Life After a Breakup: The Dos and Don’ts
By Afifa Noor, Intern with Marcia Morris, MD
The breakup — we’ve all been through it. (If you haven’t, congratulations! But listen up just in case.) It would seem that breakups are an inevitable part of life. Some are short and painless while others make us feel like our hearts have been physically ripped out and might never heal. The one thing that all breakups have in common is that they change us — hopefully for the better.
The grieving process after breakups is different for each individual. Each person feels, thinks and reacts to it differently. Nonetheless, there are a few things we can do that can help anyone heal and a few that are not recommended.
Let yourself feel
Consume a regular diet
Spend time with your loved ones
Stick to your decision
Limit contact with your ex
Keep to a solid routine
Allow time to find yourself
Suppress your feelings
Eat your feelings/stop eating
Stalk your ex (social media or otherwise)
Date before you are ready
As college students, most of us have to worry about schoolwork no matter what else is going on in our lives, whether we get into a car crash, lose a family member or have our heart broken. We work hard year around to make those As. But it can be hard to focus on schoolwork when you just broke up with your partner. Let yourself go through the process of a breakup, but also do your best not to let your grades suffer too much. Talk to your professors or let the Dean of Students Office know about your situation if you are having an especially tough time. You will be surprised to learn that many of them will do what they can to help you succeed.
Don’t bury your feelings; they are there for a reason. As terrible as it can be, let yourself feel. Cry as much as you need to — it can be very therapeutic. It’s OK to feel angry, as long as you don’t act on it. Taking revenge will not bring you any closer to feeling better; if anything, you might end up feeling guilty for doing something you wouldn’t normally do. Also, do not resort to drugs and alcohol to escape the pain. We all know that those effects eventually wear off.
Let your loved ones help you through this difficult time. They care for you and want to help. During this time, you may want to be all alone, which can be what you need at the beginning. However, over time, let others in. According to the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, a study found that reflecting on a recent breakup can help speed the healing process. Your friends and family can provide you with the chance to talk to someone about how you feel, make sense of what you’ve been through and re-establish your independent sense of identity. Or maybe just having them there can remind you that you are not alone as you figure these things out for yourself. Talk to someone, whether it’s a family member or a professional. Go out and do the things you love to do with the people you love — don’t forget you once had a life before this person.
Dealing with Your Ex
This part is a bit more tricky. It would seem that an equal number of people believe that it is best to completely cut your ex out of your life while others believe it’s good to eventually be friends with that person. Nonetheless, the general consensus among most is that some time away from each other is good right after the breakup. That space can allow for healing by showing you that you can live and be happy without this person.
The Next One
Every relationship and breakup changes us and in turn affects the next relationship. It is easy to carry the issues from the previous relationship into the new one. If your current boyfriend is a couple of minutes late to dinner, that doesn’t mean he is the same as your previous boyfriend, who would always stand you up on dates. One way to avoid this issue is to let yourself heal and overcome the previous relationship before moving on to a new one. It can be hard to be single, especially if you just got out of a long-term relationship. Learn from the mistakes you or your partner made before moving on.
Start anew! The next person is not your ex, so don’t compare. We can’t help but let the past impact us, but it’s up to us how we act on it. Check out this article from the Washington Post, too: “How your last boyfriend helps your next one.”
So next time you are faced with a breakup, consider these few words of wisdom: Go at your own pace — every heart, every relationship and every breakup is different. When it comes to your health and overall well-being, the same rules still apply: Eat well and stay active. Remind yourself of all the important and wonderful things it can mean to be you.