How to Leave Your Ex Behind

By David Herz

Posted on May 19, 2016 by in Advice, Relationships, Advice, Ending Relationships
How to Leave Your Ex Behind

Photo by: Ihor Malytskyi

This is an excerpt from my guide, Manning Up: The Guide to Get You Back in the Relationship Game.

First, you will not forget your ex, but until you complete your relationship with her, it is likely to haunt you. (I wrote this originally for guys; if you're not a guy, just switch the pronouns: it should work just as well.)

So here's what I suggest:

  1. Thank Her: Sit down and write a letter to her thanking her for every little thing she did with and for you. Acknowledge her for how she made you feel, and for who she was for you.
  2. Forgive Her: Make a list for yourself of every way you think you have been slighted by her. Consider that any and all of these things might have come from a place that had nothing to do with you. Maybe she slept with someone else because of her own insecurity, not something that had anything to do with you. Write down at least one reason for each of those things that would make it not about you.
  3. Forgive Yourself: You are human. You make mistakes. You screw things up. You might have just killed the best thing you ever had, and just now come to realize it. But as long as you hang on to this, you will not have any chance to see the next great thing, the one that could be ten times better than the best you've ever had. As long as you entertain any conversation that you are a screw up, you will not give yourself permission to be fully in the next relationship. That's a shame, because you deserve a great relationship. So write down every way you were a dick (excuse my language), maybe note where that came from, forgive yourself, and make a commitment not to do that again.
  4. Acknowledge Yourself Give yourself credit for everything you were and brought to the relationship. You are great. Notice all the things you did to build the relationship you had. And thank yourself for that. And note that even if your ex didn't get it or appreciate it, you made a difference. And get that that passion was not wasted. Maybe misdirected, but not wasted. Don't let that go. It's part of what makes you the amazing person you are.
  5. Learn from Her: Take on that maybe you did have something to do with every thing that happened. I know this sounds the opposite of a previous point; it's not. It's not that anything was wrong or your fault; it's that if you take on that you are cause in the matter, you actually can choose to come from somewhere else. Maybe try “She slept with someone else because she wasn't feeling loved by me. Where could I bring love into the next relationship so that doesn't happen again?”
  6. Get that the Next one is NOT YOUR EX: We are human. We look for patterns. We get burned. We say “Aha, I'm not going to let that happen again.” The problem is we start looking for “that.” When we look, we find it. This will kill your love life. I'm not saying be stupid. But don't be suspicious for no reason. That would just be letting some past bad experience haunt you now. Don't let it.
  7. Get that the next one is Different: Even if she's your ex's identical twin, she reacts and thinks and loves and hurts diffently. You can not expect to know anything about her because you know anything about humanity, or women, or even her school or family. Let her suprise you.

As a bonus opportunity, you could actually call your ex and ask her if there is any advice she has for you. Thank her for all the stuff in number 1 above. Ask forgiveness, especially if you think it was all her fault. Ask her please to share with you everything that plugged her in or turned her off. There's probably a ton of stuff you just didn't notice.

Only do this if you can avoid reacting or getting angry. You want to learn here so you can be better in the future. Then finally ask her, “What's the one piece of advice, that if I got it, you think would make the biggest difference for me in my next relationship?” and listen like your love life depends on it.

Then thank her and move along. This should be enough to get you complete. If it's not, you've probably got other conversations about relationships not distinguished. If that's the case, then write down everything you say, or even hear, about relationships. Then look at each item and ask yourself if it's true. You'll notice that there are a lot of conversations in the background that could be getting in the way. But the neat thing is, the minute you notice them, you can let them be, and not let them have power over you. You can choose to come from some place else instead.

And once you've got that behind you, come follow me on Facebook, where I share a regular word of encouragement, sprinkled with some questions for a better date.


Comment from:

Hi I need an answer for this.
One guy will take 2 year time to propose a girl after she agree they where in to 7 month love later in her home parents made er to marry a another guy but the guy who love her he a nit in conditions to marry her in that time due to he was still studying. This was happen before 3 year back now she s having a baby I think she happy with married life but this guy still in her memory. Can any one say is this true love?
Now with same guy m also fall in love I have a feeling caring everything for him but from his end my not feeling anything but he say he loves me and he said ready to marry me.
But I need him completely main and he should feel for me what I can do for this.
But he say that was his true love can anyone say is that’s true love. And What is true love?

11/25/16 @ 11:16

Comment from:

The problem is it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. He’s stuck in the past. He has decided he missed "the one." Until he is ready to move on, to do this exercise, or whatever other work is necessary to put her behind him, he will not be 100% in any other relationship.
It could happen that in the course of a marriage to someone else, and with what he creates there, he lets his prior love go, or he could just become more distant.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter whether she was his true love.
Is he willing to love you and commitment to making an amazing life with you, and leaving his "true love" behind so that he can actually create something else, like a "new love."

11/28/16 @ 23:37

Comment from: zanele

I am in love with my boyfriend BT someone else asked me to marry him BT I don’t live that person the person that I love is the one that I am in love with the problem is that I see that this person will never marry me and he is cheating but I love him with all my heart and the person that want to marry me loves me too much BT I don’t have live for him the problem is that I agreed with the lobola negotiations BT my boyfriend don’t know anything about that I don’t even know what to say to him because I don’t want to loose him BT I do want to get married pls help I dnt know what to do now

02/14/17 @ 23:39

Comment from:

This is a helpful list. But I was confused on a basic point–the letter you send to her, listing all the wonderful things she did for you and how she made you feel. Do you send it?

05/30/17 @ 23:39

Comment from:

First, thanks for commenting. I hope you got some value out of this.
Second, you don’t have to send her anything. This is for you to get complete. Sometimes, in doing that, you find that there’s something you want to apologize for, or something you want to acknowledge her for, or you just want to give her a chance to be complete as well If that’s the case, share it with her.
In my case, whether we worked as boyfriend and girlfriend, I still value my exes as friends, if they are interested in staying in contact. So I’m happy to share with them.

06/01/17 @ 00:28

Comment from: matthew waters

I’ve currently have a girlfriend and still can’t stop thinking about my ex girlfriend that broke up with me over a year ago. Should still write to my ex thanking her for the good times? I still feel I might want to get back with ex, but not sure. I’m really confused in what to do?

06/18/17 @ 22:25

Comment from:

You can include it, but it’s not the main part of this exercise for you.
What you need to do is acknowledge that it’s over. It might be over because of something you did. It might be over for reasons having nothing to do with you. But as long as you are thinking about her, you are not completely with the person in front of you now.
Find a way to celebrate the person in front of you right now.
If you can’t, maybe you shouldn’t be in this relationship right now. Maybe you should take a little more time to just get complete with what was.

06/19/17 @ 01:05

Comment from:

I don’t ever think lying is the best option.
That said, this is a delicate situation. I don’t know your culture or what is expected or tolerated.
If you want to marry someone, in my culture, I would counsel you to share with your fiance the whole history. Great relationships come with a commitment to honest and open communication. Again, I don’t know if your even entertaining this other woman might cause your fiance to dump you.
As to the woman stuck on you, if you can get her to help, that would be good. Maybe it’s appropriate to talk to her family, or husband. Again, I don’t know your culture.
You obviously care for her, but she is manipulating that, even if she is not aware of it. It leaves you both without power.

07/20/17 @ 22:13

Comment from: Henry

I met this Indian girl when I was 18 and she was 20. She had just relocated to America from a small village in India. When I first met her, she was not doing anything else with her life except working numerous jobs. After a year of knowing her I asked her out and at first she said no but a few months later we began dating. We dated for 6 years this year however our relationship was always kept a secret for fear of her family finding out. I’m black because I’m certain that’s a key factor. In those 6 years I built this girl up. I forced her back into school, helped her with every course in her college single handedly raising her GPA from 1.8 to 3.6. To me she was the perfect girl. She took such good care of me and she loved me beyond words. Of course her family throughout the years kept nagging her to get married but she always told me she feared them finding out about us. She used to cry and say if she ever got forced to marry she would divorce whoever it was to be with me. She recently left for India for four months and everything was fine despite the headache that a marriage was inevitable. On a Thursday we spoke as usual, she told me she missed me, loved me, couldn’t wait to come back. Then the next day, she told me she wanted nothing to do with me in her life. She literally tossed me out. She said she met a guy who she decided to say yes to and it was her choice but she was giving up on me and on us. The said guy should I mention is very wealthy in India. At this same time I started talking to her best friend who it turns out had no idea we were in a relationship at all, 6 years at that! She felt betrayed and disappointed and said that my gf had met this guy a month before leaving for India and said she was on a date with him. I feel like she was forced into marrying someone and this wealthy guy came along and she decided to fall for this option. I’ve known this woman for so many years and this is not in her personality but all the information her best friend revealed to me made it seem like she is a golddigger. I’m so heartbroken because all of this happened so abruptly and with no warning. My heart is torn apart not only because I love this girl so much, but because she also showed me so much love and care. She told me to leave her alone, to move on because she had moved on. I was shown pictures of her and this guy by her best friend and also text exchanges between the girls, but when her friend confronted her about me and asked her to swear on her mother if she didn’t love me, my gf went silent. Can a female even if she was heartless forget the kind and gentle soul i always was to her? She always used to tell me how she will never find a guy as perfect as me (even as recently as the week she broke up with me) and how i was always patient and loving to her. She says she had been thinking about this for a few weeks now, but I think she is responding to all the pressure around her and the fact that in the eyes of her family they’d find her a fool to say no to this wealthy guy who is divorced. My heart cries for her deeply. I don’t know if I have the strength to move on.

12/16/17 @ 19:26

Comment from:

My advice doesn’t change. No matter how much you have invested, if she has decided it’s over, it’s over. You can try to make her see "sense," but it seems her sensibility has changed on the matter. She has obviously never had a backbone on the matter, or other people would know about you. It’s possible she was always just using you as a crutch. And again, so what?
You said you made her so to speak. I’d resent it if someone spoke like that about me. You encouraged her. You held her hand, but she did the work.
Do the exercise. Do it again. Give yourself some time, and do it again. The thing is to be grateful for what you had, forgive yourself and her, and find a way to complete it to move on.
Do something for your own good: meditation, exercise, that trip you always wanted to take, the class you thought you’d try, the instrument you thought it would be fun to take up, visit your parents, visit an old person, take care of someone’s grave, sit on a beach, take a walk in the woods. It might take some time to heal. You’ll heal quicker if you find meaning in something else. Become a bigger human being.
Maybe you don’t find love, maybe you can’t find love, by trying to make someone else. Maybe you need to let her be her (any her except the last one) best self, while you find your best self, and you let those two people play with each other.

12/26/17 @ 17:09

Comment from:

I don’t understand what lobola negotiations are. In the west, your choice is yours. I don’t know what other factors come into your considerations, but it’s your life. It sounds a bit messy at the moment. Maybe you should get away from both of these people and find some space to be yourself and discover what is important to you before you even consider making a future with anyone.
But don’t do it on the sly. Tell them what you are doing and why. Lay the whole situation before them (in which case they both might want to dump you, sorry), and start with a clean slate. You don’t want to go in with all sorts of unresolved issues in the background.

12/26/17 @ 17:15

Comment from: webster

I’ve been in a relationship with this woman for over a year and many times during the course of the relationship I tried breaking up with her because I felt she wasn’t the one. But she pleaded me and did everything possible to continue the relationship and at some point she started seeing a therapist during the course of the relationship. I was about to finally end it and tell her that we were not a good match but before I could do it she told me she was pregnant and wanted to keep the baby. I was angry and acted childish, I told her that she would be a single mom if she kept the baby. She finally got the abortion a week later and said she wanted to end the relationship. I felt really bad after that and was overcome with guilt and regret and I decided to take her back and start over again. She did not seem interested and was not giving me time. And then finally she said she couldn’t look at me the same way again and did not want to be with me. This drove me crazy and I’ve tried to sort things out with her and get back but she doesn’t trust me anymore.
I wanted to give her sometime to get over the fact that I made her get an abortion since she said she needed sometime. I waited patiently for almost a month and when I tried initiating a conversation again, she hardly replied and last week I got to know that she was sleeping with someone else. I sent her a mean email and she said that I was not a good person.
I have removed her from social media and deleted her number.
How do I stop thinking about her and am not sure if she really moved on?

10/14/19 @ 22:02

Comment from:

You do the exercise, get it complete and move on with your life.And you can’t erase your memory. A part of this will be with you always.
As to the abortion, you were a part in her choosing to kill her baby, with you, and then you want to go back to the prior status quo. Forget about it. You’ve already proven you are no partner when the chips are down, or when the possibility of something great shows up.
People carry the choice to have an abortion around with them for their whole lives, and you want her to forget it in a month.
It’s not about good or bad, but you have done no work to see the world through your partner’s eyes. It could be you are selfish, or you’ve just never thought it through. If you want something that lasts, and goes a bit deep, you should start practicing taking your partner’s viewpoint and seeing if you can’t see the world at list a little bit like she does.

10/15/19 @ 07:35

Comment from:

The advice doesn’t change. Do the work in the post.
But also look at why you would tolerate just being in a long distance relationship. If you want it to last, you’ve got to be able to smell each other’s breath, get used to each other’s quirks and manners, and celebrate those as well. You just can’t do that from a distance.
It seems to me it was very safe. I think you’ve got to get out with real people and let it get messy as it does with real people, and see how you go through challenges and adventures together.

11/11/20 @ 16:40

Form is loading...