Nothing can hinder your future happiness like staying stuck in the past. This goes for every aspect of your life but is especially true of relationships. Happy relationships are ones you can grow in, feel natural in, and be your best self in, and you can’t do any of those things if you’re stuck in a rut. You can’t live your best life in the here and now if you’re still struggling to come to terms with what happened before.
They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, and that’s true. But that doesn’t provide a complete picture; it’s even better to have loved and lost and learned the lessons about why, grown from them, and moved on, than to have loved and lost and stayed obsessed with the other person and what went wrong.
It hurts, there’s no way around it. How can you move on? It’s true that time heals, but it’s not a passive process, it’s an active one. You need to put in some work before you can really move on, but in time you will and you’ll be even better than before.
How do you actively go about healing? Here are 6 steps to help the moving-on process.
How to Move On When You Still Love Your Ex
1. Follow the no contact rule
You must cut off all contact. It doesn’t matter how badly you want to hear his voice, or that you want to wish him happy birthday or good luck with the interview, or have a closure talk for the 50th time—no contact.
Do this for at least a month. It’s very important that you don’t spend that month obsessing over him. Spend it focusing on yourself and actively trying to move on and find happiness on your own. Spend time with friends and family, take a mini-vacation, get yourself to the gym. Dive into self-help, take a class. Don’t stalk him on social media or try to find ways to “run into him.” No contact means no contact, online or off.
If he contacts you, kindly tell him once that you need some time alone and to please not interfere with that. Ignore any future attempts of his to contact you, as any contact will just hinder the moving-on process.
Don’t try to be “friends” or anything like that, at least not now. That can only happen once you’re completely over him. Contact with him when your heart is still breaking is just setting yourself up to set yourself back.
Maybe he’ll be back in your life someday, maybe not. Don’t focus on that now. Focus on you.
2. Look back realistically
Part of the reason it’s so hard to move on is we’re mourning the loss of potential—what could have been, not what actually was. This isn’t about the actual person or relationship, it’s about what we hoped for. A breakup is like a death because it’s the death of this potential.
But chances are things weren’t perfect. If they had been, you wouldn’t have broken up. There were problems and they couldn’t be resolved, and you need to remember that.
Don’t think “If only things had been different,” “if only he could have been more like this.” There is no “if only,” there is only what is. Look at what actually happened, not how things could have been different. They weren’t.
If you keep saying to yourself “Everything was perfect but x,” the bottom line is everything was not perfect. It wasn’t and never could have been everything you hoped for.
3. Feel your feelings
Feelings don’t go away just because they go unacknowledged.
Deal with your anger, your grief, your sadness. Write out all the things left unsaid, all the feelings unexpressed. If you don’t get them out they’ll just continue cycling through you, throughout your entire being, blocking any chance at healing.
Give yourself a limit on the grieving, though. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, address them and acknowledge them, but don’t drag this process out forever. Life needs to go on. Give yourself maybe a week or two, then pick yourself up and move along.
Writing letters you don’t send can help get out all the feelings, maybe you’ll even discover some feelings you hadn’t known you had.
4. Try to forgive.
Maybe he didn’t apologize, it doesn’t matter. Forgive him anyway. It’s not about him, it’s about you. Forgiveness is freeing. Holding onto anger just poisons you.
Forgiving him doesn’t mean approving of anything he did or believing he’s a good person. Try to remember that most people don’t do things with purely evil intentions. Maybe he did something terrible, or maybe he didn’t treat you right, but realize that it probably wasn’t his intention.
See things from his perspective if you can and maybe even practice some empathy. Consider that he might have had a rough upbringing and might not be capable of love and commitment, and that’s incredibly sad for him. This doesn’t excuse any of his behavior or change the fact that he’s not right for you, but it can give you some perspective that will help you move on.
Most importantly, know that his behavior has nothing to do with you or your worthiness. How he treated you is a reflection of his own character, not your worthiness. How he felt about you is a reflection of what was going on with him and what he needs because of who he is, not a statement about who you are as a person.
You don’t need to tell him you forgive him (remember the no contact rule!) this can and should be a purely internal thing. You need to turn your focus inward, to caring for your own well-being. Don’t worry about what’s going on with him, it’s not your concern.
5. What can I learn from this?
There is always a lesson to learn … and when you can learn the lessons, you’ll come out better in the end.
You must have learned something here—something about yourself, something about love, something about being in a relationship—try to extract whatever you can and use it to be even better. If life is about anything, it’s about learning.
Don’t ever see it as a waste of time, see it as time spent learning lessons you needed to learn. Love is never wasted. If you can learn from the experience, you’ll bring what you learned into your next relationship and into your life overall.
6. Focus on self-love.
Forgive yourself for any mistakes you may have made. It’s human to make mistakes. Nobody is perfect and it’s not possible to go back and do it all again. The only thing you can do is learn and move on.
Realize you deserve someone who wants the kind of relationship you want, someone who treats you well, someone who loves you just as much as you love him. If you feel unworthy then get help to uncover why that is, whether that’s by seeing a therapist or researching self-help books until you find one or two that speak to you. What makes you think you don’t deserve the things you want? Figure it out.
Rebuild the most important relationship of all—the one you have with yourself. Try new things, spend time with people you care about, travel, do things that make you feel inspired and alive.
We know that love is not enough, but when our hearts are breaking that knowledge doesn’t help us heal. You know you weren’t right for each other—the fact that you broke up is the ultimate sign of that. But you can love someone even when he’s not right for you, and how do you move on when you still love him?
These 6 steps really boil down to one thing—taking care of yourself. If you can’t care for yourself, you can’t care for someone else and you can’t have a happy relationship. Focus on you. Recognize that your own value is independent of anyone’s opinion of you. Know that you deserve to be happy. When you really get this, deep down, love will come.
Six ways to move on when you still love your ex:
- Follow the no contact rule.
- Look back realistically.
- Feel your feelings.
- Try to forgive.
- What can I learn from this?
- Focus on self-love.