Last year, I had my first serious relationship, which means that when it ended, I had my first serious breakup. I should have expected that we would break up one day (we’re in high school, so it’s inevitable) but we were both so happy in the beginning that I couldn’t picture us not being together, so I didn’t really think about it.
We dated for almost the entire school year, and as we got to know each other by spending so much time together. I felt like I knew everything about my girlfriend, from all the stories of what happened that day to what her family and childhood were like to what her innermost thoughts were and what foods, music, and shows she liked (and hated) most. She knew just as much about me, and even though we both have close friends, when you’re seriously dating, the person you’re with generally spends more time with you and knows more about you than anyone else.
That’s great while you’re dating, but it’s also what makes a breakup so difficult. When I was in my relationship, if I had a rough day, I’d vent to my girlfriend about it and I always felt better. But when you break up, the person who would have made you feel better is now the reason you feel this bad. I don’t mean that my girlfriend ended the relationship badly. I just mean that when you want to be with someone who no longer wants to be with you, it hurts. A lot. But I couldn’t talk about it with the one person I had gotten so used to going to. So it felt like I lost not just my girlfriend, but also my best friend—a double loss.
It’s been two months since the breakup, and here’s what has helped:
- Don’t obsess about it. It’s hard to understand why someone who had such strong feelings for you just doesn’t anymore. But it’s also normal for feelings to fade over time, so don’t spend all your time analyzing if that thing you said or did that one time caused the person to feel differently. It’s not helpful, and there’s probably no specific answer anway. Don’t waste time analyzing this.
- Accept that it’s over. In the first couple of weeks after we broke up, I took every interaction with my girlfriend as a sign that either she was completely over me or wanted to get back together. If she was cold, I felt like I didn’t mean anything to her, and if she was overly friendly, I’d have hope that she wanted to get back together. Neither was true. What’s true was this: It was hard in different ways for both of us (she didn’t know how to act around me either) and the relationship was permanently over. If you have false hope, it just takes longer to get over it. Accepting reality will make the pain stop sooner.
- Don’t rush into anything. It can be tempting to distract yourself by dating other people, but if you’re not ready, it’s not fair to someone else. It’s a good skill to learn how to deal with hard feelings, so if things suck, let them suck. Instead of using other people to make you feel better, do things that you have more time for now that you’re not in a relationship, like hanging with your other friends or doing activities you enjoy. For me, I started working on a short film with friends I wanted to reconnect with, and having the structure of making the film and having fun again really helped.
- Stay off their social media. It’s only going to hurt you to see what your ex is doing. Nothing helpful comes from looking at this. Just stop.
- It takes time. Day 1 of the breakup will feel very different from Day 20, and Day 20 will feel very different from Day 40. Even if you can’t see it now (and I couldn’t), just know that it does get better and eventually you’ll stop hurting and go back to your normal life. I still miss my girlfriend sometimes, and if I’m out and I see her or hear about her, it can be hard. But I feel good most days now, and when it does hurt, it hurts much less than it did even a few weeks ago. Remember that it just takes time.
- Have perspective. When the breakup first happened, I kept idealizing what I had lost. But since then, I’ve come to realize that the relationship wasn’t perfect, and I chose to ignore that when I didn’t want it to end. Now I can see the good parts and the parts that weren’t working, and I feel like it’s a good thing that we aren’t together anymore. It just took some distance from it for me to see it more clearly.