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Your Call – How Do You Get Over Long-Term Heartbreak?

Tue, Aug 10, 2010

Advice, Dear Em & Lo, Your Call

photo by Sara Bjork

When the heartbroken write to us, we usually offer up our patented 10-step program for getting over a breakup. But not even that 99%-guaranteed method sounds like it’ll work on this sad and pathetic soul. Help her out, people!

Dear Em & Lo,

I feel stupid to ask, but how do you get over someone? I had a terrible break-up nearly three years ago (he cheated, I couldn’t bring myself to take him back, he moved on to the next girl, and cheated on her too) and nothing I do seems to help. I gave myself a while to wallow immediately after it, and then gave myself a serious pep talk about getting on with things.

I’ve since tried talking about it and writing about it; I’ve gone on internet dates; I’ve made new friends, tried new hobbies, cut my hair, worked hard at my job, volunteered, exercised, travelled, cried. On one occasion I even lost my temper and shouted at him in public for his bad behaviour (not dignified but definitely justified and sort of cathartic). It’s been so long and I still don’t feel any better.

No one interests me, and none of my friends seem to have ever felt like this for such a long period, or seem to understand how awful I still feel — which makes me feel even lonelier. I think about him every day and still see him around, though I don’t ever speak to him. Friends have suggested I move away, but I love my job and the place where I live — it doesn’t seem fair that I’d have to be the one who moves. I don’t understand what I need to do to get over it. There must be something I’m missing, because I’ve tried so hard and I still feel as bad as I did the day it happened. What am I not doing right?!

– Heart Smoothie

What should “Heart Smoothie” do? Advise her below…

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22 Responses to “Your Call – How Do You Get Over Long-Term Heartbreak?”

  1. Red Says:

    Move town.

    I’m not kidding. I had a hellish break up and after a year the pain hadn’t diminished – so I moved to the other side of the world.

    Out of sight, out of mind and you’ll get a chance to find the part of you that is awesome again. You also get a chance to reinvent yourself, take on a different persona to the one you and your friends are used to. It certainly helped me to pretend to be this more confident woman and before long I realised that I always was a confident, kick ass lady; I didn’t need to pretend.

    I had an awesome job and friends too but my sanity was more important and I saw it as a chance to do all the things that I wasn’t able to because of my relationship. To some it may be a bit extreme, but it was the only way I could guarantee NEVER seeing him again. I returned home after a year away, bumped into him in the street and felt nothing – it was awesome.

    Good luck, what ever path you choose it WILL get better.

  2. Johnny Says:

    Wow, three years… Sounds to me like this guy is just a straw man representing much deeper issues. I mean, you said yourself that you don’t even want to take him back.

    I once spent a long time bummed over a girl who in reality I didn’t want anything to do with. A lady friend called it “pure dick-swinging competition” – the only reason I gave a shit is because she left me for someone else, which hurt my pride. Could there be a touch of that in there? Like, you never got to one-up him, and haven’t let it go?

    The “no one interests me” part also sticks out. You’re not dating actively enough. I don’t care how many dates you’ve been on or with how many people – it’s not enough. If you were putting in the numbers it’s inconceivable that you wouldn’t meet ANYONE interesting in three years.

    Heartbreak sucks, being cheated on sucks… but there’s a statute of limitations as to how long you can blame someone else. He’s not still responsible for your feelings 3 years later. You need to take a good long look at yourself and find out what’s preventing you from moving on.

  3. Seashell Says:

    It sounds like you’ve tried everything (although I agree with Johnny about you trying some more dates). It may be that you’re a bit stuck at some point in the ‘getting over’ process and that can be a symptom of a deeper problem which may be nothing to do with you ex. Maybe consider therapy?

  4. Dave W Says:

    It sounds like she might need a diagnosis in addition to advice.

  5. Tiffany Says:

    Try therapy. She or he will help you move FORWARD. Moving is also a good alternative but it seems as if you will have the same issue after you relocate. Therapy is definitely needed.

  6. Charlie W Says:

    You’re kidding, right? Three years and your still hurting over this guy? Did he take your virginity? Did he hurt your pride? Did he force you to rethink the whole idea of trusting another living soul? Why are you wasting your time on this guy? Was he the end all be all of your existence? Get over it already!!! What’s the big deal? So he cheated!! He lost you!!! You are what is important, and if you have this much energy to worry about some slimeball who cheated maybe you need to put all that energy into finding a nice guy for a weekend of unadulterated “I’m getting Over it” sex and move on already. Don’t move. Show this dude you don’t need him by NOT NEEDING HIM. You are so much better than any of this stuff. Why would you give this guy so much power over your life? get over it already!!!

  7. Lamia Says:

    I can relate a little to what you’re going through. Though, in my case, I was the one that left. My ex abused me emotionally, physically, and sexually. He cheated. He stalked me. I actually found him in my house uninvited, listening in on my phone calls once. Still, even though I was the one that left, the thing was that he did horrible things that left me with serious mental scars. Meanwhile, he’s off having the time of his life. It wasn’t fair… It left me miserable and lonely. It ruled my life.

    But I got over him. I moved to another state, locked up my social sites so he couldn’t keep tabs on me, changed my hair and the way I dressed, made new friends, even changed my damn name. Why? Because the old me, the one who was so damn miserable and couldn’t stop thinking of the injustices of it all, was dead. I was someone new. Someone confident, who loved life, who reclaimed herself. Someone who is now happily engaged and couldn’t care less about my ex or his life. Moving away and making all those changes freed me.

    Now, I know you say you don’t want to move. You’re completely right, Heart Smoothie. You shouldn’t have to and it isn’t fair. Sadly though, like people say: that’s life and life isn’t fair. You like where you live and work, but seeing him everyday isn’t good for you. It is contributing to your pain. At least find a new part of town where you don’t have to see him ever again. Once he’s out of sight and out of mind, your healing will begin a lot faster.

  8. Jennifer Says:

    I agree with therapy and moving. Break ups where I’m not around the person are so much easier.

    I wish you luck. That’s a lot of pain to go through, I hope it gets better soon.

  9. jenny Says:

    hi!! i will tell u a story, a dated a guy for a few months only, but that was 15 yrs ago but all of those yrs i never stop thinking of him…but my life never stop on that…
    what i want to tell you is…dont think the bad things he do to u..just think the good stuff he did when ur still together, then u will start to forgive him…and you can move over girl even his around… coz u wont feel the hate anymore,
    its not love that u still thinking of him its the frustration on how you can beat him…just try to forgive and you will feel relieve…

  10. Molly Says:

    1. Remind yourself of everything terrible about him. This should be easy because you know he was a jerk and he treated you badly.

    2. Keep dating with an open mind. “Nobody interests me” sounds like you’d rather wallow in your misery than move on. This guy does not deserve any more of your energy. Stop thinking about him. More dating. If you don’t like internet dating, go have some one-night-stands (safely, of course) or meet guys anyplace you like. Go to the beach or somewhere where there are half naked guys to drool over. Get your body interested in other people. If you’re still interested in only the jerk who cheated on you, then seek therapy.

    3. Get a friend to help talk you out of thinking about this guy. Whenever you’re thinking about him, call your friend up and have her tell you to knock it the fuck off and move on. Give her permission to yell at you and give you orders like “I want you to go do this thing that will keep your mind on other things”, whatever that activity is for you. Hell, this friend could even be your mother. Mothers are good at this sort of thing, and they usually appreciate extra phone calls.

    4. If you are still in contact with this douchebag, cut it out. Delete him from facebook, don’t accept his calls, texts, and emails, and get him entirely out of your life. Your letter sounds like you might still see him occasionally, which is a bad idea. Stop it. He is a nasty festering wound on your well-being, and thinking about him is like picking at that wound instead of putting a bandage and neosporin on it and forgetting about it.

    5. When you do these “distracting” activities like exercising and volunteering and such, what’s on your mind? If you’re still thinking about the breakup when you’re exercising, stick a podcast or an audiobook in your ear before you go out. You’re defeating the purpose of the “positive distraction” method if you’re not distracted enough. Put something in your ears that keeps your mind from wandering, or get a hobby that absorbs your attention completely.

  11. Pigeon Says:

    Think to yourself seriously about *what* you’re missing with him- company? someone to talk to?
    Because it sounds like you’re missing the idea of him more than the actual person- take some time to enjoy yourself- enjoy that feeling of being single- think of the things you’ll definitely not miss about him- that lack of trust, him being a disgusting flirt etc
    soon you’ll realise that someone else may start to seem attractive to you-the best way to get over someone is to move on
    Take some time to go out with your friends and enjoy their company :)

  12. Lauralita Says:

    I think you need to consider what you would actually expect to happen if you had the opportunity to get back together. I don’t think you’d want that to happen, but just think about it. Would you ever be able to trust him again? Definitely not. Would he bring you any kind of happiness or fulfillment? Nope. Would he really fill some sort of void in your life if he came back into it? Hell no.

    I think the issue here is not being over HIM so much as it is not being over what actually happened (cheating) and how it affected your self-esteem and your self-image. That sort of situation can seriously fuck a girl up, and even if you can recognize that he is, indeed, a total douchebag who is unworthy of your attention, it could very well be the case that you blame yourself in a way– or at least that he altered the way you feel about yourself.

    I was involved in a situation with a MUCH older man who was doing a ridiculous amount of sleeping around behind my back, and when I confronted him about it, he blamed the whole thing on me and manipulated ME into believing I was the source of all of his pain as well as mine. As stupid as it sounds, for awhile there I actually BELIEVED all of that bullshit, when my mind was telling me there was no way I did anything wrong. It took me over a year to truly feel in my heart that I wasn’t at fault and that he was a manipulative pyschopath.

    Enough of that story– my point is that there is much more that needs to be “gotten over” than a guy here. You really have taken major steps to move on, and you should be applauded for that. Moving to another town may help some people, but I think in your case that running away from him isn’t going to solve anything, as he’s no longer the problem. I would talk to a therapist about rebuilding your self-esteem and getting to the heart of the matter. And don’t be ashamed about seeing someone–for your own mental and emotional well-being, you should at least give it a shot.

  13. Karen Says:

    I know exactly how you feel. I had a terrible break up, he was the first guy that i could honestly say i loved and he messed me around so much cheating on me and then trying to get back with me. What made it worse is that he eventually got with my best friend.
    I went on to have a sort of relationship strike, which didn’t help particularly since i had to suffer seeing him nearly everyday, but i forced my feelings into hiding and put up with it, even though i felt like crying for a long time and it crushed my self esteem making me feel i was worthless. my friends seemed to reach the point of not caring as well when it got to over a year…
    This was in uni, so when i got a job away from him, although the feeling of sadness, anger, low self esteem and worthlessness were still there, i found someone who wanted to listen. Getting it all off my chest in a rant uncovered other issues, but once it was out in the open i felt i could be interested in other people again and managed to find a new boyfriend who is perfect for me.

    i think what you need is to really talk to someone. Get it all out of your system. it’s horrible dredging up the memories but a good rant makes you realise exactly how pointless that person is and how important you really are. It was his fault, not yours, and you shouldn’t blame yourself. Maybe you will have the same kind of revelation i did and it will give you a new lease of life to get out there and find a better man.
    Seeing a therapist shouldn’t be seen as a drastic action or as a sign of weakness…it’s just talking to someone new who won’t judge you like friends can sometimes do.

    Good luck!

  14. Autumn Says:

    I think the best thing to do is to go to therapy. I, too, took a long time to get over my first love. I got over him within a year but it has taken a little longer to get over the circumstances of what happened. I went to a therapist and it really helped me to focus on how I was grieving not on him, but on other issues.

    I think making concious choices to do things that move your life forward will help as well, which may include moving. Perhaps you are also suffering from depression? I had several bad things happen at once, including the breakup, and that also means a little longer recovery time.

    Don’t forget that there is no set time limit how long it takes to get over someone. Sometimes it takes a little longer than people will tell you.

  15. Lexi Says:

    It’s okay that it is taking you lots of time to get over your ex. Everyone has different rates at which they finish grieving.

    After a horribly long relationship I was cheated on and dumped. I cried for less then a day. Put on my hottest sultriest dress and headed out for a night on the town. I psyched myself out in the mirror. I told myself I was better then him. And I went on with my life. I have also been accused of not having a heart.

    My best friend broke up with her boyfriend of 6 months, 3 months ago and is still upset about it. Maybe her relationship was deeper, maybe she is more sensitive. Maybe she didn’t feel half as bad about the breakup, but about the other emotions that come with a break up. (did I do something wrong? Am I not pretty? ect.)

    My point is there are a whole slew of things that get thrown into grieving time. Everyone has a uniquely different way of handling things. If you want to be sad, hell be sad. That is your right and hiding emotions only leads to an inevitable break down. One day the sadness will end and you will be able to start living again, but there is nothing you can do to change your emotions right now. You can’t force yourself to be happy, or else nobody would ever cry or get angry, or be jealous. Humans are emotional creatures. Only time can mend our wounds.

    Tips? Every day plan one fun event. It could playing with your dog, getting a mani-pedi, hiking, whatever. Maybe this will help you to find other joys in life that aren’t involving sex and relationships.

    xo lexi (:

  16. Kenita Says:

    I dated a guy for about a hear and a half, well this guy just happened to be married and we worked together. Soo needless to say I totally fell in love with him, I was miserable; I hated everything going to work were he worked seeing him, every single day and then of course seeing his wife whenever we had company parties; after we broke up my life revolved around him still what he did who he did with when he did it,then He started seeing other girls in our office. And I was miserable still dated but I didn’t like anyone I wanted him. My friends were great support team but I know I was driving them as well as myself crazy. One day I was watching tv and The person on the tv said work on what you can change and leave what you can’t change behind; very true I can’t change who he is or what he’s done but I can change how I feel, and instead of trying to sabotage him or get back at him, I’m now friendly to him ammicable. The next day as I was walking into the office he was also walking in, I turned around and said to him and another person Goodmorning; have a good day! It was like a total weight had been lifted off my shoulders I won’t lie he looked at me like oh gosh why is she being nice. But I learned I have nothing to hate him for, in essence he did me a favor. I’m glad he is no longer in my life; his wife has to put up with him and all his cheating, and I could have been in those same shoes. I love myself more and therefor I have to thank him for lying and cheating on me, best thing he could have done. Yes it took me over a 2 yrs to realize All of this. And I cried and I did alot of horrible things to him. But I can’t change that, I now see him still everyday I am ammicable with him; no we aren’t friends but at least I’m not trying to get him fired for everything he does. Thank this moron for leaving you; when you stop hating him, is when you’ll get over him. It’s a blessing he left you; take time one day to say thanks moron and once you do that it will be miraculous. There’s nothing wrong with crying, or being alone, trust me I’m a better person now. And always remember that you need to really love yourself through all of this and remind yourself that you are the only one that can choose what is best for you. You would never want to see your friend or a loved one with such a person as your ex. Or in a situation like the one your in, so why would you want to see yourself with a person like that. And never ever wish him Harm or ill. Don’t think you are broken just because you can’t get over him, it’s normal and you will be just fine sweetie! If you can’t change it then oh well change what you can. :) Take time to love yourself a little bit and you will be just fine!

  17. JLWPGH Says:

    Wow, a lot of great response and positive suggestions (for the most part). You need to get away. Travel, move. Spend some me time away. And do not think or allow yourself to relive, recreate or even visit you past. No pictures, letters anything. Try to move on now. You have had enough time. Put yourself in the shoes of these commentators and look from the outside for the positive advice. When you move on, someone new and move into your heart. They are not there to replace, copy and live as your previous partner. Let ever thing in the relation be new so that you will both have a chance to start something. If not, move on to the next and the next. I wish you luck, love and understanding. Go see the World. Even, if it’s 50 miles away.

  18. Bol Says:

    I am recently divorced. My wife cheated on me. She was the light of my life. I suffer from depression and I am completely alone in this world, no family whatsoever.
    How did I deal with it?
    When I found out she was cheating she fell from the pedestal I had put her in my life. I invested 10 years into the relationship, all of my money, all of my life, all of my hopes, all of my dreams. What did I learn? Cheating was HER decision, not mine, I was faithful, she was not, conclusion? She didn’t deserve what I gave her, I was not guilty, I deserve something better.
    The second thing I did was I forgave her, forgiveness is for you, not your ex, by forgiving your ex you are forgiving yourself for eventually forgetting.
    Finally, with al your heart, leave him, your memories, and your past, to god, ask humbly for his help in carrying him.
    Good luck

  19. DREA MYZ HIP Says:

    Girl the only thing hold you back is you , because that man cheated on you you should have to be the one to change your life to fit his customs. He is just a block in the road telling you he’s in control dont like the devil bring you down god has a special for you everyone gets their heartbroken but only a few climb out the pit of broken heart , because at the end of the day he is not thinking of you or how you guys use to cuddle when he see how you have moved on he will come running then you show him he messed up and missed out

  20. tiffany Says:

    Girl i feel your pain i been a relationship for 10 years and its been Hell i have 4 kids and 2 are by him sometimes i feel like a duck because every time i look around he is cheating and i ask my seft why do i stay i don’t stay because of the kids i stay because i love this man so much but i am learning that i come first and if i don’t take care of me and love me how can i love someone else god put people in your life far a reason some r to stay and some r to go just keep up headup and work on you that what i am doing remember it was only 3 years far you and 10 far me and i am just getting started no one on here can help u only god

  21. John Says:

    Therapy didn’t work for me at all, time didn’t heal any of my wounds, maybe there is something interpersonal I have to address also.. I don’t know, but I do know what heartache feels like… you say 3 years, I have had a broken heart for 28 years and counting. I’m married now, have a family, I have moved out of state, still nothing seems to cure the hurt feelings that seem to come out of nowhere. I’m fine overall with my life, but I believe sometimes the wrong things happen in life, you break up with someone that you should not have (for whatever reason- they cheat, etc…) either way, you cant reverse time or change what happened… worst part is the other person could care a less. Sucks.

  22. ultraviolet Says:

    Yeah, three years is NOTHING. I’m on year twenty and counting. (And for the record, I think the 10-step program advertised on this website is laughable and insulting.) And to those above suggesting therapy, yeah, I’ve tried that too over and over and over again and it doesn’t do any good, and antidepressantants didn’t help either. I don’t want therapy or pills, I don’t fucking want to cut my hair or reinvent myself (I like myself fine, thanks) or travel or date other people, and I shouldn’t have to. I just want my boyfriend back and that’s it.

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