“Like a sandcastle, all is temporary. Build it, tend it, enjoy it. And when the time comes, let it go.” ~Jack Kornfield
I picked up the butter cookies and a small postcard-sized painting I had brought for her.
I took the third-floor hotel elevator down.
Closing my eyes, I took several deep breaths.
The elevator ride was less than five seconds, but our time spent apart was five years.
Five years after the divorce I had flown up to see her again.
I’m not sure what led to this meeting. We had emailed each other a couple times out of the blue, and before you know it, we were meeting.
It could have been our final goodbye, the closure we needed. Or maybe even in the back of my mind, it was the new beginning that I’d secretly imagined.
I don’t know. I walked out to see her after a five-year hiatus. In our memories were the international long-distance romance we had, the difficult marriage we had endured, and the painful divorce we had gone through together.
When we initially parted ways, she was still pursuing her education and getting adjusted to life in America.
Yet, today she was different. She spoke of her new travels, new experiences, new house, and new job.
She talked about the ups and downs of the different relationships in her life.
Close friends, social events, and the search for the “one”—her “one”—were her focus.
As we spent the day together, a startling but simple realization came over me.
She had moved on.
Life was on the up and up. She seemed to have let go of everything we had shared.
She was a bird that was soaring, while I felt like a bird that hadn’t gone very far from the same branch I was still sitting on.
She seemed to have moved on like our past had never happened. I was holding on like it was still happening.
I realized it was way past time to completely let go of what we had shared.
She had moved on, and I need to finally move on as well.
If your ex has already moved on, perhaps my lessons will help you do the same.
Shift your perspective on the relationship.
Whatever story you’re telling yourself about the relationship, you need to retell it. You may be holding onto the sad and tragic version. You were left behind as the victim, as your ex was the heartbreaker who didn’t give the relationship a chance.
Shift the story to the one that is the most empowering for you. How about a story of how you both gave it your best? You fought, you loved, you laughed, and you cried. You tried over and over when things didn’t seem to work. You fought, forgave, broke up, got back together, and finally called it off for good.
You both gave it your all but it didn’t work out. It wasn’t for lack of trying. It was you coming to the conclusion that you were different people, both good people, who were incompatible for each other. You both helped each other grow and become better versions of yourself.
The more you can flip your perspective on your ex and the relationship, the easier it will be to move on.
Release blame, anger, and resentment once and for all.
If you haven’t completely let go of the relationship, you may still be holding on to instances of on injustices by your ex. You may still be feeling betrayed, hurt, or angry about something your ex did.
Until you can let go of these feelings of resentment on anger, you’re not going to be able to let go or move on.
You’re not going to lose anything by releasing these feelings, but you will gain your peace of mind and freedom.
Let go for yourself.
Even if your ex was entirely at fault and deserves the worst kind of karma, you’re not going to get caught up on it. You are not the universe’s policeman.
Your ex is human and made mistakes. You’re going to release the resentment and anger and forgive your ex for what they did.
If you made mistakes, you have to be willing to forgive those too.
When you don’t forgive your ex or yourself, it keeps the past injustices and pain still burning like it happened today.
Forgive for yourself. Forgive for your peace of mind.
Thank your ex for how far they brought you forward in your life.
Instead of focusing of how much better off your ex is doing or how you’re falling behind, while they are moving ahead, reflect on how far you’ve come yourself.
While our marriage was difficult and our divorce was soul-crushing, honestly, I grew so much from this relationship. I had so many insights about myself, made drastic life changes, and became an entirely new person.
You can either compare and mourn or thank your ex and appreciate how far they’ve brought you along.
You might not have welcomed the pain, but it’s likely made you into a newer and improved version of yourself.
Remind yourself of how far you’ve come.
Yes, when you’re comparing yourself to your ex, you might feel bad about yourself and like you’re stuck, but it’s not wise to compare yourself to someone else. If you feel a need to compare, then compare yourself to where you were before.
In my case, I was stuck in dysfunctional relationship patterns, I was carrying around a lot of emotional baggage, and I was stuck in a soul-crushing career.
Regardless of where she’s at today, enough therapy and learning has helped me become a new person. I have many more tools to navigate life, and I’m doing work that sometimes doesn’t even feel like work.
I’m living more in line with my values today and have the freedom to pursue my creativity and writing.
You don’t have to be soaring like your ex.
Just remember that you’re not stuck crawling like you were in the past.
Remind yourself that today is the only thing you can do something about.
You cannot change the past, the relationship, or your ex.
You cannot go back and un-do your mistakes or do something different.
There’s no point in wallowing in regret, past disappointments, and failures that you can’t do anything about.
Focus on what you can control—the changes you make today.
You can become the person you’re capable of becoming today.
You can create the life you want today.
Keep bringing yourself to the moment you can do something about: the present moment. In this moment, you can shift your perspective. You can make different choices. You can create the life you want.
Live less in the futile past and more in the hopefulness of today.
See the uncertainty in your life as an adventure.
The most difficult part of my marriage ending was the uncertainty of my life.
See, when you’re married or in a relationship, you have a location. The world identifies you in a certain way. You know who you’re spending your weekends with or who you have to plan the holidays with. You know who you list in the relationship column of Facebook.
Yet, after a breakup, all these questions are uncertain and more than likely, unknown. I’ve discovered that I, and humans in general, hate uncertainty.
We would rather tolerate an unbearable situation than the unknown.
You can view uncertainty as a tsunami about to happen or a surfing vacation in Hawaii.
The more you see your future life as an adventure that is filled with excitement and novelty, the easier it will be for your to welcome in the life waiting for you.
Pursue the life you visualize every day.
You can get stuck focusing on where your ex is at or what your ex is doing, but this is neither healthy nor productive.
Instead, get super clear on what you want.
What is the life you envision for yourself every day? What values and principles do you want to guide your life?
How would you like your life to look each day?
Now, you may not be able to create that life instantly, but you can start doing small things each day that get you closer to the life you want.
If you envision spirituality in your life each day, create time for a spiritual practice or class.
If you see creativity in your life each day, make time for your creative ventures.
If you see self-care as a necessity for your best life, reduce your commitments and take better care of yourself.
You might not have the life you envisioned right now, but if you start taking small steps each day to live the life you want, before you know it, your visions will be your reality.
What’s helped you let go of the past when your ex has already moved on?
Vishnu is a writer and coach who helps people overcome breakups to rebuild their lives and live with purpose. He blogs at www.vishnusvirtues.com For Vishnu's latest book, 10 Sacred Laws of Healing a Broken Heart, visit his Amazon page here.