10 Useful Steps To Move On From A Relationship
Here are my personal 10 steps to help you in this healing journey.
1. Clear your baggage. Acknowledge, accept and let go of your feelings
With every broken relationship comes baggage. The (a) longer and (b) more intense your relationship is, the more baggage you’d have accumulated. The length of time me and G were in close, active communication was about 2.5~3 years in total. Not very long compared to others, yet there was so much baggage to be cleared in my head! If your relationship was longer, I can imagine there must be a lot more for you to deal with.
Our baggage will be a mixture of sadness, regret, hope, wistfulness, melancholy, disappointment. If the relationship was intense, your baggage will probably include hate, grief, anger, fear, shame and other deeper emotions. It’s natural to feel these. Whatever the emotion is, open yourself to the emotion fully. This means if you hate the person, feel that hatred. If you feel sad, soak in your sadness. If you feel the need to grief, then please grief. Cry if need be. Take time out for yourself to process these feelings. Don’t block them away. Embrace them and accept them.
Don’t bottle them in, because as we all know they will explode in the future when least expected. You might have heard of people who claim to have moved on by shutting off / avoiding their emotions altogether. They may feel like they have moved on, but what’s really happening is the issue has just become so deeply buried that it doesn’t cause any immediate reaction. It’s like having a cut that is healed on the surface, but still has impurities underneath the scar. To complete the cleansing process, all the dirt has to be cleansed. To do so you need to first acknowledge and accept your feelings.
As you connect with these emotions, slowly let them go. Feel them, understand the source, then release them. Some suggestions would be to talk to a good friend, journaling or meditation. Sleeping helps to clear mental baggage too – but just be conscious that you don’t turn to sleep as a source of escapism.
2. Recognize he/she is not the one for you
A large portion why you can’t move on is probably because you keep seeing him/her as “the one” for you. You just can’t see yourself with anyone else but him/her. Such fixations are dangerous. This leads you to linger on and on, hoping for a “some day” which will never come. Not only that, it leads to a lot of mental projections – both on you and of him/her.
One thing I’ve realized is that if the party does not have the 110% intention to be together, then he/she is not the one for you. I always believe if real intention is there, any obstacles, no matter how insurmountable, can be overcome. If the intention isn’t there, then anything else can come forth as a “reason” for not being together.
If you keep thinking that you guys will be together once the circumstance changes, or once the timing changes, or once you are a better person, then perhaps this isn’t the right person. These prerequisites are signals this relationship isn’t meant to be. Because ultimately, it’s not about the right place or right timing. It’s about whether he/she is the right person. If he/she is the right person, you guys would have been together regardless of how wrong the place or timing is. That’s why it’s called the right person.
3. Share with your close friends
You don’t have to go through this alone. Your friends are there for a reason, to help you, support you, and pull you through this period.
Looking back, I can’t imagine how I could have dealt with this saga without my close friends with me. K, for sure. Other close friends include my secondary school pals, my junior college friend, my god brother whom I knew back when I was 15 and my best friend from university. These people were there to listen to me and support me when I was down. Their overwhelming patience made me very grateful for who they are and our friendships. This experience has undoubtedly strengthened our friendships.
4. Reduce contact with him/her
The initial healing period of every wound is always the most delicate. During this time, you wouldn’t want anything to come near and agitate your wound. Especially not the very things the wound is susceptible to. Because of that, it might help to reduce contact with this person at the beginning, if that’s what it’s going to take to move on faster.
There are three possible situations where you’d have to do so.
- If you feel you can’t move on with constant reminder of his/her presence.
- If he/she keeps pestering you even though you just want to be friends.
- If he/she acts in a way that prevents you from moving on. For example, words or actions that are more romantic than platonic, making it hard for you to decipher on the status of the relationship.
I had to reduce contact with G because his actions toward me made it hard for me to move on. A part of me kept seeing him as an ideal guy, while on the other hand he was treating me in this special way that was ambiguous. Reducing contact made it much easy for me to gain clarity on the situation, that what we had was a friendship and there was nothing more than that.
5. Seek closure with him/her
At the end of an unrequited or broken relationship, there are going to be a lot of unspoken words, questions, and pent up emotions. Questions like: Why did he/she do this to me? What was he/she really feeling at that time? Did he/she ever liked me? Why couldn’t things be worked out? You may try to rationalize them away, but they will remain there, yearning to be answered.
Airing these thoughts to the person helps you gain closure. Write down everything you want to say; things you had qualms with; questions you have always wanted to ask. Arrange for a heartfelt talk with him/her and get the air cleared with these questions. Ask for his/her side of the story. Listen. Talk it out. Seek for an answer, in his/her own words.
At the end, you will find it’s really not so much the answer itself that matters, but the fact that there was an answer. It’s like the piece to the whole puzzle. It gives you certainty on where he/she stands.
Some of you may ask – What if he/she avoids the issue or doesn’t answer the question(s)? If that’s the case, the avoidance itself is the answer. You can interpret the behavior in whatever way you want – irresponsible, player, evasive, unsure, conflicted – but the fact is, he/she chose to avoid. If he/she can’t even give you a proper answer you need, perhaps he/she is just not worth it.
6. Forgive him/her
“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”
I once read a book on forgiveness which shared this powerful idea. It said that whenever we refuse to forgive someone, the person we are not forgiving is really ourselves.
It makes sense doesn’t it? When you feel angry/bitter toward someone, it’s not the other person who is carrying the anger and bitterness. It’s you. For what it’s worth, the other person is probably not aware of how you are feeling toward him/her. You are the only person carrying the baggage around. On a deeper level, I believe you are angry/bitter at yourself for allowing yourself to be hurt by this person. This was what happened to me.
Carrying all these heavyweight emotions can be very tiring. It’s like while dragging a whole pile of carcasses wherever you go. I’m sure you feel tired emotionally and mentally from the episode. You can’t get anywhere far if you keep dragging them along.
To forgive him/her, first forgive yourself. Think about how you are denying yourself of so much happiness by holding on to your grievances. Think about how you are preventing yourself from experiencing your real love because you are still hanging on to these baggage. Whenever you hold on to something, you prevent yourself from receiving new things in life. Forgive yourself for putting yourself through this trauma. Forgive yourself for everything that has happened. As you forgive yourself, forgiveness of the other person will occur naturally.
For more on forgiveness, read;
- Kindness Challenge Day 12: Forgive Someone
- Day 25: Forgive Someone of Be a Better Me in 30 Days Program
7. Do the things you love
Steps 1-6 are tied to your inner world and specifically dealing with the root of the issue. While spending time in your internal world is important, don’t linger too long in this stage. Get into some activities. What are the things that perk you up? Things that excite you, enthuse you, make you feel rejuvenated? Exercising? Jogging? Swimming? Cycling? Rollerblading? Traveling? Going out with friends? Movies? Watching a drama? Reading a book? Engage yourself in them.
8. Meet new people
It’s easy to get trapped in your head thinking about the thing for too long. Meeting new people, friends or romantic potentials alike, reminds how there is a whole world out there. There are many great people to know out there. Don’t get cooped up with your life. I always find it an amazing adventure to know someone new and be exposed to a whole different life. It helps me understand life from a whole different angle.
9. Know there is nothing wrong with you nor him/her
It’s easy to conclude you are not good enough when something doesn’t work out. I thought I wasn’t good enough for a long while, both consciously and subconsciously as you could see throughout the series. However, this is an erroneous belief. If the relationship could only happen if you are XXX person with XXX traits, then it meant you are not the right person for this relationship. Everyone looks for different people. There is no preset criteria on what are the “right” or ‘wrong” traits to embody, just different expectations. If you don’t embody the traits the person is looking for, that just means you guys aren’t the right match. That’s all. There is nothing wrong with you or him/her. You guys just aren’t suited for each other.
10. Recognize there is someone out there for you
It might be hard to believe as you try to move on from a broken past, but it’s true. Heck, I’m 25 (as of 2010), never been in a truly serious relationship (by choice), met my share of incompatible guys, and I still believe there’s someone out there for me!
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t think so! I don’t care how many relationships you’ve been in the past, how many wrong men/women you’ve been with, or whether you’ve never been in any real relationships. (I haven’t). There is someone out there for you. You’re definitely not the only single out there in the world. Look around you! Look at your friends. Look at the people on the streets. Do you think you’re the only person who is single in this world? Of course not! There are 7 billion people in the world. For every couple you see out there, there are multiples of other singles. For every single you see, there are even more singles.
There is someone out there for you. I’m as convicted of this for myself as much as I am for you. Just because you are single now doesn’t mean you will remain forever single. It just means you have not found the right person. Meanwhile, focus on living your best life in your definitions. Most importantly, remember that your life doesn’t and shouldn’t hinge on having a special partner or not. We are complete by ourselves and relationships should not be there to complete us.