Regardless of how long you were in a relationship with someone, if you really cared about that person, breaking up can be extremely painful. It can feel like your whole world is ending and that you’ll never be happy again. The first few days should really count as a sneak peek into one of the circles of hell. Every single emotion you could possible feel will flow through you all day long, and then, on top of that, you’ll miss that person. Maybe you stop eating or you eat way too much. You hole up in your room and you cry listening to sad music, and you don't talk to anyone for a few days. Or maybe you cope with it by being out in the world distracting yourself with people, parties, or work. The point is you're a mess, and everything hurts.
And then, it gets worse, because breaking up is only the beginning of a long and difficult process to let go of that person you loved and move on with your life. It’s hard because it’s not just saying goodbye to that person: it’s saying goodbye to everything that your relationship meant to you and to the person you used to be. It might even be a little comforting at the beginning to hold on to all these things because you’re not ready to move forward, but this is not healthy. The longer you stay in this phase, the longer you’ll be in pain, and the worse it’ll be for you in the long run.
Of course, time is a really important factor in this process, so if it hasn’t been that long since your break up, I’m sorry to say you need to hang in there because life will keep sucking for a while. However, there are things that will only slow the process. The more aware you are about this the easier it will be to get that extra push you need to keep going.
You’re holding on to things that remind you of that person
This one should be obvious, but it can be surprisingly difficult not to do it, especially at the beginning. That t-shirt of his you would wear to bed because it was big and cozy and smelled like him? It needs to go. Same goes for that print you bought together that she said was artistic but you thought was hideous. Texts, photos, gifts, songs, and anything that can remind you of that person needs to be removed. Maybe not everything, and maybe not immediately after the break up, but the more things you have around that remind you of them, the more you’ll think about them, and the harder it’ll be to move on.
You’re idealizing them
Whether you’re focusing only on the good things about that person and the good aspects of your relationship, or you’re focusing only on the bad stuff, this way of remembering them is only turning them into an idea. “She was the coolest, funniest, most beautiful girl I’ve ever known. I’ll never find anyone else like her again.” Or the opposite: “He’s a monster. He’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’ll never be able to forgive him.” Both cases are equally wrong and just as unhealthy. People are not just one thing or idea. Sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re wrong. They’re human, so we can’t just put a good/bad label on them, file them away in the back of our brain, and be done with it. No, it’s not that simple. We can’t think about people, and by extension relationships, as black and white. The sooner you understand this and accept it, the sooner you’ll let go of all those strong feelings (good or bad) you still have for that person, and the sooner you’ll make room for new feelings.
You’re not open to new things
A relationship is not just what you have with someone. It’s also your life. Maybe because of this, breaking up is such a hard thing to do. Depending on how long you’ve been with that person, you might feel like you have to start all over again: make new friends, take up new hobbies, set new goals. Of course, that’s really scary. But it’s also an opportunity to rediscover yourself and take the time to work on the person you want to become. Move to a different city, take a class, learn how to make something, go out in new neighborhoods, meet people, or say yes to things you wouldn’t have done before because you were in a relationship. That relationship is in the past now, and you need to start creating your future.
For better or for worse, there’s no machine, app, or pill that will get rid of all the memories and feelings you have post-break up. Things will suck for weeks, months, or even years. But the silver lining to all this is that, at the end of this journey, you’ll have grown so much as a person and be stronger than you were before. A world full of cool people, different places, and crazy experiences will be waiting for that strong, new you. You just need to give yourself a chance and take care of yourself as you recover. So go, roll up your sleeves, pull up your pants, and get to work on that new you.
Images by: Larm Rmah