They’re Not Here, So Why Do I Still Love Them?

Medically reviewed by April Brewer
Updated February 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
If you’ve recently broken up with a romantic partner, it can be hard to know how to move forward on your own. You and your ex likely developed a strong emotional bond, have had important memories, and provided each other with comfort and care. Lingering feelings can complicate the grieving process and prevent you from working through your emotions.

If you’re struggling to let go of a past relationship, there are several steps you can take that will help you navigate this transition period in a healthy way and embrace your new life. In this article, we’re discussing the reasons you may be harboring feelings for your ex and outlining several ways you can address them.

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Lingering feelings can make it hard to move on

Why we experience lingering feelings

When you’re in love, strong can occur. Many people experience an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, dilated pupils, and face-flushing when the person they love is near. The neurochemistry of love is such that we often develop strong attachments to the subjects of our affection. In fact, the areas of the brain that are activated during moments of attraction are the same areas that are implicated in addiction.  

During your relationship, you likely developed a deep connection with your former partner, and it can be difficult to lose that. Your ex may have given you emotional support and provided you with an outlet for your feelings. You might have opened up to them more than you do with others, divulging your fears, dreams, and secrets. The two of you could have made plans for the future and taken steps toward marriage. 

If you’ve opened up your life in this way with someone and then lost them, it’s normal to retain feelings for them. Many people go through similar experiences with former partners. Depending on the circumstances of your relationship—how much time has elapsed since the breakup, how long you were with your ex, etc.—it may take a while for you to work through your feelings and move on with your life. As we’ll discuss below, though, there are steps you can take to process your breakup and navigate this transition period in a healthy, constructive manner. 

How to move forward after a breakup

As we discussed above, it's okay to miss your ex. However, holding on to your feelings can prevent you from living the life you deserve. If you're struggling to get over your former partner, the following are several steps you can take to navigate the grieving process and learn to let go. 

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Limit reminders of the relationship

It can be particularly difficult to move on after a breakup when you frequently encounter mementos of your former relationship. You may still have your ex’s belongings, gifts they gave you, or photos of the two of you in your home. 

To avoid keeping your partner top of mind, try to limit the presence of these reminders. If you don’t want to get rid of photos and gifts, you can keep them stored away and out of sight. You can also return your ex’s things to them. It may be easier for you to embrace your new life when you aren’t confronted with memories of your past relationship. 

Avoid contact with your ex

It may be tempting to reach out to your former partner. Your ex may have been your closest confidant, providing you with an outlet for your feelings and talking through challenges with you. But contacting them can complicate the healing process. Try to avoid texting or calling them and consider taking out their number from your phone. You may also want to unfollow them on social media platforms so that you aren’t able to keep up with their life. If you must interact with your ex, consider setting boundaries around your communications; for example, you may decide that you won’t discuss certain topics with them, such as your love life. 

Reach out to loved ones

Your loved ones can be a vital source of support as you grieve the end of your relationship. Your friends and family members may have helpful insights into your former partnership that you hadn’t considered. They can help you process your emotions while also taking your mind off your ex. Additionally, they can give you tangible forms of care, potentially providing you with a place to stay or financial assistance. 

Spending time with your support system can help you feel better, while also giving you something positive to focus your energy on. Try to get out and have fun, even when it doesn't feel natural. Eventually, you're going to get back to feeling like your old self again.

Focus on yourself

While a breakup can be challenging, it can also provide you with the opportunity to nurture your passions, develop new interests, and learn more about yourself. If there were things you didn’t have time for when you were in a relationship, this may be the time to try them. You can also participate in activities your ex may not have enjoyed. Focusing on yourself can help you visualize how your new life will take shape. 

Wait to start a new relationship

If you're feeling down over the loss of someone you love, now may not be the right time to try to form a new romantic connection. Healing from a breakup typically takes time, and you may not be prepared to give another person your attention at this point. What we love about another person tells us a great deal about ourselves. For example, if you loved the fact your ex-partner volunteered at the homeless shelter, this means you are compassionate, and you are drawn to others with similar traits. That is something good you can take away from that relationship that may help lead you to the next relationship.

Take the time to learn more about yourself, and you will eventually feel strong enough to seek out a new love. Getting over a lost love might take weeks or even months, but you shouldn't focus on the time. There is a lot of love out there in the world, and you may soon find someone who matches up with your needs. If you wait until your heart is healed, you may be able to find a relationship that will truly be built to last.

Talk to a professional

The emotional challenges that can arise due to a breakup may be difficult to navigate on your own. If you're experiencing mental health-related concerns following the end of a relationship, consider working with a therapist. A therapist can provide you with emotional support, work with you to develop coping strategies, and help you shape your new life. They can also assist you in addressing symptoms of mental health challenges you may be experiencing. 

Navigating a breakup with BetterHelp

Research shows that online therapy is an effective method of providing care to people experiencing complicated emotions related to loss. Researchers in one particular study examined the efficacy of online therapy for depression and anxiety, noting that the program was geared toward addressing a variety of issues, including enhancing mood, reframing negative thinking, and dealing with breakups. Participants showed reduced symptoms after completing the program, suggesting it can be a useful tool in managing and preventing mental health concerns related to unrequited love.  

If you want advice, or if you simply want someone to talk to about a past relationship, consider utilizing an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. With online therapy, you can sort through your feelings related to a breakup remotely, which can be helpful if you’re not comfortable discussing such a topic in person. BetterHelp works with a team of qualified mental health professionals with varying specialties, so you’ll have a good chance of matching with someone who can address your specific concerns regarding a breakup, love, or attachment. Continue reading for reviews of BetterHelp therapists from those who have sought help for similar challenges in the past. 

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Lingering feelings can make it hard to move on

 Therapist reviews

"Pamela has helped me become the person who I wanted to be after my breakup. She helped me see the light in the dark and showed me that who I am is enough."

"Julia is a very open-minded, understanding, and warm-hearted person. She listened with kindness and without judgement. Her advice helped me tremendously through a bad breakup and ensuing personal problems. Her advice and understanding has been very helpful in guiding me to a healthier mind frame."

Takeaway

It’s normal to continue to be drawn to a former partner after a relationship ends. Experiencing lingering feelings for an ex can be difficult, but it is possible for you to move forward and live a fulfilled, happy life. If you’d like support as you process your feelings regarding a past relationship, consider getting matched with a licensed therapist online. With the right help, you can move on from your breakup and embrace the new direction your life has taken.

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