How Can I Move On When I’m Still In Love With My Ex?
Updated September 20, 2019
Reviewer Laura Angers
If you find yourself thinking, "I'm still in love with my ex," you might be wondering how long it will take to finally get over him or her. 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 having these feelings.
When you're in love with someone, moving on isn't easy. However, there are things that you can do to make the process go more smoothly.
How to Move On- Even When You Love Your Ex
Understand Attachment. First, 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. Love and attachment simply do not work that way. 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. 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 him or her.
Trying to move on is even more difficult if you were not the one to choose to end the relationship. This is likely to be pretty easily understood. 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. 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.
Healthy grieving involves several stages, which you pretty much must go through to move past a prior relationship. There are many factors which might impact your specific experience of those stages. 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 to him or her, figuring out how to move forward in your life without that person is not necessarily a simple prospect. But it is possible.
Get Closure. One of the first things you should do after a breakup is to find closure. Understanding what lead 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. If you and your ex are on speaking terms, ask as many open 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 future relationships.
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.
Create Healthy Boundaries. Practice makes perfect, as they say, so think, speak, and act as though you have moved on. Drop "we" from your vocabulary, make decisions solo, and go out without a partner by your side. 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 therapist to uncover things about themselves that might be holding them back.
Some boundaries you can set include:
- Appropriate reasons, and ways, to get in touch. Co-parents certainly need to talk about the children they share, even if they do not share physical custody. But there is certainly appropriate limits to what should be included, as well as timing, and frequency, of such interactions.
- 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.
- 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 you is uncomfortable with such displays of affection and closeness, the other should not 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. 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.
Can Therapy Help with Moving On?
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. 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. 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 feeling lonely or thinking about your ex a lot.
Below, BetterHelp patients identify ways in which their therapists have helped them move on in different ways.
"I have been working with Heather for over 8 months on relationships, anxiety, confidence and self-love. She was kind, attentive, and down-to-earth and after a few sessions, knew what kind of therapy sessions I needed. She actively listened to me and gave me the perspective and reality checks I needed to move forward with my self-care journey. In her bio she says that her 'counseling style is compassionate and caring' and she is absolutely right. For all the people who feel stuck or at a low point in your life, I highly recommend you seek her out. She is the kind of therapist that gives you epiphanies. If you have the pleasure of working with Heather through your issues, you are in good hands."
"Working with Jerry has been helpful to realize that some of what I'm trying to do or change feels really overwhelming, and that feeling can be normal but also that it can be dealt with. He has a good balance of reflecting back what I've said in challenging ways, but also giving me suggestions on how to adjust my thinking to be healthier."
Moving on is hard, even in the best of circumstances, and trying to move on when you are still in love with your former partner adds a whole new level of difficulty to the mix. It is important to give yourself grace as you work to move forward. Allow yourself to seek help, and with patience and care you can leave behind a lost relationship, learn to let go, and move on to a fulfilling life. Take the first step today.