No matter how long or short you've been in a relationship with someone, breakups are never easy. After all, you entered the partnership for a reason, you made yourself vulnerable, you formed strong bonds together—all things that are hard to let go. But most importantly, you exited the relationship for a reason, too—and how you move on from heartbreak can have an influence on what the future holds. Sure, it may be tempting to give up on life, hole yourself up with a tub of Ben & Jerry's and the entire Adele discography (and it's okay to do that—for a day, not a month), but making the most of your vulnerability post-breakup will ultimately help you heal better and faster.
The silver lining of breakups are the learning experiences you make along the way—and the knowledge that better things are yet to come. Whatever your issues were in the relationship—hostile arguments, broken trust, deep-rooted jealousy, toxic controlling behavior—can be put in the past to make space for better things. To figure out how to make the most of a difficult breakup, we tapped Lisa Cypers Kamen, psychology coach, happiness expert, and author of the book Are We Happy Yet?. Have you recently experienced heartbreak? A happiness expert teaches us how to survive a breakup, and how to get back to being happy.
Step 1: Allow Yourself to Cry
"Give yourself permission to feel," Cypers Kamen says. "Crying is cathartic." In the first moments following a breakup, it's normal (and even healthy) to let out all emotions so we don't bottle them up and have them resurface in future relationships. In this initial grieving period, we often lack the foresight to understand why this breakup was for the best. Instead, set an amount of time to let all emotions out. In other words, allow yourself one day of crying and listening to Adele. Then pull yourself together.
Step 2: Stop Denying
"Acknowledge what's happening," says the psychology coach. "Denial is not a river in Egypt." If your breakup came as a complete shock, it's easy to spiral down a hole of alternative facts: this is just temporary; he'll come to his senses; we'll surely bump into each other and get back together. Stop those thoughts dead in their tracks, and remind yourself that the breakup happened for a reason. During that stage, you'll likely gloss over the negative aspects of your relationship and focus on the rosy good times, so it's important to be extremely aware of these unproductive thoughts and remember to trust your gut—if your relationship felt wrong in any way, it probably was.
Step 3: Accept Change
"Embrace change," Cypers Kamen says. "What we resist persists." As much as we may want to live in the past and long for happier times, this is entirely unproductive. Find the silver lining in being newly single. Plan a trip you weren't able to go on before. Decorate the way you want. Sign up for a new workout class. Get a haircut. Go out with your girlfriends. Whatever makes you look forward to the future is what you should focus on right now.
Step 4: Recognize Vulnerability
Post-breakup, we all have good days and bad days. "Recognize vulnerability," Cypers Kamen says. "Allowing ourselves to be raw, tender, and exposed is a real human statement." Having a tough day is no reason to relapse into self-pity. Acknowledge your vulnerability. Talk it over with friends or family. Most importantly, know that the rawness you're feeling right now is temporary, but it's part of the healing process.
Step 5: Ask For Help
You know you're strong, but that doesn't mean you have to face the storm alone. The most important thing to do when we're feeling vulnerable is to not close in on ourselves and to learn to rely on our support network. "Ask for help," says the happiness expert. "Connection and support are essential in challenging times." Friends, family, spiritual, or therapeutic support can all be beneficial in helping you heal in a healthy way.
Step 6: Focus on Self-Care
"Self-care is key," Cypers Kamen says. "Get rest, exercise, sunshine, good nutrition, proper sleep, and make time for simple pleasurable distractions." One of the easiest ways to do all this is to go on a trip with a friend to get your mind off your day-to-day challenges. But if you can't get away, focus on your work/life balance. Now is not the time to bury yourself in work (no matter how tempting). Instead, make a point to leave work early and exercise. Go for walks on the weekend. Pay attention to how you're eating. The more balanced you are, the better you'll feel.
Step 7: Review and Reframe
This is a crucial step in moving on from past relationships: "Review and reframe the lessons and opportunities that the relationship has taught," Cypers Kamen says. This is an opportunity to learn from your mistakes, but also to forgive the other's wrongdoings so that, in time, you can be open to love again. The psychology coach suggests this exercise: "I'm sad, hurting, and upset but I'm grateful for this relationship because it taught me X, Y, and Z about myself and about life." Write this down and keep it somewhere safe as a reminder for future relationships.
Step 8: Embrace Hope
"Embrace hope, optimism, and faith for the future," Cypers Kamen says. "Grieving does not feel good, but it is a necessary experience. If we cannot weather the disappointment and hardships of life, we never fully learn to celebrate and appreciate the joy of life. Contrast heightens awareness." Be thankful for the lessons and life experiences this relationship has taught you, and be hopeful for the future. Know that there are better things to come and welcome every new experience that comes your way with open arms—they may just exceed your expectations.