Nothing seems as acute and traumatic as the pain that comes from ending a relationship. Often people think it is the person who is ‘broken up’ with, that feels the most pain and sometimes this is true, but people move on for all sorts of reasons and even those that initiated the breakup can experience a feeling of loss and pain.
It all depends on how significant that relationship was to that person.
The loss of a loving partner can trigger all sorts of feelings and also encompass many situations, objects, and values in a person’s life. For many, the loss of a person in their life can mean a loss of their home, their finances, and also belongings. This not only triggers feelings like sadness and grief but can also cause fear and anxiety.
Sudden change is not easy to handle and when your whole life and possible future lay in tatters around your feet it seems as though there is nothing left at all, but there is. Many relationships end and many marriages, partnerships and couples deal with this loss every day, and they all have to learn how to move on from an ex.
Understand it is a grieving process
If you had deep feelings for your ex, a breakup can be akin to mourning, say some therapists. Along with all the memories you shared there are also all the dreams that no longer exist. You could have planned a future together and now that is all gone. You find yourself alone and depressed, wondering how to move on from an ex and be happy again.
The first thing to do is allow yourself to grieve. Instead of bottling up the emotions you feel by being angry, allow yourself the space and time to grieve the losses you are feeling.
A breakup of a relationship is very real grief and should be treated as such. There is a natural period of adjustment after this situation that can take anything from 3 to 6 months, this is the time it normally takes to adjust to a new situation. Sometimes it can move faster along this period and sometimes more slowly. If it has a lasting effect on a person this is when psychologists would term the grief from the breakup as an adjustment disorder.
Some of the symptoms of a longer-term adjustment disorder are:
- Constant fatigue
- Body aches and pains
- General malaise
The good news is there is help at hand
Loss and grief are filled with all sorts of feelings. A basket of feelings consisting of despair, anger, sadness, grief, feelings of inadequacy, and even fear. It is a shock to the system and a traumatic event.
Allowing yourself to feel these feelings gives you a platform for recovery. Sharing them with someone else, either through talk therapy, or simply just talking to a friend can alleviate the pain you are feeling.
Unlike grief in the event of the death of a person, the death of a relationship is like a living mourning. That means knowing that the person you have lost is still around, still there, still having a life, and also meeting new people. This is one of the toughest bereavements you can go through, depending on how significant the relationship was.
The first thing is allowing yourself the time.
You are allowed to feel sad
This will take some time, and permitting yourself to be sad and to feel the loss is the beginning of the road to recovery. During this time you allow yourself to listen to favorite songs and cry, share the pain with trusted friends or family or write it all down. Sometimes writing things down with expression can release those emotions, clearing them away for healing to occur.
This period does have a time limit of sorts. Grief will take its own time, but this time of giving yourself full permission to think and feel these raw emotions should have a time limit. Whilst your feelings are important and this stage is pivotal to healing, wallowing in sadness will not be conducive to moving on.
Don’t play old movies in your head
There is a difference between allowing yourself any emotion and identifying what it is to be stuck in a cycle of sorrow, so your mind might want to play over what happened time and time again, don’t allow your mind to go there.
Grief will cause our minds to play re-runs of these old movies giving alternative endings or suggestions on how to do things differently to get a different result. The reality is that all you can manage now are the feelings. The past is gone and the future lies in wait for when you are ready to enjoy it and learn how to make life more exciting.
It might surprise you but we do have control over what we think. If you find yourself replaying the breakup or the parts leading up to the breakup, cut yourself off and start to forgive.
Forgive yourself for perceived failings and forgive your partner for their failings in this situation.
It won’t happen immediately but it will happen over time. Managing our thoughts to a large extent is part of emotional maturity and over time becomes a good skill to acquire.
Forgiveness sets us free, it removes that heavy burden we feel and allows us to move on. There can be many scenarios you have to deal with in this situation, perhaps there was a third party involved, perhaps you feel you were at fault, the list is endless, but the answers remain the same. Forgiveness takes time. Some people swear by simply saying it out loud every day helps them with forgiveness. Once you forgive, the volume of pain starts to turn down, bit by bit, and you will be a step closer to moving on from an ex.
Go no contact
This is an important step and can hasten the adjustment phase. Going no contact includes telling your ex that they can no longer call you, send emails to you to even go so far as to change your route to work if it means you go past their home or their regular hang-outs.
Be strict with social media, it might be tempting to check up on your ex’s Facebook or other media. Don’t do it. It will just cause more unnecessary pain. If you have to sit around on Facebook, block their profile so that you won’t accidentally go down that rabbit hole.
Be firm with friends, if you share friends, explain to them that you would not like to be kept up to date with your ex-partner’s life or goings-on. That you are trying to move on. Most people will be very sensitive to this and respect your wishes. Don’t attend any parties or events where you know your ex will be.
Some people find that removing anything including objects that remind them of that person is the best road to recovery. If it reminds you of them, remove it.
If you have children from this relationship some contact will be necessary but many of the above concepts will still apply to you.
Dissolve the fantasy
Human beings are funny things and memories even stranger. It is amazing how quickly we forget the pain and replace those events with a made-up reality. The longer we are away from a situation the more we decide how perfect it was. In reality, it was not.
Many people fall in love with the idea of a person. An idea that they believed to be true. Sometimes it is this idea or fantasy that keeps the flames of longing alive. Get real about the situation, remember the hard times as well, and understanding that you are now in love with an idea can make it easier for you to move forward. The good news about this idea is that this is what you need in a partner, even though this particular partner did not have those characteristics.
Fall in love with you again
You might have fallen out of love with your ex, and they might have fallen out of love with you, but it’s now time to fall in love with yourself again and finally get an understanding of how to move on from an ex.
Falling in love with yourself includes understanding yourself, who you are today, what is important to you, learning how to date yourself, finding out the things that bring you joy, and discarding the things that don’t bring you joy. You might be in pain now, but you are going to come out of this stronger and happier than before.
Part of falling in love with yourself also includes not going out of your way to impress people, being yourself, and getting comfortable with yourself again. Sometimes being outside of a relationship has gifts too, and that includes going to bed at the time you prefer, hogging the remote control for the TV, being able to catch up with friends that you haven’t seen in a while, and rediscovering yourself. Start to focus on the gifts this time alone can offer you.
When you are ready start to go out again
Getting out and about is pivotal to good mental health, and the longer you put it off the tougher it gets. You can start small and with activities you feel comfortable with. Meeting friends for lunch, going for walks, having a picnic, sitting in the garden, or even taking an interesting train ride are some ideas to get the ball rolling.
Friends might start to invite you out for drinks or dinner and where you feel comfortable accept the invitations. Sometimes a change of scene can inject new life into your soul and can spur you on into letting go of the current situation.
This can be done in baby steps, of course, only making small bite-size chews of life. The main thing is trying to do activities that serve you and staying away from activities that do not.
There does come a time when you will feel ready to move on from your ex. It might be sooner than you think or longer than you thought. Each situation is different for each person. It all depends on how invested you were in the relationship. If you are ready quite quickly, don’t feel guilty, it just means the timing is right for you.
Perhaps you are one of those people who feel ready but leave the dating experience and meeting someone else to the gods that be. Many people have met lifetime partners in peculiar places, at a shopping mall, a bus stop, or a car repair garage just to name a few. In other words, they feel that life will make a choice for them and send the right partner at the right time.
If you prefer to open your heart and go looking for a new partner then this is the style you prefer and that is fine too.
When you are ready to jump in, consider these things first:
Have a good mindset about yourself.
It is often easier to meet people not only when you are ready with an open heart, but when you already feel positive about yourself. If you have done the homework beforehand this will be a breeze. It is pointless to go looking for outward affirmation from possible dates as at times this can include fickle experiences that do not lead to much. If your ego has been bruised before it could be that in the early stages of getting out there you might feel a bit fragile.
Having a good mindset is about feeling better about what happened, feeling better about yourself, and also having a decent understanding of what works for you and what doesn’t all help towards this goal.
Understand the things you do want in a partner
After heartbreak and after understanding what went wrong, that which went right, can all lead you to gather a clearer picture of the type of partner you truly want. You can write this down to keep the picture clear in your head. No one will match up to this picture-perfect but it is a great starting point.
Too many people believe in romantic love and the fact that we simply fall in love with someone who was meant to be.
In many ways, this rules out choice on our behalf. If you like a certain person and prefer people that are involved in different professions, then align yourself to the opportunity of meeting someone by being visible in those areas.
Don’t be shy about sharing your strengths too and become clear about what you have that makes you special. If people call you warm and caring for example this is a huge plus on your side.
It is human nature to compare everyone we meet to the partner we have just had. Do yourself a favor and make a promise to yourself that you will not do that. It is not only unhealthy for you but is also difficult for people we meet.
You can draw on your experience from your last relationship privately but don’t share that with your new partner. Try not to talk about your old partner during dating either. This is too personal and not overly relevant to the situation you are in now. Other people have other gifts and treasures that can make your heart sing, search for those instead.
Take it Slow
You don’t have to get involved with anyone too quickly. You can enjoy dates and meeting people with new freedom. Understand your boundaries and don’t feel pressured into committing too early.
The beauty of being comfortably single is that you get to pick and choose.
Within reason of course! You can mix up your activities, spending time going out with friends and also spending time on dates if you want to. Knowing how to organize your life can help you enjoy the time you have for yourself, and free up time for more dates and new people.
If you lack friends or a good support system, there are plenty of reputable dating sites mixed in with the less reputable ones, find those and your life might suddenly open up to a lot of choices that you didn’t have before.
It does help to be transparent in this area, if you are just planning on meeting people and just having a blast then make this known to the person, it gives them a chance to look for someone else if they are ready for commitment and you are not. Plus, it stops any pressure being placed on your meetings with people. Be firm in your boundaries by getting to know them first. Perhaps for example being physical too soon is a no-no for you then understand that in advance and if necessary tell the person you are dating.
Once you’ve moved past the heartache stage and are ready to date it can feel like the world is your oyster. There are plenty of people out there looking for a partner and also many who want meaning in their lives. Most people have been through the heartbreak stage at least once and it is good to know that life goes on.
There is indeed a rainbow after the rain if you take the steps slowly towards healing and the rewards can be magical. Hopefully, our guide on how to move on from an ex will help!
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