6 Ways to Keep Yourself from Going Back

Experience the longing, but stay in the present.

Posted Dec 05, 2014

One moment you’re feeling strong. You’re fine without your ex. More than fine: You look forward to enjoying your freedom and whatever’s coming down the path.

But then, a minute or a day later, there’s that excruciatingly painful, needy, longing feeling of wanting to be back in his or her arms.

The sooner you make it final, the sooner you can heal.

Here are some ideas on staying strong—and staying away—when you’re tempted to get back together:

1. Acknowledge the loss.

You were together for a reason. You had something—a special connection, a shared passion, sense of humor, memories, friends. There’s always a loss when a romantic relationship ends, and it’s appropriate to honor it. Friends or family may tell you, “He was a total jerk,” or “You’re better off without her.” They’re trying to help you feel better by changing your perspective on your former partner. But they aren’t experiencing the loss the way you are. Go ahead and grieve.

2. Ride the waves of grief.

A breakup can be like a death, except more complicated because the person is still alive. What is lost is the bond you shared; the commitment to each other; and the companionship provided by the relationship. It’s perfectly natural to grieve the loss of these things when a relationship comes to an end. Let yourself feel the grief without judgment or self-criticism. Together only a month? It doesn’t matter: Cry it out if you feel like it. There’s no “acceptable standard” of grief; there’s only how you feel, and the self-compassion with which you meet your feelings.  

3. Experience the longing.

It’s the longing for what’s been lost that brings people back together over and over again, even when the relationship is painful. You’re going to experience that longing if you break up; there’s no way around it. And the pull is powerful. But when you know what to expect, you can be ready for it. And when that longing pulls at your heart, and tries to persuade you to send a text or to show up where she works or to leave him a message, you can recognize it for what it is: An urge for soothing. It’s okay to need soothing. You can label it and experience it in your body and soul…and then still not act on it. The need for soothing is there because your heart is hurting. It will pass. All emotions pass in waves. Be patient with yourself and commit to tolerating your feelings rather than acting on them.

4. Be here now.

Anchor yourself in the present moment: Right here, right now, how are things? Are you warm enough? Are you sitting or lying in a comfortable position? Have you had enough to eat? Take a few clarifying breaths. Let your body relax. Hide out here, in this moment, where there’s nothing required of you but to breathe and tolerate whatever emotions or impulses arise. Are you lonely? Let yourself be immersed in the loneliness; it won’t kill you, and if you stay with it you’ll find that it passes. Do you feel uncomfortable in your skin? Would you rather be anywhere but here? Experience those thoughts and feelings, continuing to breathe. You’ll get through this moment, and any emotions that arise will be gone in a minute.

5. Avoid alcohol and other drugs.

Any drug that messes with your judgment could wreak havoc on your breakup. Actions you take when under the influence can send you six steps backwards. Stay sober or have a friend stay by your side to keep you from taking an action you’ll regret—someone committed to keeping you away from your ex.

6. Forgive yourself.

Everybody else may think it's a no-brainer to kick your partner to the curb and move on. You may even agree with them. But no one else has walked in your shoes, experiencing the highs as well as the lows of that relationship. No one else has to give up the dreams you shared with your ex, or feel the cold emptiness that's taken the place of companionship.

Breaking up is never easy, and if you aren't able to do it all at once, that just means you're human. Cut yourself some slack and try again when you're ready. Eventually you'll succeed, and one day you'll look back on this painful time from a happier, more peaceful place.