The Best Way to Move on After a Breakup

The Best Way to Move on After a BreakupI’m going to start by apologizing. I’m asking you to think about something you probably don’t want to think about.

Breaking up.

Breakups are no fun. Even if you were the one to pull the plug on the relationship, it sucks to go from being a couple to being alone.

And it doesn’t get any better with experience. It’s always miserable.

Because breakups are so unpleasant, most of us take the same approach. We try to get over them as fast as possible. It’s easiest to think about something else, try to meet someone new, or just move on.

Processing the dead relationship is the last thing we want to do.

Unfortunately, moving on too fast means you miss out on something VERY important. That’s especially true during the dark days right after a breakup.

Your girlfriends may want to get you out of the house for a night on the town, or come over with a sad movie and some Ben and Jerry’s, but trust me…

There’s a better way to process your post-breakup pain.

Researchers at Villanova University recently conducted a study all about dealing with the end of a romantic connection.[1] Specifically, they were looking for the best ways to move on.

The simple technique they recommend is easy to do and comes with some pretty big payoffs.

There are tons of ways to process a breakup, but there’s one technique that research has shown to be super effective.

It’s called “redemptive narrative” journaling.

The idea is simple. Write about the relationship, including the breakup, but try to re-frame as much of it as you can in a positive light.

For example, you might focus on things you learned about yourself during the relationship. Or maybe you walked away with a clearer picture of what a healthy relationship looks like. You might also have a better idea of the things you do and don’t want in a partner.

The specifics don’t matter. What matters is finding something positive about the painful experience.

Researchers found that when people were able to do that, it actually lessened the emotional toll.

If journaling is a foreign concept to you, that’s okay. You don’t have to do it all the time to take advantage of this technique. Even one writing session has the potential to help reshape the way you see the breakup.

I won’t lie. It’s not going to make breaking up fun. Nothing will.

But that’s not the point. The point is to keep moving forward, to keep growing, and to go into your next relationship smarter, better prepared, and ready to make it the one that will stick.

If you’re actively dating, breakups are going to happen. That’s how every relationship ends until you find the partner you want to spend your life with.

If breakups are inevitable, why not have a plan for dealing with them?

Use redemptive narrative journaling to work THROUGH breakups instead of just waiting for the bad feelings to pass. This simple technique can help you feel better in the moment, and it will almost certainly make your next relationship better.

[1] Slotter, E. B., and D. E. Ward. “Finding the Silver Lining: The Relative Roles of Redemptive Narratives and Cognitive Reappraisal in Individuals’ Emotional Distress after the End of a Romantic Relationship.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 32.6 (2014): 737-56. Web.


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4 thoughts on “The Best Way to Move on After a Breakup

  1. LA said:

    Wow. This couldn’t be more timely. Thank you, James. Your blog and emails are consistently the best relationship advice I read.

  2. Anette said:

    I just got out of a bad break-up and had to move back to the place I came from.

    I have learned a lot about myself, and men, and why I keep finding the immature types that will cheat to get out of it… At least that’s what I hope for. I’ve been so mad and angry that it’s HARD to get in touch with all the sorrow underneath. Anger is, after all, a shield from the pain.

    But I am really considering things like…
    Why do we need a relationship?
    Why do we move in together if family and kids are not on the agenda? Then why not live apart and get the best of both worlds?
    If we move in together, what is it that drives us? Security? A longing for not feeling alone? Sharing of values or interests?

    We have so many options these years and time, living together does not need to be the first and foremost point at the agenda. Neither does marriage.

    I was sure in the beginning that THIS relationship and THIS man was the one I cound count on to not feel alone again. Turned out I felt more alone than I’d ever been. Still – on the upside, I am not afraid now of being and living alone, because it’s more lonely to always wait on someone than being with yourself and taking care of only you. I thought it would be so scary to be all alone and only me after ten years of living together with two different men.

    But no. It hasn’t been like that. I am really, really enjoying myself. Who’d have thought!

  3. berh said:

    What do you do when your husband does not want to show any intimate gestures? We have been married 46 years. He thinks I had an affair 16 yes ago and now says to to learn to deal with his lack of desire and he does not feel guilty about how he feels. He does not touch me at all not even my hand . Wants to stay living together because he cannot afford to live on his own

    • James Bauer said:

      That’s a very deep question. Feel free to bring it up in our forum (with professional relationship coaches…membership required) or by submitting your question to our private coaching service.

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