“Resilience in love means finding strength from within that you can share with others.” ~Sheryl Sandberg
It took me a couple months to start repairing my broken heart after the toughest breakup of my life. I thought we were going to spend our lives together, but the gods of love had other plans.
After I’d grieved in healthy (and not-so-healthy ways) I knew I could take two paths: stay stuck in my misery or pick myself up, dust off my sadness, and make a plan to move on.
And now it’s time for you to move on and find love again, too.
I know it’s not easy. For years I believed my ex was “the one” and the thought of finding someone new after our breakup was terrifying.
But I got back on my horse and kept riding. I felt the fear of rejection, putting myself out there again, playing the “dating game,” trusting someone new, and wasting my time with people I didn’t connect with.
But finding love doesn’t have to be complicated and scary if you follow a plan, just like anything else in life.
You want to start your own business, take a vacation, or get out of debt? Make a plan.
You want to find love? You’ve got to make a plan for that, too.
If you don’t have a plan you’ll continue stumbling around in the dark hoping you’ll miraculously find true love. So if you’re struggling to find love and tired of the same old patterns leading you into the arms of the wrong people, then listen up…
Step 1: Let go of your ex.
Have you really let go of your ex and moved on from your breakup?
If you haven’t let go, you’re not going to find love. Period.
On the first date I went on after my breakup I talked about my ex. A lot. I knew I was breaking the sacred rules of first dates, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t about to hide my true feelings. Because the fact was I was still sad about it. It was clear to me that I wasn’t yet over the breakup.
But I also understood that if I had my ex and my breakup on my mind there was never going to be room for new love to enter.
Do you still have negative feelings around your breakup? Are you holding onto anger, shame, or resentment?
If you want to find a new partner and true love, you’ve got to let that stuff go.
Whether you’re getting over a recent breakup or a breakup that happened months or even years ago, you have to let go.
First, stop avoiding and suppressing your negative feelings. We avoid dealing with our feelings in all sorts of ways: binge-watching television, eating, sex, alcohol, drugs, and telling people, “Everything is fine,” when we’re actually a hot mess.
Instead of avoiding and suppressing, let your feelings flow through you and get comfortable with the discomfort. Don’t chastise yourself for the feelings. Ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?” and, “Why is this coming up NOW?” Getting curious is always healthier than suppression.
Second, get back to doing things you love. Sometimes when we’re in a long-term relationship, we lose ourselves. Go do things that light you up inside and bring you joy. Go take that hip-hop dance class, join a new gym, or write the book you’ve been putting off.
And finally, make sure you have someone who listens to you without judgment and will let you vent when you need to. You think you don’t have someone to talk to? Think harder. You might be surprised of how willing people are to help and listen when you tell them how much you’re hurting. Exploring solutions is always easier when we have someone who listens instead of feeding us useless clichés like, “Time will heal.”
Other solutions to exploring our feelings are support groups in your community, online forums, or starting a journaling practice. Get the stuff out and you’ll be surprised how much easier it becomes to let it go.
Step 2: Believe that you have more than one soul mate.
“But Eric,” you say, “I already found my soul mate and now they’re gone!”
It’s okay. All is not lost.
Because there’s no such thing as having only one soul mate on this planet. If you’ve already found one, good for you! But guess what? There are more out there!
How do I know that for sure? I don’t. But if you want to go on staying stuck in your breakup and feeling sad about losing your soul mate, I can guarantee you won’t find a new person who brings out the light inside of you, who makes you feel special, wanted, and supported.
Believing you have only one soul mate is nothing more than a limiting belief—and limiting beliefs are meant to be overcome.
If you haven’t yet found a soul mate, this is still an important point to understand. If you convince yourself there’s only one soul mate for you out there, you’re going to put too much pressure on every new relationship you enter into. Remember, there are multiple soul mates out there for you. But I promise, if you’re lying on the couch watching Netflix, you’re not going to find them.
Step 3: Don’t date people just because they’re the exact opposite of your ex.
When you go through a devastating breakup you convince yourself that you’ll never date someone like your ex ever again! “That’s it!” you scream, “I’m going for someone totally different than my ex!”
Your ex hated spontaneity and adventure? You’re going after a rock-climbing, world-traveling, adrenaline-seeker.
Your ex had blonde hair? Only brunettes from now on!
Your ex didn’t like reading, cats, Star Wars, trying new restaurants, the opera, camping, people-watching, or road trips? You get the idea.
But the problem with this approach is that it’s a knee-jerk reaction. Instead of thinking about what you really, truly want in a relationship, you jump in blindly. Dating someone just because they’re not like your ex probably won’t end well.
Go to Step 4.
Step 4: Get clear on your values.
Our values are the guiding lights in our lives.
If you’re not clear on what you value, how can you find someone who shares your values? Because if you’re dating people who don’t share the same values as you, it’ll never work.
Think about your past relationships. Remember those times when you first started dating someone and you discovered something that didn’t jive with your values? And remember how you brushed it to the side and said, “It’s probably not that big of a deal. Maybe I’ll change….or maybe they’ll change.”
Fast-forward to your breakup. I’ll bet some of those old clashes in values came up throughout the breakup process, didn’t they?
Get clear on your values and don’t negotiate, undermine, or reduce them. Stay true to them and find a partner who shares your values. If you do this, you’ll be taking a huge step toward finding love again.
Step 5: Say “no” to relationships that are a waste of your time (and theirs).
It’s hard to say “no.” We don’t like hurting people’s feelings and letting people down, so we say “yes” to things we shouldn’t. Then we kick ourselves afterward for not having had the guts to say “no.”
When we delay our “nos” we’re wasting our time and the other person’s time. We go on third, fourth, and fifth dates with people who we’re really not interested in, but we just can’t tell them the words, “I’m sorry, I just don’t want to be with you.” Instead, we draw it out into a painful process of indecision, stress, and fear.
How do you say “no” to someone you’re not interested in continuing dating?
You say, “I’m sorry, but I know what I’m looking for in a partner and you’re not that person.”
Now, you don’t have to use those exact words. You have to find your own balance between honesty, compassion, and staying true to your values. Because if you’re clear on your values after Step 4, there’s no reason to waste your time with people who don’t align with what you’re looking for.
And really, what’s so bad about saying, “You’re not the partner for me?” Personally, I’d rather hear that and say my goodbyes than feel attacked by a laundry list of all the areas I lack and reasons we’re not a good couple. Just because things didn’t work out with someone doesn’t necessarily mean I should change; maybe it just means there’s a better match out there for me.
Yes, people might feel hurt by your honesty. But ultimately, that’s for them to deal with. I don’t say that to be callous; I say that because people aren’t going to grow if you lie to them, coddle them, and keep saying “yes” when you’d rather say “no.” Ultimately, that honesty is going to help both of you move forward in a healthier way.
Step 6: Improve yourself.
No matter how many self-help books and articles on Tiny Buddha that you’ve read, we all have blind spots and weaknesses.
After my latest breakup, I realized I needed to work on some things. I reflected on my fear of commitment. I got clear on my core values. I worked on my ability to communicate my feelings around tough subjects like sex, money, and having children.
I read new books, worked with a coach, and traveled by myself. I met new people and shared life experiences with them in a vulnerable way.
It’s really hard to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Where have I been going wrong? What can I do to make myself better?” It’s so much easier to point a finger and say, “It’s your fault! Not mine!”
But true growth can only happen when we look inside ourselves. When you grow and become a better version of yourself you’ll develop more confidence—and we all know confident people are a lot more likely to find true love.
Step 7: Work it!
If you’re ready to find someone new, you have to go out and find them.
It drives me a tad crazy when people say, “I want to find love, but if it happens it happens. I’m not going to go out looking for it! I’ll let the universe do its thing.”
Are you kidding me? When is the last time something that made your life better came to you while you were sitting around doing nothing?
If you want to find love, go out there and look for it!
When we put ourselves out there, get out of our comfort zones, and face our fears, amazing things start to happen.
Go to social gatherings with new people. Find common interest groups in your community. Talk to a stranger on the bus or metro. Hell, give online dating a try!
If you want to find love, you have to get out there and meet new people. Sure, each time isn’t going to be a fruitful experience, but that’s what it’s about. When good things start to happen (which they will) you’ll look back and understand all the effort was worth it.
Now, this seventh step isn’t about obsessing over finding love to the point that it’s unhealthy. If you’ve followed the steps above this shouldn’t be a concern because you’re now feeling more confident in your own skin. If you get better at saying “no,” get clear on your values, and improve yourself, then you’re ready to find love.
But if you’re afraid of being alone for the rest of your life and desperate to find a partner no matter how wrong they are for you, you’re not ready for Step 7. Go back and work through Steps 1 to 6 until you’re ready to find love for the right reasons.
Finding love isn’t easy. This plan can take a long time to master.
But when you find that special person you’ll know that all the effort, struggle, rejection, failure, and time-investment was worth it.
True love is a beautiful thing. It shouldn’t be degraded to a pipe dream for the lonely-hearts-club. True love is something that everyone should strive for because life is a lot more fun when we can share it with a person who brings out the light inside of us.
If you haven’t found love yet, please don’t give up. It’s out there. And if you follow the right plan, I know you’re going to find it.
About Eric Ibey
Eric Ibey is a speaker, adventurer, and storyteller. He is the creator of the Breakup Challenge, which has helped hundreds of people let go and move on after a tough breakup or divorce. Eric lives in Montreal, Canada.