If there’s one thing that pretty much everyone can agree on, it’s that going through your first breakup sucks. When you haven’t experienced heartbreak before, the mess of conflicting emotions swirling around can be a shock — plus you’re faced with the task of sorting through those feelings all on your own. Then there’s also the simple fact that, as a society, we tend to idolize the idea of a first love: we find high school sweethearts swoon-worthy, and romanticize the notion of getting things right on the very first try. In reality, though, breakups happen all the time yet — while a failed relationship is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of — that doesn’t make your very first breakup any less tricky to navigate.
“Most of us enter first relationships with more optimism: we may have hopes and dreams for the future and when the relationship disintegrates, we are shattered,” Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. “Even if we saw it coming, we are often surprised; we may have never really imagined it would end so quickly. When we’ve never experienced something before, we don’t necessarily know how to deal with it and recover.”
As much as we might wish there was some magical piece of wisdom that could help us immediately heal and move on after a breakup, that’s simply not the case — because every relationship and every breakup is unique. Here are eight slightly painful truths about going through your first breakup that you need to hear, according to relationship experts.
Jumping Into A New Relationship Isn’t A Good Idea
After your first breakup, it might be tempting to immediately hop into a new relationship, either because you want to make your ex jealous, or because you feel like you need to be in a relationship. In reality, you likely need some time to heal on your own before you’re truly ready to enter a partnership with someone new.
“Entering new relationships just after the breakup probably won’t make your ex jealous and want to get back together with you,” Backe says. “Start dating seriously again when you feel ready.”
You Might Feel Like You Made A Mistake
Post-breakup, it’s absolutely normal to go over every little detail of your relationship in your head and wonder where and how you might have messed up — but too much of this kind of thinking isn’t helpful to you in the long run, and will only cause you more pain.
“You may blame yourself for the failed relationship — try not to,” Backe says. “We all make mistakes and the best we could do is to learn from our mistakes.”
You Might Feel Disconnected From Yourself
Even though it’s important to have your own identity within a relationship, the “us” you were with your now-ex still becomes part of who you are and how you see yourself; thus, when you break up, it might feel like you lost part of yourself as well as your partner.
“It's hard to sever an emotional connection to someone else, but it's doubly hard to be disconnected from yourself,” Vironika Tugaleva, life coach, relationship expert, and author, tells Bustle. “If you broke up with your ex because your values weren't aligned, then you had probably already broken up with yourself long ago — left yourself behind for the sake of the relationship. Now, it's time to find yourself again.”
Fantasies Of Getting Back Together Are Just That — A Fantasy
When you’re hurting after a breakup, you might fantasize about a hypothetical future where you and your ex get back together and live happily ever after. While that can happen, it’s rare, and you shouldn’t focus your mental energy on wishing for something that probably isn’t meant to be.
“It probably won’t work out even if you get back together again,” psychotherapist Emily Mendez, M.S. EdS, tells Bustle. “There is always a reason why you broke up in the first place. Many people have a hard time accepting that a relationship has ended, which can lead to them getting back together with the person. Unfortunately, the problems that caused the breakup do not go away. They will surface again and cause another breakup unless they are fully addressed.”
Your Breakup Might Impact How You Relate To Others
After your first heartbreak, it’s likely that you’ll be hesitant to be vulnerable and open yourself up emotionally to others — not just romantic interests, but friends and family, too — for a while. Luckily, if you’re having a hard time being vulnerable, there are steps you can take to help yourself open up again.
“When someone goes through a breakup it makes them question themselves more,” couples therapist, Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, tells Bustle. “They wonder what they could have done to avoid the pain altogether. As a result, you may be more reluctant to open up to other people and build genuine relationships. Vulnerability might be difficult for you.”
You Probably Only Miss The *Idea* Of Your Ex
In the immediate aftermath of a breakup, of course you’re going to miss your ex: even if you recognize the breakup was for the best, it’s always painful to separate yourself from someone you were close to. But be careful with how you frame your thoughts as you mourn the relationship — because it’s more likely that you miss the good feelings your ex sometimes gave you than that you miss your ex as a person.
“While it seems that you are missing your ex so much, what you are most likely really missing is the feeling you got when you were with your ex and everything was going well,” Amy McManus, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. “Even though it feels like you lost your dream (of a future with this specific person) you can still hold onto the dream of having a relationship where you get that wonderful feeling again. If you can identify what your favorite feelings were — safety, understanding, shared dreams, intimacy, tenderness, etc. — then you will be well on your way to knowing what to be on the lookout for in your next relationship.”
Your First Breakup Probably Won’t Be Your Last
Possibly the most difficult truth to swallow after you experience your first breakup? This breakup, in all likelihood, won’t be your last — so take this opportunity to learn how to bounce back from a breakup in a healthy way.
“While we can grow from painful experiences it’s important to also remember that they are a part of life,” Powell says. “Emotional heartache is sometimes unavoidable.”
Breakups are never fun to go through, especially the first time around, but the truth is that they’re just a part of life that everyone deals with in their own way. All you can do is keep your chin up, learn from each relationship, and focus on becoming your best self, so you’re happy and fulfilled no matter what your relationship status happens to be.