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How to Recover From a Breakup

Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistSeptember 5, 2018
From the WebMD Archives

It’s over. You know it’s over. But you just can’t seem to walk away. Sometimes it’s hard to truly let go, even when you know it’s time. To help yourself turn the page and begin anew, consider making a breakup recovery plan.

Here are a few things you can do to move through your breakup in a healthy way (taken from my book, Insecure in Love):

Build a support system ahead of time. Breakups are painful and you will do best if you have supportive people to lean on. This means being honest with them about your struggles so that they can understand your circumstance and truly support your decision to end your relationship. By having a support system in place, you can turn to these people for comfort when you are distressed and for encouragement to pursue your interests.

Let yourself mourn. This is a natural response when you lose an important person in your life—even if you are better off without him. Friends might tell you “he’s not worth it,” but the fact is that no longer having him in your life is still a loss. So feel the sadness, anger, hurt, or whatever else you feel. But keep putting one foot in front of the other as you walk away. With time, he will be far behind and you will stop looking over your shoulder as your new life becomes more engaging.

Remind yourself of your value and strengths. This can be particularly difficult to do when you are down. Consider what family and friends appreciate about you. If you are inclined to dismiss or minimize this, don’t be so hasty. These people choose to interact with you because they want to—even family members don’t have to stay in contact.

Choose healthy ways of coping. Resist giving in to impulses to seek immediate gratification, such as with food, alcohol, sex, or shopping—or to just withdraw from the world. Instead, make the effort to engage in the things you know will eventually help you feel better: eat healthily, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, socialize, and return to spiritual practices if you have them, as well as to other activities you normally enjoy.

Engage in meaningful work . When people feel that they are doing something that is personally meaningful, they are more likely to become truly engaged in it, relieving their sense of disconnection. Examples of such work are volunteering at a school or homeless shelter, gardening, going back to school for an advanced degree, or writing a book (yes, that’s my personal example).

Refocus on the moment. If you get lost in your painful feelings, try refocusing on whatever you are doing in the present moment.

Be prepared for the urge to reunite. There is a good chance that you will, at some point, entertain the idea of going back to your partner. Before picking up the phone or “happening” to run into him, think seriously about your situation. Acknowledge how difficult it is to stay away, but also think about how hard it was to be in the relationship. Remind yourself why you decided to leave. Also, before reaching out to your former partner, reach out to a supportive friend to talk over the situation. Finally, assuming that you know your decision to leave was the right one, remind yourself in weak moments that “this, too, shall pass.”

Be forgiving of yourself if you go back. Even if you make the above efforts, you might find yourself texting your old boyfriend with the secret hopes of reuniting, or find yourself back in his arms before you fully realize what you’ve done. As soon as you realize your mistake, put an end to it. Remember, everyone has weak moments; so forgive yourself.

Breakups are never easy, but armed with an understanding of what went wrong (not only in this relationship, but also in past relationships), you now have a better chance for a healthier, more secure relationship.

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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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