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Best-Selling Romance Novelist Shares 4 Tips for Moving on When Relationships End

A broken heart can feel as real as a physical wound. In fact, if you think of it as a wound and treat it as a wound, you will be on the right path for healing. Picking at the wound in your heart will only set back your healing time. It needs to be left alone, and it needs time to heal.

In Jane Austen’s story Emma, Mr. Knightley and Emma are talking about Frank Churchill’s secret engagement to Jane Fairfax. Mr. Knightley is under the impression that Emma is in love with Frank. (But she’s not! She's in love with you, Mr. Knightley! You!) So he, in a very sympathetic, but unfortunately cheesy way, says, “Time will heal your wound.”

That line always makes me laugh, but there is truth to it. Time will heal your wound. Time will bring with it a dulling of the ache and a lessening of the sting. The pain of loss and rejection will subside, little by little as long as you don’t interfere. But as you wait for time to do its work, there are some rules of recovery.

Rule #1: Don’t wallow.

Feeling sad is a natural part of having a broken heart. It’s easy to think that because you’re sad now, he must have made you happy before. But he did not make you happy. You decided to be happy with him, and you can decide to be happy without him. You might always feel the pang of losing that relationship, but you do not have to bathe in misery like a pig wallowing in mud.

Here’s the thing: Wallowing will not help you mend your broken heart. Wallowing is a self-indulgent pity party where nobody has any fun, especially not you. It will only increase your misery and the time it takes you to heal. So leave the wallowing to the pigs and decide today to be happy.

Rule #2: Don’t let yourself go.

Please don’t go out in public looking like leftover meatloaf. You see, it’s a small world, and you could run into anyone. You might run into him. (You know, the heart-breaker.) You might even run into him with the new girl he’s dating. She will be wearing makeup and her hair will be styled because she wants to impress him. Imagine if you were to go to the grocery store wearing your dad’s sweatpants, smelling like you hadn’t bathed in five days, and you bumped into him and her. You would want to die from embarrassment. And, come on, nobody wants you to die from embarrassment.

But the importance of taking care of yourself actually goes deeper than avoiding potential embarrassment. Your body and mind and spirit are inseparably connected, and what you do to one affects the other. So when you take care of your body by exercising, eating well, and showering on a regular basis, your mind and spirit will also feel energetic, healthy, and clean. So, get up early, wash what needs to be washed, look your best, and greet the world with a smile. You will feel better when you do.

Rule #3: Don’t damage something belonging to your ex.

Please do not cause damage to him or his possessions. Don’t egg his car or toilet paper his house. You might feel a teeny bit better while the egg is leaving your hand, and maybe even when you hear it go splat, but later you will recognize what a small, hateful act it was, and then you will feel small and hateful too.

Instead of damaging something, try turning your energy toward something positive, like making a new friend, or serving your neighbors, or starting a new hobby. There are so many good ways to spend your time while waiting for your heart to heal, there’s no sense in wasting your energy on negativity.

Rule #4: Don’t act like a fictional character.

Fictional characters often do things that you should never do. A girl who is left by a vampire might go catatonic for a week and then sink into a soul-sucking depression and do nothing but stare out of a window for months, but you are not allowed to do that. You are not a fictional character.

And trust me, if you did behave like that, there would be no hot werewolf with killer abs waiting to fall madly in love with you. There wouldn’t even be a dorky, kind of cute human boy hoping you’d notice him. There would only be a mental ward in a hospital, medication, and thousands of dollars worth of therapy awaiting you.

So be sane. Be normal. It’s a much better place to be than in a straightjacket.

Lead image from Getty Images

To read some of Julianne Donaldson's best-selling books, check outEdenbrooke and Blackmoore.

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Edenbroooke

The newly widowed Mr. Daventry sends his beautiful, elegant daughter Cecily to have a season in London and ships her quiet and dull twin, Marianne, to her grandmother's home in Bath. When Marianne is allowed to visit the beautiful Edenbrooke estate and reunite with Cecily, she is overjoyed. But her journey turns tumultuous and she unexpectedly meets Philip, a devastatingly handsome man with an irresistible sense of humor and a great many secrets.

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Blackmoore

Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead—if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured—and rejected—three marriage proposals. But Kate soon discovers that challenge may be more heartbreaking than she had thought.