How to move on after a longterm relationship ends

Going through a breakup is tough no matter how long you’ve been together. But when you’ve been in a longterm relationship, the process of rebuilding your life after a longterm relationship, it can really knock you sideways.

The journey back to single life is a big adjustment, and it can take time (and a whole lotta introspection) to get there. So, how should you move on after a longterm relationship ends? In this article, we aim to bare all. 

Photographer: Hayley Bodin

Expect an emotional rollercoaster

The fallout of a longterm relationship ending isn’t rational. One moment you could be feeling great, the next, the mere sight of the silliest thing has you bawling your eyes out. Even if you were the person who ended the relationship, it’s going to take time for you to grieve for the loss of the life you had up until now. 

And we use that word – grief – consciously. Cause that’s exactly what you’re experiencing when a relationship with someone you love breaks down. Be kind to yourself, and allow yourself to go through that mourning process, without any judgement or expectation. 

There is no template for how to get over a breakup, so don’t pressure yourself to feel ‘fine’ within a certain time frame. Rather, just listen to what your body and mind need, one moment at a time. If that’s staying in bed with a tub of ice cream, watching sad movies – that’s totally ok (if it’s not all the time, of course). It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to feel like your world has ended. If you need to take a bit of time out from work, do it. Listen to what you need, and let that be your guide. 

Learn how to be emotionally independent again

When we’re in a longterm relationship, we learn to depend heavily on another person to fulfil a lot of our emotional needs. Scientifically speaking, it’s actually a chemical addiction. So you should expect a withdrawal, as well as a process of relearning how to be independent again.

Emotional independence is learning how to rely on yourself to deal with the things that happen day to day. That can be anything from managing your reaction to a bad day, or figuring out how to change a broken lightbulb. When you no longer have someone else to help you shoulder those burdens, you have to teach yourself to do it alone. 

An effective way to become more emotionally independent is to journal your feelings. Writing our emotions down is scientifically proven to be an effective emotional release, and is very healthy for our overall emotional wellbeing. So, without any judgement of what you put down on the page, grab your pen and write your heart out.

Photographer: Brooke Cagle

Accept your feelings, without judgement

Suppressing feelings in the short term is only going to make them explode to the surface later down the line.

Rather than telling yourself what you should or shouldn’t be feeling, just accept that your emotions are what they are. When you find yourself feeling sad, literally say to yourself “I’m feeling sad right now, and that’s ok. It will pass”. Acknowledging your feelings and allowing them to have space is a healthy way of processing difficult experiences. Future you will thank you for allowing yourself this respect.

Find yourself again

Sometimes in relationships we can lose a bit of ourselves. Some of the things we love to do can be pushed aside as we navigate life as a pair.

In this way, being single again is an opportunity to discover the essence of you. Take that dance class. See you friends. Take up yoga. Whatever it is that you didn’t do – for whatever reason – when you were in a relationship, do them now. 

This is not only great on a personal level, but keeping yourself busy really helps to stop your mind from focusing on difficult or painful thoughts.

Photographer: Jeremy Cai

Learn to love your own company

Picking up the courage to do thing alone can be really scary after a longterm relationship ends. Learning how to be comfortable on your own will be a process, but will make you so much stronger when you get there.

This process of learning to love your own company is about rediscovering your independence, and depending on yourself. So what if you can’t find anyone to go and see that movie with you? You can totally go alone. In fact  – we think solo date nights are one of the greatest acts of self care you can gift yourself.

Over time, the raw wounds you feel as a result of the breakup will turn into barely visible scars. It might not feel like it now, but you’ll come out of this experience stronger than you ever were before. Take it slow, and be patient with yourself. It’s going to be ok.

If you need support coming to terms with a breakup, there are charities that can help. If you’re in US, here is a list of non-profits that can help you with depression and anxiety. Here’s a list of support networks for UK readers. Always reach out if you need help. You’re never alone.