You haven’t really lived life to the fullest until you’ve survived a messy breakup. At least, that’s what we like to tell ourselves. Whether it was your high school sweetheart or your long-time partner you shared a home with, we all have that one person in our lives who broke our heart and left us shattered.
If you’re currently going through a breakup right now, let us just say that we feel your pain—and we know for sure that there’s light at the end of the long, dark tunnel (which tends to include a lot of ice cream and episodes of Gossip Girl).
Because breakups are one of the most universal pains in the world, HelloGiggles spoke with a professional who can give us some useful insight on how to get through them. Meet Wendy Strgar, relationship expert, founder of Good Clean Love, and author of forthcoming book SEX THAT WORKS: An Intimate Guide to Awakening Your Erotic Life.
Yeah, that sounds pretty familiar. But all is not lost. Strgar insists that there are some very healthy ways to get over a breakup, so grab a box of tissues and a bar of dark chocolate, and let’s dive in.
Here are five ways to cope with a big breakup, according to a relationship expert.
1Say words of encouragement to yourself
When our hearts are torn into a million pieces, we don’t think much about the way we’re talking to ourselves. All we can do is run over the relationship a million times in our head and wonder where we went wrong. But that’s not doing you any good.
“Speaking to yourself with the kindness and compassion that you would give to a dear friend not only helps you get through the grief but builds a stronger sense of self that someday will translate into more self-confidence as the sadness ebbs,” Strgar says.
Rather than beating yourself up for things you did or didn’t do, offer words of encouragement in your own mind, much like you would give your best friend who just got dumped. Strgar tells HG that one of the hardest parts of a breakup is learning to be on your own again, so give yourself a healthy head start by being kind to yourself.
2Allow yourself to feel all the emotions
You’ll pretty much run through every emotion on the face of the planet over the course of your breakup: sadness, anger, relief, hurt, regret, hope, grief, hunger (kidding, but not really). Don’t shy away from fully experiencing these feelings.
“Diving into your experience is the most effective way to get through a breakup,” Strgar tells us. “The truth about our feelings is that they need our attention, and once they are witnessed, they transform on their own.”
The more you push away your true feelings, the harder it will be to move on. Do whatever you have to do to move through these emotions—crying, journaling, sleeping—and you’ll come out on the other side ready for the rest of your life.
3Try not to overindulge in substances
We know this is not the instruction you want to hear, but it’s an important one. All the common destructive behavior that takes place after a breakup, like partying, binge eating, or impulse shopping, is just a distraction from what you’re truly going through.
This is how Strgar puts it: “I know how easy it is to not want to feel, to distract yourself from the huge space that you can’t imagine how to fill…but avoidance is a slippery slope that can get the better of you before you see it happening.”
Numbing yourself from the pain doesn’t get you anywhere in the long run, and it could be stopping you from healing yourself completely. Strgar says it’s ok to take breaks—go for a few drinks with friends, splurge a little bit, shop—but don’t let those activities take over your life to the point where you’re avoiding your own feelings.
4Don’t repeat the past to yourself over and over again
Remember when Carrie first broke up with Big in HBO’s classic show Sex and the City? She couldn’t stop talking about it with her girlfriends and she would tell them the same stories over and over again. It got so bad that they shoved her into therapy.
Strgar tells HG that, although it’s very common to get stuck in your grief and ruminate on the old stories over and over again, it’s anything but healthy. “It is such a huge waste of energy and does not move you forward,” Strgar instructs.
She recommends you “drop the storyline.” Let yourself feel what you feel, but don’t get caught up in all the details of what happened, because that will blind you from the opportunities that lie ahead of you.
5Keep yourself busy
“Remembering how to enjoy life with yourself is so healing and important, because this is how we need to come into any new relationship—whole,” Strgar insists. Take up a new hobby, immerse yourself in a book club, take on a new project at work. Tap into your greatest passions and see what you can offer yourself and the world around you.
This will serve as a very necessary reminder that your relationship did not and does not define you. You’ve got plenty left to give to the world, so put yourself in a position where you can still shine. Regardless of your relationship status.