Have you ever wondered how to love yourself after a breakup? Breakups and heartbreak can leave us reeling. If you’re ever had to go through one, you know just how uncomfortable it can be. It may have been for the best, but you still find yourself wondering if things could have been different. You go through stages of being happy that you’re single, then sad and lonely, then hopeful, and even numb from time to time.
As hard as a breakup can be, the real tragedy happens when we neglect our most important relationship – the one we have with ourselves. Sometimes we attach worth and validation to a partner, and when that partner leaves, we lack those important feelings. We find ourselves alone, lost, and worried about what lies ahead.
In this article, we’ll teach you how to do the most important anyone should do after a breakup – love yourself.
How long does it take to heal from a breakup?
Every person is unique, as is every relationship, so there’s no set time for healing from a breakup. It largely depends on several factors, such as how close you two were, the circumstances of the breakup (was there hurt or betrayal? Or did the relationship come to a natural end?), and the logistics – if you lived together, shared finances, pets, children.
Many people experience an immediate post-break-up sense of relief – sure, it’s heartbreaking, but usually, breakups don’t happen all of a sudden. You may have sensed that something wasn’t quite right between you and your partner. They may have been pulling away from you emotionally, or you two couldn’t seem to stop arguing. So, when the breakup eventually comes, it signals a relief from all that stress and worry.
Still, having to move on from someone with whom you were so comfortable and intimate is undeniably difficult and may elicit a lot of sadness and heartache in the weeks and months to come. Though there is no set healing time, brace yourself for at least a few weeks of feeling hurt or upset.
During the aftermath of the breakup, you will have to face your feelings. Doing so can be challenging, but it’s much healthier than trying to deny, suppress, or escape from them. Still, your behavior and attitude over the following weeks and months can greatly influence how long it will take to heal and move on.
If you ruminate and criticize yourself more often than not, then the process of healing and moving on will take an awful lot longer than it would if you were to be kind to yourself, to show yourself love and compassion, and to commit to living your life as well as possible.
Below, we’ve outlined some tips to help you do just that. Remember that healing from a breakup and learning to love yourself is a unique process for everyone, so try not to get frustrated if the following advice doesn’t work for you right away. Try one or two things at a time, and don’t be afraid to try something several times.
Tips to help you understand how to love yourself after a breakup
Below you will find some tips and techniques to help you practice self-care and self-love, to develop and maintain a loving and compassionate relationship with yourself that has nothing to do with your past relationship.
Understand that you are not defined by another person
Romantic relationships can make us feel like we’re on cloud nine, but they can also make us feel anxious or worried when things aren’t going well. Some of us are more prone to sensitivity regarding the ups and downs of romance, but no matter who you are, there’s always a chance of identifying with your relationship.
You might think, ‘I am a girl/boyfriend’ and ‘that is my boy/girlfriend.’ When that person leaves or you two decide not to be together anymore, it can feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself. Understand that no matter how good (or bad) your relationship was (even if it was a toxic relationship), no matter how close you two were, your (ex) partner does not define you. You can rebuild your self-esteem and find your own happiness.
Give yourself a break
It’s normal to be hard on yourself when a relationship ends. You might spend days or weeks mulling over what went wrong and how you could have done something different, been kinder or more thoughtful, said the right thing, or at least not said the wrong thing.
There are lessons to be learned in every failed relationship, but that doesn’t mean that you have to spend all day every day mulling and ruminating. If that’s how you spend your time, overcoming the end of the relationship will take much longer than it would if you gave yourself the space to treat yourself kindly, relax, and stop blaming yourself.
The end of the relationship may indeed have shed light on some behaviors of yours that were not healthy for the relationship, but reflecting and contemplating on those things doesn’t have to happen by beating yourself up.
Think, reflect, and figure out what lessons you can take from this situation, but above all, be kind to yourself. You tried your best, and even if you made some mistakes along the way, that’s perfectly natural.
See the opportunity
What areas of your life did you forget about while you were with that person? Was there something you neglected or sacrificed, to maintain your relationship? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do or somewhere you want to visit, but it didn’t feel right or logical when you two were together? Now is the time to live your life without having to make compromises for the other person.
You might find yourself feeling alone over the coming weeks and months, and that can be daunting if you’re used to the company. Let yourself feel any emotions that come up, but remember to see your situation as an opportunity for positive change.
Life is all about perspective, so try to find a good one. What’s more, the more you work on that relationship with yourself by staying focused on your personal growth and development, the better. It’s all too easy to fall into a cycle of negative thinking after a relationship, but you do have a choice, in every moment, to use your experiences for growth.
Mind your health
Any emotional difficulty brings with it a risk of unhealthy coping. Sadness, despair, regret, anger – these are all powerful emotions that can get the better of us if we’re not mindful of them. They’re a lot to deal with, but you can deal with them. They’re emotions, and they’re valid, but they don’t have to drive you into behaviors that only make you feel worse.
So, if you’re struggling with your emotions because a relationship has just ended, watch what you do next. If you feel like having a drink or using some other substance to escape the discomfort you’re feeling, take a moment to pause, breathe, and see if you can instead sit with your emotion and let yourself process it. It might be tempting to reach for a drink or binge on snack foods when that discomfort arises, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run if you keep your health in mind.
The importance of exercise
Exercise has proven time and time again to offer a myriad of mental health benefits. When you’re feeling low, lost, or mildly depressed after a breakup, a great way to mitigate those feelings and keep your head above water is to engage in regular exercise. It can be hard to find the motivation to get up and active when you’re still processing a lost love, but that motivation comes easier with practice.
You don’t have to lift the heaviest weights in the gym or run a marathon every week to reap the mental and physical health benefits of exercise.
A simple combination of aerobic exercise (running, jogging, walking, swimming, dancing) and resistance exercise (free weights, weight machines, resistance bands) at least three times a week is enough to get your body to good health and keep your confidence and self-esteem high.
To commit to regular exercise is to commit to having a healthy and loving relationship with yourself, with your health, with your own body, and that’s exactly what you need to focus on when life feels tough or overwhelming. It is from this loving self-relationship that all of your future relationships will grow and blossom.
Set healthy boundaries
Perhaps the most challenging but most important means of practicing self-love after a breakup is to set healthy boundaries with that person, as well as yourself. You might be tempted to hold out just in case they want to get back together by meeting up with them regularly, letting them come over, and or even hooking up from time to time. That all seems fun and harmless when it’s happening, but the fact is that the relationship has ended, and by allowing a halfway relationship to happen, you only prolong the healing process.
Some people manage to stay friends after a breakup, but there needs to be a period of physical and emotional space between both people to move on and start building a life without each other. Whether you decide to stay friends or not will be up to the two of you, but on your part, try to make that decision with your highest well-being in mind, rather than from a place of need or hope that you might get back together.
Be mindful of anger
Anger is a perfectly natural emotion and shouldn’t be suppressed. Suppression of anger is known to lead to feelings of sadness and can evoke or lead to the onset of depression. Still, we must remember to be mindful of anger when it arises. Though we might feel angry and even hold a grudge against someone who hurt or betrayed us, anger by its very nature creates stress in the body. By attaching to it, we do more damage to our physical and mental health than necessary.
Don’t close your heart
A failed relationship can make us want to close our hearts and never open them again. We might believe that future relationships will go the same way as the last one did and lose sight of why we’d want to get into one in the first place.
Though someone has hurt you or let you down, be brave enough to keep your heart open. If you close it, you’re closing yourself off to the inherent love you have within, which helps you connect with other sources of love in your life. Understand that anyone who tells you you’ll never love the same or be loved the same again is wrong, and those fillings are just an illusion.
After any difficult life event, including breakups, we tend to be harsh on ourselves. The harsh attitude towards oneself might serve as motivation to change some unhealthy or unfair behavior of ours, but it’s not always the best way to go about improving oneself.
Instead, it’s more helpful and healthy to offer ourselves self-love and compassion. The word compassion means ‘to suffer with.’ When we show compassion to others, it’s because we recognize their struggle, and we sympathize. It’s much easier to show compassion to others than towards oneself, but doing so can be life-changing.
According to Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, self-compassion is about being your own best friend. It’s about honing in on the way you talk to yourself, identifying negativity and unhelpful criticism, and replacing those things with more positive, kind, and life-affirming thoughts and narrative.
If your best friend was going through a breakup, how would you treat them? Would you be harsh on them? Would you point out all the possible reasons why their ex broke it off with them? Would you criticize them at every turn and tell them that they probably won’t find another partner ever again? Highly unlikely.
Instead, you’d probably offer them love and kindness. You’d help them remember that they need not be defined by a failed relationship, and you’d mention they’re good qualities. You’d compliment them, let them feel however they feel, and assure them that they are loved and cared for.
Self-compassion is all of the latter, but as the name suggests, directed towards the self.
“Whenever I notice something about myself I don’t like, or whenever something goes wrong in my life, I silently repeat the following phrases: This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to me in this moment. May I give me the compassion I need.” ― Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself
Breakups are a natural part of life, and as heartbreaking they can be, they can also be an excellent opportunity for personal growth and development. Relationships themselves are a great way to learn about oneself. They show us our deeper vulnerabilities as well as our strength, and breakups can do the same. A breakup from an especially close partner can offer you deep insight into your attachment style and how you stand on your own in the world.
Don’t worry if this breakup has left you feeling lost and confused because time really does heal all wounds, and you’ll be a better and stronger person for going through it.