11 Signs You're Stuck in the Past

Sometimes, it’s hard to move beyond the past. Life is about change, but big changes – especially those you’re unprepared for – can leave you feeling emotionally unmoored and stuck.

Maybe your marriage ended in divorce. Maybe your kids grew up and left home. Maybe you’ve closed a chapter in your career. Any of these big changes could potentially leave you feeling stuck and unable to move on. And while there’s no set timeline for moving on, it’s not healthy if you can’t shake its hold. 

Here are some signs you might be stuck.

1. You’re constantly ruminating

You constantly replay scenarios, conversations, decisions, and disagreements that occurred during a friendship, past relationship, or your marriage. You replay arguments and what you would have said or done. These “would-haves” become a continuous loop through your mind. 

Reviewing things to make sense of them and consider possible alternatives is normal. But some people find they can’t stop going over and over things they can’t change. This isn’t productive. Consider the lessons you want to learn, but then, move on. Don’t let old scenarios take up any more precious time from your present life. 

2. You resist change

Change can knock you out of your comfort zone whether you like it or not. If you accept it, it can lead to increased self-love and personal growth. If you resist it, life feels unmanageable, overwhelming, and exhausting. 

Change is scary and uncomfortable, but with it comes opportunity. Clinging to the familiar can seem safe, but it can prevent you from growing and experiencing new things. Take changes one baby step at a time, and before you know it, they won’t seem so scary.

Find your support system, whether that’s a best friend, a relationship coach, a therapist, or a support group.

3. You compare everything

You compare every new potential love interest to your ex-partner. They always fall short. But the past is often tinted by that thick pair of rose-colored glasses you’ve dragged around. 

Every experience comes with advantages, satisfactions, pitfalls, and disappointments. The present doesn’t get a fair chance when you measure each new experience against an old (and possibly semi-fictional) ideal. Stop comparing everything to the past – and yes, this includes previous relationships – and make friends with the present. 

4. You use past achievements or roles as your current identity

It’s nice to look back at past successes and even celebrate them on occasion. But when your identity is still wrapped up in long-ago achievements and roles, you miss out on who you can be in the present. 

Now is the only time you have. Staying stuck on accomplishments from the past robs you of the experiences and growth you could benefit from in the present. 

5. You avoid letting go

To experience love means you’ll also have to experience heartache and, quite possibly, a broken heart. And while heartbreak is never comfortable, it happens to everyone. Holding on to the end of a relationship keeps the hurt forever fresh. 

Stories don’t always have happy endings. If you can let go of the ones that don’t, you gain the freedom to create new ones and find happiness again. 

6. You wallow in nostalgia much of the time

The good old days are fun to revisit. But most times, they weren’t actually as good as they appear through the lens of your memory. That selective memory makes nostalgia fun. But if that’s where you spend most of your time, it’s time to pick up the anchor and move forward.

Like the good old days, today will have its ups and downs, but you can’t appreciate the present when you’re stuck in a myth from the past. 

7. You limit your future planning

The way you once pictured your life may be far different from what it really is. If you’re stuck in a past vision of your life, it can make you feel like a failure, and your future won’t get much consideration.

Being stuck in the past can make the future seem downright intangible. It limits how you envision your possibilities and prevents you from creating an enjoyable future. Dreams and goals make life more exciting. Let yourself dream again. 

8. You have strong feelings of regret

Regret can be helpful. It prevents you from making the same mistakes and bad decisions. But it can also keep you from moving at all, which only hurts your mental health.

Regretting your mistakes is okay. But mistakes can also be some of your greatest teachers. If regret prevents you from learning and moving forward, it also keeps you from future goals, aspirations, and happiness. Don’t let regret keep you frozen. 

9. You have strong feelings of resentment

When you’re feeling resentful, you’re on a rollercoaster of emotions — and you give the other person your power. Although it might be understandable and even justifiable, resenting someone keeps you stuck in blame. 

Take your power back. Even if you can’t forgive, stop wasting precious time on old resentments. 

Suggested: 6 Ways Forgiving Your Ex Gives You Power

10. You have strong feelings of sadness

Grief is a normal response to loss and change, but if you can’t shake the sadness, it can move into more concerning things like depression. Learn about the concept of complicated grief, and get help if you believe you are suffering from it. Hard times shouldn’t last forever. Don’t let sadness linger too long and rob you of your well-being and happiness. 

11. You resist healing

It’s possible to get stuck viewing your life through a rearview mirror. The only way to get around this is to go through it. It’s important to grieve, acknowledge the past, learn from toxic relationships, and move on instead of letting the past define your future. 

If you find that you’re actively resisting healing and happiness, you might want to consider getting professional support to help you through it. 

Divorce is one of those big life changes that can keep you feeling stuck for a long time. Even if you’re prepared for it, it changes your life so fundamentally and on so many levels that you may still get entangled in sadness and regret and feel unable to move on.

As your life changes, it’s normal to look back at the things you’ve experienced and take inventory. If you surround yourself with a supportive community, you can benefit from the understanding and outside perspective of people who have gone through the same struggles as you. 

At Hello Divorce, we can provide some of that support with online support groups, divorce plans, and related services specifically designed for people who want to simplify the process so they can get on with their future. Schedule a free informational phone call to learn more. 

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Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.