Sex & Relationships

5 Tips For Emotionally Detaching After A Bad Breakup

When listening to “Good 4 U” on repeat isn’t cutting it.

It's possible to stop caring about someone after a breakup, but don't expect it to happen right away...
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You and your ex broke up months ago, and despite listening to Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour on repeat since then, you can’t help but wonder if they got that promotion they’d been working for and how their mom is doing. Seeing them on social media — especially doing things you used to do together — still stirs up more feelings than you care to admit. At some point, you may wonder if you’ll ever stop loving someone who was such a big part of your life. According to experts, it’s very possible to stop caring about your ex after a breakup. However, don’t expect it to happen right away.

“Just because someone has left you or rejected you does not mean your loving feelings for them turn off,” Dr. Gail Saltz, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and host of the How Can I Help? podcast, tells Bustle. “You may be angry, hurt, distraught, and still love them. We are able to hold multiple feelings in our hearts at the same time. If you already developed loving feelings for them, it may take time to grieve them and have your love dissipate, or you may in some ways continue to love them for a very long time, even if they broke your heart.”

Although there’s nothing wrong with caring about your ex post-breakup, it can become a problem if it’s holding you back. If you want to move forward but feel like you can’t, Saltz says it’s definitely possible to stop loving someone. “People fall out of love all the time, even when they don’t want to,” she says.

If you’re still feeling hung up over your ex and you’d like to move on, here are some things you can do.

Turn Your Attention To Other People

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Emotionally distancing yourself from your ex can be tough at first, so be sure to take baby steps. According to Saltz, one way to do that is to invest your time and energy into other people. Plan fun nights out with your besties, catch up with someone you haven’t talked to in a while, or spend time with your family. If you feel like you need a fun distraction, you can try picking up a hobby as a way to meet new people.

“Stop searching out what your ex is doing or how they are feeling and detach from any emotional involvement for a while,” Saltz says. “Turn your attentions to other important intimate and valued relationships and engage with them instead.”

Block Them On Social Media

You’re working on moving on, scoping out a new brunch place on Instagram for you and your friends to try when bam, you’re hit with a post of your ex hanging out with someone new. Suddenly, you’re back to obsessing over whom they’re with 24/7, whether or not they’re dating, and if they still think about you.

Because of this, licensed marriage and family therapist Adam Goodman, J.D., tells Bustle that it’s best to “remove your access” to them by muting or deleting them from social media. If you’re not seeing them constantly, it will be easier for you to separate yourself emotionally.

“This will give you time for the intensity of your emotions to naturally reduce while creating a buffer of space away from any external sources of pain or discomfort,” Goodman says. “Focusing on yourself and finding the right relationship fit helps rebuild any weakened self-esteem you may be feeling after the breakup.”

Reflect On The Role They Played In Your Life

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When you get into a new relationship, it’s natural to fantasize about the future and what your relationship could be. According to intimacy coach Leah Carey, “There’s a name for this time: new relationship energy (NRE). It’s the period when everything looks shiny and perfect, which aids us in bonding with a new partner.”

But over time, this energy fades and you eventually start seeing your partner without the rose-colored glasses. At this point, you may see the actual person you’re in a relationship with, rather than the fantasy you fell in love with. If your ex initiated the breakup, you’ll both miss their presence in your life and grieve the loss of the fantasy you had.

According to Carey, self-reflection is key. Your fantasy idea of a relationship can be really “instructive,” she says. Instead of asking yourself, “How can I get over my ex?,” ask yourself, “What fantasy were they fulfilling for me?”

“Once you know the answer to that question, you’ll realize that your ex was just one of many people who could fill that space in your life,” she says. “You’ll no longer mourn a specific person because you’ll have a better handle on what to look for when you’re ready to return to dating.”

Write In A Journal

Getting over your ex and being sad about the end of a relationship can come in waves. There will be days when you feel really good about moving on, and there’ll be days when you want to stay in bed and think about every which way you could’ve been a better partner. Whenever these moments of sadness and regret hit, Katie Ziskind, licensed marriage and family therapist, says to pull out your journal.

“Writing in a journal can be a great way to process what you’ve been through, identify the hurt, loss, and grief emotions, and relieve the feelings you’re having so that you can be open-hearted for another person who walks into your life,” Ziskind says.

Don’t Set Any Timelines For Yourself

While it would be great to get over a breakup after a week or two, that’s not always possible. People move on at their own time. Don’t put pressure on yourself to stop feeling things for your ex or to find someone new. Doing so will only stress you out and make you feel a lot worse. If you learn that your ex is dating again, don’t speed up your healing process in a reactionary panic.

“There’s no timeline on being ready to start dating again,” Carey says. “Some people take a day, others take a month, others take a year or more. Be kind to yourself as you consider when you’re ready to open your heart again.” In time, it will happen for you.

Sources

Dr. Gail Saltz, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, host of the How Can I Help? podcast

Leah Carey, intimacy coach

Adam Goodman, J.D., licensed marriage and family therapist

Katie Ziskind, licensed marriage and family therapist