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How to let go
Discover how to move on from the past and embrace the future
We’ve all had an ex that we can’t seem to get out of our minds. A harmful friendship we hold on to even though it exhausts us. Or even a family member who is toxic. Why can’t we learn how to let go of someone, even when we know they’re not good for us?
Holding on is a natural human instinct – and it’s also a critical way that we stop ourselves from reaching our goals. Because ultimately, not knowing how to move on harms you: It prevents you from achieving your true potential.
Why is letting go so hard?
Why do we have so much trouble learning how to let go of someone we love? We like to hold on to things, situations and especially people because it fulfills our need for certainty. Certainty is one of the six human needs that drive every decision we make. Letting go and moving on from a relationship often entails a large amount of uncertainty. Even if your relationship had reached its conclusion or one or both of you were very unhappy, there was still an amount of certainty there that was comforting.
Sometimes we use the past to justify our current decisions, and that’s why we can’t figure out how to let go. Remember when you were rejected by several potential mates in high school or college? Those instances could make you hold on to a partner – even one who is not good for you – because you are afraid you won’t find anyone else. Those memories justify everything for you. When you’re unable to let go, those memories become a part of your “story” and work against you.
Signs you haven’t moved on
Learning how to let go of someone you love – someone you’ve built a deep connection with and whom you’ve shared your life with – is likely one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. That’s why so many people break up, but never truly discover how to move on. If these signs are familiar, you may be one of those people:
- You’re always wondering what could have been
- You think of the person constantly, or at time when you’d rather not
- You spend a lot of time reliving memories or looking them up on social media
- You bring them up often when talking to friends
- When you’re feeling down, they’re the first person you think to call
- You make changes to your life or appearance to get them back
- You feel anxious or even angry when you see the person
- You blame them or want to get revenge for perceived slights
Letting go of someone you love isn’t easy, but holding on only holds you back from the possibility of an extraordinary relationship. To focus your energy on living positively and proactively, you need to learn how to move on. Are you ready to let go of relationships that no longer serve you?
How to let go of someone
Knowing you need to let go and actually letting go are two very different things. These tips will help you discover how to move on once and for all.
1. Recognize when it’s time
Learning when it’s time to let go is often the most difficult part of this process. But in many cases it’s necessary to let go in order to unlock the life you deserve. Though each relationship is different, most find it’s time to end things when the relationship causes them more pain than pleasure or when trust has eroded to the point where the romance cannot be rekindled. Deciding how to let go becomes easier when you are certain the time has come and that your future happiness depends on a new start.
2. Identify limiting beliefs
Do thoughts like “I could never be alone” or “I’ll never find someone else who loves me” constantly run through your mind? Understand that these are not facts – they are limiting beliefs, and while beliefs have the power to create your world, you have the power to transform them. Replace them with empowering beliefs like, “I am open to what the universe has in store for me” and “I love myself and deserve the best.” You may feel silly at first, but when you use these positive incantations as part of your daily routine, you will see results.
3. Change your story
Your story is what you tell yourself to justify your decisions and is based on your limiting beliefs. For example, you tell yourself you can’t have a successful relationship because of how you grew up. Your parents argued in front of you all the time and eventually divorced. You can’t let go of the belief that all relationships are bound to fail, and this is why you can’t maintain a healthy romantic relationship. You use this past experience to justify your current life state – but you can change your story so that your past empowers you instead of holding you back. Your past is not your future unless you live there.
4. Stop the blame game
Letting go of someone you love doesn’t mean you have to negate the truth, but don’t let it influence your current path. It is human nature to point the finger at someone else or a past incident instead of ourselves. This is why you blame your significant other at the end of a relationship or another person for something terrible that happened to you. Yet even when the facts are terrible or heartbreaking, you cannot let bad experiences dictate your future. Instead, use your experiences as a tool to push you to learn and grow so you can create a healthy relationship with someone else.
5. Embrace the “F” word
Going your separate ways does not have to be an experience filled with anger or judgment. When you recognize that the person is preventing you from growing or achieving your dreams, you can forgive them and also forgive yourself for any pain the separation may cause and wish them the best for the future. Remind yourself that to create space for a new, healthy relationship, you must learn how to let go of the old one. Practicing forgiveness is a chance to grow and live in the mystery of what’s next.
6. Master your emotions
When a relationship ends, it’s common to feel incredible amounts of anger and resentment – especially if you were not the one who decided to end it. Maybe at first you felt righteous about it, like the anger was helping you move forward. However, after some time has passed, you start to see that it’s unhealthy for you, and you’re not sure how to let go of someone you love and move on with your life.
Negative feelings take a toll on your emotional and physical health – anger is even associated with heart disease – and will affect your future relationships. Recognizing this behavior as unhealthy is the first step in the process of letting go. If you’re looking for an answer regarding how to move on, you are already on the right path. The good news is that in the process of learning how to let go, you can also learn how to control your emotions.
7. Practice empathy
Learning how to move on from a relationship that once brought you joy can be very difficult. When you’re letting go of someone, it’s helpful to think of both sides of the story and see the situation from their point of view. Look at this person from the same place of compassion and empathy that you did when you were happy together. Yes, your ex may have hurt you, but they likely did not do it out of malice. They felt their needs weren’t being met in your relationship and they decided to take action in order to improve their own emotional state.
8. Adopt an attitude of gratitude
As Tony says, “When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” That’s why practicing gratitude is the antidote to the sadness and anxiety you feel when you’re learning how to let go of someone. Let go of your expectations and focus on gratitude for what you once shared. This small shift in your perspective will help you realize that life happens for you, not to you. When you’re able to find the lesson in every experience and be grateful for it, you’ll reduce the anger you feel toward the other person and instead appreciate what you gained from the relationship.
9. Talk to someone you trust
Holding your feelings inside only keeps you stuck and can eventually turn into anxiety or even develop into depression. Talk to a supportive friend, a family member or a therapist about how you feel and let them be there for you in your time of need. Talking to someone you trust can also help you recognize an unhealthy relationship and keep you from continuing to go back to that person. Once you commit to learning how to let go of someone, you may even discover other moments and situations you can afford to move on from as well.
10. Stay off social media
Learning how to let go of someone you love becomes much more difficult when you are constantly reminded of them. Though social media is a way to stay in touch with friends and family, it’s the opposite of what you need when you are going through a breakup. Staying off social media while you heal not only prevents you from seeing pictures or posts from your ex, but it will also keep you from seeing other seemingly happy couples, which can make you feel worse about your situation.
11. Take care of yourself
The process of letting go and moving on from a relationship can be stressful and lonely. This is not the time to beat yourself up or ignore your needs. When you practice self-care and take this time to fall in love with yourself, you’ll heal more completely and perhaps be healthier than you were before the relationship even started. Indulge in massages or other relaxing activities, engage in hobbies that make you happy and focus on finding fulfillment without being part of a couple.
12. Keep busy
Staying in bed all day and avoiding friends and loved ones makes letting go and moving on that much more difficult. Start your day with an empowering morning ritual that includes activities like priming, meditation, yoga or journaling, then get up and get involved. Join groups, volunteer for a new project at work or meet a friend for lunch or drinks. Staying busy will help take your mind off the breakup and allow your wounds to start healing.
13. Take the time to heal
Letting go of someone you love is a process. You won’t learn how to do it overnight, especially if you’ve spent your life holding on to things you loved – even if, deep down, you knew they weren’t right for you. Focusing on moving forward and creating a new story for yourself will help you deal with the inevitable pain that comes after a breakup. It will also help you eliminate blame, develop empowering beliefs to live by and move on with an open heart.
Even if you know how to let go of someone you love and follow all the steps, don’t expect to feel better immediately. Grieving is normal and you need to allow yourself the necessary amount of time to feel your emotions. Treat yourself with compassion and don’t allow anyone to guilt you into “just getting over it.” Though you don’t want to isolate yourself, take some extra time away from social events if you feel you need it and never agree to a date or set-up until you feel you’re really ready – those who don’t give themselves enough time often end up in rebound relationships that are harmful or that prolong the healing process even more.
Learn to let go and move on
Remember that refusing to let go will not bring someone you care about back. Continuing to hold on only hurts your emotional and physical state, keeping you from fully enjoying life. Embrace living in the moment and understand that uncertainty can be beautiful if you look at it from the right perspective.
The key to letting go of someone you love is facing what has happened, accepting that you can’t change it and then moving on. Once you’re able to move on and appreciate the growth that came from the relationship, better opportunities will present themselves. You will have successfully learned how to let go of someone you love and can begin writing your new story.