Julia* spent 19 years in a relationship that wasn’t right for her. She felt stuck and unable to move forward. The day she realized she had to let it go, she was alone in her office. She fell to the floor in tears, overcome by grief and fear. She remembers sobbing, “I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life.” But Julia got up, changed her life, and did things that gave her joy and confidence. “I took up jogging—and that’s how I met my husband.” She was 39, and they got married within a year.
Julia’s story of finding love again isn’t as rare as you might think. Even if you’ve lost hope, and that finding love again seems impossible, there are many reasons to hang in there.
- You’re made for love.
You may feel hesitant about romance after suffering disappointments. But it’s human nature to seek comfort and companionship from others. Human beings are wired for love. That’s why we keep going back, despite losses and heartbreak. The drive for union is inherent in our species. Survival becomes more likely if we’ve bonded to another because we can face the world together. We’re irresistibly drawn to one another.
- You never know what lies ahead.
You may need to work at opening up to love again. But romance shows up where you never imagined it could, and unexpected feelings can develop. Many people who gave up on love are surprised when they fall in love again. Under the right circumstances, the human heart—however damaged—can still beat again.
- You can move past a bad relationship.
Start with the relationship you have with yourself. Learning to love yourself gives you strength. Fear is a common reason to stay in a bad relationship. But even small steps can boost your confidence, even in your love life.
- You can start over.
Losing love is crushing. Especially after repeated disappointments, you need to take some time to get to know yourself again. Every bump along the way gives you deeper insight into what’s important to you Each person has something to teach you about yourself. It’s important to center yourself without over-emphasizing your need for love. Living a full life while seeking love reduces the neediness and urgency that sometimes accompany our search for the right person.
- You can release old baggage.
Being aware of relational patterns is helpful, because new relationships can trigger old behaviors. We must learn from our past, so we’re wiser in love moving forward. We need to forgive, wherever possible, so we don’t carry old baggage into our new relationship. Often, when we haven’t fully worked things through, we unconsciously project our old fears onto our new partner. This can create problems and undesirable relational dynamics. It’s easier to attract what you want when you’ve learned from the past and have let it go.
- You can let your guard down.
It’s natural to protect your heart with emotional armor. Ultimately, though, you must risk being vulnerable. When we’re in fear, we become defensive and shut down. This unintentionally pushes people away. It’s important to suspend your fears and open yourself up to love.
- You can overcome negative thoughts.
Jeannie met her true love at age 45 and became a first-time bride at 48. “‘Big love’ can be found at any age if you’re willing to release limiting beliefs,” Jeannie said. “Negative self-talk can only defeat relationship goals.”
- You can adopt a new point of view.
We can rewire our minds to better support healthy relationships. “Nobody can escape heartbreak and loss in life,” Jeannie says. Our brain chemistry can be altered by our belief system. Practicing hope and faith increases our endorphin levels, which elevates mood and ultimately triggers the positive behaviors that help us find love.
- You can find love.
Anna lost her job, ended a relationship, and landed in midlife with no mate or children. Though this led to several pity parties, it also motivated her to launch a hopeful blog and to rebuild her life. At a friend’s urging, she enrolled in Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“I was paired with a smart, witty 7-year-old girl. She became my focus of adventure and love,” says Anna, who chronicled that experience, as well as her stories of dating, midlife marriage, and family, on her blog. “I truly believe that choosing to love, to give, and to shift my focus off of ‘poor little me opened up my heart. Only then was I able to meet the man I married.” They met 13 months to the date Anna was paired with her Little Sister. He was a widower with two daughters. The five of them built a beautiful and unique family together.
- Friends can hope for you.
If you’ve lost all faith, your friends can help. You sometimes just can’t possibly hope for yourself. But it is possible to hope for somebody else. Anna recalls, “One of the best gifts I ever received was from a friend. After a particularly painful breakup, she told me, ‘I know you don’t believe it right now, but somebody special is out there for you.’ That friend stood up in our wedding,” Anna said.
Your heart can heal.
Though there’s no recipe for recovering from bad relationships, you can take steps to move forward. Soon you’ll realize you’re growing, changing, and becoming a better version of yourself. Once you see yourself from this new perspective, you’ll attract a different type of person—one who appreciates that. If you don’t find true love, this better version of yourself can create a life that brings greater satisfaction and meaning. You truly are a worthwhile force for good. When you see yourself this way, you’ll have the patience to wait for things to unfold the way that you want them to.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.