When you find a person who helps you make of this crazy world we live in, that’s powerful. But with that power comes the ability to devastate you. Which, brings us to this article: when the person you thought you’d be with forever leaves you, can anything help you moving on?
I’ve been in this position once before. In college, I dated a guy who manipulated his way into making me believe he was my soulmate. Our lives enmeshed, and I lost sense of who I was outside of the relationship. Which meant that, when he eventually left me, I felt like my world shattered all around me.
I couldn’t sleep. Food lost all its taste. I was dazed, confused, and felt like tiny pieces of my heart were breaking away.
This boyfriend and I talked about the future cocker spaniel we would adopt and name Lily. On more than one occasion, we’d plan out what our future wedding would look like. Hell, he even told me I was the only woman who he thought could change his mind about wanting to get married (another red flag I didn’t notice).
Even though I now know my ex was emotionally abusive and probably an undiagnosed narcissist, our breakup tore my world apart. And if you’ve ever thought you’d spend your life with someone (toxic or not) only to have them blindside you with leaving, then you understand the feeling.
How do you move on with your life when the person you thought you’d spend it with decides to remove themselves? Well, it isn’t easy. But I have some advice that may help.
Grieve in whatever ways you need to.
A 2004 study found that people going through a breakup experience acute grief, so when you’re thinking of moving on, don’t think you’re silly for experiencing profound sadness.
The steps an average person goes through when dealing with grief (usually the loss of someone they loved) are:
- Denial- You don’t want to believe the breakup is happening.
- Anger- You’re mad at your ex (or maybe the world) for what’s happening to you.
- Bargaining- This could look like trying to change your ex’s mind.
- Depression- The numbing sadness a lot of us are familiar with.
- Acceptance- The final stage of coming to terms with the breakup.
When you consider that a breakup is akin to grief, you realize you’re not irrational about how you’re handling things; you’re simply moving through grief like any other person.
Remind yourself they chose a life without you.
Think about the pain you’re currently in. If your ex was the person you’re “meant to be with,” why would they choose to put you through this?
I’ll be the first to say that I get it. It’s effortless to remember the good times. There’s a term for this phenomenon; it’s called romanticizing. When you only think of the good and not the bad.
But the version of your ex in your mind most likely doesn’t align with reality. Someone choosing to break your heart this way can’t possibly be the love of your life. You’ll do yourself a favor to remind yourself of that reality as often as you can.
Use the energy you spent on them on re-meeting yourself.
I used to be the queen of losing myself in relationships (not exactly something I’m proud of). I’d stop hanging out with friends and replace my hobbies with my partner’s. I never spoke up for my needs.
Those choices made breakups even harder. I centered my identity around my relationships, and once they were removed, I had no idea who I was and no interest in rediscovering the parts I lost along the way.
That's a mistake that people who try to hide the pain behind a new relationship or going out and partying make. Re-connecting with the parts of yourself that you lost during your relationship is crucial to healing.
It’s a reminder that the most important person in your life will always be you. You show yourself that you deserve to invest your energy into things you love. Since you have plenty of free time newly on your hands, re-focus it on the person who matters most.
A Key to Moving On: Do one thing you love every day.
Going off my last tip, a great way to re-discover lost parts of yourself is by doing something you love every day. Often we wait until the weekend to indulge in things that bring us joy, but that’s a pretty sad way to live, especially if you’re healing a broken heart.
To ensure you stick with this, I want you to do this exercise: Create a list that’s as long as your age with things that bring you joy or simply make you feel a bit better when you’re down. Nothing is too big or too small.
Some examples I have on my list are:
- Baking those break apart cookies you get at the grocery store.
- Wrestling my dog.
- Watching my favorite feel-good movie, The Holiday.
- A meditation where I imagine myself being in the mountains.
Once you’ve created this list, you’ll always be prepared with several ideas you can do every day that brings you joy. The critical thing to remember is that you start to build trust with yourself again by sticking to this routine—something you may be missing after a big heartbreak.
Have compassion and take things as slowly as you need.
Maybe you’ve heard, “divide how long you were together in two, and that’s how long it should take you moving on.” Or perhaps you’ve heard some silly rule elsewhere. Well, I’m here to say that’s total bullshit.
There are so many factors that come into play when determining how long it will take someone moving on. No one can put an expiration date on your pain; ignore anyone’s advice who tries.
Take your time to move through, experience properly, and process your feelings. The people who try to rush the process end up repeating lousy dating habits or never properly heal.
With that said, have compassion for yourself along the way. Beating yourself up for having feelings isn’t going to help anything. You’re only human and we have feelings. Allow yourself to experience yours.