10 Steps to Move On From a Relationship
This is the last part of my 5-part series on how to move on from a relationship. If you are new to this series, read Part 1: My Journey With Love first.
Note from Celes: As this series concludes, I’d like to thank all of you guys for your feedback. This series has generated the most discussion to date and I’m glad my experience has helped you gain insights. For myself, reading your responses and experiences have given me the invaluable opportunity to learn about you. Meanwhile, please enjoy the last part of this series. 🙂
Moving On Isn’t Easy
I’ll be honest with you: Moving on isn’t easy. If it wasn’t for my experience with G, I’d think moving on is just a matter of putting the past behind us. I mean, you want to move on? Just forget about the past! Get over it. Look onward to the future. Keep yourself busy with other things.
Uh-uh – not so easy. While these do help in some way, I realized that there is more than meets the eye. No matter how I tried to push away the past, it hung there like a shroud, affecting the way I thought about myself, my decisions, and my actions. I didn’t realize this until I came to the realizations which helped me let go. Ultimately, there were past baggages to clear and subconscious, erroneous beliefs to untangle before I could really move on. All these require an ability to think consciously and to maintain a level of objectivity, which is hard because such matters are usually linked to deep sorrows and injured pride.
Often, we think we have moved on but we haven’t. This was the case for me for the past few years. For the longest time, while I thought I had moved on, subconsciously I had not. Thinking you have moved on and having really moved on are two separate situations altogether. In the former, you continue to live under the shadow of that person or relationship without realizing it. You think you have been liberated but truth is you are still living in a mental prison as you keep thinking about the person and past memories. This prevents you from receiving new things in your life.
12 Signs To Tell If You Have Not Moved On
For you to move on, you have to first know whether you have moved on or not. Here are 12 signs to tell if you have not moved on:
- When you think of the person more often than not.
- When you think about him/her even though you don’t want to.
- When you keep mentally reliving past memories with him/her, usually the happy/sweet ones.
- When he/she comes to mind the first instant when you are down and out.
- When you still have questions and resignations about the past. You wonder what could have been or why didn’t it turn out a certain way.
- When you assign blame for the way things turned out, whether it’s to him/her, yourself or the circumstance.
- When thought/sight of him/her trigger certain emotional reactions, such as aversion, anxiety, frustration, resignation.
- When you keep trying to improve yourself because you feel you were not good enough (for him/her).
- When you have a desire to spite him/her, as a way of making him/her regret for whatever happened.
- When you often bring up the person in your conversations, even when there is no relation.
- When you have a desire or urge to contact him/her even though you previously told yourself you didn’t want to.
- When you find yourself living out the same looping patterns. A very common example would be on-again, off-again relationships with that person. Or a lingering state of relationship that doesn’t get anywhere. Even if you are with other people, if the relationships act out in the same pattern as the past, it reflects you have not moved on. There’s a part of you entrenched in the past which is making the same situation reenact itself, just with a different person.
Moving On Takes Time
The moving on process will take time, probably longer than you might think. I’m talking about being fully cleansed of all lingering hang-ups and scars from the incident, not just moving on on a surface level.
It took me 4 whole years before I was able to fully release myself from G’s shadow and our pseudo relationship. There were many times when I came to a new revelation and thought I had thus moved on, only to realize afterward there was more inner baggage to be cleared. This didn’t mean I wasn’t making progress before; it just meant the emotional wound was deeper than I thought.
In these 4 years, there was a truckload of baggage cleared. To be honest, it really shocked me to know the amount of baggage that was stored inside me all this while, despite actively living consciously. For one, it affirmed the journey of conscious growth never ends – it’s an ongoing one. Two, to have so much baggage created from a relatively short period of time (we first parted ways 1.5 years of knowing each other) showed a lot of mental baggage is pretty much self-created. It’s compounded by our projections of people, assumptions of situations, expectations of how relationships should be, etc.
If you are still holding on to what could have been, it’s time to release yourself. No more mental torture or mental inhibitions. No more holding yourself back for something that cannot come to pass.
Depending on how deep the emotional impact was, it might take several phases before you can really move on. Think of it as a journey, rather than a binary Yes/No checkpoint. Whatever you do, you will definitely be making progress every step along the way. Be it bitter or sweet, each time you are clearing baggage, bit by bit. Each step is an act of healing in itself.
10 Useful Steps To Move On From A Relationship
Here are my personal 10 steps to help you in this healing journey.
1. Clear your baggage. Acknowledge, accept and let go of your feelings
With every broken relationship comes baggage. The (a) longer and (b) more intense your relationship is, the more baggage you’d have accumulated. The length of time me and G were in close, active communication was about 2.5~3 years in total. Not very long compared to others, yet there was so much baggage to be cleared in my head! If your relationship was longer, I can imagine there must be a lot more for you to deal with.
Our baggage will be a mixture of sadness, regret, hope, wistfulness, melancholy, disappointment. If the relationship was intense, your baggage will probably include hate, grief, anger, fear, shame and other deeper emotions. It’s natural to feel these. Whatever the emotion is, open yourself to the emotion fully. This means if you hate the person, feel that hatred. If you feel sad, soak in your sadness. If you feel the need to grief, then please grief. Cry if need be. Take time out for yourself to process these feelings. Don’t block them away. Embrace them and accept them.
Don’t bottle them in, because as we all know they will explode in the future when least expected. You might have heard of people who claim to have moved on by shutting off / avoiding their emotions altogether. They may feel like they have moved on, but what’s really happening is the issue has just become so deeply buried that it doesn’t cause any immediate reaction. It’s like having a cut that is healed on the surface, but still has impurities underneath the scar. To complete the cleansing process, all the dirt has to be cleansed. To do so you need to first acknowledge and accept your feelings.
As you connect with these emotions, slowly let them go. Feel them, understand the source, then release them. Some suggestions would be to talk to a good friend, journaling or meditation. Sleeping helps to clear mental baggage too – but just be conscious that you don’t turn to sleep as a source of escapism.
2. Recognize he/she is not the one for you
A large portion why you can’t move on is probably because you keep seeing him/her as “the one” for you. You just can’t see yourself with anyone else but him/her. Such fixations are dangerous. This leads you to linger on and on, hoping for a “some day” which will never come. Not only that, it leads to a lot of mental projections – both on you and of him/her.
One thing I’ve realized is that if the party does not have the 110% intention to be together, then he/she is not the one for you. I always believe if real intention is there, any obstacles, no matter how insurmountable, can be overcome. If the intention isn’t there, then anything else can come forth as a “reason” for not being together.
If you keep thinking that you guys will be together once the circumstance changes, or once the timing changes, or once you are a better person, then perhaps this isn’t the right person. These prerequisites are signals this relationship isn’t meant to be. Because ultimately, it’s not about the right place or right timing. It’s about whether he/she is the right person. If he/she is the right person, you guys would have been together regardless of how wrong the place or timing is. That’s why it’s called the right person.
3. Share with your close friends
You don’t have to go through this alone. Your friends are there for a reason, to help you, support you, and pull you through this period.
Looking back, I can’t imagine how I could have dealt with this saga without my close friends with me. K, for sure. Other close friends include my secondary school pals, my junior college friend, my god brother whom I knew back when I was 15 and my best friend from university. These people were there to listen to me and support me when I was down. Their overwhelming patience made me very grateful for who they are and our friendships. This experience has undoubtedly strengthened our friendships.
4. Reduce contact with him/her
The initial healing period of every wound is always the most delicate. During this time, you wouldn’t want anything to come near and agitate your wound. Especially not the very things the wound is susceptible to. Because of that, it might help to reduce contact with this person at the beginning, if that’s what it’s going to take to move on faster.
There are three possible situations where you’d have to do so.
- If you feel you can’t move on with constant reminder of his/her presence.
- If he/she keeps pestering you even though you just want to be friends.
- If he/she acts in a way that prevents you from moving on. For example, words or actions that are more romantic than platonic, making it hard for you to decipher on the status of the relationship.
I had to reduce contact with G because his actions toward me made it hard for me to move on. A part of me kept seeing him as an ideal guy, while on the other hand he was treating me in this special way that was ambiguous. Reducing contact made it much easy for me to gain clarity on the situation, that what we had was a friendship and there was nothing more than that.
5. Seek closure with him/her
At the end of an unrequited or broken relationship, there are going to be a lot of unspoken words, questions, and pent up emotions. Questions like: Why did he/she do this to me? What was he/she really feeling at that time? Did he/she ever liked me? Why couldn’t things be worked out? You may try to rationalize them away, but they will remain there, yearning to be answered.
Airing these thoughts to the person helps you gain closure. Write down everything you want to say; things you had qualms with; questions you have always wanted to ask. Arrange for a heartfelt talk with him/her and get the air cleared with these questions. Ask for his/her side of the story. Listen. Talk it out. Seek for an answer, in his/her own words.
At the end, you will find it’s really not so much the answer itself that matters, but the fact that there was an answer. It’s like the piece to the whole puzzle. It gives you certainty on where he/she stands.
Some of you may ask – What if he/she avoids the issue or doesn’t answer the question(s)? If that’s the case, the avoidance itself is the answer. You can interpret the behavior in whatever way you want – irresponsible, player, evasive, unsure, conflicted – but the fact is, he/she chose to avoid. If he/she can’t even give you a proper answer you need, perhaps he/she is just not worth it.
6. Forgive him/her
“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”
I once read a book on forgiveness which shared this powerful idea. It said that whenever we refuse to forgive someone, the person we are not forgiving is really ourselves.
It makes sense doesn’t it? When you feel angry/bitter toward someone, it’s not the other person who is carrying the anger and bitterness. It’s you. For what it’s worth, the other person is probably not aware of how you are feeling toward him/her. You are the only person carrying the baggage around. On a deeper level, I believe you are angry/bitter at yourself for allowing yourself to be hurt by this person. This was what happened to me.
Carrying all these heavyweight emotions can be very tiring. It’s like while dragging a whole pile of carcasses wherever you go. I’m sure you feel tired emotionally and mentally from the episode. You can’t get anywhere far if you keep dragging them along.
To forgive him/her, first forgive yourself. Think about how you are denying yourself of so much happiness by holding on to your grievances. Think about how you are preventing yourself from experiencing your real love because you are still hanging on to these baggage. Whenever you hold on to something, you prevent yourself from receiving new things in life. Forgive yourself for putting yourself through this trauma. Forgive yourself for everything that has happened. As you forgive yourself, forgiveness of the other person will occur naturally.
For more on forgiveness, read;
- Kindness Challenge Day 12: Forgive Someone
- Day 25: Forgive Someone of Be a Better Me in 30 Days Program
7. Do the things you love
Steps 1-6 are tied to your inner world and specifically dealing with the root of the issue. While spending time in your internal world is important, don’t linger too long in this stage. Get into some activities. What are the things that perk you up? Things that excite you, enthuse you, make you feel rejuvenated? Exercising? Jogging? Swimming? Cycling? Rollerblading? Traveling? Going out with friends? Movies? Watching a drama? Reading a book? Engage yourself in them.
8. Meet new people
It’s easy to get trapped in your head thinking about the thing for too long. Meeting new people, friends or romantic potentials alike, reminds how there is a whole world out there. There are many great people to know out there. Don’t get cooped up with your life. I always find it an amazing adventure to know someone new and be exposed to a whole different life. It helps me understand life from a whole different angle.
9. Know there is nothing wrong with you nor him/her
It’s easy to conclude you are not good enough when something doesn’t work out. I thought I wasn’t good enough for a long while, both consciously and subconsciously as you could see throughout the series. However, this is an erroneous belief. If the relationship could only happen if you are XXX person with XXX traits, then it meant you are not the right person for this relationship. Everyone looks for different people. There is no preset criteria on what are the “right” or ‘wrong” traits to embody, just different expectations. If you don’t embody the traits the person is looking for, that just means you guys aren’t the right match. That’s all. There is nothing wrong with you or him/her. You guys just aren’t suited for each other.
10. Recognize there is someone out there for you
It might be hard to believe as you try to move on from a broken past, but it’s true. Heck, I’m 25 (as of 2010), never been in a truly serious relationship (by choice), met my share of incompatible guys, and I still believe there’s someone out there for me!
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t think so! I don’t care how many relationships you’ve been in the past, how many wrong men/women you’ve been with, or whether you’ve never been in any real relationships. (I haven’t). There is someone out there for you. You’re definitely not the only single out there in the world. Look around you! Look at your friends. Look at the people on the streets. Do you think you’re the only person who is single in this world? Of course not! There are 7 billion people in the world. For every couple you see out there, there are multiples of other singles. For every single you see, there are even more singles.
There is someone out there for you. I’m as convicted of this for myself as much as I am for you. Just because you are single now doesn’t mean you will remain forever single. It just means you have not found the right person. Meanwhile, focus on living your best life in your definitions. Most importantly, remember that your life doesn’t and shouldn’t hinge on having a special partner or not. We are complete by ourselves and relationships should not be there to complete us.
How To Know When You Have Moved On
Quite simply, if none of the 12 signs stated above in this article apply to you, that means you have moved on. Once you do, a life of new beginnings and opportunities await you on the other side. Almost automatically, new things will start flowing into your life.
Today as I look back, it has truly been a long, long healing process. Today, I’m finally at peace with myself. I no longer beat myself up or think myself as not good enough when it comes to love and relationships. I don’t have the same trepidation, confusion, bittersweet emotions, hatred or frustration when I think/talk about G. I’m thankful for having crossed paths with G and gaining this experience. I believe all of us enter into each others’ lives for a reason. This experience has helped me become a better person. I’m happy for him and what he has done/achieved for himself,and I hope he is as happy in his life as I am now.
As I mentioned in the start of this series, I have written this with the intention to help others move on from whatever they may be holding back on. We can have pain and sadness from an experience, but there’s always a way out. It’s up to us on whether we want to swirl around in the past or move to a better place. We always have a choice. It’s easy to choose the former. It takes courage to take the latter step. But I assure you it’s worth it.
When I was writing this series, I was singly focused on connecting with like-souls out there and helping them move on from whatever they are entrenched in. As I write this, I can say this series achieved more than I have aimed to. After posting it, I’ve received many heartfelt messages from individuals on how the series has helped them. Many are grateful to know that they aren’t the only ones out there who have experienced / are experiencing such a situation. Some realized they need to move on from a relationship which isn’t working. Some gained strength in moving on from past wounds. There’s a separate group, singles, who told me that the series helped them gain insights on why they are not together with someone. I didn’t have the last objective in mind when I first wrote this series, but I’m certainly glad the sharing benefited them too.
I realized that heartfelt sharing of my personal experiences is key to connecting with you guys, so I’ll continue to do that in the future. However, there is going to be tricky, especially as sharing of my personal experiences will sometimes include sharing about other people in my life. So far, K and G are the only individuals I’ve written about in detail on my blog. Based on what I know of K and G, they wouldn’t mind me writing about the stories, if it helps people move to a better place. (Something which I’ve later confirmed with K too.)
However, as I continue writing as a blogger, sharing more stories, there will be a time when other people come into the picture. The question then rises – Am I intruding on others’ private spaces by writing about them, even if it may be for the purest intent? There are also other implications, as I realized there are more people reading my blog than I realize – people who know me and may know the people I’m writing about.
To be honest, I don’t have the answer to this question yet. After 1 year of writing at my blog, I’ve realized sharing my stories is definitely the best way to relate to all of you, so I doubt I’ll stop doing it. Authors, other bloggers, and musicians also write from their personal stories. What I can do is to write with the purest intent to help others, ensure it accurately represents the truth as I understand, and doesn’t cause malicious harm to anyone. Again I don’t have the final answer to it. It’ll be a work-in-progress situation; one which I evaluate as I go along the way. Meanwhile I will continue to do my best for you guys and for me.
To all of you guys – whether you have been a silent reader, commenter, or have connected with me before, I thank you for supporting me, silently or not, all this while in my journey. This is only the start of everything. I can only imagine what’s ahead will be full of unexpected surprises, challenges and excitement. I’m scared, a little apprehensive, somewhat calm, but at the same time very eager and excited to see them unfold. I can’t wait to experience it with all of you.
Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] 10 Steps to Move On From a Relationship
Update Sep 2013: About 3 years after I wrote and published this post, I found and got together with my true soulmate, Ken Soh, someone whom I met fleetingly when I was in university and only realized that he is my “one” 10 years later. 🙂 Read our love story and how you can meet your true soulmate in life: How To Find Your Soulmate (7-part series)
This is the last part of my 5-part series on how to move on from a relationship.
- Part 1: How I Moved On From a Heartbreak – Part 1: My Journey With Love
- Part 2: How I Moved On From a Heartbreak – Part 2: Heartbreak and Sadness
- Part 3: How I Moved On From a Heartbreak – Part 3: Forgiveness, Closure and Moving On
- Part 4: Top 12 Signs It’s Time To Move On From A Relationship
- Part 5: 10 Steps To Move On From a Relationship
This is part of my Single & Finding Love series:
- Are You Looking For A Relationship To Complete Yourself?
- ‘I’ll leave love to fate.’ 5 Myths Keeping You from Finding Love, Debunked
- Are You Treating Dating as a ‘Game’?
- Are Looks Important in a Marriage Decision?
- Should I Marry a Guy I Don’t Love?
- What I Have Learned about Marriage From Being Hit On by Married Men
- Why I Used to Be Afraid of Intimidating Men and Why It Does Not Faze Me Anymore
- How To Move On From a Relationship (5-part series)
- How To Find Your Soulmate (7-part series)