How Can I Move On When I’m Still In Love With My Ex?

By Corrina Horne |Updated August 9, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Laura Angers, NCC, LPC

If your relationship ended and you find yourself thinking, "I still love my ex," you might be wondering how long it will take to finally get over that love. If you just broke up, it makes sense that you're missing your ex at first, but if it's been a while, you could be getting impatient with yourself for still thinking, “I love my ex” long after you have gone your separate ways.

When you're in love with someone, moving on isn't easy. However, in most cases, there are things that you can do to make the process go more smoothly, resolve your painful emotions, and stop thinking, “I love my ex.”

It can be hard to move on from love when you still love someone, but it is possible still to move on from love.

Working With A Mental Health Professional Can Provide Clarity And Perspective

How To Move On Even When You Still Love Your Ex

Understand AttachmentFirst, it can be very helpful just to understand something about attachment and love. Just because a relationship ends does not mean that your thoughts and feelings end abruptly. It is totally normal to have lingering feelings and keep on thinking, “I love my ex,” for some time. Love and attachment simply do not make a clean break when relationships end. When you genuinely love someone, you become attached, almost like two pieces of paper glued together. While it may seem quite easy to affix them to each other, breaking that connection is much more difficult, and intimate connections and leftover feelings take time to change. Healthy love includes caring for the other person unconditionally, sacrificially, and selflessly. These are pretty important features of healthy love when we want a relationship to stand the test of time. But they can interfere with our ability to let go and move on when the relationship is over. So, be patient with yourself. There is an extent to which your on-going love for your ex may be completely natural, understandable, and evidence of your genuine love for the other person.

Trying to move on is even more difficult if you were not the one to choose to end the relationship. You might be left constantly thinking about your broken heart and what went wrong with the relationship with someone you loved deeply. It’s easy to understand why many people go on thinking “I love my ex.” But you may be surprised at the strength, or length, of your love for your ex if you were the one to end the relationship. You may have assumed that since you made a choice, you would just easily move on without going on feeling, “I love my ex so much, how can this be?” when you were the one to end it. Again, that is just not how love and attachment tend to operate. Once your heart has become attached to another person, it takes time, and some intentionality, to be able to let them go and move on. This may be because while you decided to end your relationship, you did not want to. It was a matter of external factors or the other person's on-going issues (addictions, abuse, infidelity, etc.) which prompted your decision. So now you are grieving not only the loss of the relationship, but you are grieving the loss of your hopes for the relationship.

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

Healthy grieving involves several stages, which you must go through to move past a prior relationship. There are many factors that might impact your feelings during specific stages of this process. The length of the relationship, the type of relationship, how and why it ended, may all be relevant to how long you experience your grief. And those stages are not a direct line, in a forward direction! You are very likely to 'recycle' some stages.

The bottom line is: be patient with this process. Understand that when you truly love someone and have become attached, many complex emotions are involved in this deep connection. Figuring out how to move forward in your life without that person is not necessarily a simple prospect. But it is possible, even when soulmates break up.

Get ClosureOne of the first things you should do after a breakup is to find closure. Understanding what led to the demise of your relationship is likely to help you be able to let go and move past it. Unfortunately, closure is not something we can demand, or create at will. However, we can be intentional to help ourselves move in that direction, and talking to a relationship expert can help with the process.  If you and your ex are on speaking terms, ask as many open-ended questions as you are able, and which your ex will allow, to help you have as much understanding as possible. This can not only assist you in letting go of that relationship, but it very well may help you be healthier in a new relationship.

Remember Your Strengths. Struggling to move on is in no way an indicator of how desirable, normal, or lovable you are. Everyone struggles, at one point or another, to move past a time, a relationship, or a situation in their lives, and this struggle is simply an indicator of being a human being. It is what you do with your struggle that actually defines your health and well-being, not that the struggle exists at all. Leave negative self-talk behind and try to focus on your own incredible qualities and the ways you are strong, capable, and independent. Keep in mind that thinking, “I still love my ex,” is completely normal for many people and not something to be ashamed of. Keep in mind that being in love with your ex is about love, and love among the most important emotions we ever have.

It can be hard to move on from love when you still love someone, but it is possible still to move on from love.

Create Healthy Boundaries. Practice makes perfect, as they say, so think, speak, and act as though you have moved on, even if you keep thinking, “I still love my ex.” Drop "we" from your vocabulary, make decisions solo, and go out without a partner by your side. For many people, it helps to spend time with close friends or family members who understand that it’s normal to still love someone you separated from and who are supportive of the difficult time you are going through. The final say in whether or not you can move on comes from you and your willingness to take the final steps to do so. As impossible as it might feel to let go of someone for whom you felt an overwhelming, all-encompassing love, the good news is this: you can do this!

Countless people have come before you, wracked with pain and loss, and have gone on to lead healthy, happy lives, whether these people find other partners and move on in that way, or find other pursuits that they are passionate about. Some of these people will take solo steps toward leaving a loved one behind, while others will enlist the help of a family member, licensed counselor, or therapist to uncover things about themselves that might be holding them back.

Some boundaries you can set include:

  1. Appropriate reasons, and ways, to get in touch with your ex. Co-parents certainly need to talk about the children they share, even if they do not share physical custody. But there are appropriate limits to what should be included, as well as the timing and frequency of such interactions.
  2. If you still hang out or talk, you can still set boundaries around what you talk about and how you interact with each other. For instance, no flirting is pretty reasonable if you are trying to move on. And spending time together obsessed with thoughts about “I love my ex” can be counterproductive.
  3. You can also set boundaries around your physical actions. While it can seem very natural to hug when saying 'hello' or 'goodbye,' that is not at all mandatory, even between friends, or those who wish to remain friendly. If one of the people involved is uncomfortable with such displays of affection and closeness, it is not reasonable for the other to demand it.

Go Out on Dates. Getting back out there after ending a relationship can be scary, but you should push yourself to do it when you feel ready. After a breakup, it's important to get out, have fun, and meet new people, even if your purpose is not about finding true love or starting a life and a future with someone new. Going on a date can be a way to build back your self-esteem and explore different things than what you did with your ex. It might take a little while before you're ready, or even interested, in dating anyone again. On the other hand, you might be thinking that a rebound is just what you need. Either way, it is always to your advantage to ensure you do have the closure you need from past relationships before even considering entering a new one. Don't worry if the first date you go on doesn't go well. The first person you meet probably won't be right for you, so take this as a time of self-discovery in which you decide what you will want out of your next relationship. You don’t have to stop loving your ex before you start dating. 

Can Therapy Help You Move On From Love?

One of the most difficult parts of moving on from someone can come from moving on from everything involving that person-including their family or friends, people who you've most likely grown close with. This is where therapy can come in, and online counseling can be a convenient and easy way to start. When you feel hopeless, overwhelmed, or like the task in front of you is utterly impossible, sitting down with a mental health professional can help you gain some perspective, confidence, and clarity. After all, the two of you broke up for a reason, and talking to a counselor can help you gain a better idea of what that was. Even if you were not the one to instigate the breakup, your partner undoubtedly had a reason for doing so, which means the relationship was not ideal for both of you. Whether your relationship just ended, or it has been a while, a counselor can assist you in seeing how your thoughts and actions keep you stuck in your current situation. A counselor can also help you by giving you coping techniques to try if you're lonely or can’t stop thinking, “I love my ex and I don’t know what to do about it.”

Working With A Mental Health Professional Can Provide Clarity And Perspective

 

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