I can’t stop thinking about my ex.
Heartbreak can’t go on forever.
Last week, I asked you to ask yourself some questions about your fear of heartbreak. One reader answer really stuck with me:
The scariest thing that could happen to my heart is that it breaks for somebody that doesn’t want it anymore. That they leave and never acknowledge how precious hearts are.
Hearts are precious. Remember that.
In this week’s Love Weekly, I’m answering a subscriber’s tough question about moving on after being hung up on an ex for years.
My ex-boyfriend and I broke up three years ago, and I can’t move on. We’d been together for two years, and when we broke up, I didn’t see it coming. I was so devastated that I could barely function, and I suddenly started dating like crazy to distract myself.
Since then, I’ve kept it casual, but there have been a few people who seemed to want to get more serious with me. I can’t do it. I keep comparing them to my ex and wishing I were with him instead. I end up ghosting most of the time.
My friends think I’m crazy. They constantly remind me that my ex was far from perfect and that our relationship wasn’t even that happy. I know I need to move on. It’s been three years and I feel so embarrassed to be so stuck. He’s moved on with his life, and even though we aren’t really in contact, I keep tabs on him through the usual ways. (Also embarrassing.) When I see him post a picture of his new girlfriend, my heart breaks all over again.
How can I let him go? I can’t feel like this anymore.
My first thought is: If you jumped right back into dating after your break up, it’s unlikely that you processed your relationship and its ending. No wonder you’re stuck in time — and maybe even stuck in a story that’s convinced you that you’re not good enough to move on. Or that maybe, you think you don’t deserve to move on.
It’s time to process. Have you grieved? Have you really, truly felt the weight of loss, rejection, anger, and heartbreak? When we suppress our feelings, those big emotions that we’re trying not to experience get bigger and bigger until they control us.
Have you sat with the reality of your relationship and thought about how and why it didn’t work? What needs of yours weren’t met? Were you fully able to show up for him? Were you fully able to show up for yourself?
I don’t think this is really about your ex anymore. He’s a metaphor for something that feels like it’s missing in your life. Being stuck on him is perhaps your new distraction from a life that doesn’t really fulfill you. Maybe you hate your job, or you’re bored with your social life, or you aren’t investing in your own happiness. Whatever the case may be, it sounds like you might be searching for meaning in your life, and you think you’ll find that meaning in your ex. But he doesn’t hold the key to your happiness. He never did.
This isn’t about your relationship with him. This is about your relationship with yourself.
The meaning you’ve given your break up is that you’re inadequate in some way. Unworthy. But what if it means something else? What if it was meant to wake you up? To move you in a different direction? What if the ending of your relationship was meant to teach you how to love yourself? You decide what this break up means. You can decide right now that this is going to be a turning point in your life.
Bottom line: After three years, you’ve extracted more than enough pain out of this. It’s time to get proactive about healing and pour energy back into your life. You need to make the decision to move on and finally start focusing on creating the life you want.
Take a timeout from dating and date yourself. Spend time with yourself doing things that make you feel good, like spending time with friends, taking walks, or reading all day on a weekend.
Consider working with a therapist to help you understand your patterns, needs, and wants. They can also help you process the difficult emotions you bypassed three years ago.
Pursue that thing you haven’t let yourself try, whether it’s a new career, hobby, passion, friend, or city. Three years have already gone by. It’s time to stop holding yourself back.
The #1 thing that has helped me and the thousands of people I help with the grieving process is to contribute to something or someone outside of ourselves. Whether it’s pouring your energy into a job that includes helping others or a cause that is close to your heart, forget money and donate your time to someone who is hurting and in need. Maybe it’s working a few days a week at a soup kitchen, maybe it’s walking dogs from an animal shelter. The truth is, when we’re heartbroken, what we need is to feel connected again. Giving back will make you feel that connection again — to others, to yourself, and if you believe in it, to a higher power or universal energy greater than yourself. I know you’re in your head too much, and you’ve used dating as a way to get out of your head. I get it —I really do. No judgement. But, as you know, it’s not working. Instead, it’s driving you deeper into emotional pain. So, by giving to someone or something that’s bigger than you and your story, you will learn to let go and embrace a new chapter.
This works — without fail.
It’s time to unfollow, block, and delete. You can’t torture yourself another day watching your ex’s social media. You deserve to be free.
Rejection breeds obsession, but in reality, it’s redirection. These are the steps that will set you in the right direction — one that moves toward healing, growth, and new possibilities.
Do you have a relationship question for me? Reply to this email and you might see it in a future newsletter! (I’ll keep your name anonymous, of course.)