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How to let go of a past relationship and move on

The end of a relationship can have a huge impact on every area of your life, from your self-confidence to your daily routine. Even if the split is a positive one, you might still be feeling negative effects. However, there are some simple things you can do to help you cope and move forward with your life again.

First of all, accept the split. This is the hardest part of the whole process but ultimately the most important, because until you have really accepted that your ex is no longer part of your life, you can’t let go. If it was your ex-partner’s idea to finish the relationship, it can be easy to live in the hope that they will change their mind and want you back. This thinking will keep you in contact with them, because you’ll want to keep yourself in their thoughts. It will also hold back your healing, because you’ll want to keep your life as it was so your partner can easily slot back in again.

Even if you were the one to end the relationship, it can be hard to accept that it’s over. You might be tempted to keep in touch, ostensibly to check they’re OK but really to reassure yourself that they’re still in your life.

To accept it’s over, remove all mementoes of your relationship like photographs and gifts from your home. If you can’t bear to get rid of them completely, put them well out of sight. If you still live in the home you shared, rearrange the furniture and redecorate until it feels like your home. Don’t try to guess how your ex might have done it – do it your way.

The next thing to do is give yourself permission to grieve. Don’t try to put on a brave face – talk to close friends and your family about your ex for as long as you need to. Or consider counselling. Don’t remember only the good parts – remembering bad bits of the relationship will help you accept it’s over.

Don’t contact your ex. Instead, have a friend you can call on every time you want to call your ex, or write down in a diary what you’d like to say to them. Talking to your ex will only make it harder to accept they’re gone. If it’s impossible not to stay in touch with your ex because you have children or work together, keep interactions impersonal. Emails are a lot less emotive than phone calls, while phone calls are easier than meeting in person.

Be gentle on yourself. Don’t be angry or frustrated every time you find it hard to cope without your ex. A relationship is more than two people coming together: it creates a shared set of plans, goals and memories. It is a lot to lose. Don’t expect to bounce back instantly even if the split is for the best. Take time to mourn, and realise you will be functioning slightly below your best for a while. Setting new daily routines can be very helpful.

Eventually, you’ll want to start dating again, but give it some time. Don’t immediately start looking for someone new. Instead, put the focus onto building a happy new world for yourself. When you’re happy alone, you’ll be much more attractive to other people and you won’t be insecure or needy in any new relationships. By taking some time to consider your own character traits and what you really want from a new relationship, you’ll be giving yourself the best chance of finding one that lasts.

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