To begin, I feel your pain. Like most of you, I have someone in my past I couldn’t quite get over, so I had to use several different techniques to nip the problem in the bud. If you are disciplined about it, you can get over anyone, no matter how great they are. The first step is the least expected one.
Understand that the reason why you can’t get over this person is about your past, and not as much about that person.
When you can’t get over someone, you often question whether you’re obsessed or whether something is wrong with you. You may have any of the following thoughts which all make you feel worse: What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I let go when my ex lets go so easily? At your lowest moments, you may feel silly or even pathetic, but you are not pathetic. Instead, there is another reason why you can’t let go, and you need to search through your past to uncover the reason.
In most cases where a person can’t let go of someone, they can’t let go because they are still dealing with previous losses.
People who can’t let go of someone usually experienced a major loss, rejection, or neglect by a parent when they were young. Later, as adults, these men and women are still searching for love but they don’t know how to have a healthy relationship. No one has ever shown them how to do it. Deep down, men and women who can’t let go are afraid that they will never meet someone else they could love, and they often fear that there is something unlovable about them. Because they feel flawed inside, they tell themselves that they have to hang onto whatever love they can get.
How individuals with higher self-esteem are different.
This experience is very different from men and women who had loving, supportive, and emotionally available parents because these individuals have good self-esteem and they will detach from a relationship when the relationship starts hurting them. With men and women who had major losses, who were neglected, or whose feelings or needs weren’t attended to when they were young, they will hold on for dear life to whatever love they can get, even if that relationship wasn’t fulfilling.
Techniques that will help you:
Contact and communication: You cannot have any contact or communication with the person you can’t get over until far into the future, when you are happier, have a higher self-esteem, and there are years between you and that old relationship.
Stop idealizing: If you can’t get over someone, odds are that you are still idealizing him or her, forgetting about the bad stuff in the relationship and remembering only the good stuff. Write down a list of five or ten hurtful things that person said or did to you, and read it like a cue card when you start to feel sad and idealize him or her. If you use this technique and pull that list out regularly, you will eventually get over that person. I promise!
Visualizing your next partner: Before you meet someone new, spend a chunk of time visualizing what your next partner would be like. Think about the following questions and picture your new partner. What kind of sense of humor would I like him to have? How physically affectionate would I like her to be? How much do I want us to share the same friends versus having some of our own friends? Would I like him to be into sports or outdoor activities? Do I hope she’s a bit of a homebody? Visualize these characteristics and you will start to find yourself thinking less and less about that ex.
Ultimately, we must all remember that the end of a relationship is painful, but relationships are just one part of your life. Love is not the only thing that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning; you also probably have a job, friends, and things you like to do. Invest in working on your own emotional issues before you jump back into another relationship, and your next union will be better because you will have done the work to make it better.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve