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7 Ways to Move Forward After a Break Up

June 22, 2020 | by Rabbi Dov Heller, LMFT

How to get closure and learn from the difficult experience.

1. Get Closure

You can't move on until you have complete closure. This means that you know that the door is shut and there’s no option for getting back together. Sometimes the person who ends it does so in a somewhat vague way that leaves the door open a bit in the mind of the other person. If you're not sure whether the other person is really done, then you need to ask him or her directly. It's best to do this in an email, not on the phone or in person. It’s not fair to either one of you to have direct contact because talking most likely will only stir up old desires and longings which neither one of you need.

Another important issue to explore is whether you are still holding onto some slight hope that it could still work. Be honest with yourself. As long as you hold onto some hope, it will be difficult to move on. Either present an offer to your ex for trying again or let go and stop hoping once and for all.

2. Mourn the loss

There are five stages of mourning a loss. Going through these five stages is a necessary part of gaining closure emotionally once you know it’s over intellectually. The five stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Many people spend a lot of wasted time and energy in the bargaining stage (stage 3), rethinking every detail of what went wrong, envisioning how it might be fixed in order to get back together. You may be feeling overwhelmed with sadness, loss, and depression (stage 4). If your depression lasts more than a month, it is a good idea to seek professional help. Eventually, you want to come to a complete acceptance, intellectually and emotionally (stage 5) that it’s over

3. Take a self-esteem check

How are you feeling about yourself? It’s important to stay in a positive place and not get down on yourself. If you're beating yourself up and feeling like a loser, it is hard to move forward into a new relationship. Feeling good about yourself makes you attractive to others. How do you feel about how you handled your part in the relationship? Do you feel ashamed of how you handled yourself and how you treated the other person? Do you blame yourself for why it didn’t work? If you are struggling with any of these questions, work them through either by yourself or with some help. The goal is to forgive yourself of any mistakes you made and give yourself permission to be human. Self-acceptance is the foundation of healthy self-esteem.

4. Listen to your feelings

It’s crucial to listen to your feelings. If you feel angry or guilty it’s important to process these feelings in order to understand why you feel this way. For example, you may be feeling angry at your ex because she lied to you on several occasions. Looking more deeply into your anger may reveal that in truth you might be angry at yourself because you didn’t challenge her the first time she lied and let her get away with it. You may feel guilty for the pain you caused him by neglecting him and playing games. By listening to your feelings and learning from them, you can gain deeper self-understanding that can help you become a better person for your next relationship.

5. Learn from your experience

Every experience in life, especially painful ones, is an opportunity for learning and growth. Be careful not to get stuck in blaming or wallowing in self-pity, rather do your best to make a thorough inventory of your experience. What mistakes did you make and what can you learn from them? Explore what you learned about yourself and how you can become a better person. What specific character traits might benefit from some refinement, such as kindness, sensitivity, listening, patience, reliability, trustworthiness, etc.? Every relationship that doesn’t work should help you get clearer about what you’re looking for. This clarity will help you to identify the one who is truly right for you.

6. Make a complete break

It's crucial to get rid of all physical items that remind you of your ex. As hard as it might be, throw them away. Some people create a breaking–up ritual, such as throwing pictures etc. into a fire and saying goodbye as the flames turn the memories into ash. It is also wise to do everything possible to avoid seeing your ex on social media and above all, no social media stalking! Holding onto memories only prolongs the agony and retards the process of moving on.

7. Clarify what you want and where you’re going

Don’t start dating until you know what you want. Are you ready for marriage? If so, what do you need to do to make yourself ready and more prepared? Also be sure you're emotionally ready to start dating which is best indicated by when you have worked through the five stages of mourning. You need to feel that you are emotionally available to a new person.

There is no time table for measuring how long it takes to move on after a break up because everyone is different. Nonetheless, after six weeks, if you find that you are not making any real progress and are still thinking about and obsessing about the break up and your ex, this may indicate the presence of deeper emotional problems that stem from earlier life difficulties. In such a situation, I would encourage you to seek professional help to explore the possibility that deeper, underlying emotional issues are causing you to be stuck.

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