How do I get over a breakup?

Dear Lisa,

My ex-girlfriend broke up with me more than a year ago and I can’t seem to get over my feelings for her. The breakup was sudden, and it left me wanting to say a lot of things that I never got to have the chance to say, and unfortunately never will because I want to respect her decision to not talk to each other.

I feel like I’ve tried everything, but even after I go on a date with another woman, she’s right back in my mind.

–Thinking of Her (♂ Victoria)


Dear Thinking of Her,

Leaving behind the feelings for a significant relationship is not easy and can make you feel… well, crazy. The urge to beg for second (third… fourth) chances is unbearable sometimes, and it’s easy to fall back into bed with the one you love, even when you know it’s not for good. It’s even harder when there is no chance for reconciliation, because you have no choice but to face your feelings.

Here is the process I recommend (as well as a few resources to motivate you…) that will get you back on your feet and give you some insight to creating a healthier relationship when you’re ready.

  1. Recognize the signs that the relationship wasn’t working: Even if a breakup was sudden or seemingly came out of nowhere, there are almost always signs that something wasn’t quite right. Before you can accept that it is over you need to see the reasons your lover broke it off. Think back to conversations where your partner wasn’t happy; were there recurring themes? Did you fight a lot as a couple? Compete against each other? If you have a chance to talk to your partner, not to try and win them back, but to completely understand the roles you both played in the situation. Consider this information for one week, every day adding to what the other person was feeling.
  2. Make a list of what your partner did to hurt you: This is the hardest part of all, because when you have feelings for someone, saying things to the contrary feels like you are dishonoring them or hurting them. To avoid the pain of this, many people skip this step, and consequently never really see the reality of their breakup. So start at the end, start with what hurt you about the way the breakup happened, about the broken promises, lack of communication, pulling away, confiding in others… whatever. It is okay to intentionally feel the darkness of your feelings and play the victim – you aren’t going to stay here for long! Just two weeks.
  3. Now recognize that your lover wasn’t the one for you: Start with the superficial – that you don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you – and work your way right down to whatever really hurts – that you need someone who can really accept you for being you, or that you want someone who can talk about problems together instead of run from them. This is a good time to create a list of things you need in a relationship, and things that are unacceptable from a partner. Begin now to consider letting go of what could have been, because it’s not and will never be; not only because your ex doesn’t want it, but neither do you when it it comes down to it! Work with this list for two weeks.
  4. Now it’s time to clean up. Radical Forgiveness: It is as important to let go of the pain it feels that the other person caused as it is to leave the feelings for your ex behind. Take your notes, sit down and give this Radical Forgiveness process a try – it has a way of bringing things to a peaceful end.

You might also want to take a gander at a couple of books (written for women, but have helped many a man as well): It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken: The Smart Girl’s Break-Up Buddy by Greg Behrendt & Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt; He’s Just Not That into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys by Greg Behrendt & Liz Tuccillo.

Let me know how it goes,

– Lisa



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