How to (Finally) Actually Move on From a Relationship

How to (Finally) Actually Move on From a Relationship
Photo: fizkes, Shutterstock

Every relationship is different, and so is every breakup. I mean, at one point or another, haven’t we all typed, “how long get over breakup timeline” into our search bar? Sadly, there is no mathematical equation to calculate a finite timeframe to recover from heartbreak (at least not according to Oprah Daily).

The difficulty of getting over a breakup often gets chalked up to a lack of closure. “Closure” is always held up as the magical solution to a broken heart. Once you get that closure, you can finally move on (at least, that’s what you tell yourself to justify reaching out to an ex); so here are some steps you can take to chase that elusive closure.

Think about your breakup like a death

We’ve written before why it makes sense to approach the end of a relationship with all the mourning and grief it deserves. “The process of dealing with a breakup is comparable to grief,” clinical psychologist Dr. Tricia Wolanin tells NBC News, in that you are essentially losing a person who was a major part of your life. Like any other death, you need time and space to fully process the death of a relationship.

It may sound dramatic, but allow yourself to go through all the stages of grief. How you cope will look different person-to-person, but the key here is that you indulge your sadness in order to breakthrough to acceptance (read: closure).

Or, think about your relationship like an injury

If the death analogies bum you out, try to think about your relationship like a broken leg, Dr. Andrea Liner tells SELF. The idea is that you must extend the same kindness and patience to “emotional injuries” as you would to a physical ailment. Again, the tip here is to give yourself the time and attention to acknowledge — and treat — your pain. Some things you can’t simply walk off.

Spend time with yourself

There are a lot of reasons why you need alone time, and the mourning period after a relationship is a crucial time to reflect on your own. As therapist Jeff Guenther in this TikTok expands on a viral Instagram post about tips for closure, this could be a prime time for you to establish who you are as an individual. Instead of torturing yourself with endless “what ifs,” focus on everything you learned from this relationship.

If you’re looking for alone time that isn’t all about quiet reflection, consider trying to do 10 things your partner wouldn’t do with you. Have fun doing things that make you feel good about yourself.

Find comfort in old friendships

You don’t want to spend too much time alone after a relationship ends, though. Katie Bogen writes for Vox that the one of the most important things you can do after a tumultuous breakup is to ground yourself with old friends. For Bogen, these special relationships had the power to remind her that “there were pieces of [her] past unburdened, or possibly even strengthened, by the breakup.” Even if these people aren’t your primary support system, reconnecting with old friends could be the restorative distraction you need. True closure comes from within, but some comforts only come from friends.

Schedule things to look forward to

Keep in mind that closure isn’t just about validation, but about your ability to move on without your old relationship consuming your every waking moment. According to legend, the final stage of grief is acceptance. But anyone who has suffered a loss knows that grief comes in waves. Sometimes you feel like you’ve moved on, only for a sudden wave to smack you in the face or suck you under the surface. Keep your head above water by focusing on the future. And as painful and cliché as it is, trust the ability of time to heal your wounds.

Some immediate tips to be more forward-thinking include scheduling concrete activities that bring you joy, such as attending concerts, training for a race, or visiting out-of-town friends. Give yourself things to look forward to.

Closing thoughts on closure

Achieving closure isn’t easy, and it won’t look the same for everyone. As important as it is to reconnect with yourself as an individual, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Don’t be afraid to lean on your friends, or perhaps consider whether it’s time to find a therapist. And one day, in the words of The All-American Rejects, you’ll finally move along.

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