9 Breakup Mistakes to Avoid Making
Understatement of the year: breakups are hard.
Humans are hard-wired to make connections — and losing someone you care about can shatter your whole world, whether you were together for three months or three years.
Of course, everyone has different ways of dealing with heartache. Some might bury themselves in work or start spending more time at the gym, while others might eagerly redownload their dating apps to try and find someone new. And how you deal with those feelings can make a big difference on your road to healing.
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“How you handle a breakup sets the stage for how you feel,” says Suzannah Weiss, a certified sex educator, relationship coach, and resident sexologist for Biird. “If you continuously ruminate on how horrible an ex was to you, pine over your ex, or put yourself down unnecessarily, those thought patterns may become automatic and difficult to break.”
To be clear, it’s OK to experience sadness, grief, anger, confusion, frustration, or any combination of those emotions after ending a relationship. There’s no right or wrong way to feel after a breakup.
But experts say certain habits aimed at suppressing or acting on those feelings can definitely hold you back.Here are nine self-sabotaging mistakes you’ll definitely want to avoid:
1. Trying to stay “friends” with your ex
“Breakups affect the brain like drug withdrawal, so it is understandable that many people try to remain friends with exes in order to try to soothe this horrible physical feeling,” says Weiss. “It’s essentially a way of re-supplying your brain with dopamine.”
However, keeping the lines blurry may only prolong your pain.
As Aditya Kashyap Mishra, relationship expert and co-founder of MoodFresher, points out, it can be next to impossible to maintain a platonic relationship with someone you’re still in love with.
Be honest with yourself: are you just remaining “friends” with the hope that you’ll get back together? Or are you really able to watch them move on with someone else?
“When you feel tempted to reach out to your ex, reach out to another friend instead,” Weiss advises.
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And if your goal really is to have some kind of friendship with your ex, Weiss says you’ll have a much better shot if you cut off contact while the wounds are still fresh and then find your way back to each other when the romantic feelings have faded.
2. Beating yourself up over what you did “wrong”
Breakups can be confusing. So, you may find yourself asking, what went wrong? Would things have turned out differently if I hadn’t done [XYZ]? Would we still be together if I hadn’t said [XYZ]?
“People often fall into a trap of thinking they did something wrong or caused the relationship to end when in fact, it was not going to work out from the get-go,” explains Weiss.
“For instance, you might think: if only I hadn’t come on so strong, she wouldn’t have been scared away. But in reality, maybe she was scared away because she was emotionally unavailable. And do you want someone who gets scared away when you express your emotions freely?”
If you did something you genuinely believe contributed to the end of the relationship — say, lying to or cheating on your partner, or speaking to them harshly — then it’s OK to own your role in how things ended. After all, reflecting on your own behavior in this way can help ensure you make better choices in the future.
That said, while it’s normal to have regrets, it’s not helpful to start obsessing over every so-called “mistake” you made in the relationship. Because odds are, with the right person, those actions wouldn’t be considered mistakes at all. And remember: you can’t be to blame for everything — it takes two people for a relationship to dissolve.
“Breakups can make you feel like a failure,” adds Treva Brandon Scharf, a certified dating and relationship coach. “It’s crucial to get ahold of any self-loathing or negative beliefs about yourself. Meditation, journaling, and working with a good coach or therapist will help you recalibrate, regain clarity, and find your power again.”
3. Drinking or smoking the pain away
“When faced with uncomfortable feelings, it’s common to want to anesthetize this emotional pain with various kinds of intoxicants,” says Michael Mongno, a psychotherapist and relationship counselor, and founder of Present Centered Therapies. “Although this might feel better in the moment, it’s simply delaying the healing process.”
Valentina Bolivar, a mental health and physical wellness officer at Hot Frameworks, also notes that using substances to drown your emotions can ultimately lead to addiction. And let’s be real: heartache is enough of a problem on its own without adding substance dependency to the picture.
“Definitely avoid using substances to cope with a breakup,” adds Dr. Jay Serle, a licensed marriage and family therapist and Clinical Director of The Ohana Luxury Alcohol Rehab. “Alcohol can put you at risk for depression and other mental and physical health issues.”
So, instead of reaching for that third or fourth beer, Mongno advises filling that gaping hole with more self-nurturing habits — like exercise, quality time with loved ones, and positive self-talk.
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4. Keeping tabs on your ex’s social media
There’s hardly anything more masochistic than continuing to creep on your ex’s Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, or Facebook.
Social media is a highlight reel of someone’s life, so odds are, you’re never going to see the moment where they, too, are grieving the breakup — struggling to get out of bed in the morning, openly weeping over a pint of ice cream, or isolating themselves on a Friday night.
Instead, you’ll be privy to agonizing photos of them having a blast on their trip to Barbados, crushing it at the gym, or looking great with their friends at a concert. How’s that going to make you feel?
“This can be very harmful, because it keeps you attached to your ex and prevents you from moving on,” says Bolivar.
Not to mention, once your ex inevitably starts dating someone new, that’ll only add salt to your still-open wound. You might find that you’re comparing yourself to their new love interest, or even falling down a rabbit hole or stalking their social media, too.
The point is, keeping tabs on what your ex is pretty much guaranteed to make you feel worse. And besides, what you’re seeing on social media is not really an accurate representation of how they’re doing, anyway.
So, to eliminate the temptation to keep tabs on what your ex is doing, experts recommend unfollowing or muting their accounts.
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5. Telling off your ex
Sure, it can be tempting to lash out at your ex — say, by texting them to let them know what a heartless (insert expletive) they are.
But according to Weiss, trying to get the last word is another breakup mistake to avoid. It might make you feel good for about 5 seconds, but you may regret what you said down the road. The last thing you need right now is a shame spiral.
“It’s only natural to want to let them know how much they hurt you,” says Weiss. “The best way to let them know, though, is really just by walking away. You have nothing to gain from explaining their wrongdoings to them. Nor do you have to prove that you were in the right. If you know you were, then there’s nothing to prove.”
One way to eliminate this temptation, says Scharf, is to delete their contact information from your phone.
But if that feels too extreme, here’s another tactic to try: Whenever you feel that urge to rant about whatever your ex did, write it down without sending it. That way, you’ll get the cathartic experience of releasing whatever’s making you angry but without the potentially negative consequences.
6. Badmouthing your ex to mutual friends
Talking badly about your ex to the friends you have in common is never a good idea, says Mishra. In all likelihood, it will get back to your ex — making you seem bitter and vindictive. Certainly not a good look.
And by the way, you may or may not want to get some space from those mutual friends, says Scharf. If you find yourself trying to dig up intel from them about what your ex is up to, being around them serves as a painful reminder of your ex, or you worry you might run into your ex when you’re around them, it’s totally OK to take a step back from those friendships — even if just temporarily, while your heart heals.
7. Rushing into another relationship
“Another tendency to alleviate one’s anxiety or depression is to rush headlong into another relationship or begin swiping in search of a hook-up,” says Mongno.
While you may assume finding someone new will fill the void and distract you from the loneliness or emotional pain of missing your ex, there are several reasons why jumping back into dating too quickly is a bad idea.
“This immediate gratification can feel great at the moment, but will only postpone the inevitable, which is taking the time necessary to go through the grieving process,” says Mongno.
For one, it’s not fair to let other people catch feels for you while you’re still hung up your ex. Plus, because you’re not emotionally available, it’s unlikely that this rebound relationship will work — meaning you’ll then be faced with a second breakup to deal with.
“Be patient with yourself and give yourself time to grieve,” adds Mishra. “There is no set time frame for grieving, and this is not a race — there is no finish line. So, don’t try to force yourself to move on before you’re ready.”
8. Trying to get revenge on your ex
When someone hurts you, it’s only natural to want to hurt them back. But before you start your petty plotting, consider this: getting back at your ex will probably only make you feel worse in the long run.
“Getting revenge will not make you feel better — and could actually damage your reputation,” says Mishra. “It’s best to let go of the anger and resentment and focus on healing your own heart.”
Allowing your rage to get the best of you and suck your energy and focus from other things that will benefit you only gives your ex power over you. The best way to take your power back is to work on forgiveness.
9. Bottling up your emotions instead of reaching out for support
“People who don’t try to distract themselves from or ignore their feelings are usually the ones who move on from the breakup the quickest,” says Angela Sitka, a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. “It’s important to identify and validate your emotions during this time of heartbreak, including the anger, sadness, and resentment you might be feeling.”
Acknowledging your feelings, whether through talking with a close friend, journaling, or in therapy, is a crucial component of the mourning process.
And if you find you’re having trouble recognizing or coping with your emotions, Mongno strongly recommends reaching out for professional support from a licensed mental health provider, who can help you through processing your feelings in a healthy and productive way.
“A therapist can also offer practical tips for dealing with the day-to-day challenges of life after a breakup,” adds Mishra. “If you’re feeling lost, alone, or overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
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