Most of us went through at least one breakup during our adolescence and young adulthood. You might have been left hurting and lonely after the experience or, on the contrary, you didn’t find it too difficult to move on.
Breakups are very common, especially for teenagers and young adults. Although many relationships during this time aren’t that serious or committed yet, this doesn’t make the experience of a breakup any easier . Many describe this experience as painful, lonely, frustrating, disorienting, and so on. Some even end up developing psychological disorders, such as depression. Others adapt smoothly to being single again and move on without lingering too much in the past.
The truth about breakups is that all of us will cope differently, depending on our individual characteristics. There’s no universal recipe that we can all use during our grieving process and heal immediately. However, research has pointed out that people who healthily adjust to a breakup tend to do certain things that help them adapt well.
So here are 3 tips based on scientific research that can help you adjust better after a breakup:
- Express your emotions. Resentment, hurt, loneliness, frustration, confusion. These are the names of just a few of the emotions that you might be feeling after a breakup. You might feel the need to isolate yourself and grieve in silence, or you might spam your best friend asking them to come over every day so you can cry on their shoulder. Either of these is fine, as long as you acknowledge, accept and express what you feel! Talk to someone, put it in writing or use art to let it out.
- Treat your breakup as a learning experience. Research suggests that identifying the errors both in their past relationships and in the breakup adjustment period will help you gain insight and awareness that can then improve the quality of following relationships. After a breakup, take time to reflect on your relationship and understand what didn’t work out, without pointing fingers to your partner or blaming yourself. Remember, this exercise doesn’t have the purpose of finding ‘whose fault’ it is, but rather of developing as a person and acknowledging your or your partner’s mistakes.
- Stay open to new relationships. Although you might think that this is not a good idea and that ‘enjoying singlehood’ is the way to go after a hurtful breakup, research actually tells us that people who enter new romantic relationships after a breakup experience less distress, tend to feel less lonely and are less preoccupied with their past partner. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should go hunting for a new partner even if you feel you need some time to reflect on what happened. Rather, it’s important that you remain open to new possibilities and don’t deny yourself a chance for a new relationship just because ‘you and your ex just broke up’.
- Rely on your social group for support. Friends and family are more important than we think. Reaching out to your close friends and family members is crucial when coping with the negative emotions of having just broken up. Research tells us that people who adjust healthily after a breakup tend to have stronger social support systems, so don’t hesitate to ask them for help and advice!
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Paying attention to your diet and exercise is a healthy way of distracting yourself from intrusive thoughts about your relationship or persisting negative feelings. Not only will this help with your mental health, but it will also ensure that your body isn’t neglected during your period of adjustment after a breakup.
All in all, breakups are part of our lives, and we will all face them sooner or later. When you do, give yourself time to heal and remember that you are not alone in this!
If you’re going through a difficult breakup and you think you need professional help, don’t hesitate to reach out here.
Alexandra Trașcă is an intern with Willingness and an undergraduate Psychology student at Babeș-Bolyai University in Romania.
Barutçu Yıldırım, F., & Demir, A. (2015). Breakup Adjustment in Young Adulthood. Journal of Counseling & Development, 93(1), 38–44. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2015.00179.x
McKiernan, A., Ryan, P., McMahon, E., Bradley, S., & Butler, E. (2018). Understanding Young People’s Relationship Breakups Using the Dual Processing Model of Coping and Bereavement. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 23(3), 192–210. https://doi.org/10.1080/15325024.2018.1426979