Six months ago. I broke up with my serious girlfriend of two years.
It was the worst experience of my life, and that’s saying something.
I’d had relationships before, but nothing like this. This had been different, I’d truly loved her, heart and soul.
Now she was gone and made it crystal clear we weren’t going to have another try.
A waking nightmare
The aftermath of our breakup felt like I was in a waking nightmare.
Everywhere I went all I could see was her face. Every song I heard was about her. Every emotion I felt was spurred by memories of our time together.
I saw no way out. I felt like I was trapped down a dark mine shaft and slowly running out of oxygen.
What made it all so much worse was that I was still in love with her. Completely. With no way to reconcile the relationship or get back together.
Not to over-dramatize, but it was a nightmare scenario.
But I found a way out of the mine shaft, and a way to overcome the horrible feelings of abandonment and despair I was consumed by.
And I’m going to share it with you.
How to move on from an ex you still love: 12 things that helped me
First off let me say that everyone’s process for getting over a failed relationship is different.
Ideapod focuses on self-development and life advice that actually works and ties into the search for wholeness and meaning, so I wanted to make this article very down-to-earth and focused on one thing:
Building yourself back up after a loss of love that’s left you on your knees.
The primary rule of getting over an ex is this:
Respect yourself. Then push yourself.
It has to be in this sequence, because any process of overcoming must first start with fully recognizing and asserting your own value and the validity of your emotions.
With that, let’s get started on how to move on from an ex you still love.
1) Let the bad times roll
The aftermath of a breakup is going to hurt. You may feel deeply devalued and devastated.
You probably will.
Let it roll, but don’t buy into the stories your mind tells you.
About how you’ll always be alone, always fail, can never be happy and so on.
Black and white thinking is a common thing that our primal brains do, but a sign of emotional maturity is to dismiss these kinds of draconian thoughts and choose our own path.
Yes, you are likely to feel like shit. Embrace that, let it roll.
But don’t stew in it. Don’t buy into the narrative that your mind tries to build around you.
You’re in a hard time, you’ve lost the one you love.
Nobody would envy you!
But avoid getting too analytical about this. Just let the pain exist.
2) Be honest about the cause of the breakup
Over-analytical mode is your mortal enemy here.
At the same time you do need to squarely face why you broke up.
In my case we broke up for a fairly simple reason:
I was over-needy for validation and wanted to move more quickly into serious territory than my girlfriend.
I wanted a firmer commitment and to spend as much time together as possible.
I told her my strong feelings and always answered her texts right away.
I was overly available and overly smitten, and she began to feel smothered and like I was putting big expectations on her.
The initial spontaneity and love we had felt started to take on a new and darker shade:
Obligation and codependency.
The worrisome signs of my girlfriend avoiding my interest and me craving endless validation and intimacy became clear.
But the more I became aware the less I seemed able to avoid my need for reassurance and intimacy from her.
3) Get help from a pro
The biggest breakthrough I had in terms of learning how to move on from an ex you still love was in talking to a professional.
I’m not talking about a therapist or checking into a psych ward.
Thankfully things never reached that point.
But I did find an online resource that really helped turn things around for me.
It’s called Relationship Hero, and it’s a place where trained relationship coaches take a look at your breakup and tell you honestly about what to do next.
These guys don’t sugarcoat it, nor do they downplay your pain.
I had some really intense heart-to-heart conversations with my coach that changed my life.
I held absolutely nothing back.
The benefit of doing this was that I got advice and action-oriented steps for how to begin moving on in life despite still being in love with my ex.
My coach did not try to convince me things “weren’t that bad.”
She also did not try to tell me that I had to feel or think any certain way.
I was permitted to be honest about how I felt and even admit that I saw no way forward.
Yet despite this, my coach worked with me to come up with a series of things within my control that I could actively do to begin moving on with my life in a proactive and meaningful way.
4) Start exercising and get in your body
They say that real heartbreak has a physical feeling, and I have to say it’s true.
Your whole body aches and it feels like you’ve been hit by a train.
Even when you’re not crying you feel like you are. You look at the world through almost drugged eyes and see sadness and tragedy all around, even where there’s happiness.
You live on waves of painful, tear-filled emotions that seem destined to continue forever.
But one of the most important antidotes to this is to get back in your body and begin exercising.
Stop living in your head or your emotions and get in touch with your physical limbs, your breathing and the rhythm of your physical heart.
For me this involved going on 15-minute runs every morning and beginning to get more serious about lifting weights.
I also signed up for fitness classes at my gym which served as a motivating factor.
Because they were in a group, my excuses to myself had no staying power and I found myself leaving the classes soaked with sweat but feeling much more content.
Did I still love my ex? Well yes. But I wasn’t fully focused on that or how I felt about it because I was more in the present moment and in my body.
5) Remember the bad times
Next up, and including during my workouts, I would power myself with fuel by remembering the bad times.
The times my girlfriend ignored my texts for days.
The times she made me doubt myself more and feel like shit for wanting her company.
The times she made it clear her past relationships had meant more to her than the one with me.
The times she had posted stuff online about us that was far from charming and started a bunch of gossip among her friends.
I remembered these bad times and her arrogant smile and I used it as rage juice to start lifting more and getting even more in my body.
Speaking to my coach at Relationship Hero, I was able to start charting a path forward built on my own empowerment and success.
Missing my girlfriend continued, but something very encouraging began happening:
I began truly seeing my own value and understanding just how toxic some elements of my relationship with her had been.
6) Spend time with friends and family
The other thing I did in terms of understanding how to move on from an ex you still love is that I prioritized time with my friends and family.
I spent time with my uncle quite a bit and even went on an amazing two-day canoe trip with him around a nearby lake.
Our conversations while camping around the fires we made were really illuminating to me and he really helped bring out more of a masculine confidence in me that had been missing.
I grew up without a dad, and male role models had been hard to find growing up apart from my granddad, but spending time with guy friends and male relatives was a way I began to heal.
I became more assertive and also more sure in my identity as a man and what that meant to me.
This was part of my healing process and overcoming the deep wound I felt inside.
I came to see that it was, in its own way, an invitation to become a vulnerable but strong man.
It was almost like a tribal rite of initiation that I’d missed out on: I needed to become a man on my own terms and not through seeking the validation of women or romantic partners.
This is also something my coach at Relationship Hero really helped in orienting me towards.
7) Get right with yourself
The other key part of the process of how to move on from an ex you still love was to realize the real problem that was happening deep inside me.
I didn’t love myself and felt a lack of worth. Worse, I didn’t truly respect myself.
It’s not that I always felt like crap or thought I was useless. I’ve accomplished a lot I’m proud of and had many great experiences in life.
But deep down, something was missing: a sense of inner security, manhood and validation.
It turned out that in order to get over the trauma I’d experienced with my breakup and the love I still felt for my girlfriend, I needed to validate myself.
This was not just a process of repeating some mantra or snapping my fingers.
But it was quite straightforward.
It involved a daily new reality which I began to practice.
The first key, however, was truly grasping where the train had gone off the tracks and righting it so I could get back on track and start moving forward in my life and in my love life.
I watched a free video by the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê which focused on how to find true love and intimacy and the importance of restoring crucial parts of ourselves that often get busted by life.
As Rudá explains in this mind blowing free video, many of us chase love in a toxic way that ends up stabbing us in the back.
I know I did.
Watching his down-to-earth words, I could tell they were based on his own real experiences and not just empty counsel or buzzwords.
What’s more, they finally offered an actual, practical solution to getting over my ex.
8) Get closure (for real)
Closure is important, even crucial, but I’ve put it at number eight on this list for a reason.
You can’t really get closure in your relationship if you still are very invested in getting back together or tied up in your emotions.
I had to rebuild and reinforce myself first before speaking to my ex again made any sense.
Approaching it as the “new” me made a world of difference.
I immediately spotted all her behaviors and subconscious tics that made me doubt my worth and seek to win her approval.
But this time I didn’t go for them.
Looking in her beautiful eyes and seeing the smile I’d loved so much, I no longer felt quite the same level of passion.
She was beautiful, that’s for sure, but she wasn’t the right woman for me.
I now knew it deep in my bones.
She’d always have a special place in my heart, and I’d never be “over” here in the sense of not giving a crap.
But I now saw that it was not only possible, but necessary, to move past my love for her and get on with my life in a proactive and empowered way.
As we spoke over a coffee and had the “talk” about what had gone wrong, I saw myself in a new light.
I was no longer a man-child seeking her approval or weedling for a way back into her life. I was a man discussing this calmly and wishing her well as we parted ways for good.
This leads to my next point…
9) Stop trying to forget them
Stop trying to forget your ex. It’s not going to happen, and if it does you’ll miss out on the good as well as the bad.
Part of me learning how to move on from an ex you still love was to accept that the relationship was, if nothing else, a valuable learning experience.
I learned so much about myself and other people by taking the risk of giving my heart.
Even though the post-breakup me would have given anything to be done with the pain and no longer have to deal with it, the reality is I gained a lot not only from our time together but also from our breakup.
It made me so much stronger. It showed me what I’m looking for. It got me much more in touch with my identity as a man and overcoming past patterns of looking for a woman to “fix” me.
I escaped many of the ties of codependency and, at the very least, became acutely aware of when I engage in them.
Becoming aware is the first step and it’s crucially important.
You’re not going to forget your ex!
But as you realize your own value and become more active, you will get over them and find new ways to think about your love for them.
10) Release the idea of getting back together
For several months after our split, I nurtured the intense hope of getting back together.
If I could just show her how in love I was…
How much she meant to me…
How much she’d hurt me….
I know it’s like an addiction and it can be the hardest thing in the world to do, but the thoughts of gaining the affection or reconciliation of an ex are pure poison.
Even if he or she does take you back, these kinds of thoughts lead to a very dark place in which you are still codependent and seeking validation.
They reinforce any and all ideas you have of being unworthy or needing to “prove” you are worthy of love.
Even once reaching a new stage of manhood and confidence I didn’t try to get my ex back.
If she wants me back she can pursue me. And honestly? I’ll probably turn her down.
I am my own damn person and I’m charting my own damn path. I don’t need anyone’s approval or the return of any codependent connection from the past to validate who I am or what I’m worth.
And I can now see the love I held for her was a kind of compromised, pain-filled love.
I don’t want that kind of love anymore. I’ve put my foot down.
11) Let love find you
Another crucial thing which I learned about how to move on from an ex you still love is to have faith.
I don’t mean this in a street corner revival way, although you’re absolutely free to go down that route as well…
What I mean is that I maintained that small space inside myself where I believed that love was still possible, someday, sometime, somehow…
Then I took my attention away from it and stopped focusing on looking for it.
All the apps that were wasting my time, the people I was trying to force myself to be interested in but was actually not in the slightest bit attracted to.
I drew back all that energy and attention.
I had faith that love would find me when I was ready and when it was ready.
As country singer Miranda Lambert puts it in her 2005 song “Love Is Looking For You”:
“Maybe you’ve been burning
But you can’t blow out a flame that you can’t find
Maybe you’ve been thirsty
But the rain ain’t enough when you’re this dry…
Love is looking for you now.”
PS: if love is, in fact, looking for me now I just want to quickly note down my current postal address.
Should I include my zip code or does “love” have a good GPS map app? I recommend Waze…
OK, but seriously…
12) Better days will come
The biggest part of learning how to move on from an ex you still love is learning to nurture that small part of you which has faith in the future.
This is not the same as holding out “hope” that things will go your way or love will come along and make life worthwhile.
Don’t ever depend on that.
Even the love of your life may end up in a heartbreaking split or letting you down in some way.
Better days will come.
Your pain from the breakup may never fully go away. When I think of my ex I still feel sad and angry.
But I don’t feel consumed by the emotions, and I don’t feel it necessary to dwell on them.
My momentum is now rolling forwards and I’m picking up quite a lot of velocity.
What does it mean to really move on?
Moving on from an ex you still love means just that: finding a way to put one foot in front of the other and pursue your plans and dreams without relying on them to come back to make you feel happy or complete.
I’ll never forget my ex and I’ll always have a part of myself that still loves her.
But like a fossil frozen in amber, she represents a certain part of my life and my own development that is now in the past.
I have moved forward into the present moment having learned many lessons and grown from many wounds in myself that I found a way to turn into strengths.
I once again truly recommend the folks over at Relationship Hero, as well as following the steps I’ve laid out above.
Your pain won’t magically go away, but if you go about this with clear intention and focus, you can begin to truly move on from an ex who’s on your mind and heart.