“Let go of the past but keep the lessons it taught you.”
~ Chiara Gizzi
Many people believe that the end of an important relationship can resemble feelings that occur after the death of a loved one. Allow yourself to grieve in a healthy way, recognizing that loss is difficult & that your feelings are normal.
Follow these steps modeled after Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief to start feeling better sooner:
1. Denial & Isolation:
You might be holding onto the hope he or she will come back around. You might also just want to be alone while you mull it over. Allow yourself this time, but give it a limit.
Slowly start to reach out to your friends for support, cut back on the “are we gonna get back together” texts, and find someone else to go with you to that concert next month.
The first Facebook picture you see of your ex with another person is going to throw you off. Of course you’re angry! You loved this person and now they aren’t there anymore.
Be forgiving of yourself for having the emotion but make sure you keep it in check.
Don’t get into a tit for tat. Anger is a secondary emotion so take time to think about what is causing it – disappointment, loneliness, sadness could be the cause.
We’ve all done it. Once we get some space and things calm down our minds begin filling with ideas of how to fix it. One or both of you might start reaching out with “what if’s”. Sometimes this causes the relationship to reboot, but more often than not it just brings you back to stage one again.
Telling the person that you will change might not be something you can commit to. And anyway, you’re most likely pretty great – why would you change?
During this stage you feel hopeless about your future. Your friends have noticed that you stopped taking care of yourself. Maybe you aren’t shaving your legs or putting on great outfits anymore, why would you?
The only person you will ever love has moved on.
It’s okay to feel sad, but if you are in this stage it is important to start recognizing that your thoughts influence your feelings – when you are sad write down all your thoughts and then counteract them with something more positive. And please, take a shower!
This is a tough one. You might never truly accept that the relationship is gone forever but you will know you are in this stage when you don’t check your e-mails every 2 minutes to see if he has reached out.
Acceptance begins with your own actions.
Have you been wearing his shirts to bed every night? Give them to Goodwill. Do you reread his e-mails? Delete them. Make room in your life for something new. It won’t replace what you had, but it will be different – and different can be beautiful.
Elizabeth Earnshaw, MFT – www.abetterlifetherapy.com
It can be exceptionally challenging to let go of a past relationship and move on.
The challenge is complicated by so many factors beyond a broken heart. These can include pride (of course), and our values, beliefs, expectations, needs, and dreams.
Not only are we dealing with our own complications, but we also have to live with the complications of others.
Their expectations and values for us, their beliefs and dreams for us. No wonder it can be hard to move on.
One solution is to step back and reframe the situation. Instead of deciding that losing the relationship means we are a failure, we can decide that this is an opportunity to find the gift.
Let’s break that down.
One reason it can be difficult to let go of a past relationship is because (on some level) we might consider that relationship to be a failure, therefore, we are a failure.
Ouch. That’s not a good feeling so we try to prolong the hope that the relationship can be revived, thereby proving to ourselves and everyone else that we’re not a failure.
In reframing this, however, we can draw on behavioral psychology, namely, the A-B-Cs of behavior.
A = Antecedent, what occurs before the behavior, B = Behavior (actions, beliefs, wants, values, etc.), and C = Consequences of the behavior. Simple.
In our situation, A is the relationship (it occurs before a break-up.) B is now the break-up (the behavior), and C becomes the feelings of failure (a consequence of the break-up.) So let’s reframe this and find the gift.
A can be what that relationship gave us (a sense of adventure, security, prestige, etc.), which leads to B, a deeper awareness of who we are and what we want out of life. C can be the motivation to find more effective ways to get our needs met based on our newfound knowledge of ourselves.
So, using this equation, step back, reframe your situation and find the gift!
Dr. Loral Lee Portenier – www.linkedin.com/in/loral-lee-portenier-phd-62897b17
Many people cling emotionally to past romantic relationships well after they are over.
When the relationship ends they suddenly feel a hole or a void where the other person once was and the natural reaction is to try and fill it. At a loss to fill the void they may mourn for a longer time than most or to ruminate on what they had before.
Moving forward may prove difficult.
This is certainly a normal reaction as we tend to “co-create” ourselves through our partner and through the relationship.
For example, couples start to use the word “we” when it comes to likes and dislikes. “We like Chinese food” or “We like action films.”
This is normal and wonderful but at the same time it can be a pitfall for losing yourself within the relationship if you are unable to function without that “we” mentality.
In my opinion, being able to let go and move on from a break-up starts well before the relationship is even over.
I have often told my clients, “If you can’t be happy by yourself, you probably aren’t ready for a relationship.”
People that aren’t happy by themselves tend to use relationships to make them happy. When the relationship ends, they are left feeling lost and will look for someone else to fill that void or will stay overly focused on what has ended.
A few tips:
- While you’re in a relationship, don’t forget to be able to identify those things that YOU like to do OUTSIDE of the relationship. If most of your identity is wrapped up in the person you are with and you fail to maintain your own identity while you are in a relationship, it will be even harder if things come to an end one day.
- Remember who YOU are while you’re in a romantic relationship. Maintain your own hobbies; maintain your own friends; maintain a sense of self.
- Allow yourself to grieve but after the break-up remind yourself of those things that define who you are as an individual.
By maintaining a strong sense of self within the context of a relationship, the void will be much less should the relationship come to an end.
By knowing who you are and what you like to do, you will be stronger within yourself and better able to weather the storm.
Dr. Christina Robert – www.singlemomontherun.com
I suggest setting aside 20 minutes twice a day to sit quietly with those memories, thoughts and feelings and let yourself really be present for whatever comes up.
I like to think of it like a receiving a closed box from a small child. We would carefully open the lid and slowly look through everything inside, piece by piece, commenting to the child on what we see in a loving and curious tone.
Do the same with each of those 20 minutes. “Oh, the time we rode the ferris wheel on the boardwalk….that was such a beautiful day….it feels so sad to think about how happy we were….it hurts so bad right now.”
If you need to cry, cry. If you need to yell, yell. If you want to write in a journal, write. Allow yourself to express your feelings.
When the time is up, have a way to transition from the mourning time back into daily life. A bath, shower, walk, cup of tea, listening to music, and reading are some ideas I have seen help people transition. Now, spend the other 23 hours and 20 minutes of your day living the life you want to live.
If you focus on the relationship at other times, you are missing out on creating the life you want.
Calling your ex, looking at their FB page, etc., only keeps you stuck living in the past. What we feed, grows. Feed a healthy reality. Hang out with your friends. Take a class. Learn to play the guitar.
When those ex-related thoughts creep in, remind yourself you have a 20 minute mourning session coming up soon, so you can ask those thoughts and feelings to wait.
Spend the mourning time exploring your reaction to the old relationship, not creating new memories by acting out impulses like calling, texting, or FB stalking….that will only increase the pain and create more experiences to mourn later.
After a few weeks, try having only one 20 minute session a day.
Then take it to 10 minutes. Soon, you will find you no longer need to mourn the relationship.
You will be ready to simply live the life you have created, and any memories of your ex will be only that, memories, without all of the pain attached.
Shelby Riley, MS, LMFT – www.shelbyrileymft.com
All too often, the weight of your past is carried on to your next relationship. When you bring along these old hurts, it’s a sure-fire way to sabotage your new love.
The bottom line is that no one should enter into a primary relationship with someone who is still carrying their old baggage – and that includes you!
Your previous relationship may have left you with some unresolved issues and anxiety, reducing your confidence and increasing your mistrust and uncertainty. Ignoring the situation doesn’t work.
It always comes back to haunt you. So, it’s time to examine your relationships to understand how the past is creating chaos in your current romantic life.
What commonly happens is that your doubts and negative emotions trigger irrational thoughts or behaviors within you.
These feelings grow, and instead of being able to let them go, you unconsciously repeat the programming in your next relationship. This causes a cycle of unhealthy behaviors that can ruin any potential for peace and harmony.
What can you do?
Realize that giving negative emotions so much power is a waste of time and energy and can actually be harmful.
Remember that obsession over past incidents, painful memories, or hurtful partners is counterproductive and will not lead to a new healthy partnership. It prevents you from seeing your potential partner for his own merit, since he is always being compared to your past negative experience.
What you want to do is pinpoint what’s troubling you.
Notice any patterns that are common in all your relationships.
- What part did you play in allowing the hurt?
- Did you lack the confidence to stand up for yourself?
- Could you have done things differently?
While you may not be at fault for some of these patterns, there may be others you are guilty of perpetuating. Be responsible for changing what you can about yourself. When you identify the problem, this is the first step in releasing it.
You past relationship(s) may have been in trouble, but it takes two to tango.
Let go of your sense of guilt that you could have done more, anger that you were a victim, or self-criticism that you should have known better. Instead, focus on the lessons learned about love and loving.
A failed relationship does not make you a failure. Therefore, learn from your past by not reliving it!
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
There are five crucial, overlapping issues here that should be asked of either partner:
- How long you’ve been in that relationship, how important it was for you in your life?
- What were the circumstances when it ended?
- Did you learn what you came to learn?
- How do you feel about yourself and what you have to offer now?
- Are you involved with someone else and did that relationship overlap with the one you are leaving?
The answers to these five questions intertwine to form the foundation for how you will move on.
If you don’t process them accurately, you are likely to repeat your old patterns in the future, possibly playing the part your partner has this time.
For instance, what if you’ve been partnered with someone you’ve loved deeply for a long time and then drifted apart.
You are full of wonderful memories but they are long in the past, more nostalgic than meaningful in the present. You’ll miss that partner when he or she is gone, but not grieve deeply because you’ve already let your feelings diminish too much.
But your partner doesn’t feel the same way.
He or she has pleaded with you to reconsider your decision. Now you have the guilt of hurting someone you once cared for. That conflict is, of course, exacerbated if you’ve met someone else and are feeling elation and despair simultaneously.
Perhaps you’ve been here before, not letting your partner know early enough that you were beginning to pull away.
If that is so, you may be starting a new relationship without the self-reflection you need to keep it from happening again.
On the other hand, what if you just left a short-term relationship that was fun and sexy, but ran its course quickly.
- Neither you nor your partner feels any particular regrets, so it was mutually comfortable to end it when you did.
- You’re not uncomfortable with the hiatus in your life right now because you need to catch up with friends and family and feel very secure that you’ll meet someone else when you’re ready.
- You know who you are and what works for you and you chose the situation with confidence and clarity, and are glad it happened.
- A graceful exit is easy and without complications.
Unfortunately, the most painful of all break-up situations looks more like this:
Imagine that you’re the person being left behind. You’ve been in a long-term relationship that you still treasure but your partner doesn’t any more. There is an affair that you painfully discover.
There are multiple negative conflicts filled with despair and humiliation before the relationship finally ends.
- You feel beaten, unloved, and undesirable.
- You didn’t see it coming but you’ve been here before and it is too painful to self-reflect to learn what you could have done differently.
- You seek solace in intense searching for anyone to fill your broken heart and set up a situation that is only going to hurt again.
Or you’re the one who has done this to your partner.
If you and your partner are current in your authenticity, desires, and relationship skills, you won’t ever be caught in a surprise ending.
- You’ll have understood why you were with each other, what you came to learn, and why it is better to be apart now.
- You’ll treasure the experience you’ve had and do better the next time around. If one of you needs to leave, even at the expense of the other, you will feel compassion and support for your partner, rather than guilt and resentment.
- You’ll learn from the mistakes and never regret the experience.
- You’ll pass each other on better for the time you’ve been together and more likely to succeed in the next relationship.
To know that you’ve done this right, you will be more aware with each new relationship how to manage those five issues together up front by sharing your past experiences together and processing how they might affect your current interaction.
Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com
1. Stay connected to people who help you feel good about yourself
After a breakup, self esteem can plummet. It is so important to preserve your sense of worth. Surround yourself with people who remind you of your awesomeness!
2. Relearn how to enjoy your own company
If you have forgotten what it is like to be in your own company, you may feel lonely. Now is an opportunity to relearn how to be at ease when by yourself. This will help others to enjoy your company and for you to enjoy theirs.
3. Allow yourself to grieve
Breakups are painful. They are a loss. It is ok to be sad, and to allow yourself to reflect on the relationship and what you will miss. Be sure to distinguish what you will miss about HIM and what you will miss about the IDEA of being with him.
4. Remind yourself that “the only way out is through”
There is no skipping the process of grieving, no matter how hard you try. Grieving is part of the process of healing. To heal from the pain of a breakup requires going through the process of grieving.
The more you focus, obsess, and talk over and over again about your breakup, the more entrenched you will be and the more irritated your friends may feel. Consider dedicating a set time of day and amount of time (15 minutes) to vent, and then let it be. Do something else. Move a muscle to change a thought!
2. Delve into Drama
The drama of who said what when and why does not help the healing process. Take the higher road.
3. Romanticize the Relationship
In all relationships there are highs and lows, great times and not-so-great times. When we are sad, we tend to focus on what we will miss. We may forget the times the relationship did not serve us.
If the relationship is over, it is over. Maintain your dignity, head held high, and don’t ask for him to reconsider. Have faith that something better is ahead.
Dr. Elayne Daniels – www.drelaynedaniels.com
One of my favorite things to do is clean out my closet.
Get rid of the old to make room for the new. It can be sad. It took me some time to finally get rid of my old college t-shirts because of the memories we shared together.
One from a formal, a couple from date nights, a few from those “special” boys who lent me their shirt (and I interpreted the “lending” to mean “keep forever”). Then those old ratty jeans–you know where each hole and rip came from and they have sentimental meaning.
The thought of getting rid of them hurts your insides because it’s saying goodbye to part of your story.
Like our closets, we can hold onto too much of relationships if we don’t purge, and if we don’t purge it doesn’t allow us to move forward.
Like the idea of getting rid of that nasty hat you’ve worn since you were in 9th grade, you need to start the purge.
Keeping those old connections allows you to have that link to the piece of your life that may be preventing you from moving forward onto new and better things.
How do you begin the process?
**FYI this part won’t be easy and will make you feel like you are betraying someone.
- No reason for that phone number. Delete it.
- Why do you need to read back over your old text messages? Erase them.
- If Facebook is a temptation either block them or get off. If getting on their account is a problem, tell someone so they can hold you accountable. You’ve crossed over to crazy (you probably know that already but don’t want to admit it to yourself.)
- Any of their belongings—either toss them or put them in a box and have the person come and retrieve them when you aren’t home or get someone to deliver it to them.
- Those little urges you get to make contact with that person because something makes you think of them—ignore them. Tie your hands behind your back.
The list can go on and on, but my point in giving you a starting place is because as long as you’re holding on to some part of that person and the “what ifs” is preventing you from moving forward and on to something new and great. Let go and be.
Haley Gage, M.A., LAPC – www.openpathcollective.org/clinicians/haley-gage-2/
Our relationships provide some of the best fodder for our growth and evolution.
Nevertheless, it can be extremely difficult to get past these relationships.
Top tips for moving on:
1. The most important part of any relationship is identifying what we have learned about ourselves along the way.
Because we often repeat patterns it is important to reflect on what we are supposed to understand better about ourselves, our partners, and relationships in general.
Sometimes the lessons are hard to swallow, but they are always key factors in how we enter relationships in the future. This way, a breakup may become a breakthrough!
2. Allow yourself time to feel the emotions.
Many people rush into new relationships without having processed the past– mostly to avoid unpleasant or uncomfortable feelings that may arise from the breakup. Avoiding the feelings will only create more disturbance later and may actually interfere with future relationships.
3. Avoid catastrophic thought patterns.
Many feel that a breakup is the end of the world. However, as mentioned in tip #1, it can actually be the beginning of a whole new level of knowledge and understanding about relationships. Negative thinking will only serve to keep you stuck, not help you move forward.
If you reframe the challenges within relationships as necessary junctures in your evolution, you will not only be able to move beyond a breakup, you will learn to transcend it.
Each relationship we have gets us one step closer to the one that fits us most. Therefore, keeping yourself mired in the “old stuff” of a relationship will only serve to create more unhealthy or unsatisfying relationships in the future.
Dr. Katherine Kelly – www.drkatherinetkelly.com
When your relationship did not work out did you ask yourself:
- What did I do wrong?
- Was I not attractive enough?
- Did I not satisfy him?
I am going to ask you to change the framework of what caused the relationship to end.
- Was it really you?
- Is it possible the relationship was a not a good fit?
- Would you have wanted your partner to stay with you if he or she was not happy?
Most of you will answer “no”.
It is possible that by your ex-partner letting you go he or she was looking at what was in your best interest; which is a partner who can love you fully. I want you to change your framework from that there is something wrong with your partner or yourself, to we were not a good fit.
Sometimes to get over the hurt of a relationship we need to focus on what was best for us both.
A relationship where one person is unhappy would have eventually led to a relationship were both partners were not happy. By changing the framework you open yourself up to someone who can be a good fit instead of worrying about how the last relationship went wrong.
Lyndsey Fraser, M.A., LMFT – www.relationalconnections.com
The ending of a relationship can be very painful.
Whether the breakup has been mutually agreed upon or whether it has been prompted by the wishes of only one of the partners, all endings entail change and change always brings with it a sense of loss; loss of the familiar and loss of the comfortable.
It is natural to grieve the breakup of a relationship and our grief can hold many things including:
the ending of the partnership itself, the demise of what might have been, the loss of who and where we thought we were and the fear of having to start over.
For all these reasons, it is often difficult to move forward.
There is nothing wrong with allowing yourself the time and space to grieve and it is appropriate to honor yourself by taking the time to be with your feelings and to begin to identify what you have gained from your involvement with the other person.
The idea that you gained anything, when you are feeling a sense of loss might sound strange however, it is important to consider the actual purpose of our relationships.
We might believe that every relationship we have should last forever.
If we have this belief, when our partnerships end, we will feel that we have failed. Yet, what if the true purpose of a relationship is not that it should last forever but rather the personal growth of each partner.
Perhaps rather than focusing on why things had to end or what could have been done to prevent this, a better question to ask ourselves is what we have learned.
No relationship is ever a waste of time.
If we take an honest look at ourselves and the dynamics and interactional patterns of the relationship, we can better understand who we do and do not want to be and what we need to do differently, in order to create a better experience in the future.
Some things we might decide to do differently may include verbalizing our needs and expectations to our partner more clearly or being more patient and less critical or perhaps even choosing a different type of person for a partner.
It is important to appreciate that the partnership that has ended has given us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and what we want and do not want.
Often, we find strengths within ourselves that we never knew we had, in a difficult relationship or breakup.
Time does not move backwards and either can we. As you move forward on your path, know that every ending enables new beginnings, if we allow it to do so.
And, we can take comfort in the truth that we learn from our past experiences and create even better relationships, in the future.
Margot McClellan, LCSW – www.margotmcclellan.com
Most adults experience, at one point or another in their lives – some more than once – how painful it is to deal with the emotions that follow a romantic breakup, and how difficult it is to get back to being emotionally close to another person.
Is there a way of short-circuiting this?
Unfortunately there is nothing that can take all the pain away. However, there are things can be done that can help cope with it better and be better able to move on.
First of all, even though denial is a very powerful defense mechanism aimed at helping us feel less pain by denying the reason for its existence
“He will call me back. I know this is not the end of our relationship”;
“She just told me she loved me a few days before we broke up, so she still must have feelings for me”
If we hold on to it for too long, we risk staying stuck in a bad place indefinitively.
Denial, in fact, as long as it is in place, doesn’t allow us to do the necessary work of processing our emotions and then move to a better place.
The best place to be in – and I use the word ‘best’ carefully, because at this stage nothing really feels very good – is to be aware of what we feel and allow our emotions – denial, anger, sadness, confusion, blame (including self-blame), deep hurt, fear – to be acknowledged and experienced in turn, as part and parcel of the process of dealing with loss.
Make sure you don’t stay stuck in anyone of them for too long, but push yourself to switch from one emotion to another.
So, if you have a very sad moment, remind yourself of negative parts in the relationship, or something your loved one did to you that was insensitive, careless, or mean. In this way, you can move from sadness to anger.
Shifting back and forth between emotions makes them more manageable and allows you to deal with the entirety of the relationship, not only one aspect of it.
Do not attempt to seek out the person who broke your heart!!!
Remember that, every time you contact him, all the feelings come back as intensely and you will feel much more miserable than before.
The more distance you put between yourself and this person – and this includes not looking for any information, drive by the house, ask friends, and so on – the quicker you will get to the other side of pain. A neat cut will serve you better than constant reminders of what was and no longer is.
Finally, do not date again until you are finally sure you are no longer thinking about that person MOST OF THE TIME.
While, the length of time required varies according to each situation and each individual, you must focus on finding a middle ground between dating immediately after a break up and isolating for too long, as neither extreme is healthy for you.
Dr. Daniela Roher – www.droherphd.com
When we look at our past relationships as something we need to ‘let go of’ we often resist and feel the need to hold on even tighter.
The first tip to consider in reaching a greater sense of happiness is to change your perception of the relationship.
When we make gentle shifts in our mindset, we inevitably alter our actions and behavior.
Relationships can be synonymous with the metaphor of a train moving toward its destination.
To be in a successful relationship, both partners need to be in agreement with where their train is headed and at what speed it should be traveling.
When a relationship ends it is because both partners desired to head in different directions on separate trains and on separate tracks.
Looking at your relationship through this lens changes your mindset and removes the personalization that occurs when a break up happens.
Instead of ‘letting go of the relationship’, remove the personalization that often occurs when a relationship ends.
See the break up like you are on a different train, moving in a different direction, toward a different destination than your previous partner.
Our goal in being in successful relationship is finding someone who shares the same values and wants the same for the future.
Brooke Campbell, M.A., RDT-BCT, LCAT – www.creativekinections.com
1. Take what you learned
In every relationship, you learn something. It can be a hard lesson; it can be a valuable lesson. In the end, you would do best to look at what this relationship taught you.
Each sacred encounter can provide you with an opportunity for growth and evaluation.
The growth can come in the form of what to do and what not to do in future relationships. It might show you how to be more vulnerable and emotionally available. It might teach you to pick someone on the same emotional and spiritual plane as you are.
Take time to journal or meditate on what you learned in the relationship and what you plan to do in the future.
Celebrate your relationship. It was a sacred encounter, no matter how it ended. Look at all you gained from the relationship. Think about the good times. Look at an old picture and bring back the positive memories, while at the same time letting it go in celebration.
The purpose of this exercise is not to reminisce about the past; it’s to look at it as a cause for celebration.
You opened yourself up in a relationship and there were probably parts that were amazing. You can also celebrate yourself. Do something good for yourself that you have wanted to do for a while.
Take time to nurture yourself.
It’s cause for a celebration for what the relationship was to you, as well as a reward for how you showed up in the relationship. Break-ups are a hard thing to do through; why not make the best of it and pamper you? You’ll definitely feel better.
3. Show gratitude
Gratitude is the way out of revenge, sadness and powerlessness from a past relationship. Gratitude is being thankful for what was and what is.
Gratitude is about looking at the positive the relationship was and allowing yourself to be truly and deeply grateful for what the person meant to you.
Say thank you every day until the pain is gone for that person. It can be about something specific they did or it can just be a general “thank you” for everything. Light a candle in gratitude. Make a list of things you are grateful today. The deeper the gratitude, the deeper the healing.
Amanda Patterson, LMHC – www.amandapattersonlmhc.com
Men and women find it difficult to let go of past relationships for complex reasons.
It helps to have a little understanding of this. Sometimes we have unresolved grief from the past and trauma that has not been fully processed.
It stays in our memory and activates when there are reminders or triggers.
The end of a relationship means loss for most people and some times we need to do the grief work around previous losses as well as this one in order to move on.
Also, the loss is usually symbolic.
For example it might be symbolic of loss of innocence or youth. It is really worth getting some assistance to do this work from a counselor so that it does not stop you from fully committing to a new relationship.
Have some compassion for yourself also.
Perhaps you have not fully acknowledged what the loss means.
Envy and anger are other emotions that can remain stuck and keep a person thinking about the past long after it is useful. These too need to be understood and acknowledged so that it is possible to begin again.
If you find yourself holding on long after the relationship has ended, it is worth asking yourself what purpose does it serve to stay stuck in the past?
- Perhaps it prevents you from being hurt again in a new relationship.
- Perhaps there are underlying fears such as a fear of intimacy that get avoided by this focus on the past.
- Perhaps it is a fantasy or an idealizing of the past relationship that keeps you from moving on.
- Perhaps you imagine that it was better than it really was.
Either way, it will help to acknowledge where you are now, the truth and reality of the whole situation and if it seems to big on your own then seek assistance from a therapist who can really help you to find your life direction in moving forwards.
Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI – www.margieulbrickcounselling.com
There is a wide range of completely normal reactions to losing an important relationship: from reflective contemplation to waves of relief to jolting symptoms of shock (quaking, nausea, obsessive thinking).
Your reaction can tell you a lot about yourself and a lot about just how attached you were to that person and how ready you are to let him go.
And then there are the crazy-making reactions to the end of a love relationship:
cyber-stalking, harassing your ex to stay in contact with you, jumping into a new relationship when all you’re doing is thinking about (and comparing your new flame with) your ex.
Human emotions are deep, complex and nothing-if-not-intense.
They are to be respected and understood, but not necessarily followed, especially when done impulsively and without thought. Indeed, following deep, tumultuous emotions blindly often leads to more heartache. If not worse.
What’s imperative at the end of an important love relationship is that you take care of yourself.
In the case of experiencing sharp symptoms, you need to treat yourself as though you were in shock (which you are): stay warm, hydrated, be sure to eat.
Gather loving support around you, from pets to good friends and family.
We can feel so overwhelmed and lost, especially in the early stages of grieving. Reach out to others, people you trust, for comfort and company.
If you find you are obsessing about your ex, count yourself among millions. It is a common human reaction when we’ve been deeply connected to someone, who is now gone, to obsess over him.
But just because it’s understandable, does not make it good.
It isn’t. It will deplete you, wear you down, and keep you stuck in grief.
Keep a separate journal of writings, writing as though you are speaking to the person you just lost.
Pour out your hurt, your confusion, your despair, your outrage, onto those pages. These expressions are for your healing, not to be shared with this other person. They can be a way to aid you to gradually move on.
Connie Feutz, MA, LMHC – www.nwmarriagecounseling.com
Letting go of a past relationship is not easy.
People who have gone through difficult break-ups or who have had a hard time letting go and moving on in their lives can do a number of things to help themselves move on.
1. Acceptance is an important part of healing.
Some people have a hard time moving on because they are stuck and not willing to accept that their relationship is over.
In order to heal and grow, it is important first to accept the relationship has ended.
It is normal to question why your relationship ended and to have painful feelings of anger, sadness, fear, and rejection.
Although it is difficult to have these feelings, it is important to grieve the loss of the relationship and to also sit with your painful feelings.
Accepting your feelings and having compassion for yourself are key components of healing. Eventually these painful feelings will subside and you will feel better.
2. Take time to work on yourself and focus on self-care.
Instead of ruminating about the relationship and checking up on your ex, take time to get to know yourself better and do things that make you feel better.
Resist the urge to track down your ex or investigate what he or she is doing.
Instead, when you notice thoughts about your ex coming up, imagine yourself changing the channel in your mind from the “ex channel” to the “YOU channel.”
You have control of your thoughts and you can choose to think about your ex and who they are with or you can choose to think about how to make meaningful changes in your life.
Take this time to do things that make you feel better about yourself such as working out, socializing with friends, taking a class in an area of interest, or volunteering.
3. Be open to learning the important lessons from your experience.
Think about what you have learned about yourself as a result of being in this relationship, and evaluate what you want and need in future relationships. Understanding this will allow you to feel more self-confident.
Going through a break-up is hard but the experience can make you a stronger person if you take the time to take care of yourself and learn from the experience.
Dr. Bianka Hardin – www.centeredtherapychicago.com
How quickly you let go of a past relationship depends on two factors:
- How attached you were to the relationship, and
- How you cope with the break-up.
Breaking up can be exhilarating if you were unhappy and stifled in the relationship, and it can be downright devastating if you were comfortably settled in – especially if the break-up comes as an unwelcome surprise. Either way, you will be able to move on most quickly if you apply the following strategies:
1. Give yourself time to experience the emotions of your break-up.
This means allowing yourself to be sad, angry, scared, unmotivated, and generally shell-shocked long enough to absorb the trauma of your loss.
How long is long enough?
Anywhere from a few days to a few weeks of wallowing in misery and forcing yourself to do only what you have to do (like going to work and paying your taxes) will prepare you for the next step of recovery.
2. If you let yourself just be with your sorrow and resist pressure to just “get over it,” you will soon reach a point where, though you’re not healed, you’ll be ready to engage in life again.
This is the time to start considering the advantages of the break-up (for example: now you get to do some of the things your ex didn’t enjoy), letting your friends and family know that you are available to socialize, and distracting yourself with interests and challenges at home and work.
It’s never a good idea to forgot your last relationship by immediately searching for a new one, so look at this next step as an opportunity to get reacquainted with yourself and the people and activities that help you feel good.
3. Once you’ve gotten over the initial shock and are feeling more involved with the world again, it’s time to start thinking about your past relationship in terms of what you learned from it and how you want your next relationship to be different.
The great thing about break-ups is that they always teach you something that you can use to better your chances of finding the right relationship in your future.
Examining your past relationship will help you to see what changes you can make – like recognizing big red flags when they first appear, or becoming happier as a single person so you never have to settle again – to make the break-up a positive growth experience.
Dr. Amy Wood – www.amywoodpsyd.com
Recall the old cliché, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
Original meaning is that things always seem better elsewhere, when they are out of reach, (or with someone else) and that if we could reach them, we would be satisfied or living a happier existence.
It means that what is out of reach or inaccessible may appear of greater worth than what is present and real.
We seem to never be satisfied with what we have. People tend to see the positives in other’s situations while only focusing on the negatives in theirs.
Guess what? You are not missing anything.
The relationship did not end for any reason.
Take a moment, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and recall the positive verses the negative memories and events of the relationship.
Now, imagine living your life in that space with that person for the next five years.
Now, ask yourself:
- Would I have survived?
- Would I have been happy?
- Would I have regrets?
Likely, the answer will lead you back to the very reason that relationship was unhealthy and unfulfilling. Say to yourself, SEP (someone else’s problem).
So, how do I move past my past relationship(s)?
First, you have to make the decision (mentally) to let it go and move on.
We sometimes think we are stronger than we actually are and find ourselves wavering in our decision to move on. This may seem like a no brainer, but it’s really critical to the next step.
Step two is to disconnect from all things that kept you connected to this person, such as social media outlets Facebook, cell phone (delete the number FOR GOOD), places you visited together (that same bar you went to every Friday), pictures, etc.
Now, if children are involved that will require another approach. You may need to stay connected due to co-parenting, even so it’s important to set firm boundaries between you and the co-parent.
Now that you have firmly decided you are ready to move on and you have disconnected from reminders of your ex, to the best of your ability, find new activities to do with friends, family, or alone that will serve as a distraction from feeling lonely.
Be mindful, it takes time to grieve a loss but you will never know the blessing God and the universe has in store for you if you don’t let the past go and make room for it!
Finally, change your focus and rewrite your story.
You deserve better! What looks good isn’t always good for us. Don’t jump into the arms of a new lover too quickly thinking it will get you over the hurt of the last one.
If you haven’t done any work on healing the pain of the past, you just carry old hurts and baggage from the old relationship into the next one.
No one deserves that. When you find yourself holding onto past regrets about lost relationships to the point you are depressed, it’s time to get professional help.
Dr. Angela Clack – www.clackassociates.com
You may not, except with express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content. Nor may you transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system.