What Not to Do After a Breakup
Breakups can be incredibly painful. If you’re trying to heal after a breakup and feel stuck on your ex—pining over them, focused on what they’re doing, wishing you could talk or understand what happened—taking steps to help yourself is key to getting over them and moving on.
Here are five things you should stop doing to let go of a former flame.
- Stop reaching out to your ex. After a breakup, it’s very common to want to reach out and talk to your ex. You may want to feel close again, get answers, yell at them, hug them, and be around them because it can temporarily distract you from the pain of the breakup. That said, to move on, it’s critical to get some space away from your ex. Often, cutting off contact completely makes grieving a breakup and moving on much easier over time.
- Stop looking for information about your ex. It’s very common to seek out information about what your ex is doing now through mutual friends or on social media. For example, who they’re dating now, what they’re doing, where they are, and how they are emotionally. However, this ultimately keeps you focused on your ex—which is not going to help you move on in the long run.
- Stop having sex with your ex—and maybe even other partners. Sex is a very complicated topic when it comes to breakups. If you are in love with someone, sex is generally connected to some emotion and the expression of love for another person. But, for many people, sex has nothing to do with love—it has to do with getting an orgasm, feeling powerful, or being desired (Meston and Buss, 2010). If you’re trying to move on from your ex, sleeping with them, touching them, and being sexual with them can make it harder to let go. If you’re hung up on your ex, having sex with a new partner can be very triggering—not only is it a psychological reminder of your breakup, but sex/touch/orgasm gives you a neurobiological high that can make you crave your ex again if you’re not over them.
- Don’t act impulsively. Impulsive behavior happens without foresight of the consequences and is generally done in a moment of emotional reactivity. Things like texting late at night when you’re feeling especially angry or sad, going on a last-minute shopping spree when you’re feeling triggered, or taking a shot of alcohol to calm your nerves. When you want to reach out in a moment of panic or pain, pause and hold back from acting immediately. Notice your feelings and wait until you’ve thought about what you want to do in response to your emotions before reaching out to your ex.
- Challenge unhelpful thoughts. Generally, we have very positive thoughts about our mates when we’re in a relationship—like they are the best and add to your life in a meaningful way. If you then break up, it’s easy to stay fixated on them as someone you need or want to feel happy again. For example, you may hold onto the false beliefs that “your ex is the best,” “you’ll never get over them,” and “no one will ever want you in the future.” Cognitive behavioral techniques can help you challenge these faulty thoughts and replace them with empowering, self-enhancing beliefs about yourself and your future.
Naked Truth Is This: Breakups can be very hard.
The best thing you can do to move forward is to stop focusing on your ex and turn your attention to yourself. Who are you? What do you care about? What do you want for your life?
In addition, there are many therapeutic skills that you can learn to help you let go of your ex and create the next great phase of your life. For anyone struggling through a love-addicted breakup: Letting Go of Your Ex (2023).
References: Why Women Have Sex: Women Reveal the Truth About Their Sex Lives, from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between) Paperback. Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2010.
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