A relationship expert says making these common mistakes after a breakup can lead to a negative thought spiral

We often blame ourselves when a relationship falls apart.

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We often blame ourselves when a relationship falls apart.
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Jamie Grill / Getty

  • Breakups can conjure up a negative thought spiral where we blame ourselves for everything that went wrong.
  • This is when people tend to make the biggest mistakes that halt their healing, like stalking their ex on social media and trying to find instant gratification from dating apps.
  • Dating coach Erika Ettin said “there are two elements that must be present in order to move forward – time and, eventually, someone else,” but the latter should only come when you’re ready.
  • Without giving yourself time, seeking out a new beau is like putting a band-aid over a gaping wound, she said.
  • Breakup coach Cherlyn Chong said it’s also important to think about why you’re so upset, because if the relationship really was mature and stable, you wouldn’t be so heartbroken.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

When the person who held all your potential for everlasting love in their hands walks away, it’s incredibly hard to deal with. Even when the relationship was far from perfect, we can’t help but direct all the blame inwards when it falls apart.

Relationship coach Erika Ettin told Insider it’s never easy to go through a breakup, and whether you had been together two months or two years, a lot of feelings arise – some expected, others not so much.

“Many people have a series of negative thought spirals or self-doubt that creeps in, such as ‘I’ll be alone forever’ or ‘No one will compare to my ex,'” she said. “While there is nothing I can say, as a dating coach, to make these feelings go away, I can help provide the tools to meet someone else when you’re ready.”

There are tons of mistakes people make when they’re hurting after a breakup, including stalking their ex on social media, or trying to find instant gratification from the abundance of dating apps available. But if you’re not truly ready for another relationship, none of it will make you feel any better.

“In every breakup, there are two elements that must be present in order to move forward – time and, eventually, someone else,” said Ettin. “Sadly, these days, with dating apps so readily available, people disregard the element of time, which is useful for mourning the relationship and healing.”

Without giving yourself time, seeking out a new beau is like putting a band-aid over a gaping wound. It doesn’t do a particularly good job of hiding the injury, and it certainly doesn’t help much with the healing process.

Ettin said it’s vital to take time to work on yourself – see old friends, treat yourself well, and get back to your hobbies.

“Once you’re back to the version of yourself you want to be, then it will be time to get out there,” she said. “And no, you likely won’t meet the person of your dreams right away. It’s important to remember that anything short of ‘that person’ is not for naught. It’s part of the process.”

Read more: 14 reasons you’re not getting over your ex – even if they were totally wrong for you

Ettin recently received an email from a former client who was experiencing the negative thought spiral which they called a “total self-loathing rut.” They kept going on terrible dates, their two sisters were in loving relationships, and two of their best friends had just gotten engaged in the past week.

“All this has left me feeling like I’m really behind my peers and where I want to be when it comes to finding someone to spend the rest of my life with,” they wrote. “I’m really scared that I’m going to wake up one day and my options will be either settle down with someone who isn’t what I’ve always wanted or die alone.”

Ettin reminded the client in her response that he wasn’t alone. Pretty much everyone has been through a period of feeling sad, jealous of their peers, and lonely.

She asked the client why they felt it was so important to meet someone, and whether he thought a woman would “complete” him.

“That’s unrealistic and unfair to anyone else to have that burden,” she wrote. “You are the only one who can complete you.”

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Flickr / Hernán Piñera

Ultimately, we get back what we put out there, and a happy, healthy person is more likely to attract someone who makes them better. But learning to put yourself first doesn’t happen overnight.

“Really ask yourself these questions: How will a partner make my life better? What things can I do to make my life better in the absence of a partner? What do I offer a partner? And, most importantly, would I date me?” she said.

“Stop with timelines. No one’s life goes exactly how they planned it in their head. And your future planning is getting in the way of living today, being in the present, and making the best impression you can.”

Read more: 4 steps to getting over a breakup in 30 days or less

While breakups are always hard, they’re even harder when the relationship was bad. It sounds counter-intuitive, but according to breakup recovery coach Cherlyn Chong, the end of the relationship may just bring up a lot of the hurt you had been ignoring.

“If it really was that great and it really was so awesome, you wouldn’t be so heartbroken,” Chong told Insider. “And usually, if you’re in this state, it’s because the relationship wasn’t that great to begin with.”

Relationships tend to build on what’s already there, she said, meaning someone who is mentally secure is more likely to grow with someone who accentuates their good qualities. But someone with anxieties about failure and self-confidence is more at risk of falling into a toxic relationship with someone who drags them down even further.

Ettin told her client they needed to stop looking at their dating life as a failure, and to start giving themselves credit for the small steps of progress they had made. She also said they should realize they are just as much of a prize as the woman they hope to attract, because “the self-loathing guy you described isn’t helpful to you and isn’t attractive to a potential partner.”

“You will neither settle nor die alone,” she said. “But you have to put in the work.”