Nothing can keep you from a happier future than a lingering relationship wound. We’ve all been there, experiencing good love gone bad is painful. It doesn’t really matter what the circumstances were, or who was right and who was wrong. The bottom line is that it hurts and that the pain is preventing you from moving forward. While time is the best healer, there are five concrete steps you can take that will facilitate the process:
1. Cut off contact
Do this at least for a little while. No, you do not need to be friends. Keeping an ex in your life is not by itself a sign of maturity; knowing how to take care of yourself and your emotional well-being is. Many people hang on to the idea of friendship with an ex as a way to keep the possibility of the relationship alive because the idea of completely letting go seems too overwhelming. While, depending on the circumstances, a friendship may eventually be possible, being friends can’t happen in a genuine way until you have healed through most if not all of the pain, which takes time. Being your own best friend is what is most important during a difficult break-up and that means not putting yourself in situations that don’t lead to feeling good. When you are hurting, you are vulnerable. Protecting yourself with healthy boundaries is an essential part of good self-care. Politely let your ex know you need your space and would prefer not to be in contact for the time being.
2. Let go of the fantasy
Many people don’t realize that a large majority of the pain they experience during a break-up has nothing to do with the relationship they really had. Relationships always end for a reason. It is rarely a complete surprise because things generally haven’t been going well for a while. There is often a long list of what each person did or didn’t do that led to all the fighting and hurt feelings. Most people don’t want back the relationship they actually had. What they mourn for is the relationship they thought they could have had if things had just been different. The truth is, that relationship didn’t exist. Letting go of a dream can be painful. When the relationship first started there were expectations set for what it could be based on the good things that seemed to be unfolding at the time. Almost all relationships are great in the beginning—otherwise, they would have never started—but the whole of a relationship is what it was from beginning to end.
3. Make peace with the past
When someone treats you poorly or does something hurtful, it is a natural and healthy response to feel some anger. Anger helps you be aware of situations that are not in your best interest and can facilitate the separation process from an unhealthy relationship. But when we hold on to anger and resentment from past experiences we take them with us into the future. Nothing hurts more than when someone you love does something that causes you to reevaluate who you believed them to be. When someone betrays the trust you gave, it is painful. But letting another’s actions limit your ability to move forward means he or she still exerts control over your life. Forgiveness isn’t about letting the person off the hook for his or her bad behavior; it is about your emotional freedom.
4. Love yourself more
Ultimately, moving on from a relationship that wasn’t working is about loving yourself. For some, this is the hardest part. Believing that you deserve to be in a loving relationship with someone who shares your values and treats you well requires that you view yourself in a positive light. It’s okay to move on, do it at your own pace.