Nothing lowers your self-esteem quite like a bad breakup. Romantic comedy films and sitcoms would have us believe the process is straightforward: Put on a sad movie marathon in your comfiest pajamas, sob into a pint of ice cream for a few days, and Violaaa! After the montage, you’re a brand new you, ready to take on the world. However, once you’ve hit rock bottom, you may find yourself falling into self-destructive habits — ignoring your friends, ignoring your work, and generally forgetting about self-care. You’ve been told your entire life that there are plenty of fish in the sea (just open your favourite dating app and there they are), so why is it so difficult to bring yourself to cast a new net?
The answer is: Because love is a drug. No, really. According to functional brain scans, love is a type of addiction.
We become accustomed to having a certain substance, which is a person and the relationship in our lives. Then, during ‘withdrawal,’ we become desperate and behave inappropriately. Not only that, but long-term relationships imply that you’ve shaped your life around the needs of another person. You’ve made sacrifices as well as future plans, and letting go isn’t as simple as swiping left or right.
But don’t despair: Moving on is the only way out. While it may appear to be impossible, here are five baby steps you can take right now to help you move on.
1. Cut off all communication (Both direct and indirect)
This is the most important thing you can do for your physical and mental health. You are not required to know where they are or who they are with. Eliminate all contact with your ex.
Yes, being absent from their lives can be devastating. But the priority is now your own journey, and they have no place in it. It’s time to put yourself first, rather than your ex’s social plans.
You should also be aware that you can no longer be friends with them. That rarely works out well in real life, regardless of what you may have read or seen. Maybe in a few years, when you’re both in better health and happier places, you’ll be able to be cordial and even become acquaintances. But, for the time being, you should avoid interfering in their lives.
So, get out of their social media platforms and avoid cyber-stalking them. Remember, any direct or indirect communication with them will trigger memories of the past and even dreams of the future. Those are the things that’ll pull you back when you should be focusing on moving on.
2. Let yourself mourn
The end of a relationship, like the death of a loved one, necessitates mourning. You’re letting go of someone you care deeply about while also distancing yourself from the idea of a future you once imagined. You go from having another person ingrained in your daily routine to suddenly missing them, which can result in intense sadness. It’s normal to need time to process the end of a relationship.
Allow yourself to suffer. Get everything out of your system emotionally so you can move on. “You should have your breakdowns. Take time to reflect on the good times, accept and celebrate them for what they were, and cry about it all. If you hold back your emotions, it’ll get harder to move on.
3. Let’s get real
A relationship has two sides: one that is real and one that is a fantasy. Unfortunately, following a breakup, people tend to cling to fantasy rather than reality.
This fantasising encompasses both the relationship and the person involved. So, when you say you’d like to go back and be with them because it was the most beautiful and fulfilling time of your life, you’re not looking at the relationship objectively. You’re describing a fictionalised version of it.
Because it would not have ended if everything had been perfect. Things happened for a variety of reasons. When you look back on your relationship, you’ll only remember the good parts and you’ll tend to exaggerate the good bits, leaving out the bad.
You should journal your thoughts to make this process more impactful and long-lasting. Writing down all aspects of your relationship will assist you in forming an accurate picture. It will also ensure that you do not recreate it in any other way the next time. When you write down how it truly was, you will be able to move on.
4. Understand that it’s natural to still love your ex
It would be problematic if you suddenly felt hatred for your ex. It’s natural to have conflicting emotions and to despise them one moment and then adore them the next. Our emotions do not always follow a straight line. There are ups and downs, as well as some unpleasant twists and turns in between.
So, if you fall in love with your ex, don’t blame yourself for being unable to move on. Those are the leftover feelings from your relationship. What you once felt for them was genuine and profound, and it’s difficult to turn off that side of yourself when a relationship ends.
Actually, you should tell yourself that it isn’t a bad thing. The fact that you still feel love proves that you are a human being capable of both giving and receiving love. But you should also remind yourself that this is a different kind of love. It’s a more evolved, mature emotional state that differs from the possessive aspect of romantic love. This one is about reminiscence and acceptance.
Consider it this way. It’s the attachment you have to a place you’ve visited in the past. That trip was enjoyable. But you have no plans to go back in time and relive it. You’re ready for new experiences.
5. Focus on things that help you feel grounded
So, even if you can’t bear going to that yoga class where everyone recognises you as half of “Sushmitha and Rohman,” that doesn’t mean that everything healthy you did together has to go out the window. If you and your ex enjoyed a particular fitness class, activity, or hobby, you can continue to enjoy it on your own (but perhaps switch times so you don’t run into your ex at the gym or studio). A lot of my friends and even me stopped doing things like going to Happy Brew (my favourite place for karaoke) or volunteering because it was something we did with our partner. Years later, I realised what I should have really done is trying new things and continuing to do things that support my core values. It all comes down to balance.
So, don’t stop doing the things you’d do with your partner, just try new things as well.
Moving on from an ex you still care about is critical for your mental health. It’s a process that will have its ups and downs. During your downs, don’t forget to talk to family and friends. They’ll help you through this process. But you must remind yourself that things are getting better every day. And that you’re shedding the past, letting go of your emotional baggage, and emerging stronger and healthier as a result.