How We Get Stuck
And why we just can’t let go of someone who doesn’t want us anymore.
Soyou broke up a long time ago but every time you touch the wound it feels as though it’s fresh and raw.
You can’t stand to think of it because it feels like you’re getting your heart broken all over again each time. Yet you can’t seem to rinse it out of your mind, either.
Here are five very real, very common reasons you may find yourself stuck over a past love affair — unable to move on, and unable to let go.
1. Assuming you know how they feel.
You gripe about it to your friends, expressing how resentful you are that they’ve moved on and sought out the happiness they couldn’t find with you. You shamelessly creep their social media and hate yourself for not having half the fun they’re apparently having.
But like it or not, you’re not living in their head. You cannot possibly fathom how they feel or what they’re going through based on your expert detective and decoding skills. Besides, you don’t even communicate with them on a day to day basis, so right now you’re just filling in the blanks of what you think (or fear) they’re experiencing.
In lieu of making assumptions, recognize that it doesn’t matter how they feel because you’re no longer dating them. Also come to terms with the fact that searching for their grief is largely a bad habit of your ego and therefore about you, not them.
2. Putting them on a pedestal.
You know how they say that hindsight is 20/20? Along the same line, memories are largely falsified and fabricated. The meaning we attribute to our experience is indelibly woven into the truthful pieces. Although non-fiction, memories are still stories we tell (mainly to ourselves).
When you break up with someone, it means that your connection is severed and broken. Because otherwise, you’d still be together. And while it’s tempting to romanticize your former lover and focus on their redeeming qualities, don’t do so at the expense of all the undesirable ones.
Sure, they had a great way of reading you. But you know what? They also had a great wandering eye. Cut your losses and try to see the trees through the forest.
3. Having something to prove.
Everyone grieves differently. Of course, it’s a low blow when someone who broke your heart has moved on way much than you have. But wanting to “win” the breakup or having to be the first one to date someone else won’t help your case.
By getting consumed with making your breakup a competition, you’re actually tying yourself and your self-worth to whether or not you one-up someone else. And by caring about what everyone else thinks about your progress, you’re once again making it all about your ego, not about your ex.
But either way, you’re hindering your ability to move on and move forward with your life. And you’re only really trying to prove to yourself that you’re over it, good enough, lovable, etc. But the answers don’t lie in the one who left you, nor can they be found in the next person you meet. Only you can fuel that fire.
4. Refusing help.
If you got your heart broken, it’s probably the best time ever to ask for help or to help yourself. Speak to a therapist, do some personal growth workshops or even take the time to be alone and practice self-care. You know, find a way to heal.
But so few people do this, and they wonder why they’re no further ahead. Instead, they prefer to distract themselves with what their ex is doing, or totally immerse themselves in someone new (because a new person will undoubtedly fix the problem, right?).
Instead of taking the steps you need to grieve and move on, you hold onto the ghost of someone in hopes of keeping them close. But the truth is that at the end of the day, ghosts are just reminders of what’s dead and gone.
5. Letting fear drive your car.
When you operate from a place of fear, more often than not you end up inadvertently creating what you fear instead of avoiding it. It’s like you’re driving a car and you’re focusing so much on your fear that you swerve right into it.
The thing about fear is this: you don’t have to completely eradicate it from your life; in fact, it doesn’t even have to get out of the car. But fear can’t be the one making all the decisions.
Elizabeth Gilbert perfectly sums this up in her book, Big Magic:
“(Dearest Fear) You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
You can’t fix a problem by worrying about it. And you definitely can’t fix it by avoiding it.
The irony is that if you don’t actually fix the problem, you’ll never transcend it either.
So what’s the fix? How do we unravel our approach to heartache and learn to let it go? Is it possible to ever really move on?
The answer is at once both simple and complex. It starts with admitting to ourselves that things we hold onto are only things that have already left us.
Then, it’s about learning lessons and cultivating experiences. Deep reflection on what we want in our lives and which changes need to happen in order to achieve it.
And over time, the person we become will no longer be the same person we are now. Things will be different. We will be different. And our relation to the other person will be different, too.
We can still care on some intrinsic level for the person, but we will begin to understand why it didn’t work out for us, and only end up wishing them well in the end.
And eventually we learn that nothing is ever truly ours to own, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t experience a love that never walks away.
This article was originally published on Medium.