Breakups are never easy and always stir up deep emotions, but why do some people transition out of the pain and move on while others get stuck? If you feel as though no matter how much work you do, and how much time passes, you aren't able to move forward, you likely are pouring water in the wrong bucket. The key to moving forward isn't analyzing your ex and the relationship, but rather coming to understand yourself on a deeper level. It's not them - it's you. You may be stuck on YOU.
First ask, where are you putting the break up energy? Most of us begin by analyzing, dissecting and carefully reviewing the relationship and the ex. I have even seen some people become near overnight experts at psychological diagnosis - perhaps somehow comforted by the notion their ex might have been struggling with depression, anxiety, childhood trauma or a personality disorder. Although it might be a helpful part of the bigger process of a grieving a relationship, it won't get you unstuck and help you move forward. It's not the only work you need to do.
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Let's say you discover that most of your ex's have been narcissistic. The real work lies here: what is it about you (and your history) that draws you to narcissists? In what ways are you most comfortable being with a narcissist? What complimentary role did you play and how did this work for you? Is this a pattern you want to break and if so what would that look like? Tending to the relationship you have with yourself and exploring how this has evolved during and after a significant relationship is the key to unlocking the door and entering the next stage of your life.
Not only is analyzing your ex and the relationship like pouring water into the wrong bucket, it's a bucket with a slow leak. It will never get full and you will never feel satisfied. You're not stuck on them - you're stuck on you. Here are five areas to explore to get unstuck and move forward.
1. How did I experience myself when things were going well in the relationship?
2. How did I experience myself when things were going poorly in the relationship?
3. Does part of me believe or worry that I will never find happiness again?
4. What is the risk of moving on and letting go? Which parts of yourself and your experience are you fearful of leaving behind?
5. What am I most proud of in this relationship? Where else in my life can I show up in a similar way?
Understanding and exploring the relationship and your ex is part of the work of healing from a breakup, but if you're feeling stuck and desperate to move on, try shifting back to you and the relationship you have with yourself. Ultimately you are your own person on your own journey, and the relationship with yourself lasts forever. It's worth some time and attention. You're not leaving yourself behind by moving forward - you're with yourself always and therefore never alone.
Jessica Lyons MS, LMFT is a writer, relationship expert and psychotherapist. She has a private clinical practice and offers intensive retreats for individuals and couples in the Greater Boston area. www.JessicaLyonsLMFT.com