This time of year there is typically a lot of attention on creating something new—a new healthy lifestyle, a new relationship, a new job, a new attitude, and so on. Focusing on creating something new or better is great. That’s why we call it the New Year. However, in our excitement to have something new and better, we often jump ahead of ourselves when it comes to taking on our new year’s resolutions. One of the most important steps in creating change and transformation is letting go of the past and letting go of the old. Space needs to be created and old ways of thinking and acting need to be released in order for something new to come in or emerge.
This is especially important when it comes to relationships. More relationships and marriages end in January than any other time of the year. Endings are painful. They require self-reflection and the ability to tolerate the empty space that has appeared as a result of someone leaving our lives. No one likes to go through breakups. And we do all kinds of crazy things to avoid living in that “neither here nor there” place in time. Here are some things people do in order to hold on as opposed to making a final break.
• Keeping emails, texts, voicemails, etc. on your electronic devices and revisiting them from time to time
• Finding ways to “accidentally” bump into your ex in hopes that a sighting will reignite something good or at least maintain the sense of connection
• Obsessing over what went wrong and what could have been
• Driving by your ex’s house, work, or place he/she regularly frequents
• Spending time with others who still have regular contact with your ex and asking “questions”
• Looking at pictures, photographs, and other memorabilia every day
• Secretly hoping that your ex will contact you with a plea to try again
• Frantically searching for someone else to attach to even though you wish that person were really your ex
Now I understand that the process of letting go takes time. It is natural and normal to do some of these things some of the time when you are working through a loss and detaching from another human being. By no means do I suggest that one should be able to grieve and let go over night. It takes time. Some of you may have been in a very long committed relationship or marriage. Others may have been in a very addictive relationship. Either way, every relationship has its own unique ending just as it had its own unique beginning. However, if you find that it’s been many months or even years and you are still engaging in “holding on” behaviors, here are seven steps you can take to complete the letting go process. Remember, in doing so, you create space for something truly new, different, and better.
1. Delete all contact information and past communications from your cell phone, computer, and voicemail. If you truly want to keep any of these for memory sake, give a copy of them to a trusted friend with the instruction that she will not let you have them until you are in a new, stable, and committed relationship with someone else.
2. Make a list of all the things that were “less than ideal” about your ex and your past relationship. Many times we idealize what we have lost and forget that the relationship ended for a reason—even if one of the reasons was that your ex no longer wanted to be in a relationship with you.
3. Make a list of all the things you will do differently next time out. What were your lessons from this past relationship? What were the gifts? How can you take that experience and use it wisely in your life here on out?
4. Forgive your ex for anything and everything that you believe she did wrong.
5. Forgive yourself for anything and everything that you believe you did wrong.
6. Send your ex off wishing him well. I suggest you do this metaphorically, not in person, although this is an option if you believe this can be done effectively.
7. Start to fantasize about a new person coming into your life. What would he be like? How do you envision the relationship? Where might you meet this new person? Create some great daydreams. I mean it—don’t hold back!
You may need to repeat these steps more than once. That’s okay. What’s most important is that you take the time to let go in a healthy manner. Finish old business. Say goodbye to your past with appreciation and love. Then get ready to take on the new!
Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery
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