LIFE

How To Get Over Your Ex (For Good This Time)

It *IS* possible.

13/09/2017 7:25 PM AEST | Updated 13/09/2017 7:25 PM AEST
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As the song goes, breaking up is hard to do.

If you're lucky enough to have never had your heart broken, no doubt you know someone who has.

And, if you're a good friend (and we'll just go ahead and assume you are), chances are you've had many, many conversations about the breakup, for many, many months. Maybe to the point where you're wondering, 'how is it possible we are still talking about this person?'

Fact of the matter is, break ups are hard. Particularly if it was from a long-term intimate relationship.

So if you feel like you've had your heart smashed to itty bitty pieces, and can't stop thinking about the person who did it, why they did it, how they did it, and what they are doing right this minute... this article is for you.

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Coping with the break up

Your grief is normal

First of all, know that it's not wrong to be upset. In fact, it's totally normal.

"It can be a huge deal. I think sometimes we forget exactly what happens when we form an intimate relationship -- and I'm not talking about causal friends with benefits here -- but a serious intimate relationship," Matt Garrett from Relationships Australia tells HuffPost Australia.

"It's the only other exclusive relationship we have where the stakes around commitment are incredibly high apart from our family.

"In many cases, couples go onto marry or have children together and then you are creating your own family. I think it's important to bear those things in mind when we encounter people who do really struggle after a relationship ends."

There's no 'right' way to heal

"The other thing is there is no set time or set way that people do get over it," Garrett continued. "It is going to be a highly individualistic experience. An outsider might think 'come on, it's been six months' but in reality it could take a god couple of years before someone transitions out the that relationship emotionally."

Garrett also pointed out how the relationship ended will probably have some bearing on how you react to the split.

"If there is an affair or if it comes out of the blue in some way, then there's shock," he said. "People go into denial.

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This reaction? It's totally normal.

"There's anger. There are long periods of feeling quite depressed, there could be symptoms of depression.

"And what many people don't realise is those emotions can go around and around. It could take six to 12 months of working through them, going around and round, and that in itself can be quite upsetting for people. They might be thinking, 'why am I still feeling like this'?"

Only date when you're ready

While it might be tempting to 'jump back on the horse' (and no doubt that's what your friends are recommending), Garrett says it's very rarely a good idea.

"What I have noticed in the work we do, some people try to fix a relationship breakup by jumping back into the dating scene," he said.

If there's that little voice deep down inside saying 'you're not ready', don't ignore it. To be fair to yourself and other people, give yourself time.

"In my experience it is not helpful. It could leave you quite vulnerable. you need to allow yourself to heal. By all means go out and be social and mingle but I would give it some time before heading out into the dating scene.

"For some people, that might be difficult, especially if you are out and someone is trying to come onto you, it's very much a stroking of the ego, and after a break up that can be very tempting, especially if you are feeling particularity bruised.

"But in my opinion, if there's that little voice deep down inside saying 'you're not ready', don't ignore it. To be fair to yourself and other people, give yourself time."

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Flirting might feel good, but if you're not ready, it's not fair to either of you.

How to move on

Reconnect with friends and family

Did your relationship see you disappear into a bit of a love bubble from which you rarely emerged? It happens. But now's the time to reconnect with those people you put on the back burner -- and this is an important bit -- with the knowledge and understanding that you're not to disappear again once the next love interest comes along.

"It takes two to break up, so partly the recovery process is a way of exploring what you did in the relationship that perhaps you wouldn't do again," Garrett said. "Very often this is the realisation you spent too much time with your partner and neglected your friends and family.

"In terms of reconnecting, you can certainly try. Hopefully with some wisdom in that next time a pretty face comes along, next time you're not going to give them up in the same way. Hopefully ending a relationship allows us to grow and develop as individuals and learn."

Do things just for you

Just like you may have put friends and family further down your priority list, often individual things you personally enjoy -- a sport or pastime, for example -- can be neglected if your partner wasn't a fan.

They weren't into tennis? Now's the time to exhume your racket.

"This is an excellent time to pursue some of the things the relationship didn't allow you to, for whatever reason," Garrett said. "It's a good way to get back in touch with who you are as a person.

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She wasn't a fan of hiking? Dust off your boots.

"I think we can forget how much we give of ourselves to a relationship," Garrett continued. "A colleague once told me, 'you have to think about it this way, when you join with someone in an intimate relationship, be prepared to give 50 percent of yourself to them'.

"I think they were being slightly offhand with the comment, but I do think it's a good way to think about it.

"It's entirely possible you neglected some of your hobbies and interest to pursue the relationship and I think if you can get back into them, that's great."

Stay off social media

This just might be the hardest tip of all. What is social media for if not for stalking your ex? (Lots and lots of much healthier things, but you get what we mean.)

"If you can, resist trawling Facebook to see what your ex and their circle of friends are up to," Garrett advised. "That's tough, I know, but it just doesn't do anyone any good."

Instead...

Seek out forums or online discussion groups

"What social media and the internet can let us do, which actually is helpful, is connect us to online discussion groups and forums you can join," Garrett said.

"There is loads on the internet to just inform you about the processes. Get informed, become educated about your situation, and reach out to others who may be in a similar situation. Of course you have to be careful there you don't join a hate site and get embroiled in that, but there is support out there."

And if that doesn't help?

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Know that one day, you WILL feel better.

Get support

While talking to your friends and family is important -- nay, essential -- if you find their advice isn't helping ('you were soooo much better than then anyway!') and you're still struggling to cope, it might be time to talk to a professional.

"If your emotions are too intense, I think it's essential that you seek help," Garrett said. "Often counselors can be better than friends, who may come from a place of 'I told you he was a loser' and so can actually be quite be unhelpful in trying to be helpful.

"And if you are experiencing symptoms like sleeplessness, loss of appetite, general malaise, not being interesting in life, wanting to isolate yourself -- particularly for a long period of time -- then I think an outside professional could really assist."

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