Love is one of the greatest things to experience on this planet. The pain of a break up from a long-term relationship is one of the most difficult things to experience. None of us dive into a relationship looking for heartache, but not all of us are lucky enough to find our soulmates on the first try.
I was with my ex for 8 years and we were married for 3 years. I never walked down the aisle to him expecting to get a divorce. Never. But now, over 2 years later, I can say that our breakup was necessary for us to both live more fulfilled and authentic lives. It wasn’t easy, but I would go through the pain again because it led me to where I am today.
These 12 tips walk you through everything I did to heal after my break up from my long-term relationship. Some of them will seem obvious (hello, tip #1), but others may bring you to that next step of your healing process that you desperately need. Either way, I hope you’re reminded that healing isn’t linear. You are completely entitled to remedy your heart in the ways that work best for you (without hurting others or yourself ❤️).
Take the time to grieve.
I know it seems obvious, but do not skip this step. Of course, you’re going to grieve the end of a long-term relationship, right? The truth is, we sometimes don’t realize our coping mechanisms for something so significant in our lives until we’re floating through the days in a complete daze.
When you break up from a long-term relationship, your whole world is shaken up. Whether it was your brave choice, you were blindsided, or you feel the relief of a new chapter beginning, you need to grieve the end of the story.
When we’re avoiding grief, distractions are simple to find. Unhealthy habits can easily be formed. Feeling those feelings of grief can be uncomfortable and flat-out hurt. It’s no wonder so many of us want to skip this step after a breakup, but trust me, grieving will put so many things into perspective. It will set you up for this next phase of your life which will, hopefully, be the happiest season of life.
Accept support from family and friends.
The emotions after a break up from a long-term relationship require you to lean on other long-term (or at least, strong) relationships. This isn’t always easy. Sometimes when people grieve, they turn away from the things that matter and those that fill them up. It’s a defense mechanism we develop in order to stay away from pain. But take it from me, those closest friends and family members will be life-savers on days you didn’t even know you needed it.
I learned something interesting about going through my divorce. My love languages are words or affirmation and physical touch. However, when I was grieving the end of my marriage, I would find that I’d knock myself down using the opposites of my love languages. I had a lot of negative self-talk. I wouldn’t believe any of the sweet and encouraging things my friends were telling me. And I even dreaded simple things like hugging someone. It made me feel vulnerable.
So, I had to make a conscious effort to respond to text messages, answer phone calls, and have normal conversations with my parents (whom I lived with immediately following my divorce). It was more natural for me to grieve on my own so I had to force myself to show up in my other relationships.
When I finally gave in and really accepted support from my friends and family, I started to think straighter. I felt this glimmer of wholeness that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Because the truth is, our long-term relationships or marriages are not the only relationships we need in life. We need to also cater to the relationships with the friends and family that will forever love us unconditionally.
Commit to going to therapy to help navigate this chapter.
Seeing a therapist after you break up from a long-term relationship isn’t cliche, it’s necessary. Whether you choose to do it online or in person, this point in the process is crucial. But more important than showing up for your appointment, is finding the right therapist for you.
Find something that makes you laugh really hard.
In the height of your emotions through a breakup, it can literally seem like nothing in life will ever feel the same. It’s like a black cloud is following you around and everything that once made you feel something just makes you feel numb. This is where I challenge you to find something that makes you laugh… like, really freaking hard.
I remember in the middle of my separation, I was across the country sitting in a cold hotel room right next to the hotel I actually wanted to stay at but couldn’t afford. I had just broken down and called my husband looking for some kind of support, love… something. I needed to feel something good. Shocker, talking to him did the opposite to my heart.
I curled up in bed at about 7:00pm that night, opened my laptop, and turned on Netflix so I could watch Schitt’s Creek. I know it sounds silly. It’s just a tv show. But that night I found myself laughing out loud, alone in my hotel room. I giggled through every “Ew, David”, and before you know it, my heart felt lighter.
Finding something that makes you laugh really hard releases a wave of endorphins that you probably desperately need post-breakup. Whether it’s scrolling hilarious TikTok videos, finding a comedy you love, or remembering a funny memory with friends, let the laughter out. Just the act of smiling can trick your brain into being happier.
Change up your routine on your terms.
Chances are, your life kinda turned upside down after your breakup. What was once a normal, possibly monotonous routine may now be a constant state of chaos for you. Maybe what was once toxic is now settling into a calm. Either way, your routine has changed. Now, it’s time to take control and change it on your own terms.
For me, I started adding in a morning routine of coffee, reading, and stretching, every single morning. I seriously looked forward to it so much because it was one thing I had under control in my day-to-day life. I added small rituals to my day that didn’t exist when I was in my relationship. It was about learning how to be a little more selfish with my time now that I only had to think about my own routine.
Think of the daily routine you had with your partner. Were there things you wished you could’ve changed? Maybe now you can be more of a night-owl or you actually get to leave the bed unmade in the morning. Find things to do for 30 minutes that you can look forward to every day.
Break a sweat. Extra points if it’s outdoors.
Exercise saved me through my divorce. I was already semi-active before my marriage ended, but pouring my soul into exercises that I was passionate about literally changed my life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a miracle pill. I even had one day where I couldn’t sleep all night long so I got up before the sun to go ride my road bike. I was crying while pedaling down the path at sunrise. Crying! It makes me giggle to think back on it but that was my reality.
We’ve all heard it before. Exercise is great not only for our physical health but our mental health, too. It’s so true that if you skim through this entire post, I hope the one thing you take away is to commit to an exercise.
Go walking, join a 30-day yoga challenge, try CrossFit, etc. There are so many options and your life will only get better by adding more exercise.
Fill your social feed with things that are good for your soul.
If you’re anything like me and millions of others, you scroll social media. And if you’re going through a break up from a long-term relationship, I bet you’ve spent too many hours stalking your ex, looking at pictures of their new partner, or making up fake scenarios in your head based on who’s watching your stories, etc.
So, I’m here to tell you to block the ex, block anyone that makes you feel insecure, remove followers that trigger shitty feelings when you see them watching your stories, and unfollow any account that doesn’t bring good feelings to your feed.
This healing is about you, not them. It doesn’t have to be personal. You’re challenging yourself to navigate a new world without your long-term partner, so take that leap by controlling everything that fills space around you.
My ex and I removed one another from social media almost immediately after the divorce. Then I started following accounts on Instagram that catered to my healing. My social feed was filled with positive affirmations, relatable (and funny) heartbreaks, self-love reminders, and everything that I wanted to consume. Go through your own Instagram and follow accounts like @createthelove, @radicalselflove, and @mylovethinks.
Hit pause on your dating app.
Look, I get it. Everyone wants to feel love again. We want the butterflies, the distraction, and the validation. Go ahead and create your dating profile. But then HIDE it and remove the app. Give yourself time. We both know that whether you’ve been craving this breakup or you were totally blindsided and want revenge sex, you’re probably not emotionally ready just yet.
The person you’re going to show up as on those dating sites is not the best version of you. It might be a confused, insecure, and heartbroken version. Or maybe it’s a confident, “fuck you”, selfish version. All of that is okay in life, but you need to decide if that’s the kind of date you want to be.
Just hit pause on dating for several weeks, a few months, or even a year. You’ll know when you’re actually ready, but chances are, it’s not immediately after the break up from your long-term relationship.
Start dating yourself. Learn more about this new version of you.
So whether you’re reluctantly hiding your profile on Tinder or you literally can’t stand the thought of being out to dinner with a stranger, I challenge you to take yourself out on a date.
Some of my very best healing after my divorce came in those moments when I took care of myself and spent time alone. I stopped waiting around on other people to be available to do things. I would go to the movies alone, eat at restaurants alone, take walks on the beach, and even have day trips all by myself.
At first, being alone can be overwhelming. You can get wrapped up in your own thoughts or have that sting of missing your partner. But slowly, you learn a little bit more about yourself because you’re putting your energy into yourself. It’s rewarding and liberating to feel the confidence build up and know that you’re a great person to spend time with.
Listen to music that influences a positive mood.
Call me basic, but artists like Lizzo and Halsey held my hand through my divorce. Music has an influence on our moods and it can go either way. If you need to self-wallow in the heartache, hit ”play” on that Adele album. If you’re feeling like a badass ready to tackle anything because you survived this breakup, maybe it’ll be Lizzo.
Regardless of the genre of music, musicians love to write about love, loss, heartbreak, and new love. You can find music that satisfies your need for a good cry but I challenge you to find the music that makes you feel empowered.
Forgive – your ex and yourself.
Hate is a heavy emotion to carry around. Holding a grudge can weigh you down, too. With negative feelings controlling you, you’re slowing down the healing. With proper tools (with help from therapy), you’ll find yourself at a stage where forgiveness is the kindest thing for you to do for yourself.
Breaking up from a long-term relationship will require forgiveness on all kinds of levels. You may need to forgive yourself for sticking around as long as you did. Maybe you need to forgive yourself for causing someone else pain. Or, perhaps, you need to forgive yourself for straying from your own values and ideals. Forgiving yourself is a freeing feeling. It opens the doors to an entirely different outlook.
And then you will want to find it in your heart to forgive your ex. I know that this can seem nearly impossible at times, but the moment you forgive them, even if they don’t give you the apology you deserve, the faster you’ll be taking control of your life again. There is so much power in forgiveness.
Let yourself love again.
The greatest step in healing after a break up from a long-term relationship is opening up your heart to let love in again. This can be a never-ending process, but when you find a way to open up and be vulnerable again, you’ll be attracting a love that is aligned with you.
Let yourself fall in love with you. Allow yourself to feel vulnerable. Give your heart the thing it craves most, pure love. It doesn’t have to be with another person. Letting yourself love again can start with loving a new pup, loving on your nieces and nephews, or simply loving yourself with every ounce that you have to give.
More than anything, I hope you know how much you deserve to love and be loved. I hope you find it in your heart to learn from the past, hold the memories close, but open up to all of the better things that on the horizon.