Still clinging to the remnants of an old heart throb or haunted by ghosts of lovers past? Four reasons to let them go.
When my three-year relationship ended, my life fell apart a little. Well, a lot. It was the biggest ego-crushing, paradigm-shattering experience I had gone through. Despite the loneliness, the grief, and the pain, I am grateful for the gifts of the relationship and the break up. No doubt.
After rehashing everything about the relationship, seeing my part in its dissolution, and recovering compassion towards myself to combat the guilt of the mistakes I made, I got done. I arrived at that point where the rehashing and hanging on got old. They had become a hindrance to my ability to be present. I knew that being present to myself and my life was the only way I could actually enjoy life. So, I needed to heal and let go of whatever was keeping me from being there.
At that point, I could see the uselessness of staring at the outline of the dead body on the crime scene and wishing it wasn’t dead. As you can guess, that attempt was as successful as reviving a dead fish by staring at it long enough. I was not strong enough to see it then.
There may be safety in clinging to the idea of a “phantom ex” or using the glorified image of them to prevent ourselves getting attached to someone new. It is so natural and human to want to protect our heart from getting broken again. In fact, in my opinion, avoiding getting into a relationship right away and giving yourself time to process is the wise thing to do. But how much hanging on is too long? Not letting go off of a former partner may seem like a way to stay safe but it comes with its price.
Being on this side of the tunnel and looking back, I can’t help but identify a handful of ways hanging onto my ex was hurting me. I hope that these insights help you see your situation from a different perspective, make new choices out of self love that set you free to be present thus, in your power.
#1 – We don’t get to high-five the wiser version of ourselves
People grow and change, especially after a relationship. The man/woman we are still pining for is no longer the exact same person we got together with back then and neither are we. Both the relationship and our former partner helped us grow and shed some old skin. In our next relationship, we will naturally do some things better. I can guarantee you that there is a better, wiser, more empowered version of you sitting in the closet waiting for you to open the door and see it. You can see and be that person if you take your eyes off of the rearview mirror with the engine on and decide where you want to drive next.
#2 – We miss out on showing up more empowered in relationships
It doesn’t matter how long the relationship was. If we are honest with ourselves about our side and their side, we would be able to identify ways we needed to grow and heal to not make the same mistakes again. Maybe you haven’t done that; it was too scary or too soon. It isn’t for the faint-hearted. Yet, the best part of a relationship ending is the growth opportunity it presents and how it smoothes the edges of our egos.
When we do the work required for our own happiness, we show up more empowered in a relationship. As we invest in our personal growth willingly, we become people who feel worthy of rock star treatment by their partner. That version of us is also someone who is able to offer that to their partner without demanding it to be returned. Our giving becomes the kind that feeds us as well.
#3 – The guilt we are afraid to face can cause us to give power away
This is something we do unconsciously. It is also very human. We know when we have wronged someone- intentionally or unintentionally. We can look back and see how we could have loved better or how we could have spoken our truth with love instead of anger and blame.
Maybe you made major mistakes that affected the relationship adversely. Maybe you were selfish, stubborn, untrustworthy and demanding. Feeling guilty for a while is a good thing because it pushes us to make new decisions about how we want to be in the future in order to not to feel that guilt again. Not facing, owning and accepting our mistakes and the unprocessed guilt that is generated by that can cause us to feel unworthy. Prolonged guilt is more of a sign of resistance to accepting the responsibility to make the changes to have a different experience next time. To me, this is the point of our power.
#4 — We close ourselves off to new healing experiences
A new relationship is an opportunity to heal. By no means I am saying that we should go out and find a new relationship without processing and digesting our experience. In my case, I didn’t start giving dating a serious chance till I hit the one-year mark. The new relationship helped me see my ex’s side in the strangest, most synchronistic ways. I got to develop the empathy I was lacking by only seeing it from my side. I got an opportunity to correct some of my wrongs by practicing new ways of communicating, relating and loving with my new partner. If you are hiding your heart away from the world, you may be doing yourself a disservice. Healing is a shift in perception. And our perception shifts as we get involved in new experiences, especially those that involve our heart.
If you find that you are having a hard time letting go of a past relationship, take some time to contemplate this question, “What do I look forward to in my life?” Re-create a new normal by adding wisdom from the relationship and opening up to new experiences.
Be patient with yourself but don’t close your eyes to the truth. This is your life. It’s a blank canvas. Don’t sit there with paint brushes in your hands, your eyes staring in the rearview mirror. Leave your mark behind, not your heart. There are more people to love on this planet in this lifetime, including ourselves.
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Photo: Flickr/Karsten Seiferlin