- The period right after a breakup can be incredibly painful for both parties.
- Making the mistake of frequently texting your ex or trying to show up where they are will only make things harder.
- If possible, avoid talking bad about your ex or jumping into the dating pool before you’re ready as these are considered post-breakup mistakes by experts.
Breakups rarely bring out the best in anyone. When your heart is in tatters, it can be tempting behave in ways that might make you feel better temporarily but can actually make you feel worse in the long-run.
To help make your breakup as painless as possible, INSIDER consulted with relationship experts and therapists to pinpoint what people should definitely avoid doing after a breakup. Here’s what you should know.
Contacting your ex right after the breakup usually isn’t a good idea.
“I always suggest that, if possible, you should have a full 30 days of no contact with your ex post-breakup. By eliminating contact, it helps to put the breakup into perspective. Contact during a breakup usually leads to all sorts of difficult emotional feelings, which typically sets you back in the healing process,” Jane Reardon, licensed therapist and founder of dating app RxBreakup, told INSIDER.
If you need to stay in touch with your ex, don’t communicate more than necessary.
It’s not always possible to completely break off all contact with your ex, especially if children are involved or you work together. But even in these cases, you should try to limit your communication to the bare minimum.
“Confining communication to the essentials minimizes the opportunities for arguments, can help take the heat out of any conflict and can limit the possibility of saying or writing things you may later regret,” Henschke counseled.
Silence can be golden in the early stages of a breakup. If you need to get in touch, keep your communication brief and factual.
Don’t try to “accidentally” bump into your ex.
“Leave your ex alone in the real world. Don’t drive past their house, linger after church in the hopes of “accidentally” running into them, show up at parties where more of the friends are theirs instead of yours, frequent their favourite restaurants, etc. It didn’t work when you were purposely together. It’s not going to work when you accidentally encounter each other,” Trish McDermott, relationship coach and co-launcher of dating site Match.com told INSIDER.
If you really do accidentally encounter each other, McDermott advised treating each other with the amount of respect you might give to a seatmate on a bus. Say hello, be polite, but don’t try to engage in any emotionally loaded conversation.
Neglecting self-care can make you feel even worse.
Just like you wouldn’t expect to be able to climb a mountain on a few hours of sleep and an empty stomach, you shouldn’t try to deal with a breakup without making sure your mental and physical needs are getting the attention they deserve.
“Prioritise taking care of yourself. Focus on the basics. Eat well, get enough sleep, move your body, spend time in nature, and stay hydrated. Beyond that, self-care looks different for everyone. Find what feeds your mind, body, and soul and make regular time for it,”Prudence Henschke, certified divorce coach and family lawyer told INSIDER.
If you’re finding it a struggle to even get out of bed or take care of your basic bodily needs, it might be a good time to check in with a mental health professional to help get yourself back on track.
Obsessing over your ex’s social media will keep you in a cycle of pain.
Scrolling through your former partner’s social media feeds can make you feel like you’re still part of their life. In reality, all you’re doing is picking at the emotional wound.
Going off the grid for a few days following your breakup is a good way to give yourself some mental space to process your feelings and avoid any emotional triggers. However, if you can’t commit to staying offline for an extended period, it’s worth doing what you can to disentangle your online life from your ex’s.
“At the very least, hide or unfollow your ex’s accounts. Hiding their social media presence from your phone allows you to set firm boundaries and not accidentally see anything that will set you back emotionally,” suggested Reardon.
Don’t immediately try to be friends with your ex.
Breakups can be especially tough when your ex-partner was also your best friend. Even though it might be tempting to immediately try and down-shift your relationship into a friendship, trying to do so too soon can stall your healing.
“We call this a ‘soft breakup’ and it rarely works out. People need space and time to heal from a breakup, and when they continue to talk with their ex, hang out with their ex, or hook up with their ex, then they’re basically acting like the relationship is still going on when it’s not,” Tara Vossenkemper, licensed couples therapist and marriage counselor, told INSIDER.
When you’ve given yourself time to heal and come to terms with the end of the romantic aspect of your relationship, Vossenkemper suggested that you can then think about bringing your ex back into your life in some capacity.
Try not to bad-mouth your ex to friends and family.
Breakups aren’t always forever, which is why insulting your former partner to your friends and family is rarely a stellar idea. Even if it doesn’t seem possible as you’re packing your bags, there might be a day when you and your ex decide to get back together.
“When that happens, you’ll be more embarrassed and misunderstood by your friends and family than if you had just kept your mouth shut,” said Vossenkemper.
She explained that since typically want the people we love and trust the most to support our relationships, venting about how terrible your ex is to your inner circle will make for plenty of tension and confusion if you and your former partner ever become an item again.
Resist the urge to turn down plans and stay home.
It’s natural to need some time alone after an emotional breakup. But you shouldn’t allow yourself to become isolated and disconnected from the other people in your life, like friends and family.
“There are plenty of studies that show that being around others actually makes you feel better, and makes the breakup easier. Hanging out with your friends can help you make sense of things, and fill the void of what you’ve lost,” said Reardon.
Curling up on the sofa for another night of reality TV and ice cream can be alluring when you’re nursing a broken heart, but making the effort to stay in touch with the people who care about you can help take your mind off the breakup and get the emotional support you need.
If you need a shoulder to cry on, don’t make it your ex’s.
When you’re used to seeking comfort from your former partner, it can feel almost automatic to seek them out to help you deal with your post-breakup pain. After all, who could know what you’re going through better than your ex?
Unfortunately, leaning on your ex for emotional support during the breakup might keep you from fully disconnecting from the relationship.
“It’s much healthier to seek support from loved ones and helping professionals, not from the source of your pain. Take time and space away from your ex to reflect on the relationship and what went wrong within it. Only then will you be able to detach from your ex and move on with a clear head and fresh perspective,” Christie Federico, M. Ed., licensed therapist and relationship coach, told INSIDER.
When you need a shoulder to cry on, look for comfort from your friends, family, or a licensed professional before contacting your ex.
Acting in the heat of the moment is a recipe for regret.
A breakup can make even the most rational person do irrational things. Even if you’re normally not the type to act impulsively, the raw emotions that come with the break down of a relationship can lead to regrettable behaviour.
“Long rants on Facebook about your ex-partner’s shortcomings, throwing their belongings in the trash, or speaking badly about them in front of your children are all counterproductive actions if what you really want is to keep things civil and dignified,” cautioned Henschke.
One of the best ways to avoid embarrassment and needless drama after a breakup is to give yourself time to cool down before doing anything you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Henschke mentioned that it can be helpful to have someone to call on in moments of high emotion who can act as a voice of reason.
Don’t use alcohol or drugs to cope with your pain.
Though there’s nothing wrong with meeting a friend for a drink and some post-breakup venting, experts say that using alcohol or other intoxicating substances to numb the sting of separation isn’t a good idea.
“Popping pills, drinking heavily, and doing drugs will only numb your sad and anxious mind, and it won’t teach you how to mourn the loss of a relationship, provide you with any insight, or help you move on,” Jonathan Alpert, Manhattan psychotherapist and author of “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days,” told INSIDER.
Don’t let yourself be defined by your former relationship.
When you’ve spent a long time in a relationship, it can be difficult to shift your thinking away from identifying with your ex or your former life together. However, part of moving on is recapturing your individual identity and defining who you are without your ex.
“You’re much more than a former girlfriend or boyfriend. You’re a friend, sibling, son, daughter, colleague, and someone’s future partner,” said Alpert.
Pursuing your own interests and fostering the other loving relationships in your life can help you move in a direction that makes you feel like more than your ex’s former partner.
Making desperate attempts to win back your ex usually backfires.
In the depths of the intense emotional distress that follows a breakup, it’s not unusual for someone to decide the split was a terrible mistake and that getting back together is the only way to ever feel happy again. But you should be cautious about making a desperate bid to patch up your former relationship.
“Is it to be truly back with the person, or is it to alleviate feelings of rejection? Understand your intention. Do you miss your ex specifically, or do you miss the idea of having a partner? The two are very different,” cautioned Alpert.
Unless you’re certain that whatever problems existed between you and your ex won’t crop up again, consider pausing to examine the motivation behind your desire to rekindle the relationship.
Downloading dating apps right away might hurt more than it helps.
It’s understandable to want to fill the emotional void left by a breakup with a new connection or even a casual sexual liaison. However, Vossenkemper explained that immediately hopping on a dating app or website following a breakup is a bad idea for multiple reasons.
“First, you might see your ex on there (super common), and that would feel like a gut punch, to say the least. Second, it won’t help you heal. It’s a band-aid and a short-lived high, but it’s not actually healing for you,” she said.
Vossenkemper also warned that for most people, simply hooking up with other people won’t stop the pain of a breakup – it just puts it temporarily on pause.
Using a new relationship to distract yourself from you old one is a classic mistake.
“Another way people avoid feeling their pain is by distracting themselves with dating, sex, or even a new serious relationship. It’s important to take some time to reflect on your previous relationship and the lessons you’ve learned from it before jumping into a new one,” said Federico.
If you suspect that your new fling might be fuelled by a desire to distance yourself from your old relationship, it might be worth slowing things down and examining your motivation for seeing someone new.
Refusing professional help if you need it can get in the way of your healing.
Though friends and family can be a great source of support during a breakup, it’s ok to seek out the help of a licensed therapist or other mental health professional.
“Seeking support from an objective party like a coach or therapist is a great way to embark on the healing process after a breakup. It’s so helpful to have a safe, nonjudgmental space to navigate, feel, and express your true feelings,” said Federico.
There’s nothing wrong with letting a professional help you sort through your feelings after a breakup.
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