By Carolyn Joyce
“Life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself at its most brilliant.” ~ Paulo Coelho
Figuring out how to move on from a relationship is one of the most difficult transitions in a person’s life. And while each of us moves on in our own way and on our own time, one truth is almost universal – and that is that we all face this challenge at some point in our lives. One thing that we are not is alone in our suffering. Recently, it was discovered that, on average, people spend about 18 months of their lives getting over breakups. The good news about this is that, although it takes time, people areable to move on. And when they do, they leave behind lessons – actual, tangible, lived-experience ways to heal. Because, eventually, we do heal.
Before we get into the tools and techniques for how to move on, I hope that anyone reading this would take a second to allow themselves to have feeling for the fact that this is hard. No matter how many people have been down this road before us, this moment we’re living through is probably a painful place to be. One of the best ways to deal with the reality of that pain is to meet it with compassion. Neither denying the feeling nor allowing ourselves to ruminate in it offers us the freedom we need to move on. Instead, we can show ourselves the kindness and treatment that we would a friend – an acknowledgment of what we feel paired with the reality-check that it will pass.
How to move on: A note about timing
When people are struggling after a relationship ends, their first question is often “how long will this last?” Of course, there is no magic formula to answer this question. According to one study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, more than 70 percent of participants took a little less than three months to move on or “see the positive aspects from their breakup” and to feel goal-oriented and like they’d experienced personal growth. Unsurprisingly, it’s around this same time (just over the three-month mark) that another surveysaid people start dating someone else in a real way, in which they’re focused on the new situation more than the old.
Of course, every person is unique, as are their relationships. The point of repeating these numbers is simply to emphasize that healing can take time. We should try to maintain a patient and gentle approach to this fact. Bad days are part of a longer journey, and it absolutely will get better. It may not feel like it, but time, truthfully, is on our side.
15-Steps for How to Move On:
Look at your life as a journey
It’s important to keep in mind that everyone who’s doing okay now has had moments when they thought they’d never be okay. A break up may feel like the end of the world, but years from now, a struggle of today will feel like a lesson from the past. The more we can look at our lives as fluid and not fixed, the more we can see our experiences in perspective. The end of a relationship is not the end of our story. Whether we’re with someone or on our own, no one else can possess our story or our identity. We may leave a relationship feeling like we left part of ourselves behind, wondering how to move on without them, but the truth is we are still whole, still evolving, and still growing all the time.
Keeping the imagery of movement in our minds is a way of preventing ourselves from being caught in the whirlpool of an inner critic that tells us we will never be able to move on or to feel ourselves again.
Silence your inner critic
The “critical inner voice” is a term used by Dr. Robert Firestone to describe a negative thought process we all have that is like an internalized nemesis. This cruel “voice” criticizes, coaches, and even pities us (and others) in ways that undermine us when we’re up and kick us when we’re down. A lot of the pain and suffering we experience after a break up is owed to this inner critic. Common post-break-up “voices” include:
- “I told you she would leave you.”
- “You have nothing now.”
- “No one will ever love you.”
- “You’ll always be alone.”
- “You can’t trust men.”
- “You should just forget about relationships.”
- “Have a drink; it will make you feel better.”
- “Just be alone. No one wants to see you right now.”
Getting caught up in this internal dialogue makes the process of figuring out how to move on much more difficult. However, we can get to know this voice as the enemy it really is and learn to separate it from our real point of view by reading about the steps to overcome the critical inner voice.