Student sitting in the dark with her phone as it illuminates her face on the couch.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been with someone for a matter of weeks, months or years. The end of a relationship can still leave you feeling uneasy or uncertain about what comes next. Here are a few tips that can help you cope with a breakup and move on in a healthy way.

1. Allow for mixed feelings

Breakups can be messy, especially when it comes to our emotions. Remember that it’s perfectly normal to feel a wide range of emotions, including sadness, resentment, jealousy, regret and relief, to name a few.  

All of these feelings are part of the grieving process, and allowing yourself to experience all of your emotions without judgment can be an important part of the healing process. In fact, avoiding your feelings can sometimes cause them to become more intense, or they may sneak up on you in unexpected ways. It’s also important to keep in mind that distressing feelings will likely go away or become less concerning over time. While you may be in pain now, know that it won’t last forever (even though it may feel that way). 

2. Set healthy boundaries

Knowing what to do after a breakup can be difficult. Setting healthy boundaries with yourself and those around you can help protect your mental and emotional health moving forward. Here are some examples of boundaries you can set after a breakup: 

  • Details. Remember that you’re not obligated to share the details of your relationship or your breakup. If you’re not comfortable discussing the topic with friends or family members, let them know by saying something like, “I appreciate your concern, but I’d be more comfortable not talking about my relationship/breakup right now.” 

  • Contact. Whether you’d like to stay friends with your ex or not, it’s usually helpful to take some time apart from one another following a breakup. Set boundaries with each other by agreeing to a ‘no-contact’ period. This will provide you both with the time and space you need to heal and evaluate how you want to interact moving forward. If your ex contacts you before you’re ready to talk, don’t feel obligated to respond. Similarly, try to respect your ex’s boundaries by not reaching out to them before the ‘no-contact’ period has ended. 

  • Mourning. It’s okay to wonder how your ex is doing, think about your relationship and even imagine a future where it all worked out. It’s also normal to find yourself browsing their Instagram, keeping an eye on their Snapchat or reading through old texts. However, setting boundaries around how you ‘check in’ on an ex can help give you some peace. Schedule time to mourn by setting a timer for 10 minutes in the morning and/or at night to check their social media or texts and just feel bummed. When the time is up, stop scrolling and focus on other activities. After a while, try cutting back your timer to five minutes or two minutes. This method allows you to experience your feelings and satisfy your curiosity without consuming your entire day. 

  • Unexpected encounters. Sometimes there’s no way to avoid an ex. Whether you have classes together, work together or have the same friend group, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for unexpected encounters. If possible, have a conversation about how to handle running into each other. For instance, you might agree to keep conversation to a minimum, wave while walking past or only talk about work or school as needed. 

  • Just friends. If you are working on being friends with an ex, try to set physical and emotional boundaries that help draw the line between just friends and something more. For instance, you may want to set boundaries around cuddling, close contact, spending the night, paying for each other’s meals or being each other’s primary source of support. 

Harmful or abusive behaviors

Intimate partner abuse and dating violence can happen during the course of a relationship or after you break up. It’s important to remember that there is support available if you or someone you know is currently experiencing harmful or abusive behaviors from a significant other or an ex. The Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) offers free and confidential support for students who may be experiencing these types of behaviors. 

Examples of harmful or abusive behaviors include:

  • Trying to control/make all decisions related to the relationship or breakup 
  • Preventing a current/previous partner from socializing, working or hanging out with others 
  • Destroying personal property or threatening pets 
  • Trying to control what the other person does, how they look, who they see or who talk to 
  • Using money to control or trap a current/previous partner 
  • Manipulating a current/previous partner by using threats, insults or guilt 
  • Keeping track of where the other person is at all times 
  • Pushing, shoving, slapping or hitting 
  • Engaging in continuous, unwanted contact in -person and/or online.  
  • Asking for updates or details from family or friends 
  • Spreading rumors about a current/previous partner 

3. Reconnect with those around you

Oftentimes, relationships become our primary source for socializing and support. That’s why it’s important to spend some time after a breakup to reconnect with the people who are closest to you, including friends, family or roommates. Here are some tips to help you tap back into your support network: 

  • Make a point to sit down for lunch or dinner with a close friend to talk about how you’re really doing and feeling. Be sure to ask them about how they’ve been doing as well. 
  • Check in with a parent, sibling or other family member about ways they can support you. 
  • If you haven’t been as involved at home or fulfilling your share of roommate responsibilities, talk to your roommate(s) to minimize potential frustrations or disagreements.  
  • This can also be a good time to reconnect with yourself. Take some time to reflect on who you are outside of your relationships. Jot down a list of things you’re grateful for in life today, hobbies you want to get back to and other sources of joy in your life. 

4. Focus on what you need most

Practicing self-care can feel like a chore when we’re feeling down, but it’s important to make sure your most basic needs are being met, especially after a breakup. Here are a few examples of self-care activities that are worth a try: 

  • Journal. Organize and work through your thoughts and feelings. What was good about today? What was challenging? 

  • Take a shower. Use your private time in the shower to dance and sing, scream, cry or simply relax. 

  • Get outside and move your body. Take a walk around the block, enjoy window shopping or visit a local park to help you get rid of pent-up stress. 

  • Phone a friend. Catch up with people you haven’t seen in a while by texting, calling or asking them to grab a coffee. 

  • Get some sleep. Breakups can be tiring. Ensure you’re getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you feel tired during the day, opt for a 20-minute nap. 

  • Stay hydrated. Try to drink water throughout the day. It's a good idea to carry a reusable water bottle with you for quick and easy refills. 

  • Eat regular meals or snacks. Grief can sometimes make us over- or under-eat. Try to listen to your body’s natural cues related to hunger and fullness throughout the day. 

  • Take small steps. You don’t have to tackle everything at once. Approach new emotions or experiences one step at a time. 

  • Monitor substances. Sometimes, people may try to manage difficult emotions with alcohol or other substances. However, this often just masks deeper issues that need to be addressed and can actually worsen your symptoms over time. 

5. Take some time to reflect (when you’re ready)

Reflecting on your relationship with an ex can help you identify silver linings, learn more about yourself and discover healthy ways to move forward into the future. It’s okay if you’re not quite ready to dive into the details yet, but when you are ready, here are some helpful tips for reflecting.  

Who were you at the start of the relationship? Who are you now?

Relationships can be catalysts for many things in our lives. Take some time to reflect on who you were when you entered the relationship versus who you are now. Here are a few questions that can help you get started.  

  • Did you grow as a person? If yes, how? If not, why?  
  • What did you learn about the way you handle conflicts? 
  • Did you strengthen your communication skills?  
  • What did you learn about the way you navigate romantic relationships? 
  • Are there any habits you want to continue outside of the relationship? 

What are your non-negotiables?

Dating provides us with an opportunity to explore our likes, dislikes and deal-breakers. Think through some of the things that are most important to you in a relationship (e.g., lifestyle choices, time together, similar goals, religious or spiritual beliefs, wanting kids, etc.). 

  • Did you discover deal-breakers you didn’t expect in your last relationship? 

Being aware of these factors can help you know what you’re willing to compromise on and what you’re not. 

Is there anything you’d like to do differently in the future?

Let’s face it, nobody is perfect. While it’s important not to dwell on all the things we wish had done differently, understanding the role we’ve played in relationships can help us learn to approach them differently in the future. Think back on your time with your ex. 

  • Are there things that you did or said that you’re not proud of? 
  • Do you wish you would have handled a situation differently than you did at the time? 
  • How do you want to show up in your future relationships? 

Try to avoid beating yourself up about past mistakes. Instead, use this as an opportunity to accept that mistakes happen in every relationship. Be mindful of how you have approached different situations and how you might be able to do things differently in the future.

6. Reach out for additional support

Breakups can be tough, but you don’t need to go through it alone. Check out these resources for additional support.

Let’s Talk

Meet with a Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) provider during one of their free drop-in hours around campus. Let’s Talk is a great way to speak informally about your situation, gain insight, find support and connect with additional resources on campus.  

Interpersonal support groups

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offers free process therapy groups that emphasize relationships, interpersonal skills, feedback and strategies to help you feel more connected with others. Undergraduate- and graduate-specific groups are available.

Office of Victim Assistance (OVA)

OVA provides free and confidential information, consultations, support, advocacy and short-term trauma counseling services for students, staff and faculty who have experienced or witness a traumatic, disturbing or life-disruptive event. This includes intimate partner abuse, domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault and more. 

International student support

Students who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence may be eligible for U.S. immigration relief through the U visa or VAWA self-petition, regardless of their immigration status. Please speak with an immigration attorney or a non-profit organization that assists immigrants to learn more about the eligibility requirements, application process, and timeline. Learn more about free or low-cost legal immigration services

Student Support and Case Management (SSCM)

SSCM is here to help students identify issues and appropriate resources. They also work collaboratively with students to develop an action plan. This is a great option for those who would like someone to reach out to another student or friend directly for support. 

Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC)

OIEC implements and enforces university policies around sexual assault, intimate partner abuse and stalking, and other forms of sexual misconduct. If you or someone you know at CU has been impacted, reports can be filed online. Anonymously reporting is an option as well. 

Thriving Campus

If you are looking to connect with a local mental health provider in your area, Thriving Campus can help you connect with a variety of providers based on specialization, needs and insurance. 

Don’t Ignore It

Explore your options for seeking confidential support, reporting concerns and learning skills for helping others. If something seems off, it probably is—don't ignore it.