When It's Time to Say Goodbye: How to Get Over Someone

You know what’s fun?

Breakups.

You know why?

Because even after the pain of ending a meaningful relationship subsides, the memories you made, the experiences you shared, the intimacy you had . . . still linger for a while.

Wait. Did I say fun?

Terrible. I meant terrible.

There’s simply no way around the fact that breakups are incredibly painful, especially since the relationship can’t be undone. You can’t forget the person overnight; the feelings you have for them don’t disappear into thin air.

And just when you’re starting to feel okay again, his favorite song comes on the radio and slaps you in the face. Or a social media platform kindly reminds you about “this day a year ago.” Or your office hires one of his best friends . . .

And somehow you’re back to where you started—a heavy heart and the troubling question:

Will I ever get over him?

Early on, I tried a few things: frequent (un)happy hour cocktails, angry music, a new haircut, impulse purchases . . . They were rather childish, feeble attempts to cope with the pain and forget the person who had—until recently—been such an important part of my life.

None of it worked, of course. They were merely distractions that were neither helpful nor healthy (although I stand by my hair cut).

I wish—for your sake as much as mine—that getting over someone were something I could break down into a few, simple, actionable steps: “How to Get Over Someone in 8 Easy Steps.”

I can’t. Because if those steps do exist, I haven’t found them—and I can assure you it’s not for lack of trying.

I write this, not as someone who has won the “getting over and moving on” battle, but as a soldier on the frontline, wondering if there’s a better way to hold the gun and if it’s possible that I missed a few crucial lessons in military training.

First of all, what does it mean to be “over” someone?

I’ve tossed around this rather vague phrase in my head and come to the tentative conclusion that it can’t mean you never think about the person—or even that the feelings you once had for them are now completely gone. This would be so unrealistic and entirely unfair for someone with a remotely human heart and the ability to remember.

This pain is evidence that you loved—the most important thing you’ll ever do.

I still think of him when I use the term peach to describe a cute kid, something he did all the time. I think of him when I listen to certain songs or artists he introduced me to. I still think of him when I use the wine charms he gave me or arrange the armchair pillow he bought for me. I think of him when I wear the socks his grandma gave me or drink out of the mug his mom gave me. I still think of him when I talk to my friends back home or drive by his old apartment complex . . .

I could stop saying peach. I could stop listening to any of the music he introduced me to. I could throw away the pillow, the wine charms, the socks, and the mug. I could even stop talking to my friends back home. But I think to do so would be a lie. It would be trying to convince myself that the relationship never took place by eradicating anything that would or could possibly remind me of him.

The people we meet, the people we get to know, and most especially the people we love, change our lives.

We did love them. We are different because of that—and often, even if the relationship itself was a fiasco, we are typically better off because of it. We grew, we learned, we loved.

This is why I hang on to much of what came from that relationship. Whether it’s things or habits or whatever else. They are keepsakes from an important period of my life and additions that still serve me and make my life better today.

And what I’ve come to slowly realize is that, over time, the associations between those things and the person lessen—or at least don’t affect me as much.

He may momentarily cross my mind, but then I let the thought go. I repurpose those things to create new memories in new places with new people—the past is allowed to stay in the past, while not being diminished or resented.

A broken heart is a fresh start, an opportunity to look difficulty in the eye and come out a stronger person.

Having said all of that, here are some things that have helped me get over an ex and heal from a breakup.

Try New Things

Kickboxing, swimming, tennis, a new bar or restaurant, a different show, a new recipe, writing, drawing, a haircut . . . Whether it’s something you’ve never tried before or something you just haven’t done in a while, it helps to bring some freshness into your life and switch gears. In any case, it is always healthy to have something that is “yours,” an outlet that is independent of anyone else.

Travel

It doesn’t have to be across the world or even across the country. Shortly after the breakup, I visited some friends who lived a couple hours away and members of my family who also were somewhat close by. If you can go somewhere you’ve never been before, even better. Nothing quite gets you out of your head and provides you with a breath of fresh air like a new place. The world is a big place; sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

Re-evaluate Your Life

This may sound dramatic, but really it’s just taking stock of where you are and where you want to go. A breakup may throw your life plan for a loop, so now is a good time to consider how you’re doing in regard to the kind of person you want to be and what you would like to accomplish in the near and distant future. This could be as simple as taking some time to write down one hundred things you want to accomplish over the course of your life and picking one to start on today. You could divide your life into various areas—physical, emotional, financial, spiritual—and set goals in each of these areas. You could recall your greatest accomplishments so far this year and take a moment to feel grateful and proud.

This kind of process reminds you that, while you cannot control other people, you do have a say in the way you live your life and the kind of person you become. A broken heart is a fresh start, an opportunity to look difficulty in the eye and come out a stronger person.

Through it all, remember this: more than anything, getting over someone requires acceptance.

Get Perspective

This isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened to a person. We all experience pain and difficulty in our lives. We may not understand it (and much less desire it), but it is inevitable and often helps us become more compassionate people. Think of all those before you who have experienced their own share of heartbreak, some in rather horrid ways. Whether you find yourself at the end of a relationship, in a broken marriage, or worse (dealing with war, death, poverty), sometimes it helps to remember that the human spirit is incredibly resilient. If we are suffering, we’re in good company, and our sufferings may not be quite as extreme as we originally thought or felt.

Be Patient

It may take longer than you expect to stop thinking about him (or her) often, to stop wondering if they’ll ever change their mind, to stop wishing things had gone differently. This doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It is an indication of the depth with which you loved and how much you cared for the person. The fact that you loved well and deeply means that you have the capacity to love well and deeply. What a great gift to be able to offer the world.


Through it all, remember this: more than anything, getting over someone requires acceptance—accepting that they are no longer yours, accepting that they really weren’t yours to begin with, and accepting that you will find peace and healing. People don’t belong to us the way a car or a house does. They may walk with us for a while—sometimes even for the rest of our lives—but often it is only for a certain amount of time. After that, we take a deep breath, wish them the best, and let them go.

Breakups are brutal, they really are. I can’t tell you exactly how long it will take you to get over an ex, or even to start feeling okay again. But I can tell you that you will and that this pain is evidence that you loved—the most important thing you’ll ever do.

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