Reader Question: How Do I Know If I’ve Fully Moved On From My Ex When I’m Still Single?

Hi LoveLearnings,

My (now ex) bf just ended what I believed had been a good relationship. It was a serious 4-year relationship and I hadn’t really been with anyone else since. How am I supposed to know if I’ve already moved on when I haven’t found anyone to date yet? Should I be dating soon? Thanks in advance!

Sabrina Kingston
Melbourne, Australia

Woman drinking aloneI’m often asked about what people call “closure” or “moving on” or “getting on with my life” after a breakup. What does that mean, and how do you know if you’re doing it?

That’s a good question. It depends on what you mean by “fully moved on.”

In the early stages after a breakup, you’re usually just concerned with day-to-day or hour-to-hour survival.

How do you motivate yourself to brush your teeth, make your bed, eat, sleep, etc. when your heart has been torn up and trampled on? For a few days, this kind of mourning is OK. Some people take longer to return to even this basic level of function.

So, there’s one degree of “moving on.” You’ve progressed to the stage of remembering to shave and brush your teeth and eat and clean up your home. Good job. Is that what you mean by “fully moved on?” I doubt it. The word fully implies some sort of total recovery from your breakup and your ex.

Moving On As in Living Your Life

The next degree of “moving on” is progressing to the higher levels of living your life, beyond work and chores and such. This is when you get out of your home and start living your life again.

Human beings are social creatures, and so you get social. You take a class – martial arts or oil painting or music appreciation or chess or Japanese or cooking – and you get out and have fun, use your mind to learn new things, meet new and interesting people, and become a more interesting and happy person yourself.

I’m not talking about dating – that’s something different. I recommend waiting a while before dating again, particularly if it was a serious relationship you lost and a bad breakup.

Now, wait a minute, you say. You just told me I need to get out there and have fun after a breakup. What is more social and fun than dating?

Dating is fun, but it’s also messy and stressful, and after a bad breakup you don’t need that kind of stress. I advise waiting at least a month after a breakup before you even think about dating. That month is for you to focus on you.

All the stuff you should be doing during that first month – getting out and living life and having fun, making friends, laughing, learning, and not communicating with your ex at all – is all part of “moving on.”

Couple parting ways on highwayGetting out into the world and reminding yourself that you are a good, interesting, curious, fun person is a big part of moving on.

Moving On Means Doing OK Alone

You may have defined yourself partly or mostly through your recent relationship, and it’s time to remind yourself now that you can get along OK, even better than OK, on your own.

And that’s the crux of what “moving on” really is. When you truly realize that you are OK as a single person, as an individual, that you can still be happy and have fun and live a meaningful life on your own, then you will have moved on.

It has nothing to do with starting a new relationship at all. It is a state of mind, like Buddhist enlightenment, but not nearly so hard to achieve, fortunately.

I’m sure you know people who broke up with someone and then immediately rushed into a new relationship. Do you think they “fully moved on” the moment they began their new relationship, even if it was just a day or a week after the breakup? I don’t think so.

Indeed, the best way to get ready for a new relationship is to spend that time with yourself, learning and laughing and being social and having fun. When you’ve done that for a while, you’ve become much more attractive to others because you are happier and livelier and more interesting.

So “moving on” is all about you and your relationship with yourself. It doesn’t have anything to do with being single or in a relationship. You can be single and still hung up on your ex, or you can be married and have kids and still be hung up on your ex.

That’s why I suggest building a healthy relationship with yourself, doing fun things, learning new things, having adventures, enjoying life. That’s the best way of moving on, and of preparing yourself for the next relationship.

When you understand and accept that, you will have fully moved on.

About Jessica Raymond

Jessica Raymond, BSc, RCC, is LoveLearnings senior editor. As a relationship counselor, Jessica has helped hundreds of men and women achieve their relationship dreams. Whether it’s finding your one true love or simply charming someone on a date, Jessica's got your back! In her articles, she reveals little-known, psychological tips that will make even the coldest person chase you around like a little puppy.
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