Unfortunately, not all relationships are meant to last forever. Sometimes, they get to a point where they're no longer empowering or fulfilling. When we stay stuck in the past by holding on to someone we once loved, we hold ourselves back from achieving our goals and achieving the life we desire.
We cling to old memories or hold on to old text messages and physical items from our former partner. Psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith explained it well in an article on letting go of a friend when he said, "If you have known someone for more than twenty years and want to move on from the relationship, it can be hard to get that person, what they did, out of your psyche."
The unfamiliarity of not having that person be a significant part of our mental reality can seem really difficult to us. We choose to maintain the status quo of familiarity despite it being emotionally painful.
We fear the unfamiliar might cause more pain, but what if that's not true? A study found that those who were less preoccupied with their ex had a better psychological well-being than those that were.
Do you just want to keep feeling the same pain the rest of your life through staying attached? You can give yourself a chance to potentially no longer feel it by letting go.
27 Tips To Let Go of a Relationship and Move On
1. Figure out if your relationship is worth keeping first
An important part of stopping relationship anxiety is determining if it's still worth it to keep. Think about if the person you're with is still right for you, which it might be the case they might not be.
If your relationship is abusive, it's definitely not worth keeping, and it's important for you to seek support immediately. If you or someone else is in that situation, contact Domestic Violence Support.
But in general, it may not always be as clear whether you should or shouldn't keep your relationship. Dr. Robert Weiss wrote an article titled, "12 Crucial Questions About Your Relationship's Future." Among the questions he listed that can help determine if a relationship is worth keeping include:
- Do you enjoy spending time together?
- Does the person support you?
- Are you both invested in the relationship?
Dr. Weiss is quick to note that there's no clear cut way to know whether you should stay in a relationship. But he does believe that if you answered yes to more than a few questions, it still might be worth the effort.
2. Cut off contact with your ex
In a Psychology Today article on moving on from an ex, Dr. Jennice Vilhauer’s number one advice for moving on from an ex you loved is cutting off contact. The Los-Angeles based psychologist recommends politely letting your ex know you need space and would prefer to not be in contact for now.
She believes this is important in order for you to heal from the pain of the loss. Once you’ve healed, then you can try to have a friendship if you desire.
Until then, choose not to talk to that person as often. That means no texting, phone calls, social media contact, or meet ups.
If you run in a lot of the same circles, it’ll probably be harder. In those situations, just be cordial, but don’t engage in more interaction than necessary.
Distancing yourself helps you adjust to not being close to that person anymore. You’ll feel more used to your new normal.
Be more intentional about creating the distance and it'll be a lot easier to not think about them as much. As the old saying goes, "Out of sight, out of mind."
3. Let the fantasy go
Another excellent suggestion Dr. Vilhauer recommends is letting go of any fantasy you have about what could have been. It’s important not to focus on the great times that you had that could have continued. They didn’t continue for a reason.
Dr. Vilhauer suggests in the moments you find yourself drifting towards the good times, remind yourself of the painful memories. This will guide your mind back to the truth of what your relationship was in totality. You accept the real flaws that existed which couldn’t allow for things to work.
4. Let go by learning the lessons
When you choose to start figuring out what relationship issues led to you and your partner breaking up, you're helping yourself begin to move on. You're starting to think of that person more as someone from your past and less as someone that's still a part of your present.
Here are some examples of lessons:
- "I need to communicate issues sooner rather than later."
- "In the future, my partner needs to have qualities such as ________."
- "I have to be better at calmly expressing my emotions."
The more you reflect on the lessons, the more you'll accept that person is a part of your past now. You'll have more of a sense that you've let go of them. In Dr. Ann Gold Buscho's article, "8 Lessons to Learn From Your Divorce," her top lesson is to own your part in the relationship's failure.
It can also make you feel good to recognize things you can do better in the future for your next relationship. When you're with somebody again, consider using these relationship goals for couples to keep it strong.
5. Be with your friends and family
While you'll of course want to be alone during this time, it's also important to spend time with your loved ones. One of the best things friends or family can do is get our minds off of that person we lost.
Let them take you out for a good time somewhere. Allow yourself to have some fun for a day. It'll remind you that you can be happy with or without somebody special in your life.
Rachael Benjamin, a licensed clinical social worker, says that a team of family, friends, and a therapist can give you the support you need after a breakup. Don't feel like you're a burden to anyone. Ask for the same support that you would give your loved ones if they were going for a breakup.
6. Change the story in your mind
Much of your reality is shaped by your perception. If you think something is true about yourself, your actions will tend to go down a pathway that makes that true.
If we don't think we can live without someone in our lives, then we won't make any choices to do that. It seems like a pretty obvious and basic thing. But so many of us don't attempt to take any control of the mindset we have about our reality.
By having the right story in your mind that even though letting go will be tough, you'll find a way to get through it, you'll be more likely to look for and find choices you can make that will help. Because that's the narrative you're focused on being your reality in life.
7. Take care of yourself through self-care
It’s hard to take care of yourself when you have emotional pain. You don’t feel like doing anything. But not taking care of yourself makes letting go more difficult.
You can manage your emotions. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. There are proven actions that do influence our emotions positively.
There are loads of other choices that influence emotions. You just have to know what those choices are and do them.
You may not feel completely happy, but it can make you less sad. That’s the deeper goal of letting go of someone.
Getting to a point where you no longer feel sad about the situation. Here are some self-care resources you might find helpful:
- 21 Winter Self-Care Ideas That Will Warm You With Joy
- 20 Ways To Make Yourself Feel Better Now
- How To Love Yourself Again After A Breakup: 18 Acts Of Self-Care
8. Feel sad, mad, or whatever feeling you feel.
It’s okay to feel sad or mad about the end of a relationship. I may have mentioned this in a previous article, but studies have found it’s good for us to cry.
You can read more about the benefits of crying. The basic idea is that tears contain chemicals that cause us stress. When you cry, you release that stress inside.
I let myself be sad for a while after I lost my first love. Maybe got a little mad sometimes too. I wrote songs about my sadness and just embraced my mood.
Don’t try to pretend you’re okay. Be honest. Allow yourself to feel the full grief you feel.
9. Forgive the person, but make sure it's for the right reasons
It's often said that forgiveness is not for them but for you. But one study found that forgiveness done to make ourselves feel better doesn't actually help. In fact, another study found that forgiving in that way actually made people angrier.
Psychology professor Kathy Belicki says the best formula for forgiving an ex is doing it from a place of empathy. Imagining why that person may have been the way they are. Belicki argues forgiveness in this way leads to more serenity.
10. Do what will help you let go
There was research done on mending a broken heart that found just doing something you think will help you feel better can lessen your pain. It goes to show how powerful your mind can be in shaping your reality.
11. Think about that person's bad habits
There were three strategies in a study about recovering from a breakup that were found to be helpful in decreasing one's focus and emotional response towards their ex. The first strategy involved regularly thinking of their former lover's bad habits.
The research concluded it decreased the feelings of love towards the ex in the long-term. But be mindful that the study also concluded people who used this strategy had a lower mood in the short-term.
12. Accept your feelings of love
The second strategy in the study involved accepting their remaining feelings of love as normal and not judging themselves. The way participants did this was reading statements such as, "It's ok to love someone that I'm no longer with,", and believing it. While this strategy didn't decrease feelings of love or change mood, it decreased the emotional response to one's ex.
13. Consider a rebound relationship
Many research studies have proven rebound relationships help people get over their ex faster and feel better. But with that said, Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman says it may best to wait at least a month or two before you start dating again. How long someone waits to date again usually depends on how long they were with their ex.
There’s no need to see constant a reminder of your ex. I had my first love in college. We changed our relationship status on Facebook to "in a relationship."
Once the relationship was over, we no longer displayed our relationship status. It was a tough reminder to see that it was over.
We kept being friends on there too. I’d still see her status updates, new pictures, and whatever else she posted.
One day I wrote one of those passive-aggressive status updates. The ones where people know you’re talking about someone, but you’re not saying who. She confronted me about it, and needless to say, it didn’t make things easier.
Moral of the story, stay off social media. If you’re going to be on there, at least hide your ex’s status updates. You might find this Vice article on how to stop checking your ex's social media helpful.
Give yourself a chance to not think about that person you’re letting go of. This leads to my next point.
15. Seek counseling
If you're having a particularly having a hard time, counseling can be a helpful option. They have knowledge and insight that can help you cope with the end of your relationship. Bustle wrote a great article on 13 questions to ask a therapist to help you get over an ex.
16. Be active
Always thinking about the person you’re letting go of keeps you holding on. You need to do things to get your mind off of that person
Being active will help you. Hang out with your friends and have a good time. Go to the park and have a nice walk.
Find something to do with your time instead of just sitting around. You still have a life to live even without your partner.
Just sitting around all the time will only leave you stuck in your emotions. Be selfless and volunteer in the community. Helping others might make you feel better.
17. Visualize yourself having moved on
Imagine yourself moving further and further away from that person and seeing your vision of them get so small, they turn into a small dot. Imagine the dot getting smaller and smaller until it finally vanishes.
Another visual exercise you can try is think of the word "love" and think of the person side by side. Then, imagine the word love and that person you loved getting further and further apart.
Lastly, try imagining yourself happy and single. These mental images you put in your mind may help you feel more like you're over your ex.
18. Accept it
At some point, you just have to accept someone is gone. Accepting that means not thinking about getting back together.
It means being okay with moving on from that person. Maybe you can write a goodbye letter to your relationship.
It sounds cheesy, but it could help. Write out all your thoughts about the ending of your relationship. Reflect on the good times. Express gratitude for the relationship.
When you’re done, get rid of the letter in some way. You could attach it to a balloon and let the letter float away. It can be a symbolic act of letting go of the person you loved.
19. Give it time
Unfortunately, it does take time to let go. There’s not much you can do to make it go away overnight.
A Healthline article noted it takes on average 3.5 months to heal from a breakup. It probably took me a couple of months to let go of my first love.
For other people, it can take longer. Just know that the pain can eventually heal in time. How quickly you heal will depend on the actions you take.
20. Distract yourself
Distract yourself by thinking about positive things that are unrelated to your ex. That could include your favorite food, movie, or some other thing that makes you feel positive. This approach is thought to help disrupt the persistent thoughts directed towards one's ex, and thus lower the emotional response.
21. Believe you’ll find someone new
Every situation I had to let go of a person, I always knew I’d find someone new. It’s something I’ve learned over time and experience.
There are billions of people in this world. Thousands of them probably in your area. There’s a good chance someone you might really love is out there.
Be positive about finding someone to love again. Believe in yourself enough to be the kind of person that someone lucky person will get to love and be loved by.
22. Meet new people and try new things
Give yourself a chance to find someone by meeting new people. Find a club in the community related to your interests.
Go out to events where you can mingle with people. If nothing else, you can at least gain some new friends in life.
Those friends might even know someone who could be interested in you. Be adventurous and do things that you've never done, because you never know who you might run into.
23. Engage in your passions
With more time to yourself, you can focus more on your passions. I turned to my music after losing my first love.
In that time, I wrote a lot of songs that I’m still proud of. Take your passions to the next level.
Go further with them than you have before. You never know if it might lead to a career.
24. Think and speak positive affirmations
Think of some positive affirmations you can think in your mind and speak out loud to yourself consistently. Here are some examples you could maybe use:
- I can be a happier person without my partner.
- I can find someone who loves and appreciates me the way I deserve.
- My life can get better in time.
Think of some positive words that fit with your situation. Help yourself get in a mindset of moving forward.
25. Live life to the fullest
Decide that you're going to live out your life in a way that's more exciting and thrilling than ever before. Get back to having fun again.
Choose to make this the time you become the best person you've ever been. Start living your life to the fullest and you'll feel happier and more over your ex.
It's not easy to move on after heartbreak, but it is possible. Give yourself a chance to be happy again.
I can tell you from my own personal experience that you can find someone to love again, and your life can be better than it was before.
Related: 40 Ways To Live Life To The Fullest
26. Practice journaling
Writing your feelings out daily can be a good way to process your emotions and help you heal. Journals can also be used for self-care and goal-setting, which both can help you move forward in life.
Here are two articles on journaling you might find helpful:
27. Figure out what you want in your next partner
Putting your mind on what you want in your next partner may help you focus more on the future and less on your past. Reflect on what character qualities you hope for and how you want the relationship to be.
Why is it so hard to let go?
It’s hard to let go because we’re so used to that loved one in our life. You can’t expect to instantly stop thinking about them.
Beyond that, to be frank, it's just tough. In the NPR article, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, But Science Can Help, they note a study that found brains of people who were heartbroken are similar to those who experience a withdrawal.
But as it hard it is now, it does get easier. Time passes and memories become distant. You’ll no longer feel as much pain as you did before.
The same article notes a study that found most people overestimate how long it'll take to get over their breakup.
People eventually just move on and choose to be happy again. That day can come sooner than you think.
Keep taking care of yourself and keep living your life. One day, you’ll realize you’ve moved on, and you’ll be proud at how strong you’ve become.
Choose to not be afraid of finding another love to hold on to again. Choose to believe that you can move on to a better relationship that's more loving than you ever could have imagined.
Benefits of letting go
There are many benefits that can be gained from choosing to no longer be hung up over your ex. Here are a few of them.
1. Renewed motivation in life
From what I've seen of other people's experiences, we usually tend to feel a renewed sense of motivation in life once we get over someone. There's a greater desire to be successful at specific dreams and goals that existed before the relationship. We choose to re-discover ourselves again and really become more of who we really are.
2. More clarity on what you want in life
The end of a relationship usually reveals to you what you don't want in the future. That makes it more clear what matters to you and what you really want to have in life.
3. A chance for greater love
You may feel bad now about losing the person you thought you'd spend the rest of your life with now. But once you're over that person, you have a chance for greater love.
Knowing what you want in a future relationship will make it more likely you'll end up with someone who meets those desires your ex couldn't. As a result, the love you have in that new relationship will be even better than your old one.
My story of letting someone go
During my college years, I was in a long-term relationship that lasted almost two years. It was my first serious one and we grew to feel love for each other.
But as the case usually is with most relationships in college, it eventually came to an end. She broke up with me and I was single for the first time in a while.
At first I felt fine, but inevitably the emotions of sadness and anger came up. It took me maybe a month before I decided I was ready to move on.
But after I did, I was able to focus on improving myself. I worked out more, I met new people, and I grew to be more of the person I admire today.
I had fun talking to new women and discovering new things I liked in a woman that I never experienced with my ex. Eventually, I met my future wife, and things are better than ever.
Final thoughts on moving forward
Experience has taught me that someone new can always come to your life. You just have to get out there to be fonud or go look for them. But only when you're ready.
If the pain from the end is still fresh and raw, it's okay to give yourself some time to heal. Remember that break-ups aren't the end of the world.
It's just the beginning of a new reality. And it's possible that new reality can be a happier one than you've ever experienced before.