Breakups make even the strongest people feel small, helpless and even hopeless at times. But if you stay optimistic and embrace some positive, healthy approaches to healing, you can emerge from the breakup stronger than ever.
Below, therapists share seven things resilient people do when dealing with heartbreak. (Chances are, you’re probably already doing many of them!)
1. They don’t try to get back together with their ex.
Don’t expect someone who’s serious about moving on to send a 2 a.m. text to their ex. Sure, they get the urge just like the rest of us but they resist the temptation to press send, said Aaron Anderson, a marriage and family therapist in Denver, Colorado.
“They know that there was a reason the relationship didn’t work out. And instead of giving it one more try, they accept their losses and resist the urge to get back together with their ex,” he said.
2. They don’t blame themselves or fall into the victim role.
People who remain positive post-split try to maintain some perspective while working through their feelings, said Olga Bloch, a marriage and family therapist in Rockville, Maryland. They recognize that they made mistakes that led to the breakup but instead of falling into a cycle of self-blame, they take responsibility for those mistakes and focus on becoming a stronger, smarter person.
“Blaming yourself feels different because it comes from a place of little self-worth and a gnawing feeling of beating yourself up,” Bloch said. “This approach leaves you feeling powerless, unlovable and longing to return to a relationship. Taking responsibility is the only way to heal your heart and emerge stronger.”
3. They don’t allow the loss to define them.
The divorce has lasted way longer than the marriage, but finally it’s over. Enough about that. The point is that for a long time, the fact that I was divorced was the most important thing about me. And now it’s not.
It’s not that resilient people don’t give themselves time to mourn their loss; they do, but like Ephron, at some point they refuse to allow the heartbreak to define them.
Marriage therapist Susan Krauss Whitbourne puts it this way: “They don’t allow a breakup to pervade their sense of identity,” she said. “Even though the experience is, of course, incredibly painful at the time, they learn from it and grow more resilient.”
4. They recognize the need for closure.
Resilient people don’t allow themselves to mentally replay details of the breakup over and over again and they certainly don’t waste time Facebook stalking their ex. They recognize there’s a need for closure and try to get on with their lives, Whitbourne said.
“They recognize what happened can’t be denied, but that they don’t benefit from becoming preoccupied with the breakup or their ex,” she said.
5. They don’t consider themselves unloveable just because their ex doesn’t love them anymore.
Your value as a person is in no way tied to how desirable one person finds you ― especially if that one person is your ex. When a confident person is left, they recognize that they’re still a major catch, even if their ex fails to recognize it, Bloch said.
“People who have a clear sense of who they are and what they contribute to a relationship understand that if someone doesn’t see or appreciate that, it’s their loss,” she said. “They don’t internalize the rejection or assume something is wrong with them. Instead, they look at the breakup as an opportunity to find someone who will truly see and love them for who they are even with their shortcomings.”
6. They aren’t trying to “win” the breakup.
People who eventually get closure stay above the fray and focus on being the best version of themselves for themselves, Whitbourne said.
“People who stay strong throughout a split are able to ‘save face.’ They don’t let their new single status get to them,” she explained.
7. They don’t take baggage into their next relationship.
Everyone has skeletons in their closet from relationships past. What sets tough people from others is their willingness to “face their demons and iron things out so they’ll eventually end up in a stronger relationship,” Anderson said.
“They go to work trying to fix those things that caused the breakup,” Anderson explained. “The breakup wasn’t all their fault but they’re not afraid to recognize things they did wrong and try to fix it so they don’t bring the same problems into the next relationship.”