How To Get Over A Breakup You Didn't Want

Breakups are always difficult, but they’re even more devastating when you didn’t want your relationship to end. Here’s how you can pick up the pieces and make it through this season with grace.

By Keelia Clarkson4 min read
Pexels/Ana Dala

Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship can agree on at least one thing: The end of a relationship is really rough. It’s painful to disentangle yourself from another person, to undo the emotional intimacy that had been formed, to go from seeing someone as your everything to treating them like a stranger, leaving both them and the relationship in the past. 

Breakups are always complex, no matter the variables. And to make matters even more complicated, no two breakups are the same. There’s no one-size-fits-all way to heal from the end of a relationship because every person, relationship, and reason behind a breakup will be different every time. So, in a way, every breakup is an entirely new experience.

There are times when a breakup is initiated by you. In this scenario, while it might still be challenging, the fact that it was your decision at least makes it more comfortable. You’re acting in accordance with what you want, even if it’s sad. Then, there are times when a breakup is mutual. While the end of the relationship still won’t be a walk in the park, the good news in this case is that both of you are on the same page, hopefully making for a less painful healing process. And then, there are times when you don’t even want the breakup that you’re going through. When the other person’s decision to break things off against your desires becomes something that you, too, have to abide by.

Every breakup hurts in some way or another, but a breakup that you didn’t want holds a unique kind of pain. You’re attempting to heal from something that you never wanted to lose in the first place, trying to move on from a person that, more than anything, you still want to be with. The behavior you’re supposed to exhibit is in direct contrast to your deepest desires.

How are you supposed to get over that? How do you move on and heal? What are you to do when the breakup you find yourself in the midst of is one that, if you had your druthers, you wouldn’t be going through in the first place? Here are a few tips to get you started.

Accept His Decision (and Reality)

A common reaction to being broken up with, especially when it’s something you’d never choose yourself, is disbelief. You’re shocked to your core. Did he actually say what you just heard him say? Does he mean he wants to take time to reassess, or is he definitively ending things? Has he really thought this through?

With the thoughts and questions that swirl around in your mind, you might come to the conclusion that this isn’t really the end – maybe he was being rash, or he’ll realize he made a mistake, or he’ll start missing you too much. However you contextualize the breakup, the narrative is essentially the same: I don’t want this to be real, so it isn’t.

But…it is real. Sure, there are situations where a couple might break up for a week before reuniting, but you also can’t count on that happening when there’s no guarantee. Stay in the reality of the situation that you’re in right now, and not the alternate reality that you wish were true, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Don’t Try To Change His Mind

What goes hand in hand with questioning whether he truly meant to break up with you? Resolving to get him to change his mind, of course. It’s understandable – obviously, there were things he liked, even loved, about you. And the issues he did have with the relationship can be fixed, right?

And so, you devise a plan to win him back. You send him “just because” gifts and post pictures in the hopes of recapturing his attention and text him that you miss him late into the night. You do everything that you can to convince him to come back to you because things would be different this time, to both remind him of the reasons he fell for you and show him that you’ve changed for the better.

There are few things less romantic than having to convince someone to be with you.

This tactic is tempting, but it won’t work in your favor in the long run. First, because it doesn’t respect the decision he made. Second, because the likelihood is that even if he did get back together with you, the same issues (or at least a variation of them) would still be present. And third, because there are few things less romantic than having to convince someone to be with you.

Allow Yourself To Mourn

As soon as the reality of the breakup sets in, so do the blues. You’ve come to accept that he wasn’t bluffing, that he’s not going to change his mind, that your relationship with him truly is a thing of the past – which is major progress. But now, you aren’t sure where to go from here.

This is where the hard work of healing begins. And the first step is to allow yourself to mourn the end of your relationship, to grieve a connection that you didn’t want to lose, to acknowledge the new chapter of your life that has begun. Stuffing down your emotions, while easier in the moment, will keep you from reaching the “other side” of the breakup tunnel. Let yourself experience the emotional reality of your breakup, journal regularly, and consider finding a counselor to walk through the tunnel with you. 

Find Comfort in the People Who Are Still in Your Life

Your ex is no longer in your life, and that’s disorienting, painful, and lonely. You want him to be. You want him there to celebrate you through your highs and care for you through your lows. You want to share the most innocuous details of your day with him. Calling him had become second nature, texting him muscle memory.

The lack of his presence can feel like an enormous void, like a black hole that appeared out of nowhere. But it’s crucial to remember that, while there is an empty space where he used to be, there are other people who are still very much in your life, who want to be there and who value your presence in their lives. Find comfort in these people who’ve chosen to stick by you. Prioritize your relationships with them, and in a few months’ time, you’ll begin to feel that black hole shrinking.

Give It Time (and Be Ready for Different Healing Seasons)

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were an expiration date on the pain of a breakup? If we could be given a guaranteed date by which we’d be completely over it? If all we had to do was watch the timer run out before emerging triumphant?

The thing about healing from a breakup is it’s not linear. There will be days, weeks, or even months when you’d swear you’re mostly over it. And then, something will shift. Maybe you’ll see someone who looks just like him, or maybe a friend of yours will get into a relationship, or maybe you’ll hear through mutuals that he’s seeing someone new. And suddenly, every ounce of peace and happiness you’ve fought for since the breakup vanishes, and you feel like you’re back to square one.

Healing from a breakup often takes far more time than we want it to, and the time that it does take doesn’t all feel the same.

Healing from a breakup often takes far more time than we want it to, and the time that it does take doesn’t all feel the same. Be ready for there to be ebbs and flows, for the pain to relapse every now and then, for each new week to potentially bring about different emotions. Eventually, the discrepancies between these emotions will lessen, as will the frequency of them.

Do Some Self-Reflection

As is the case with any kind of relationship, both of you have your faults, areas to grow, and weaknesses. But now that things are over with him, whatever his shortcomings were don’t matter much anymore. What’s more important to concern yourself with is what yours are, and whether they triggered the breakup at all.

Any time a relationship ends, it’s worth it to do some introspection – not to place all the blame on yourself, but to keep these faults from affecting a future relationship negatively. What were your ex’s reasons for ending things, and did it have anything to do with your behavior? How can you begin to address these weaknesses? 

Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like everything was your fault. Your ex wasn’t perfect, and there were likely many factors going into the breakup aside from any of your shortcomings. But taking the time now to reflect on how you can grow will keep this from becoming a cycle.

Closing Thoughts

Breakups are always rough. And the one you didn’t want? Even worse. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but be prepared for the healing process to take time. Allow yourself to mourn the loss, lean on the people you still have in your life, and reflect on what you’ll do differently the next time you’re in a relationship.

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