Relationships end. And it hurts. Feeling shattered, betrayed, empty and stuck in that place can last a long time. I often hear this question: Will I ever move on from my ex?
My answer always is: If you want to. It’s always a choice you get to make, but there are some things you may need to recognize before moving on feels right—even possible.
Here’s where you may be stuck:
Unable to Face the Truth
It’s true. The relationship has ended. Especially if the breakup was not your idea, facing this truth can be difficult.
There is a sense of loss and grief, which cannot be ignored. There is the loss of your partner, loss of your dreams and loss of someone with whom you were deeply connected.
In an effort to deny this loss, you may try to remain friends, find excuses to talk, or “save” yourself for him (just in case it might change back to the way it was).
Afraid to be Alone
Becoming “single” again, perhaps for the first time in a very long time, takes a period of adjustment. You may worry about what other people will think of you now that you’re no longer in that relationship. Fear of judgment is common and can drive you to withdraw from other relationships.
You may wonder, who am I now? With the breakup of a relationship, you may also find that you’ve lost friends in the fallout. It may feel as if you have no one to talk to. This is a slippery slope because now is when you need someone to confide in the most.
Living in the Past
Retelling old stories keep you stuck in the past. Especially when you are wearing those rose-colored spectacles as you tell those stories.
Holding on to old dreams keeps the ties that bind you to him alive—while the object of those dreams is no longer a part of your future.
Looking in the rearview mirror does not allow you to see what’s ahead of you. The past is your past—and it always will be—but you have a choice to make. You can continue to look in the rearview or you can crane your head around and discover what there is to see through the windshield.
This can be a huge sticking point. What are the voices in your head telling you? Are they repeating things you heard from your ex? Do you believe what those voices are saying? This, in and of itself, can keep you stuck for a long time.
When you are mired in the emotions from a breakup, you may listen to those words and feel that they still describe you. Do they cause you to feel unworthy of love from anyone else? Family? Friends? Someone new?
Even if a part of you still loves him, which is completely natural, you may need to become more discerning about the voices you listen to. Replacing what they say with more empowering words will be more motivating.
Focused on What You’ve Lost
This is a bit like looking in the rearview, but different. When you focus on what you’ve lost, it can send you down a dark and deep rabbit hole. It can lead to becoming a hermit, wallowing in self-pity and depression. You may stop eating well and sleep may be difficult in this rabbit hole.
Recognizing the signs of this is important. Being alone is the last thing that will get you out of that hole. Keep trusted friends or a professional close, so you don’t even go near it.
Moving Forward from a Breakup
Regardless of how long it has been since the breakup, there are things you can do to get out of the rut you’re in.
It takes some people longer than others—don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.
Be gentle and kind to yourself and consider these ideas that may help to move you forward:
Accept What Has Happened
Examine your relationship very honestly. If you’re living in fantasy-land, pinch yourself good-and-hard so you wake up from that dream. Openly discuss with someone you trust the good, the bad, and the ugly of that relationship. You may even benefit from making a list of all those points.
How many characteristics of your relationship fall into the bad and ugly columns, versus the good? Remember, that this is your list, not his. If he broke up with you, you may very well have a lot of items in the good column. Examine whether they out-weigh those in the other columns.
This is an exercise in accepting the truth that it is over, not of justifying why it should not be. It is an exercise in allowing yourself to see all facets of the relationship, so you can understand what worked for you and what didn’t. You will create great awareness through this examination and, based on that awareness, you will make different choices as you move beyond the hurt.
Surround Yourself with Support
During and after a breakup is no time to be a lone wolf. It may be hard to talk about it to too many people. That’s understandable. Find one or two trusted family members, friends or professionals who get what you’re going through and are there for you no matter what.
Reaching out when you need to talk, just need a hug or need someone to take you away from it all, is the best way to prevent you from isolating and crawling down that rabbit hole I talked about earlier.
Limit Contact & Create Space
At least for a while, constant contact with your ex will likely serve to delay your own healing and recovery from the breakup. Stay away. Give yourself space and time to think about yourself for once.
If there are children involved, this can be challenging. In this case, setting boundaries and ground rules for communication is critical. Agree that communication will be only about the welfare of the children and not about either of you. Set certain times when this communication is allowed (except in real emergencies) and stick to that agreement.
Creating a safe place for your healing to begin is an important part of taking care of you. Which brings me to the next notion.
Take the Best Care of You Ever
At first, you may not know how to do this. Self-care can be hard for women because we are caregivers at the core. But the truth is, no one knows better than you what you need.
Now that you are a totally separate being, you get to decide what feeds your soul and makes you happy. When you discover those things, do them—often!
Self-care will help to build your confidence and exercise your resiliency muscle. Becoming more confident and resilient is the end-game of healing and recovery from a breakup.
Understand What Is Important to You
So often in a relationship, no matter how long it was, we compromise our values. If you’ve been living by his values for a while, you may not even recognize this.
Take some time and dig into what is important to you right now. What are the values by which you want to live your life?
There are many to choose from and most of us live by a lot of values—some are more essential at work versus at home. But I believe we all need to know our Core Values because they will guide us regardless of our circumstance. Identify those. I suggest to my clients to pare down to their top five core values.
This creates a checklist against which you can bump up every choice and decision you make. If the choice you are considering honors your top five core values, it’s an easy yes. If not, guess what? It’s an easy no. You get to practice saying no and feel justified in saying it. Plus, you will feel delighted when you say yes because it is coming from your core understanding of what is important now.
Focus on Your Future
When you practice the ideas already presented, you’ll be in a state of acceptance, with supportive people around you. Your boundaries will be in place and self-care practices are the new normal.
You are grounded in knowing what values are important to you, and this sets up a perfect environment for creating a vision for your future that will set your soul on fire.
It’s your vision. You get to dream new dreams. You are the leading lady of this movie. Make it an award-winning epic! Scared? Not sure where to start? Don’t do it alone!
Can You Say: Ready, Set, Action?
Knowing your values and having a vision is great! But until you put your plan into action, you have a great list of admirable values and beautiful pictures that represent your new life.
Taking small steps to make your vision a reality is where the rubber meets the road.
It gets you moving. It opens doors to creative thinking and solution finding. Getting busy to make your new vision come true creates a sense of peace and well-being. You are the mistress of your life—make it the best ever and be the best you.
This is a step that can be the most cathartic and the most challenging. Finding an accountability partner, with whom you share your plan and ask for their help, will keep you on track.
How will YOU move on from your ex?
Breakups are hard. When relationships end, it can be devastating. But it doesn’t have to be your demise. Nor does it have to define who you are or how you respond. Life does go on if you choose to participate in it.
Will you be the one who continues to ask, will I ever move on from my ex? Or will you be the one who gives herself some time to mourn the loss of what was, accept the fact that there are lessons to learn, and move on from there to create a bright future?
Perhaps these insights and ideas, from someone who has been there, will help you decide.
María Tomás-Keegan is a certified Career and Life Coach for Women, and founder of Transition & Thrive with María. When life-changing moments flip the world upside down, as only a breakup can do, she guides women to turn chaos into calm, so they can clear their heads, become resilient and learn to live a life guided by their own values and vision. If you’re ready to explore new possibilities with an open heart, get 5 Simple Choices to Get You Back on Track now.