Finding Freedom From a Past Relationship

Photo of a young adult woman using a laptop

Find yourself constantly daydreaming? Dissecting every conversation? Reading romantic subtext into completely normal communication? Maybe you've been through a breakup but you can't stop thinking about your ex.

Infatuation is a normal part of romantic attraction, and when the stars align, it can be the start of a great relationship. But when the stars do not align and the relationship does not develop, what do you do when you can't seem to kick the fixation? Or what do you do when the relationship is over and you just can't let go?

I feel your pain. I was stuck in infatuation for several years, and long after the attraction had soured, the fixation continued to grip me. As a smart, confident and capable woman, I felt a deep rift between who I knew myself to be and the seeming lack of control over my own actions. It had become an addiction — and I had been caught.

Freedom from infatuation was a slow and painful process, but the final break at last occurred. Thankfully, I am on the other side now. If you find yourself where I was, consider the following steps to help you find your own freedom.

Pray

You know it, and I know it: We need to take our pain to God through prayer. I'd recommend you pray that God gives you freedom from the affliction, endurance for the time and strength to pull yourself away. God's power truly is greater than the power that binds you (1 John 4:4).

Also, recognize that there's a strong potential the Enemy is at work here (1 Peter 5:8). I realize now that my own infatuation was a crafty strategy of the Enemy to keep me distracted and feeling ashamed. You can pray against this.

Find new activities

Some part of the infatuation may be dispelled simply through distraction. Finding new activities will get you out of your own head, particularly if those activities involve serving others. When you are confronted by the real needs of others, your emotional fixation tends to pale.

Find new people

I don't like to admit that I can't do things on my own, yet I've learned that one way to see the negative qualities of a past relationship is to be involved in a positive relationship. For those who read my last article on online dating, you know that I didn't sit at home after my breakup: I was out meeting new people. I'd encourage you to meet new people, too.

Confess

Sin loves darkness and hates the light. Keeping issues to yourself just lets them fester. Whatever is in your heart, you need to confess to people you trust so they can pray and offer insights to you.

At first I was embarrassed by my ongoing infatuation. But once I confessed it openly and started asking others to pray for me — and as other people opened up to me about their own experiences — I gained two things: accountability and wisdom.

Processing a broken relationship is not easy, and the longer you were in the relationship, the harder it may be to get over it. Give yourself grace to hurt, take the time you need to heal and let others speak into your life.

Forgive

Infatuation and forgiveness probably don't seem like topics that go together, and frankly, it took me far too long to see the connection. After my breakup, I was so angry and hurt, I felt so humiliated and rejected that the heavy weight of emotions carried the infatuation further than was necessary. Whether I was fixating on the person because of romantic feelings or because of hurt, it was still fixation.

Purposefully working toward forgiveness required that I empathize with the person who hurt me. I could see that he was just a person who made mistakes — the same as me. Do I wish he had behaved more maturely and treated my heart more carefully? Sure do. But I also had to take responsibility for my own actions. Recognizing his humanity and my own humanity helped me to forgive him. And in doing so, I was able to release him.

I don't want to make it sound like forgiving was easy — it wasn't. I didn't want to forgive him, in part because I was worried that if I forgave him, the romantic feelings might return. I eventually realized that the infatuation was never going to end as long as I held on to the emotions that were also holding onto me.

For those of you who have suffered a broken relationship, it's essential that you find grace to forgive the person who's hurt you. Remember: forgiveness isn't just for the offender; it's for the offended so you can set yourself free.

Grieve

It is also important that you allow yourself to grieve the lost relationship. It may feel silly, but it's important you recognize that you had a dream for this relationship and that dream is over. For some, you may have had an extended time to process the end of the relationship; for others, it happened suddenly and without reason, or maybe with betrayal. With any loss, sadness is to be expected. Allow yourself to experience it.

I would encourage you to find resources to aid you in the grieving process. There are plenty of books and insightful online research available to help you understand the stages of grief and find ways to alleviate it.

Get an accountability partner.

Make sure you have someone of the same sex whom you can talk to. You'll need someone who asks questions regarding your actions and your thoughts. Make sure that it is someone you feel comfortable calling whenever you need assistance.

Go cold turkey.

If you can, completely cut yourself off from all interactions with the person who's the object of your affection. Avoid checking his or her Facebook page or receiving updates through other social media outlets.

Consider professional counseling.

Addiction is powerful. If the infatuation is maintaining its hold on you, it's likely there is something else going on that needs to be explored. A professional can help. Editor's Note: Focus on the Family offers a one-time complimentary consultation from a Christian perspective. It also offers referrals for licensed Christian counselors in your area.

One month after I knew I had been freed, I met my current boyfriend. I am convinced that I would not have been emotionally available to him if I had not done the hard work to break the chains of my previous infatuation. From a woman who made it to the other side of a longstanding infatuation, I want you to know that freedom is possible — and I encourage you to go after it!

Copyright Joanna Saul 2015. All rights reserved.

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