“I recently broke up with my girlfriend. We lived together for four years. Now that she’s moved out, I feel so lonely. I don’t have many friends to talk to, and I’m finding it difficult to cope.”
When your relationship ends, it might feel like you don’t have anyone to spend time with or confide in, particularly if you live alone. In this article, you’ll learn how to deal with loneliness after a breakup.
If you have a friend you can trust, reach out for help. Research shows that support from friends can help you adjust to single life.
It can help to be clear about what you need from friends. You might want someone to listen to you talk about your breakup, or you might want to hang out with your friends and do something fun to take your mind off your ex.
It’s OK to be very direct. For example:
- “I’m feeling lonely. I’d really appreciate a listening ear if you can spare half an hour?”
- “Would you like to go see a movie at the weekend? I could use a distraction, and it would be good to get out of the house.”
- “Could I call you today or tomorrow? It’d be great to hear a friendly voice and talk about trivial stuff.”
For most of us, getting into a relationship means spending less time investing in our friendships. It’s easy to neglect your friends when you start dating someone new and prioritize your new partner above everyone else.
To rebuild your friendships, you will need to take the initiative and reach out. If you haven’t been in contact with your friends for a long time, it may feel awkward.
There is a small chance that your friend may feel that you are only reaching out to them because you want their emotional support. It can help to say, “I know I haven’t been in touch for a long time, and I’m sorry for neglecting our friendship. I’d love to catch up sometime if you’d like to.”
Our guide on how to keep in touch with friends has more advice on how to stay in contact and rekindle old friendships.
If you feel lonely and need someone to talk to but can’t reach out to friends or family, a trained volunteer listener can be a supportive alternative.
Volunteers can’t tell you what to do, and they aren’t substitutes for friends. But if you are feeling particularly lonely, listening services can help you feel heard and understood.
Here are some services you might find useful. They are all free, confidential, and available 24/7:
Routines can help you stay busy, which can stop you from feeling lonely. Think about the times of day or week you tend to feel worse, and plan activities to keep yourself occupied when you’re at home alone.
For example, some people find that their feelings of loneliness get worse at night. If this is a problem for you, make an effort to get into a bedtime routine. For example, you could have a shower, get into bed, read a chapter of a book, listen to a relaxing podcast, then turn off the light at exactly the same time every evening.
It’s normal to think about your ex-partner after a breakup. But these thoughts can also make you feel lonely because they remind you that the relationship is over. You can’t suppress all your unwanted thoughts, but there are a few research-backed strategies that can help.
When you feel lonely, it can be tempting to throw yourself into anything that temporarily diverts your attention. But although distraction can be helpful, some distractions are best avoided because they can be addictive or make you feel worse about yourself.
- Excessive social media browsing
- Overspending/excessive shopping, either online or in stores
- Alcohol and other mood-altering substances
Pick an absorbing distraction, such as a hobby, sport, a book, a movie, or a DIY project. A healthy distraction nurtures your mind, body, or both.
For example, you could allow yourself 20 minutes to think about your relationship from 7 pm to 7.20 pm every evening. When you have unwanted thoughts about your ex or your relationship, tell yourself, “I’ll think about my ex later.”
Multitasking can increase the number of intrusive thoughts. Try to focus on one task and finish it before moving onto something else.
Although it’s a fairly new area of research, there’s some evidence that regular meditation can relieve feelings of loneliness. Meditating for just 8 minutes can also help you stop ruminating, so it’s a good idea if you tend to overanalyze your relationship and think about your ex.
Online friendships can help you feel less lonely. Here are a few ways to meet potential new friends on the internet:
- Play games with other people; research shows that massively multiplayer online roleplaying games can be an opportunity to make friends
- Join a Discord server to meet likeminded people
- Join a forum or subreddit that relates to your interests
- Use social media to talk to people who share your interests; search for relevant Facebook Groups or use hashtags on Instagram to find potential new friends
You might find this guide helpful: How to make friends online.
Online communities let you give and get support from other people who are feeling lonely after a breakup.
Here are three to consider:
It can be reassuring to talk to people who are in a similar position. However, try not to use online support communities as an emotional crutch. Talking about your relationship and ex-partner can be healing, but going over the breakup again and again can stop you from moving on.
Some people find that when they break up with a partner, the people they thought of as friends were really only friends with their ex. If this applies to you, your social circle may shrink suddenly. You may need to make an effort to make new friends.
Here are a few strategies you can try:
- Join a class at your nearest community college
- Volunteer for a good cause; look on VolunteerMatch for opportunities
- Join a political or activist group
- Go on Meetup and Eventbrite to look for groups and classes that appeal to you
- Tell your friends and family that you’d like to meet new people. They may be able to introduce you to a potential new friend. Unless you are ready to date again, make it clear that you are looking for friends, not to be set up with a potential new partner
See our tips on how to meet like-minded people for more ideas.
The scientific evidence on the link between pet ownership and loneliness is mixed. For example, although some studies have found that dogs can break the ice between strangers and may help you make friends in your local community, the findings on dog ownership and loneliness aren’t conclusive.
However, some people get a lot of comfort and a sense of companionship from their pets. If you don’t already have a pet and are capable of taking care of an animal, adopting one could help you feel less alone.
If you practice a religion, consider getting involved in your local faith community. Religious leaders are used to supporting people through life transitions, including breakups, and becoming part of a community can help you feel less isolated. Some places of worship run groups for people who are going through separation or divorce, which may be helpful.
After a breakup, it’s normal to realize that you based your life around your relationship and your relationship. For example, you might have spent time with your ex’s friends just because they happened to be around, or you may have gone on vacation to a particular spot because your ex liked it.
If you feel like you don’t know who you truly are, you might feel uneasy in your own company and be unsure how best to fill your time.
Here are a few ways of getting to know yourself better:
- Try a few new hobbies or interests; you could go to classes or use online tutorials to learn a new skill
- Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings; this may help you identify what you want from your life as a single person, and it may become an inspiring record of how you recovered from your breakup
- Reflect on your core values and use them to set positive goals for the future. For example, if you strongly believe in helping others but haven’t volunteered for a long time, you could set a goal of volunteering two hours per week for a local charity
For more ideas, see this article: How to be yourself.
It’s natural and normal to feel lonely after a breakup. But if you feel so lonely that it’s interfering with your job, studies, or everyday tasks, seeking professional help could be a good idea.
We recommend BetterHelp for online therapy, since they offer unlimited messaging and a weekly session, and is much cheaper than going to an actual therapist's office. They are also cheaper than Talkspace for what you get. You can learn more about BetterHelp here.
A good therapist can help you come to terms with the end of your relationship and help you build confidence in social situations.
Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with your friends and family. After a breakup, it can be a wonderful tool for easing loneliness, getting support, and arranging times to hang out with people who lift your mood.
But it’s a good idea to stay self-aware when you go online. Social media can also make you feel lonely, and research shows that cutting back can make you feel better.
For example, one study showed that limiting your social media usage to 30 minutes per day makes you feel less lonely and can also reduce symptoms of depression. This may be because scrolling through posts and photos of people who seem to be happier and more social than you can make you feel isolated and left out.
Music can significantly reduce feelings of loneliness. According to one study, it can even act as a “surrogate friend” and a temporary replacement for social interaction. You don’t have to choose uplifting or “happy” music; both types can help you to feel better.
You might feel so lonely after your breakup that the urge to get in touch with your ex seems overwhelming. It may help to know that during a breakup, we tend to misremember the past.
Research shows that most of us find it easier to remember positive events rather than bad times. This is called the “positivity bias.” You’re more likely to focus on happier times rather than the times you felt sad or angry around your partner.
When you get the urge to get in touch with your ex, remind yourself that if you message or call them, it’s unlikely to make you feel better.
You may have heard that it’s a bad idea to start dating again because you feel lonely after a breakup and that it’s best to take time to be single before finding a new partner. But this advice might not apply to everyone.
For example, some research suggests that young women who get into new relationships quickly aren’t worse off than those who wait for a while. Another study showed that for some people, getting into a new relationship immediately after separating can improve life satisfaction.
In summary, you might not want to move into dating again to fill a void, but be aware that getting back to dating sooner works for some. Imposing a dating ban for an arbitrary amount of time isn’t always necessary.
Regular meditation, redirecting your thoughts elsewhere, and setting aside time to think about your ex-partner may help. However, it isn’t possible to wipe all thoughts of your ex from your mind. Accept that these thoughts will come and go for the foreseeable future.
Try to find groups or meetups that give you an opportunity to spend time with people. If you are staying in, find an absorbing activity to distract yourself from negative thoughts or talk to a friend. A nighttime routine can help you feel more relaxed and make it easier to wind down before sleep.