Sometimes, when a relationship ends, both of you feel that calling things to a close was the right thing to do.
This isn’t always the case though, if you didn’t want things to end and you still have very strong feelings for your ex it can be a real struggle to move on. Indeed, part of the problem may be that you don’t want to move on – what you really want is for your ex to change their mind and come back.
We speak to a lot of people who are in this situation. And although there’s no single, simple solution, there are a few things that might help you gain perspective and – with time – begin to accept what’s happened.
The process of getting over the end of a relationship often mirrors the famous ‘loss cycle’. This cycle ends with ‘acceptance’ – being able to understand and acknowledge the truth of a situation, even if it’s painful. However, this is often much easier to understand in theory than it is to accept emotionally.
You may be perfectly aware that your partner no longer wants to be with you. They may have even said this. But somehow, you just don’t feel things are over.
You may go over and over things in your head, thinking that if you’d just done one thing differently then the outcome might have been different. Or maybe you just want to make contact one more time so you can understand why they don’t want to be with you.
You might also wonder - sometimes obsessively – about how they’re coping with all of this: whether they’re also upset, or whether they’ve completely forgotten about you. These thoughts can be reinforced by social media, which can imply someone is having a great time and is completely carefree even when this isn’t always true.
Accepting what’s happened
A lot of our work in these situations is focused around helping people move towards a more realistic understanding of what’s happened.
Sometimes, this process can be difficult. It can be blunt. Ultimately, you may need to accept that it does take more than one person to be in a relationship. And if anyone doesn’t want to be in it, then there is no relationship.
If you feel like you and your ex can have an amicable discussion about the end of your relationship and that having this would be genuinely helpful, then there are circumstances when this can work. But it can also mean putting yourself in a potentially painful position. Often, hearing why a relationship ended can be as unpleasant as the end itself.
It can be useful to get an outsider perspective – or even a few – before doing anything. Talk to friends and family. People you can trust and who you know will listen to you. If you feel like you’d benefit from a truly objective opinion, there’s no shame in seeking professional help with a counsellor.
Getting the wider perspective
One thing that can be helpful when struggling with unresolved feelings following the end of a relationship is thinking back and consider the bad sides as well as the good.
There can be a tendency to ‘cherry pick’ and only think about the stuff you miss. But no relationship is perfect. Recognising this can be an important part of understanding why things ended. It can also mean avoiding similar situations in the future. Obviously we only have so much control over what happens in relationships, but if there were any behaviours that contributed towards things ending this time, being aware of these can be very useful.
Looking after yourself
Of course, this is all easier said than done. Being in love with someone who doesn’t want to be with you is painful. Sometimes it’s hard to cope.
If you’re struggling, it’s important to focus on yourself and make sure you’ve got the support you need. You may want to think about coping strategies. What helps you to feel better in the moment? Some people want to be by themselves, some like to give themselves something to do to stay busy.
Sometimes, the end of a relationship can be an opportunity to do some of the things that you didn’t have time to do before, like concentrating on your hobbies or seeing people you haven’t seen in while.
Again, talking to your friends and family can be really important – reminding you that there are people who care about you and want to make sure you’re ok. Although wanting some time to yourself is natural if you’re finding things difficult, isolating yourself is not a good idea. If you’re finding it really hard to cope, do get in touch. Sometimes the act of talking things over is enough to relieve some of the pain.
And sometimes, re-negotiating boundaries in terms of your social network may be necessary. You and your ex may have shared a lot of friends, or have been close with each other’s families. It’s going to take time to figure out what things are going to look like in the future, but for now, the focus needs to be making sure you’ve got the space to regroup and recover. Sometimes, seeing different people for a little while can be necessary.
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