Within moments of sitting down, twenty-nine-year-old Stephanie (name changed) started crying – uncontrollably. ‘I’ve been like this for two weeks,’ she eventually managed to get out between sobs, gently wiping her large brown eyes so as not to smear her eye makeup.
Then, quickly brushing away the tears on her slim, prominent cheeks. ‘I can’t stop thinking about him! I’m going crazy. You have to help me, ‘she pleaded desperately, ‘I can’t keep feeling like this!’
Missing someone after a breakup can be a horrid experience, especially if we still have feelings for them.
Whether it is our first time, or we have been down this road before, the emotional hurt can be anything from intense, acute, and maddening – as it was for Stephanie – to end up being long, painful, recurring, and drawn out over many years.
Sure, it is ok to missing or former partner; they were an emotionally important part of our lives after all. But if we aren’t careful, the heartbreak can become toxic. It can lead us into deep depression and hopelessness – I’ll never find anyone else; I’ll always be alone and miserable.
Sorrow can stop us from seeing friends and being active – living a fruitful life. Thinking about our ex can become an unhealthy obsession threatening our long-term happiness and wellbeing.
Is there an ideal time we should take to get over the pain of a broken heart?
No, moving on from a failed relationship is a personal and individual experience; there is no set period of time or formula. Mind you, the longer it takes, the more we suffer.
Ideally, we want to get over our ex as soon as we can. Thankfully, there are ways to make cutting emotional ties faster and easier.
How do we make missing our ex go away quicker?
Step 1: Face It – You Miss Her/Him
Unless we first recognize that we miss our ex, it is unlikely we’ll put the effort in to get over them. Do you still miss your former partner? If it is obvious, fantastic – you know, and we can work to fix it. But what if you aren’t sure, how can we find out?
Take the quiz. Mark a tick on paper for each scenario below you agree with or relates to you.
Signs You Still Miss Your Ex
- You long to talk or be with them again.
- Thinking about them makes you sad or cry.
- You think about them many times a day, or every spare minute you get.
- You see constant reminders of them everywhere.
- You avoid places or friends you both shared.
- You continually check social media to see what they are doing.
- When you date other people, they only remind you of your ex and what you once had together.
- You continue to ask yourself, what was wrong with me that made them leave?
Did you tick any of them? Even if it was one, there is a good chance you aren’t actually over your ex and still miss them.
When we still miss our ex, they are on our minds, quick to come to the surface, readily triggering old emotions. Any persisting emotional response related to them, whether it be joy or heartache, indicates we aren’t over them and miss them.
At least now we know.
Step 2: Do an Autopsy – Learn What Killed It
Let me ask a question.
If both of us in a relationship are getting our needs met, would either of us want to leave?
The obvious answer is no. Why leave something that truly satisfies us? That means for our relationship to end, at least one of us wasn’t having their needs met; we had the motivation to leave.
What are these needs that must be fulfilled for our relationship to thrive? We can summarise basic relationship needs in two parts: successful attraction and successful compatibility.
Successful attraction means we each have a physical desire to be with the other person – we have the hots for each other; you physically want to be close, real close.
Compatibility has many qualities, such as having similar ideas of right and wrong, having common dreams and aspirations such as both desiring a family together. It also means being able to be close friends.
At the core of any stable satisfying relationship is a close friendship. The problem is, no matter how much we have the hots for our partner, we might never be able to be close, trusted, friends. Having the hots for someone doesn’t just make them excellent friendship material.
What recognizing these relationship needs teaches us is we can be incompatible from the get-go – it was never going to work.
Incompatibility isn’t anyone’s fault; it can just happen; it isn’t something we can change. Having said that, if we start as being attracted to each other and do develop a close friendship, we can still lose both.
For example, we might let our appearances slip or lose our sense of self, reducing our attractiveness. Or, we might let our friendship slide by not making time to talk and connect or beginning a friendship with someone of the opposite sex at work. Both behaviors ensuring our close friendship disintegrates.
Stephanie, for instance, was in a relationship with a much younger man. She was ready for a family; he wasn’t. He wanted to regularly play with his mates and be on his gaming console rather than go on a date, talk, and be intimate.
She was trying to have a relationship with a guy who couldn’t be a close friend – he was way too immature and on a different path. Yes, he was hot and kind, but he was incompatible with her from the start.
Doing an autopsy of our relationship can help us see our partner in a new, realistic light – more about that in a moment. It can also remind us that putting in the effort to stay attractive is essential, and so is maintaining a close friendship.
Like a garden, intimate bonds of friendship in a relationship need regular upkeep. We might have neglected to meet each other’s needs in the last relationship; we are much less likely to in the future once we do a thorough autopsy and learn from our mistakes.
The autopsy also reminds us of the need to have a list of deal-breakers.
Step 3: List Your Deal-Breakers
After every failed relationship, we should all make or check our list of deal-breakers. These are the qualities of a partner we could not tolerate, no matter what.
For example, many of us would not tolerate our partner seeing someone else on the side, being an alcoholic, having a drug habit, being abusive, treating us like a slave, and so on.
We all deserve care, appreciation, and respect. We deserve to be with someone who values the same.
Why write such a list?
Firstly, it will help prevent us from dating someone for months or years only to find there was a deal-breaker there the whole time – it saves wasting our time; we will look for deal-breakers early. It also helps us to see if our ex was ever going to be a good fit.
From the autopsy of previous relationships, we already begin to see what qualities we will not tolerate in a partner. List them. Physically write them down.
If you struggle to come up with a deal-breaker list, then start by writing a list of personal values; what individual rules and priorities define you.
For example, do you value trust, loyalty, honesty, and integrity? Do you appreciate kindness, empathy, and compassion? Do you value work and achieving a high level of wealth and status? Do you value respect and a close friendship?
From your list of values, the qualities you definitely wouldn’t tolerate in a partner begin to take shape.
For Stephanie, for example, her deal-breaker list included her partner had to want a family – as soon as practically possible; not five or ten years in the future.
He had to be loyal, trustworthy, but also attentive and want to spend time with her – not all the time, but at least show she was important. He had to be physically intimate, but also be kind and respectful. He was some of these, but, importantly, not all.
From her list of deal-breakers, Stephanie was beginning to see her ex in a new and more realistic light – past the fantasy of how she wanted/needed him to be.
Step 4: Let Go of The Fantasy
One of the hardest parts of breaking up with someone is not wanting to let go of the fantasy we created about them. Until we do, however, nature will use our feelings to drive us back to them – they looked too good to let go.
It is how love works.
We fall for a promise – dream – of who we want or need our new prospective partner to be and what that might look like. The better the fantasy appears – the more basic needs it seems we can meet together – the more influential the emotions, the stronger the love and desire.
How do we know it is a dream/fantasy that draws us in?
It can take years to know someone honestly; what they like, dislike, their annoying little habits, the quirkiness that makes us smile, even the deal-breakers. Until then, we are clouded by our ideal imaginings of our partner and wanting/needing them to come true.
Fantasies are formidable. Our fantasy can be so potent and enticing we will ignore any advice or warning signs this was never going to work. Often it isn’t until years after our breakup, do we begin to see a more realistic image or our partner.
Knowing we are grieving a fantasy – not the real them – can be a powerful tool for breaking emotional ties and obsessions.
Once Stephanie began to recognize her ex was never going to be able to satisfy her needs and saw past what she’d hoped and needed him to be, she stopped crying.
After several weeks she confided that in the first months he did all the right things; they seemed close, and all was going well. Then, she gradually began to see who he really was as he distanced himself and called her ‘needy’.
The breakthrough was when she told me if she’d known this was who he was eighteen months ago, when they first started dating, she’d never have gone out with him.
To help her finally put her ex behind her, we began to work on restoring the person she had sacrificed – her genuine self.
Step 5: Rediscover/Discover Your Genuine Self
If there was no one around and no one to impress, do you know what you like and what you would like to do? Many of us don’t know, or once did but then lost connection with the genuine part of us that can truthfully answer that question – we lost our sense of self.
Being in a relationship pressures our sense of self – the genuine us.
A relationship means compromise – not always having what we want when we want it. Do you want curry tonight? Sure dear; whatever you suggest is fine by me.
If we compromise too much too many times, we can forget or lose touch with who we are. If we never had much of a sense of self going into a relationship, then what little we have becomes easily overpowered.
Why is a strong sense of self a critical part of a relationship? To have a strong sense of individual identity is to have healthy self-esteem and self-confidence, to be grounded, and not have our views, ideas, likes, and dislikes floating on the breeze to please others.
Having a strong sense of us makes us and keeps us attractive.
Why is a strong sense of self attractive? It prevents us from becoming too alike and boring. It helps us keep the features our partner found attractive in us in the first place. Become someone we are not, and we are no longer the person they fell in love with.
If we continue to miss our ex, we can virtually guarantee we have lost our sense of self.
How do we restore or increase our sense of self?
We begin by breaking all contact – we apply the no contact rule.
No Contact Rule
We can’t create a sense of individual self if our identity remains interconnected with our ex.
No contact means not calling them and not asking them to be friends still. It means erasing and blocking them from all social media, not asking others how they are, and not talking about them. We avoid them when we can.
If meeting them is unavoidable – it can happen if we have mutual friends or share children – we can stay pleasant but not engage in meaningful conversation – we keep our discussions short and professional, then walk away.
We definitely don’t try to find out what they are up to. We do this for at least six to twelve months, preferably longer. In the meantime, we grow and restore our life.
Restoring Your Life
We create and restore a sense of self by crafting a meaningful and enjoyable life of our own.
We look to have fun again and enjoy the things we gave up for our ex. A critical part of growing a new life without any thoughts of our ex is to catch up with old friends, spend more time with our best friend, and to develop new friendships.
We explore what we like and revel in it. We engage in physical activity; we don’t just sit around at home. We find a new hobby or resurrect old ones. We treat ourselves with respect and self-love.
We build a vision of a promising future without any signs of the ex in them and don’t look back.
We also don’t hit the dating scene or get into another relationship until we know who we are – our sense of self if healthy. Otherwise, we risk ongoing failed and unfulfilling relationships.
Stephanie found she hardly thought about her ex when she was out with friends – it restored her confidence. It was hard, but she removed him and all contacts with his family on social media.
It played an essential part in her recovery, getting back her own life, and helping her explore who she is, ready for something better.
It is hard to let go of the dream we created of our ex and finally break the cord. But until we do, we risk damaging our lives and holding us back from an even more promising future.
It is said, time heals all wounds. In relationships, this is especially true. But why suffer any longer than we need to?
Once we finally face the fact that they were not for us and that by learning from this experience we are in a much better place to have something so much better in a new relationship, the sooner we can stop our ex haunting us. The sooner we can move on and live the life of joy we deserve.
If we are still struggling not to miss our ex it’s time to seek a qualified therapist and relationship expert.