When a relationship ends, or maybe is in its dying stages, you know your ex or soon-to-be-ex has moved on, yet, you still pine for them, struggling to acknowledge the finality of the journey. You frame the dilemma with positive language, saying things like “they are the one” or “you are fighting for what you want.” You don’t seem to recognize or accept that you are still holding on to someone you love who has let go. It is a reality most people can relate to.
When you are in this situation, it can be hard to see the signs and to recognize that you are still yearning for someone who no longer wishes to be there. This period is often frustrating and emotionally destructive. The healing process and letting go start with recognizing that you have fallen into a pattern of hanging on to a dead relationship.
What Does it Mean to Let Go of Someone You Love?
You have heard the phrases, “Let him go” or “It is time to let her go”, before. It is commonly rolled out when friends or family try to make us get over a negative feeling. While the actuality of the process differs from person to person, letting go generally means learning and embracing a new reality, one without the person to whom you were emotionally attached. It means adjusting to a new environment and lifestyle, without a partner or friend, and accepting that your journey with them has ended.
When people ask what it means to let go, it is not because they don’t know. Deep down, everyone knows what it means to move on. But people ask that question to create a layer of confusion and misunderstanding that gives them an excuse to still hold on.
This is because letting go is extremely hard. It is a painful process that can last from a few weeks to years, depending on the depth of your attachment to said person. No one wants to start from the beginning when you have invested a lot into a relationship. Yet, you must do this because it is a necessary component of healing and finding happiness again. To begin this process, you must first recognize if you are holding on to someone you love who has let go.
Signs You are Still Holding On to your Ex
1. You have an unending urge to text them
Before the arrival of instant messaging, this was probably not an issue. But today, technology enables us to maintain instantaneous access to our exes. It is easy to find any excuse to reach out; maybe you saw a funny meme or a great shirt in their favourite colour. There is always an excuse to text them.
When you inevitably succumb to this urge, it doesn’t matter how well the text chain goes. It could be long and cordial or short and curt. Regardless, you find the crumbs of conversation satisfying, and you repeat the cycle in a day, two days, or a week, despite the fact they don’t do the same and haven’t reached out since you officially parted ways.
You have deleted his number, but Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets exist. You cannot go a day or days without reaching out to them. If you find yourself in this position, there is a strong likelihood that you are still holding on to someone you love who has let go.
2. You keep imagining things working out
If you are a fan of romantic comedies, there is probably no shortage of scenarios that has played in your head when a relationship you invested in ends. You imagine them showing up at your door and pouring their heart out, telling you they made a mistake and want to try again. Maybe yours involves your ex publicly breaking up with their new partner and declaring they are still in love with you. There seems to be no shortage of scenes for your mind to play through, and it always involves you and your ex. You lose minutes and hours daydreaming about these moments because you refuse to face the reality that they are never coming back.
Once you find you find yourself repeatedly losing hours imagining your ex getting back with you, then I hate to break it to you, but you are not over them yet. You are still holding on to someone who has clearly let go.
3. You spend a lot of time stalking them on social media
As soon as your ex said it was over, you lost access to their life. When you have fully invested in a relationship and your life is built around it, going from knowing everything about them to knowing nothing can be a tough transition.
But in a complete refusal to embrace the new state of things, you turn to social media, where many people, including your ex, document their lives. You spend a significant part of your day stalking them from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram or Snapchat. It is not just their account either, you also stalk everyone they interact with, that girl that liked his photos or that boy that commented the tongue emoji.
When you get blocked but you opened a secret account to maintain access. You might convince yourself that it is normal and you are just keeping in touch because you care and want to make sure they are okay. But that is just a lie you tell yourself because you are clearly not ready to move on.
4. You are always talking about him
An understated and challenging part of breaking up is having someone you love go from being a huge part of your life to becoming no part of your life. There is a complete void where they used to be, and rather than let that void be, process the pain, and look forward, you fill it by keeping them alive in your conversations.
Despite the efforts at blocking them out of your life or psyche, you find your conversations leading back to them. It can also be a result of how intertwined your lives were when you were together. However, often, it is the result of an emotional hang-up.
You can’t detach your mental and emotional being from them, so they bubble to the surface every time you express yourself. To your friends, this will be annoying, and you might even hate yourself for it. But you just can’t stop because deep down, you still love them and are holding on to someone who has let go.
5. You compare them to potential partners
This is one of the most tragic expressions of holding on to a failed relationship or lost partner. It is one of those signs that you and even your friends might find it hard to notice unless you vocalize your thought process. To you, it is nothing more than ensuring you are not jumping into a bad relationship by continually comparing suitors to your ex. A suitor is only worth the effort in your head if they match up to every one of your ex’s good qualities. You tell yourself it is because you don’t want to settle; you don’t want to eat McDonald’s after having caviar.
In your head, your ex, who has fully moved on, is the pinnacle of a good partner, and anyone who doesn’t measure up is not worth your time. If this sounds like you, then you are still in love and holding on to someone who doesn’t exist with both hands.
6. You are always thinking about them and the relationship you shared
One of the crazy things about breakups is we often focus on the positive aspects of the relationship. In our heads, we ignore the negative events and replay the good times over and over again, giving a false image of the relationship. It is okay if you do this occasionally or a couple of weeks after the breakup.
However, if you find yourself doing it repeatedly, practically every day, using memories of the relationship as your happy place, in that case, you are definitely not ready to move on. Reminiscing over the relationship consistently can keep you stuck, preventing you from detaching mentally from the past.
This state of mind often spills to the real world, too, stopping you from seeking out other partners and cleaning out your emotional closet. If a quick introspection reveals this is you, you still have a lot of work to do to move on.
7. You arrange ‘accidental’ meets
None of these signs are okay or healthy, but things are especially bad when they show up in your actions. For instance, staging accidental run-ins because you know where they will be and manufacturing a reason to be there. It can be destinations based on their routines or in extreme cases, it could be from stalking their social media or calendar.
You do it because you want to stay physically close to them. You want to smell their perfume one more time or hope seeing your face again will trigger regretful feelings in them and make them desire you again.
This serves as a testament to the fact that you still love them and are holding on to someone who has clearly moved on. It might feel good in the moment, but you are only prolonging the emotional catharsis you need to find happiness again.
8. When you get a text or meet them, you feel a tinge
You know that ex you meet, and it is like your brain stops functioning when you lay eyes on them? When you see them, your body gets weird; you lose your voice, feel flushed, and the room temperature feels like someone raised it several degrees. Yeah, it means you have not moved on.
If they notice this and are a good person, they probably make teasing comments at most and let you be. If they are not, they might take advantage, manipulating you with words and light touches that make you believe there is still a chance. However, if you pay attention, once they get what they want, they go back to being indifferent or maybe even mean. Yet, you still pine for them. If this fits your situation, then you are definitely still holding on to someone you love who has let go.
9. Still holding on to memorabilia of the relationship
It is fair to keep mementos of past events—a pin, movie ticket, or gifts from a happy period. However, when you surround yourself with souvenirs and memorabilia that continuously remind you of them, you are still not ready to let go.
Once you have broken up with a partner, trimming the things that remind you of them is crucial for moving on. Keeping them only serves as an anchor for the pain, stopping you from moving on. Every time you look at them, you open the door to a flood of emotions that make you reach out to them.
Having these memorabilia does nothing but stop you from moving on, and the sooner you get rid of them, the likelier your chance of letting go.
10. You refuse to date other people
Yours could an explicit refusal to date people, choosing instead to stay single. It could be subtle like comparing suitors to your ex and refusing to ‘settle for less.’ Whatever logic you choose, you have made an active choice not to date other people.
Perhaps your friends have tried setting you up with someone, but you treat their effort with disdain; this is probably fine if the breakup is still fresh. However, if you are months into the split and this is still your state, there is a big chance that you still love them and are holding on to someone who may not come back.
11. You can’t stop hurting
There are other signs you are still holding on to someone you love who has let go. Some of them include making a point of telling others you are over them and attempts to distract yourself end in tears. It does not matter how far back the breakup happened. Every time you think about what you had and your life now, you find yourself in pain, perhaps to the point of tears. Despite trying everything you can, you can’t shake off the pain.
It is completely understandable, and first step to truly getting over them is accepting that you have not. Once you have done that, you can begin the emotional journey of learning to live without your ex and maybe even finding another kind of happiness.
Why It Can Be Difficult Letting Go
You have identified the signs that you are still holding on to someone you love, though that person has moved on. You have tried your best to leave them in the past, but you keep falling back into these patterns and have no idea what to do.
When it comes to letting go of a failed relationship, there are many explanations on why it is so hard to go. They vary from reasons like low self-esteem, inability to accept the relationship for what it was, fear of change, or part of the stages of grief.
All those reasons have their validity to varying degrees but at the root of every one of them is one universal truth – once your heart connects with someone, it is hard and sometimes, almost impossible to let them go. You see, the brain can intellectually rationalize all the reasons why you should move on and the steps you need to carry out to do so. But once the heart has made that rare connection, severing it, regardless of reason, becomes practically impossible.
It is what many refer to as unconditional love. Mothers and fathers feel it, and so do romantic partners. If you have shared this strong bond with someone, letting go becomes a tough challenge. But it is not impossible, and with intentional action, you can even learn to be happy again.
How to Move on From a Failed Relationship
If you decide to picture moving on from a failed relationship as a journey to the top of Mount Everest, you are already at base camp. You have accepted there is a problem and willing to get help. The next step is to make the acclimatization climbs, eventually finding yourself at the summit, free and ready to love again.
1. Learn to Love Yourself
One fundamental secret about letting go when you are still holding on to someone you love who has moved on is rooted in learning to love yourself. For every action you will read below this point, it all comes down to the love you have for yourself. It is what will propel you when things can get hard, and your heart is forcing you to make compromises.
It does not matter the amount of self-confidence you think you have already. You need to reconnect with yourself, establishing who you are outside of your perceived identity, and learn to love that person. Once you have mastered this, I promise, everything else will be a breeze.
2. Allow Yourself to Grieve the loss
If you go over the signs earlier mentioned, you will realize a lot of it comes down to a refusal to accept that it is over. Each time you re-engage them, trying to coax a changed decision out of them and fail, you relive the pain again.
Instead of doing this, you can fully embrace the finality of their decision and grieve the loss. Let yourself cry and feel the pain to the maximum. It could take you days or weeks. Do not rush it. Let it happen. Once you finish grieving, you will emerge anew, ready to face your new reality.
Now, you have reached emotional catharsis, you have cried your eyes out, and you can think clearly again – it is time to detoxify. What do I mean? It means cutting ties with the past. Clear out the belongings you are sentimentally holding on to, block them on social media, and refresh your living space.
The first and second action will prevent you from repeatedly triggering those memories that ensure you are still holding on to someone who has moved on. You can think of the third as a forced change of perspective, allowing you to open yourself to new ideas and reality.
4. Open Yourself to New Possibilities
Most people tailor this advice to finding a new partner, but that can be limiting. As humans, the breadth of our love goes beyond people. It can be a new passion, job, or project; let yourself feel other things outside of the walls of romance. You might find them to be just as fulfilling.
Of course, it can also be a new lover. The great thing about the human heart is it is big enough to accommodate more than one person. Open yourself to new people and let fresh experiences take you on a different path.
5. Imagine a Better and Different Future
For months or years, you tied your life to this person. You imagined reaching several major life goals and growing old together. Because you still love them and are holding on to someone who has let go, your imagination remains tied to them.
Remember, they have moved on, meaning they now imagine a world without you. As a result, it is time for you to do the same. Don’t just imagine it, actively pursue it. If you do this and look back, you will be shocked at how far you have come.
Ways to Move on from a Dead Crush
The struggle with letting go is not limited to relationships. It also includes crushes and other relationships that were never official. It can get especially hard to move on from this dynamic. Often, this is because there was never a real relationship to compare the perfect imaginations in your head to.
But like those dealing with a real relationship, moving on from a crush comes down to acceptance and self-love. If, for whatever reason, the relationship did not come to fruition, accept that it is not meant to be. Remember to love yourself, understanding you are not less than just because it did not happen.
Relationships can be complicated and unpredictable. Sometimes, no matter what you invest in them, they fail anyway. It can be a tough pill to swallow, causing you to hang on, hoping to reverse your fortunes. This feeling of hope manifests in different ways, some of which you might not recognize.
However, when you find yourself holding on to someone you love who has let go, you rob yourself of happiness and new experiences. Though it will be hard, you have to rise and take back your emotions, paving the way for a future filled with the dreams you envisioned.
If you have tried the steps above and they don’t work for you, there is no reason to give up. You might need the help of a therapist or a professional counselor. Remember, happiness starts with a conscious decision to put yourself first.