A breakup or divorce can turn you into a lonely mess. Everything that once held so much meaning and gave you so much joy is gone in an instant. You blink and her bags are packed, your car sits alone in the driveway, and there’s an empty space in the bed beside you. A cold, desolate, empty space.
You feel hopeless, abandoned and lost.
You’re marooned on an island of despair, left to fend for yourself in a land that seems impossible to face alone. As the days go by, you begin to wonder if relief will ever come–perhaps there is no escape from this soul-sucking misery.
You spend countless hours reminiscing about your time with her, your self-confidence declines, and after some time, this breakup becomes much more of a serious issue.
You get the picture: breakups and divorces are some of the toughest things men can go through.
That said, understanding the complexity of your post-breakup or divorce emotions, and knowing what to do and what not to, can help you handle loneliness in a healthy way and lessen the negative effects of a breakup. In this article, that is exactly what we will seek to do.
While there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution to loneliness after a breakup or divorce, after years as a men’s coach dealing with hundreds of lonely men, I know what works and what doesn’t when taming the beast of loneliness.
Why are you feeling lonely?
Loneliness is a complex emotion. To even begin to overcome it, you must first understand it.
So, why are you lonely? What form of loneliness are you dealing with?
When you break up or divorce, you are essentially losing someone you value (or once valued) very highly.
Psychologists compare the pain of a breakup with that of mourning the death of a loved one. While the circumstances are obviously vastly different, the resultant emotional effect on the brain is shockingly similar.
You regret things you did or how you treated them when they were around. You feel isolated and alone–their absence is a hole in your chest and nothing seems to fill it. You feel hopeless when you picture a future without them.
For many, it is the mere lack of a familiar human presence that drives them crazy. When we spend enough time with another person, we forget what life is like without them and when they depart, they leave a void behind.
For others, it is more of an emotional overdependence. When you’re close enough to someone, you often learn to depend on them in all sorts of unhealthy ways. You’re value and self-esteem rely entirely on their view of you.
When you separate and you no longer have this validating force in your life, your view of your own importance plummets.
Ways to Overcome Loneliness After a Breakup or Divorce
It’s virtually impossible to not feel lonely after a breakup or divorce. This shouldn’t be your aim. The truth is, virtually every relationship breakup leads to a degree of loneliness–even in abusive relationships.
Rather than looking at how to avoid loneliness altogether, you should be looking to overcome it.
If you came to this article thinking to find the cure for loneliness, I’m sorry to disappoint you… there is no cure.
Overcoming loneliness, like any physical ailment, requires a healing process. The best you can do is give your wound the best treatment possible and sit back and let it heal.
Will the pain disappear when the bandage is applied? Of course not.
The truth is, losing anything that you once considered valuable is painful. There is no way to avoid this pain, only to hasten the healing process.
Overcoming loneliness is a process. Like any process, it includes multiple steps and multiple factors.
Below, in no particular order, are seven keys to beating loneliness.
1. Connect with loved ones and improve your existing relationships
A breakup sweeps your feet out from under you. The foundation you had depended on for so long crumbles away and you must find a new means of support.
Connecting (or reconnecting) with loved ones is one of the best ways to stop feeling lonely after a breakup and find this support.
Friends, family, mentors–these people who know you best are often the key to avoiding depression, reflecting and recognizing emotions, and finding ways to feel happier once more.
Even just sharing with someone close to you exactly what happened between you and your ex-partner and explaining why you feel sad and how you hope to progress can help you get past feelings of loneliness.
Recognizing the exact times or situations you tend to feel lonely and having someone you can reach out to in these times can be a massive game-changer.
2. Force yourself to be social
For most people, a breakup means you retreat into your hole. You give the world the middle finger and nestle in with your broken heart and self-pity.
While this is indeed the natural reaction to such a painful experience, it is not the most healthy reaction to heartbreak.
Instead, you must force yourself to be social.
Here are some ways to do that:
- Accept all invitations (even if you don’t feel like it): The rule of thumb is to accept all invitations, give yourself at least an hour, and then you’re welcome to leave if you aren’t happy. At least give it a chance.
- Make a point to meet like-minded people: Put yourself in environments that put you around people who will build you up in this dark time, not tear you down.
- Join activity groups (rock-climbing, yoga, chess): While loved ones are often the most helpful during such hard times, sometimes meeting people who don’t know you and your situation can be unexpectedly beneficial.
3. Volunteer to help you restore perspective and keep yourself busy
While volunteering is just another method of forcing yourself to be social, it deserves a heading of its own because of just how important it can be.
Like any personal struggle in life, what makes a breakup so overwhelming and indeed painful is that it is the only thing your mind will focus on.
When someone who was once the centerpiece of our existence is gone, we make their absence the new centerpiece. This makes the pain of their absence equal to the joy of their presence.
Volunteering (especially with those in worse situations than you) restores perspective to your oh-so-miserable life and can be a huge step in your healing journey.
Use your free time investing in others’ lives and you may just realize life isn’t so bad.
Sometimes taking care of others is the best way to take care of yourself.
4. Do things you haven’t done in a while
When you enter a relationship, your lifestyle changes drastically. Your friends don’t see you quite as often, your hobbies take a backseat, and you spend time in completely different ways.
Take your breakup as an invitation to rediscover things that once made you happy.
Catch up with your old hiking buddies and start hiking again. Lace up the old basketball shoes and start playing pickup again. Start reading again.
Sometimes breakups come with hidden blessings.
5. Get off of social media
Everyone knows that social media can be a dangerous force in anyone’s life. But during breakups, its negative effects can really intensify.
Getting off of social media, even deleting it, can be a really smart move to avoid obsessing over your ex, destroying your self-confidence, and perpetuating these feelings of loneliness.
Otherwise, you can spend hours staring at pictures of her, reminiscing, and kicking yourself for all the things you did wrong.
6. Get a routine and build yourself
One of the hardest parts of getting over a breakup is the disruption of a routine you had gotten used to with a person you loved.
Developing a routine for yourself after a difficult breakup can save your life from spiraling out of control.
Here is what I mean by a routine:
- Waking up: don’t let yourself lounge around in bed in the morning. Set an alarm for early morning and don’t you dare hit that snooze button!
- Friends/Loved ones: have time with your friends and loved ones scheduled regularly throughout your week.
- Exercise: unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that exercise and movement release endorphins that reduce your perception of pain. Make your breakup body better than your dating body!
- Meals: don’t skip them. Sad or not, your body needs fuel!
7. Be sad but don’t let yourself float in misery
I chose to put this one after the others for a reason. While the previous six are extremely important, you must understand that grieving is necessary.
A breakup is a difficult thing and allowing yourself the time to deal with these feelings of loneliness and move past them is a necessary part of the process.
Perhaps even worse than letting yourself feel lonely for too long is plastering a fake smile on your face and not mourning at all.
Your job is to find healthy ways to manage this sadness and not let yourself float in this lake of misery for too long.
8. Seek professional help
A breakup is a difficult thing to get through alone, but there are people out there trained specifically to help people in your situation.
Having a therapist or counselor who can walk you through your emotions and help you process this tough time in your life can be life-changing.
Here at Knowledge For Men, we have a dozen coaches specifically trained to help men get back on their feet after tough breakups. Join our program today!
9. Do not retreat into yourself
It’s the most natural response to trauma, but the most harmful nonetheless.
When we feel lonely, most of us tuck our little heads into our shells and bid the world “adieu” for a while. Don’t do this!
Trust me because I speak from experience. The best way to prolong the healing process is to let yourself sink and drown in your pool of self-pity and “should’ves” and “if only’s.”
Feeling sad is natural, but staying sad becomes a choice after a while.
And besides, there’s no better way to ruin your chances at new relationships than to let your social skills deteriorate and to stay away from people.
10. Don’t rush into building new relationships
Getting back into the field or back on the market soon after a breakup is usually a way to cover up the pain.
It’s a bandaid hastily thrown over an open wound with no purpose beyond providing a distraction or a coverup for the loneliness and hurt.
While you need to start seeing people again eventually, you must let yourself heal first.
Our advice: stay away from one-night stands, stay away from dating apps, and stay far away from rebound relationships.
While it may feel good or right at the time, the long-term effects are never pretty.
11. Start self-love and avoid self-destructive behavior
You’re often at your weakest and most vulnerable after a breakup. Avoiding self-destructive behaviors is extremely important when trying to wade through the swamps of loneliness as efficiently as possible.
Here is what I mean by self-destructive behavior:
- Poor sleep: the value of sleep cannot be overstated. Dwelling on your ex and your current misery and sacrificing sleep can be costly to your mental health and prolong the healing process unnecessarily.
- Unhealthy food: oftentimes, post-breakup diets are some of the worst. Our minds think “I’m sad, let me eat foods that make me happy.” This can be dangerous to your physical and mental health. Junk food and sporadic eating schedules stress our bodies and tax our minds, ultimately adding to our worn-out state.
- Little to no exercise: this should be decently self-explanatory. Our minds are happiest when our bodies are functioning at their best. Letting exercise drop off and your fitness decline has as much an impact on your mental health as it does on your physical health.
- Binging TV: When we feel lonely and miserable, our brain tells us to relax and do nothing. This is exactly the opposite of what is most healthy for your recovery process. Get out of your home and get out of your head. Get away from your T.V. and get off your bed. It rhymes, remember it.
The most helpful thing to me when I was going through the worst breakup of my life was the reassurance that millions of men had gone through the same thing and ended up okay.
When you feel this suffocating loneliness take hold of you, it is easy to feel like there is no hope left in the world–like you somehow screwed up worse than anyone before you ever have and the remainder of your life will be a miserable mire of regret and failure.
If you do feel this way, trust me, you’ll be okay. This won’t last forever–I’ve been there myself and I got through it just like you will.
If you do want help on this strenuous journey, we have coaches trained specifically to help men like you. Coaches who have been through breakups of their own (awful, terrible breakups just like yours) and are equipped to help you heal and move forward as soon as possible.
After hundreds of stories and even more lessons learned the hard way, we have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the recovery process of a difficult breakup. Loneliness can be a beast, but all beasts can be tamed.