It's often said that half the duration of the relationship is the time you’ll need to completely get over it. Maybe this advice existed before Sex and the City; We might never know. Regardless, I’ve rarely ever found this to be true. To know how long it will take to get over someone, you have to do two things: Evaluate how much existential meaning you’ve put into your being together, and actually try to get over them. That's it. You can't measure grief and loss by some cold, arbitrary number. You can only determine what it will take to get over someone based on how much you relied on them to provide you with a sense of self. You can move past someone only when you don’t see a personal benefit in holding onto the idea of you two being together.
We know that we have to “love ourselves” and “choose ourselves” and rebuild our lives after we breakup with someone who was going to be everything. We know that. But ultimately, we’re rarely ever given advice on how to do it. How do you let go of the cosmic certainty you had that you were Officially Meant To Be™? How do you stop thinking about it long enough to even get to that place? Good news: I’m here to tell you. Here, 9 practical ways to finally put the past behind you, and move the hell on, once and (hopefully) for all.
Let go of the phrase “moving on”
Let go of “break up,” too. So long as you are thinking of your life as a period of “moving on,” it will still be rooted in “what you lost.” Completely disregard the whole concept for the time being. Turn your attention to the things you can control.
Re-structure what “normal” means to you
You will not be able to continue on with your life as it is, on the tail-end of a relationship that meant everything to you. It simply isn’t possible. The gaps will be too palpable, the memories will do nothing but continue to seep into your subconscious again and again, and all of a sudden, you won’t be able to do so much as get a drink at the bar without feeling like there’s something missing.
This isn’t about changing your life for a relationship—this is about realizing that a chapter of your life is over, and it’s time to construct the new one. Our relationships feed into every other aspect of our lives. They are the one thing in which we cannot lose and then continue on as normal. Everything else must change too.
So pick a new coffee shop. Change the furniture in your room. Get a hair cut. Take on a side project. Hang out with new friends. Plan a trip. Change your job. Do something that makes this new phase of your life completely different from the last one.
Evaluate the ways you’d like to live differently
"Moving on" shouldn't be about loss—it should be about bringing new things into your life. In this “restructuring” period, take a long, hard look at what you’d like to do with your life. I mean this in the simplest, most practical, everyday sense: Do you want more time to read and drink tea? Do you want to spend more time with friends? Do you want to completely overhaul your career or your closet or your body hangups that have been lingering since middle school? Do it. Use the opportunity and let it open you to a life you didn’t think would be possible.
Let yourself feel
I promise, a feeling won’t kill you. In fact, processing and healing is nothing but allowing yourself to do just that. Though people throw around the words “accept” and “love” and “grieve”, they don’t do it in conjunction with what those things really mean, so I’m here to tell you:
Lay down in bed with a journal and write down everything you’re feeling. Make plans to sit on your couch one night and cry your eyes out about everything you haven’t addressed in your life. Ask someone you love and trust to be with you. Feel sad. Feel humiliated. Feel stupid. Feel ugly. You will find that once you simply allow that sensation to pass, it does so extraordinarily quickly, and then it dissolves.
Start a social media ban on your ex’s feeds
There’s just no way you’re going to get over them if you’re always seeing their face and being reminded of everything you don’t have. Or worse, if you feel the need to keep checking up on them, as though to be certain they aren’t yet dating someone else or something else heartbreaking that could sneak up on you and break your heart... you really, really, really need to prohibit yourself from accessing their accounts. Worse worse: If you’re just doing things and taking pictures and constructing a façade because you know they’ll see... dear lord, de-friend. Un-follow. Let it go. People say that it’s immature to not be able to “remain friends,” but really, what’s immature is needlessly torturing yourself because you’re following someone else’s terrible advice.
Accomplish something that’s all your own
This will help you reinstate your sense of self, and more importantly, throw a mental middle finger up to the person who didn’t see everything you were worth. Turn your breakup from being "the time you thought you lost everything", to being the time in which you finally stood up and did what you wanted to do. Show yourself that there are other people out there, maybe ones who are more “meant to be with you” than you could have imagined before.
Yes, really. Date. Even if you don’t feel completely ready. It doesn’t have to be anything serious or committed right off the bat. You have to show yourself that there are other people out there, and that you haven’t lost everything just because you’ve lost one person.
Look up essays and articles people who have been through what you’ve been through have written. Read books on heartbreak, novels on how essential it is to the human condition. Read writers’ whose lives after their heartbreaks you admire and want to emulate. Google search even the wildest and most embarrassing combination of words, and find the little corner of the Internet where somebody laid themselves bare, in all the little ways you’re still struggling with.
Here’s a quote by Elizabeth Gilbert, to start you off:
People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master...
Make a long, long list of all the other things you thought you’d never get over either (but you eventually did, didn't you?)
Think of all the losses and breakups prior that you were certain you’d never get through. All the people you were certain were “the one.” All the things that went completely wrong and then ended up leading to the best things of your life. Remember all those? Yeah, write them down. And then write down how you got over them. See if there’s a pattern (there almost always is). Do what you’ve had to do with yourself before. "This too shall pass" is not only applicable to the basics at heart.
Images: Erin Kohlenberg/Flickr; Giphy(4)