When a relationship ends, it’s tempting to dwell on what you did wrong or what you could have done differently. This might seem productive—like you can somehow change things by rehashing it. You can’t.
All dwelling does is cause you to suffer. When you start revisiting the past in your head, pull yourself into the moment. Focus on the good things in your current situation: the friends who are there for you and the lessons you’ve learned that will help you with future relationships.
It might help to tell your friends to only let you vent for 10 minutes at a time. That way you’re free to express your feelings, but not drown in them.
2. Work on forgiving yourself.
You might think you made the biggest mistake of your life, and if only you didn’t do it you wouldn’t be in pain right now. Don’t go down that road—there’s nothing good down there!
Instead, keep reminding yourself that you are human. You’re entitled to make mistakes; everyone does. And you will learn from them and use those lessons to improve your life.
Also, keep in mind: if you want to feel love again in the future, the first step is to prepare yourself to give and receive it. You can only do that if you feel love toward yourself; and that means forgiving yourself.
3. Don’t think about any time as lost.
If I looked at that unhealthy relationship or the following decade as time lost, I’d underestimate all the amazing things I did in that time. True, I was single throughout my 20s, but that made it easier to travel and devote myself to different passions.
If you’ve been clinging to the past for a while and now feel you’ve missed out, shift the focus to everything you’ve gained. Maybe you’ve built great friendships or made great progress in your career.
When you focus on the positive, it’s easier to move on because you’ll feel empowered and not victimized (by your ex, by yourself, or by time.) Whatever happened in the past, it prepared you for now—and now is full of opportunities for growth, peace, and happiness.
4. Remember the bad as well as the good.
Brain scientists suggest nearly 20 percent of us suffer from “complicated grief”—a persistent sense of longing for someone we lost with romanticized memories of the relationship. Scientists also suggest this is a biological occurrence; that the longing can have an addictive quality to it, actually rooted in our brain chemistry.
As a result, we tend to remember everything with reverie, as if it was all sunshine and roses. If your ex broke up with you, it may be even more tempting to imagine she or he was perfect and you weren’t. In all reality, you both have strengths and weaknesses and you both made mistakes.
Remember them now. As I mentioned in the post 40 Ways to Let Go and Feel Less Pain, it’s easier to let go of a human than a hero.
5. Reconnect with who you are outside a relationship.
Unless you hop from relationship to relationship, odds are you lived a fulfilling single life before you got into this one. You were strong, satisfied and happy—at least on the whole.
Remember that person now. Reconnect with any people or interests that may have received less attention while you were attached.
The strong, happy, passionate person you were attracted your ex. That person will get you through this loss and attract someone equally amazing in the future when the time is right. Not a sad, depressed, guilt-ridden person clutching to what once was. If you can’t remember who you are, get to know yourself now. What do you love about life?
6. Create separation.
Hope can be a terrible thing if it keeps you stuck in the past. It’s not easy to end all contact when you feel attached to someone. Breaking off the friendship might feel like ruining your chances at knowing love again.
It’s helped me to change my hopes to broader terms. So instead of wanting a specific person to re-enter your life, want love and happiness—whatever that may look like.
You will know love again. You won’t spend the rest of your life alone. In one way or another, you will meet all kinds of people and create all kinds of possibilities for relationships—if you forgive yourself, let go, and open yourself up, that is.