What to Do When You Miss Your Ex

Missing someone is never easy, and if it’s your ex you’re missing, things can get twice as hard.

If you’re looking for some advice on what to do when you start missing them again, here are a few suggestions from experts:

Use the feeling of missing your ex as an opportunity to grow

Missing your ex can be an unpleasant experience, but it is also an opportunity. How you handle it can make the difference between starting or supporting destructive patterns with your ex or contributing to your own growth.

I want to focus on two parts of the feelings that make up missing your ex.

One part is we naturally miss something when it has been an important part of our life, and it goes away. This explains homesickness, missing friends who move away, etc. It is natural and will gradually fade.

The second part is the part that gets a lot of people in trouble: difficulty tolerating being alone. When you miss your ex so much, you feel like you have to do something to relieve those feelings; you are probably feeling this.

It is the part that at times leads to desperate attempts to relieve the pain. Those attempts can include reaching out to your ex, trying to be “friends” too quickly, or quickly jumping into a new relationship. Those responses aren’t very healthy and often create problems.

Your best bet is to lean into the feeling. I can promise you it won’t kill you, and it too will fade over time.

The benefit of that is you will have grown in your ability to tolerate loneliness and being alone. That is a good thing because it keeps you from making bad decisions to get rid of the lonely feeling. You can, thus, make much smarter decisions in future relationships.

You might ask what is wrong with becoming friends with your ex or jumping into a “casual” relationship to help you feel better. Well, there is nothing wrong with becoming friends with your ex—but the timing is important.

Your ex may be a great person who you want to be part of your life. The problem is if you try to establish that friendship while you are still missing them, being with them will trigger the old, romantic feelings that contribute to missing them.

If you really should be exes, triggering those feelings can lead to a troubling, potentially destructive, pattern of jumping in and out of a relationship. At the very least, trying to become friends too soon will make those “missing your ex” feelings last longer.

As far as a casual relationship goes, casual relationships often develop into something more serious. Sexual relationships are one of the most efficient ways to cover up feelings of being alone or missing someone, but sexual relationships also trigger natural hormonal responses that deepen connections.

So, you are likely to get sucked into a relationship you got into because of trying to avoid unpleasant feelings—rather than because you thought the person was really awesome.

Bottom line: Use the missing your ex as an opportunity to grow. Tolerating unpleasant feelings is an important life skill; develop it when you can.

Leslie Gunterson

Leslie Gunterson

Master-Certified Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming | NLP Coach

Missing your ex is a great time to renew your commitment to valuing yourself enough to create great relationships. Use this time as a launchpad for creating your future.

Ask what and how questions

When missing your ex, you want to figure out exactly what you are missing.

  • Are you missing the companionship, company or are you missing the actual person?
    • If only the companionship, how can you create a love of your own companionship (which is the most healthy thing to start with)?
  • How can you develop supportive friendships or create a partnership that works with your values?
  • Are you missing who you were with this person? Or are you missing how he/she actually treated you?
  • How can you be who you want to be without your ex?
  • How can you treat yourself amazingly?

When you get deeper, you can use missing your ex to create your new life paradigm.

Remember why this person is already an ex

Sometimes we forget why we are not together. It is always about values. What were the values issues that didn’t work in your relationship? How can you define your values clearly to avoid a mismatch next time?

If your ex was abusive, neglectful, irresponsible, write a list of this and the values this behavior displays.

  • What do you want instead?
  • How can you give it to yourself?
  • How can you make that your partnership criteria values for the future?
  • What will that look like in a potential partner?

If your ex was someone who wasn’t into you, you might decide that your biggest dating value is to be only interested in people who adore you. That way, anyone who isn’t into you is not your type. If you are drawn to people with a lack of interest in you, this is a great area to journal and examine what that is about.

Remembering why this person is an ex is paramount to creating the shift in your paradigm.

Make lists of all of the negative parts of the relationship

We all have anchors in our paradigm that remind us of situations both good and bad. Likely, if you miss your ex, you have some positive anchors of them; great sex, a charming smile, etc.

A good way to break these anchors is to make lists of all of the negative parts of the relationship that just ended and link up the positives to the negatives, thus, allowing you to break the anchors.

When you think of the passion you two had, think of the worst part of the relationship or the breakup. When you think of the charming smile, think immediately about the meanest thing the ex ever said to you or about you. When you consciously hook these things up, you can break the longing instead of just mulling about all the positives and missing them.

Related: How to Stop Missing Your Ex

Your next steps

If you did the work of questioning your missing an ex, you will find that you are now clear about what kinds of values you want in your next relationship, how you want to treat yourself, and expect your partner to treat you and have broken the longing. Now you’re ready to move on to a better relationship, and you deserve it.

Related: How to Figure out What You Want in a Relationship

Years ago, I went through a doozy, and it changed my life. By taking the time for introspection, I learned a lot about myself and what I wanted—and didn’t want—in a relationship and in life. If you’re missing your ex, know that’s normal and be gentle with yourself. I missed mine so much that my belly ached.

Related: How To Stop Beating Yourself Up

Trying to describe that experience is like trying to catch a greased pig. From moment to moment, new feelings, thoughts, and insights bubbled up. Eventually, I learned to sit still in the whirlwind and observe what showed up. I learned it was important not to try to control, speed up, or manipulate the process.

Everyone is different, and healing comes in its own perfect time.

When we take a closer look at our thoughts, we find most of them are based upon past memories or an imagined future. Some memories are pleasant; others not so much. Most of our future imaginings are fear-based.

We fear being alone or, more specifically, we fear being lonely.

When we look closer, we’ll discover a number of fantasies. For example, we may imagine how much our ex is missing us and wants us back. Just remember, “Putting sour milk back in the fridge doesn’t make it drinkable again.” The more we’re able to make our unconscious thoughts conscious, the less likely we are to do something that we’ll regret later.

Quite often, our thoughts turn to getting back together. Fight the urge—at least for now! Take time to sort through your thoughts and feelings. Ask for no contact for a while. No contact creates closure and the space to learn whatever lessons you were intended to learn.

Related: Why Is the No Contact Rule so Effective?

As my friend Ruth likes to say, “There has to be a period at the end for a new sentence to begin.”

During this new alone time, consider what changes you’d like to make in order to bring your dreams, values, and interests in closer alignment with your relationships and life.

Some questions to ask include:

  • Why did I attract my ex into my life? (We tend to attract or be drawn to people that reflect how we feel about ourselves, our lives, love, and relationships.)
  • What worked well in the relationship and what didn’t?
  • What was it I wanted most from my partner that I didn’t receive or get enough of? Was it something I could have provided myself?
  • What would I do differently next time?

One exercise I found particularly valuable was drafting an ideal relationship profile. In it, I listed the ten attributes I sought in a partner. My list included such attributes as smart, gentle, financially independent, and considerate.

I then asked how I could become more like the ideal partner for whom I longed.

It’s during these times of transition that we have the greatest opportunities for growth. Embrace this process, and you’ll stand in your power and become the person you were born to be.

In closing, you will get through this, and you will love again. Whether you get to the other side wiser and ready for a healthier and happier relationship, or sad, disillusioned, and bitter depends on you and the work you do now.

Be present to your thoughts and feelings, take time for introspection, set your intentions, and you will find that partner you’ve always longed for.

Sarah Lee

Sarah Lee

Psychotherapist, Explore Your Mind

We tend to think of grief as being about death, but a breakup is also a loss, and it’s normal to go through a grieving process after a breakup. Missing someone is to be expected, and even if it was you that initiated the breakup, you may still struggle with regret or romanticize a relationship that wasn’t really working.

If it wasn’t you that initiated the breakup, you might feel confused or want answers that you might not get.

You can’t predict what you should be feeling

Grieving the end of a relationship is unlikely to be a linear process, and there is no rule about how long it will take, what it should look like, or what you should feel.

You may go back and forth between different emotions such as sadness, anger, jealousy, anxiety, or fear; feeling angry one day and wanting them back the next day.

Normalize your emotional response

People often have the expectation that they should only experience one emotion at a time, but that isn’t what happens in real life. You might be jealous that your ex has moved on but also angry at how they treated you.

A lot of the difficulties that arise around our feelings are about knowing how to handle the extremes or judging ourselves for our feelings, and thinking that we should be thinking or feeling something else. If you have difficulty with certain feelings or grew up without models of how to handle them, then this can be very uncomfortable.

For example, you might not think that you’re allowed to be sad, or you might think that angry people are scary, so you avoid expressing any anger and pretend that you feel fine even though you do not.

Feelings don’t have to lead to actions

It’s actually not the feelings that are problematic, rather the actions that we take based on these feelings. So being sad and missing someone is fine, but calling them at 3 am is unlikely to be productive.

Being angry is fine, but make sure that you don’t hurt people, yourself, damage property, or seek revenge you might later regret. Try and focus on one task at a time, and don’t let that task be being sucked into a spiral of shame and self-blame.

If you catch yourself getting stuck, find something else to occupy your mind.

Reach out to your support network

If you do have people that care about you, don’t shut yourself off from them. Being around people who care about us helps us feel good about ourselves and help counteract feelings of rejection or disappointment about the end of a relationship. You can also spend time outside or with pets to help you relax and feel valued again.

Be kind to yourself

Breakups are hard, and it’s normal to struggle or feel despondent when things don’t work out. You can consider your role in a relationship breakdown without attacking yourself (which makes people feel worse).

Don’t be tempted to return to a relationship that wasn’t working without a plan of action (from all parties involved) on how to resolve the issue or who to ask for help learning how to manage it.

Simply returning to a relationship and hoping the issue has disappeared won’t work and can lead to frustration and resentment.

Janine S. White

Janine White

Former Emotional Health Worker | Research Writer

It does not matter why you broke up or the pain you experienced with an ex; there were some good times, things that you shared with one another, and moments that were special to you. It is obvious that, at times, you will miss these memories.

There are certain ways to deal with this, and the first is to remember that you broke up for a reason. When you look back at these memories and feelings, you are viewing through the eyes of nostalgia and not at the whole picture. This is not a sign that you should get in contact with them.

How do you continue moving forward?

Distraction techniques are important

All emotions come and go. You can be happy, but it will pass. You can be angry, but it will pass. The same is said for missing someone. Distraction techniques are therefore of utmost importance.

Tell yourself that you will ‘park’ that feeling, and if it is still bothering you after you have gone for a walk, then you will give it attention. Keep parking it until it moves on.

List all the negative things you can remember from the relationship

If the feeling just won’t go away, write a list of all of the negative things you can remember from the relationship.

  • What did they do that really annoyed you?
  • Why did you break up?

Now read that list over, remember that list, and recite it every time you begin to miss them. Chose the things that made you really angry, really sad, and try to pull that feeling back instead. Within a short period of time, it should become natural that you recall the anger rather than the nostalgia.

Think about why you’re missing your ex

If you are missing your ex, then your ex was fulfilling a need that you are not having met at the moment.

  • What are you hoping to get from your ex?
  • Is this something that can be found elsewhere?

Related: Why Do I Miss My Ex So Much?

Always try to look within yourself first, as the more needs you can meet by yourself, the less dependent you become.

Make a plan for your future

Think of what you want for yourself, what you want to achieve. Set SMART goals that you can target and put all of your concentration into achieving them. There is nothing better than attaining something huge from loss.

Nancy Kalina Gomez

Nancy Gomez

Clinical Psychologist, CouchIssues

Do what you need to do as long as it isn’t harmful to you or others

Breaking up with someone is a loss—a death. The death of a relationship. The loss of a part of your life. No matter how it stops, it does. There may be lingering at the door, but at some point, the door shuts, and it hurts.

There will be triggers—restaurants, music, activities, and maybe even mutual friends that will put you back to that moment that the door slammed shut.

So you will miss your ex. It’s expected; this isn’t a surprise. After you have surgery, the recovery will be almost as bad or worse until everything heals. That’s expected. Know this.

The fact that you feel down means you miss them. The fact that you don’t feel like going out means you miss them. Not wanting to eat or losing interest in favorite TV shows, etc., means you miss them.

So that’s what you do; you miss them.

You might cry yourself to sleep or cry holding onto your pet or even with a stuffed animal (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). You might put on your favorite jammies or sweatpants and hoodie and walk around like a fugitive from life holding a package of cookies.

Whatever you need to do, you need to do it. So long as it isn’t harmful to you or others (getting drunk at home is one thing, driving drunk is another).

  • Texting or calling while drunk is fine if you understand that you will feel bad when you sober up, and if you understand that this will not help you move on but rather put you back to day 1.
  • If you want to engage in some retail therapy—don’t spend the rent money or car payment.
  • Allow your friends to take you out and make you laugh, make you feel loved, and build you back up from feeling down.

There really isn’t a timeline except that the initial shock and awe should subside to a dull ache for a while—with your effort.

When your grief starts interfering with your day-to-day responsibilities and activities—going to work, maintaining hygiene, or isolating, then it is probably a good idea to seek out some therapy—no harm in that.

Scream into your pillow, write a letter to your ex without sending it—instead, read it to your friends. Get your grief out and move on.

Related: How to Accept a Breakup You Didn’t Want and Move On

Kimberly Panganiban, LMFT

Kimberly Panganiban

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Choosing Therapy | Certified Gottman Couples Therapist, Trainer & Consultant

Acknowledge the feelings

While it isn’t usually how we would like to feel, most people miss their ex at some point in time. Even if the relationship ended badly, it is normal to experience feelings of loss. The reason is that we were, at some point in time, attached to this person.

We are all biologically programmed to attach to others and have difficulty separating from them (which is why it can be hard to leave an unhealthy relationship at times). Understanding that these feelings are normal and allowing yourself to feel them is the first step in managing them.

Shift your thoughts

Once these feelings arise and you acknowledge them, allow some space for the positive memories of the relationship, which are leading to the feelings. No matter how unhealthy, there are good times and things we like (and therefore miss) about that person in every relationship.

It is ok to think about and acknowledge the positive. If you get stuck there, however, it will be hard to move forward. Once you have allowed time and space for the positive, work on shifting into a more balanced perspective of the relationship, one that acknowledges both the positive and negative.

It is normal to have mixed feelings about our ex and important to acknowledge all of who they are and what the relationship was like.

Use these feelings to guide you

Once you have shifted into a balanced perspective, you can use these thoughts and feelings to inform what you want in the future. Sit down and make a list of the things you liked about this person/relationship that you would ideally like to see in future relationships.

Then make a list of the aspects of your ex and the relationship that led to it deteriorating. These are the red flags to look for in future relationships.

Self-compassion & seek support

Acknowledging both the positive and negative aspects of this person will help you move forward from the relationship. But be patient with yourself; it will take time.

This may be a process you need to do over and over. Seeking support from a trusted friend (or therapist) who can help you with this is important as well.

Cheri Timko, M.S.

Cheri Timko

Licensed Professional Counselor | Relationship Coach and Director, Synergy Coaching

Plan ahead of time what you can and cannot do when you miss them

When we break up with a partner, it is normal to miss them. You might miss everything about them or just some aspects of the relationship. You are trying to reorganize your life without them.

The most important thing to do is plan ahead of time what you can and cannot do when you miss them. You want to be clear for yourself what your boundaries need to be and put safety measures in place for the times when you feel weak. A good plan includes the exact circumstances when it makes sense to reach out to them.

For instance, you might give yourself permission to contact them about an outstanding phone bill, but not a missing article of clothing. You would think about whether calling them late at night or when drinking is a good idea, and then put measures in place to make this hard (i.e., erase their number, have a friend on call to talk you through those times).

In the same way, think through when it would make sense to reach out to their friends or family. You might limit contact with their support circle for the same reasons that you would limit your contact with them. Don’t forget to think through how to handle social media contact, as well.

A good plan also includes what you will do to take care of yourself as you are getting over the relationship. For instance, if you are missing them, you might have a plan to call a friend, go for a run, or immerse yourself in a good book. The most important thing is to plan ahead for these times.

Related: What to Do After a Breakup

The last part of your plan needs to include good self-care. This is the key to making sure that you follow the other parts of your plan. It is important that you prioritize your physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and mental health to build your self-confidence and personal strength.

This needs to include exercise, sleep, healthy food, hobbies, and connection to others.

Missing your ex can be universal However, it can also be a time of personal growth and discovery. You just need a good plan to manage it.

Justin Gottlieb

Justin Gottlieb

Founder, Tantra Love Coach

After getting out of a relationship, it’s quite common to miss your ex. It’s natural to miss someone with whom you have already spent time with. But staying attached to it, in the long run, can be very toxic and unhealthy.

Here are some things to do when you miss your ex:

Stop blaming yourself

It’s easy for us to blame ourselves for not making that relationship go further. But it’s not remotely true. In order to make a relationship work, both sides need to be equally committed & it’s unfair to just blame yourself for not making that relationship work.

Think why are you missing them

Before doing anything, whenever you miss your ex, just think about why you’re missing him in the first place. Is it because you are alone? If so, you need to surround yourself with people you feel comfortable spending your time with.

Were you dependent on your ex on something? If so, you need to take control and become independent yourself.

Related: 8 Must Read Books on Codependency Recovery

Think about why you broke up

Whenever you miss your ex, just think about the reason why you broke up in the first place. You broke up because there was something in that relationship that was more impactful than the bond/connection you two had.

Thinking about that will help you a lot to get over him.

Don’t do anything stupid

During an emotional period, our mind is not in its best judgment. Before doing anything harmful or stupid, just take a moment to evaluate the situation. You don’t want to do anything that you will regret afterward.

Allow yourself to cry about it

It’s psychology tested that crying over something helps to let go of any emotion. It can even help you to forget about your ex. So, don’t be ashamed to cry over your ex—especially the first few weeks after the breakup.

Express your feelings

Expressing your feelings can greatly help you to overcome & eventually get over your ex. Do a painting. Maybe write down your emotions in a journal. Whatever you can do to express your feelings will help you to get over your ex.

Accept the reality

In the end, you need to accept the reality and know that that bridge is gone and never coming back. That’s the bitter truth, and you need to swallow that.

If you follow these steps, you can overcome those emotions and stop missing your ex. It’ll not be easy at first, but eventually, those feelings will fade, and you can be back to feeling normal in no time.

Chris Pleines

Chris Pleines

Dating Expert, Datingscout

Translate the energy to something creative

Missing your ex is a powerful feeling. The longing, the wanting, the craving – it’s too strong that most of the time you would want to forget and drink ’til dawn then you’ll make the excuse of “I’m drunk” when you send him or her a text in the middle of the night.

If you do that, well, your pride has left the building. What you can do instead is to translate your longing emotions into doing something creative (even if you aren’t).

Maybe you can try writing a song? A story? Painting something? You’ll be surprised about what you could create whenever you’re sad and lonely.

Call your friends instead

The temptation to call your ex would be stronger than normal. However, reaching out to your ex would only be detrimental. You won’t be able to move on from the relationship completely.

Whenever you feel the urge to text or call your ex, distract yourself by calling your friends and hanging out with them instead.

You have to realize that you only miss your ex because you are feeling lonely. You miss having someone there, and the relationship ended for a reason. Spend time with your friends and use that as a way to have fun and not think about your ex too much.

Allow yourself to cry

Letting the negative emotions out through crying can be helpful in managing yourself through the breakup. Do not bottle it all up, as it could get the better of you and explode at one point.

Accept your grief but forgive yourself for making mistakes in the process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal to feel guilty after a breakup?

Feeling guilty after a breakup is completely normal, especially if you were the one who initiated the breakup or if the relationship ended on bad terms.

However, it’s important to realize that guilt is a natural part of the healing process and doesn’t necessarily mean you did anything wrong. If you feel guilty, try to find the cause of your guilt and examine it objectively.

Talk to a trusted friend or therapist about your feelings and remember that forgiveness, both for yourself and for your ex, is an important part of moving forward.

How can I avoid rebounding after a breakup?

Rebounding after a breakup is a common phenomenon where people rush into a new relationship to fill the emotional void left by their previous relationship. While it may provide temporary relief, it can also be detrimental in the long run.

To avoid rebounding, take some time to focus on yourself and your own healing before rushing into a new relationship. Set boundaries for yourself and take it slow with potential partners.

Ensure you’re emotionally ready for a new relationship, and don’t let the fear of being alone rush you into a new relationship prematurely. Remember that healing takes time, and a rushed new relationship can hinder your healing process.

Should I stay friends with my ex?

Whether or not to remain friends with your ex is a personal decision and depends on the circumstances of your breakup. If the breakup was mutual and you have no hard feelings, it may be possible to maintain the friendship.

However, if the breakup was messy or one-sided, it’s best to take some time off and focus on healing before building a friendship. Remember that sometimes a friendship with an ex(s) can complicate future relationships.

So be honest with yourself about your intentions, and ensure you’re comfortable with the dynamic before committing to a friendship.

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