15 mistakes that can make a breakup feel even worse — and what to do instead (2023)

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15 mistakes that can make a breakup feel even worse — and what to do instead (1)

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  • Breakups are never easy, but sometimes you might be making things harder on yourself.
  • Things like dating too soon, or not not going no contact with your ex can make the experience drag.
  • Here are 15 mistakes people make when they go through heartbreak.

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Chances are you've been through at least one breakup in your life. Nobody finds them easy, but because of the way we're wired — and our desire for connection — we can fall into traps that make breaking up even more difficult than it has to be.

"Breakups happen for a whole host of reasons," said Jennifer B. Rhodes, a psychologist, dating coach, and founder of Rapport Relationships. "And I think someone's background and experience with relationships in general might dictate their behaviour during the course of a breakup."

Insider spoke to relationship experts about the biggest mistakes people make when they are trying to end their relationships, and how this can have a negative impact them and their future relationships.

All breakups are different, and there are no set rules, but sometimes it's helpful to know what you really shouldn't be doing. Here's what they said:

1. Actively seeking out the other person.

15 mistakes that can make a breakup feel even worse — and what to do instead (2)

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In the immediate aftermath of a breakup, the massive sense of loss is likely to fall down on you pretty hard. Even if ending the relationship was your idea, you might not have realized how lonely it would feel knowing you don't have that person there for you anymore.

This can mean people contact the other person and talk to them, because the habit is so hard to break. Ex-partners might find themselves falling into their old conversations, and even meeting up, because it feels familiar. But this won't do you any favours in the long run, especially if things get physical again.

"I think the biggest mistake people can make is that when you are in pain, to actively seek out and engage the other person," said Rhodes. "You're not really thinking things through, and you're just kind of reacting.

Within that first month of being single, people "might be likely to do something pretty impulsive," she said.

2. Not doing 'no contact.'

15 mistakes that can make a breakup feel even worse — and what to do instead (3)

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This isn't to say exes can't be friends. They can, with enough time, and if both people have strong boundaries. But people are impatient, and this can mean they don't take enough time to reflect and really get over the relationship.

Sometimes people don't have the best intentions either, because they are impulsively reacting to the loss. This can make people behave quite strangely, like breaking into their ex's property, destroying their belongings, or coming up to them uninvited in the street, Rhodes said.

"I always think it's a good idea to just take some time, at least 21 days, to have no contact with the other person to clear your head and get your space, and think about what it is that you really want," she said. "Otherwise you end up escalating a situation and things can be really scary and ridiculous."

3. Getting back out there too soon.

15 mistakes that can make a breakup feel even worse — and what to do instead (4)

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It's not just the relationship you left behind that takes time. If you don't wait long enough before dating again, you'll probably be doing yourself a massive disservice.

"A lot of people, the minute they break up with someone they are back out online again," said Erika Ettin, a dating coach and founder of dating site A Little Nudge. "That's not something I would recommend, because you haven't given it any time to sink in."

If you jump back into the dating scene too soon, you haven't given yourself a chance to learn from the experience, or mourn the end of your relationship.

"You're not mourning a person's life, but you're mourning part of your own life that is now not there," Ettin said. "Too few people take that time to actually get back to the equilibrium of who they are, to heal, or to figure out what they have to offer again, or what they like to do on their own."

So take a deep breath and allow yourself to take that time. People will always be looking to date, so you're not missing out on anyone if you don't re-download Hinge the next day.

4. Thinking dating apps will make you feel better.

15 mistakes that can make a breakup feel even worse — and what to do instead (5)

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We live in a world of instant gratification, which is why it's so tempting to re-download your dating apps as soon as you find yourself single again.

"People like things to happen immediately," said Ettin. "But just like if you cut yourself, it might takes weeks to heal, breaking up with someone is a different kind of cut, or injury. And that takes time to heal too."

It's so easy to make a new profile and find people, and you get a hit of dopamine when you realize someone else has matched with you. This might boost your self-esteem in the short-term, but Ettin said it isn't really the best idea.

"If you break up with someone and you go on Tinder the next day, and you get five people liking you, you feel you still have something to offer," she said. "I say your self esteem should not come from other people liking you — your self esteem should come from within. But unfortunately not everyone practices that."

5. Comparing your own experience to other people's.

15 mistakes that can make a breakup feel even worse — and what to do instead (6)

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Everyone experiences the ups and downs of a relationship differently, and the same goes for breakups. If you feel like you're taking longer to get over your last relationship than your friends did, that's completely normal. Ettin said that, ultimately, you can't compare yourself to anyone else because your experience will be totally different.

"A woman who I was working with the other day had a break up four months ago, she kept saying 'I should be over it by now,' and I said 'You should remove "should" from your vocabulary.'"

"Should compared to who? You can't compare yourself to other people. You don't know other people's motives, or why they do what they do. You don't know anything about their relationship, so there is no should. And after I said that to her, she definitely felt calmer."

6. Asking too many people for advice.

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Similarly, if you get advice from a lot of different people, this can confuse you even further. It's great to have a support network of people who will listen to you, but if they all offer their words of wisdom, you'll probably hear a lot of contradictory ideas.

"Friends will always give advice — usually conflicting advice — and ultimately the only person who knows what you need to do is you," said Ettin. "That same client, the one who said she should be ready, she was getting advice from her brother, her friend, her this and her that, and they were all different."

Ask 10 people the same question and you'll get 10 different answers, Ettin added. "But are any of them correct?"

7. Social-media stalking.

15 mistakes that can make a breakup feel even worse — and what to do instead (8)

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Social media is more or less unavoidable, and your accounts may be littered with memories of your past relationship. As hard as it might be, the most popular advice is to delete your ex, or at least make sure you can't access their profiles easily.

"I think Facebook and social media in general can really trigger anger and grief, so I'm a big fan of restricting access or just unfollowing people if it's a difficult breakup," said Rhodes, the psychologist.

"Just because the constant notifications and reminders can really wreak havoc in your day to day."

When you break up, suddenly you find yourself without the person who was always around. This is hard for your brain to deal with, so it will tempt you into "just checking in" on your ex. Essentially, you're just fueling your brain's need for this person, and you're prolonging the process of getting over them by social media stalking them.

"Don't stalk your ex on social media," said Ettin. "It really depends on the person, but I find it's just easier to unfriend or not make that person as accessible to you, because who has that self-discipline not to look? But if the option isn't there then you're not going to look."

8. Or even worse, a social-media rampage.

15 mistakes that can make a breakup feel even worse — and what to do instead (9)

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You might find you act in a fit of desperation after a breakup, especially if your ex is ignoring you. This can lead people to be frustrated and, frankly, a bit out of control.

Rhodes said one of her male clients went on a Twitter rampage after his girlfriend broke up with him. It was so offensive that it led to repercussions at work.

"I think if you don't trust yourself to lock down your social media you really should have a friend who can control access for the first few days so you don't impulsively do something publicly that will affect your career," Rhodes said.

"When people are angry or they're feeling slighted, in that moment it feels really good to send out an angry Twitter message. And when you're young you don't realize what the repercussions are."

9. Minimizing the breakup.

15 mistakes that can make a breakup feel even worse — and what to do instead (10)

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If the relationship was an abusive one, the time straight after the breakup is the most dangerous for the victim — and this continues for about a year. Rhodes said many domestic-violence victims minimize their risk during that time, because they think the worst is over.

"The abuser sees this as a loss of control," she said. "And many victims are relieved they are no longer in this situation but do not realize the extent to which this person will try to gain control again."

The best thing is to find support and share your story with people you trust, so you are as safe as possible. There are also organizations, like the One Love Foundation, that can offer advice for people in difficult situations.

"Whenever there's any kind of difficulty in a relationship, and a breakup is about to happen, I really think that people have to strategize for the first six months about how they're going to cope with this situation," Rhodes said.

10. Lining up someone new before your old relationship has even ended.

15 mistakes that can make a breakup feel even worse — and what to do instead (11)

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Some people are simply useless at breakups. These are the people who ghost the dates they aren't interested in, or act cold and distant until their partner eventually gives up (known as a "phase out.")

Sometimes they are also codependent, so not only do they not have the courage to break up with someone properly, they also line up someone new before the relationship is even over.

This will make your soon-to-be ex feel pretty bad when they find out, but also doesn't bode well for your new relationship. You won't have given yourself time to get over your ex, so even if the new person is perfect, it's not likely to work out.

"I had a friend who was living with someone, and was about to break up, and she asked me to help her with Tinder. Like, hold your horses," Ettin said.

"You don't have to line the next one up. It happens even in relationships. Don't plan for contingencies. If you're planning for it not to work out, it's not going to work out."

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What makes a breakup worse? ›

Breakups are never easy, but sometimes you might be making things harder on yourself. Things like dating too soon, or not not going no contact with your ex can make the experience drag.

What is the hardest point of breakup? ›

The death of a future you imagined for yourself with your ex, one that you probably imagined together, can be one of the most difficult things to come to terms with after a break-up. It makes your present that much harder to get through (see above). It's OK to mourn and grieve the loss of that future.

What should you not do after a break up? ›

20 Things you should never do right after a breakup
  • Don't contact your ex. ...
  • Don't leave any communication open. ...
  • Don't stalk their social media accounts. ...
  • Don't remain friends on social media. ...
  • Don't ask your mutual friends about your ex. ...
  • Don't stalk and compare yourself to their new partner. ...
  • Don't stop your life.
May 20, 2022

What are 5 things you can do to help get over a breakup? ›

Some things to help you after a break up:
  1. Give yourself some space. ...
  2. Keep busy. ...
  3. Take time out for you. ...
  4. Talk to family, friends, Elders and others who can support you. ...
  5. Try not to use alcohol and other drugs to deal with the pain. ...
  6. Give it time. ...
  7. Try to look after yourself.

What type of breakup hurts the most? ›

Both studies revealed that people felt rejection more acutely when someone else was picked over them than when it was for no one else. This suggests that being left for someone else romantically can be pretty much be an even bigger heartbreak.

Who usually gets over a breakup faster? ›

Some data (such as from self-reported surveys) do suggest that men recover from breakups faster than women, according to Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, a marriage and family therapist and author of the book Fragile Power: Why Having Everything Is Never Enough.

What is the number one cause of breakups? ›

The most common reasons people break up usually involve a lack of emotional intimacy, sexual incompatibility, differences in life goals, and poor communication and conflict resolution skills. There are no wrong or good reasons to break up. However, some things in a relationship are just outrightly unacceptable.

How long after a breakup does it hurt the most? ›

Think of it this way: If your grief is a solid 3.5 after a breakup, assuming you follow the average pattern, you can expect to feel better each week and only about half as bad after six months—a longer time than you perhaps want or expect, but not a permanent state of affairs.

Who hurts worse in a breakup? ›

Women experience more emotional pain following a breakup than men, researchers have found. They reported higher levels of both physical and emotional pain.

What is the 30 day rule after breakup? ›

One effective approach is the 'No-Contact Rule' for returning to your Ex. This strategy refers to entirely cutting off your communication, detaching yourself from that toxic member of your life and moving on from your ex following the breakup. Usually, the no-contact period must extend for at least 30-60 days.

How do you fill the void after a breakup? ›

Here's a short list of some practical ways to deal with feeling empty after breakup:
  1. Take a walk and admire the beauty of the day.
  2. Watch your favorite movie or TV show.
  3. Read a good book while drinking a favorite beverage.
  4. Spend time with family or friends who support you.
  5. Pray and/or tap into your spiritual side.
Aug 24, 2018

What are the 5 stages of breakup? ›

They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, according to Mental-Health-Matters. These are the natural ways for your heart to heal.

What heals a breakup? ›

Talk it out: Talking about the breakup can facilitate healing as it helps you gain perspective and develop a sense of clarity about what's happened. Reclaim yourself: Take time to remember who you are outside of a relationship. Think about the parts of yourself you may have ignored and nurture them.

What is the power of silence after a break up? ›

There is no easy way to deal with a breakup, but remaining silent actually speaks volumes to your ex. After all, actions speak louder than words! By staying silent, you're telling your ex that you're strong, resilient, and independent. You're relying on yourself — and no one else — for your own happiness.

What is the best therapy for a breakup? ›

Therapies used after a Relationship Breakup

Today, there are several therapies that professional counselors use after a client experiences a relationship breakup. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) are some of the most widely used types of therapies worldwide.

What are the signs of a bad breakup? ›

feeling sad, empty, or hopeless for most of the day nearly every day. loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. weight loss and loss of appetite, or increase of appetite and weight gain. sleeping either too little or too much.

What is the #1 reason for breakups? ›

Reasons to end a relationship often center around infidelity and broken trust. Relationship breakup statistics in the Journal of Marriage and Divorce report that 70% of Americans will engage in some form of infidelity at some point during their marriage.

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