A Therapist’s Advice on Getting Over Heartbreak
Esther Perel’s Four-Step Guide To Getting Over Your Breakup + Five Tips From a Love Coach
Posted in 2017, updated in August 2020
People ask me every week how to best get over a breakup as quickly as possible. No one likes getting dumped, and I get the impression that if you’ve been recently dumped, you want to get over the pain as quickly as possible.
I get it.
A breakup can be devastating and debilitating, especially if you don’t have the resources to deal with it in a healthy way.
Hard breakups can make you want to pull the blankets over your head and spend three months crying it out and waiting for the pain to pass.
Or you can pretend like it never happened and try to bypass your painful feelings.
Or, you can also listen to a trusted professional who’s been helping people process emotions, deal with trauma, and heal in the best (and often shortest) way possible.
I Love a Good Breakup
Don’t get me wrong, they suck, and they hurt, and I hope you heal from your breakup as soon as possible.
No matter how unpleasant, breakups are part of being human, and I have to admit that I love a good breakup.
If you’re one of the lucky ones that have somehow escaped it, either because you’re the one who breaks it off before your partner does, or because you haven’t met the one that’s going to stomp on your heart, I hope it happens for you, soon.
It’s part of life.
You can’t honestly love unless you open yourself up to another person.
Love takes intimacy and vulnerability, which unfortunately also opens you up to being hurt.
I don’t think there’s any way to open up to love without exposing yourself to pain.
And, for me, that’s a risk worth taking all day long.
Are You In Pain?
If you’re experiencing a particularly devastating breakup and want to know what it takes to deal with post-breakup depression, you’re in the right place.
Psychotherapist, New York Times bestselling author and relationship badass Esther Perel knows what she’s talking about when it comes to relationship pain.
Her bestseller (2009) Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence is a must-read if you’re curious about what it takes to continue turning your partner on long after the honeymoon phase has ended.
Her latest book (2018), The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, is a riveting read about infidelity and its effects on modern relationships.
I caught Esther’s appearance in 2017 on The Tim Ferris Show where Esther explains Esther explains how to foster relationship longevity, the most effective ways to improve communication in relationships, and how to know when to move on from a relationship.
And, she talked about how to grieve and heal from a particularly hard breakup.
Here are Esther’s suggestions on getting over a breakup and how to deal with the accompanying depression.
A Therapist’s How-To On Getting Over Your Brutal Breakup
1. Reach Out
Please reach out; it’s one of the more powerful ways to heal. Share your story and your pain with loved ones. Surround yourself with people who can lend an ear and a shoulder. Connect with your tribe.
To turbo-charge your healing process — come together with a group of your peers and spill the beans.
It’s empowering, it builds solidarity, and takes you out of the loneliness, the shame, and the feeling of relationship failure.
Trust your people to hold you when you can’t hold yourself.
Breakups are energetically draining. They deplete you of energy, and it makes life harder and the healing process longer.
One of the better ways to get energy is to help others through volunteering. The research is clear; the most potent antidepressant (other than antidepressants) is doing for others and giving back.
It puts what’s important in perspective and helps you feel more valuable when you might not feel like you have much to offer.
According to a recent research project at Exeter Medical School that collated evidence from 40 different studies over the last 20 years, they found that volunteering led to lower depression and increased wellbeing.
If you’re ‘too busy’ to volunteer, you’re also too busy to endlessly scroll social media while huddled under a pile of weighted blankets and recent Amazon purchases.
If you’re unsure where to volunteer, do an internet search for “where to volunteer”, and you’ll find hundreds of options.
Journaling is an integral part of mourning and offers a release and an opening. It lets you put your pain down on paper.
Even if you only write half a page of angry scribbles, you’re contributing to your healing process. When the pain comes back, and it will, lather, rinse, repeat.
Plus, you might even publish that piece of writing and help someone else (if you do, I recommend Medium). Remember, your pain might feel personal, but it isn’t unique.
4. Don’t Isolate
If you walk away with one thing, this is it.
Share your story.
As painful as it is to talk about, people appreciate it. No matter how embarrassing or shameful you might be feeling about your breakup, I guarantee you’re not alone.
When you share, you empower others to share, and you let people help you and be of service to you.
People feel significant and seen when others else opens up to them.
But they need your permission first, and opening up to them lets them know you want their help and love.
Bonus Tips From a Love Coach
And this article wouldn’t be complete without some personal suggestions that helped me tremendously the last time my heart was in a deep, dark, and messy place.
1. Take a Break
Take a break from dating and sex for at least six months. I mean it -Practice celibacy.
No one wants to date a heartbroken person. Take some time and focus on yourself and cultivating self-love. Here are several ways to start.
2. Get a Pet
Having to care for another living thing will take your mind off of your heartbreak, and dogs (or cats, birds, ferrets, whatever) will love you unconditionally no matter how much you’re hurting.
If your living situation prevents you from owning pets, then volunteer at the local shelter taking pets on walks or grooming/caring for them.
If you’re allergic or dislike animals, obviously skip this suggestion (and, I’m sorry for your loss).
3. Move Your Body
Workout. Sweat. Go for a run. Play some badminton. Burn some fat. Build a little muscle. Enjoy the benefits of sleeping better and being less depressed. Feel a bit sexier for the next person that comes along (after that mandatory six-month break, of course).
4. Eat well
It kind of goes without saying, but if you eat well, you’ll feel better. A pizza on the couch in front of a movie is great now and then, but do it nightly, and you’ll start to feel (and look) like a big, soggy pizza.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy comfort food. We all know that a breakup is a good excuse to eat foods that make us feel better. I’m all about it. Carb-up and cry!
But, there’s a limit to the madness. Remember to eat some fruit and veggies now and then, and you’ll feel better about yourself.
Even five minutes a day will make you feel better. Google “how to meditate” if you have no idea where to start. It’s proven that meditation can help with depression.
That said, I don’t regularly meditate and didn’t the last time I was dumped, and that might have contributed to just how excruciatingly long it took me to heal from that breakup.
6. No Contact
Take a 6-month break from contacting your ex. I can’t stress this enough.
Unfollow them on all social media, don’t drop by to say hello or Happy Birthday, don’t text them when you find out from a friend they got a new promotion. No contact means no contact.
This strategy gets infinitely more complicated when you have to co-parent. In this case, get clear on what kind of interaction you need to have to care for your children, and stick to your agreement.
If your ex speaks to you or acts in disrespectful or offensive ways, you’ll need to set boundaries and have clear boundary consequences for if and when they violate those boundaries. This circumstance is outside the scope of this article.
However, you might get some support by listening to this episode on Setting Healthy Boundaries that I recorded with Relationship Coach and Therapist Silvy Khoucasian.
Still Got Feels?
No shit. Breakups hurt something fierce. I expect you to be hurting for a while. Try not to judge or compare your healing process to those of others. Sometimes it takes months, even years, to heal from a painful breakup properly.
I know that’s probably not what you wanted to hear, but I don’t want to sugarcoat it for you, because you’re smarter than that.
Slowly, over time, it will get better. And growth isn’t linear.
Some nights, you’ll look back and realize you didn’t think about your ex that much, and you’ll feel good about your progress. The next day, you’ll hardly be able to get them out of your head.
It’s natural for the process to be a bit erratic; embrace the suck of a painful breakup and know that you’re having a natural response to losing someone you love.
Hey, You Got This
Seriously. You got this, and you don’t have to do it alone.
There’s more to healing than pulling the blankies over your head and waiting for the pain to pass. Take an active role in your healing and recovery process.
It will get better.
Implement some of these strategies, take the time that it’s going to take, let all those feelings bubble up, and know that this pain is temporary, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
And remember, you’re not alone, and you’re worth it.
Posted in 2017, updated in August 2020