How to Really "Win" a Breakup, According to a Relationship Expert

Step one: Just stop looking at their Instagram feed.

A couple with their arms around each other outside and taking a selfie
Photo: Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images


My ex and I have been broken up for a few months and I am losing it. He is living his best life. His Instagram stories are filled with hot girls and cool events. I feel like I've "lost" the breakup. I know I shouldn't care. And I feel really lame that I do. How do I turn this around and get In a better headspace? —Breakup Loser


We always lose when we compare our insides to our ex's outside, namely his Instagram feed. You are only seeing a carefully curated story — most likely intended to make him look like he is living large for your benefit! You are torturing yourself by looking, even though we all do it. In fact, according to a recent Squarespace survey in partnership with The Harris Pool, at least once a week, 1 in 5 Americans (20%) look up their exes online. For Millenials, that number jumps to 40%. Social media allows us to stalk from afar which only feeds the obsession and prevents healing.

After the vulnerability and rejection that most breakups involve, it is human nature to want to prove to our exes (and anyone else that will look at our social media page) that we are fabulous and desirable. Our egos are bruised. But revenge sex generally backfires and those big parties tend to make us feel more isolated and alone.

So despite our desire to "win" the breakup, keeping score will only ever leave you feeling like a loser because no one wins when people are hurt and relationships end. It is pretty simple: You need to take the focus off your ex and allow yourself you grieve the loss of the relationship and the partner. There are no shortcuts. You need to do this in order to truly move on — and ultimately attract a better partner and build a healthier relationship in the future.

So, without further ado, here are 10 ways to "win" the break-up game.

1. Avoid all contact.

This is my least popular therapeutic intervention. I know, he is your best friend. You share a dog. You forgot your grandmother's antique broach she gave you on her death bed at his house. She forgot her medication at your house. She has an important presentation at work and can't succeed without your help. I have heard it all before. The bottom line is that in order to get over your ex, which you need to do to "win," you have to let go. The single most important step in your development at this point in the process is letting go. Every time you talk, text, FaceTime, DM, Skype, Zoom, send smoke signals or carrier pigeons, you tear off the scab and start bleeding again. You must let it heal and the best way to do that is no contact.

2. Don't compare your insides to their outsides.

Stop checking their social media. All you are going to see are superficial pictures that won't really tell you what is going in emotionally. Lots of people act out by partying, sleeping around, and doing things that look like fabulous fun, but a lot of the time they are just masking the pain. You can drive yourself crazy doing a deep dive analysis with your bestie looking at the woman sitting next time to him at the party he posted. This is wasted energy that should be spent bettering yourself.

3. Stop running from the pain.

Don't be the one that acts out with food, sex, drugs, or alcohol. Instead, let yourself feel the pain. We don't get to go around the pain, we must go through it. Don't postpone it, just dive right in. The sooner you let yourself grieve the loss, the sooner you will be over it. Embrace the pain. Get therapy (if the fee is a concern, check out local mental health clinics or utilize hotlines). Read books about grief and loss, breakups, divorce, and how your childhood impacts your relationship choices.

4. Have a glow-up.

I am not suggesting you go on a crazy diet or get plastic surgery, but what I do encourage is that you get devoted to yourself care. Get a good skincare regimen. Find a form of gentle exercise you enjoy. Start meditating. Get some sun. Take the time to up your self-care game.

5. Forgive yourself.

Once we are out of a relationship, we tend to beat ourselves up about it. Sometimes we obsess about the things we might have said or done wrong. Other times we are angry at ourselves for putting up with the crap we shouldn't have tolerated, or we criticize ourselves for not seeing something that was hidden from us. Beating yourself up about these things doesn't help you heal. It will only keep you stuck.

6. Take a self-inventory.

With the exception of domestic violence situations, most relationship conflicts are a fifty-fifty dance. It may look like one person is the "good guy" and one is the "bad guy" but typically it is more complicated than that. We participate in the unhealthy systems we help create. It takes enormous strength and maturity to ask yourself, "What were my contributions to the unhealthy system? What could I have done better?" If you don't self-reflect, you are likely to pick the same kinds of partners and continue to do the same harmful behaviors in your future relationships. Take the time to do this work so you can stop unhealthy relationship patterns and pick better next time.

7. Let go of your anger.

Notice that I didn't say you need to forgive your partner. It may be too soon to forgive or, maybe, something they did was unforgivable. Either way, holding on to the anger will only hurt you. You can acknowledge that something terrible was done to you, if that was the case, and work on letting go. This does not give the other person a free pass, but it does free you to move on.

8. Find yourself.

So often we lose ourselves in a relationship. We lose our identity. We become too busy to take a class, pursue a hobby we love, spend time with friends, or take on a big project. If you feel that you lost your identity, now is the time to find it, create it, or reinvent yourself. Take the time to get to know yourself. Date yourself. Court yourself. Ask yourself questions you have never asked. The more you know and understand yourself, the more likely you are to attract the right person and also to love yourself. When you love yourself, you enjoy your own company which makes you less likely to settle for a relationship that isn't in your best interest.

9. Chase your passion.

Pursue the things that set your soul on fire. And, if you don't know what that is, take the time to find out. Your ex can't be your reason for getting out of bed in the morning (and neither can your next S.O.). Find things that excite you, get your creative juices flowing, and bring you joy.

10. Learn from your mistakes.

Beating yourself up for your mistakes (and we all make them) doesn't help you. Learning from them does. What did you learn from this relationship that can help you grow and be a better partner to your next love? This is how we evolve and become better pickers and partners.

Take the time to self-reflect, learn and grow. The only time we lose the breakup game is when we don't learn from our relationships. Use what you had with this person as a springboard to jump off of and grow from.

In Hump Day, award-winning psychotherapist and TV host Dr. Jenn Mann answers your sex and relationship questions — unjudged and unfiltered.

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