Most people have loved and lost. But some people have trouble letting go. This can impair their ability to fully love their current partner. You can fall in love again and it can be even better than the one you lost.
I fell in love with a young woman, many years ago when I was a young man. Despite doing my best to maintain the relationship, I was very needy and she ended our relationship. There was part of me that knew I needed to emotionally move on, but there was another part of me which just didn’t know how to let go.
Like me, most people have loved and lost or at some point will. And, like me, many people have had trouble letting go. This can impair their ability to fully love their current partner. You can fall in love again and it can be even better than the one you lost. I want to share with you a method of letting go that I learned in Seminary, and which has helped many people to let go of a long lost love.
Letting go of someone we love is always a painful process. The easiest relationships to recover from are ones where you were ready to break up anyhow. Then, you made the break up decision, and clearly said goodbye with your head and your heart. You had no more hope for the relationship
and were ready to move on. You created a space for someone else.
In a sense, in that bad relationship, you had mentally closed the door on the relationship before the relationship ended. That allowed you to leave it. Saying “goodbye” was just a formality for something you had already done emotionally.
But what if you were not ready, or not sure about breaking up? How do you let go then? How do you keep your heart from holding out? How do you give up on that tiny chance that you will one day reconcile with that lost love? How can you break free from your own emotions so you can fully love again?
Letting go of a past love is something that you must do before marrying again. Forsaking all others is part of the traditional marriage vows. It’s a good vow. When it is kept, it helps us to get and give more love to our spouse. Nothing is held out for someone else. If you already married, you need to let go of that lost love so you can have more love for your spouse, who will be better able get and give love to you.
If your spouse was still holding on to a past love, how would that affect you and your relationship?
Moving on starts with a decision rather than a desire
You will never feel like letting go of someone you love. Like many actions in relationships, we must be guided by our head rather than our heart. You heard me right. Most problems in relationships result because people fail to do what they know is right and instead just do what they feel. If it feels good, do it, creates failure unless it passes a screening of what we know is right. Successful people, in relationships or otherwise, do what is helpful and right–even if they don’t feel like doing it.
Parents must interact with their children in a way they know is right and healthy, even if they don’t feel like it. Otherwise they damage their relationships with their children. Socially, we must interact with people in a way we know is right, even if we don’t feel like it, or we will be socially ostracized. In marriage, doing and expressing everything you feel will destroy your marriage.
Honesty is a virtue, total openness is not.
If you don’t feel like letting go and you are not going to, then don’t marry because that won’t make you let go. If you are married already, start planning what you are going to do after your divorce or your spouse’s affair. That just might help you to make the hard decision to let go of that past love.
To make it easier, it helps to realize that letting go does not mean forgetting. We will never forget
someone important to us. Letting go is not a denial or a betrayal of what we had. Also, letting go doesn’t mean that your past love is any less important to you. It also doesn’t mean that you have failed.
Letting go is simply an acceptance that you will never again be with that person. It does bring tears, but they are followed by peace, and then renewed interest in living. It will also help you to experience a more intense love in the present.
Until you make a decision to let go, you won’t be able to let go.
What if you can’t decide whether to let go or hold on?
As a relationship coach, I have helped many people to help their spouses to make this decision. It is somewhat similar to making a spouse decide which partner they want to be with in the case of affairs. When the partner having the affair does not have to decide, generally they don’t. They know they should, but struggle not wanting to give up either person.
They have to actually be put in a position where they will lose their spouse if they don’t decide. If the marital relationship is basically good, the spouse having the affair ends the affair. It is still their decision, but they needed a big push in making it. For the faithful partner, this is the most loving thing to do. It is similar to helping someone quit drugs. Being patient in such a situation just prolongs the problem and is not loving.
You can also give yourself a push, though it will be less powerful than your spouse being ready to leave you. What you can do is to create a deadline for yourself whereupon if you do not decide to let the previous person go, you will leave your marriage and do an all-out-pursuit of your past love.
This may sound extreme, but it turns out to be much better than depriving you and your spouse of the love you could have if you were able to let go. Better to let your spouse have someone who can actually forsake all others. You will still have a better chance of reconciling if you can let go than if you wait until you and your spouse are no more than roommates.
An all-out-pursuit will either result in reconnecting with your past love or utter failure. It is much easier to let go of something if you have given your all. Without doing that, you will still have this little thought that “if only I pursued a little bit more….” If I were your spouse, I would encourage you to do that. I would rather have a spouse who leaves me for an ex than loves me half-heartedly. And, it just might help you to let go of that ex so that we could finally have a really loving relationship.
What to do after you decide to let go
Letting go doesn’t happen just because you decide to. Once the decision to move on has been made, you need some way to get the emotional part of your mind to say goodbye. After all, we can’t change our feelings just deciding to. A good way to emotionally say goodbye is with a visualization exercise. If you have not used visualization before, it may seem rather weird to you.
Whenever we daydream or think about something that we are going to do in the future, we are using visualization. We are “seeing” something in our mind that has not actually happened. We can imagine our victory at the finish line before we run the race. We can imagine a thinner self and compliments from others to encourage us to lose weight, and so on. Unsuccessful people focus on their problems repeatedly. Successful people visualize successfully accomplishing their goals repeatedly.
When we remember the past, we are also visualizing (even if you we don’t see images). We can remember the way things actually occurred, and we can actually change the way we remember something. Our memories are malleable and can be easily changed. This is very helpful for bringing closure to a past event even when closure didn’t really occur at that time. We can bring closure by imagining a closure that did not actually happen.
This is an inner healing technique I learned in Seminary and have successfully used in my own life as well as with clients.
NOTE: This is NOT a method for dealing with grieving. This is for
an event that happened years ago, not recently.
Four steps to help you move on from a past relationship using visualization
- Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
- Focus on slowing your breathing and relaxing, but don’t fall asleep.
- Remember as clearly as you can, the events around the breakup, separation, or loss that occurred. Run through them in your mind as if you are watching a movie.
- From the beginning, run through the memory again, this time mentally imagining what you would have liked to have said, done, or heard that would have put closure on it for you. Be sure that it is something positive.
- For example, you might imagine yourself saying goodbye, that you are not going to wait for other person, but that you are thankful for the time you had with them. Wish them the best for their future.
- Imagine the other person answering you in a positive way that also denotes certain closure.
- Be sure to end your mental imagery with imagining yourself saying “goodbye.” If you want to allow for the possibility of meeting in an afterlife, nevertheless say “goodbye” for this
lifetime on earth.
- Repeat this exercise as often as necessary. You will know when it is no longer necessary because you will have let go and will also feel at peace about it.
There is nothing magical or mystical or spiritual about this exercise. It is just using one capacity our minds have. Visualization is a tool that can be used for many things.
The more clearly and the more detailed you do this visualization exercise, the more your mind will use it to put emotional closure on your loss. You have mentally added what you needed for better closure. Although it was not real, your mind will treat it as though it was. You can use this same exercise to put closure on many issues from your past. Work on only one at a time, though.
Your feelings afterward
If you have moved on using this visualization exercise, you will probably feel sad at first. Sadness is what we feel when we lose something or someone important to us. A lack of sadness can mean that we didn’t actually let go and so don’t feel the loss. Sadness is a really good sign when we move on, because it is a temporary, transitional feeling. It will gradually go away and be replaced by a sense of peace, which happens when we have reached acceptance and are no longer striving for the impossible.
The practical side of psychology–relationship coaching
This exercise comes from applied psychology–the part of psychology that goes beyond merely talking about things and uses methods that work to achieve real world results. I became a relationship coach because I like to help people to make changes and have great relationships. The methods that I use are the ones that work to bring about the most change in the least time, with the least stress on the relationship.
If you are ready to stop wishing and start doing, then you can take a small and powerful step by getting a coaching consultation session.