Relationships: How to Deal with a Break Up

Young women's version of this guide

Young couple sitting at opposite ends of a bench.When you enter into a relationship you can’t be certain whether it will last for a couple of weeks, months or years. There is no way of knowing for sure. How you cope if the relationship ends can be uncertain as well. You may feel relieved, sad, angry, lonely, or somewhere in between. All of these feelings are normal but there are things you can do to help you get through this time.

Common feelings or emotions post-break up:

  • Shock or surprise
  • Sadness and a feeling of loss
  • Anger – you may feel angry at your Ex or angry at yourself
  • Fear about the future and being in a relationship again
  • Loneliness – you may feel that you have no one to talk to or that no one understands what you are going through
  • Embarrassed – you may feel uncomfortable being around your Ex or her/his friends
  • Relieved that a once stressful relationship is over
  • Happy that you’re single again

All of these feelings are a normal part of coping. A break up is a loss and just like with any other loss, the person who is grieving needs time to heal. Give yourself time to get past your break-up and remind yourself that things will get better.

What can I do to cope?

There are lots of things you can do that can help you cope after a break up. The most important thing you can do is to give yourself time. If you were dating your Ex for a long time, don’t expect to feel 100% better the next day. Give your mind and heart time to get used to the change. When you feel ready, try some of the following activities and coping strategies.

  • Talk to a friend or family member – you don’t have to deal with this situation by yourself!
  • Remind yourself of all of your good qualities
  • Write a poem, song, or write a letter about your thoughts and feelings and either keep it or rip it up afterwards if that feels good!
  • Stay active – go for a walk, play a sport, ride your bike, or read a book
  • Keep your normal routine – school, work, exercise, errands, anything to help get you out of bed
  • Ignore social media – avoid posting comments about your breakup and consider deactivating your Facebook or other social media accounts at least temporarily. Later you can defriend your Ex if you’d like.
  • Start a new hobby – you might have a lot of free time now. Devote that time to a new interest. You may even find someone new who likes to do the same things as you!
  • Don’t text or call your Ex. If you feel that you need to talk to your Ex, wait at least a week or so then see if it would be appropriate to have a face to face calm conversation. If you are concerned about your safety, don’t meet with your Ex unless it is with a friend and in a public place.

What should I tell my friends?

It’s up to you whom you share your story with, however it’s a good idea to be selective about whom and what you tell people. Sometimes it’s good to wait to tell others when you have sorted out your feelings and other times, it’s helpful to talk to a close friend right away. Just be sure to choose friends and family members that you trust, who can be supportive and who won’t gossip about you.

You may find that some people you talk to have good intentions to make you feel better; however they may say awkward things such as, “You’ll be better off in the long run now that you’ve split up” or “Don’t worry, you’ll meet someone else eventually,” which may not make you feel better while you are sad and lonely. Try to talk with people who understand what you are going through such as a friend who’s already gone through a breakup and who can be supportive when you feel like talking, crying or when you simply feel sad. Surround yourself with people who will help you stay distracted by doing fun things such as going to the movies or doing other activities you enjoy.

What if I’m not feeling any better or I’m starting to feel worse?

Sometimes coping with a breakup can be hard to do on your own. This is especially true if you were dating your ex-partner for a long time or were very close with them. It could also be hard to feel better after a breakup if the relationship ended on a bad note. For example, if you broke up with your Ex because they cheated on you, it would be completely normal to feel surprised and/or angry. However sometimes anger can become worse over time. You may want to consider having a conversation with your Ex to end things peacefully. It will ultimately benefit you and maybe even make it easier to move on. While it’s normal to feel upset that you were betrayed it’s not normal or okay to let that anger turn into violence. Sometimes people feel that they will never have another relationship and as a result they may use drugs and/or alcohol to mask the pain. Although it’s understandable that you may be sad or angry, neither alcohol nor drugs will ever make a situation better.

How do I know if I should talk to a counselor or therapist?

If you feel so angry that you might hurt someone or so upset that you might hurt yourself, you need to tell a trusted adult, such as your health care provider. Sometimes extra support is needed and a therapist or counselor can be very helpful. It’s important to let a trusted adult know if your daily routine has been affected by your breakup. For example, if you feel like you can’t stop crying, have trouble getting out of bed, miss school or work, eat a lot less or a lot more than usual, drink or use drugs to numb your pain, or feel hopeless about the future, you can talk to your primary care provider about meeting with a therapist or counselor to help you through this difficult time.

Above all, remember that you are not alone. Just about everyone will experience a breakup in their lifetime and change is an adjustment and the only way to bring about something new. You may not feel the greatest right now, and that’s okay, but change will come. Try to focus on doing what makes you happy. You’ll feel better soon, and you’ll have new things in your life to look forward to.