Getting over our former flames is a process that takes time, understanding and committment.
Photo by Jean Gerber on Unsplash
by: E.B. Johnson
Our relationships form a critical piece of who we are, and when we lose them it can cause us to flounder and struggle on a number of different planes. When we lose a long-standing or deeply important partner, it can cause us to lose an imperative sense of who we are and ? without that ? we can become lost and trapped in a number of negative patterns that keep us stuck, scared and unhappy.
If you?re coming off the back of a devastating breakup, and you?re stuck on an ex you just can?t get out of your head, you have to reclaim your sense of self and do it with the same compassion, understanding and love that you would extend to a friend. By learning how to rewrite your narrative, and getting a handle on who you are and what you really want, you can forge your way back to happiness and come out on the other side stronger than you ever were before.
What keeps us hung-up?
There are hundreds of reasons we might find ourselves pining for a partner that?s no longer around, but there are a few common ones that cause a particular amount of unhappiness. From failing to grieve the loss of our relationships, to over-idealizing and failing to get the closure that you need ? getting past our exes requires fessing up to our own hang-ups first.
Failing to grieve
One of the biggest reasons we get stuck on exes that no longer serve us is that we fail to give ourselves time to grieve appropriately. Rather than dealing with the deep well of heavy emotions that a breakup inspires, we might jump right into a new relationship or a million projects that keep us from facing up. While this might seem to a work for a while, eventually things slow down, stop or come to a complete halt; and when they do those ugly, un-dealt-with emotions rear their ugly heads?bringing your ex up with them.
Getting stuck in blame mode
It?s easy to get stuck in blame mode after a break-up, but it doesn?t actually do anything for our actual growth and healing. A break-up is little more than a transition, and that?s a natural part of life. That can be hard to see or accept from the inside, however, so it becomes easier to lay blame at the feet of your partner, yourself or anyone that might help alleviate the pain. Getting stuck in blame mode might serve your ego, but it doesn?t serve your recovery.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons we find ourselves stuck on an ex who is toxic or bad for us is the act of over-idealizing. Over-idealizing occurs when we refuse to see someone for what they really are, and put them up on an impossible pedestal of greatness that is neither accurate nor healthy. It?s seeing things through rose-tinted glasses, or seeing things as being better than they were. When we over-idealize our partners, rather than accepting the part they played in the split, it can cause us to pine for a person that never really existed in the first place.
Not getting closure
Closure is a funny thing, and though some relationships end with it ? others don?t. If you failed to get closure (either from your partner or on your own) then you might find yourself thinking constantly of ?what could have been? or pining for a partner that never quite closed the door. This lining, however, is both unhealthy and self-defeating, as exes are exes for a reason.
Signs you?re not quite over your former partner.
Breakups aren?t easy. Getting your heart broken can lead to some serious emotional and mental consequences that can become negative patterns that seriously undermine our happiness over time. There are a number of signs that you?re still struggling to recover from your bad breakup, and recognizing them is one of the first steps in finding your way back to true joy and fufillment.
If you?re still trying to contact your ex ? or you?re constantly thinking of contacting your ex ? it?s a sign that you still have something that needs put to rest. An urge for contact indicates an urge for connection, and that?s something that has to get worked past once a partnership has come to an end. As exes, we no longer have a right (or a need) to be forever in contact. They don?t need to know what you think about that new Mexican restaurant, and you don?t need to hear about their day or the new ?friend? they met.
Find yourself constantly thinking about your ex, or obsessing over facets of your relationship or breakup is a major sign that you haven?t quite moved on. Getting lost in daydreams or reminiscing obsessively over time spent together shows that you aren?t ready to move on and that you?re still attached to what?s in your past. This type of rumination can cause you to miss important opportunities, or turn yourself away from chances at a new and happy start.
Public lash out
If you find yourself lashing out at your ex in public forums, it?s a concrete sign that you haven?t moved on. When we are truly free of the oppressive negative emotions breakups create, we don?t feel any king of emotional attachment (either positive or negative) when we think of our ex or the lives they might be living now. This zen state doesn?t require vague-posting or trash-talking. When you?re really past your ex, you simply won?t care.
Comparisons can be toxic, especially when we use them as they relate to our exes or our past relationships. Constantly comparing other people to your ex, or comparing new situations to your ex might be a sign that you haven?t quite worked through all the feelings you still have attached to those experiences. Truly getting past your ex means measuring your life ? and the people in it ? on their own merits, rather than the merits of a person who is no longer in your life.
Though you might have put the public sh*tposting to bed, if you?re still cyberstalking your ex ? you?re not over them. Going to your exes profile page and looking for signs of new life shows that you?re still invested more than you should be. It also shows that your ex is still taking up a lot of real estate in your brain and your heart; something that leaves little room for healing, improvement or new and better relationships.
Clinging to mementos
Still clinging to that box of trinkets, presents and sacred memories? Again, this is another sign that you?re letting your ex take up space ? rent free ? in your life and in your thoughts. The memories attached to things can play an important part in our mental health or healing. A refusal to let go of things that hold important emotional memories proves that you?re not willing to let go of those emotions, those memories or that person, in any complete way.
Fantasizing about a reunion
Point blank: if you still think about getting back together with your ex, you aren?t over them. Now, we?re not talking the occassional thought of ?what if?? If you still find yourself regularly fantasizing about what it would be like if that phone rang and you ran off into the sunset, it means that you?re still hoping for that future.
This is how you get past your ex.
The good news is that, even though it is seems impossibly hard, getting over your ex is possible. Once you?ve spotted the signs that you?re holding yourself back, you can take charge of your life (and your heartbreak) by learning how to talk about where you?re at, expanding your concept of self and redefining the things that make you feel truly joyful, happy and at ease with the world around you.
1. Take time to reflect
Reflection is one of the most powerful tools in our healing arsenal, but it?s one that requires a little know-how. Looking back over our relationships can uncover a lot of learning, that empowers us to make better choices in future and create personal relationships that are both more efficient and more fulfilling. That takes some honesty, however, and it takes the understanding that getting better is always a little uncomfortable.
Don?t just file your ex away in a distant corner, hell-bent on coming back another day. Rather than attempting to bury the emotions you feel around you breakup, welcome them, and welcome the thoughts (both good and bad) that you have about your old ex, spouse or partner.
Research has shown that thinking about your split ? in the right terms ? is a great way to unravel the mysteries and find the silver lining in any breakup. When we thoughtfully reflect on what went wrong and what went right, it makes it easier for us to accept things as they are and move on in a more efficient and complete manner. So, if you?re still stuck on your ex because you can?t stop running away from the thought them ? slow down. You need to face the past in order to move beyond it.
2. Embrace your emotions
Learning about breakups can seriously alter our emotions and the way we see the world and our other relationships. If you?re not careful, the pain of an unresolved ex can become a life-altering mess that undermines all the happiness, joy and success you have in your life. According to Dr. Carmen Harra, a clinical psychologist and relationship expert, dealing with our emotions is the key to overcoming the hardship and difficulty of a major breakup.
?In order to heal from a breakup and keep it from reoccurring in the future, you have to keep your emotions in check. If you obsess, you become stuck in the past. But if you can think logically and understand the need to move forward, you can master your emotions.? You can?t move forward unless you process the complex emotions brought up by a serious breach of trust, but that takes some radical self-acceptance and it takes some substantial courage.
Take time to work through the shock, sadness, anger, hate and grief of what?s happened. Let your feelings flow in the moment and let them come to you as they are with no need to alter them or shy away from them. Here again, mindful journalling practices are a great way to get in touch with your emotions in a safe and accepting space. Sit in a quiet space and stay rooted in the present as you reach into the emotions that are causing the most turmoil in your life. Make mindful observations and don?t be afraid to narrate how you?re feeling or what?s causing your emotions to rise and fall.
3. Drop the blame game
As humans, the blame game is one of our favorite go-to coping mechanisms, but it?s one of the most destructive and self-defeating habits out there and one that undermines our relationships as well. When things go wrong, we love to blame ourselves (and everyone else too) as a means of distracting ourselves from the real issues and the real changes that need to take place.
We project our bad feelings and emotions onto others in order to feel better about ourselves; and we even internalize the bad for others as a means of noble ?self-sacrifice?. The blame game is one we know how to play well, but it?s a toxic pattern to fall into when you?re dealing with a heartbreak. Sometimes, there?s no one to blame and things just happen. You have to accept that, though, and you also have to accept that sometimes our plans don?t work out the way we want them to.
Stop blaming yourself and realize that you ? as much as anyone else in the entire universe ? is deserving of love, honesty and compassion. Unresolved guilt only causes anger and resentment, so take hold of your emotions and let go of your need to place the mantle of blame entirely on your own shoulders.
4. Make a recovery plan
In order to get past your ex, you have to have a general idea of where you?re going and what you need to feel happy again. The best way to design this is to take some time looking within and getting back in touch with that authentic self that once loved and trusted the world. Sit down and take some time to make a recovery plan that works for you and the goals you have for your future.
Remember: A relationship ending says something about both partner, not just one. Remove yourself from any betrayal and try not to dwell on the act itself, but rather how the action has made you feel. Focus on your emotions and what you need to deal with the situation. You can either forgive and forget or you can distance yourself and take more time to consider what you need and where you need to go.
Stumbling around blindly, clinging to our negative emotions, is not healthy. If you don?t know which direction you need to move in, reach out to a trusted friend or family member and test their perspective on the situation. Mindful journaling too can do a lot in helping you identify the steps you need to take in order to make the best of the situation. No one can define your healing but you.Take the time you need and make a plan that you can stick to.
5. Learn how to forgive
Most self-help articles will tout the power of forgiving the people that hurt us, but too often they lose sight of the importance of forgiving ourselves. Suffering a relationship breakdown doesn?t just result in a loss of trust in others. It results in a loss of trust in ourselves. When we suffer these types of breakups, we often take that as a personal mark against who we are ? coming to doubt ourselves in ways that are both toxic and self-defeating.
The true forgiveness you need to seek in the flaming wreckage of a betrayal is your own. As humans, we are prone to mistakes and missteps. No one is perfect and no one ever makes all the right choices in the right moments. Take this experience as the learning opportunity that is and have enough compassion with yourself to allow for upsets along the way.
Forgiving yourself does not mean accepting the mistakes you made or the pitfalls you fell into. It simply means detaching from the pain, bitterness and rage that?s buried deep, deep within you; eating away at who you are the future you have planned for yourself. Harboring hatred only stifles your progress. Forgive yourself and empower yourself to make the changes you need in your life and relationships.
6. Take time and space
Time and space are a powerful thing and that?s especially true when it comes to our relationship breakdowns. When we give ourselves a certain amount of distance from our exes (either physically or emotionally) we give ourselves the gift of perspective too, which can then allow us to see things for what they are and heal. If you?re still stuck on an ex, try taking a step back and giving yourself the room to hurt, cry and move on.
Giving yourself distance can take whatever form you need. While that might be a solo-trip to an exotic country, it might also mean just cutting yourself off from certain social circles for a while. Delete your ex?s social media, and block their number or the number of anyone that might try to interfere. If you?re truly struggling with a major breakup, you need to give yourself room to breath. Limit your interruptions no matter how you get your distance, and make sure you can?t be interrupted by ghosts from Christmas past.
There?s a lot of research that shows that time is a great healer and that, coupled with distance, it can drastically help improve our emotional attachments. The more room you put between you and the person you can?t have / can?t stop thinking about, the more you will heal emotionally, but it?s something that can?t be rushed or pinned into a box. Healing can?t be hurried, and your pain won?t evaporate over night. It will get better with time, however, and the understanding that all things change as the days go by.
7. Date yourself
Dating yourself can be one of the best ways to get past an ex that won?t leave your memories alone. When we get into relationships, we have a tendency to lose ourselves, or lose sight of the things that bring us authentic joy and happiness. By dating yourself, you can learn how to love yourself, and you can also learn more about all the beautiful and unique aspects that make you, you. Rather than focusing on someone who no longer wants to celebrate us, we can learn how to celebrate ourselves and therefore empower our healing.
Take a step back from dating and start zeroing-in on you. Treat yourself how you would want or expect a significant other to treat you. Go out on dates to nice restaurants, buy yourself cards, flowers, little treats that make you feel good. Mainly, however, learn how to treat yourself emotionally the way you would want a partner to treat you. Start being there for yourself (in word and deed) and change the type of inner talk you?re using. Transform the voice of your inner critic into your inner lover, and be as kind to you as you would want a partner to be.
Little-by-little, you?ll start to see a major change not only in the way you see yourself, but the way you see relationships. When you take the time to actually love yourself, it raises the value you set on your time and your emotions. Rather than giving yourself away to people who don?t want you, you?ll realize your heart is a premium property that?s not worth handing over to the lowest bidder (aka your ex). Be the type of lover you want in your life, and you?ll attract the type of lover you want in your life ? but only if you know how to treat yourself first.
8. Keep yourself busy
One of the best ways we can get over an ex and move past a devastating break up is to keep ourselves busy. It takes the human brain about a month to form the neural pathways that help us emotionally recover from a relationship breakdown. Rather than allowing our brains to wallow in depression, we can take this time of regrowth to drop the rumination and lift our moods through keeping ourselves (and our brains) busy.
Round up your social circle and get outside; find something to do, and look for new activities that can inspire new confidence or passion in you. Do things that YOU like to do, and seek out excitement or thrill. Exercise is a great way to start dipping your toes into this radical new life, but you can also do things like travel, clean out that cluttered garage, or even have a yard sale.
Do things that make you feel great, and do things that allow you to connect with new people and new experiences. Little by little, you?ll notice that these things take up more space than your pain did. One day, you?ll wake up and notice that all the pain and all the hurt is gone. You?re yourself again, and you?ve got a whole new life rolled out in front of you. After about 30 days of busyness, you?ll feel like a whole new person. Of course, you?ll actually be one too.
Putting it all together?
When we?re hung up on an ex that is-no-more, it?s because we?re hung up on the possibility of what could have been. Dwelling in the past is as silly as dwelling ? entirely ? in the future. In both spaces, we have little power, as the only thing we can control is the here and now. You have to let go of what could have been and start looking reality bravely in the face without the person you might have expected by your side. This requires that you be brave, sit down and make a recovery plan, avoiding the blame game and forgiving yourself for the part you may have played or the decisions you made that led you to this moment. Getting over an ex is possible, but you?ve got to put in work and you have to get comfortable with the art of letting go.
Take time to reflect and grieve what was, and don?t rush your emotions or the heavy rush of pain you might be feeling post break-up. Binge on sad music and let it bring up all the things you might be too afraid to say or feel. Music can be a powerful tool in our healing when we know how to use it, but it takes a few tears. Reach out to your support circles and get social, using your friends as the balancing board that can keep you steady through these turbulent emotional times. Keep the positives in focus and don?t forget to be grateful for the silver lining in your romantic breakdown. If you need time and space to heal ? take it, and allow yourself to go out there and get involved in new activities and pastimes that allow you to stay busy and open up to new opportunities. Break-ups are hard, but they can be overcome. Take some time to date yourself and get close to the beautiful, strong person that?s been waiting there for you all along.