They’re Not Here, So Why Do I Still Love Them?
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.
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.
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.
"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."
What do I do when I still love him?
When you still harbor romantic feelings for someone after a breakup, it can be difficult to know what to do. Although the grieving process can take time, the following strategies may make it easier to let go of the relationship and move forward:
- Reduce or eliminate contact with your ex, either indefinitely or for a set amount of time
- Avoid immediately starting a new relationship until you’ve had time to grieve
- Put your attention on your own growth, hobbies, and interests
- Practice self-care, such as exercise and healthy eating
- Avoid reminders of your ex, such as photos, mementos, and gifts
- Connect with your support network
These methods may make the healing process easier after the end of a relationship. If you find yourself in need of extra support, speaking to a mental health professional may also be helpful.
Why do I still love him after everything he's done to me?
It is not uncommon to continue to feel attached to your ex, even after a painful breakup or the end of an unhealthy relationship. This may happen for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Having an idealized view of the relationship
- Still being in the early stages of grief
- Holding onto the hope that the relationship can still work
- Having challenges with self-esteem
- Believing you’ve invested too much in the relationship to let it go
- Worrying about what life will be like without your ex
The feelings surrounding a breakup can be complicated, and it can be important to practice patience and self-compassion as you move forward after a breakup. If you are struggling to move on, or you’re wrestling with the effects of an unhealthy relationship, it may be worth talking to a mental health specialist.
How do you know if you still love him?
Whether your relationship ended recently or a while ago, it can be normal to occasionally still experience feelings for your ex. The following signs may indicate that you still feel love for your former partner:
- Frequently thinking about them
- Frequently reminiscing about the good times in your relationship
- Wanting to maintain a connection with them
- Caring about their well-being and happiness
- Feeling jealous or hurt at the idea of them with someone else
- Comparing other potential romantic partners to them
Love can look different for different people, and that fully detaching yourself from an ex can take time. Practicing self-care, connecting with your support network, and seeking help if needed can all be helpful strategies during this period.
Will I ever stop loving him?
Maintaining feelings for an ex can be a highly individual experience, and whether or not those feelings completely fade may depend on the person. Some other factors that may play a role in this include:
- The length of time the relationship lasted
- The person’s level of investment in the relationship
- The strength of the person’s support network
- New relationships that may have developed after the old one
- The level of continued communication between partners
It may be worth remembering that moving on from an ex can be an ongoing process. Accepting that you loved your ex, embracing new opportunities to learn and grow, and allowing yourself to grieve at your own pace can all be useful strategies.
Why do men leave if they still love you?
Although love can be a factor in staying in a relationship, a relationship may not always be able to survive on love alone. For this reason, people of all genders may choose to leave their partner even when they still love them. Some possible reasons for this include:
- Conflicting life goals, views, or values
- A lack of healthy communication
- Outside factors, such as career challenges or illnesses, that put stress on the relationship
- Unhealthy relationship dynamics, such as manipulation, jealousy, or codependency
- Negative events in the relationship, such as infidelity
- Pressures from family or friends
- Mental health challenges
Different people may choose to leave a relationship for different reasons. Ending a relationship while still loving the other person can be a complicated and personal decision, but it can sometimes be necessary for both people’s happiness and well-being.
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