How Narrative Therapy Can Help You Get Over a Breakup

These tips for reframing what happened will help you get over a breakup by changing the story you’re telling yourself. If you’ve been telling yourself that you’re unlovable, unworthy, dumb or even ugly then you may not need as much help as you think! Maybe you just need to retell the story you’ve been telling about what it means to break up with someone you love.

Even if you knew your relationship wasn’t meant to be, you may feel disbelief and shock at the thought of being alone now. Learning how to reframe what happened to your relationship – and what will happen now, after the breakup – has the power to change your life! Healing your heart – even without relationship closure – can be as simple as changing your breakup story.

What would happen if you told yourself a different story about what it means to break up with someone you love? I’m not telling you to lie to yourself or others about the breakup. I’m encouraging you to think about different aspects of your relationship and yourself. You can help yourself get over a breakup by retelling your breakup story.

The four steps below will guide you through the process of changing the story you’re telling yourself about why you broke up, how you will get over the pain, and what might happen next. This is actually a process some counselors when counseling clients who are stuck in old stories and thought patterns. Psychotherapists and psychologists call it Narrative Therapy; it is effective for some people and problems. This may be the exact type of help you need getting over a breakup because it will take your perspective away from what went “wrong” in your relationship.

Are you ready to change how you think about yourself, the breakup, and your future? It’s time to renew your mind and renew your thought patterns!

4 Steps to Changing Your Breakup Story

Narrative therapy or retelling the stories in your life is a creative way to get help after a breakup. Changing your story will change how you see yourself, the relationship, and what your future looks like.

Help Getting Over a Breakup

In Retelling the Stories of Our Lives: Everyday Narrative Therapy to Draw Inspiration and Transform Experience, David Denborough says that the ways in which we understand and share the stories of our lives a huge difference! If we tell stories that emphasize only desolation, then we become weaker. If we tell our stories in ways that make us stronger, we can soothe our losses and ease our sorrows. This book doesn’t offer specific help for getting over a breakup, but it will teach you how to rewrite and retell the stories in your life.

1. Listen to the story you’re telling yourself

In his podcast Change Your Life, Change Your Story, Michael Hyatt encourages us to listen to the voice in our heads. What is it saying, how often does it come up, and do you believe about yourself? For example, your “narrator” might be telling you that you’re a failure. Your relationship ended, your children are damaged beyond repair, and you’ll never get over this breakup. Maybe the voice in your head is even saying your partner was right about your weaknesses and flaws, and you deserve to be alone because you’re not worthy of love.

When you change the story of what it means to break up with someone, you change how you feel about yourself. That’s how you start healing and moving forward. You refuse to stay stuck in the same old thought patterns and breakup stories. You choose not to continue being a victim. You decide not to accept wrong beliefs about yourself as absolute truth.

2. Write down what you believe about yourself and the breakup

Give yourself 20 minutes to write down everything you think about yourself – good and bad, healthy and unhealthy, positive and negative. This may not seem like the best way to help yourself get over a breakup, but there is a purpose. Try it. What do you think and believe about the way your relationship ended?

You may find that the beliefs you have about yourself will look different after you write them down. Their power will begin to evaporate as you are writing. You’ll see your thoughts more objectively because you bring them into the light. This is the process of Narrative Therapy or retelling your breakup story: changing how you see what you’ve been thinking and telling yourself.

Writing also helps you get unstuck if you’re in the “victim” mode. Telling the truth about how it feels to break up with someone you love may bring up unexpected feelings, such as relief or even like a burden has been lifted. This is how you change what you think and believe about yourself and it will help you get over the breakup.

If you can’t change your thoughts about what it meant to break up, read How to Accept a Breakup You Didn’t Want.

3. Notice how your breakup story makes you feel

Is the story of your breakup dragging you down or lifting you up? How do your thoughts make you feel? Your beliefs are driving your behavior, your emotions, your reactions to others, your ability to make good decisions, your ability to learn healthy ways to get over a breakup.

What are your thoughts creating in your life? How is your story changing how you feel and think about yourself? Is what you tell yourself lifting you up, or dragging you down? Take a step back, be objective, and determine what effect your thoughts are having on your life. Finding the right help getting over a breakup could be as simple as becoming aware of how your story is affecting you.

4. Write down a different story

This is where it gets interesting – and not because you get to lie to yourself or others! Rather, you need to learn how to focus on a different aspect of your break up story. If you’re telling yourself how stupid you are for staying in an unhealthy relationship for all this time, you need to reframe it. Find the positive and focus on that. For instance, you may have stayed with him because of your strong sense of loyalty, your love for your children, or your belief in your wedding vows.

What is the story you’re telling yourself about the breakup? If you’ve been in an abusive relationship, you may have adopted your partner’s perspective of you. Maybe you’ve lost touch with who you are, and you believe what he says about you. Take a moment to consider what you’re saying about yourself and the relationship you had with your partner. The first step to helping yourself get over the breakup is to be aware of what you’re telling yourself and what you believe.

Know that getting over a breakup does get easier

“There are certain events that we may never accept fully,” writes Melody Beattie in More Language of Letting Go: 366 New Daily Meditations. “What can be accepted, though, is that we are required to live with these losses and find a way to go on.” I read her book every morning – it takes less than five minutes to read one of her daily meditations, and they help me accept everything about my life! The good, the bad, the ugly. Accepting a breakup is a daily process – it may even take years for you to feel like you’re truly healed and ready for a new relationship.

Getting over a breakup is like grieving the death of a loved one because something DID die. Your relationship ended. You lost the hopes and dreams you had for your future as a couple and a family.

Give yourself time to get over the loss

You may never fully accept a breakup, but you will start to remember your ex and the relationship with less pain. You may still feel a twinge of loss or regret, but you won’t feel raw. Your heart and soul are intertwined with your partner’s when you’re in a relationship – especially if you have kids together. Separating and breaking up is a huge loss in your life. You need to give yourself time to grieve before you can heal.

Changing the story of your relationship and reason for breaking up has the power to change your perspective of your relationship, your self, and your life. This can help you heal and move on.

Remember that “this, too, shall pass”

“There is no such thing as complete acceptance,” says David Viscott in Emotionally Free. “When you can remember a loss with a little distance and much less pain, you have accepted the loss and mourned it fully. You accept that life is different now and move on.”

Like you, I’ve experienced so many losses in life. They’re all part of me now, part of my heart and spirit and soul. I’ll never fully get over the pain of losing someone I love – whether it was a breakup or a death – but my heart will go on. I’ll be different but not defined by who and what I have lost.

How to Get Over a Breakup by Retelling Your Story
Narrative Therapy: Retelling Your Breakup Story

For help getting over a difficult breakup with a man you lived with, read How to Be Happy Without Him in Your Life.

How do you feel? If you’d like to practice Narrative Therapy and retell the story of what the break up meant to you, share below! xo


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15 thoughts on “How Narrative Therapy Can Help You Get Over a Breakup”

  1. He broke up with me about a month ago out of the blue. We were dating for almost 10 months. Gave me all kinds of reasons why. I thought things were good between us. He reached out to me and wanted to reconcile after almost a month. I met up with him and asked him why he treated me the way he did. He apologized and said he was a coward and didn’t want to see me hurt. He even admitted to sleeping with a coworker a week ago. I couldn’t believe it. I started to leave, he wanted a hug, I said no. I told him not to contact me ever again and I left. That was it. I will never be with a man I can’t trust. I love him and I’m reliving a broken heart all over again. I know I can get through this. It’s just so hard. He’s only the 2nd man I have loved in my whole adult life.

  2. For me “Letting Go and Acceptance go hand in hand.” Letting go to me means accepting the things I cannot change and learning to Accept Change.Change is an unknown so therefore it can be easy to slip and hold onto past regrets as I do very often. Why? I ask myself over and over Why do I feel for someone who rejected me, embarrassed me in front of her mom, said nasty things and aired out all my baggage? Because I thought I loved her.Because I thought she was the one who can love me regardless of what my career field is or how high or low my income is. There is no price tag in a relationship!…. then I realized and come to terms with reality with the abandonment, experiencing a near death experience. It was like my heart was ripped out my body and given back to me. The feeling of loneliness and a sense of abandonment… It went on for one year until.i realized that it is healthier to move on PAST THE HURT, despair, turmoil, pain… Because I am meant to experience LOVE because I am worth it… I thank God for my life and look to the future… a brighter future filled with promise, filled with joy, filled with happiness…

  3. Trina, thank you for your comments! I’m glad this help getting over a breakup was helpful. Changing our stories or narratives is really beneficial in all aspects of our lives, actually.

    Good for you for moving on! May your heart continue to heal, and your spirit and soul Blossom into the woman God created you to be.

    Here’s another article that may help you along – it’s one of my favorites :-)

    What to Remember When You Feel No One Cares


  4. Reading this help in a huge way. helped me to re focus on what is important in life and the way i view life. After a long term relationship it ended as he found someone else and moved in with her. having 2 kids together we had still see each other. i went through all the usual emotions that go with a break up and cheating. but i read this and changed my story. it has taken months to get to where i am happy enjoying life but i don’t think i could have done it if i hadn’t read your page. funny thing is he is now play the victim and acting hard done by cause i have moved on and found my happy place thinking about giving him this to read.

  5. Thank you for being here, Allison, and sharing your experience. I hope you’re doing well, and that you’ve gotten over the worst part of the breakup. Often it’s the first couple of months that are hardest to get over…how are you doing these days? Has life gotten a bit brighter for you?

  6. I really appreciate your articles. I was recently broken up with and it has been devastating. I have tried everything to get over my ex and nothing is working. I am resorting to anti depressants this week but I am terrified. I was so incredibly happy and now I just feel hollow. It’s awful how life can change so drastically. I feel like I’m waiting to die now. Praying every day that things get better.


  7. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thank you for being here, Lori! I really appreciate your enthusiasm, energy, and support. I’ve added Lori’s List to my feedly, and look forward to exploring your blog :-)

  8. This is great advice! We all probably have voices in our heads that we use to tell ourselves stories that only keep us stagnant in our pain. Instead of relying on some kind of a “cure” or magic potion, what if we changed our own narratives? I love this empowering idea!

  9. I had a relationship from past 2 years…I love mah bf a lot…I think than he love me…evething was going fyn..b4 he hav a visit with his friend(gal) v had an argument about meeting her…from d day 1 I have givenup manythings fr him I jus made evething to c his smile but he neva respct me…he is concerned abot his own life n carrier doesn’t think about mah happiness…frces me to b happy fr things he plan for our future……..n always blame fr the things mostly about stopping him going fr his job far away…n he had left those things by his own though blames me fr mah inner feelings tht he didn’t go bcoz I felt in heart tht he shouldn’t leave me alone….im typically attached to him n I love him a lott jus can b a sec with out kindoff insecure with his past relationships…I cant leave him not to burn mah self esteem I wish I could make him understand how much he mean to me

  10. Hi , its my first visit here, i like every letter written and i saw myself in each comment, i have been through tough break up my gf suddendly changed like i was nothing in her life and just a friend and she always says she cant fall in love for any one and not only me and she is stronger than love while she was in deep friendship with a married guy twice her age, later on she tried to call me several times but i didnt answer , her last try she called me at my work place and i answering asking her to never contact me in a polite way but from inside i was burning like volcano, i told her i need space in my life and i dont wont any contact with u, i removed her number, blocked her in whatsapp and facebook but to be honest iam in my healing process still, and i know she is not the girl i want to be with, i was an option in her life and a moment to play with, and the worst thing is, she lived close to my house , i would like to hear some advices thx a lot … Peace

    1. Keep your feet planted! I too had to walk away from my bf because he didn’t love me. I personally am taking one day at a time. Baby steps. Some days are wonderful and others I feel emotionally beaten down. Be proud of yourself for having the strength to not settle. Be picky. There are so many good people in the world and life is far too short to be in a relationship that is painful. Best of luck to you!

  11. Laurie,
    Do U remember me???
    I need your help!!!
    One of my friends had to face a breakup. Now she says that she will never make a BF. But, this time a nice guy is loving her a lot. But, there is a problem, that guy is a year younger than her. When I indirectly informed her about this she said that she will never love anyone in her life. I know that she is fearing one more breakup.
    what to do? That guy is loving her truly .But she isn’t willing to accept that proposal!!
    It’s very sad for him.

  12. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Diana,

    I’m so sorry that your ex left you – it must have been such a shock, and so heartbreaking! Accepting a breakup is always hard, but when it’s unexpected and sudden, it’s even harder to accept.

    My prayer is that you find peace and healing. If these tips for accepting a breakup don’t bring you hope or strength, I pray that you find resources, people, books, or exercises that help you grieve the end of your relationship. May you accept that this breakup had to happen for some reason, and your life may be brighter and better because of it. May you find that accepting a breakup is easier and easier over time, and may you move forward into a new stage of life with hope, faith, and confidence.

    Be well. Hold on to the hope that this breakup is actually a blessing in disguise. Accept that your relationship is over, and fix your eyes on your future. Have faith!


  13. hi i am having a heard time letting go of my ex we were together 13 years and then 1 day hes gone he packed up and left me he said i did not let him go and hang out with hes friends, so he leaving he needs to have fun and live he life he 48 years old and we have a 8 year old son. he just left and never came back i am crying every night. he found a new apartment all the way in new jersey. he calls me every once in awhile and askes me do things with him. he showed me where he lives at but when it comes closeto 11pm he disappears and i dont hear from him i think there is another woman but he wont come out and tell me . i have to leave i cant be around him it hurts too much