You probably already know that this will hold you back.
Because your ability to make progress in your life is totally and completely, sheer and utterly, wholly and inextricably tied to who it is you allow to remain in it. And whom you allow to consume your time, energy, and thoughts.
Author and poet C. JoyBell C. wrote:
“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.”
Some of you are are carrying dead weights around. Your heart is heavy. Your mind is blurred. You’re secretly wishing for something that you know deep down isn’t the best for you. Still yet you hang on. Still yet you hope. Why?
I’ve had moments of personal struggle – and eventual triumphs – that have led me to a greater understanding of this. Perhaps more importantly, I have psychological insight. I hope you’ll carefully consider what I’m about to share.
Let me also clarify that I am using the term “ex” here quite loosely. Most of you have probably already experienced that fact that titles don’t always capture the full picture. Two people can be in a significant relationship without ever having “officially” dated. If the feelings are there, the feelings are there. This post is for those of you who are having difficulty letting go of someone you’ve developed feelings for, even though you sincerely want to, or just believe you should.
4 Reasons Why You Can’t Get Over Your Ex
Reason #1: You Think It’s About Your Feelings
Yes, your feelings are a huge part of the reason it’s difficult for you to get over someone you cared for. Feelings like love don’t just slip away at night. (But oh don’t we wish.)
But the real reason you’re stuck and can’t move forward is that relationships don’t just involve feelings; they involve our future hopes and our old wounds as well.
When a relationship ends (or is about to end), your heart doesn’t just grieve the loss of a person. It grieves the loss of what could have been. It grieves the loss of the happy ending you envisioned – an especially heartbreaking reality when you have “waited so long for this” or have “invested so much” in the relationship. A hidden, but very real dream dies when someone you love goes. And the death of a dream is painful.
A relationship also helps fulfill the unmet needs of your past. Your biggest fears, sorest memories, vulnerabilities and insecurities are often like sleeping giants that awaken when love is tried, or leaves. That’s because when love came into your life, it felt like it fixed you. It took away the pangs of rejection from your past and gave you belonging. It gave you approval and it gave you acceptance. Those fears that you could never be loved? It eased those too. Despite the quality of the love, or the quality of the commitment, your heart clung to the idea of being held again. The love became proof to you that you are worth something.
So you’re stuck. Not just because you have feelings, but because you have dashed dreams and you have lost reassurance – reassurance that you’re worth having, reassurance that you’re worth fighting for, and perhaps most significantly, reassurance that you’re worth loving.
If you’ve experienced multiple breakups and have ever wondered why certain people are more difficult to get over than others, consider what these people have represented to you. It’s those who become part of the dream, or fulfill those unmet needs, that will be the most difficult to move forward from.
What You Can Do About Reason #1
In a journal or with a trusted friend you’ve asked to talk things through with, do the following:
- Acknowledge the dreams and hopes you had for the future with your now ex. Be honest and detailed.
- Acknowledge the fears, doubts, and insecurities that resurfaced once the relationship ended. When in the past have you felt this way before?
Acknowledging both your dreams and doubts related to your relationship will be an important first step in moving forward. Awareness is the first step to change. Once you know what your unproductive, unhelpful thoughts and behaviors are (i.e.. the idea that you are not worth loving), you can challenge and improve them. You can’t change what you don’t know.
Reason #2: You Miss the Way Your Ex Made You Feel
While you may actually and truly miss the person that your ex was, it is likely that you miss the way your ex made you feel, even more.
We crave love. We are built to. Love and belonging are our most important human needs. So when we think we have found a love that will last, when we think we have found a place to belong, we find it very difficult to let that go. It’s like leaving a home.
This is why some say the best way to get over a relationship is by finding another one. While I understand this thinking (and don’t judge anyone for doing that), I’m not a huge fan of this approach because of the other psychological dynamics at play. While a new relationship may bring quick relief to needs for love, acceptance, and belonging, it may also quickly wreak emotional havoc too. There is nothing more de-empowering than putting yourself in a situation that will likely end in the same painful way.
What You Can Do About Reason #2
If a relationship ends and needs to stay over, try the following:
- Seek your suddenly overwhelming needs for love and belonging in family, friends, and community. Relying on people you trust provides the safest alternative for bringing you what your heart needs. Family and friends may also be apt enough to help you work through the dashed dreams and the lingering self-doubts that you acknowledged in reason #1.
- Practice self-love and self-care. How would you treat and care for a loved one who is emotionally raw from the throes of love? Treat yourself in the same ways. A little extra sleep, an extra long shower, fragrant candles, flowers, a run on the beach, etc., are great ways to practice self-care. Make a list of all the things that make you feel good, healthy, and strong, and do them.
- Acknowledge your need for more. Even with the best of friends and family, and with great self-care, your heart may still crave the special affection and intimacy that occurs between people in love or admiration. Acknowledge your desire to satisfy these needs in the future and practice hope. Self-honesty and hope are two important ingredients for emotional self-care.
Reason #3: You’re Idealizing Him or Her
Was your ex really that great? Was he or she really that perfect for you? Was it really your time? If you can answer yes to these questions, wouldn’t you two still be together?
While both you and your ex had a part to play in the relationship ending (hey, it takes two to tango), your difficulty moving forward may be a sign that you are giving your ex way too much credit for who he or she was in your relationship.
This is easy to do. We have a natural, healthy tendency to memorialize people after they leave our lives. But it is so important to be honest. Your heart won’t be able to move forward from what your brain can’t process. And your brain can’t process what doesn’t make sense.
When it comes to who your ex was and the relationship you two had, be completely real with yourself. Not for the purposes of harboring resentment or unforgiveness, but for the purposes of making sense out of your heartache. Self-honesty is not only an important part of self-care, it is a powerful guiding force in our lives.
What You Can Do About Reason #3:
In a journal and/or with a trusted friend you’ve asked to talk this through with, acknowledge the following:
- What did you love about your ex? What did you absolutely adore?
- What didn’t you like about your ex? How did he or she hurt you or break your trust?
- What would you gain by still being with your ex? What would you lose? Is the “bad” worth the “good?”
- What made the relationship physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually poor?
Reason #4: You Believe This Was Your Only Chance at Love
Real love doesn’t come around every day. True.
Feeling truly connected to someone in body, mind, and spirit is a unique, rare, and truly special experience. Also true.
But love will never find you again? Untrue. Very untrue.
Another reason you may have trouble moving forward is your belief that this past love… was your last chance. But there is someone else. There is always someone else. All it takes is one look around you to see that people who lose love…do find it again. Your friends, family, community, role models, leaders, and favorite celebrities are all proof that while love may not come around very quickly, it does come.
What You Can Do About Reason #4
In a journal or with trusted friends, answer the following:
- Who in your life has found love again?
- Who or what in your life gives you hope about the future of your own happy ending?
- What will you do while you wait? How can you grow? How can you prepare?
My hope is that this will spark dialogue within yourself and with trusted friends as needed. It’s important to be able to let go when you need do. It’s also important to realize that with time, and especially insight and understanding, you absolutely can.