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How to Let Go of Your Last Relationship

Letting go is a process that requires patience and compassion.

Key points

  • Know that the relationship was meant to go as long as it did, not one day less or one day more.
  • We heal by allowing ourselves to feel the pain.
  • The only way out is through, and getting up every single day and investing in your life is “through.”

Many people struggle in their relationship because they haven’t been able to let go of their previous one. There’s no right way to get through a breakup. Each is different, and the amount of time it takes to “get over” or, more accurately, let go can vary.

But first, let's talk about what letting go looks like. Many believe it’s just a decision. It may start with a decision, but ultimately it's a journey. It’s a process.

What’s important is that you start the process.

Here are a few tips.

1. Know that the relationship has expired.

Yes, like milk there was an expiration date. Know that it was meant to go as long as it did, not one day less or one day more. And you were meant to learn something from it. You’ll ask yourself a lot of why questions, like, “Well then does that mean every relationship has an expiration date?” It’s not that every relationship expires. It’s just that relationships do. It’s just a mindset, a way to look at it so you’re able to detach and accept. The more you believe it was meant to expire, the more you’ll be able to let go.

2. Fully feel it.

You can’t heal if you’re in denial, and not wanting to feel something is a form of denial. You’re going through a loss. It meant something. It was a part of your life. Don’t deny or minimize it. Accept it. Fully. I’m not saying lock yourself in your room and replay old songs, but you must allow yourself to feel the pain. That's how you heal. Take a day or three and be sad. You invested your heart in this. It deserves to be felt.

3. Learn from the experience.

There are gifts in every expired relationship. They’re called lessons. These lessons will be the branches that pull you out of your quicksand. Although extremely painful, what’s produced from your collision are diamonds, revelations about yourself, other people, relationships, the world. This is extremely valuable.

If you don’t choose to look at it, take it, embrace it, you’re throwing away something that can’t be replaced. It’s difficult to see what you’ve learned about yourself after a relationship is over. It’s difficult to examine your contribution to why it expired. This requires taking responsibility, and many refuse to do that.

But it’s also the beginning of the growth process. The more diamonds (revelations) you collect, the more valuable this expiration becomes and the more you realize it was meant to expire. The more of this, and the easier it will be to accept and let go.

4. Remember why it didn’t work.

Drill this into your head. When we look back on relationships, we usually play the highlight reel. We play back all the good stuff, the moments when we felt alive and in love and thought it would last forever.

We must hit stop and go to the behind-the-scenes—the fights, the silences, the tears, the abuse—all the reasons why it did not work. If you keep playing the highlight reel, you’ll second guess everything and want something that isn’t reality. This desire is the quicksand I referred to above. It will keep you stuck and sinking.

It didn’t work for a reason. That’s the focus. Stay there. Replace your emotional thoughts with facts. Play the documentary.

5. Get physical.

With yourself. No, not like that. Or maybe. But what I meant was exercise. It’s the best way to release stress. Take your pent-up energy and use it to look better naked. Now’s the time to do everything you’ve wanted to try: rock climbing, CrossFit, spinning, yoga, surfing, hiking, breakdancing. If you can’t give your mind a rebirth, give your body one and your mind will follow.

6. Turn it into action.

When we think of letting go, we usually focus on the mental or emotional aspect of it. This will keep you in your head. Instead, focus on what it looks like in action. Ask yourself, “What does letting go look like in everyday life?”

Picture it. What do you see? Let’s say you see yourself working on you. OK, how?

Now break down how you’re going to accomplish that in each category.

The way you let go is to get busy. If you need support, ask someone to help you and keep you accountable. Write this plan down. As long as you’re open and have accepted the expiration, the emotional and mental process will come naturally.

Focus on moving on with your life in action and you will begin the healing process. You have to trust that. You may struggle with motivation. But that’s where you have to muster up everything you have to get this ball rolling.

Don’t say no to anything social. Get out. Live. Meet new people. Hear new stories. You’re going to be sad. You’re going to cry. You’re going to look back. But you have to keep carving and leaning forward.

The only way out is through, and getting up every single day and investing in your life is “through.”

Out of your house. Out of your head.

Write that on your bathroom mirror.

Remember, whatever you feed grows. So stop thinking about the past and what was. It’s time to focus on the new you. You have so much more time now. Invest it all in you. Every expired relationship creates the richest soil for growth. Use it to grow a better version of yourself.

I went through a divorce over a decade ago and it was the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through. But if it wasn’t for that, I would have never gone through my rebirth, created a start-up, started a blog, published books, helped thousands online, and found a sense of purpose.

You’ll look back one day and realize it was a gift. It was meant. It was a part of your story.

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