You know what's annoying? Dealing with old relationship baggage. Here you are, bravely trying to move past old drama and old issues. But no matter what you do, the past keeps following you around, tainting your current life, and making it all way more difficult than it needs to be. Cue frustration, angst, and a huge desire to move on.
There are a million reasons why you might be carrying around relationship baggage. But no matter what happened to you in the past, baggage tends to feel the same for everyone. "It feels like you are struggling to move forward," says Nicole Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC, in an email to Bustle. "Instead of growing from the experience and learning what [you] do and do not want in a relationship, what [you] will and will not tolerate, [you] stay stuck."
Apart from being zero fun to deal with personally, baggage can lead to all sorts of problems in your current or future new relationships. Instead of learning from past mistakes, you may find yourself dating someone with all the same flaws and bad characteristics that you previously left behind. Or, you may end up struggling to trust your new partner, even though they are nothing like your ex. In other words, if you don't find ways to move on, it can end up creating quite the mess. So here are some tips for letting go of your baggage, once and for all. Hopefully this advice will help you move on, and lead you to a healthier, happier relationship.
1. Learn From The Past
Of course this is way easier said than done, but taking some time to reflect on the past can help you learn from old mistakes — instead of just being bogged down by them. "If we can learn the valuable lessons a bad relationship has to teach us, we can move forward in a healthier way," Martinez says. You may, for example, realize your ex had some qualities you never again want to deal with. Once you recognize what you don't want, it'll make moving on much, much easier.
2. Let Go Of Repeating Thoughts
If you've been through the relationship ringer, then you probably carry around a ton of circulating thoughts. Things like, "What went wrong?" or "Why did he/she do that to me?" (Etc. etc.) But in order to move on, you have to start letting them fade from your brain. In other words, let go of the story you tell yourself, according to Cat O'Connor on MindBodyGreen.com. To do this, stop asking questions, and be OK with moving on.
3. Remember Not Everything Is Meant To Last
Sometimes it's tough to move on from past relationships because you never wanted them to end in the first place. When that's the case, it can help to remember that not all relationships are meant to last forever. "There is the saying that every person comes into our life for 'a reason, a season, or a lifetime.' This is true of all types of relationship, good or bad," Martinez says. Was your ex just meant to be around for a season? If so, recognize it and then let it go.
4. Let Yourself Feel Sad
Sometimes baggage sticks around because you never let yourself deal with it. In other words, you never let yourself get super angry, or ridiculously upset. If you haven't done either yet, do yourself a favor and get emotional. Crying is cathartic, so let it all out.
5. Work On Your Self-Esteem
In order to move on from a past relationship — especially if it was really bad and confidence-ruining — it's going to be necessary to pick yourself up, and improve your self-esteem. One way to do this is to recognize that you are worth more than how you were treated, according to Martinez. Working on your self-esteem will also help keep you out of unhealthy relationship patterns. So get to fixin' it.
6. Don't Talk To Your Ex
For the love of god, please stop talking to your ex. Delete their number, and don't do the whole 2 a.m. drunk text thing. And definitely remove them from your social media (to avoid taking walks down memory lane whilst 2 a.m. texting). "Once your ex is completely out of your life, you'll find that [they'll] start receding from the forefront of your mind," said Denise Ngo on YourTango.com. Hopefully a little distance will help.
7. Practice Some Acceptance
Something bad happened to you and now you're sad. It makes sense that such a thing would be hard to get over. So it can help to just accept it, instead. "Accept your history and the people that have been a part of your history; accept your circumstances and remember that none of these define you," O'Connor said. "Acceptance is the first step to letting go and setting yourself free."
8. Get Over The "Idea" Of Them
If you feel like you can't move on, it could be that you've turned your ex into some kind of perfect partner, to which no one else can compare. How can you expect to move on when that's the case? You can't. So take a second and think if you really miss them, or just the idea of them. It could be you miss the idea of being with someone, just not necessarily that person, according to Mel Whitney on EliteDaily.com. That realization can truly help you feel better.
9. Head Off To Therapy
Sometimes it's impossible to go it alone, and you have to call in the professionals. This tactic is often necessary if you simply can't move on, and/or feel totally burdened by past problems. As Martinez says, "People who move forward possess insight, are not afraid to seek professional help to help them identify and break negative patterns." Don't be afraid to ask for help.
10. Remember Everyone Is Different
If you're comparing your current SO to you ex, pause and take a second to remember that they are two totally different people. For example, just because your ex liked to party doesn't mean your current partner will go off the deep end if he or she goes out for the evening, according to Sheila Monaghan on Women's Health. See what I mean?
11. Have A Positive Outlook
OK, so maybe things are difficult right now. But hey, you're taking steps to feel better, right? Having a positive outlook as you go through this whole process can really help, according to O'Connor. Give yourself some credit for wanting to move on, and hopefully you'll start to feel better soon.
Because getting over an ex is hard, and getting rid of that baggage is even harder. It may take some work, some insight, or even the help of a therapist. But it is possible.
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