If you’re going through a breakup, it’s totally normal to miss your Ex. But it can also be a confusing experience. You might wonder, Why do I miss my Ex when I know the relationship was bad for me? Or, Why do I still miss my Ex when I was the one who ended it?
You want to recover from your breakup or divorce, heal your heart, and move forward — but you’re still longing for your Ex, months or even years down the road. You might wonder if you’ll ever stop missing your Ex, and that thought can make you feel broken and hopeless.
I’ve worked with many heartbroken clients in breakup therapy who want more than anything to get over their Ex, but they don’t know how. I’ve become something of an accidental breakup recovery expert over the years, and I even wrote a book called “Exhaholics” about healing from heartache. I wrote this article to help you, too. Read on to learn all about the most common reasons people get stuck after a breakup or divorce, and the steps you can take to stop missing your Ex and start moving forward today.
If you’d prefer to listen, I’ve also created an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast on why you miss your Ex and what to do about it. You can find it in the player below, or on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Why Do I Miss My Ex So Much?
Missing your Ex doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It just means that your brain still has an emotional attachment to someone who is no longer in your life. Your feelings are a sign that you haven’t been able to detach from your Ex yet, grieve the loss, and move on — but you can, and the fact that you’re reading this is a sign that you will.
Releasing your attachment is always a painful stage of a breakup or divorce. But in my experience helping people heal their broken hearts, I’ve seen a few other factors that can make it more difficult for you to “get over” your breakup and stop missing your Ex.
One of these factors is wounded self-esteem. Losing a relationship causes you to doubt your worth, especially if you were the unwilling dumpee. If you’re pining for your Ex, you may be craving their validation, love, and approval, not because of how wonderful it was to be in a relationship with your Ex, but because you are feeling crappy about yourself thanks to their rejection. This common experience is in the same neighborhood as missing your Ex, but it’s actually different.
Another place where people get stuck is in idealization. You may have a tendency to idealize people who reject you, especially if you grew up with a critical, rejecting, or emotionally detached parent. If you haven’t yet healed from rejection and repaired your self-esteem after your breakup, you may be idealizing your Ex and missing a version of them that doesn’t really exist.
You could also be idealizing the relationship itself. Losing someone you’re attached to is painful, even if your breakup was for the best. The deep part of your brain that’s hooked on your Ex doesn’t understand the long-term benefits of breaking up. It only knows that you are hurting right now, and so it makes up a story about how positive your relationship was and how terrible it is that you’ve lost it to make sense of how you feel. Even though you know intellectually that there’s much more to the story, it still feels true because it matches up with your pain.
Another big sticking point can be the loss of all of the other things that were connected to your life with your Ex. Particularly if you’re going through a divorce, losing your relationship doesn’t just mean losing your Ex. It can also mean losing your home, your financial stability, your pets, your social circle, and full-time custody of your children. Even if you weren’t married, your feelings about losing the life you had (or wanted to have) with your Ex are likely tangled up with your feelings about losing the relationship itself.
Rumination can be another culprit when someone is stuck missing their Ex. Constantly thinking about your Ex can be a way for your mind to “stay in touch” after you’ve cut the cord, which will prolong your attachment, and your pain. You may be fantasizing about getting back together, or worrying about how you’ll deal when your Ex moves on with someone new, or having imaginary arguments with your Ex in your head. When you’re ruminating, your Ex becomes a squatter in your brain, draining your emotional resources and not paying any rent. It feels like you’re missing your Ex, but you’re actually oversaturated by them.
Odds are, more than one of these “sticking points” applies to you if you’re missing your Ex. Once you’re clear about where you’re getting stuck, then you can begin to wriggle free.
What to Do when You Miss Your Ex
So, what should you do in the moments when you miss your Ex?
It’s one thing to sit in a therapist’s office and discuss how you’ve been feeling about your breakup or divorce, and it’s another thing to ride the waves of painful feelings as they wash over you. What tools can you use to cope when you’re alone at two in the morning and the only thing you want in the world is to be held by your Ex?
The first tool in your toolbox is self-awareness. That means knowing how you feel, but also having some insight into where your feelings are coming from. When your brain is shouting at you that you want your Ex, try to trace that feeling back to the thoughts that are producing it. Maybe you’re feeling bad about yourself and you want your Ex to offer you love and validation so that you can feel better. Maybe you feel anxious about the uncertain future that you’re now creating on your own and you’re longing for the known quantity of life with your Ex.
When you see the cause-and-effect relationship between your thoughts and your feelings, it helps you gain distance from them. It also helps you climb back in the driver’s seat and begin choosing thoughts that help you feel better rather than worse. More on that later.
The next tool in your toolbelt is self-compassion. Heartbreak hurts. Don’t make it any harder than it has to be by beating yourself up for your “mistakes,” invalidating the way you feel, or pushing yourself to “get over it” on some made-up timeline.
Instead, focus on offering yourself emotional self-care. You can start by thinking about what it is you feel like you need from your Ex and then finding a way to give that to yourself. Do you need their love? An apology? Validation? Forgiveness? You have the power to give yourself all of these things, and that’s what will actually move you forward in your healing process.
Another tool is reminding yourself that the relationship was, at the very least, a mixed bag. I know this for certain because it ended. Either the relationship wasn’t sustainable for you and so you had to call it quits, or you were with someone who chose to leave you. That is just not good enough. You deserve to be in a healthy relationship with someone who loves you and is committed to you. I know there were other downsides to the relationship as well, and reminding yourself of these can help you stop idealizing a failed relationship and stop missing your Ex.
Finally, whatever you do, don’t reach out to your Ex. It can feel like you need to get “closure,” or have sex with your Ex one last time, or tell your Ex how you feel, or try to become “friends” with your Ex. These are the self-defeating games that heartbroken people play with themselves. The true path to healing and moving on is allowing your attachment to fully fade away (and it will, I promise).
How to Stop Missing Your Ex for Good
These are the strategies that will help you ride the waves of missing your Ex. But how can you stop those waves from coming once and for all?
You can start by allowing yourself to mourn your true losses. Even though the relationship with your Ex was not good enough to last, there were parts of it that were positive. It was a big part of your life. There are things about your Ex that you loved and that you miss. You may also be missing a dream about what your future could have been, which is a real and valid loss. Allow yourself to grieve these losses, while leaving space for the complex reality of life with your Ex.
You also need to build up your self-esteem. Remind yourself as many times as you need to that, no matter what happened in this relationship, you are worthy of love and respect. You deserve to be healthy, happy, and well, even if you made mistakes or if someone else didn’t see your value. If you find yourself reflexively shrinking away from these statements, that’s a sign that you could really benefit from working with a good therapist to improve your self-esteem.
Another important step in healing is making meaning out of your experience. This process is an active one, and it requires creativity. It involves writing your own story (mentally, or on literal paper if you need to) about what happened in your relationship, why it happened, what you learned, and what happens next for you. These are all things that you get to decide — no one else can do this for you. When you find the story that makes you feel the strongest, most hopeful, and most empowered, that is the correct one. Then, tell yourself that story as many times as you need to. This can help you put an end to rumination, create closure, and stop missing your Ex.
As you look toward your future, think about what would have needed to be different about this relationship in order for it to be sustainable for you. What do you need from a good life partner that you couldn’t get from your Ex? How has this experience changed your approach to dating and relationships going forward? Answering these questions for yourself helps you reclaim your agency, especially if you were rejected. There are reasons that this relationship was not good enough for you, even if you got dumped — find those reasons and make a plan to not recreate them in your next relationship.
Support for Healing from Heartbreak
Longing for your Ex is a painful place to be. But the process of recovering from heartbreak is also an opportunity to grow as a person, become a better friend to yourself, increase your self-esteem, take charge of your story, and begin writing a positive new chapter.
This is valuable work, and I know you have what it takes to do it. If you would like support from a breakup recovery counselor or coach on my team, I invite you to schedule a free consultation.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
P.S. — I’ve created a “healing after heartbreak” collection of articles and podcasts to help you feel better, let go, and move forward. I hope you’ll take advantage of it — it’s all there for you!
Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast
Why You Miss Your Ex (and What to Do About It)
Free, Expert Advice — For You.
Subscribe To The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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