I heard you’re going through a breakup hell. I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what happened? Did he cheat on you with your best friend? Your coworker? Or was it just someone he met at a bar? Or maybe the reason you broke up is that he wasn’t emotionally stable enough for you. You’d try talking to him about important things but he was always pushing you away. Is that it? Or was it you who cheated on him? Oh boy. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
No, wait. You two just grew apart? He changed. You changed. You were going down different paths. Am I close? Honestly, I don’t really care WHY you broke up. The reason your breakup happened matters less than what I ate for dinner last week. The only thing that matters is that it happened and you have to start letting go and moving on.
If you’re in the pit of breakup hell, it’s OK. You’re normal. Everyone struggles with a breakup at some point in their lives. Some people even stay stuck in their breakups for years. But you’re not going to be that person. Not only are you going to rise up, but you’re also going to be stronger and more confident than ever. You know why? Because you’re battle-worn. You opened yourself up emotionally like never before, showed vulnerability, and loved without question. That takes serious guts. You’re a warrior.
And now it’s time to sharpen your sword and move into the next stage of your life because staying stuck in a breakup is a waste of time. As cliche as it is to say, life is short. You don’t want to spend another second being stuck trying to get over your ex. They’re gone.
It’s time to heal. And here’s how you can start doing it.
1. You NEED to Forgive
Even though I might lose you here, it has to be said: You WILL NOT let go and move on if you haven’t forgiven. You have to forgive your ex, his jerk friends, his mother who always tells him what to do, the random he slept with….EVERYONE! And most importantly, you need to forgive yourself.
If you’re feeling a visceral rejection of the word “forgiveness” then you really, really need to forgive. The people who say, “No way! I can never forgive! Ain’t gonna happen, Eric! You can take your forgiveness and shove it. Give me some different advice!” are usually the people who need to forgive the most.
I wish I could give you a secret to forgiveness but I can’t. I just know you have to do it. Something I can offer that helped me is this: When people do crappy things to us—lie, cheat, deceive, cut us out, whatever—it’s almost always a reflection on them. They’re struggling with inner demons and it has NOTHING to do with us. When I accepted that I felt like I was absolved. It wasn’t me or anything I did wrong.
And if you need to forgive yourself, here’s my advice: We all make mistakes. Perfection is an illusion. Your imperfections and failures are the things that will make you a better person, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. So, go on. Forgive. Your heart will thank you.
2. Don’t Let Time Control You
“Don’t worry, Deary. Time heals all wounds.” That was the advice from my mom after the toughest breakup of my life two years ago. I love my mom, but advice like that is more useless than a bikini in a snowstorm.
If you’ve gone through a bad breakup, I can almost guarantee you’ve heard some version of “time heals” from a family member, friend, or coworker. They say it because they have no idea what else to say. It’s too bad people can’t just say, “Hey, that really sucks. I’m sorry you’re going through that.” Empathy isn’t natural for most people. But I digress.
The point is that time does NOT heal. Well, maybe it does, eventually. But do you really want to stay stuck in your breakup for a year? Five years? More? I doubt it. But when we convince ourselves that “time heals” we give control over to time. I don’t know about you, but I like to have more control over my life than that.
Which is why you need to stop telling yourself “time heals.” It’s bad advice. Instead, reframe the way you’re thinking. Sometimes during times like this, small shifts in our mindset can make a huge difference. Go on, say it out loud. “Time won’t heal me. I will heal me!” Now say it again. Louder this time! Don’t worry about the person looking at you funny on the subway. They can probably use the advice, too.
3. Get Your Sweat On
Here’s the thing: We all need a certain amount of time after a breakup to sit on the couch binging Netflix and eating all the cookie dough ice cream we can fit in our bellies. It’s cool. I’m not judging. But at a certain point, it’s time to get out of your apartment and out into the world. And the best thing to do is get some exercise.
Start with going for a long walk or a jog. If you have a gym membership that’s been collecting dust, blow it off and pack your gym bag. If you don’t have a membership, join a new gym. I’m a bit biased, but I’m going to recommend CrossFit. Here’s why. I used to think CrossFit was a cult. Something only hardcore fanatics did. Turns out I was wrong. What we resist, persists, right?
I got into CrossFit by accident but it was the best thing to happen to me after my breakup. In CrossFit, I found a sense of community I’ve never had before. People encouraged me to get better. My fellow gym members even organize pub nights and a Christmas party. And the best part about CrossFit is that anyone can do it, no matter your current fitness level, gender, or age.
My point is you need to exercise and if you can do it in an environment where you meet new people and develop a sense of community, even better. Yoga, beach volleyball, a running group, spinning, rock climbing…the list is almost endless. It’s easy to say, “Find something that appeals to you and goes do it,” but that’s not what I did. If there’s something that you’re resisting, ask yourself “why?” and go give it a try. It could change your life like CrossFit has changed mine.
4. Give Your Time for Free
After my breakup, I joined a volunteer organization that matches young people with senior citizens who live alone and who could use a helping hand. In my case, I was matched with 85-year-old Lorette.
Lorette and I would go for walks every week—and by “walk” I mean Lorette would drive her motorized scooter and I would walk beside her trying to make sure she didn’t hit anyone. She’s not a very good driver.
I helped her with groceries, showed her how to use her iPad, and cleaned out her closets. Sometimes, we would just sit around and she’d tell me about the old days. I visited Lorette every week for over a year until she moved away. We still chat on the phone on a regular basis.
After a breakup, it’s easy to stay stuck in our head ruminating on everything that is messed up in our life. We fall into toxic negative feedback loops and it’s hard to break free from their clutches.
I remember when I first started visiting Lorette that there would be days when I felt down and depressed. But after a couple of hours hanging out with her, I walked home feeling refreshed. I had a new perspective, every single time. And that new perspective allowed me to break out of my mini-funk and continue on living life.
My advice: go find a cause that speaks to you. Volunteer and offer someone or some organization your time, for free. Not only will you be helping people who need it, but I can promise that they’re going to help you, too.
5. Go On a Date
There’s a reason I saved this piece of advice for last. It’s important not to rush into the arms of another man (or woman) right after a breakup. If you already did that, you know why it’s a bad idea. When we’re not ready to be with someone else but we do it anyways, it leaves us feeling empty and it usually does nothing to help us heal.
But it is important to get yourself back out there. I’m not saying go sleep with the first guy who comes along. This isn’t about sex. It’s about human connection. It’s about talking to someone new. It’s about hearing fresh ideas, different life stories, and doing it with an open mind.
Sure, every date isn’t going to be your next soulmate, but it’s still important to get out there and have those experiences. If you decide to try Tinder, Bumble, or any other dating app, please do this one thing for me: lower your expectations. Don’t get bitter, because you will meet a lot of people who seem like a waste of time.
Just like most of the challenges we face in life, we’re never totally ready to get back in the game and open ourselves up to the possibility of loving someone again. It’s scary. I know. But if you feel fear or resistance, it’s usually a sign that you’re exactly where you need to be.
I know recovering from a breakup isn’t easy and unfortunately, there’s no life-hack or step-by-step process that works for everyone. You have to find your own way out of the darkness. But you need to know that there are methods, activities, and people out there who can shed light on your journey and prevent you from tripping and falling with every step you take. Be open to asking for help and new experiences.
Like I said before, life is short—too short to be stuck in a breakup for longer than is necessary. Grieving is important, but you need to put a time cap on it. I want you to know you’re not alone even though it might feel like it right now. And I want you to know you can do this. I believe in you and I know there are people in your life who also believe in you.
Start believing in yourself and you might be surprised by what happens next.