No matter what the circumstances, a breakup can be a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute, you'll be feeling lost, sad, and heartbroken, convinced you'll never find someone as good as the partner you just had, and the next, you find yourself angry, stressed to the max, and ready to lash out. (PS: It's natural.) And although it's tempting to act on every impulse you feel at the exact moment you feel it—calling an ex to profess your sudden undying love or dragging them on Instagram to punish them for their cheating ways—you'll need to resist the urge, turn the page, and start the healing process for the sake of your own mental health. And while you may think a breakup gives you license to engage in an emotional—and behavioral—free-for-all, trust us, there are just some things not to do during a breakup.
Read on for six post-breakup don'ts that will only trip you up, cause even more heartache than the breakup itself, and (at the very least) impede the healing process.
Don't Dwell on the Past
If you've just gone through a breakup (or if it's been a minute since the initial separation), it's important to realize that whatever transpired between the two of you happened in the past. (So if you're currently in "broken-record mode," snap out of it.) It's completely understandable to want to figure out exactly what went wrong, when things changed, and how you both got to this point. Engaging in a healthy bit of self-reflection is okay, but continually obsessing over every little detail of your broken relationship in the weeks and months after you've called it quits only intensifies your misery. "It’s tempting to keep reminders of the person or relationship around you—photographs, mementos, social-media messages, gifts—remember that such items are also a vivid and constant reminder of the relationship and as such can also be very painful," says Guy Winch, Ph.D.
Step back, honestly assess the situation, and try your hardest to accept and come to terms with what occurred. Focusing on the future, rather than the past, is just one of the healthy ways to move on after a hard breakup.
Don't Stalk via Social Media
While it may be agonizingly tempting to check up on, low-key shade, or stealthily stalk your ex on social media, don't do it. Just don't. There’s no point in watching your ex live it up at someone's birthday party, look great in a bathing suit on some faraway beach, or scarf down a meal in the buzzy new restaurant you two were supposed to try together. And what happens when you see them living their life with someone else? Do you really want to subject yourself to the anger and hurt you'll feel upon seeing your ex has moved on while you're still gagging over what once was?
Even if it's painful at first, unfollowing, blocking, and/or hiding your ex on the social media channels you frequent is the best course of action.
Don't Go It Alone
Lean on friends and family for support after a breakup. You'll need their kind words as well as some time to heal—breakups are hard! Even though your first inclination is to shut everyone out and wallow all alone in your grief and disappointment, it isn't a healthy choice. "By avoiding the people who love and value you, you are depriving yourself of their caring, love, and concern, which are important for your self-esteem and recovery," Winch says.
In fact, the post-breakup period is actually a perfect time to reach out to the people who care most about you—they'll understand because they, too, have undoubtedly been in your shoes. And if friends and family try but can't help you out of your funk, then seek the help of a therapist or other medical professional. Even though you’re no longer with your partner, you never have to go it alone.
Don't Beat Yourself Up
Okay, so you feel you could’ve done things differently. Perhaps you're even at fault for the breakup. No matter: You still need to have love and respect for yourself. Our indiscretions don't define us—and they don't determine our self-worth. When we suffer, it's everyone's natural inclination to want to numb the pain (and fast). "Once you’ve identified what your mistakes might have been, going over them again and again will only make you feel worse and delay your emotional recovery," Winch says. Turn the hurt on its head by purposefully engaging in healthy acts such as meditation (for stress relief), exercise (to channel your emotions), and the practice of self-care.
Don't Contact Your Ex
While every fiber in your being may be telling you to text, call, or meet with your ex to "talk things through," it can be a big mistake. Engaging in conversations (no matter how innocuous), going on "harmless" lunch dates, and even springing for some hot post-breakup sex only makes it harder to move on and envision yourself able to live life without your ex in the picture. Harboring strong feelings of friendship, love, and lust for someone you were once romantically involved with is completely natural, but the continual push to find a way to keep an ex in your life (even if it’s just for one more night) is self-destructive and just prolongs the agony.
Don't Lose Hope
Think you'll never find someone else? Think again. Rid yourself of hurtful, negative thoughts and sweeping generalizations. Yes, you are loveable. And no, your ex isn't the best thing that will ever happen to you. Just because you've broken up doesn't mean that you’re destined to be alone forever.
Use this post-breakup "me time" to reflect and figure out what qualities, values, and characteristics you'd like to see in a new partner. Allow the breakup to teach you things you never knew about yourself and let it also be a quick blip. Use it as a vehicle that enables you to enjoy a better, brighter relationship down the road.