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How to Move On After a Breakup

View of a person's legs walking towards the sunset on a dirt roadIt’s gotten messy, and you are undoubtedly shaken and saddened. Your relationship with your significant other is over. Whether you were married, engaged, or otherwise committed, breaking up and moving on is a difficult transition.

You may feel like you’ve wasted time or that you’ve failed in some way—regardless of whether you were the one to initiate the dissolution. No matter how it ended, it’s important to evaluate what happened—what went well, what went wrong—to strengthen your relationship muscles and learn about yourself.

If you are reeling from a breakup and need help clarifying the experience, take these steps to move forward:

  1. If your significant other doesn’t want the relationship, be done with it. That means no more communication. No late-night texting when you’re sad, no calls to hear a voice—nothing. For some, this is the hardest part. We’ve all wondered if it’s possible to “just be friends” after a breakup, but friendships require give-and-take, and friendships after a love relationship rarely evolve the way we envisioned. If it’s over, let it be over.
  2. Evaluate who you were in the relationship. Were you the passive one? Did you always want what your partner wanted? Were you an equal contributor? Were you the alpha? Did you make more demands than concessions? Perhaps you lost yourself in the relationship and had difficulty standing alone. Understanding your role in the relationship may help you to grow through change and reflection.
  3. Identify what went well. How did you and your partner work well together? What facets of the relationship did you enjoy and relish? These identifying factors can give you clues to what you can replicate in the future.
  4. Identify what went poorly. How did you and your partner get off track? Was it one major thing or was it several small infractions? Noticing any “red flags” and your reaction to them can be an enormous help in moving forward. Were you able to communicate freely, or was one of you stifled? Were you able to be yourself, or were you always asked to change?
  5. Lean on your support system. Call your mother, father, best friend, and ask for support. Everyone wants to be helpful to others. There’s no shame in needing help; breakups are hard on people emotionally.
  6. Don’t define yourself by your relationship. You are more than so-and-so’s partner. You have unique qualities that make you valuable in this world independent of your relationships. Identify what makes you special and quirky and marinate in those good parts. We are all more than our roles in a relationship; we are also sisters, brothers, neighbors, coworkers, and friends. If you find this step hard to do, ask your support system for help in identifying your good qualities. The people you trust and care about probably can list many that you didn’t even realize.
  7. Take time. Don’t rush back into finding new love. Let your wounds heal and your heart reset. Heading immediately into another relationship may mean heading toward a repeat, with little growth. Yes, you may be lonely and sad—that’s understandable. Allowing yourself to time to think and grow is a form of self-love and is necessary for future relationships.

Finding peace after your breakup may be extremely difficult, but following the steps above, reflecting on the good as well as the bad, and taking the time to work through your emotions will help you to heal and move forward. For compassionate and nonjudgmental support and guidance, contact a licensed therapist.


Avery, A. (2016). Surviving Divorce: A Therapist’s Step by Step Guide. Amazon Digital Services LLC.

© Copyright 2016 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Angela Avery, MA, LLPC, NCC, Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Alston

    December 8th, 2016 at 8:41 AM

    What is it about me that I start to only let myself become defined by who I am when I am with this other person and then totally lose sight of what I enjoy?
    \There is always something inside that drives me to want to become who they want me to become, not necessarily who I am or what to be.

  • Martin

    December 8th, 2016 at 10:24 AM

    So I have been there and held on to something for much longer than I should have. But you know that hindsight is always 20/20, you see things now that you might not have seen then because you were so caught up in the heat of the moment.

    I think that what it all comes down to is that at some point you have to remember that you are worth so much more when you can respect yourself, and if you no longer have respect for yourself then do you really think that that other person is going to have respect for you? Not very likely.

  • gary f

    December 9th, 2016 at 11:06 AM

    You have to tell yourself that you are worth more than what that person obviously made you feel like you were worth. You have to look at the good in the situation, that you are going to be a better person to yourself after this breakup, not that it is going to be the thing that holds you back.

  • Noelle

    December 11th, 2016 at 10:09 AM

    I guess I have been hurt too many times to to even care about this anymore
    I think that there comes a time after this has been done to you a ot that you in some ways become pretty immune to the hurt

  • Tanner

    December 12th, 2016 at 9:08 AM

    Well look at it like this- there was a reason behind the breakup. We tend to yearn for what we don’t have but in the end there was a reason that the relationship did not really work out. So look at it like that and know that although it might not feel like such a good thing today, there is probably something that you are missing and you should try to see what was good and what was bad and then just go from there.

  • sloane

    December 12th, 2016 at 2:49 PM

    Don’t you think that most of these suggestions are much too rational for how most of us end up feeling when we have been broken up with?

  • Tanya

    July 11th, 2017 at 8:28 PM


  • Bennett

    December 13th, 2016 at 12:13 PM

    It might be a little too simplistic for some of you but I have always firmly believed in the theory that whatever is meant to be will be. That includes being with a certain person. If you are meant to be together then that is what will happen. If not then maybe that was for the best anyway. You can’t spend the rest of your life living with regret.

  • ari

    December 14th, 2016 at 2:16 PM

    This is the worst time of the year to even have to contemplate breaking up. You probably already have gifts for them and ugh, you want to go ahead and do it and have it over with but then again you don’t want to be the reason that someone has a terrible holiday season.

  • samson

    December 15th, 2016 at 10:53 AM

    just kick some grass over that stuff and walk away

  • Jasmine

    April 1st, 2017 at 10:18 AM

    I’m new to this feeling, new to this pain I feel in my heart the need to cry myself out the need of a hug of someone to tell you “Hey, you got me share your pain with me share your thoughts. Allow me to walk this path with you” I know that the process is painful and also know it will take time but what happens when you don’t want to accept the decision he made for both? What happens when your still stuck on that thought of letting it work and still putting your effort to it? Then what.

  • Unknown

    May 22nd, 2017 at 4:24 PM

    I agree im going through the same thing right now this pain is new to me and im not ready to accept the decision that has been made im in so much pain i cant sleep at night

  • frank

    August 28th, 2017 at 5:44 PM

    Its the hardest thing when he/she doesnt want the relationship anymore. SO than you have to sit and realize and am i fighting by myself, and trying to make something work that clearly doesnt want me anymore. Is it worth chasing someone and looking back and there’s absolutely noone chasing after you ? trying to prove your worth it and they dont see it. I try to live by this quotewhats made for me will always be for me”
    find hobbies listen to music excerise smoke weed. Just remember all dogs always come back. if not let it go.

  • DM

    April 10th, 2017 at 12:36 AM

    It really hurts and its really painful. But I have no choice but to move on and renew myself. There are lot things to concentrate on family,friends and work.

  • Bella

    April 20th, 2017 at 8:24 AM

    We just broke up because he went back together with his ex and he realized he still love her, turns out i was a rebound. I was also broken when i dated him and somehow i had a feeling it won’t last, i guess broken people produce broken relationship and once again I’m in pain again but this time i will give myself a good time to heal before anything else, I’ve always been running away, i think its important to embraced the way you feel when you’re sad. In time it will get better.

  • Sheena

    April 26th, 2017 at 7:15 AM

    After my boyfriend and I broke up I have found that staying busy helps me a lot. At first it was difficult to get started and take care of myself as much as I had when we were together. This might sound funny but one thing I do to remind myself not to fall back into our unhealthy relationship or even wanting to go back is I tell myself by staying single now, taking care of myself (which I should do anyway), and continuing to grow as a person that I am staying faithful to the right person for me.

  • Elsa

    September 29th, 2019 at 12:27 PM

    What if his parents pushed for the break up even though he didn’t want it?

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