Have you ever wondered why it’s so darned hard to stop obsessing about your ex even though you know your relationship was unhealthy? One of the reasons it is so difficult to move on from an unhealthy relationship is because we have a tendency to only focus on the good parts. Being in love feels good. It’s hard to forget the way your heart fluttered every time your ex walked into the room or the way they made you feel like you were the only person in the world who truly mattered. You remember being able to open up to this person and tell them everything because, even though you had known each other only a short while, it felt like you had known each other your entire lives – heck you may have even convinced yourself that you’ve known each other in a past life as well.

Eventually, things started to change. Instead of greeting you with a smile, the smile gradually turned into a scowl. Instead of being able to do no wrong, you may have found yourself being unable to do anything right. Instead of feeling loved, cherished and validated, you began to feel insecure, uncertain and constantly on edge. Just when you start to face reality and try to pull away, they turn up the charm and say just the right thing to make you want to give them just one more chance. You want to believe that the real them is the person that you first fell in love with. The one that made you feel beautiful, amazing and damned near perfect. You try to convince yourself that this new version of the person you love is only because they’re under a lot of stress at work or they’re having problems with their family or they’re going through a rough patch financially – any excuse that will help you avoid seeing the truth.

The painful truth is that the version that you are seeing now IS the real them and the version that you fell in love with was the charade. We don’t want to think that we were gullible enough to have been duped. We’re ashamed to face our friends and family and tell them that things didn’t work out after being so certain that this was the ONE. It’s painful to let go of the illusion so you convince yourself that if you’re patient enough or you just work harder, they will remember what an amazing relationship you had and fight to save it as well. What you have to recognize is that the relationship that you created in your mind was not with the real person. The relationship that you were involved in was with a fictional character – not the real person who actually broke your heart. You have to remember that people will often TELL you what you want to hear but will always SHOW you the truth of who they are. The first step in healing is being willing to let go of the illusion.

Exercise: Grab a sheet of plain white paper and fold it into thirds so that you have 3 columns. In the 1st column, write down everything that was said that made your heart flutter. Did your beloved promise a future together? Did they say you were the only one? Did they tell you how beautiful you are? In the same column, write down everything that you believed to be true about your relationship with this person. How did you feel about yourself when you were with them? Did you believe that this person respects you? Did you believe that this person was honest? Did you believe that this person wanted to create a life together with you? Now, in the 2nd column, write down every action that validated what was said or felt about the relationship. Finally, in the 3rd column, write down every action that contradicted those words. Not just by your beloved but by yourself as well.

Do you notice a pattern? What is the truth of the relationship? The benefit of seeing your relationship in black and white on the sheet of paper in front of you is that you can learn to identify the things that you value in a relationship (Column 1). You can also identify the behaviors that reinforce a healthy, solid relationship (Column 2) and lastly, you learn to identify the behaviors that signal an unhealthy relationship (Column 3). Armed with that knowledge, you can move into your next relationship being appreciative of 1 and 2 while being careful to re-evaluate and jump ship at the first signs of behaviors in column 3.  

If you find that most of the Column 3 behaviors are actually yours rather than your partner’s, this is also really helpful information because it helps you understand the areas in your romantic life where you may have been operating out of integrity. Your work becomes learning to heal those parts of yourself that have been preventing you from being fully present in a healthy way in your relationships. Even though ending a relationship can feel like a rejection, the lessons learned can help redirect you toward an even better future. The best part about this future relationship is that it will be grounded in reality rather than anchored on an illusion.