When you get your heart broken it can feel like the world stops spinning. Caught up in a whirlwind of negative emotions, you somehow convince yourself that you will be alone forever and you will never find love again. It goes without saying that after a breakup you need to brace yourself for an emotional roller-coaster ride.
Over the years, I’ve fallen in and out of love with several different guys. I wish I could say it gets easier as you get older, but breakups are always hard. When you make yourself vulnerable and open yourself up to love, you also open yourself up to pain.
On the plus side, those experiences have made me much stronger and I’ve discovered not only healthy ways to cope with the pain but also strategies for transforming the suffering and sadness into something positive and constructive. Consider these five steps to rewiring your breakup:
1. Cut off contact—at least temporarily.
A clean break isn’t easy, but it’s a vital part of the healing process. Yes, at first it may seem counterintuitive, as one or both of you may not be ready to accept the fact that your relationship is over. But time away from a situation provides clarity. Both of you may begin to see that the relationship wasn’t what you wanted, and at that point you can choose to remain friends or go your separate ways.
As tempting as it is to continue calling or texting each other, experts advise against it, emphasizing that it’s important to let logic guide you during the beginning stage of a breakup. According to Maryjane Fahey, author of Dumped, a post-breakup survival guide for women, “What you have to do every time you want to reach out is ask yourself this question: What’s your motive? If it’s because you’re seeking some sort of reaction (and of course you are), then you know you’re already dead in the water. The no-contact rule is not about your ex. It’s about you. You can’t control outcomes with your ex, but you can with yourself. You get to drive the bus!”
If you have children together or work together, however, you’ll need to have some contact and of course need to remain civil.
2. Do a digital detox.
This is an extension of the first step, but it’s important to mention. Resist the urge to cyber-stalk your ex! Delete all the couple photos and any reminders of your relationship. Then, step away from the computer. Taking a break from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, will be the best thing you can do for your sanity.
“The more social media there is, the more access you have to what your ex is doing,” says relationship therapist Rachel Sussman, LCSW, author of The Breakup Bible. In other words, don’t give yourself the opportunity to obsess over who your ex is tagged with in his Facebook photos—it will only make you feel worse.
3. Change your mindset.
The third and most important step is to look at this situation as an opportunity to grow rather than an immeasurable loss. A breakup, from the right perspective, can be a journey during which we change ourselves for the better. Instead of feeling hopeless and focusing on something you have no control over, look to other aspects of your life you want to improve or change.
“Every interaction with another human being is a possible gateway to some new world or experience, which could, in turn, introduce you to the love of your life,” says Matthew Hussey, dating guru, New York Times bestselling author, and Today show resident relationship expert.
4. Pursue a new hobby or passion.
After changing your attitude, the next step is to work on becoming the best version of yourself. Many people lose themselves in a relationship, sacrificing their wants and needs in order to please the other person. Now is your chance to get to know the real you again. Ask yourself: What is it that makes you happy? Have you always wanted to take dance lessons? Backpack through Europe? Go for it! Enjoy the freedom that comes with being single.
“The very act of doing something outside your comfort zone is good—either changing an old habit or adopting a new behavior that will become part of your ‘new’ identity,” says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship. “In my long-term study, divorced singles who changed at least one of their behaviors were twice as likely to find new love as the singles who remained set in their ways. It gets you doing or thinking in new ways.”
5. Strengthen your existing relationships.
Did you know hanging out with your best friend is scientifically proven to lower stress levels? Being connected to others makes us feel good. Allow the joy from your friendships to fill you up and draw strength from their unconditional love and support.
There aren’t many times in your life when you can focus solely on yourself. As devastating as a breakup can be, the silver lining is that it will give you the opportunity to better yourself without distractions. You never know what new experiences you’ll have or who you’ll meet while you’re catching up on quality time with friends or starting that new workout routine you’ve been putting off!
Ever heard of the expression “when one door closes, another one opens”? Well, for every person who slams a door, there’s someone else there waiting to open one for you. Did I just create the first breakup Hallmark card?