Five Ways to Make it Through Your First Breakup
Breaking up is hard enough on its own, but having to pass your ex in the halls can feel like just too much to ask after a recent split. We know it’s sad, it’s painful, it’s lonely, and on top of all that it can be awkward too, but having our hearts broken is one of the ways we learn who we are. Think of this as a time to grow. Here are some ways to hold it together, and to come out the other side of this breakup stronger, wiser, and more self-assured.
1. Keep busy.
After a breakup, there will be plenty of thinking to do about how it all ended, plenty of talking it over with friends, plenty of stewing over every little detail, but as much as you can, try to keep your mind occupied with other things. The passage of time will help you heal, but you can’t just wait for time to pass. You’ll need to distract yourself, and that isn’t always so easy after a hard breakup. Be deliberate in your efforts.
Hang out with friends. They’ll help take your mind off the ex. Allow yourself to laugh again. Swear off relationships together, then change your minds, then swear them off again. Take a walk, or a hike, or go to the rock climbing gym together. Grab a meal out. Wander around a museum. Remember those old activities you used to do with friends before you started spending all your free time with your ex? Well, it’s time to rediscover all those old joys. Even when you’re sad, this part can be fun too.
Spend time with family. Let them encourage you, distract you, remind you that you’re loved. Go help Dad make his famous meatloaf for dinner. Help a younger sibling with homework or help them take a break from homework. Run some errands with Mom. Watch a movie together. Use this time to perform maintenance on all the important relationships in your life. It doesn’t matter exactly what you’re doing together, as long as you’re engaged and present in the moment.
2. Beware of social media.
You don’t necessarily have to unfriend your exes (especially if the breakup wasn’t too messy or bitter), but it’s a good idea to hide their posts for a while until you’ve had time and space to move on and get back into the swing of single life. If, on the other hand, the breakup was a big mess—or if your ex was belittling, abusive, manipulative—then it’s time to untangle yourself from it; hit that unfriend button. You don’t deserve to be subjected to that a second longer.
Social media has a way of making it seem like everyone else is having the time of their life, while you’re here in your room scrolling through their obnoxiously sunny social feeds. Try to keep in mind that everyone has these quiet, lonely moments of boredom; we just don’t post them online for the world to see. Nobody is really as exciting as they present themselves to be online. Even so, seeing everyone’s happy photos can make us feel, in times of loneliness, as if we’re missing out, or falling behind somehow. So if you think that social media is making you feel even lower in these already low times, take a break and unplug! The world outside your room is such a large place; go explore. Take some pictures of your own.
And whatever you do, resist venting about your breakup on social media. Venting online may just stir up that drama you’re trying to get away from. It may just keep open those wounds you need to heal. Instead, vent to your friends or your parents. If your friends haven't had their first experiences with heartbreak yet, then you may find they don’t really understand what you’re feeling. It may be more useful to talk to someone who’s been there, like your mom or dad, or older siblings, aunts and uncles, teachers, therapists, grandparents—anyone you feel comfortable with. There’s never any shame in asking for help or guidance.
3. Be kind to your body.
We’ve been there too; we know it’s going to be tempting to stay up late listening to sad songs and reading old letters, sleeping in late with the shades drawn, indulging in nonstop junk food. It’s so easy to give up on self care after a breakup, but be strong! Plan against this temptation. Outsmart your grief.
Get to sleep at a reasonable hour (shutting off those electronics early helps—opt for a book in bed instead of the phone). Set an alarm to get you up at a reasonable hour too. Get yourself out of that bed. Make a healthy breakfast. Get some exercise into your routine. Keeping good physical care of yourself is an important part of keeping good mental care of yourself. Take control of your life in these good, small ways.
4. Break communication with your ex.
You’re going to feel the urge to text your ex, or call, or drop by, or chat outside of study hall, but resist! Each day you spend without communication brings you a little bit closer to getting over this breakup, but when you talk to your ex again, some of that hard-won progress is undone. It’s so easy to have selective memories of a relationship after a breakup. Easy to remember all the good things, all the things you miss, and forget about the problems and incompatibilities that led to the breakup in the first place. When you finally manage to get the memories behind you, keep them there. Clean breaks heal quickest.
One of the hardest parts about a high school breakup is that a complete halting of communication may be difficult or impossible because of your class schedules. You both still have to go to school after all, but how are you supposed to sit there and think about anything else? Yes, it’s tough, but you will be tougher. Treat your attention like an excitable little dog on a leash—sometimes you’ll have to yank on that leash. Decide right now that this class is the class you’re going to work your hardest at. Master the material. Invest yourself in your learning here as a productive distraction.
And remind yourself: it’s supposed to be awkward. Anyone in your shoes would feel uncomfortable. Acknowledge the absurdity of the situation. This is like a bad movie! Then go vent to your friends, and your family later. Maybe they’ll even help you find some humor in the circumstance. Day by day, it will get easier.
5. Make a project of yourself.
Since we’ve already decided that you need to distract yourself, why not kill two birds with one stone, and find distractions that set you up for self-improvement and personal growth? This is a chance to turn all your hurt and restlessness into something productive. Use this opportunity to define yourself however you’d like to.
Exercise is a great way to work on yourself and distract yourself in the same swing. Look for a physical activity that is both a workout and a good time. It’s hard to fixate on an ex while you’re lifting weights, or swimming laps, or ducking a dodgeball. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to start feeling good about how you look after a breakup either!
It’s easy to underestimate the value of a really absorbing hobby. Try learning a new skill, or practice an old one. Maybe you’d like to play an instrument, or paint portraits, or practice your photography skills. What about carpentry, poetry, coding, or maybe you’re an aspiring chef? Right now, after this breakup, you could really use a confidence boost. Developing new skills and talents can help bring you to that place of confidence and self-worth—and that’s the place where you belong.
Remember that you’re not going to feel this way forever, even if that’s how it feels right now. Hang in there, and keep your eye to the future. We’re rooting for you.
If you’re having a hard time right now and want to talk to someone, there are other teens who want to listen at Teen Line. Call 310-855-4673, or text TEEN to 839863.