Why We Hang Onto Past Relationships and Ways To Let Go
Sometimes the excitement of the first kiss, discovering common interests and finishing each others’ sentences lead to unexpected goodbyes. Let’s face it, we were never trained in doing goodbyes right or how to let go after a relationship ends.
When I went through a painful break up, I frantically searched for the manual that should have come with my heart, “How to let someone I loved so much go?” I couldn’t find that manual. So I went through my own process of rehashing and what if-ing, should have-ing the history of the relationship.
I discovered that there are layers to letting go. I had imagined that I would mentally push a button and the relationship would get processed and composted appropriately without me ever feeling longing, anger, resentment or pain again in relation to my former partner. That was a false expectation and it was unfair to expect that of myself. The grieving process is individual and somewhat predictable. This makes it an art. How we grieve is how we grieve. But sometimes becoming aware why we are having a hard time letting go can open up the dam and help us allow life in.
I identified a few reasons why we hang on to a past relationship. These were true for me and I have found it true for others I have worked with.
1) We tend to glorify the good and forget the bad
Here ‘the bad’ represents what was not working or what was incompatible between partners. Sure, there was enough good for you to get together and stay together as long as you did. But we all know that people aren’t perfect and neither was your ex partner. After a break up, especially one that wasn’t our choice, it is easy to focus on what was great about them vs what didn’t work for us. This tends to make our loss bigger than it is because it feels like we lost the prince of Egypt, instead of someone whose flaws we have brushed under the carpet to keep our love alive and the relationship going.
2) We are afraid of our grief and hanging on to them helps us delay our grieving process
This ties in with # 1 because focusing on what was good about that person might be a way to delay grief. Grief is not as pleasant process and at times it can look like depression- which feels like a personal failure since we are encouraged to focus on the positive in life so much. There is a stigma in society that if we are depressed, we must be bad at life. That, of course, is not true.
Grief is also inconvenient. It can prevent us from continuing our usual routines and may even drop our daily functioning below a level we like it to be at. But you know what, when we escape grief, we miss out on opening to new experiences. Grieving is how our inner being digests life experiences. And we are here to do life.
3) We feel guilty for the mistakes we made and a fantasize about getting back together to do everything right this time
Relationships are a breeding ground for mistakes. All our unresolved issues around intimacy, being seen and accepted as we are, being good enough, etc comes to the surface to be dealt with. And as they come up, due to not having a built-in manual as to how to work with them, we react, sabotage, expect our partners to be the perfect parent we never had and intentionally or unintentionally do things that hurt our partner. That’s just how it is. We usually don’t get to “fix” our mistakes with the same person we made them with. We process, grieve, learn from our mistakes and start afresh with someone new. Couples who get back together who succeed the second (or third time) around- in most cases- have taken a long break from each other, probably trying with someone new in between.
4) We forget that relationships are spiritual assignments
Relationships usually reach their natural expiration and not all of them are supposed to last a lifetime. It does not mean that the relationship was bad or meaningless. It means that you got what you needed out of it and so did they. Relationships highlight where we need to grow and heal personally and spiritually. Our task is to process our experience, extract wisdom and make necessary changes accordingly by doing our inner work. When you’re ready, the next relationship (next assignment) will show up. And you will do it better, no doubt! Your ego may believe that unless you have your ex back or can correct all the mistakes you made, you can’t move forward or be can’t be happy. That, of course, is not true. Especially if we were willing to go through some changes ourselves.
The truth is, we can be happy by dragging the past into our future just as much as we can drive forward by looking in the rear view mirror.
If thoughts, feelings and fantasies about getting back together with your ex is consuming you and preventing you from living your life in the present moment, consider the four reasons I listed above.
So how do we move on? Here are a few suggestions that worked for me:
- Make a ruthlessly realistic inventory about them and get a real picture of who they were in the relationship. Be honest with yourself.
- Find a way to process your feelings and grief. Engaging in a physical activity that gets your heart pounding can beautifully lend itself to release of emotions and tears. Clear your heart out of debris that was left from the hurts and the disappointments.
- Cut all contact and make a written agreement with yourself that you will not contact them through any means (social media, email, phone, text, etc) for at least three months. Forgive yourself if you do but make a rule that you have to start from day one to lead up to three months again. Get a close friend on board who can hold your hand through the cravings- much like they do in 12-step programs.
- Seek help from a coach, therapist or a professional who can help you process and extract the wisdom to move forward.
- Do your best to avoid talking about your ex and the relationship with others who might take sides and approve of your story. Journal about your feelings instead. This will reduce the effect it has on building a case against them or against yourself. Journaling will help you see yourself as your greatest resource and friend.
- Seek to increase your exposure to new activities and experiences. Sign up to volunteer at events and festivals, take an art class, a weekend workshop on pole dancing or join a fencing club. You don’t have to be good at any of those new activities. They will prepare you for a new life and start putting new memories in your mind that will eventually erase the obsessive ones about your ex.
When we use the pain of a break up to learn about ourselves and to focus on what needs healing within us, our chances being a better partner and feeling worthy of a better partner increase automatically. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself grateful for it all down the road. Be patient. You will get to the other side. Trust that.
Source: Expanded Consciousness
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Why We Hang Onto Past Relationships and Ways To Let Go Reviewed by Katerina Pap on 10:16 AM Rating: