Getting over someone is one of the hardest things we often have to do but is also very important for our psychological health. Clinging on to past relationships can make it hard to move on with our lives and can make it even harder to fall in love again with someone new. The result is that we often end up torturing ourselves by thinking longingly of loves lost rather than letting ourselves move forward.
The problem is that as with many healthy decisions, getting over loved ones if often something we don’t actually want to do. While we know we should stop staring at our ex on Facebook, some small part of us will be clinging to the hope that we can get back together perhaps and that maybe it will be even better than before. Or we might find ourselves just deriving some comfort from imagining that we’re still together.
Like I said, not healthy. So how do you overcome that urge to cling on to the past and how do you successfully go about forgetting that person?
The first thing to do is to rethink exactly what you’re doing here. Forgetting is not the right word and in reality, this is not what you should be trying to do. Forgetting someone suggests that you’re trying to completely wipe them from your memory and that you’re trying to completely erase any trace of them.
This in itself is not healthy. If you’ve been dating for a few months or even a few years, then you will have (hopefully) had some happy memories with that person. Hopefully, they are not entirely bad people. Hopefully, there are fond memories that you can hang on to.
Trying to completely erase that person from history is only going to be confusing and painful. This is not the time to delete your Facebook account, sell your phone and set fire to anything they ever gave you. Accept that this was a chapter of your life, an important one that you hopefully learned from, but that now you need to move on.
Closure and Expression
One reason it can be hard to move on from a relationship is often that there is some kind of ‘unfinished business’. Maybe we didn’t get to say everything we wanted to say, maybe we still have unanswered questions.
Where possible then, it is a good idea to try and get closure. This may mean speaking to that person one-to-one or it might just mean writing a letter that expresses what you need to say.
If this isn’t possible, or if the circumstances of your break-up do not allow for it, then you should instead look to try and express those feelings and get them off your chest in other ways. One way to do this is to write down everything that you are feeling in a letter and then to tear it up. Whatever you need to say, you need to get it off your chest in one way or another.
Likewise, it is important to grieve. Breaking up can be very similar to losing a loved one and so you need a time to grieve and process what has just happened.
That’s why it is very important not to bottle up your emotions or keep them locked away. Allow yourself to cry, to shout if necessary and to let your feelings loose. You might feel that you’re being a little dramatic but it is better to let it out now than to carry it around with you for months and years to come.
It’s also a good idea for this same reason to speak with friends and family members. Find at least one person who will listen and be non-judgemental. Don’t talk their ear off for months on end but go out for some drinks with someone who will listen and share how you’re feeling.
The next thing to do and the most important thing to do, is to cut ties.
Like I said, you’re not really trying to forget this person ever existed. You don’t need to delete all evidence of them from your life.
But you do need to remove reminders and you do need to distract yourself.
That’s why one of the worst things you can possibly do is to try and carry on being friends with your ex. Now I’m not saying that this never works, or that it is a bad thing. Rather, I am saying that it is something that you should avoid to begin with. Once you have first broken up, you need time and you need distance.
Otherwise, you will be constantly reminded of your relationship, you will be constantly comparing that person to future suitors and you will be constantly struggling running the risk of resparking that old romance.
This is something I have witnessed with friends countless times. I have seen many, many friends try and stay in touch with their ex partners immediately after breaking up and it has always resulted in a messy, drawn-out breakup that ultimately wastes everyone’s time, results in very bitter feelings and draws the whole thing out for months or even years. It can be devastating to your self-esteem too.
So, if you do want to stay in touch with this person, then make a pact that you will cut off communication for at least 6 months before you re-establish your friendship with a new dynamic. That will give you a better chance of the friendship working too and if that person really cares about you, then they will understand and acquiesce.
The same goes for avoiding other reminders. Again, don’t burn your pictures but do take them down from your bedside table. Likewise, try without being petty to avoid going to places where you might run into one another.
One of the hardest things to do is to forget someone and move on if you have dated a co-worker. That’s because every time you now go into work, you are going to see them again and possibly find yourself sitting across the table from them. In this scenario, by far the best thing you can do is to find an alternative employer. That may seem extreme but it can help the healing process a great deal. At the very least, speak with your manager or supervisor and ask if you can be moved to another department or another part of the office.
And finally? Unfriend them on Facebook! This is not easy to do either but ask yourself honestly: what do you gain by having them as a friend on there? Especially if you’re not planning on staying friends, all this will do is to serve as a reminder, to show you images of them looking great and out having a good time etc.
Perhaps you are hoping that you’re going to have the chance to rekindle your old romance? Perhaps you want to spy on them. Either way, you probably know that this isn’t healthy really… don’t you?
It’s important to make sure that you let yourself deal with the emotions and that you give yourself a chance to grieve. After this though, it becomes unhealthy and now the only thing you can do is to fill that hole in your life and to move on.
The way you do this is by finding other things to distract yourself with. In all likelihood, you spent a lot of time with this person. You will have spent evenings together on the couch, you will have gone to parties together and you will have done other fun things.
If you don’t do anything new or fill that space, then those quiet evenings alone are going to stand out as being very different and they will draw attention to the absence of that partner.
So instead, you need to find something else that will keep you busy and that will distract you. That might well mean that you go out with friends a little more and start to enjoy the single life again. Remember all the things you used to do and remember how great it feels to go out on the town looking your very best.
It can also be a lot of fun to do a bit of flirting and to enjoy some casual dating. Do not try to look for a partner until you are fully over your last one. Otherwise you risk essentially trying to find a ‘replacement partner’ which will just make you feel worse and which will be destined to failure. But simply dancing with a few people, or going on a casual date can be a great way to gain new focus, to feel attractive again and to get that positive attention that you’re no longer getting from that other person.
Other distractions include travelling, taking up new hobbies or throwing yourself into your work. Just don’t batten down the hatches and cut yourself off from the world – that will make you feel a lot worse in the long run!
Give it time, keep yourself active and distracted and avoid being unduly reminded of that person. Do all this and eventually you will find you’ve gone a while without thinking about them at all. And at that point, you know you’re ready to move on!