Valentine’s Day is upon us, and for many people, that means showing your honey just how much you love them with cards and flowers, gifts and candy, candle lit dinners and an evening for two, but if you’re moving on from a relationship, Valentine’s Day may feel like another day that pours salt in the wound.
The poet Pablo Neruda once wrote “love is short, forgetting is so long,” and for those of you who are trying to move on, you too may feel like forgetting is too long. Friends and family will tell you “time heals all wounds” or “just give it time” and while these adages are true, here are a few other helpful things you can do that will help you move on.
Set your boundaries – Setting both physical and emotional boundaries from your ex can help eliminate some of the post break up drama. If you and your ex are on speaking terms, tell them that you need space, if not, set your own boundaries by hiding them on social media, or making an effort to not text or call them. Facebook will even change how much of your ex you can see after you change your status.
Let go of regret – Someone once told me “regret is a bottomless pit.” When we let ourselves get stuck in a cycle of regret it makes it difficult to move forward. Rather than focusing on regrets, look at past experiences as opportunities for learning. Was there something you wished you hadn’t said or done? A missed opportunity? Acknowledge these experiences as past events and look for ways to learn from them.
End rumination – Much like regret, ruminating keeps us spinning in circles. Research shows that those who ruminate over a relationship’s ending have higher levels of distress than those who do not (Weiss, 1975). If you need to know why your relationship ended, you may want to talk to your ex, but remember to set your emotional boundaries, both with yourself and with your ex. You might not get the answer you want, but having some closure has been shown to reduce post break up distress (Weiss, 1975).
Reclaim yourself – Often when we’re in a relationship we adapt to fit into life with a partner. It doesn’t mean we completely change, but it does mean some parts of ourselves are less active. After a relationship ends giving life back to those parts of yourself can help you feel better and regain your independence. This might mean taking up an old hobby, hanging out with old friends, listening to different music or eating food that you didn’t eat because your ex didn’t like it.
Stop Romanticizing– It’s not uncommon to romanticize even the worst of relationships after they’ve ended. If you catch yourself having romanticized thoughts about your ex, stop and ask yourself how true those thoughts really are. Are you romanticizing a former partner because you miss them or were they really that wonderful?
Write, create, draw – When you find yourself dwelling on a relationship get creative. Keep a journal for your thoughts, doodle or paint, create and give yourself an outlet for all of your emotions.
Remind yourself it’s okay to feel how you feel – Sometimes we beat ourselves up because we just can’t seem to move on from certain emotions. When you feel this way take a second, take a deep breath and tell yourself it’s ok to feel how you feel. Whether it’s sad or angry, regretful or depressed, remind yourself that these are just feelings, they are not permanent, they don’t always have to be here and this is how you feel right now.
Talk about it – This is usually the one thing we have no trouble doing after a break up – talking to our friends about it. This kind of processing can be helpful for moving on, but be mindful of what kind of talking you’re doing; if you find yourself ruminating, romanticizing or regretting, you may find talking to someone isn’t very productive.
See a counselor – Shameless promotion aside, many people feel like seeing a counselor for a break up is silly, unnecessary even, but sometimes a break up can feel overwhelming, thoughts of your ex and what went wrong become almost consuming. If your break up is interfering with everyday life, talking to a counselor can help you move forward and get you back on track.
Weiss, R. (1975) Marital Separation. New York: Basic Books.