A love coach answers the most-asked breakup questions
It ended over cheap Indian food in the Mission District of San Francisco.
After an intoxicating six-months, she’d had enough of me, my childish tantrums, and my constant desire to process every little thing about our relationship.
She invited me to a restaurant on 16th street (Pakwan, for the locals), we ordered, and she dropped the bomb. She was breaking up with me.
I was completely blindsided, and in hindsight, I should have seen the writing on the wall. We’d started fighting one month in; love-hate was a good way to describe how we acted around each other.
I begged and pleaded and convinced her to come over to my apartment so I didn’t have to wail and cry in public. I secretly hoped that if I got her back to my house, I could convince her to change her mind.
She didn’t, and our relationship ended.
But my healing process didn’t begin until six months later when I finally came to terms that our relationship was over. For six months, I’d hoped that we’d get back together, and that prevented me from moving on and making sense of our separation.
Whether you relate to my breakup story or not, the end of a relationship is always challenging, confusing, and the healing process isn’t pleasant or comfortable. And everyone has an opinion on how to get over your breakup as quickly as possible.
Breaking up might be one of the most unpleasant, painful, and lengthy experiences, and while I don’t wish it on anybody, it’s a natural part of being an open-hearted human, a humbling experience that everyone needs to experience at least once (and for some, seemingly countless times) in their life.
There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this right now, you’re in the throes of a painful breakup, and you want to be doing everything you can to soften the pain that comes with heartbreak.
I get it. No one wants to suffer longer than necessary.
As a love coach, I get questions daily about breakups, why they’re so painful, and how to get over them.
Here are my answers to some of those questions.
Top Questions About Getting Over Heartbreak
Will this breakup ever stop hurting?
It might be hard to believe right now, but your feelings towards your ex and your separation will change.
Heartbreak needs time to move through your body. Sometimes the pain is too unbearable and you distract a little bit.
Maybe you overeat or binge on some Netflix. You might try going on a date, to quickly remember that you’re nowhere near ready to do so (very kind of you to admit that, especially for the other person).
And so, you wait.
Maybe you journal, and you try to meditate. You might do some yoga, light some candles, or take a bubble bath.
But more importantly, you feel sad and heartbroken, and you accept the fact that you’re sad and heartbroken.
You don’t try to change it.
You sit with it, and you remember all the people in your life that love you.
Then you go through the list of all the people that you love.
You make a mental list of 10 things that bring joy to your life.
And you forgive yourself for feeling sad and heartbroken.
You forgive yourself for not being over it even though, god damn, shouldn’t you be over it by now? Hasn’t it been long enough (answer: probably not)?
How can I heal from this breakup if I’m still in love with them?
There’s a good chance that you’re still in love with your ex if they broke up with you.
We don’t usually break up with people we’re in love with (there are exceptions to this rule, of course, but for the most part, we want to stay in relationship with those we love).
And as much as you might want to, you can’t just turn off the love for someone at a moment’s notice, even though it sometimes feels like that’s what they did to you.
The goal isn’t to get over someone; it’s to let the feelings of the breakup and the relationship move through you, however long it takes.
The more you try to ‘get over’ someone or bypass the natural healing process, the longer you’ll be at it.
The more you shame yourself for not being over it, the longer the healing process takes.
So, let all your feelings flow through you:
The guilt about not being over it yet.
The fear that it’ll happen again with the next person.
The pain of rejection and disappointment.
The shame of having to tell your friends and family that you got dumped.
And, the sadness over the loss of the person you thought you’d grow old with.
All your feelings are valid; give them the room they need.
How long does it take to get over a breakup?
Getting over your breakup is going to take the time it takes.
There’s no manual or guidelines on how long these things take. Some people are already processing the end of the relationship before it’s even over.
Some people are still grieving and dreaming of their ex years down the road.
It all depends, so let go of a specific timeline. It takes the time it takes.
Please don’t compare the time it takes you to heal to how long it takes your partner or others to heal.
Some folks don’t feel as much as you or have different coping strategies that make it look like they’re over it when maybe they’re not.
Sure, you can do some things to speed it up.
No contact can be helpful, and so can removing or blocking them on social media, but you can’t control when a memory pops up that will send you back.
You’ll drive by your favorite restaurant, or you’ll remember the feeling of your ex walking into the kitchen and holding you while you cook, and it all comes flooding back.
You can block your ex, but you can’t block your memories.
Note: The no-contact strategy gets infinitely more complicated when you have to co-parent. In this case, get clear on what kind of interaction you need to care for your children, and stick to your agreement.
Memories take the time they take to work through your system.
Eventually, slowly, you’ll start to build new memories, and those old painful ones will get put into long-term storage.
They’ll have less power and are less likely to derail you when they come up again (as they inevitably will, to say hello).
How do I get closure from this breakup?
When a relationship ends, it’s reasonable to want to know why. I get it. Closure can make the end make sense. It might even allow you to heal faster.
Everything would be simpler with a proper explanation of why it ended; it’d be great if they gave you one.
And for most of you, you’ll get the closure you require. And for some of you, you’ll get nothing.
Or you’ll get an explanation about why they left that doesn’t make sense to you.
Sometimes your ex doesn’t know what happened or can’t communicate what changed.
Other times, they won’t have the courage to tell you why they’re leaving you. No amount of pleading will get you this answer.
You might find yourself demanding an explanation, even being belligerent about how much you’ve been through together.
And they still might not be able to give it to you.
Remember: they don’t owe you closure (and if you’re the breaker, you don’t owe them closure either).
Demanding closure means not accepting the current situation as being exactly the way it’s supposed to be, no matter how shitty it might feel.
Often, the best thing we can do is let our exes off the hook for everything they’ve ever ‘done’ to us.
I hope you get the closure you want from your ex, but know that it’s not required for you to heal.
You can give yourself the closure (and the love) you need to move on.
Is it a good idea to hang out with my ex if I still have feelings?
In my experience, no. It’s hard to heal while still in contact with your ex.
I understand the appeal, though. Hanging out with your ex might feel good; it probably feels familiar. And that relieves the pain temporarily.
But it’s a temporary fix and ultimately might set you back on your journey to healing.
You might be holding onto hope that your ex will come around and change their mind about the breakup. And while they might, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment down the line if nothing changes.
The fountain of hope springs eternal and hoping that you’ll get back together can keep you in that limbo-state of heartbreak indefinitely.
Better to accept that the relationship is over, take a period of no-contact if you can, and evaluate whether friendship is possible down the road when you’ve both processed and healed from the breakup.
By the way, a good litmus test to see if you’re ready to explore a friendship with your ex is this: how would you feel about seeing them with a new lover?
If you’d feel jealous, bitter, and angry about it, you’re probably not ready (and might not ever be). If you feel happy about your ex because you want them to be happy, you might be ready for friendship.
If you feel somewhere between the two, tread lightly.
Can rebound sex help?
I’m not sure it can help, but it can undoubtedly distract, and sometimes a distraction is what you need as long as you’re in the right place.
How fresh is the breakup?
Are you still crying yourself to sleep every night?
Or are you hearing the birds chirp, watching people kiss on the street, and starting to feel a bit of hope that love is still out there, waiting for you?
If it’s the latter, you might be ready for a little rebound sex (or to go on a date).
It certainly has the power to take your mind off your recent breakup. And it can show you that there are other wonderful, lovely people out there that are not your ex.
If you’re still balling your eyes out every night and cursing the day your ex was born, you might need more “you” time.
When you engage in sex, however casual, you’re bringing someone into the fold of your life, even if for one night.
If that fold is messy and full of old photos of your ex scattered around your bed, you probably want to spare them the awkwardness.
And if you’re somewhere in the middle, consider telling your rebound hook-up you’re still hurting from a recent breakup and looking for a little loving distraction. Who knows, they might be into it.
And don’t forget to talk about your sexual health practices and history; talking about sex is sexy and your responsibility as a sexually active adult.
I know you’re hurting, and I know that it might seem like you’ll be hurting forever. As hard as it is to believe, it does get better.
Slowly, over time, you’ll replace the painful memories with less painful memories, and eventually, you might even mostly remember the relationship, and your ex, with fondness.
And in some cases, you might have healed enough for friendship with your ex to be possible.
Remember the ex that left me over cheap Indian food? We ran into each other six years later in Berlin (not totally by chance but very haphazardly thanks to the power of social media).
We got to connect on how insane we both drove each other, we reminisced on the good times we shared, and we left each other with a big hug and well wishes for future happiness and health.
Oh, and let me leave you with this:
Your next relationship should be as good as or better than your last. — Shaun Galanos
If that’s not something to look forward to, I don’t know what is.