I was on the phone earlier today with a client who, unfortunately, is fresh out of a relationship and going through a breakup.
She asked me, in no uncertain terms, “Can I speed up the healing process? How can I just get over this?”
I immediately thought about a former version of myself. The 10-year-ago version where I was sitting on the couch in my therapist’s office asking her the same question.
And she said some version of this to me: “The only way out is through.”
While it may sound clichéd, she was right.
As I say frequently (and in articles in the past, which is why I want to address it again), I believe there are two main components to getting over someone: Time and, eventually, someone new.
Sadly, many people skip the “time” portion and jump right to the part where they want to meet someone else, often to fill a void and not feel the pain.
This same client, the one I was talking to today, had even suggested getting back on the dating sites before the breakup – she saw it coming – to soften the blow.
Not only would that be unethical – or at least awful karma – but it would also do her a disservice not to be able to sit in her feelings and properly mourn the relationship.
Giving yourself permission to grieve is not only OK, it’s encouraged.
This means allowing yourself to feel the emotions that come with the end of a relationship. Whether it’s sadness, anger or confusion, it’s important to acknowledge and process these feelings.
I also understand loneliness can set in after a relationship ends, especially if you lived together or were spending a significant amount of time together.
Try to use that time to your advantage: Reconnect with friends, find hobbies that make you happy (for me, it was learning to play mahjong and performing in live storytelling shows), and generally give yourself the time and space to become a complete person again.
We all lose ourselves a bit in a relationship, so using this time to learn about yourself and grow will not only help in the healing process, but will eventually make you a better partner in the future.
I remember once, maybe six months after the breakup that brought me to the therapist’s office, I was walking down the street with my friend Betsy, and I was wearing hot pink sequinned sneakers (ones my ex did not like, mind you).
She looked at me and said, “You’re back!”
I still think about that. I needed that time to become myself again.
During the “time” component of a breakup, it’s also important to shield yourself from the pain of seeing your ex on social media, perhaps enjoying life (though we know people curate what they post) and potentially with someone else.
It will feel really hard in the moment, but like ripping off a Band-Aid, the best way to heal will be to block this person on all social media platforms.
I know the drive to online stalk will be there – I get it, I’ve done it – but often, ignorance is, in fact, bliss.
Then, when you feel ready, or at least curious about other people again, it’s time to enact the “someone else” portion of the process.
Maybe that means going back onto Bumble. Maybe it means going to a speed-dating event.
Or maybe it just means saying hi to a new person you wouldn’t have before. Or going to an event that might be slightly out of your comfort zone.
There’s no silver bullet or shortcut to getting over someone. And there’s no right or wrong amount of time it takes.
Feelings are not like light switches – you can’t just turn them on or off. They linger sometimes longer than we might like.
But, as I told my client, this too shall pass. Not now, not tomorrow, but one day. And I’ll be there for her in the process. – Tribune News Service/Erika Ettin
Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.