Getting over him

Why Do I Still Love My Ex And How Do I Move On?


If you’ve ever asked yourself “Why do I still love my ex?” you probably also wondered how long it will take to finally get over them.

Love and grief, like many emotions, aren’t predictable. Experiencing something good that turns bad is always painful.

In the end, it doesn’t matter why you broke up and who said what – you ended up hurt and you found it difficult to move on in your life.

You separated but your emotions stayed the same because they can’t just disappear overnight. If the breakup was unexpected, and particularly if it was painful, this is even more true.

Even if you thought you hated that person right after the breakup, later on (and possibly after a few glasses of wine) you probably realized “Oh no, I’m still in love with my ex”. “Wait, why do I love him so much?”

So, why do you still love your ex?

One of the reasons is definitely attachment.

Attachment is the deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another. It’s the first thing we seek as children and we keep searching for it throughout our life.

woman in white dress tucking in sitting in the wooden planks

When we genuinely love someone we invest so much time and so many feelings in them that we almost feel like part of us stays with them – and part of us does.

After a heartbreak, many people feel like they’re missing a part of themselves. When we’re in a relationship we tend to think as a couple and always care about the needs of our significant other.

It becomes a regular thought pattern and a lot of people have a hard time going back to only caring about themselves.

Often, people who get used to being in a long-term relationship will jump into a new relationship because they can’t stand being alone.

They think that a new boyfriend or a new girlfriend will solve their problems. Do I even need to say that’s rarely the case?

A healthy relationship requires one person to care about the other and share their happiness and sadness.

Once that’s gone we’re left feeling confused, lost, and betrayed – even if we weren’t really betrayed.

Every separation is trauma. Every loss of love is tragic. That’s just how human beings are. We’re dependent on love, connection, and being accepted by other people.

woman's face on pillow while sitting in the living room

No wonder we’re obsessed with concepts like soulmates and a love that lasts forever. Deep down every one of us wants to be fully accepted and loved unconditionally.

The only problem is, we will never feel fully anything until we accept ourselves first. It might sound cliché, but it’s true.

Think about what kind of feelings the absence of another person has awakened inside of you?

Do you feel like you’re not good enough, do you feel ashamed or abandoned – are you angry or sad?

Ask yourself why you feel all those feelings. In almost every case of stubborn emotions that won’t go away, there’s an underlying issue we have with ourselves.

The thing is – when you’re at peace with yourself you can be sad and love your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend; you can admit to yourself “I still love my ex” and yet move on with your life.

It’s possible to give yourself enough time to grieve and then look back at everything with acceptance and love in your heart and start living your life without them.

It’s not abnormal to keep loving your ex after the relationship ends.

beautiful lady thinking with dark colored top and hand on her face

After all, you shared the most intimate parts of yourself with them. Even if things went wrong in the end, what happened between you two at one point is still real.

Every relationship, romantic or not, healthy or unhealthy, is a learning experience and if you reflect on your past relationships you might notice that similar patterns keep on repeating throughout your life.

Everything that happened between you two was meant to happen and that includes the breakup.

Breakups are hard because it’s not only about the separation – it’s about having your dreams and hopes shattered.

All the things you imagine you would do with your partner turned out to be an unreachable dream and that’s extremely unmotivating.

Not to mention all society’s expectations that we subconsciously accept and that make us repeatedly feel disappointed because we, our partner, or our current relationship, don’t look a certain way.

Real-life isn’t a romantic comedy.

It’s messy, unpredictable, and sometimes scary and painful (especially when it comes to the stages of a breakup). Things don’t always go the way we want them to but that doesn’t mean we should give up.

woman near the glass window holding a cup wearing turtleneck top

It’s possible to achieve what we want – it’s just that we first need to know the difference between what we really want and need and what we think we need and want.

For example, if someone has broken up with you, doesn’t that mean that that person clearly isn’t what you need?

Yes, we can always choose to indulge in fantasies we create about our partners but eventually, we should realize the truth, even if it hurts – if they don’t love us that means they’re not what we need and the heartache that we feel might be just the pain of feeling not good enough for someone else.

We need reciprocal love. We need a best friend and a lover who loves us unconditionally. Before all of that, though, we need to love ourselves.

Sometimes we end up heartbroken just to learn to build a healthy relationship with ourselves along with other people.

All the time and effort we put into other people we should also put into ourselves. Self-love is what will heal us from pain.

Don’t continue the cycle, break it. Don’t end up in another relationship and repeat the same mistakes when you can heal yourself first and be ready for the person who’s really meant for you.

Don’t be afraid to be sad, to grieve, and reflect. All these things help to teach you a lesson. On your journey to self-love and healing, you will need some extra steps to make things easier:

How to move on from an ex you still love

Apply the no contact rule

top view of a woman hands on her head sitting in an office table filled with laptop notebooks and cellphone

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

The purpose of the no contact rule is to help you heal from a breakup and see things more objectively. Breakups are messy and people are sensitive.

Every little thing can trigger our feelings: one word or text message is enough to make us spiral down to our lowest point – not to mention what one look or the sound of their voice, their smell, or their touch could do.

If you’re frequently thinking about your ex, you’re not ready for any kind of contact.

We go back and revisit all the best moments we had with them while forgetting all the bad ones (because that’s what our brains do).

Cutting off contact is hard, but it’s the most efficient way to really heal. Remove them from your social media and stop texting them.

And let’s not fool ourselves – keeping an ex as a friend is too often just a sign that one of you is hoping for things to go back the way they were.

I’m not saying that friendship isn’t possible, but it’s not possible right after a breakup and it’s not possible to be as intense as you would like it to be.

You need to protect yourself with healthy boundaries, especially if you’re in a situation where you can’t avoid seeing your partner – for example, because of children if they’re your ex-wife or ex-husband.

Think about your feelings and what makes you feel good and what makes you feel bad, what feeds into your longing, and what makes you feel good on your own.

Be a friend to yourself first. Live your life. Do things that make you happy, even if it’s just a small and insignificant thing. Try doing new things.

Find yourself again. Explore your interests alone. Invest in yourself. Make plans for yourself and start working on them.

Hang out with your friends and let them take your mind off your ex. Start talking to other people.

Just put all your effort into self-improvement and self-care activities and make sure it’s something you truly like.

Stop idealizing your ex

woman sitting in a couch holding a cup wearing knitted top

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.” – Haruki Murakami

This is probably the number one reason why we can’t get over our exes. We idealize them!

Ask yourself: “Do I love my ex or do I like my idea of him/her?”

We go back and revisit all the best moments we had with them while forgetting all the bad ones (because that’s what our brains do).

Essentially, we imagine things that are not true in reality. Memories are not reliable.

It’s easier for us to think about what’s already been than to deal with what’s happening now.

Getting back with your ex won’t solve anything and you’ll probably end up even more disappointed and create a problem and a half.

They’re not what you remember: they are the same person you broke up with – and you broke up with a reason.

They’re not the one who got away. If they’re gone, that’s because they weren’t the one.

Romance and daydreaming are not a bad thing, but if they make you hurt yourself – then yes, I suggest you skip them altogether.

There’s no perfect person for you and your ex definitely wasn’t perfect either. You don’t want your ex back.

There are people with whom you can achieve your full potential but that still doesn’t mean they’re perfect, it means their imperfection doesn’t affect you badly.

Instead of idealizing your ex, use your imagination to plan out the next big thing in your life that’s going to make you happy.

Remember you’re powerful

woman leaning on rock wall near the stairs wearing orange top

“You’re always one decision away from a totally different life.” – Unknown

It can be tricky to gain confidence after a breakup but that is exactly what you need to work on.

You need to fall in love with yourself again. Let yourself heal in peace but put work into things you love to do.

Now it’s the best time to push through self-limiting beliefs.

Go back to that mindset of a child when you thought you could do anything – because that’s true and you still can. What separates you from that is your fear of failure.

Don’t be afraid of failure. Everyone who has made progress and become successful in any aspect of life first had to fail.

Failures, in the end, always become proof of our success and hard work.

Remember the potential you carry in yourself – you can do the things you dream of and you don’t need anyone but yourself.

Don’t confuse your past experiences and your memories with facts. What happened to you in the past doesn’t define you. You have permission to change and outgrow things.

You have permission to live your life on your own terms.

Don’t forget that you’re powerful being on your own. Ditch the self-doubt and start experiencing life as a one time opportunity.

You’re powerful enough to face your fears – and that includes the fear of loneliness, the fear of not being enough, and every other fear that comes with a breakup.

Accept your past

woman dancing around during the break of dawn/dusk in the grassfield

“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forwards.” – Søren Kierkegaard

Let it go.

Step one is to allow negative emotions and be gentle with yourself.

Step two is to accept the fact that other people don’t owe you anything, they’re responsible for their actions and how you react to things is your responsibility.

Stop thinking about what-ifs. What happened in the past stays there. The only thing you can affect is now. So, pinch yourself and ask: What can I do now to better my life?

Take care of your needs

woman in the spa with towel on and flowers and candles near the window

“Be you, love you. All ways, always.” – Alexandra Elle

Start actively thinking about your well being. Engage in self-care.

Don’t just read about and listen to what other people are doing but try to find the things you personally like.

Take care of your body. It’s not just a superficial thing – it’s the way we connect with the present moment.

That’s how we ground ourselves and rest our overactive minds. Other than that it’s the practice of self-love.

Learn to say no, protect your energy. Choose who you spend your time with.

Get organized. Treat yourself to a trip to somewhere you always wanted to go.

Spend time with your friends and tell them how much they mean to you. Don’t be afraid of being vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings.

If you’re feeling like things are not getting better, seek the help of mental health professionals. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact – it can transform your life and make you feel whole again.

Don’t think it’s wrong to still love your ex

silhouette of woman facing the sea with her hands the back of her head

“I don’t count life as life without love.” – Leo Tolstoy

Don’t close off your heart because you’ve been hurt. If you still love your ex that means you’re capable of loving someone without interest and that’s a beautiful thing.

Don’t ever think that feeling is wrong, because it’s not – no matter what anyone says.

Don’t stop believing in love and think you’re never going to find anyone who will understand you.

You never know what life has in store for you. There’s always a silver lining in every situation, you just need to look in the right direction.

Dealing with a breakup is tough but it’s possible to overcome it.

I can assure you that one day you’ll look back at this part of your life and be grateful that things happened the way that did because they taught you so many things about life and yourself.

Thinking “I still love my ex” shouldn’t be something that holds you back or makes you feel self-conscious.

You can grow from it and change that thought to “I love myself enough to understand that thing that happened to me helped me grow and be the person I am today”.


Category: Getting over him

Roberta Carroll

My approach is eclectic and holistic with a focus on mindfulness. I have received certifications in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Processing Therapy (trauma), among others. I spent over 10 years at the Veteran’s Administration in Louisville, KY, working as a psychotherapist with veterans of all ages and genders on a wide variety of issues. Prior to that my focus was on young adults and their families and older adults dealing with loss. Individuals have met with me for help to address depression and anxiety, grief, trauma and relational issues as well as work-related/everyday stressors. The therapeutic process provides a safe place for the client, in collaboration with their therapist, to process distress, discover areas of “stuckness” and move forward into a life of increased meaning and joy. Accepting our imperfections and practicing self-compassion can be a difficult as well as rewarding process. I have lived and worked in different areas of the country, have come to understand how regional differences affect our outlooks and appreciate the contrasts. I have relished the opportunity to assist clients as they carry the burdens of life. It would be my privilege to hear your story.

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