What is a breakup?
A breakup refers to the ending of a romantic and intimate relationship such as between dating couples or cohabiting couples. Relationship experts argue that because relationships outside marriage have limited social and legal validity in most countries, breakups are sometimes more challenging to cope with for the people involved.
Why breakup hurts so much?
Getting over a breakup with someone you loved or a breakup you caused is never easy.
Here are four reasons why breakups hurt.
1. Breakups can feel as bad as physical pain
Breakups are almost as painful to you as physical pain such as a broken bone or a burn.
In fact, in a scientific study conducted by cognitive neuroscientists at the Columbia University, MRI scans of unmarried people who had recently broken up showed brain activity in the insula and the anterior cingulate cortex areas that are usually associated with physical pain.
2. Breakups can cause withdrawal symptoms
Experts also found that when people who are madly in love go through a breakup, their behaviour is similar to drug addicts who go through withdrawal symptoms at rehabilitation centres.
They desperately try to patch up the relationship, stalk the partner, show up unannounced or constantly message them or call them at odd hours.
3. Breakups can lead to depression
If the relationship is serious, involuntary breakups are a lot more challenging to cope with when compared to the loss of a spouse due to death or even divorce. This is because of a combination of grief, humiliation, and loss of self-esteem associated with breakups that are attributed to the partner choosing to end the relationship or if the partner chooses to leave the relationship for someone “better”.
Studies have shown that involuntary break up with a partner you are in love with and the associated loss in self-esteem is twice as likely to cause depression than just loss of a partner alone.
4. Breakups can result in social stigma
In countries like India, romantic relationships that don’t lead to marriage can often become a disadvantage for the person involved when they try to move on with their lives and get married through an arranged marriage. While attitudes towards romantic relationships and breaks up are changing, honour and traditions still hold sway in large parts of the country.
Why do breakups happen?
People break up for several reasons ranging from serious issues to trivial reasons.
Let’s look at some of the primary reasons breakups happen.
1. Discover undesirable information
When one of the people in the relationship discovered a hidden truth about the partner that’s unpleasant or socially not acceptable, it can result in a breakup. For example, you find out that your partner is a drug dealer and does not have a regular job.
2. Incompatible goals
After the initial euphoria associated with new relationships, both parties realize that they don’t seem to have any compatibility and the only thing that brought them together was the physical attraction.
3. Incompatible lifestyles or separation
Long-distance relationships and completely incompatible lifestyles are often difficult to sustain as out of sight is also out of mind.
4. Social pressures
If your friends and family are not supportive of your relationship, it becomes stressful to sustain the relationship and can often lead to the breakup.
5. Expectations related to sex
Bad sex or lack of interest in sex from one party in the relationship can result in a breakup. Of course, if both parties don’t expect sex before the relationship is formalized (as in marriage), lack of sex is not an issue.
6. Violence and control
Relationships, where one partner is abusive, violent or controlling, is doomed to fail.
Cheating by being unfaithful or financial misappropriation, embezzlement of money or property can also end the relationship.
No matter how painful your breakup is or what caused your breakup, we put together 31 actionable points that will help you get over the breakup and move on with your life.
1. Clean up your social media feed
The first thing you should do is to clean up your social media feed. This can be done by unfollowing your ex and blocking them from following you.
Make sure you unfollow or mute people who may friends with your ex so you don’t keep seeing your ex in your feeds.
Most importantly, don’t post anything online about your ex either directly or indirectly as it will unnecessarily prolong conversations with about your ex which is the last thing you need to move on.
2. Go offline if you can
The best way to rid of all the negative emotions associated with a painful breakup is to take a break from social media and online browsing as well. The problem with social media is that you are constantly reminded of other relationships. That’s not all, you are comparing the sad state of your own broken relationship with that of the others who seem to be in love with each other.
Even if you log out of social media, the internet is filled with bad relationship advice and news stories about celebrity relationships and breakups. Getting offline is a great way to forget the bad breakup.
3. Untangle finances
One of the most important steps you should take to deal with a breakup is to protect your finances. This is true especially if you are sharing bank accounts, credit cards, or any other form of financial dealing where the two of you have a stake. If possible, end the relationship without acrimony so the two of you can remain civil and deal with the formalities without any delay.
If you have jointly purchased any property, it is better to transfer ownership to one party in return for a fair share of the value of the property. In a worst-case scenario, you may have to mentally prepare yourself for a court case.
4. Have a plan to deal with common friends
When you break-up with someone, your common friends have a tough decision to make. Some of them will continue to be in touch with you while others may choose to break off all contact. You really have no control over how they will behave.
It’s challenging to deal with a breakup and also realize that people you thought were your friends are no longer on your side. The most sensible approach, in this case, would be to make a clean break and move on from your common friends if they don’t want to be your friends anymore.
5. Decide if you want to keep mementoes
Memories of a relationship can be found everywhere you look. The books in your shelf gifted by your ex, the favourite meal at the neighbourhood restaurant you both enjoyed, birthdays gifts, and even the couch that you spent time together.
Get rid of objects that remind you of your ex as much as you can. If required, find a new place and get a clean start for a new life. A small bonfire in the backyard to symbolically get rid of things that remind of your ex can bring satisfying closure to your relationship.
6. Learn to control your anger
Anger associated with the breakup can cause irreparable damage to both the parties. Anger manifests in the form of hate, slander, spreading scandalous rumours, stalking virtually or in person.
In India, acid attack victims are often women who chose to break off a relationship or have said no to a suitor. Learning to control your anger even if you were wronged by the other person is a critical step in the long journey to heal the wounds and start a new chapter in your life.
Here are some practical anger management tips from the Mayo Clinic.
7. You are not breaking up with your children
If you have children out of wedlock, dealing with your children after the breakup is a challenge. In the US, the male partner has to prove his parental status by taking a paternity test. Once paternity is established, the male partner has equal parental rights. By default, the mother of the child has parental rights. In such cases, child custody is either mutually decided or a court will make a decision on a case by case basis.
In India too, the courts have declared that the mother has automatic rights to the child born out of wedlock. The only exception is if the mother of the child has renounced the world.
Refer to this in-depth article on the rights of parents and children here.
In addition to figuring out the custody of your children, the best course of action for you and your children would be to maintain the relationship as a parent and continue to play a role in the lives of your children as divorced parents do.
8. Don’t be alone
If you are one of those people who have loving parents and siblings, consider yourself blessed. When you are in a relationship, you often don’t see much of a need to rely on your family members for emotional support. But without a partner, you are probably feeling helpless. Being lone when you are down and vulnerable is not good for your health as well.
The best bet is to spend some time with your family as they will provide the unconditional support you need to recover from the breakup. Relying on your trustworthy friends is also a good idea.
9. Don’t be afraid to be single
Some people don’t have any issues in being single while others struggle to remain single. In fact, there is even a “Fear of Being Single” scale that psychologists use to rate a person in their ability to remain single. People who are afraid of being a single struggle to cope up with breakups.
The key to embracing the single lifestyle is to do all the healthy activities that you always wanted to do but couldn’t pursue because of the relationship or because your ex did not like it.
10. Avoid on-again, off-again relationships
Not all breakups happen with a clear understanding on both sides that’s it’s over. Some breakups happen in slow-motion for various reasons. It could be just that one of the partners doesn’t know how to break the news and are dropping hints only to have their partner not picking up on the subtle clues.
These soft breakups can leave you exhausted as you go through a series of small rejections and break-ups only to get back together again. If you are the one worried about hurting your partner, the on-again, the off-again approach will hurt you both. So take the bold step of putting an end to the relationship for good. If you are the other party, it’s good to watch for signs that tell you it’s over and act accordingly.
11. Use caution when office romance ends in a breakup
Office romances are tricky affairs. In addition to all the mental trauma associated with breakups, you may be bumping into each other all the time at work even after break up. The situation can get unmanageable if you had a relationship with your boss secretly and you decided to break up.
While is prudent to avoid getting into an office romance in the first place, consider quitting the job if you can or get a transfer to a new location or department if possible. Most importantly, avoid talking to your ex at work privately and always make sure there are people around if you have to necessarily interact for work-related tasks.
Check out this video on how to handle office romances
12. Consider an exit interview
This might sound strange, having an exit interview with your ex after the breakup can possibly make the ending less bitter and give both the parties proper closure. At the least, they can agree to disagree and move on with their lives without any negative or hostile feelings.
Meet in a public place such as a cafe, talk about the things you liked about the other person and candidly talk about the differences as well. Let the other person know that it was not meant to be and that you want them to find someone who will be their soulmate. An exit interview can bring some closure and also reduce the extent of hostile or anger you may have towards the other person.
13. Learn to introspect
One of the traits of successful people is their ability to learn from their mistakes. When you go through a breakup, analyzing what went wrong with a focus on your actions will help you a lot in avoiding the mistakes you made the next time you are in a relationship. Maybe you jumped to a conclusion about your ex too soon and plunged into a serious relationship or you did not invest in the relationship or follow through on the commitments you made.
No matter what the reasons are, accepting your shortfalls can help you become a better person and improve the chances of keeping your next relationship on track for the long term.
14. Learn to identify the negative traits of your ex
If you have to think about a bad breakup you had, use your thoughts wisely. When you have introspected about what mistakes you made in the relationship, it makes sense to also list down the negative traits of your ex. List down all their flaws such as their inflexibility, passive-aggressive behaviour, insensitivity to your own personal likes or dislikes, bad habits to name a few.
When you look at the consolidated list of negative traits of your ex, you will probably come to the conclusion that breakup was a blessing in disguise.
15. Avoid rebound relationships
Jumping into a new relationship without resolving an old relationship is called a rebound relationship. Most often than not, rebound relationships don’t end well and you will end up burning bridges with your new partner as well.
There are several dangers in getting into a rebound relationship. Your vulnerability can be manipulated to extract sexual favours or financial benefits, you end up being emotionally dependent on your new partner and be in a constant state of fear of being rejected again. All of this is not going to help you in building the new relationship.
16. Rediscover your passions
The silver lining in a breakup is the opportunity to focus on things you long ignored. Being in a relationship consumes your time and your personal goals and interests often take a backseat. Without the shackles of the relationship holding you back, you have all the freedom you need to pursue all the dreams you had put on hold.
A study published in the Society of Behavioral Medicine concluded that engagement in leisure activities has a wide range of health benefits such as a better mood, less stress, and lower heart rate.
17. Brighten up your living space
Visual cues i.e what we see around us has a direct impact on our emotions. So one of the easiest things you can do is to change the decor, furniture and repaint your home.
Moving things around, brightening up the rooms, throwing out old stuff and bringing in new items will help elevate your mood and also act as a symbolic reminder to restart your life.
18. Bring back great memories deliberately
When you go through a breakup, you will have to deal with memories of the relationship all around you. The TV program you used to watch together, fights over the TV remote, the fighting over the takeout dinner from your favourite Chinese restaurant and the list is endless. These memories take you into a vortex of hurt and sadness.
The best way to counter these negative memories is to deliberately think about all the positive memories. Think of your favourite songs from your childhood, go to places that bring back happy memories, especially those places that you visited with your family and friends, watch your all-time favourite movie or catch up with your childhood friends.
19. Try meditation and mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness are tools anyone can use to overcome anxiety and get an unbiased perspective of what’s happening around you. It has been proven in research studies that if you practise mindful meditation, you can even control pain in your body as it activates regions in your brain associated with self-control.
Practising mindfulness is a great therapeutic tool as you focus on the present and not worry about things that happened in the past.
If you need help in practising mindfulness and meditation, consider using popular apps like Headspace.
20. Workout is a great way to beat the blues
Workouts and physical activity generate two chemicals – endorphin and serotonin also called as the “happy chemicals”. So instead of being cooped up, mopping about a relationship that ended, pull yourself together and get in some workout on a regular basis.
In addition to improving your mood, regular workouts will get you into shape and give you a boost of self-confidence that will make it much easier for you to recover from the heartbreak.
21. The art of getting over a breakup during a lockdown
There are two relationship challenges during the lockdown.
First, if you are stuck at home with someone you want to break up with, you have no option but to grin and bear the other person till the end of the lockdown.
Second, assuming you just broke up and are now stuck in lockdown all alone, you have all the time to think about the relationship that went south.
In the absence of lockdown, you at least had the opportunity to go out to maybe catch a movie, do some window shopping, hit the coffee shop or maybe even attend a concert. With none of these options available, coping with a breakup during the lockdown is even more challenging. Your best bet in this situation would be to plunge yourself into something new, such as learning a new language, attending online courses, experiment with cooking and staying in touch with family and friends via video calls.
22. Join forces with people with similar goals
While self-help activities and routines are helpful to beat the breakup blues, getting together with like-minded people injects an element of competitive spirit and camaraderie that will motivate you to shift your focus on group activities away from the trauma of the breakup.
Group activities like volunteering, photography walks, cooking classes give you the opportunity to find lasting friendships or even your soulmate without the pressures of dating. However, don’t join group activities just to find someone for a relationship.
23. See a therapist
Can break up cause depression? Yes, if you don’t handle it the right way and you already have a history of mental issues, breakups can cause depression. When you feel rejected and have lost your loved one, your dopamine and serotonin levels may go down causing an imbalance in your mood. If this is not treated properly through a combination of medications and therapy, you may be sucked into a vortex of self-doubts and generally unable to get out of the unpleasant situation.
Meeting a therapist may be a good start and depending on the severity of the depression you may have, seeing a psychiatrist may also be advisable.
24. Start looking again for new relationships
So what is the right time frame to start looking for a new relationship? The duration depends on the person. Some experts suggest you should wait for at least 1-month for every year of relationship you were in.
Another way to look at this question is when you have reached a point where you are no longer bothered by the breakup and you believe you have moved on, it’s the right time to start looking for a new relationship. Past experiences can give you pointers on what to look for in a person and who to avoid. Most importantly, when you practice the art of not being afraid of being single, you will avoid making hasty decisions and take better decisions about who to meet and who to avoid.
25. Don’t reject people because they remind you of your ex
Granted, you want to get away from all the memories of your ex and the last thing you want is to find someone who looks like a carbon copy of your ex. However, just because the new person you come across has similar likes, interests, features, skin colour or hair colour, you should not reject them just because you are reminded of your ex.
Resemblances, physical features, even names have no real significance in the success of a relationship. What really matters is chemistry and broad compatibility. So keep your mind open and look beyond superficial factors.
26. Rely on your family to find your soulmate
In western societies, family members play second fiddle in the matters of relationships and marriages whereas in India the family pretty much drives the agenda in most cases. No matter where you live, your family probably has the best interest in your mind, know who you are, and your expectations about relationships if you have been open with them in the past.
Don’t resist if your parents set up a “meeting” for you. Approach these dates with an open mind and see where it leads. After all, when your family members are your wingman, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
27. Move to a new city if you can
Moving to a new city is a great way to find someone new. While the process of finding dates, going on dates, or go through multiple failed dates will not change when you move to a new city, new beginnings give you the motivation to start again.
New places, sights, sounds, and the general feeling of excitement about discovering something new will elevate your mood and give you the drive you need to overcome disappointments in your renewed attempt at finding your soulmate.
28. Honesty is the best policy
When you are looking to get into a new relationship, being honest about your past relationships will be helpful. There are two advantages of being honest about your past. First, you don’t have to remember all the lies or dodge questions and second, you build trust because of your openness.
Honesty can go beyond your past relationships and can include your likes, dislikes, strengths and flaws. The most important thing to remember about being honest is to use tact when being honest about the other person so that you don’t hurt their feelings.
29. Don’t repeat the mistakes in a new relationship
Second chances should be seen as a gift. When getting into a relationship after a breakup, you have the golden opportunity to avoid the mistakes that ended your past relationship. If you have learnt to introspect as suggested earlier, you can make a conscious decision to mend your ways. Your habits and values are probably the two biggest barriers to mending your ways and avoiding past mistakes. Example, if you are habitually lazy, you will not be able to correct your behaviour which could possibly lead to the same issues in the new relationship. If you are struggling to beat bad habits, here is a list of apps you can use to make changes.
30. Learn to be civil if you bump into your ex
If you happen to work in the same office as your ex or your ex happens to live in the same neighbourhood, chances are you might bump into your ex every now and then. The challenge in these situations is to remain calm and not to let anger and animosity dictate your random encounters.
Getting into a shouting match, abuse and rude behaviour may be momentarily satisfying, but can mess up the rest of your day and negatively impact your relationships. Try to be polite, smile and if appropriate don’t hesitate from having a small talk.
Keep in mind that by being polite, you are also indirectly telling your ex that you have moved on and there is no animosity.
31. Learn to recognize the signs that say you have moved on
Watch out for the signs that tell you have moved on. Some of these signs include:
- You are happy being alone
- You are not in an endless wait to hear from your ex
- New hobbies, interests or activities keep you busy
- You start noticing others and possibly showing early signs of interest
- You are now genuinely having fun doing routine things
- You feel you are healthy and have a spring in your step
How to get over a breakup you caused?
While it is heartbreaking to go through a breakup, if you are not a narcissist or a sociopath, there is the added feeling of remorse and guilt when you are responsible for causing the breakup. Maybe you cheated on your ex, or deliberately did something that ended the relationship.
Here are four practical things you can do if you caused the breakup.
1. Take ownership: Don’t search for excuses and blame the entire universe for conspiring against your relationship. You made a mistake and you are responsible for your actions and inactions.
2. Learn to introspect: Think about why you caused the breakup and if you did something wrong, acknowledge it and try not repeating it. If you broke up because you though the relationship had no future, think about what signs you did not notice in the before it became a full-blown relationship.
3. Say sorry: Apologize to your ex if you are in the wrong. Let them know you made a mistake and that you are sorry unconditionally. This will help you lower your guilt level and give your ex a closure.
4. It was never meant to be: The fact that you ended the relationship may have caused significant emotional distress to your ex but it is also a blessing in disguise for they had the opportunity to move on to someone more suitable.
That’s not all, everything we recommended in the 31 steps to cope with a breakup will be relevant to help you move on from a breakup you caused.