How Can I Move On When I’m Still In Love With My Ex?
Updated April 15, 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 Can I Move on When I'm Still in Love with My Ex?
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.
Bottom line, be patient with this process, understanding that when you truly love someone, so 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.
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.
Create Healthy Boundaries
To help with the process of getting over your ex, it may be important to set clear boundaries, dependent upon your ongoing interactions. If your relationship ended badly, that might not be hard to do, but if you're still friendly or there are kids involved, it can be much more difficult. Boundaries should be appropriate to your specific situation, and mutually respectful, as much as possible. You are not trying to punish the other person. You are attempting to do what is reasonable, and necessary, for both of you to most efficiently disconnect from each other, so you can each move on.
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.
Seek Out Counseling.
You could still be in love with your ex for a wide variety of reasons, and some of these could be evidence of issues that would be healthy for you to explore. For instance, while it is completely appropriate to need someone because you love them, it is not healthy to love someone out of need. So, if your grief seems to be past a reasonable point, regarding either intensity or length of time, you may want to seek counseling.
A counselor, either in-person or through an online counseling service like BetterHelp, can help you heal and move on after a breakup. It can also feel great having someone impartial, and understanding with whom to talk who is more objective than those closest to you can usually be.
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.
Go Out on Dates
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's best to wait until you feel ready and not get out there because other people say you should. 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. Relationships require enough intentional effort, without the complications of unnecessary baggage of an unresolved past romantic involvement.
Further, we tend to be attracted to those who are kind of symbiotic to ourselves. This means that if you are not yet complete in and of yourself, you may be drawn to someone who is also not quite independently healthy. This is not likely to serve either of you well, in the long run.
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. Don't worry if the first date you go on doesn't go well. Bad date stories are half the fun!
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.
If your ex is always on your mind or hanging around, it can be hard to get over him or her. If you're lonely and they've already moved on, it can be even more torturous being the one that's still hung up on your relationship.
Getting help doesn't mean you're weak at all. Knowing what you need and asking for it is, in fact, a brave thing to do.