Breaking up is hard to do…but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
It’s true—some breakups are worse than others. A painful divorce after years of marriage is most likely going to be harder (logistically and emotionally) than the ending of a month-long relationship that ended before it could really take off. But no matter how long or serious the relationship was, if you’re hurting after a breakup, it can be hard to bounce back.
The truth about relationships
There’s also science behind the power of relationships. Humans are hardwired for connection, and the benefits aren’t just emotional. Various studies have shown that healthy relationships recover better from injury or sickness, have lower blood pressure, have stronger immune systems, and even live longer.
It’s no wonder that the vast majority of us long for committed and loving relationships, and that we would experience negative feelings when that possibility is seemingly taken away from us.
But does that mean that we need other people to be happy? Well, not exactly.
The fact is, though, happiness isn’t a result of circumstance (or relationship status): it’s something you create. Research shows that although we tend to think that happiness comes after success, achievement, or gain, the reality is you can design happiness for yourself at any point, regardless of circumstance, which will then lead to a more fulfilling life.
In other words: you can be happy, even after a breakup. And I’m not talking about the temporary, “numb” kind of happy that comes from wallowing in a pint of ice cream and a Netflix marathon, but about true happiness that is going to propel you forward and through your pain.
How to find happiness after a breakup
Happiness after a breakup is possible, but not always easy. You might have to try a few different things to find something that works for you. But the effort is worth it, because on the other side is hope and positivity.
Here are some things that might help you find happiness after a breakup.
Give yourself permission to grieve.
The end of a relationships is something that is fraught with a lot of emotion—and more often than not, most of it is negative. You don’t want to live in that place of negativity forever, but guess what? Negative emotion is a part of life.
You’re feeling this grief because you felt joy in your relationship. You’re feeling it because you want that human connection in your life. Those things—your capacity for joy and desire—are things worth recognizing, and feeling your grief can help you do that.
You’re allowed to be sad about this, so let yourself be sad. If you want to do the ice cream/Netflix thing, go for it. If you need a day to yourself without anyone asking how you are or what they can do for you, take the day. Give yourself permission, space, and time to grieve; it means you’re human.
One note about this: don’t let your grieving period go on indefinitely. Try coming out of your grief every now and then to remind yourself how good it feels to feel good. Ask a friend to check in on you after a certain period of time. After all, your ultimate goal is to move through the grief, not for it to become a permanent fixture in your life.
Getting your feelings out there can be very therapeutic and healing. Give yourself some space to express your feelings about the breakup, to someone else or even to yourself. Some ideas for expressing yourself are:
- Write in a journal
- Talk to a friend
- Talk to a therapist
- Write creatively (a story, a poem, etc.)
- Create a playlist
Whatever you choose to do, don’t hold back as you’re getting your feelings out there. You might uncover feelings you didn’t know you had. Only by recognizing them can you begin to truly work through them.
Become a third party observer.
As important as it is to embrace, express, and accept the feelings you’re experiencing around your breakup, it can also be very helpful to try to separate yourself from your feelings at some point.
Sometimes, we can get so clouded by our emotions that it’s hard to think straight. If you let emotions run the show 100% of the time after a breakup, it’s likely that you’ll end up in a place of anger or resentment—two feelings that are not going to bring you to a place of happiness.
Try stepping back and observing the breakup as you would observe the breakup of a friend. Can you see two sides to the story? Do you understand what went wrong? Can you explore the possibility that the relationship wasn’t a good idea in the first place?
Whatever logic you can apply to the situation will help you work through your feelings without letting your feelings completely overwhelm you. Try to become a third-party observer of your breakup and see what new conclusions you come to.
When it comes to breakups, it’s really easy to hold a grudge, especially if you feel wronged by the other person. But holding on to that resentment isn’t going to help you in the long run.
Try to forgive the other person for whatever role they played in your split. Try to see things from their perspective. Even if you’re struggling to explain their actions, acknowledge that your relationship is over and you don’t have any reason to hold on to the resentment anymore. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you want to be with them again.
On the other hand, you might be blaming yourself for your breakup. If that’s the case, you can practice some self-forgiveness. Forgiving yourself is necessary if you want to find true happiness in your life, so give yourself some grace for whatever happened, forgive yourself, and move on.
Start something just for you.
Your happiness is about you. You have the power to make yourself happy. After a breakup, it can feel like you have no direction or purpose in your life. It can also feel like you simply don’t know what to do with all the time you now have on your hands. If that’s the case, it can be helpful to start a hobby or project that is just for you.
Right after a breakup is a great time to start exploring interests you’ve always had, but have never made time for. You could finally take tennis lessons, or an online drawing class, or redecorate your home. You could start writing a book, travel to a new city, or learn to cook or bake. The possibilities are endless so think about what it is you would love to do, and then do it! (Bonus: you might meet someone new who has the same interest as you!)
Put yourself out there.
“There are plenty of fish in the sea” may not be helpful to those still experiencing the pain of a breakup, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If having a committed relationship is important to you, you’re going to need to get back in the dating scene eventually.
You’ll want to give yourself a little time, and you’ll probably want to start by just dating casually. Regardless, meeting new people and recognizing that your options are not exhausted can do wonders for helping you see the possibility of a future relationship.
Above all else, self-love can help you find happiness amid the pain of a breakup. Learning to love yourself has multiple physical and emotional benefits (just like being in a healthy relationship does), and when you love yourself, you’re more likely to work toward designing a life you love and finding your own personal meaning.
Loving yourself can sometimes be even harder than loving others. Read these blog posts to help you on the road to self-love:
- What is Self-Love, and How Do I Know if I’m Doing It?
- 8 Ways to Love Yourself this Valentine’s Season (and Why It’s Important)
No matter how a breakup happens, it is usually a painful experience. Instead of doing your best to push through the pain and merely survive, try any of these things and learn how to find happiness after a breakup. You deserve it, and you’ll find it—I promise.
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