Tricks to move on from relationships and break from your past

Your mental toolbox can always use a few new tools. This week, one queer thinks they'll never love again, while another is sure he'll never live down the mistakes of his former self.

Q:

After two long-term relationships that lasted years, it’s now been even more years since having anyone special in my life at all. 

I’ve had hopeful but ultimately futile false starts with a couple of people. I just couldn’t seem to jibe dating them with the rest of my life. 

One friend suggested that the older we get, the more set in our ways we become. He said that I should get used to the idea that less room for change means less room for love, and that I might be happier if I embrace reality.

I’m all about creating change or learning to live in this new normal, but I have no idea how to go about it.

Dear Stuck:

The desire for “figuring everything out” is natural. As we get older, we like having some of the bigger issues out of the way so we can concentrate on other things.

But sometimes, we clear our plate so well that it is empty of anything at all to nibble on. If you’re at the point of saying, “This is how I am. This is my approach. This way of thinking will serve me from now on,” maybe it’s time to open back up to the unpredictable.

It doesn’t have to be the Big Questions, but it can be more questions than you currently consider. It doesn’t have to be with everyone, but it can be with special ones.

Forget about embracing reality figuratively and embrace the question mark literally — and this exercise goes for any reader who doesn’t know what’s next. Draw or cut out a large question mark. Put it on a poster board or paint it directly on the wall. 

Fill it with your visions of love and new adventures. It can be photos, clippings, Post-It note scribblings, poetry, headlines, faces, whatever. Ponder it, reference it, and bask in the questions you want answered. It may sound hokey, but it might help you manifest a new destiny. 

Q: 

In the last five years, I quit drugs, stopped smoking, got fit and got counseling. When I did, I started to find more satisfaction at home, at work and in relationships.

The trouble is, I’m still grappling with a past I hate and some of the people who remind me of it. You recently gave some good advice about coexisting with a bad past, but I’m clueless about actually making it happen.

Dear Ancient History:

Feeling good about ourselves informs every other facet of our lives, and you’ve forged a great path so far. But even when we’ve done the hard work, the hard work never stops. 

Having the discipline to keep going and keep improving is tough, but it will keep reaping rewards just like the other changes you’ve made. Moving on and moving forward is a journey, not a destination, and coming to terms with your past sounds like your next step.

The hurdles may be mental, but bringing them into the physical world via ceremony could get you started:

Write a letter to those who hurt you, or even to your past self. Set them on fire and envision the past going up in smoke.

Take a list of your regrets to the river. Pick up a leaf for each one, forgive yourself out loud for it, drop it downstream, let it go, and watch all those worries float away. 

The Q is for entertainment purposes and not professional counseling. Send your burning Qs to [email protected]

Illustration by Brad Gibson

This column originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the latest issue, enjoy all of the past editions of The Q advice column, and look for a new issue of Q each week online and around town.