09/30/2014 10:02 am ET Updated Nov 29, 2014

Why Is It So Hard to Let Go of Your Ex?

Troy Byer

Letting go of someone you romantically shared your life with is nearly impossible to do if you don't first know exactly what you are holding on to. The good news is, the access to this information is a very simple process that involves you getting crystal clear about the "label" or "title" you originally assigned to your ex. Mind you, I do believe there are instances when titles and labels aren't necessary. However, when it comes to letting go and healing matters of the heart, I believe titles and labels are a must.

Bottom line: Perceptions lead to labels -- labels lead to expectations.

Unfulfilled expectations often lead to upsets (heartbreak) and when we are able to manage our perceptions we simultaneously alter our expectations. For example, if you see a four-legged animal that looks like a cow, not only will you label it cow, you will expect it to behave like a cow. If what you have referred to as a cow starts barking like a dog, not only will you be confused, but depending on your investment in the cow being a cow, you will also be disappointed. The same holds true with the labels and titles we give our loved ones. If you label your romantic partner your "king," it's because that's how you've chosen to perceive him, and, as a result, a king's behavior is what you'll expect.

The process of re-labeling your ex allows the brain to do a bit of re-filing, if you will. When we are suffering over the loss of an ex, it's often because our brain's perception doesn't match our heart's expectations or experiences. The human brain requires a sense of comprehensive order or it will reject whatever information it receives. In other words, until the mind's perception is a match for the heart's experience, there is a glitch in the system; reality is warped and confusion and upset prevails. 

So the next questions are, what did you originally label your ex? And as a result of this label, how did your mind perceive your ex and what did your heart expect from your ex? If you're not sure what you might have labeled your ex, here are two hints:

1. The label you assigned your ex will have a lot to do with the gifts he/she contributed to your life or the gifts you miss the most since your relationship ended.

2. The label you assigned your ex will have to do with the agreements he/she made with you.

Whatever the label was, chances are it was a label you assigned your ex in the past when you were in the presence of affinity for one another. So, the next question is, "What label can you assign your ex now?" This label should be one that, first, works for you and, second, empowers you both. For instance, I had one client who labeled his ex-wife his "nurturer." I had him immediately re-label her because, until he did, his mind would continue to perceive her as a nurturer, and his heart would have expected her actions to be consistent with that of the old label. After several tries, he excitedly re-labeled her "cultivator," because he felt comfortable relating to her as someone who taught him how to nurture and be nurtured. The moment you choose a new, more suitable title for your ex, there will be a shift in your perception of your ex; as a result, your expectations will instantly alter as well.

At this point, if you are experiencing any resistance to creating a new label for your ex, it's most likely because your mind wants to hold on to the original label you assigned your ex so your heart can experience the behavior consistent with this label, when and if you reunite. If this applies to you, know that re-labeling your ex won't alter the possibility of you reuniting with your ex. Actually, re-labeling your ex will support you with the possibility of reunion. Einstein said it best, "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." By re-labeling your ex, you will instantly shift into a different consciousness, which will then alter your perceptions, your expectations and inevitably create different experiences for you. In fact, your current relationship with your ex is the evidence that your current label does not work. 

If you want to see new results, you must take new actions. Creating a new label for your ex is a new action, an action that could very well produce new results that far surpass your expectations. The moment I was finally able to re-label my ex-husband "my parenting partner" instead of "my protector," my thoughts went from "I wonder how I'm going to survive in the business world without him," to, "Wouldn't it be nice to take our son to Gymboree together this weekend?" That new label put everything into perspective according to our shared priority, our agreement, and sixteen years later we remain the best of friends. It really was that simple. It was that simple because, metaphorically speaking, I finally changed the title of our book and therefore the story that would unfold across the pages of our book changed as well.