What’s The Difference Between Letting Go & Moving On?

Moving on from a long-term relationship after it ends is pretty damn difficult, but letting go for good can be even harder. So how do you it and what’s the difference between the two? Here are some pointers to help you figure out where your head and heart are at and what you can do about it.

  1. Dating someone new Moving on means you figure that the only way to get over someone old is to get under someone new. You can refer to that as a rebound. Letting go means you’ve opened yourself up to someone new with no lingering feelings for your former flame. You’re finally free to love without limitations.
  2. Mending the mistakes Moving on means accepting what happened, but still wishing that you could change it. You’re trying to remember all the bad in the relationship but for some reason the good overclouds it. Letting go means finally living without regret. You’ve fully recognized and accepted what was wrong with your relationship. You’re older, wiser, and finally feel like the mistakes taught you something.
  3. Getting over the past Moving on means you’re still pushing through it. You still feel hurt and anger when you’re reminded of your relationship. It’s a transition, and you’re still figuring out the process. Letting go means you’ve transitioned into your new life. The past is in the past and you’re finally over what happened. You’re not reminded of your breakup every day but on occasion, if you are, the anger is gone.
  4. Forgiveness Moving on means you haven’t reached this stage of moving forward just yet. You want to forgive only so that you forget, but the hurt and the anger is still there. Letting go means you’ve let go of your anger and forgiven him and yourself for the mistakes that you made. You may never fully forget them, but you’re not bitter.
  5. Relationship stance Moving on means you question whether relationships are really worth all of the pain. Should you even bother dating again? You may even convince yourself you’d be better off alone. Letting go means you don’t care about making your ex jealous. Your heart is ready for someone new. You realize that not all relationships are the same and the next one could be different, even if you remain a little cautious. 
  6. Keeping tabs on your ex Moving on means you change his name in your phone to some sort of insult as a reminder not to text or call even when you’re drunk AF. You’re in a struggle of not wanting to see his posts because it hurts and needing to see it, because you can’t stand not knowing. Letting go means you have deleted, unfollowed, and maybe even blocked. He’s not in your life anymore so you don’t really care what’s going on with him.
  7. Seeing your ex with someone new Moving on means you feel angry and jealous. You’re probably hoping that she breaks his heart just like he broke yours. You’re stuck in a constant comparison of what she has that you don’t. Letting go means that when you hear about your ex’s new relationship it’s almost a shrug off the shoulder. He’s moving on and so have you. You know you’re better off apart, anyway.
  8. Girl talk Moving on means your girls know that you are ready to pack up your feelings and move on with your life, but the conversation is still very present. You talk about your ex and even still share your hurt and frustration on a regular basis. Letting go means your ex is no longer a topic of discussion. You don’t share and they don’t really ask, because there’s no need. Sure, he may come up from time to time, but only if you run into him or his gossip hits the grapevine.
  9. Memories Moving on means you return his stuff and throw out your personal reminders because you don’t want to remember him everywhere you look. It’s just too painful. Letting go means that every now and then, something triggers a memory, but you don’t feel pain anymore. It’s just something that once was; now it isn’t, and that’s OK.

Some tips for moving on when you’re struggling

The idea that moving on from a relationship and your ex once things finish is easy couldn’t be more untrue. After all, you loved him and invested a lot of time and energy in him, so leaving him behind will take time and effort. Here are some extra tips to get you started.

  1. Let go of the fantasy and get real. It’s so easy to think that your ex was some god on earth and your relationship was all sunshine and rainbows, but fooling yourself with this clearly false narrative is keeping you from moving on and letting go of what you had. Sure, there were good times, but not enough of them to make your relationship work. Realize that you weren’t right for each other and that you weren’t meant to be together.
  2. Accept your emotions and recognize that they’re totally normal. There’s no shame in admitting that you’re sad, disappointed, angry, or any other number of feelings after a breakup. Trying to play it cool and pretending that you don’t care isn’t helpful and will ultimately set you back on your healing journey. Accept those difficult emotions and let yourself experience them fully. The only way out is through, as they say.
  3. Talk about your feelings. The process of moving on from your ex can be a difficult and lengthy one, so this is the perfect time to rely on your support system. Talk to your parents, siblings, or best friends about what’s going on in your head and heart and how you’re coping. They’ll be there to encourage you and pick you up on the difficult days as well as cheer you on on the good ones.
  4. Keep yourself busy. If you’re trying to move on, the best way to do it is to keep moving. I don’t mean that you should occupy every spare second of your day in order to distract yourself from your feelings. Compartmentalizing never works, as I said, and this will ultimately backfire. However, the one thing you definitely don’t want to do is wallow. Spending all day every day lying on the couch staring at pictures of the two of you on your phone is not helpful. Get up, get out of the house, and go do something that brings you joy and makes you feel alive (or at least keeps you from throwing a pity party).
  5. Determine what you’ve learned from the relationship. One of the best ways to process the end of a relationship and stop seeing it as a failure on your behalf is to reflect on all the things you’ve learned from it. Every relationship teaches us something vital, a lesson (or several) that we take with us into our next partnerships. Think about everything you got from this guy and how you’ve changed because of him. That should help you gain some perspective.
  6. Drop your baggage. Playing the blame game is a surefire way to keep yourself stuck in place and avoid moving on. If you think everything was your fault or everything was his fault and you’d still be together if only he didn’t ____ or you would have ____, stop. This isn’t helpful and it certainly doesn’t change things between you. Drop all that baggage and take a deep breath. It doesn’t serve anyone.
  7. Whatever you do, don’t stay connected with him. It’s tempting to keep following him on social media so you can see what he’s up to and what his life is like now that you’re not in it. Don’t do it. Why do you want to torture yourself? Not only will staying in touch with him prevent you from leaving him behind, it will also fuel the fire of your obsession with a relationship that’s now dead. Do yourself a favor and block and delete him everywhere you possibly can. Maybe someday you can be friends but now isn’t the time.
  8. Change your environment and your life as a whole. You can’t change your life if nothing changes, you feel me? It’s important now to make big moves to change something about your life. Maybe multiple somethings. Whatever wasn’t working before needs to go. This is your opportunity to forge a new path. If there were places you wanted to go, things you wanted to do, people you wanted to get to know, do it. There’s no day like today, as they say.

Kelsey Dykstra is a freelance writer based in Huntington Beach, CA. She has been blogging for over four years and writing her whole life. Originally from Michigan, this warm weather seeker relocated to the OC just last summer. She enjoys writing her own fictional pieces, reading a variety of young adult novels, binging on Netflix, and of course soaking up the sun.