Getting Over a Breakup: The Role of Love, Hate, and Time


Most of us believe that hate is the opposite of love. Is it really? Both are intense emotions. If love captured you before a breakup, hate indicates a continuing strong attachment to that person even after. Put differently, if you are still angry, you are not “over” him or her. You have not let go. You have not moved on.

To continue feeling either love or hate means that the “relationship” is quite alive, even if it is quite different from what it once was. Perhaps you haven’t seen the person or spoken to him in years. He matters to you, even if it isn’t in a good way. He is living inside of you, playing on your emotions, influencing how you think and what you do; an imaginary companion who might not “know” you exist, but who shadows your existence.

As Edgar Rice Burroughs said:

I loved her. I still love her, though I curse her in my sleep, so nearly one are love and hate, the two most powerful and devastating emotions that control man, nations, life.

If you are really “over” someone else, you are (more or less) indifferent. You simply don’t care any more. You don’t spend any significant amount of time thinking about him or her, recalling either the memories of aching beauty or breaking heart-strings. And when something does remind you of the person, at most you might feel a bit wistful, but certainly not depressed or resentful. No, that individual now matters very little.

How do you get there, get over that lost love? Getting angry is a part of the process, just as allowing yourself the sadness of his loss. Talking to friends, or perhaps a therapist is useful, too. They need only listen to you and provide support, not judgment or advice. Don’t expect to heal quickly, but avoid holding on too long, hoping for love’s return. Don’t make comparisons to what others have gone through. One size doesn’t fit all.

Throwing out photos, old letters, and deleting old voice-mail and electronic messages can help. Don’t lacerate yourself by re-reading the same letters and greeting cards forever. Hold a mock-funeral service if you need to.

A quick return to dating usually doesn’t improve things, since some of your lingering emotions can cause you to become involved with your new acquaintance too deeply, too soon, on the rebound. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you will begin to date but won’t permit yourself to get too close. Before you know it you will be back in a new and probably ill-conceived romance.

Don’t resort to alcohol or other temporary fixes that, in the end, can only make it worse. Don’t distract yourself too much, but do try to be active and get on with life.

Beware of bathing in your sadness. The shower of tears is too painful to endure longer than necessary. Remember that others have suffered in just this way. Do, eventually, get off the cross. We need the wood. It gives us something to build with.

You may have to reevaluate your former love. If you still believe that he was a paragon of virtue and perfection, you’re inclined to think of yourself as unworthy of his affections. If, however, you can see him realistically, you are more likely to recognize that perhaps his loss of you was greater than yours of him, even if he isn’t aware of it. Get a ladder and pull the S.O.B. off the pedestal (in your imagination only)!

Don’t expect vindication, one of the rarest commodities in the world. Waiting for your ex to apologize for not realizing your value is like waiting for next Christmas when you are 10-years-old and the calendar reads December 26th.  It almost never happens and when it does, it is much too late. Moreover, a search for the right words or actions to persuade him to change his mind is a fool’s errand. But then, we are all fools in love.

Although time moves slowly, let time be your friend. You need the tears, so fighting them and controlling them can sometimes be counterproductive, slow recovery down. Most of us survive and learn from these losses. Figure out why you chose this person and take care not to make the same mistake again, especially if you are inclined to put all your relationship eggs in one basket, discovering only after the breakup that you have few friendships to provide you with emotional support.

A breakup is like a mini-death. Treat it that way. Don’t isolate yourself. Remember a time when you felt better and believe that, however impossible it seems now, you will eventually feel better again.

As Oscar Wilde said, since “No man is rich enough to buy back his past,” there is only one direction left to go. Onward.

The top image is called Castle on a Hill by Jimmy McIntyre, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by russavia.

11 thoughts on “Getting Over a Breakup: The Role of Love, Hate, and Time

  1. Dr. S, so timely! Just last night, I invited and encouraged a friend to come over because he is going through a divorce. In a follow up email, I told him unequivocally that this will be over eventually. He thanked me and said it helped to know there was a light.

    I am forwarding your blog to him. I am positive it will be most welcome.



  2. “Do, eventually, get off the cross. We need the wood. It gives us something to build with.”

    Loved the way you expressed this. It took time to heal but I did finally let go of my cross after my breakup. I’ve had lots of wood to build a new life with.


    • Thanks, Rosaliene. The expression came to me by way of a colleague, who used the first two sentences as a joke, ending with the phrase “We need the wood.” It wasn’t until I began writing this that I added the final line, to make it helpful rather than something said simply to be clever.


  3. i enjoyed this blog. It comes at a rather odd time. a crossroads of sorts, or maybe not. in any case, the words are well written, and the last quote is one worth pondering!


    • Glad to hear from you, Michelle. I hope that the crossroads allows you a good path forward. I think of you fondly and wish you all the best.


  4. Dr. S, I thought you would appreciate my friend’s email he sent this evening after I forwarded to him your blog:


    “Wow – this was Really good and helpful. Thanks – I appreciate your friendship.



  5. Thanks, Harry, for this and your earlier comment. It sounds like your friend is lucky to have you around.


  6. I think this is a great post, I tend to really enjoy the thoughts of Psychotherapists about love and relationships, they have always been so helpful to me! I am currently reading a book by Wendy Brown, she too is a Psychotherapist and her book is Why Love Succeeds or Fails and it’s been fantastic! I just really love all the ideas on how to get to what you really need in your relationships. Her site is Her blog is great as well, thank you so much for this post, I have forwarded it to some people I think can get help from it as well!


    • Many thanks. I’ll have to look at the blog you recommend. Keep an eye out for my next post. It is about a recent comment I received that took considerable issue with me, unlike your own. Again, thanks for your kind words and for your readership, Cathy.


  7. Reblogged this on Beaver Monitor.


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