in article about past relationships, an image of a paper heart tearing in half on a black background

Relationships 101: How To Ensure Your Breakup Doesn’t Break You

With heartbreak season upon us, getting over an ex will be a difficult process for recent dumpers and dumpees. Here are some tips on how to make it through.
October 25, 2022
8 mins read

We’re about halfway through the college semester, which means high school long-distance relationships are starting to die and first-years must deal with the resulting stress on top of an already stressful workload. If you’re in this situation or are just trying to get over a college love, then you’re probably wondering how to brave the process and end it as quickly as possible. Hopefully, these tips can get you through the difficult time in one piece.

The length and labor involved in moving past a relationship vary from person to person. Your upbringing, number of previous relationships and who broke up with whom all play significant roles in determining the trajectory of the breakup process. Sticking to a routine and avoiding certain mistakes can make the time less difficult and can help you feel better faster.

So, how long does it take to get over someone? Well, that depends on what getting over a breakup really means to you. For some people, it might mean getting that person out of their heads. Others might want to forget about their ex altogether, in which case they may never be fully satisfied; studies have shown that if you truly loved someone, you may never forget them. The neurological bonds we form for that person can last a lifetime.

Some define “getting over someone” as moving on with someone else. Maybe you’ve had an ex who started to date again just days or weeks after the breakup, or maybe you’ve done it yourself. But oftentimes, these “rebound” relationships are simply a way of avoiding the pain of a breakup. Many consider them to be good short-term solutions, but in the long-term, they likely are not beneficial — especially considering that rebound relationships typically don’t last long. While a rebound rarely works out for various reasons, its failure is often due to the return of unaddressed issues from the previous relationship. Also, people tend to expect a new partner to live up to all the great aspects of their old one right away. But it’s not realistic for a new relationship to bear the same fruits as a relationship that has been cultivated for months or even years.

Another way to get over someone is to move past the hope of getting back together and fight any feelings of soreness that arise when thinking about never seeing them again. For the purposes of this article, we will use this definition of moving on.

Studies have shown that losing someone in a relationship invokes the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) in a similar way that the death of a close friend or even a family member might. For the most part, everyone will experience each stage in one way or another.

To move through the first stage — denial — as quickly as possible, it’s important to accept that the relationship is really over and that you won’t be getting back together. This may be much harder for the dumpee, as the metaphorical ball is totally in the dumper’s court. And social media adds a whole other factor that makes the denial stage even more difficult to handle. Seeing your ex post a picture of themself smiling, having a good time or just looking good can trigger a lot of emotions. You might ask yourself: How can they be happy while I’m so miserable? Did they ever love me? Have they found someone else already? Even when your ex isn’t posting, intrusive thoughts may start to cloud your judgment of the situation. Social media is not in your favor during a breakup, so you may benefit from deleting the apps or blocking your ex for the time being.

The next two stages of relationship grief are anger and bargaining. People may experience these stages simultaneously, in reverse order or not at all. Some may direct anger at themselves for mistakes that they made during the relationship, or at their former partner for any hurtful words or actions during the breakup. It’s important to remember that beating yourself up about the past is not helpful. Instead, you should look inward to address and find solutions for your mistakes so they will not be obstacles in any potential future relationships.

It’s inevitable, and you’ve probably been feeling it throughout the whole process, but depression is next. Long nights spent crying about them, wondering if they are thinking about you — it can be a lot. While it’s hard to see an upside to this stage, you may find solace in the idea that this is normal and everybody goes through it. Spending time with friends and family can be a good way to counteract intrusive thoughts, but there really is no quick fix. It’s important to allow yourself to feel the pain and know that it does get better with time.

The last stage is acceptance. For many, this stage can come unexpectedly. One day you’ll hear their name and be able to say, “Oh, that’s my ex” without feeling sore. While you may never get closure or truly understand why it all fell apart, eventually, you will stop caring. When you move on to a new relationship, you’ll remember the lessons learned during your breakup and know that you are much stronger now.

In a way, breakups can be empowering — especially because they really are a solo journey. The only person who can help you get over a relationship is yourself, so when you finally reach the acceptance stage, you can and should feel a great sense of accomplishment. While breakups can be some of the most difficult times in our lives, they don’t have to break you. Breakups are an opportunity for tremendous personal growth and can allow you to become a better person for that next special someone, so don’t let this chance go to waste.

Alexander Landgraf, The University of Chicago

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Alexander Landgraf

The University of Chicago
Public Policy, Economics

Alexander Landgraf is a second-year at the University of Chicago. In his free time, he enjoys reading, singing and listening to music.

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