Why is it so hard to move on?

I wrote about moving on after a breakup many, many times already (here’s how many)… but it seems, based on your questions and comments on the topic, still not enough :).

If I had a magic wand that could bring your ex back, I’d be one very rich magician.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a magical approach, tactic, strategy or move that will definitely and surely make your ex realise they still love you.

You need to move on. That’s it. That’s what life is all about, moving on from things that have expired or ended.

Breaking up is hard, moving on is harder, but trust me – there is no reason to hold on to the past, no value in it at all. There is nothing in it for you.

Think about it – if you stay lingering and hoping he or she will come back, what can you gain? What happens while you wait?

For your ex, absolutely nothing. They moved on with their life, maybe now already dating someone new, and don’t want to be with you anymore.

Whether you stay behind and hope and pray they’ll return, or simply acknowledge it’s over and go on with your life, for them – it’s pretty much the same.

If they still care for you as a person, they’ll be happy to see you happy. But they won’t come back because of it.

If they don’t care, well, then – they simply don’t care one way or the other.

You can try to make them jealous, or make them miss you – but again, that will not change their feelings. If they want you back, they’ll come back on their own terms. Not because you teased them into it.

Even if you succeed with some sort of manipulation, it probably won’t last, because you didn’t get back together for the right reasons.

If they don’t want to be with you any more – they won’t come back no matter how much you plead, beg, pretend you don’t care or date other people to make them jealous.

So what can you do to bring them back?

Nothing. Zero. You have no control over it.

The only choice you can make is how you’ll continue with your own life.

You can stick with your self-pity and longing for a long long time, because you feel you “simply can’t move on”.

Or you can cry your tears, feel a bit sorry for yourself (that’s perfectly OK, we’ve all been there) but after that – pick yourself up, and no matter how hard it is – decide you won’t let your current feelings take over and run your life for good.

And then start moving forward with your life – which means looking for and being open to new opportunities and new partners. Without obsessively comparing them to your ex.

The pain in your chest, it will pass. Not immediately, maybe not in a few weeks. It will probably take you months if it’s been a long (years long) relationship, but the sadness and the longing and even the anger will, eventually, end.

Definitely sooner if you make a conscious effort to get on with your life than if you keep going back, reliving the past, hoping they’ll come back and refusing to accept it is all over.

If you still keep in touch with your ex, while you’re still in love with them – it’s a bad and painful emotional roller-coaster. Which I am sure you are very well aware of (if you’re still doing it).

Don’t. Make yourself stop. I am sure you already know how to block people on your phone and social media. If you don’t, ask someone to do it for you.

Moving on starts with a decision. It’s not just something that spontaneously happens while you’re busy texting your ex and hoping for a booty call. It’s not a random event that occurs one fine day out of the blue. It’s a process, and one that takes some effort.

But, to make that decision – you have to actually want it. You have to be sure it’s a decision that will do you good.

And you know why you still don’t think it will? Because…


This is the biggest and the most common trap we fall into. It happened once. It was magical. It couldn’t possibly happen again, could it?

Why not? Who says that something that happened to you once can’t happen again? It happened, so it’s possible. What else can you conclude out of this one occurrence?

There is no way you can know if this person is the best partner you’ll ever have until you get to your deathbed.

Do you really want to spend the rest of your life thinking there is nobody else out there for you?

You are surely wrong to think this was the best relationship you could ever have, but it will take some time to figure it out. Give it time.

And don’t reject the possibility of someone new and amazing sweeping you off your feet. People like that do exist. You met one so far, so there must be at least a couple more, right?

I doubt life would be so cruel to come up with just one great matching partner for you and then let your relationship miserably fail so soon and so fast.


Oh yes, that’s so true too. How is it true? Because you simply KNOW it is.

What actual proof do you have… well, I guess none. Except, you feel this person is the one for you. Well, feelings can be deceiving, and they tend to change a lot too.

Even though this person hurt you, cheated on you, lied to you, made you feel small and stupid, insulted you, criticised you, forgot about your birthday, didn’t really care to call you, argued with you for months or years… you still believe they are the one?

Oh yes, that is exactly how true love and the most perfect person for you looks like.

(More on the topic of soul mates and the one – see this post.)


Well, maybe your ex doesn’t share your opinion. Maybe they think you’re not so great together.

Who is right? Unfortunately – there is no right or wrong here. There is just a “let’s agree to disagree” situation.

Can you make them change their mind? Well, go ahead and try. Convince them that you are the love of their life, even though all they want to do when they see you is run for the hills (or they already did).

Do you really think you can change how someone feels? Or even thinks?

Imagine it was vice versa. Imagine you’re the person who simply doesn’t feel it any more. Just picture someone in your head you don’t care about (can be a different ex, or someone else who’s into you but you are not into them).

Now think about – what could they possibly do to make you fall for them?

If you find that magical move, let me know.

In the meantime, please, think about moving on. That is really the only option that’s completely under your control. Everything else involves tampering with someone else’s free will. And that’s not possible.

If your ex does come back after a while, you can always take him/her back. If you feel like it. Chances are, you won’t.

But no matter what happens with them in the future, there is really no valid reason for you to pause your love life while you wait for their uncertain comeback.


Agree? Disagree? Tell me why!

Thanks for contributing and making this a lively and informative forum. Mucho appreciated.

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17 Responses

  1. Sheila says:

    Hi Petra – I think it can be exceptionally difficult to ‘move on ‘ sometimes.

    “Even though this person hurt you, cheated on you, lied to you, made you feel small and stupid, insulted you, criticised you, forgot about your birthday, didn’t really care to call you, argued with you for months or years… you still believe they are the one?”
    No of course you dint – your rational mind tells you one thing but the emotional bit something else.
    Problem is that a person can become addicted to another – rembering the good bits and editing out the bad. Also some individuals ‘love bomb’ a partner in the initial stages of a ‘relationship’ – possibly deliberately in some cases – getting dumped or discarded later is then highly distressing. It is educational to read the Psychopathfree forum. The psychological priblems of one moment thinking someone is ‘the one’ then the next realising they were no good is called cognitive dissonance. Recovery from Bereavement – loss through split up or death of partner can take years to get over and often needs specialist support.
    Best wishes

    • Petra says:

      Agree with you – not all situations are the same, and not everyone needs the same approach. I have to generalise sometimes to get the message across because a lot of people get stuck in their emotional and thought patterns and all they need is a different perspective. But I absolutely agree with you, especially with bereavement – it’s not that easy. Thank you for your insight.

  2. Scott Jennings says:

    Everything you just said, Petra, perfectly outlines what was one of the hardest and harshest lessons that I ever had to learn in my life. When a relationship with someone that you fell in love with comes to an end you can just imagine things went differently or try to get them back or attempt to win them over with a heartfelt, impassioned break-up speech but it’s just a complete waste of time in my book; all it does is compromise your dignity and self-respect and potentially humiliate you and never worked in my case. Even if I fall in love again and find myself being dumped again for whatever reason then I never want to compromise my dignity ever again; I’ll try to hold on to it with both hands because something I’ve learned is that even if you truly do love someone I don’t think that any person is really worth compromising your dignity over as an attempt to get them back. Begging, pleading, trying to manipulate someone into taking you back is no way to prove that you love someone and I doubt it actually works for most people. I’ll try my very best if I ever find someone again and if it goes wrong then I can always move on and try to find someone new who’s much better for me. Invaluable advice as always, Petra.

  3. César Díaz says:

    Been married for 33 years to my first love (high school sweetheart) because I made a mistake of writing to this woman on Facebook she separate from me and does´t want me back

  4. Victoria says:

    i stumbled upon this article as I’am trying to move on. This person ended things with me about a year and a half ago and I never completely gotten over it. I dated a few people after a few months but this person was always on my mind even when i found someone i could have a relationship with. Then a year and a half later this person came back things went better then they ever have been, met his family, friends talked about kids.Out of the blue this person started to pull away and gave me the same excuse the previous year. I was perfect but we didnt have a spark. he seemed so happy for the most part. Everyday is a struggle to move on. I’ve blocked, deleted everything but i feel so empty inside and honestly fooled.

    • Petra says:

      I know it’s hard, but it’s only you who’s holding on to this fantasy that you’d be great together, that has nothing to do with him. Do contact me if you’d like some help.

  5. Burgerqueen says:

    I guess it’s amazing how long we cling on to the barest whisper of once great love…

  6. Shelly says:

    My boyfriend and I got into a relationship for 3.5years, and we broke up in Jan 2014 because he was not happy with the relationship and he fell out of love with me. I was so heartbroken that I even considered suicide because none of us have cheated or fell in love with someone else. It is totally unfair to me and we’ve met both sides of our parents and I see a future in us. He even promised to never leave me and would take good care of me no matter what. It was this promise that hurt me so bad. Because I believe that things can be fixed as long as we have faith in that relationship. It’s something I picked up from a saying, “A relationship is like a house. When a light bulb burns out you do not go and buy a new house, you fix the light bulb’.

    I couldn’t move on even after a year. I did try, and true to ur article, I keep comparing the new people I meet with my ex, making me believe that there is no other man who would love me the way my ex have loved me. Besides, I keep meeting men who are desperate for a girlfriend and not courting me because they really like me. I also always ended up feeling regret meeting new guys because i feel like i’m wasting my precious time with people that I don’t like. Like, “i would’ve enjoyed myself better if I catch that movie by myself” or “i could’ve check out that lingerie store if i’m shopping on my own (because i dont want the new guy im meeting with to get the wrong signal)

    Sometimes i find myself grieving over the relationship so badly, that I grew hate for my ex. I’m angry that he moved on and starting to see people. And despite all of these, I really need him to come back to me so badly. So I did something silly recently.. After not meeting him for more than a year, I invited him over to a place I newly shifted in. When he appeared to my doorstep, It felt like magic, like finally, my dream came true after not seeing him for more than a year because I miss him terribly. I brushed his hair, noticed a few fine lines on his face and we kissed. I love him so much that I teared. He was very lustful and we slept that night. The next day, he was adamant that we cannot be together because ‘things are not the same’ and he didn’t have feelinfs for me anymore.

    There’s so much pain in me. I know my actions must have been silly to a lot of people out there, but really, I just want him back. There’s nobody else because he’s the one I that I trust enough to share the bed together. I really really wish there’s something I could do/say to have him back. ='(

    • Petra says:

      There is no magic, or strategy – nothing that guarantees that if you do it he will come back to you. We can’t change how other people feel. You will be better off if you concentrate on changing how you feel. That’s one thing you can have influence on. And it’s a much better solution for you, because you’re not placing your happiness in someone else’s hands. This way, you’ll just continue to suffer for someone you can’t have, while blocking any other nice guys from your life. That is reality. He might have been a great guy for you but – he is not the only one. He is probably not the best one either. But as long as you are in love with him and you keep thinking he is the best, you will keep meeting men that don’t do anything for you. Not because there aren’t any out there – but because they can feel you’re not really available.

  7. jessica says:

    My ex was so up and down. One minute he would talk to me and say I was his person then he would pull away. We were together 8 months and fell madly in love. He left me to attempt to reconcile with his ex wife. I gave him the space he needed and was there as his friend. He came back and would contact me all the time and we did the friend thing for now a whole year. I begged and pleaded recently and I regret that now. I feel he used me and my emotions but yet I still love him and want to be with him. Now we are at the point where we don’t speak and we only do because we work together. I’m at a loss because he used to say he could see us together and then he said he couldnt. Why would anyone do this to someone? What do I do now?

    • jessica says:

      I forgot to add that he did not reconcile and that only lasted a month.

      • Petra says:

        One more reason to stay away. He doesn’t know what he wants, and doesn’t see he’s hurting people left and right with his indecisiveness. Like an bull in a china shop – you’d always have to walk behind him and pick up the pieces he isn’t even aware he knocked down. And it would be painful.

    • Petra says:

      Why people do hurtful things and play with our feelings – because they don’t know any better. Unfortunately, that’s all there is to it. Your ex seems like a confused, insecure man. He needed your attention and support, and he took it. When he longer needed it – he discarded you, without thinking how you feel. That’s not the type of person you want to be with – selfish, insensitive, unaware. I know you still love him for the good times and his other qualities, but try to look at the whole picture. He may have great qualities – but the one he is missing – emotional maturity – is such a big thing that it would always create problems in your relationship, no matter how much you tried and how much you loved him. There would be other things that would hurt you. What he did is much more important then what he said – we can all say nice things and profess love but delivery and consistence is what counts. He seems like a troubled man who isn’t sure what he wants, or what love is. Why would you want to be with someone like that? You deserve more than that, and you can find it.

  8. Kalvin says:

    I was with my ex for 2 years we had a good life together after a while I decided to break up with her because we kept arguing about things that mattered to me back then & we couldn’t come to a solution. After the break up we used hang out all the time for couple of months and my feelings started to grow back for her. she kept saying she loves me and she miss me a lot & she wanted to get back together. So I decided to give it a shot I told myself maybe we can work it out. 4 days passes we didn’t talk I thought she want her space. Then she post a pic on FB w her new boyfriend. I felt so betrayed I felt like she played me & she was not sincere when she said she still loves me. And now I can’t stop thinking about her, I tried to talk to her and told her what we used argue about it doesn’t matter to me any more and I want to be together again. I even offered her half of my business to prove to her how much I’m serious that I want to be w her. But she doesn’t want to. I’ve been trying to hang out w friends & family to try to forget about her but every time I go to bed & wake up I remember her. I feel like there’s a fire inside of me & I don’t know how to put it out. It’s a messed up feeling. I feel sometimes what’s the point of life any more if you can’t be w the person you love. I feel I have no interest in anything any more. I don’t know what to do. Never felt so lost in my life.

    • Petra says:

      You broke up because things were bad. Try to remember that part more vividly. If you were such a great match, you’d be back together. What hurts most now is your pride and your ego – because she was the one who pulled the plug, not you.

  9. Fiffer says:

    I just broke up with my boyfriend of eight years. I am struggling emotionally and even physically, but I believe that if I fight through these feelings there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. If I would have stayed in the relationship, I would have been robbing myself of what I value in a relationship. I believe in loyalty, friendship, intimacy, etc. His lack of committment and lack of concern for my feelings have led me to conclude that the love was not reciprocated. I can no longer trust him and therefore do not even see him as a friend. It had become hard to even be intimate with him due to the trust issues I developed from our time together. As much as I once thought he was finally the one for me, I sadly came to realize that this was not the case. He and I began to bicker a lot, mostly due to my feelings of resentment. I was bitter because what I wanted for us was only the dream I had and he wouldn’t let that happen. I realized that I wasn’t the one for him but yet he continued to string me along anyway. It hurts to wonder why am I not the one he chose. Why wasn’t I good enough for him in his opinion. Although he has done things to hurt me emotionally, I still feel deep loss. There were also many great things about him. Hopefully in the future I can look back at those good memories and smile, but not feel sad. Right now, I guess it’s best to only focus on the bad things.The only concern I have is the sick feeling I have in my stomach and the deep sadness that consumes me 24/7. This is pure grief, I know. Any idea on how long it takes for the grief to subside after 8 years in a serious relationship?

    • Petra says:

      It’s very individual how long it takes to get over someone, and it’s hard to predict that. I’d say if it takes anything between a few months and a year, that would make sense for your situation. 8 years is a long time and you have to get him out of your system in many ways now, re-define your life and yourself, what you want and how you want to live. That is a cleansing process that will go hand in hand with your grief because you are not only grieving your love, you are letting go and changing, and change is always a bit unpleasant. But your head and heart are in the right place so I believe it won’t take longer than necessary. Take your time, don’t be hard on yourself if you feel sad or down, that’s normal and natural – be gentle to yourself but also understand life has to go on. Just do what feels good, whether it’s crying or partying, looking for dates or attending to your personal passions and interests – it’s all part of the journey and it will all help you heal your heart.

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