Forcing yourself to forget about painful past experiences is impossible. But holding onto negative feelings from past relationships can hurt your present and your future. While it’s completely normal (and healthy) to grieve failed relationships for a time, dwelling on anger, resentment, and regret long-term can cause harm and prevent you from healing – or finding happiness with a potential new partner. Maybe you’ve just had your heart broken. Or perhaps you’re struggling to move on peacefully from a relationship breakdown many months – or even years – on.
Why is it Difficult to Let Go of the Past?
Life experiences affect people in a variety of ways. Some people find it easy to move on after a difficult experience, while others find that these experiences have a lasting impact on their mental health. People who struggle to let go of specific events from the past may have experienced trauma. Trauma is a kind of psychological wound that can result from any distressing experience, such as loss, danger, or deep embarrassment.
Whatever your situation, we hope these tips help you let go of your relationship baggage.
1. Let Yourself Grieve
There are often some valuable lessons we can take from relationships that didn’t work out. Self-reflect and consider what you can learn from the experience. Take responsibility for your part in the relationship breakdown, and use it as a springboard for self-development. Maybe you have issues with jealousy, or perhaps you’d like to work on asserting boundaries. Be honest with yourself about where you might have room for improvement and what you might want to work on for your next relationship.
Don’t: Ruminate on what you could’ve or should’ve done. Thinking obsessively about something over and over can prevent you from accepting what’s happened and moving forward.
2. Work On Yourself
Breakups can make us feel lonely. We’re no longer factoring that person into our daily lives. But this also offers a great opportunity to be a little selfish. Maybe you put some dreams on the back burner while you nurture your relationship. Or maybe you’re not quite sure who you are as an individual. This is the perfect time for self-discovery and self-care. Get a fulfilling hobby, nurture your other relationships, try something new, and work on your goals. This is your chance to think about what you want in life without having to consider someone else.
Don’t: Post your highlight reel to your socials to rub in your ex’s face. If you find yourself taking photos of your good times and fun activities just to spite them or remind them what they’re missing out on, it might be time to unfriend/unfollow them.
3. Consider What’s Important To You in a Relationship
A breakup provides the time and space to think about what you’re looking for in your next relationship. List the things that are important to you and the deal-breakers you’re not willing to compromise on. For example, your ex might’ve struggled with communication or didn’t make the effort to get to know your friends. These might be things on your ‘red flags’ list moving forward.
Don’t: Get caught up comparing everyone to your ex or unfairly judging them based on small similarities to your ex (e.g. they both work in the same industry or they’re both an only child). There are bound to be some overlaps here and there. As long as those overlaps don’t include toxic or disrespectful behaviors, try to give people a chance and get to know them before writing them off.
4. Don’t Excessively Talk About Your Ex to Your New Partner
Finally, if you do decide to get back out there and meet someone new, avoid making your ex a regular topic of conversation. It’s normal to discuss past relationships to some degree, but it can be a red flag for a potential new partner if you’re talking about your ex all the time – especially if you seem to have some unresolved feelings.
It can be particularly difficult to let go of relationships, as humans form deep attachments with each another. In addition to the above tips, people can take additional steps to let go of a relationship, such as:
- temporarily or permanently limiting contact with ex-partners
- reducing reminders of them, such as by hiding them on social media
- setting and respecting boundaries
- spending time on self-care and personal growth
- focusing on what is possible outside of the relationship