How to move on: coping when a relationship ends

Dating expert Lisa Steadman

It is a familiar story, and one that is only too easy for many Kiwis to relate to – you’re with a fantastic person one day and single the next. Sometimes it can be hard to know just how to move on but it is important to keep two things in mind: you can and will move past this moment and you are worthy of finding love again.

But how can you kick start this healing process? To find the answers, EliteSingles talked to dating expert Lisa Steadman, the best-selling author of the relationship survival manual It’s A Breakup, Not A Breakdown.

How to move on: the first steps

Many dating experts will point out that, for those figuring out how to move on, one of the most important steps is to take some time to focus on yourself and on your next life move. Lisa Steadman agrees, saying that ‘’your past doesn’t define your future. Be patient with yourself. And remember to have fun!’’

Indeed, while a relationship can require a lot of energy to be spent on the things you like to do as a couple, a break-up is the perfect time to make the most of your independence and rediscover the things you love to do for you. This healing step can be as elaborate as taking a holiday or as simple as indulging in something that makes you feel special: a bath, a makeover or – Lisa’s favourite – some chocolate! The important thing is to remember why you are worth looking after.

Read more: Coping with life and love after loss? Learn how to tell when the time is right to start a new chapter

On a different note, looking after yourself also means allowing the time to feel unwanted emotions. No matter who made the decision to end the relationship, it is normal to experience some conflicting feelings as you deal with being at a new place in your life; a place where you didn’t necessarily expect to be. Lisa’s tried and true method of coping with this stage involves getting by with a little help from your friends, opening up to a few trusted confidantes who can help support you whatever you’re feeling.

This may not always be the easiest of tasks – after all, a lingering New Zealand stereotype is that many Kiwis find it difficult to share emotionally1 – but Lisa stresses that, even if it doesn’t appeal, reaching out is a good way to help you move forward. ‘’It’s OK to be vulnerable. It may be uncomfortable but pick one or two close friends and open up. Ask for help. You need it right now. Being stuck in your own head is the biggest obstacle to moving on.’’

Cutting contact and redefining your relationship

Leaning on friends and family for support is a healthy response to a break-up, but there is one person Lisa thinks you should never turn to: your ex. As she puts it, ‘’do not be each other’s shoulder to lean on through the break-up.’’ Doing so will only remind you of the emotional bond you used to share and blur the boundaries of your new relationship to one another. In fact, if you can, Lisa recommends cutting all ties with your ex as a vital part of learning how to move on and build a life without them.

This means avoiding physical contact, but it also, crucially, means avoiding your ex online as well. The ease with which we can check on someone’s life online can be irresistible but to completely separate from a relationship, restraint is needed. Lisa advises a strict approach, deleting their contact details if necessary: ‘’Take a zero tolerance position on social media. No contact. No stalking, no lurking, no engaging, no bullying, no revenge. Just disconnect from all online contact.’’

Read more: Still feel some past relationship pain? Find further help and heal the hurt

Of course, not all relationships are so easily untwined. Perhaps you and your ex have children, or you work or own property together. If this is the case, how can you keep your contact obligations while figuring out how to move on? If avoiding all interaction is not possible, Lisa’s suggestion is to redefine your relationship with your ex, transforming it from a romantic to a practical arrangement. One key way to achieve this can be to keep all conversation to essential topics, making sure to ‘’only talk about the things you have to – the kids’ schedules, details about the house, etc.’’ In this way you can still have your ex in your life while allowing yourself the emotional freedom needed to move forward.

Starting afresh: getting ready to love again

When a relationship ends, it can be near impossible to imagine yourself happy with someone new. But with support, strength, and a little self-indulgence, the upheaval of a break-up will eventually transform into something smoother. You may even find that you are in a better place than ever before to find lasting love. Yet, how can you know when you’re emotionally ready to date again?

Lisa’s advice is simple: ‘’When you don’t compare the [people] you date to your ex, you know you’re ready to get back out there. This takes time. [But] just because you’re single now doesn’t mean you’ll be single forever.’’ Indeed, Lisa has seen many singles find happiness with new partners and knows that there is hope for everybody who is wondering how to move on. ‘’You will get through this. You are more resilient than you know. And…when you’re ready, you will find love again.’’

Read more: Do you feel emotionally ready to move on? Learn how to prepare yourself for a new relationship.

Are you ready to move on and experience the good side of love? Let us help you discover someone wonderful. Join EliteSingles today.

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EliteSingles editorial, May 2014

Lisa Steadman is a California-based media personality, relationship expert and author of the bestselling book ‘It’s a Breakup, Not A Breakdown: get over the big one and change your life.” You can find more of her winning ideas about how to move on with life by visiting her on Facebook or Twitter.

About the author: Sophie Watson

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