Getting over an ex can be difficult for some people. It might take months, or even years, to finally be able to move on.
So, how should one accept the reality and try to move on with their life?
Here are helpful tips on how to accept a breakup you didn’t want, according to experts.
Table of Contents
- How to cope with a breakup you don’t want
- Take time to fall in love with yourself
- Recognize that it is a loss
- Give yourself time to reset
- Don’t resist the feeling of longing but don’t feed into it either
- Fill that gap with alignment
- Date but do not rush to get intimate or commit
- Prioritize yourself
- Accept that this breakup is not completely about them
- Give yourself time to grieve
- Reframe rejection into refinement
- Learn to feel at peace again
Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, LMFT, ATR
Psychotherapist | Owner, Create Your Life Studio
How to cope with a breakup you don’t want
Feel what you feel, not what you think you are “supposed” to feel. Let yourself feel all of your feelings and express your real emotions. If you are being radically honest, you probably feel some relief, as well as anger, hurt, confusion, and fear. Let yourself feel all of it. This is your experience, you are entitled to all of your feelings.
You might want to practice writing about how you feel in a private journal. Do not worry about grammar or spelling, just free write for twenty minutes, never taking your pen off of the page. Write to the center of what hurts, write it all down. Then, put it away. Practice some good self-care.
Return to your feelings later by reading what you put onto the page. Listen to yourself. Notice all of the feelings you are experiencing. Notice the feelings underneath the anger, or underneath the shock. Feel what you feel.
“This is hard.“
Place your hand over your heart, comfort yourself. This hurts. Anyone going through this situation would likely feel really bad! Anyone going through an unexpected break-up would feel bad.
Anyone going through a divorce would be upset. Anyone who got cheated on would probably feel “less than“, initially. If this exact situation happened to a beloved friend, what would you say to your friend? Practice self-validation.
Practice radical acceptance
Don’t bargain, don’t wish it had played out differently. Keep from rehashing the “if only’s” and the “should haves” and let yourself begin to accept the enormity of what happened. Practice these affirmations “Things are different now. I am willing to accept this.“
Clinical Psychologist | Author | Yoga Instructor
Take time to fall in love with yourself
Getting over a breakup we didn’t initiate can be one of the most painful tasks we must undertake as humans again and again. There are several things to do in this process.
1. Get all of the emotions out
This is normal. Breakups can be compared to the grieving process. The stages of grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. You will vacillate through all of these.
This is what friends and family are for, tell your story and they will compassionately be there for you.
3. Continue to get all this out through journaling
Write a letter to your ex, you don’t have to give it, but write one and opt to burn it.
4. Delete them from your life
Get rid of the photographs, texts, emails, and gifts are given. You will energetically stay connected and fixated at ruminating over all of these, replaying the peaks and the demise. It’s better to purge them all.
Related: How to Get over a Guy
5. Continue to take care of yourself
Take time to fall in love with yourself. Perhaps opt for therapy, get a haircut, try out a new hobby, take a trip, rearrange your bedroom and get new sheets. After a time, you can reflect lessons learned from this relationship, as you move on to a healthier match in the future.
Grief Recovery Specialist | Speaker | Founder, Grief & Trauma Healing Network | Author, When Their World Stops: The Essential Guide to Truly Helping Anyone in Grief
Recognize that it is a loss
The end of a relationship you wanted to continue can be crushing. One of the healthiest ways to deal with it is to recognize that it is a loss. It is a death of a relationship, and there is grief associated with that.
Grief is commonly related to physical death, but there are many other losses in life that cause grief. I am surprised how many of my clients come to see me to process the pain of romantic breakups – almost as many who are suffering from the death of a loved one.
With every romantic relationship, there are hopes, dreams, and expectations. You may dream of vacations together or having children. Many women start to plan their dream wedding no matter how long they have been dating – and it doesn’t matter if their boyfriends know about it or not.
Couples often create habits and rituals. They do many things together or have a routine. The sudden end to that is hard.
The problem is that most of us have been taught to pretend we are okay even when we aren’t so we don’t allow ourselves to process the emotions that go with this loss. And that impacts our ability to have healthy relationships moving forward because we start to carry “relationship baggage”.
We may act like we don’t care and say we don’t care, but we usually do. Or we try things to help with the pain – dating someone else right away, drinking, eating or not eating at all, watching sad movies or listening to sad songs, shopping, working out excessively, making ourselves over or sleeping.
These things may temporarily make us feel better, but they don’t allow us to get complete with the end of the relationship. Why should we get complete with past relationships? So that we can be fully present for current ones. We can take the hurt from a previous relationship and bring it into the next one.
It’s healing to identify what your hopes, dreams, and expectations were for the broken relationship. What do you wish was different, better or more? What do you need to apologize for and what do you need to forgive? What are the things you would want that person to know? What are the emotions you are experiencing? Let’s look at the good and the bad of the relationship.
As we process these areas, we wrap up the relationship and free you from the hold it has on you and your heart. Then you can move on – in an emotionally healthy way and be ready for when the next relationship comes along. Let’s dump the baggage and make room for love.
International Love Coach and Dating Expert
I’ve seen many women who want to move on but have a difficult time because they are still hung up on their last relationship.
Women who haven’t let their last relationship go may bring drama, insecurities, and/or fear of commitment into their next attempt at a relationship, making it virtually doomed to fail if it ever starts at all. I’ve seen women waste years trying to move on but never really being able to.
The first thing I do with clients in this situation is to have them state their unanswered questions. There’s usually a handful.
It’s always a good idea to request a closure conversation with your ex to get those questions answered however I prep clients to be prepared that they will likely be dissatisfied with their responses. Why? Your ex’s reasoning may not be a match for your reasoning. You don’t think the same and that is a part of why this relationship would never work.
If your ex will not have a closure conversation with you, or if you are dissatisfied with the responses, know that you can still accept the break-up and move forward. Here are some great next steps:
Give yourself time to reset
You need to understand that you will crave the intimacy and familiarity of your ex for a period of time. The first weekend, after one month and after 3 months are common triggers. Also, anything traditionally romantic, family-oriented and all the things you normally do together will remind you of your partner.
This is the brain making basic associations and you can’t stop it. It takes time to experience those day-to-day happenings newly but eventually you won’t have that automatic association anymore and it will get much easier.
Don’t resist the feeling of longing but don’t feed into it either
Those feelings of longing have nothing to do with the person, but rather with the human condition (the way humans automatically and inherently feel). You’ve created a gap in your day-to-day life and that will feel uncomfortable for a while until you create a new routine and fill that gap. I recommend filling that gap with healthy behaviors that support your alignment.
Fill that gap with alignment
Relationships can water down your commitment to your values and what’s important to you. This is part of why women can feel so lost after a break-up.
A great way to fill that gap is to remember the things that are important to you and design your life around that. You can also try new things and learn about the person you are growing into!
Date but do not rush to get intimate or commit
It’s a good idea to go on a bunch of dates, not to find your next partner, but to experience enjoying the company of various people. This is like a social cleansing of the palette. It can be hard to embrace the possibility of ever loving someone other than your ex, so for now, just embrace the company of someone other than your ex.
The more different they are, the better. Eventually, you’ll notice yourself in a place where you are genuinely ready to connect without constant comparison.
LGBTQ Relationship Expert | Founder, H4M Matchmaking
As humans, we wake up every day to do the best we can. Ultimately, we have only one person to truly take care of each day, one person to make a priority, and it’s ourselves. It’s the reason we’re told to put our own oxygen masks on first. We have to do what is right for us first.
The person who breaks up with you, more than likely, is doing it for themselves as well. What they currently want and need in their life is not you. Why chase or even long for someone who doesn’t want or need you?
Your time is better spent, first taking stock, with what you loved about being with that person. How it made you feel, and what qualities and values of that person and that relationship that was satisfying and fulfilling for you?
Secondly, what did not work, or was really not compatible in the end? Make a list, literally. Be thankful for the good times, the great memories, and be grateful for a person who was (painfully) honest with you.
Take the time you need to reflect, appreciate, bless and release. Now, prioritize yourself, and your future. What are you seeking in true compatibility? When it is time, focus on the search or the opportunity for a future person with whom to be a more compatible and sustainable partner and relationship.
Be the best version of yourself, one with clarity, and determination. It’s sexy and can attract the right one because you made a point to say a final farewell to the wrong one. Leave behind the old, to make space for the new.
Couples Counselor | Owner, Prosper Therapy
Accept that this breakup is not completely about them
When one partner chooses to end the relationship and the other doesn’t want to, the times I have seen people move on the best is when they accept that this breakup is not completely about them.
Their partner has decided to move on for whatever reason, maybe they have outgrown the relationship or they want different things for the next phase of their life, but either way, it is not all about you.
When you shift your mindset to “this breakup is not completely about me” it creates space for you to move on and remember that just because this relationship ended, it doesn’t mean you aren’t desirable and loveable.
There are billions of people on this planet and someone waiting to meet someone just like you. Focusing on this person after they are finished with the relationship will keep you stuck in the same place. And that’s a shame for the other people who are out there waiting for you! Give the people what they want!
Senior Manager, People Looker
Give yourself time to grieve
After a messy breakup, especially an unwanted one, you will need time to adjust and move on from severe heartbreak and other overwhelming emotions. Jumping into the dating game too soon often leads to rebound relationships.
After all, it’s easy to latch onto the next person shows you an ounce of interest and false happiness when you are not ready. Unstable and often resulting in even more strife, rebound relationships never last.
Instead, focus on doing the things you love: binging Netflix, working out or other hobbies, volunteering, spending time with friends and family, etc. Getting over an ex can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months–sometimes even years!
Ditching painful reminders of your past break up is necessary for moving forward. Unfortunately, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media accounts make this difficult when littered with photos and posts of you and your ex.
Rather than dealing with nosey friends DMing you about the facts of your breakup and the stress of purging your accounts of your past relationship, go on a social media hiatus.
Inform close friends and family of your decision (to avoid anyone thinking you are snubbing them) and turn off any phone, email, and computer notifications. You may need to temporarily disable or close your accounts to prevent yourself from logging on out of habit.
Aim for two to four weeks before breaking your hiatus. By the time you return, you will have enough strength and time distancing yourself to go through your accounts without feeling too overwhelmed.
2. Go on a vacation
When accepting a breakup you didn’t want, sometimes you need to get away from the situation and your daily routine altogether. Plan a weekend camping trip in the mountains or a day-hike with friends. Go somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of city life and the stress of interacting with too many strangers.
If you can, take a week off of work and visit a relative or close friend who lives out of state. Not only are you giving yourself time to refresh after a breakup, but also immersing yourself with those you love will counter negative emotions with happy ones.
3. Rebuild your self-identity
As the love of your life walks out of your relationship, apart your soul follows after him or her. Many people feel lost and hopeless after a nasty breakup, unable to comprehend life or identity without their partner. Pulling the rug out from under your relationship dependency can trigger depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
To counteract this and cope with post-breakup hardships, you must reinvent yourself. Start a new hobby, set up a daily exercise routine, and form new habits regarding health and self-care (such as turning off your cell phone thirty minutes before bed or meditation first thing in the morning). You will rebuild confidence and self-worth.
Dating & Relationship Coach
Reframe rejection into refinement
There’s not much that’s more difficult than finding yourself on the receiving end of a break up that you didn’t want. The reason it can be so difficult is that we humans have a tendency to internalize these difficult situations and make them mean something about ourselves.
You know this if you’ve ever found yourself questioning what you could have done differently to save the relationship, or struggling with thoughts that you weren’t good enough, interesting enough, attractive enough, and so on. In all of these scenarios, the common theme is a sense of rejection.
The best way to begin to accept a breakup you didn’t want is to reframe rejection into refinement.
Rejection says, “I wasn’t good enough“; refinement says, “This relationship wasn’t aligned for us.” Rejection says, “What could I have done to save this relationship?” (usually while replaying endless, obsessive scenarios of hypothetical conversations that never happened); refinement says, “What can I learn from this relationship to make my next relationship even better?”
Rejection says, “I have to focus on everything I’ve lost“; refinement says, “I can be grateful for the good in this relationship and trust that my next relationship will be more beautiful.” Rejection says, “I’m afraid I won’t find another relationship“; refinement says, “I trust that I can be pleasantly surprised by the new and interesting connections I’ll make when I’m ready.“
If we can embrace the truth that every relationship is made up of equal parts of two individuals, we then have to accept that even if we didn’t want the relationship to end, if one person wanted to break up, the relationship was never functioning at its highest potential.
I encourage my clients to consciously choose the concept of refinement whenever difficulty over the ending of a relationship crops up because it helps them connect with the truth that there are endless potential connections, partners, and mates in the world for them.
It encourages the hope that they can be grateful for the parts of their recently-ended relationship that were positive, and also look forward to the new relationships they can create.
It is also worth mentioning, that part of the moving on process lies in accepting ourselves in every stage of our grief. Recognize that the loss of a relationship and the loss of the potential you believed that it held are real losses. They require a grieving process, not dissimilar to the death of a loved one.
It is normal to feel sadness, anger, denial, and all of the emotions and states that come along with grief. The more we lean into these feelings, acknowledge ourselves for everything we’ve gone through and lost, and balance our negative feelings with hope and gratitude– the two great emotional equalizers– the more quickly the process of grief can pass.
The sense of rejection we experience at the end of a relationship is rooted in the fear that we weren’t enough in some way or fear that there isn’t more love for us on the other side of the breakup. If we honor our grief and balance our emotions by choosing to see rejection as refinement, the accepting and moving on process is a whole lot easier.
Content Manager, MyFoodSubscriptions
Learn to feel at peace again
When you’re dealing with a breakup you didn’t see coming, didn’t plan for, or didn’t want, you can move on and heal through self-care practices and learn to feel at peace again.
By recognizing that even if you didn’t agree with this choice it likely was not your fault, and by remaining in the present moment, you can create a space to heal.
Sometimes this is a great opportunity to reconnect with friends, family, colleagues, and even meet new people. It’s also a great time to use healthy self-soothing coping skills to relax. Activities like deep breathing, yoga, meditation, joining a new class or group, and even a soothing bath can all help you decompress.
More than anything, acceptance that you’re worth is not based on anyone else’s approval, and having a sense of hope for future relationships is key. You can even practice daily reminders, telling yourself all that you’re good at and all that you contribute to the world.
This is a time to bolster the importance of self-esteem and move on through positive connections with others and positive behaviors and thought processes.
- Get professional counseling from a licensed therapist.
- Individual and couples counseling. Anytime, anywhere.