How to Deal With Heartbreak and Move On

Updated October 19, 2018

The poet Alfred Lord Tennyson famously wrote that "it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," but that's small comfort when you're dealing with heartbreak. How do you get over someone who betrayed you, left you, or just didn't love you as much as you wanted?

Facing the "Why?"

When a relationship ends, one person is usually left asking "Why?" Why did my partner behave so badly? Why didn't he or she appreciate the nice things I did? What's wrong with her? What's wrong with me? It's rare that you'll get a straight answer to these questions. Often, the other person will refuse to talk about it. If they do respond, they may lie to spare your feelings or to make themselves look good. If your former partner is honest, you can use what they say to begin to work through your feelings. Otherwise, you'll need to begin the healing on your own.

There can be any number of reasons why a person breaks another person's heart. It may be that:

  • They don't share your strong feelings.
  • They aren't ready to settle down.
  • They're selfish.
  • They're confused.
  • They're simply a better match for someone else.

"Why" May Not Matter

The truth is getting over heartbreak is more about you than about them. Finding a strong, loving relationship begins with feeling good about who you are. And that includes accepting the fact that not everyone will love you. Here are some ways of thinking that may help you on the road to recovery.

  • It's possible you weren't right for each other.
  • You deserve someone who will love you without reservation.
  • You deserve someone who would never break your heart.

Signs of Heartbreak

Some relationships are easier to end than others. Heartbreak isn't an inevitable result of every single breakup. How do you know if you're experiencing heartbreak or simply feeling a little sad and nostalgic about your relationship? Surprisingly, heartbreak can have both physical and emotional effects on the body.

Physical Signs of Heartbreak

If the stress of heartbreak is profound, the body can react with a lower immune system and, as a result, a propensity toward illness. Low energy, excess sleeping, and even diarrhea and vomiting can be a result of the heartbreak since stress can throw the body's balance out of whack.

Emotional Signs of Heartbreak

Heartbreak doesn't always present as weeping and sadness. Numbness, ambivalence, or agitation may be signs that you're not properly dealing with your heartbreak. If you feel as if your emotions are affecting your life negatively as a result of the breakup, it may be time to speak with a licensed mental health care professional who will help you work out your feelings so you can properly heal.

Moving On

woman taping broken paper heart

For many people, the best way to deal with heartbreak is to say "This just wasn't the right person for me." To keep your mind off your troubles, stay busy. Life has to go on if you're going to recover from a broken heart; wallowing in your heartbreak isn't a solution.

Stay Busy

Take up a new hobby. Join a knitting circle, look for a workout group, start a book club. Now that you have extra time (time you would have spent with your partner) you can pursue something you always wished you had time for. Who knows - the breakup may be what prompts your pursuit of a lifelong passion.


Spend time with friends. Don't sit at home and mope, and don't give in to loneliness. Make plans, go out, and try to have fun. It may feel bittersweet to see other couples enjoying time together, but you have to realize that your breakup isn't the end of the world for everyone. Things move forward, and so should you.

Get in Shape

Exercise is proven to improve mood and even help with mild depression. Plus, it helps you look good. Group fitness classes or workout groups can also be a great way to meet new people, helping you socialize more.

Clean Out Old Memories

Spend an afternoon getting rid of things that remind you of the relationship. If you can't bear to part with photos and keepsakes, put them in a box and tuck them away in a closet-or better yet, store them with a friend.

Take Your Time

You may not want to date again until the pain of heartbreak has eased. Waiting can help you avoid getting into another relationship with someone who isn't right for you. Waiting also gives you time to tackle any deep-seated issues, such as self-esteem or anger management, so you're in better shape for your next relationship.

Looking for a Pattern

If heartbreak is something that happens to you regularly, however, you may need to look harder at why your breakups happen. In this case, asking "why" can be helpful, even if you're only answering yourself. Here are some patterns to look for in the people you're dating. If your dates show these behaviors, you're choosing partners who aren't good for you.

  • Lying
  • Cheating
  • Taking financial advantage
  • Controlling your actions or choices
  • Using physical violence
  • Insulting you
  • Never saying "I love you" - or saying it, but then acting like it isn't true

Sometimes, it's your own behavior that pushes people away. Check your own actions to see if you:

  • Take advantage (emotionally, financially, or otherwise) of people you date
  • Criticize your partner often, or fail to praise him or her when good things happen
  • Behave selfishly with your own time or money
  • Always act negatively or constantly complain
  • Fail to listen to your partner
  • Act abusive, either physically or emotionally

When Heartbreak Is Really a Problem

Heartbreak almost always has a time limit. In a few weeks, or months, or years, you'll be able to look back at the relationship with clearer eyes. You might feel regret, anger, or sadness, but it won't feel like your heart is torn.

Every now and then, though, heartbreak becomes a serious problem. Signs that you're getting into trouble include:

  • Using alcohol or drugs to ease your pain.
  • Feeling so sad that you can't get out of bed or can't do your job.
  • Feeling so hopeless that you're considering suicide.

These are all reasons to see your doctor, who may recommend some sessions with a therapist to help you get back on your feet. If you're feeling bad enough to hurt yourself, get help right away. The phone number for the U.S. National Suicide Prevention hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). You can also get help in an emergency by calling 911 or going to your local emergency room.

Heartbreak Heals

The further in time you get away from the heartbreak, the better you will feel. Relationships end for a reason, yet sometimes you can't understand the reason until you've had some time to properly reflect. Think of heartbreak as a necessary step in becoming the best version of you.

How to Deal With Heartbreak and Move On