Relationship expert reveals the very best ways to get over heartbreak
According to research conducted for The Journal of Positive Psychology, it should take around 11 weeks to feel better after the end of a relationship. Other studies have suggested that it takes closer to 18 months to feel better after the end of a marriage. While divorce disrupts our lives in more ways than a regular break-up, those numbers might seem a bit off.
That's because - if you've ever been through a major breakup, or known others who have - you know the process is quite different for everybody. There are plenty of factors in play that can change how long it takes to move on, or how difficult it is to get through. Luckily, we can all benefit from following the solutions laid out by relationship expert Ammanda Major, a Senior Consultant on Sex Therapy at Relate who writes the charity's regular agony aunt column, Ask Ammanda.
1. Let yourself grieve
It might sound melodramatic, but dealing with a breakup is somewhat like grieving for a loss. Moving on with someone new is tempting, but not always the right thing to do.
"Trying to miss out on that period of sadness can mean we don't give ourselves a chance to process what has happened," Ammanda wrote for The Irish Independent. "We may also be robbed of the chance to reflect on who did what and if there is anything we may need to change about ourselves so that future relationships have a better chance of survival."
2. Reflect on what happened
Ammanda writes that this is the optimal point to"take time to reflect, experience your feelings". Regardless of how things went down, this is an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and become a more complete person:
"Unless you were in an abusive relationship, the fact is that both you and your partner probably contributed to the downfall of your partnership. Taking time to work out what you could have done differently is likely to be helpful for the future but constant recriminations to your ex or to yourself will only drag you down and make getting over what's happened even harder."
3. Reconnect with others
Relationships can often take up a lot of your time, so now you can use that empty space to visit friends, family, and the side of life that's just yours. A project or trip might also help out if you have the time. "Even if you have nobody to go with," Ammanda says, "consider a group tour where you can meet other people and try new experiences."
4. Ask for help
While there are parts of the process that we must do alone, that doesn't mean you can ask for some help from those around you. It's often not easy to have immediate contact with your ex following a break-up - so there are some things you'll need to work through without the support you are used to receiving from them.
"Try getting a friend to help you think through and prioritise what needs to be done," Ammanda writes. "If it's too difficult to engage with the ex then using an intermediary might be a good idea."
5. Take comfort in your ability to love
As Ammanda writes, going through the pain of a breakup ultimately shows how vulnerable you were willing to make yourself for another person:
"If we think about it, the great sadness about losing someone you've loved means that we were human enough to love deeply, so in many ways, although terribly painful, great sadness about the loss of a relationship is testament to how much we're capable of loving someone."
6. Time heals all wounds
There's a reason 'time heals' is a saying in the first place - and it's because emotional pain needs to some space to be processed, and not always at the speed we'd like it to. "Not surprisingly, the first year following a break-up is often the hardest," Amanda says. "Birthdays, anniversaries and special days can provide a fairly constant reminder of what's gone, even if you were the one to make the decision to split."
There's no secret to making all the bad feelings from a breakup go away, which is why you'll find there'll be a lot of people out there with advice that seems incredibly unhelpful. But if you follow some of the suggestions from Ammanda, you might just make the process run more smoothly.