Do you have painful memories about a past relationship? When you think about your ex-partner, are your emotions strong? If you answered yes, you’re probably dragging these memories and feelings around with you every day, and from relationship to relationship. As long as you are harboring intense feelings for your ex—positive or negative—it will be nearly impossible to find a satisfying relationship with someone new.
Emotional baggage is any strong emotion from your past—either positive or negative—that prevents you from being fully present in a current relationship. Everyone has some emotional baggage, but when you still have strong feelings about the past, these emotions can cause all sorts of issues in the present. Strong emotions connected to the past can fester and get worse if you obsess about them and hold them in. They also make you unhappy, which is not a good state of mind for attracting new partners and finding new love.
No matter how you feel about your ex, and no matter how insurmountable your emotions may seem, getting to the point where you can think about the relationship, without feeling much of anything, will significantly increase your chances of finding a new healthy relationship. That’s a finding from my landmark study of marriage and divorce, which has been following hundreds of married and divorced individuals for more than 30 years. My study discovered that divorced individuals who were able to say, “I don’t feel much of anything for my ex” were more likely to find a successful long-term relationship than those who were grieving, held grudges, or worse—were still in love.
Here are 6 strategies that you can adopt, which will get you in the right frame of mind to look for and find love again with someone new!
1. Get Physical.
High-energy exercise or physical activity can zap your stress and your negative emotions. By hitting a punching bag at the gym, hiking the nature trail, or grunting through your last set of weights, you’ll also release pent-up anger that could otherwise impact your health. In addition, certain sports like swimming, golf, and yoga provide you with personal time to effectively reflect and meditate on your feelings.
2. Find a Sense of Community.
Join a club or gym, move to a condo complex, or take a class at your local community college. Seek the company of good friends and family. Renewing your ties to the community not only provides you with a source of emotional support—it’s a great way to meet new people.
By volunteering, you become less concerned with your own problems; your own personal concerns may suddenly appear very small compared to the challenges of those you are helping. Put the focus on others and what you can do for them. You’ll feel good about helping others, you’ll keep your mind from dwelling on your emotions, and you’ll keep your perspective in check.
Paint, play music, garden or write. Creative activities make you live in the present. Use your emotions to help you script something (e.g., art, poetry, music, pottery). These right-brain activities also continue to stimulate the emotional and intuitive side of your brain.
5. Talk to Others.
Talking about how and why the relationship ended will allow you to make sense of what happened—and it will justify your feelings—which can help you let go of them. When you share your story with friends, family or a therapist, pick someone you trust and feel comfortable with. And, be sure to listen to others’ questions, insights, and feedback.
6. Write a Letter to Your Ex.
Try writing a really honest letter to your ex without holding back—let loose and give your ex a piece of your mind, or clear the air and confess the mistakes that you made in the relationship. You can describe your anger, sadness, frustration, guilt, or other emotions. When you are done, put the letter away. Don’t send it. This letter is for you. No matter how great you think your letter is, it is for your eyes only. Putting your feelings on paper will help you to defuse your emotions, and over time, reviewing your letters will allow you to see the change in yourself.
Dr. Terri Orbuch (aka The Love Doctor®) is a relationship expert for OurTime.com, as well as a professor, therapist, research scientist, and author of 5 best-selling books, including “Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship,” available on amazon.com. Learn more about her at: DrTerriTheLoveDoctor.com.