versa)
Did your ex-girlfriend always tell you what to wear? Or, perhaps, your ex-boyfriend has always loved your long hair? Or, maybe, your partner hated it when you’re too uptight? Change all these and do the exact opposite of things they hated or loved about you.
While it may sound like a self-destructive plan, it’s actually the opposite. The new look and habits can help improve your confidence. Asserting your autonomy and taking risks helps reclaim your body as your own.
Nonetheless, when you do things new to you, have ample time to think it through. Make sure you’re never going to regret it, or it won’t make drastic changes in your life.
7. Bring with you all the good things they taught you
Regardless of how messy the breakup got, don’t throw all the good things out of the window.
Did they encourage you to enroll in a degree you were always intimidated to get in? Did they help you be in better shape by going to spin class together? Or, did they teach you how to stay grounded, keep calm, and fight fair? Don’t toss all these inside the garbage bin.
No matter how terrible your relationship became or how it ultimately ended, don’t discount the lessons they taught you. Appreciate all the good things and get better at them. All this helps release you from pain and anger, and will eventually help improve your future relationship(s).
Nonetheless, if everything about your relationship has truly been bad, chalk it all up to experience.
8. Choose to be happy
Your heart must be swelling with pain right now, and you must be trying hard to just get through the day. It’s normal and perfectly alright.
However, remember also that happiness is a choice. You have control over your emotions. Fill your heart with good things once more and replace your negative thoughts with positivity. Let go of the pain and choose to be happy.
Heal your heart
Moving on can be long, tiring, and messy—especially if you know you gave your all to make someone happy or the relationship work. But, if it means reclaiming a new and improved heart, it should be worth the mess, right?
When you finally mended your heart, take this time to do things yourself. Focus on revamping your uniqueness and loving yourself more, and don’t rush into a new love. Enjoy alone time and go on a date with yourself.
Should you be ready for a new shot at love, make that relationship work, but don’t give your all this time. Be in love and let them love you for you, but leave ample amount for yourself, too.