There’s no silver bullet to get over your ex quick.
If there was, everyone would be stocking up on it faster than they hoard toilet paper.
But sadly, breakups are a process that require time and reflection to move past. But where do we begin? What will work when nothing else seems to?
Here you’ll find 11 steps you can take to get over your ex.
11 Steps to Get Over Your Ex—Finally!
Hurting sucks. Here’s how to make it stop.
#1 Feel The Feels
When a breakup happens, the last thing you want to do is feel it. After all, who wants to feel that miserable?
But even though it’s the worst feeling, actually giving yourself space to feel it will make it better in the long run. It’s like the old saying, “don’t bottle things up.” If bottling things up worked, it wouldn’t be a saying.
But the reality is that when you don’t allow yourself to feel the emotion, it will come out in one way or another. It could come out when you’re feeling bad for another reason and all the sudden you’re in mental breakdown mode. Or it could manifest as stress (mentally and even physically). Bottom line: Ignoring emotions doesn’t make them go away. Maybe the worst, it could come out with the next person you’re with.
Know that a breakup, no matter how long you were together, is still a loss. And with loss comes grief. That’s a natural process, so lean into a bit. If you feel like crying, cry. If you want to sulk and watch movies all day, do it. If you need to take a day off because it doesn’t feel like you can function, that’s okay too.
Too often, we think we need to automatically pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and go back into the world. Of course, eventually that will need to happen. But don’t rush into it. It’s tempting to think that’s what’s expected of you because, as a society, we don’t really highlight the pain of breakups. I mean, we see women suffering through splits in chick flicks, eating a pint of ice cream and crying. But we don’t really talk about the trauma ending a relationship brings. Regardless of your gender, it’s normal to feel this way, even if you think others would take it easier.
#2 Find a Way to Release Emotion
Now that we’ve convinced you to feel your crappy feelings, what do you do when it’s all too much to handle? We all need coping strategies that can help us deal with hard times. What works is different for everyone. Some coping strategies may work while others may do nothing.
Here’s some ideas:
- Try therapy
- Talking to a friend (but not overtalking them)
- Posting on a Reddit breakup thread
- Trying a therapy or CBT app
#3 Consider Cutting Contact
Sometimes cutting contact isn’t completely possible. For example, maybe you have a child with your ex or you work together. But in most cases, you can swiftly kick them out of your life after the split.
You may want to remain friends with your ex. Although every situation is different, it’s often better to take a break before rekindling as friends. Since the pain of the split is still raw, even though you don’t think it will, it could end up affecting the relationship and making it worse than it would be if you waited. So, break contact and start speaking to them after you feel you’ve healed from it. You may even realize you don’t care to be friends, after all.
Another question is, why do you want to keep friends with your ex in the first place? If it’s because you’ll miss them if you completely cut it off, I get it. I’ve been there. But the truth is that hanging on by a thread may make the moment feel better, but it usually delays healing.
So what does cutting contact actually mean? No seeing each other in person, no text, emails, calls—oh, and deleting them off of your social media accounts.
Wait. The last part seems too permanent. Not sure if you’re ready for it? Research shows that if your breakup was less problematic, it could actually be best to remain friends on Facebook. That’s because unfriending them puts them in a cloud of mystique, making you more distressed. However, if your split was emotional, the best thing to do, according to researchers, could be to delete them. Although we can still try to stalk them after deleting them, it’s a lot harder.
Research also shows that cyberstalking our exes gives us hope of reuniting, which interrupts the healing process. So, when we delete them, we typically stalk less, have less hope and move on easier.
#4 Purge The Memories
It’s hard to part with things. Maybe the first week you keep memories around “just in case.” But eventually, healing is going to be easier when you’re not constantly reminded of them.
What should you get rid of?
- Printed photos
- Digital photos
- Photos on social media
- Any things they left there (clothes, toiletries, etc.)
- Gifts they gave you
The best option is to donate any items you can and throw out the rest. If you’re ex was a real jerk, feel free to sell his stuff. This didn’t come from me, but if they text you asking to pick it up, just say “sorry, I sold it to pay for the therapy you’ve caused me.”
If you can’t possibly bring yourself to part the things, at least put them in a spot where you can’t see them. That way, you won’t be reminded of it every day. I did this but still, every time I opened my closet, I knew his crap was just lurking there waiting to leave. Eventually, I arranged to give them back.
But I have one confession: It’s been years and I still have some digital photos of a trip we took together. If you’re like me and you can’t get rid of some particular memories (ugh), here’s my trick: Delete the photos from your phone, laptop, social, etc. and move them to Google Drive or Photos. That way, they are still there but you won’t see them unless you check for them (but don’t do that).
#5 Stop Trying to Bump Into Them
If I could tell anything to my younger self about dating, I’d say a lot. But one of them would be to not date people who live really close to you. It makes it really hard to avoid them.
On the other hand, there’s people who purposely walk by or hang out in places hoping to “accidently” bump into their ex. Maybe you know you’re doing this but you try to convince yourself you’re not by making up an excuse. Like, “but that coffee shop has the best coffee” or “I can’t help my dog’s favorite pooping spot is on his street.”
Not going to lie, I’ve done this. But let’s be real, you broke up for a reason and a planning bump-ins isn’t going to change that. Whether it was your decision or his, you deserve someone who loves you and can meet your needs. So maybe hanging out in other places where you can meet new types of people is a better idea.
Even if you’re not intentionally trying to see your ex, stop going to those places or spots for a while if you can. You may eventually see them, making it awkward and healing harder. Even if not, you could always be paranoid about seeing them, putting them back at the top of your mind. I theorize this is one reason my one ex is so hard to get over: I’m worried about seeing him all the time since he lives so close.
#6 Make a Negative List About Them
Like a pro cons list but without the pros. List the negative things about your partner that you’re excited you never need to deal with again. If you loved them, this can be difficult because writing them down can feel really mean. But look, these are your feelings and you’re allowed to have them. Just don’t show the list to anyone.
Listing all the bad things about them can make you realize that you’re actually gaining in this breakup. You may even feel excited because now you’re free to meet someone better without those traits. Every time you feel caught up in sadness, refer to this list to remind yourself of why it’s a good thing.
Things you put on your list are personal to your situation and ex-partner. Here’s a few ideas:
- Bigoted beliefs
- Low-key sexist, racist or discriminatory in any way
- Drinks too much
- Smokes too much
- Hides drug use
- Gets into arguments a lot
- Lies about small things
- Lies about big things
- Doesn’t help around the home
- Fading connection
- Doesn’t add to my personal growth
- Can be mean sometimes
- Likes to outsource their brain to Trump/politics/their mother
- Doesn’t like dogs/cats
- Would be a bad mother/father
- Lacks empathy
- Too bro-ey
- Has douchey friends
- Parents are a real drag
- Has no goals
- Smelly breath
- Thinks washing their hair is overrated
- Off/on relationship or roller-coaster emotions
- Drags you to stupid parties or events
- Never gets out of sweatpants, like, ever
- Has double standards
- Can’t be nice and honest at the same time
- Has a questionable relationship with reality
- Doesn’t emotionally support me
#7 Get Excited About You
The last thing you probably feel right now is excited. But I think we can get you there. That’s because, now that you’ve gotten rid of your ex, you have the opportunity to meet someone who actually deserves you. But you need to do some work before that happens. The next person you meet could be really amazing, so you want to be as good for them as you can.
What does that entail? Whatever you want it to. How do you want to better yourself. It could be as simple and superficial as getting a makeover. Or, it could be as complicated and meaningful as going back to school or starting therapy. Now that you have more time, you can fill that space with actions to make yourself better.
Here’s some ideas:
- Going to the gym/working out at home
- Picking up a new hobby
- Taking a course on something you’ve always wanted to learn
- Start journaling
- Working on self-development or growth
- Getting a new haircut
- Reading more
- Pamper yourself more often
- Start that project you’ve been meaning to make time for
- Making over your home or room
- Go on a vacation
As you try to be better for you, you’ll begin healing from the relationship. It gives you something to do that’s positive for you. Think about who you truly want to be.
#8 Keep Busy
If you have all the time in the world, you’re probably going to spend it sulking over your ex. That’s why keeping busy is a good idea. Of course, as we stated above, you need to really feel your feelings first. But after that, the thoughts can begin to loop and the only way to break free is to get outside of that situation and inside another one.
Do things you like doing or try something new you’re not sure of. What you do is personal to you, but check out 104 Things to Do After a Breakup to Stop Hurting.
#9 Reflect on Lessons Learned
This stage doesn’t usually happen right after the breakup. But after you’ve cried a million tears and had a billion repetitive thoughts, it’s time to reflect on the relationship.
Sounds cheesy? Worried that thinking about it more will actually hurt more?
Here’s the thing: Research shows that while intrusive thoughts can be harmful, deliberate thoughts can lead to healing. That’s because when we mean to think about a breakup, we reflect on it. That reflection can lead us to post-traumatic growth. So, by taking inventory about what worked and what didn’t in the relationship, we become better people.
- What did I need from my ex that I wasn’t getting?
- Why did I stay so long if my needs weren’t getting met?
- What new qualities have I learned to look for in another partner?
- What traits did my ex have that I’d look for again?
- If I’m being honest with myself, what could I do better?
- What challenges do I have in relationships?
- Through the happy times with my ex, what lessons did I learn?
- Through the hard times with my ex, what lessons did I learn?
- What would I do different next time?
- What emotional scars do I have from my ex?
You can ask yourself inside your head or use these questions as journal prompts. Try to be honest with yourself without playing the blame game. Try to see the situation as something that factually happened without blaming yourself or them.
#10 Ask Yourself If Forgiving is Appropriate
I’m not going to put a blanket over everyone and say that everyone needs to forgive their ex. I don’t know who your ex or the situation.
But I will say that most times, forgiveness frees you, not the other person. It’s something you do for yourself and your own mental clarity.
Also, forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting and it’s not a pardon that ignores all of their wrong-doing. Forgiving is the acknowledgment of wrongdoing and hurt, while also freeing up mental space for yourself.
If you decide to forgive, it most likely won’t come right after the breakup. After all, you need to be angry or upset or sad and feel the emotion. But after the reflection process, forgiveness can be a logical next step to getting over your ex.
For example, after one of my relationships, I reflected on all the crappy things my ex done to me. But I also reflected on the stories he told me about his highly abusive childhood. I realized this is never an excuse to treat someone badly.
But I also realized that his erratic behavior was likely a product of his erratic father and he never was taught how to be otherwise. I felt bad actually. The trick is to not let this empathy overtake you. Like, don’t take them back because you realized the reason for why they are the way they are. Don’t forget their actions or excuse them. Instead, see the situation as it truly was while also trying to forgive them for it.
If you can’t bring yourself to forgive your ex, maybe reframe it. For example, instead of “forgiving them,” choose to “release the situation.”
#11 Get Excited About the Future
Every breakup I’ve been through, it feels like the darkest night in the world with the exception of one tiny, tiny, tiny star. That star represents the future possibilities.
If you loved your ex, future possibilities seem like they don’t matter because only your ex does. But if you made a negative list about your ex (as we suggested above), you’ll learn that they weren’t really right for you anyway. And now that you’re free of them, you have the possibility to meet someone who can truly meet your needs and make you happy in the long-run. Get excited about that. Even with nobody particular in mind, get excited about your future girlfriend or boyfriend. List the traits you want them to have. Look up hot guys or girls on Pinterest and start dreaming.
A better future goes beyond just another partner though. Maybe your ex was holding you back in your career, and now you’re free to spread your wings. Perhaps they were overly negative about your side projects, but now you can happily work on it without the complaining. Or maybe the dragged you to church every Sunday morning and you have that entire morning each week to do something fun—or just sleep. Perhaps it’s something more simple too—like never having to hear about their bro-ey gym rants or how great that lame game of golf was.
Whatever you come up with, know the opportunities are pretty much endless, so get dreaming!