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Lost Love: Three Ways to Get Over Your Ex

If you’re still yearning for a long lost lover, here’s how to finally move on…and open up to the possibility of new romance.

Few things in life crackle with more psychological and emotional voltage than lost love. Maybe you’re the one who broke up with a partner and now wish you hadn’t. Maybe it was the other person who gave you the “let’s just be friends” speech and walked out of your life.

Either way, in matters of the heart, time may as well not exist. Longing, regret, and second-guessing can stay fresh for decades. Sure, you move forward in practical ways, but in the privacy of your own thoughts and emotions, you are stuck in a fantasy land tossing coins into a bottomless “what if?” wishing well.

Meanwhile, today’s romantic opportunities are passing you by. Perhaps you don’t notice new potential partners, or maybe the relationships you do try to engage in seem hollow and tentative since you are secretly “in love” with someone else. In this condition, you are in danger of becoming like Aunt Imogene in Tim Burton’s recent film “Alice in Wonderland”—a shriveled-up old woman refusing to dance at parties because she’s waiting for her fiancé, a prince who tragically can only marry her if he gives up the throne of his mythical kingdom.

Pining for a long-lost lover is painful and paralyzing. It’s a kind of anguish that keeps your heart raw and your mind full of “woulda, coulda, shoulda” recriminations. Though there are no quick-and-easy formulas for fixing an ache like this, a few steps might help you look forward with hope rather than backward with regret:

Separate fact from fiction. Admittedly, Aunt Imogene’s imaginary prince is an extreme example of what happens when we romanticize the past. But let’s be honest — lots of us do it. We look back at former partners through a magical filter that sifts out all the unpleasant memories, leaving only the soft glow of their most attractive qualities. We relive that one perfect weekend at the beach — and forget the sunburned and cranky ride home. We remember the candlelight dinners but overlook the awful arguments.
This kind of selective memory often leads to the question: Why did we ever break up? The truth is, there was a reason you broke up. There were things about your partner you decided you couldn’t live with at the time, or the other person felt that way about you. If this weren’t so, you’d still be together. Acknowledging this simple fact is a giant step in the right direction.

Set yourself free. Nothing beats intentional, practical action for letting go. Here are some possibilities: First, write a Dear John or Dear Jane letter to your old flame — then burn it. The idea is not to vilify that person, but to say goodbye to a relationship that showed promise at one point and simply didn’t pan out. Second, seriously consider getting rid of all mementos (gifts, photos, letters) left over from the old relationship. That may sound unsentimental, but such possessions only serve as a reminder of days gone by. Doing away with those keepsakes will help break emotional bonds.

Ponder the possibilities. The well-worn axiom says, “When one door closes, another opens.” Clichés usually aren’t much help when trying to mend a hurting heart, but that one just might. Even though you’ve lost someone dear to you, another person even better suited to you could be right around the corner. Or ready to walk through the next doorway. Yes, the person from your past may have been great, but the person in your future could be even greater. Spend lots of time dreaming about what lies ahead, rather than lamenting what’s in the past.

Learning to let go and move on from a former relationship isn’t easy. But when you make that step, you open yourself to the promise and potential of new love.