I’d like to know how many Americans go through a breakup each day. My guess is a lot percent. I’ll also daringly make the educated guess that you have, on one day or another, been a part of that extremely scientific and not-at-all-made-up data point. While no one can avoid this sucky experience, you can definitely steer clear of doing certain things that aren’t going to help you get over said sucky occurrence. Consider this a formal request to stop doing any of the below.
1. Talking about it
I don’t mean that you should never speak of the breakup in any capacity (whether that’s to a friend, family member, or therapist), but there is something to be said about over-talking an issue. When I’m going through a split, I find that it’s super easy to grab anyone and everyone who will lend me their ear. I do this not only because I want more people to yap to, but also because I want validation or the answers I’m seeking. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that no one is going to give that to me but me.
By all means, fill in your core group about what’s going on and vent to them when needed. But when you find yourself reaching out to acquaintances or random bartenders to rehash something that’s already been said four million times, bad energy is just going to circle around you like a hurricane of heartbreak. Write a sad poem in your journal and strike up a conversation about that new Netflix show instead.
2. Not allowing yourself to let go
Even when they’re 95% over a past relationship, lots of people are hesitant to totally shut the door for fear of releasing the memories. Your ex was a big part of your life, and you are who you are now in part because of that relationship. But things change, and you will continue to as well.
“A lot of people only remember the good and forget about the bad things that happened,” says Michele Burstein, LCSW, psychotherapist at Manhattan Wellness Associates. “Then we start to get upset about what we’re losing while not realizing that we’re actually losing the negativity.” She adds that a lot of people have a “scarcity mindset,” whereby they’re worried about letting go of a relationship because they’re fearful of never finding someone else.
Net net: grasping on like Rose from “Titanic” is only hindering future possibilities.
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4. Avoiding the pain
You can run away from a lot of things — like a bad date or someone who has terrible breath — but pain is unfortunately not one of them. Yes, pretending a problem doesn’t exist (my favorite activity!) is easier and less painful than trying to solve it. But, long term, it’s only going to extend your healing period. If you don’t face your problems and deal with the hurt, you’re going to continue to have a gaping wound. Accepting and treating your trauma now will benefit you way more than temporarily pushing it away.
“There’s nothing wrong with being upset — that’s actually expected,” says Burstein. “It’s a vulnerable and fragile state, and if you need the space and the time to lie in bed for a day, watch some rom-coms, and cry it out, there needs to be some acceptance to doing that. If we’re not giving [ourselves] time to process after the breakup, the next time we’re in a relationship, that anxiety is going to come back.”
5. Going down the “what if?” hole again and again
When you do this, what you’re really doing is telling yourself a story:
If I moved across the country for them and uprooted my life, we’d still be together.
If I went to their friend’s party that one time, they wouldn’t have met someone else.
No. You didn’t do those things at those times for a reason. And, most likely, whatever you shoulda/woulda/coulda done wouldn’t have resolved any of the real issues that led to your breakup.
“A lot of times those ‘what ifs’ are really contextual and situational – they’re not looking at the bigger picture,” says Burstein. Ask yourself questions like, why wasn’t I willing to go out with their friends? Why didn’t I want to be their plus-one at that wedding? Then, take your questioning a step further. Get a jump start on re-wiring that thought pattern by actually going down the what-if hole once (and only once). “If you follow through, you get to a place where you realize that things wouldn’t be much better,” Burstein says. “[Especially] when you write it down, you kind of see that these questions have no validity.” It’s like a flowchart that lands you at a dead end real quick.
Don’t! Do! This! I don’t have much willpower in anything in life (is that another taco?!), but not going through an ex’s Instagram is something I excel at. Sure, it probably feels nice to see that they haven’t followed anyone new, haven’t uploaded any pictures, or aren’t having (or at least showcasing) any fun. But what about when you inevitably discover the opposite? That’s gut-wrenching. Why put yourself through that? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Social media is not a representation of real life. And you need to go live your real life so you can get over the very real breakup you’re dealing with.