How to Forget a Past Love.

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Woman remembers on edge of boat

Denial or regret can understandably drive a person to want to bury the past, they might find themselves angry that although they’d rather forget, a certain someone continues to linger on their mind. This unneeded rush brings up a counter-question every time someone asks me ‘what’s the best why to forget an ex?’, and this question is, ‘why should you try to ‘forget’ anyone?’

Now sure, I understand certain thoughts can be painful; but what I’m getting at here is that the people we encounter – whether our experience with them be good or bad – contribute to who we become. In essence, to seek to erase a person from one’s memory is in part, to wipe away a lesson they might have had to teach us.

There’s really nothing more freeing than accepting you cared, even if that invested emotion didn’t pay off in the end. There’s no need to berate yourself for enjoying an old memory, no reason to judge yourself over what is largely an involuntary thought process.

Being less judgmental offers you a chance to change regret into gratitude: gratitude that you’re no longer in that relationship, gratitude for the lessons gained, and gratitude for the moments (good and bad) you shared. Gratitude is a much more pleasant emotion than despair and it’s much more manageable.

Repressed emotions have a way of coming out in detrimental ways -they cause undue stress, anger, or even addiction, and may overpower the pursuit to gain control over one’s life. Usually if we allow ourselves to reminisce, those torrid feelings will lose their sting over time.

notebook forgotten on ground

Contrary to popular belief, a recent study has found that ‘dwelling‘ on a breakup actually helps the recovery process f0r a broken heart.

“Participants in the second group, which extensively dissected breakups, had an easier time regaining self-concept after those nine weeks. They reported larger decreases in breakup-related emotional distress and loneliness compared to the group that only completed basic surveys. According to the authors, this study is the first to suggest that rehashing breakups actually boosts well-being by allowing you to think about your feelings and rediscover your self-identity independent of the relationship.” Huffington Post.

In other words, those who delved into their personal issues and were open about their pain, tended to bounce back better than those who don’t go deep enough. It pays not to force forgetting, to allow your mind to work through issues and not too stifle pain. Resistance can turn into panic, which only makes things worse.

Stop wondering why you’re not ‘over it yet’. Some encounters take years to overcome – such is the complexity of human emotion. It’s okay to take your time, it’s not okay to force something that doesn’t want to happen.

And if it’s a current partner who isn’t getting over a past love as quickly as you’d like them to, there are two things you must ask yourself. 1) Is the problem big enough that this person might not be in the right frame of mind to be in a relationship with you? 2) Are you letting your insecurities about your partner’s past get in the way of having an open and honest relationship?

Woman looking out window

One of the best things my partner ever did was grant me permission to talk over old hurts with him. In doing so, he removed the concept of taboo subjects within our relationship and created a safe connection between us. This approach, although unorthodox, ultimately had our relationship eclipsing anything I’d ever shared with any of my exs.

I must make it clear though, none of what I say is a free pass to wallow in regret or not get on with your life. Just because memories or feelings exist, does not mean they have to be romantic in nature, or that they should be acted upon. Caring and attraction are not the same thing! Admitting that you care is not an excuse to inject yourself into an ex’s life, much less try to ‘fix’ anything – especially the past. Your memories are by no means an excuse to neglect or string along those who are part of your present.

If you’re sad, accept that you’re sad; hopefully through acceptance the novelty of that a certain person will wear off in time. A day will come when you don’t think about them anymore, and in the meantime, punishing yourself for your memories will only make the problem bigger.

Cry your tears. Give yourself time. Observe your emotions – but don’t judge them.

More than anything, come to peace with the idea that some people you might never forget – but just because you haven’t forgotten, does not mean that person belongs in your life, or those memories make you damaged in some way. They’re just thoughts, and thoughts merely indicate that at one point you cared. Or maybe you still care, and that’s okay too. The fact is, some loves never die, but they do change, and sometimes that change means that you’re no longer together. There will be other loves, or maybe there won’t. Either way you’re going to be fine. You, and just you, are enough.

So to answer the question, ‘how do you forget a past love?’ The best way to forget, is to stop trying to forget altogether.

*For the sake of this post and for people who prefer video, I have filmed a vlog version on this same issue - it comes with captions. Enjoy :) 

Hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments, so feel free to leave a comment of your own.

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Image credits: LMAPLeticia ChamorroMeg Wills

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