Question:

How do you get over a past relationship with someone you love that doesn’t love you back, while still having to work with and be involved in their life?

Answer:

Obviously, you have to move forward with your life and not stay stuck in the regret and longing to be with this other person. Doing so, on the other hand, is easier said than done. Here are some thoughts on how you can move forward with your life even though you have regular reminders of this lost relationship.

One of the first things you can do is accept the finality of the romantic relationship. Even though you may still have to interact, the choice has been made to end the romantic connection in this relationship. Even though you didn’t choose for this relationship to end, you still need to make a choice to accept the decision of your former partner. In the same way we don’t like to accept the surprise of an unexpected auto accident, we still have to get out of the car, assess the damage, exchange information, and move forward in the new reality. Acceptance isn’t agreement. It’s simply moving forward in the new reality.

You can also practice gratitude for what you learned and what you became in this relationship. In the book Message in a Bottle, author Nicholas Sparks wrote, “This is not a goodbye, my darling, this is a thank you. Thank you for coming into my life and giving me joy, thank you for loving me and receiving my love in return. Thank you for the memories I will cherish forever.” This isn’t easy to do, but it will help you avoid the bitterness that comes from feeling unwanted and rejected.

The longer you stay stuck longing to be in a relationship that isn’t available to you anymore, the longer it will take you to create space for a new relationship. Learn the lessons from this relationship and be open to what worked and didn’t work. See what you can take with you to the next relationship. J.S.B. Morse once said “A broken heart is just the growing pains necessary so that you can love more completely when the real thing comes along.”

Though difficult, it’s possible to simultaneously hold opposing emotions. For example, you can allow yourself to feel sadness, gratitude, peace, and regret as you think about your former relationship. Each of those emotions matters and can teach you something about your experience. You don’t need to push them away so you can feel good all of the time. Part of being a healthy person is to allow yourself to feel and learn from the more difficult emotions that arise out of our experiences. Notice each of these feelings and see if you can embrace the lessons that come with them.

As you accept their decision, appreciate the relationship you were able to have, and learn the lessons you need to learn from the experience, you will escape the trap of believing you’re powerless to move forward with your life. This will better prepare you to be an even better partner in a future relationship.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available atwww.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves on the high council of the St. George, Utah young single adult second stake. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:

Website: www.lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT