How to Deal With a Breakup Effectively

by Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW

Most of us have been through a breakup at some point in our lives. They can be extremely painful, and often we struggle to find a way to move on. Clients often ask me how to best get over a breakup, but unfortunately there is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer. We all respond to heartbreak differently depending on our temperament, personality and the situation.

Below are some of the most common ways people deal with breakups, followed by some advice for moving on.

1. The denier: This is the person who acts like a breakup is no big deal. Instead of processing the emotions of loss and grief, this person may be out partying with friends and steadfastly telling anyone who will listen that they are fine. The problem? When we deny our feelings, they pop up somewhere down the road, and not in a constructive way. Also, when we deny feelings about a breakup, we may bring problems from the past relationship into the next.

2. The serial monogamist: This person deals with a breakup by immediately getting into another relationship. Much like the denier, this person tries to bury their feelings of loss and they may not be able to fully commit to their new relationship.

3. I’ll never let go: This person holds out hope that they can fix their relationship. They may spend countless hours thinking about how to win back their ex.  Holding on when it is time to let go keeps us from moving forward in the healing process.

4. I’ll never find someone to love me again: This is the person who sits at home in their PJs, crying and wondering if they’ll ever be in a relationship again. They cannot picture finding another person, and the thought of putting themselves out there again seems unimaginable. 

What's your category? Remember, there is no right or wrong way to react to a breakup—everyone is different. However, here are a few general suggestions to deal with breakups effectively.

1. Make a clean break: When we miss someone, it’s easy to make excuses to contact them. This behavior may feel good in the short term, but will hinder your progress in moving on in the future.

2. Avoid negative coping mechanisms: Many people turn to destructive habits during times of heartbreak. Try to avoid excessive drinking, overeating, smoking and other vices. They may help numb the pain in the moment, but those feelings of loss will still be there in the morning.

3. Focus on yourself: While breakups are never ideal, being single can be an opportunity to re-evaluate what you want from a relationship. If you can determine what went wrong, you can set yourself up for dating success in your next relationship.

4. Therapy: If you’re facing a tough breakup consider going to see a therapist. Therapy can be an essential source of support during a difficult time.

Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW is a therapist in private practice in Manhattan and Brooklyn. If you find yourself having relationship difficulty or are going through a breakup visit to learn more about how therapy can help.