You don’t like to admit it: but you feel like you still love him.
You do a double take in the street, look for hints of him in other guys you date, and if he just walked back through that door… you don’t want to admit what you would do.
Feeling like you’re still in love with someone who has left your life is torture. It is living life so vividly in the past that you walk like a ghost through the present. To break you out of this cycle I wanted to write to you about how to get over your ex.
I feel strongly about this as I had an experience just like it. I fell deeply in love with someone who seemed to love me with the same intensity in return – only one day to say he needed time to work on himself, but he was going to come back for me (honest!) and of course he never did.
As long months came and went I had to confront the fact that I had been deceived. Maybe I wasn’t so special to him. There were other women. There was no going back. The past had closed the door on me: and I was left to reconcile that a chapter in my life had ended, with no neat ending.
The thing is break ups don’t often give you what you want – “closure”. They rarely end like a sitcom where you sit opposite one another at the breakfast table, talk about why things broke down, thank each other for what you shared and walk off into separate sunsets.
Instead real world break ups normally involve:
- Indecision by at least one person over whether this is the ‘right’ thing to do.
- Fractious false starts to the break up: cycles of splitting and reconvening that simultaneously confirm your love and emotionally tear you apart.
- It’s over? Why? How?
- Constant reminders of them, finding reasons to get back in touch, meeting with coldness and disappointment when you do.
- A slow dissembling of a life shared into a life solo.
- Realizing that you’re never going to do that thing together: the future blurs and no longer has a clear trajectory.
- Empty space.
If things ended suddenly, if you didn’t see it coming, if you never got the respect of an explanation (whilst I maybe here doing a victory dance on your behalf that that person is out of your life) you may get stuck. How to get over your ex is not just a mission of letting go of the past. It is understanding that closure is one sided: and that the work to get through this and heal is going to come from you, not a miraculous explanation from them.
‘Empty palm phase’ is what I like to call the immediate stages after a break up where you have to confront having ABSOLUTELY NOTHING going on in your love life. It’s where you’ve had a break up and no one new has come in yet.
In the end being single can be wildly invigorating: at the start it’s usually mortifying and scary. It is like leaving your house without your coat on 24/7.
When things feel a bit ‘empty’ and the mind has space to wander it isn’t really surprising that you go back to thinking about your ex. Confronting just your empty headspace, and becoming comfortable with that, feels infinitely harder.
So you start to think about what could have been. You think that maybe you’ll bump into them again one day. Your mind distorts the past. You romanticize them. You forget the cruel things they said. You forget how lonely you felt in their company. You put the memory of them on a pedestal that no guy off of Bumble is going to be able to match up to.
If you still don’t know how to get over your ex and it’s been months (longer?) let me tell you this: you DO NOT still love them. You just feel like you do. The facts are (and I mean this better than it’s coming out) today you don’t know them. You love an image you hold of them in your mind. That your longing for love has shaped into a person too good to be real.
It is hard for anyone new you meet to compete with a fantasy of your ex. You know you want to let go, but you just can’t seem to do it, so you check their new girlfriend’s Instagram instead.
If you want this to end and to know how to get over your ex – I have some simple steps you can take today to feel better and get onto a new path.
You need to stop opening the memory can for a bit. Block and hide social media profiles, photos and contact details as appropriate. You will ‘discover’ new details about them, you’ll want to reach out, just don’t go there. At this stage you don’t need to communicate that. Or contact them. You need to be with yourself.
You need to be open to your emotions. At the beginning an empty house is the scariest thing in the world. You’ll want to distract yourself. Don’t. Let the emotions come, welcome them in. Make friends with your pain. Sometimes you can want to push emotion away because you definitely don’t want to admit THAT guy made you feel this bad about yourself. But crying it out, yelling it out, running it out, is good. It moves you further from them and back to you.
You don’t need to meet someone else right now. First of all a new person in your life deserves more of you than to be a distraction and secondly if they don’t compare it will exacerbate your pain. You don’t need more people to occupy your mind, I think you need to get to know your mind at neutral. When you can only focus on you. There is magic in this. However if you’re used to getting lost in romance it will feel alien at first to know yourself so well.
You need to allow the thoughts of how they weren’t perfect to come back in. I know they weren’t perfect because they’re human. Don’t award them demi-God status in your mind by how you think of them. Remember ALL the times you had good and bad. Think about what you learned from them, even if it was a tough lesson. Think about why you didn’t connect. Keep surrounding yourself with people who support who you are, who like the qualities in you that they didn’t. Start to build up a sense of your own identity. You don’t need to change. You don’t need to go back. You need to move on.
You need to know you’re stuck on them right now because of what being with them represented. Was it the completion of being in a relationship? The promise of family? The fact that your past was absolved by the plans you both made for your future? What was it? Think. It wasn’t them as a person; it is the idea of them that’s got you stuck. Can you separate the two?
How to get over your ex and ‘let go’ is not actually about them. It’s about you. It’s about whether you can be brave enough to get to know yourself better and whether today you’re able to start the process of growing into someone new.
It sounds silly but a question I often ask my dating coaching clients is, ‘do you remember your first boyfriend at school? Would you like to be with him now?’ Generally this is a ‘hell no!’ (Shout out to Steven btw). The fact you’re not into them before isn’t because they are good or bad. It’s because you have changed. You have grown out of your ability to be into that person. You can do the same today.
That part of you that used to wait for them to call, that never knew where you stood, that kept hoping… does NOT define you. You can grow so much bigger, and brighter than that. When you think you can’t get over your ex the battle you face is how well you’re prepared to get to know yourself. If you can evolve who you are, you can and will leave them in the past.