Breakups are difficult and involve multiple aspects to fully let go and heal. When a relationship was important to you, there’s no way to switch off your emotions after it ends. Love, affection, attraction, and many other feelings will likely linger, and no standard answer exists when it comes to letting go.
When you’re still dealing with all of the emotions, it’s natural to wish there was a definite, fixed timetable for the process of letting go. It’s reasonable to wonder how much time you might need. There are no solid answers or time frames, but here are some tips that will help you develop a healthy process for letting go.
What It Means to “Let Go”
I consider myself lucky in love. I’ve experienced love multiple times. But breaking up doesn’t get easier. No matter what caused the relationship to end, the loving feelings don’t simply go away if I cared enough about my partner to establish an intimate, committed relationship with him.
As the years go by, I’d try to quench my emotions, as if letting go meant I must feel indifferent toward my ex. But approaching it like that led to frustration because love remained.
Though my first serious relationship ended nearly a decade ago, I still love him. The next relationship ended five years ago, but I still love him. The next ended three years ago, but I still love him. The next just ended less than a year ago, but I still love him. Are you seeing a pattern here?
I still love my exes, and I still wish all the best for them. So, what does “letting go” really mean, if love remains? It means that I don’t crave closeness with them, and I don’t wish to rekindle our romance. I may want them to still be involved in my life, but I understand that wouldn’t always be practical. I’m grateful for the times we shared.
Letting go is a process. It’s not linear, and it won’t always make sense. But matters of the heart aren’t logical. So, don’t waste time trying to rationalize them. It’s important to just allow yourself the space to experience your emotions.
Over time, the emotional spikes related to memories of an ex will diminish. The love will remain, but without the giddiness, intense sadness, longing, grief, and other intense emotions related to the loss of what you once had. You’ll be able to reflect positively on your happy memories together.
At this point in the process, I often dwell on thoughts of “what could have been.” After all of my breakups, I’ve struggled to discern the contributing factors. I know the relationships are over, but part of me still wants to bargain and plead and try to work things out. This phase eventually passes, giving way to the final stage—grief. This signifies my acceptance.
Meeting Someone New
Many of us are tempted to view meeting someone new as evidence that the process of letting go is complete. But be warned: starting a new relationship can become complicated.
Meeting someone new isn’t necessarily bad. But you need to do some soul-searching regarding your motives when entering a new relationship soon after a breakup. Are you genuinely in a healthy place? Because healing is the most important component of letting go.
I’ve entered a new relationship as an attempt to avoid feeling pain. I tried to fill the emptiness left by an ended relationship by starting a new one. This approach will cause issues to resurface down the line because it avoids acknowledging and processing your pain.
If your new partner is accepting and understanding, awareness is brought into the healing process, making it entirely possible to heal and grow with someone else. That’s different from diving headlong into a fresh relationship and denying the fact that feelings of pain linger from the recent breakup. Essentially, that’s an attempt to use the attention and love of somebody new as a means to enhance your self-worth.
If the relationship that ended was a healthy one, then you may leave it with a higher level of self-confidence. But even with the purest intentions, codependent habits can permeate a relationship.
For example, despite my personal experience related to codependency, I met somebody who brought out a shadowy attribute in me that I thought I’d healed. I knew I had tendencies. But this person unintentionally triggered my codependent emotional patterns and behaviors. I needed to stop relying on self-reflection and meditation and confront them as they were occurring in real time.
Break the Pattern
If I experience conflict in a romantic relationship, I tend to project my feelings onto my partner. I expect him to take equal responsibility, and feel entitled to this. Partners certainly support each other in healthy relationships, but my feelings are my responsibility. Until I develop and practice my method for processing them, this unhealthy pattern will keep repeating itself.
When I’m feeling sad after a breakup, I automatically turn to my partner, to help make me feel better. After I lose that partner, I struggle when I need to process sadness independently. When I meet someone new, I suddenly feel better again and my sadness subsides.
I unconsciously move out of one relationship and into another as a coping mechanism to suppress sadness and avoid confronting it. Mutual support is important in healthy romantic relationships. But if I consistently require my partner’s assistance to properly process my emotions, my relationships will always devolve into codependence. This often leads to addictive tendencies and poor decisions when I seek a new partner.
Is It Too Soon?
There’s no set time frame to let go after a romantic relationship ends. But it helps to understand the general progression of healing after a heartbreak. It’s a process that requires acceptance, forgiveness, grief-processing, and regaining independence.
We must be honest with ourselves to genuinely comprehend what we’re feeling when we lose someone who has been an important part of our lives.
Dealing with pain is difficult. The natural impulses are to run away, escape, or find someone to soothe you. But to let go after the breakup in a healthy way involves experiencing the pain and learning from it. Most of us don’t consider breakups to be teachable moments. They’re unpleasant, so we run, or we do whatever we can to escape.
There’s no doubt that breakups suck. But if you dare to face your pain and learn from it, the process of letting go will catalyze your journey of personal growth.