Breakups are hard. If you are recently single and having a tough time filling your newly empty hours – not to mention that hole in your heart – life can sometimes feel hopeless and cruel.
Moving on from a relationship is difficult no matter who you are. This can be true whether you dated for three months or three years, and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with whether you cohabitated, or even whether you slept together. Of course, living with one another and having sex can make it even more painful (and involve more packing) when it’s time to move on – so make sure to think before moving in together .
So what are you supposed to do? If you’re wondering how to move on from a relationship, you’ll find some good tricks below. That’s not to say that moving on will magically become easy; it won’t. It will take perseverance, grit and a willingness to let yourself grieve. But eventually, your outlook will get sunnier and you’ll find you can hack this whole life thing once again. Until then, here are some tricks to help you move forward.
1. FILL YOUR TIME
There’s no quicker way to move on from a bad relationship than by finding healthy ways to occupy your time. Keeping your head, hands and body busy with activities you find enjoyable crowds out the negative and desperate thoughts that can sometimes invade an idle mind after a breakup. Make sure you don’t have any mental energy to waste on your ex by doing team sports, working harder at your job, picking up a new hobby, making new friends or reading more books.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that relatively mindless activities like watching television can take your ex’s place, though. While TV and movies are a great way to unwind and can offer comfort when you’re sad, too much will drain you, making you feel listless and spent, and just give you more time to miss the person who isn’t in your life anymore. Avoid that by making sure your activities are high energy and use a lot of your concentration.
2. MAKE PLANS WITH FRIENDS
Spending time with your close friends can help you to see that you don’t need your previous relationship. A lot of the things we get from lovers – closeness, companionship, laughs, confidence, love – we can actually get from other people. This isn’t to say that your mom, your sister, your girlfriend or your gay friend can become a replacement to a romantic partner; they can’t and shouldn’t. Most of us do need a romantic relationship as part of our definition of lasting happiness.
However, boosting the strength of these relationships can fill in a lot of the missing emotional comfort you get from being part of a romantic pair. Make plenty of plans so that you never have to spend time alone if you don’t want to. Eventually, of course, you’ll need to figure out how to be comfortable by yourself and in your own skin, but for now, having company is a good way to move on.
3. START A NEW ROMANCE
The rebound is a time-honored way of moving on from a failed relationship. Laughter, intimacy and just plain fun are excellent ways to bid your past relationship farewell and start focusing on a healthier future. Look to your circle of friends (just not too close to the center of it), your coworkers, your gym buddies or old schoolmates to see who might be interested in something low-key or casual. This can really help take your mind off your past flame, especially if you’re more hurt or angry than heartbroken.
Of course, this isn’t always ideal if you’re still truly mourning the loss of your last relationship. However, many people discover once they end the relationship that they had been slowly letting it go for a while. If this is you, and you find once you’re out that you’re more lonely or restless than sad or grief-stricken, spending time with someone new can be just the ticket.
4. WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU DIDN’T LIKE
Keeping a diary or journal of the things that made you miserable in your relationship is a great way to stay strong in the face of the very common, very natural desire to go running back to what is safe and comfortable. This relationship is over for a reason, and even if that reason is “he dumped me out of nowhere,” that’s still a darn good reason not to get back together with someone. Stay strong by writing down the ways you were treated and telling yourself you deserve more, because you do.
5. PURGE THEIR STUFF
Still confused about how to move on? One of the best ways to take back your life is to take back your space. You might not think it matters much, but walking past your ex’s toothbrush in the holder every morning can drain your energy and your happiness. Glancing at his boxers in your closet when you’re changing into your pajamas at night is bound to make you sad and sniffly.
Clean all of his things out of your living space and either set them on his doorstep when he’s not home, ship them to him, or leave them out for him to pick up. They aren’t your responsibility any longer. You can also do the stuff swap to get your items back!
6. CUT OFF ALL CONTACT
Moving on becomes a lot harder if you stay in daily contact with your ex, yet many couples do exactly this. Out of a fear of leaving the relationship behind entirely, both people in the couple will often look for excuses to keep talking. Any subject will do: the pets, the children, shared property, the move-out process, whatever. Naturally, these are subjects that often must be discussed during a breakup, so it’s not sensible to expect you won’t have to talk to your ex at all. But any discussion you have beyond what’s purely necessary isn’t healthy.
Try creating rules for yourself. What will you do if your ex texts you? Calls you? Emails you? Shows up at the apartment after he’s moved out? Decide the answers to these questions beforehand, and then hold firm. Also make rules for which subjects are okay – bills, dogs – and which are not – thinking of you, feeling sad. Drawing your boundaries will keep you safer emotionally and send a clear message to your ex.
7. GET LOTS OF PHYSICAL EXERCISE
You’ve probably already realized that a good sweat helps as much as any other tactic – perhaps even more. If you’re stuck in a negative headspace and just can’t seem to move on, try getting a lot of vigorous physical exercise. Do it daily so that you start to wear away at the dread that accompanies working out, and make it a point to lace up your sneakers or roll out your yoga mat whenever your thoughts get particularly hard to shake.
If you’re not the type to hit a spin class or do downward dog until you collapse from exhaustion, that’s totally okay. Choose an activity that does work for you. Walk your dog all over town. Start biking to and from work, or to that sewing class you’re taking with your bestie. Do jumping jacks or stretches while you watch reruns. Whatever it takes to make you feel like you’re blowing off some steam without injuring your body or subjecting yourself to an activity you really don’t like.
8. REFRAME “MOVING ON”
Sometimes moving on just isn’t going to happen. When the pain is very new, or the wound is particularly deep, it might not be possible to imagine ever living a life without this person. Instead of forcing yourself to move past what you just can’t move past – and therefore causing yourself more distress in the process – try being open to the idea of moving forward.
Moving forward doesn’t have to mean forgetting, or even giving up hope. It just means figuring out how to live your life meaningfully and in tune with your true vision for who you want to be right now. If the person you become is someone who can take that other person back, hey, that’s okay. It’s very unlikely, of course; the point is that you don’t need to make any final decisions or lay anything to rest at this exact moment. All you need to do is figure out how to live well right now.
9. GIVE YOURSELF TIME
Above all, give yourself time. Just because you try these techniques and they don’t work immediately doesn’t mean they won’t eventually. To a certain extent, you might have to fake it till you make it … and that’s okay. It’s normal. Just put your focus on you, as well as the people and activities that make you happy, and you’ll come out all right in the end. Remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And this won’t kill you, we promise.
Next time you’re wondering how to move on from a relationship, try the above tactics. As you already know, taking this advice to heart won’t make the pain disappear overnight, but it can substantially reduce the amount of time you spend wallowing in sadness and despair, and add vibrancy and joy to your life once more.
Have other ideas about moving on from a relationship? Feel free to share them in the comments below!