Why Can’t I Get Over My Ex?

Finding it hard to move on from a past relationship? You’re not alone.

Breakups can be incredibly painful; sometimes, you can feel like you’re in a never-ending cycle of heartache. Whether your break up was weeks ago or years ago, the loss that comes with the end of a relationship can seem overwhelming at times.

According to experts, the following are reasons why you can’t get over your ex, along with ways to cope.

You’re struggling with love addiction

There are many reasons you may struggle to get over your ex, but one that has been getting increased research attention in recent years is that you’re struggling with love addiction.  

Related: How to Get Over an Ex You Still Love

Love addiction is a term often used by mental health experts to describe a pattern of harmful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that center around a current or former love interest that harms a person’s well-being. 

Although not a clinical diagnosis, people who struggle with love addiction become hyper-focused on their ex after a breakup. 

This laser-focus on their lover makes them crave their attention, think about them obsessively, and feel highly emotionally reactive to them to the degree that it impairs their quality of life

Much like someone who is addicted to drugs or another behavior like gambling, the ex is a stimulus that becomes the center of a person’s life and is very hard to stop “using” even if they want to let go and move on.  

Some of the most common and highly distressing symptoms of love addiction include: 

  • Obsessively thinking about an ex, ruminating about them even when you don’t want to be. It sometimes feels like you can’t turn off your mind because they consume your thoughts even when you rationally want to stop. 
  • Craving contact with them—strong urges to call, text, and reach out to them. You may feel pulled to them, as though you’re desperate to communicate with them. 
  • Feeling emotionally reactive to their behavior, comments, or opinions and, for example, feeling extremely sad or angry when you see a photo of them dating someone new. 
  • Second-guessing yourself and your value because of your ex. For example, thinking you’re less valuable because of how they treated you or because they don’t want to be with you anymore. 
  • Acting in unhealthy ways to feel close to them. For example, stalking them or going to their favorite hang-out places just to feel closer. You may also find yourself reading old emails, looking at your phone to see if they texted, or even wearing their clothes just to feel closer.  
  • Feeling uncomfortable or less valuable without them in your life. Or questioning your identity and who you are now that they’re gone.   
  • Overvaluing your ex over other people and things that you used to care about—for example, struggling to remember other things that matter now that your ex is gone.  

Research suggests that after falling in love and then breaking up, your brain and body can be flooded with a host of hormones and neurotransmitters that are associated with addictions of all kinds. 

Experiencing a love-addicted breakup can be devastating, truly impairing your well-being and mental health over time.  

The good news is that there are many therapeutic skills that you can learn to help you let go of your ex and create the next great phase of your life. Some specific things I’d recommend if you’re really struggling are: 

Pause and try not to act impulsively

If you’re trying to heal after a breakup and feel stuck on your ex—pining over them, focused on what they’re doing, wishing you could talk or understand what happened—you’re probably feeling really bad emotionally. This makes you more likely to want to contact your ex. 

In the long run, this is going to make it harder for you to move on. So, when you want to reach out, pause. Stop from acting and notice your feelings without reaching out to your ex. 

Focus on yourself

Although it may not seem like going through a breakup could have a positive outcome for you, it is actually the perfect time to understand yourself more deeply. 

When it comes to relationships, this means focusing on how we contributed to the relationship starting, existing, and ending. Exploring what you want next and taking steps to heal yourself is your top priority now. 

Take space from your ex

This is an important time to take space away from your ex. Setting healthy boundaries around your ex is key to moving on. 

It’s often very helpful for people not to have any contact with their ex for a while after a breakup, as well as stopping yourself from getting information about what they’re doing now through mutual friends or on social media (for example, who they’re dating now, what they’re doing, etc.). 

Related: Why Is the No Contact Rule so Effective?

Stop being intimate with your ex

Sex is a very complicated topic when it comes to breakups. If you are in love with someone, sex is generally connected to some emotion and the expression of love for another person. 

But, for many people, sex has nothing to do with love—it has to do with getting an orgasm, feeling powerful, or being desired. If you’re trying to move on from your ex, sleeping with them, touching them, and being sexual with them will make it harder to let go. 

And even having sex with a new partner can be very triggering if you’re struggling to move on because it may be a psychological reminder of your breakup as well as a neurobiological high that re-activates your connection to your ex.  

Increase your self-care

It may seem simple, but focusing on getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, exercising, and taking care of your physical health is key right now.

Increase your social support

This is a time when reaching out to trusted friends and family is key. It can also be very helpful to join a support group like Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous or Codependents Anonymous.  

Challenge unhelpful thoughts 

When the content of your thinking leaves you feeling worse, you want to challenge it.  

Be careful with your behavior

Don’t act in ways that ultimately harm you more—like drinking a lot, using drugs to distract yourself, or acting in spiteful/angry ways towards your ex. Strive to act in ways that help you and don’t hurt you over time.  

Stephanie Zito

Stephanie Zito

Intuitive Life Coach and Speaker | Founder and Podcast Host, This Passionate Life

I get it. It’s so frustrating. You think you’re over your ex, and then you pass a place like a coffee shop, or a song comes on the radio that reminds you of them, and a flood of emotions surge in from relief to regret, from longing to loss, and from fondness to fear that you’ll never find, again, the good parts that you and your ex once had. 

Why is it so hard to get over the ex? What if I told you that getting over your ex isn’t about your ex, really, at all? 

Read on for three truths as to why you might be stuck on your ex. 

You remember the good parts

  • Truth #1: “But sometimes it was so good.” 

After a breakup, you’ll likely remember the good parts fondly because we all want to feel loved and desired. Bringing up the memory of those moments when you felt supported, loved, and desired by your ex gives you, for that moment, that feeling of being loved.

The trick to getting over your ex is to stop looking outside of yourself for that feeling of love and to find it within. Date yourself. Give yourself gifts, positive affirmations, support, and love. 

Psychologically, when we pine for an ex, it’s really an indication of what we may be lacking within ourselves and a message to find that love within. 

Social media can be your worst enemy in getting over your ex

  • Truth #2: “The Social Media Mistake” 

Tell me it isn’t tempting after a breakup to google your ex or to find them on social media. It’s all too easy to keep up with your ex and to even feel jealous as you see them moving on with their life or being happy. It’s hard to get over your ex when you see them on social media all the time. 

It can be healthier to take a clean break for a while so you can truly focus on yourself, your friendships and supportive relationships, your own dating scene, and what’s going on for you vs. what’s going on in your ex’s world. To get over your ex, you want to get out of your ex’s world and into your own. 

When you don’t believe you are worthy of something even better 

  • Truth #3: “Own Your Worth.”

A breakup can be a blow to self-esteem for sure. And when you might question your own self-worth, you might find yourself dreaming about your ex. That’s your subconscious trying to solve what went wrong or to show you that you are so worthy of exactly what you desire. 

Perhaps you daydream about the reasons why it didn’t work out or obsess over what was ‘wrong’ with you. 

This is where boosting your own confidence comes into play. Through talking with a coach or a therapist and re-engaging in activities that light you up, you re-engage with the best parts of you. 

After a breakup, you get to reassess what you really want in a relationship and how you want to be treated. And best of all, you get to remember how letting this relationship go creates space for something even better to come your way. 

And when you shift from regret to relief, you can be grateful for what you learned and gained from your ex and open to the possibilities of the love that is on its way. 

As an intuitive coach and meditation teacher, I teach my clients that energy flows where intention goes. Intention is everything. If you’re trying to get over your ex or helping a friend get over theirs, practice setting some intentions, such as:

  • “I am worthy of love.” 
  • “I am grateful.”
  • “I will find love again.” 

When you’re having trouble getting over your ex, remember:

  • You get to be grateful for the good times.
  • Fall back in love with yourself.
  • There is never just one person for you. 

There’s always someone else out there to love. And when you release the attachment to your ex, you create the mental and emotional space to find them. 

Dr. Carla Marie Manly

Carla Marie Manly

Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Expert | Author, “Date Smart: Transform Your Relationships and Love Fearlessly

You are unconsciously mired in grief

In truth, getting over a romantic relationship can be extremely painful. Romantic relationships that implode or come to a slow demise can be challenging due to the layers of grief that are involved. 

Of course, if a relationship ends unexpectedly, the psychological impact can be exceptionally dramatic. Moving on from a relationship that seemed to be filled with great potential can create a tremendous sense of loss in the psyche.

Those who can’t seem to get over an ex are often unconsciously mired in grief. In many cases, the dreams and hopes for the relationship often sits in the psyche as haunting reminders of what might have been if the situation had been different. 

When such thoughts continue to spiral in a person’s mind, the ending of the relationship doesn’t reach a natural sense of closure that allows for forward movement. 

As well, those who tend to idealize an ex often unconsciously forget the negative aspects of the person and the issues that led to the breakup.  This tendency to romanticize issues can lead to psychological immobilization—the inability to let go of the past and move forward in healthy ways.

A few tips for getting over an ex include:

Journal about the positive, appealing traits of your ex. Create a list of these qualities. Then journal about the qualities of your ex that you didn’t find very appealing. This may be difficult, but—if you are able to be objective—it’s likely that there were a few areas or traits that weren’t perfect

As this step can help you see your ex in a more impartial way, it is a necessary part of healing and moving forward. Finally, take another look at the list of qualities that you found appealing and positive. 

As you think about a future partner, add to the list of positive qualities—be as specific as possible. The more you incorporate the qualities you love in your would-be partner into a vision of all the traits you want in an actual future partner, the more likely you are to find such a partner in real life.

Reach out for support from friends and family; It can be very healing to talk and share your thoughts and feelings.

Declutter your physical space, discarding (or at least packing away) mementos and material reminders of the relationship. If certain clothing or items are especially triggering, it can feel great to donate them to a good cause.

Strive for a mindset of getting through the hurt and pain rather than “getting over” it. Although it’s a slight neurolinguistic difference, “getting through” a heartbreak is about processing and understanding the pain rather than moving over it.

Freely journal (with no goal or particular subject) as much as possible to release pent-up emotions and energy.

Set aside time each day to walk or exercise in nature if possible. Nature has a way of soothing and healing heartbreak.

When you catch yourself thinking about your ex, let go of the thought and mindfully think about something else (whether it’s a friend, watering your houseplants, or a new dinner recipe).

Dr. Carolina Pataky

Carolina Pataky

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Clinical Sexologist and Certified Sex Therapist, Love Discovery Institute

As a relationship therapist and expert working with many individuals that have had this issue, I would say that there can be a variety of reasons why someone may have difficulty getting over an ex. Some common reasons include the following:

Emotional attachment

People often form emotional attachments to their partners, and breaking these attachments can be difficult. Even after the relationship ends, individuals may continue to hold on to feelings of love, longing, and emotional dependence.

Unresolved issues

If there are unresolved issues or conflicts within the relationship, it can be difficult to process and move on from the relationship fully. These unresolved issues can linger and make it difficult to let go of the past.

Fear of being alone

Some people may have a fear of being alone and may hold on to the relationship as a way to avoid facing this fear.

Lack of closure

Sometimes, people may not have a clear understanding of why the relationship ended or may not have had the opportunity to say goodbye. This lack of closure can make it difficult to move on and let go of the past fully.

You feel a part of yourself is missing

Being in a relationship often forms a part of our identity and self-worth, and when a relationship ends, it can feel like a part of us is missing. This can make it hard to move on and accept the end of the relationship.

Might be because of the trauma bond

Sometimes individuals can form a trauma bond with their ex-partner, this happens when a person experiences repeated emotional or physical abuse, and the relationship becomes a source of trauma. This can make it hard to leave or move on from the relationship, even if the relationship is unhealthy.

Related: How to Get Over an Abusive Relationship

As a therapist, I would work with the individual to understand their specific reasons for not being able to move on.

And help them to develop healthy coping mechanisms such as journaling, mindfulness, and self-care practices, focus on self-growth and help them to understand that healing is a process that takes time and it’s okay to feel what they feel.

I would also work with them to identify and process any unresolved issues or emotions and help them to develop a sense of closure and acceptance of the end of the relationship.

Megan Tangradi, MS, LPC, LCADC, CCS, CCTP

Megan Tangradi

Clinical Director, Achieve Wellness & Recovery

The reason why a person can’t get over an ex is complex, as it depends on the individual and their specific circumstances. When trying to move on from a breakup, it’s important to remember that everyone deals with grief differently.

Below are two possible reasons why it can be difficult to get over an ex:

The relationship ended on a bad note

Unresolved issues can linger and manifest into feelings of regret or anger, making it difficult to get over an ex. It’s important to take the time to resolve any hurt feelings from the past so that you can focus on yourself and your own emotional healing.

It can take longer for these feelings to fade away, as a person needs time to truly come to terms with what has happened.

The strong emotional attachment prevents you from letting go

It is possible that the person had a strong emotional attachment to their ex, and this can prevent them from letting go. This is normal and understandable, as it’s often difficult to let go of someone who was once a huge part of your life.

In some cases, people may be more attached to the idea of being in a relationship than they are to the actual person. If this is the case, it’s important to take time apart to reflect on why you were so attached in the first place and to learn from the experience.

The bottom line is getting over an ex takes time and understanding of what happened between the two of you. It can bring intense emotions like sadness, anger, and even regret after the end of a relationship.

While it can be difficult, take your time and remember what is important to you. With patience and understanding, you can get through this difficult period in your life.

Sarah Chotkowski

Sarah Chotkowski

Clinical Social Worker, The Pomegranate Institue

Because our brains love repeating existing patterns

I often work with patients that feel very disgruntled at the idea of being hung up on an ex. These are people who pride themselves on being “in control” and “logical,” and it feels totally illogical and chaotic to still have feelings for someone that you are no longer with. I frame this attachment in the context of habit formation.

Our brains love repeating existing patterns. The habit of being in a relationship, and all of the rituals that this entails, whether it’s fighting about where to order takeout from or having sex next to the Christmas tree every December, is something that “tastes good” to your brain.

Your brain wants to repeat the pattern, ideally over and over again. It takes time to build a new habit, generally up to ninety days.

I encourage my patients to set new routines, even something as simple as drinking your morning cup of tea out of a different mug, anything to mark the start of a new chapter and to try to let themselves off the hook a little.

Lauren Levine

 Lauren Levine

Writer and Content Editor, Quotement

We all have that one ex we can’t get over. That’s what I used to believe earlier. Now I’m a firm believer that you can get over anyone.

Great love stories happen all the time, and breakups happen almost equally often. Could it be that their love was not real when they managed to get over it, and they did it quicker than you would expect?

No, I don’t think that’s the case. We can get over any kind of love—real, false, fatal, or unrequited.

So, straight to the point, the answer to your question, why can’t I get over my ex is: you can. As a matter of fact, you did. You’re over him.

There’s something else you struggle to let go of

When visiting my friend in India a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to talk to a wise old man, an experienced yogi. During that time, I was recovering from a very painful breakup. There were moments I thought the pain was unbearable.

This man knew nothing about the agony I was going through, yet he said something I needed to hear at that time, something that helped my healing journey.

He said when the love is pure and true, when we experience it with an open heart, it is not as hard to let go. When we truly accept the person and love them unconditionally, we will want to see them happy, even without ourselves in the picture.

So, if love actually makes it easier to let go, what makes it hard?

Your ego is wounded

When I look back at my past relationships, the ones that took me the longest to get over and let go were not even proper relationships. Those “situationships,” filled with uncertainty, delusion, and mind games, drove my attachment issues to the edge.

And if I’m going to be fully honest with myself, it’s not even that I wanted them. I wanted them to want me.

I wanted to be worthy of their attention, which I never had. Accepting that you lost that battle and couldn’t make someone obsessed with you is a tough pill to swallow.

Which is, not that I think of it, funny because did I really want them? Did I even know them?

It’s hard to let go of an illusion

So, if you have difficulties getting over an ex, ask yourself an honest question. Do you really miss that person? Do you even know that person? The less you know, the more you dream. And broken dreams hurt the most.

I’ll be bluntly honest. No one is so unforgettable once you get to know them. We’re all humans and have flaws. But only those closest to us experience the worst of us.

The ex you can’t get over may be more like an imaginary character. If you don’t get to know this person on a deeper level, they’ll likely be difficult to forget.

It’s not because they were so great or anything, but more because they had the potential to be… potential only you saw.

It’s hard to let go of a person you didn’t even get to know properly. Because it’s not them that you’re letting go, it’s your hopes, dreams, expectations, and illusions.

You dreamed of a future together, and now they’re not in your life anymore. You’re mourning lost dreams.

Emotions come and go

If you have a hard time letting go of a person, it’s likely nothing to do with emotions anymore. It’s something inside you you’re battling with.

Focus inward, and you’ll find the solution there.

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

Senior Editor, Tandem

Many of us have had past relationships, and, as they are in the past, we know that these relationships didn’t pan out. It could have been something you or your past partner did or said, or it might have been a lack of compatibility. 

Understandably, there are many reasons couples break up. Though you are no longer with this person, you might fantasize about getting back together. This might lead you to question yourself and to wonder, why can’t I get over my ex?

You can’t simply turn off your feelings

If your ex broke up with you, and you didn’t anticipate it (or even if you did,) that doesn’t mean that you can suddenly turn off your feelings for them. It can be difficult to stop thinking about the attraction you once had with each other and how they made you feel.

You haven’t fully separated from them 

Though you might have previously been living together and have already moved out, there is a difference between physical separation and full separation. 

Are you doing things such as following them on TikTok, Instagram, or other social media? Doing so will keep them top-of-mind, making it more difficult to get over them.

Your ex continues to contact you

Even if you have separated from them, that doesn’t mean they have separated from you. Maybe they continue to text you, or possibly you both work in the same office. They might even make excuses for talking to you. 

Whatever the reason, the longer you remain in contact, the longer it will take to start over.

You thought they were just what you were looking for 

In the same way you list out your needs and wants when you look for a new place to live, you have similar lists (though these might just be in your head) of what you look for in a relationship. 

If you still believe that your ex is someone who has these qualities, it can be hard to move past this.

You are still processing what happened 

Maybe the break-up was unexpected, or maybe you knew you were happy and thought that your partner was, too. It makes it more difficult to process the situation when things happen unexpectedly fully. If you are still processing everything, it will be hard for you to move forward and move on.

Once you’ve identified why you haven’t yet gotten over your ex, you can work on moving past the issues. It just depends on what your situation is. 

For example, if you are having problems turning off your feelings, try to think about why you are feeling this way. Or, if it’s that your ex keeps contacting you, you don’t need to answer or reply to them. 

By staying strong, you will realize how resilient you can be. Then, before you know it, when someone mentions your ex, your only question will be, “Who are you talking about?”

Michael Dadashi

Michael Dadashi

Co-Founder and CEO, Infinite Recovery

You have unresolved feelings

When the relationship ends, it is not always easy to let go of all the feelings that you had for your ex. You may still feel a deep connection with them or may be struggling to come to terms with what happened. This can make it difficult to completely move on and stop thinking about them all the time.

You rely on your ex for comfort

It can be easy to rely on the comfort of your ex in order to feel better about yourself and your life. When this happens, it can be hard to let go and start thinking about other ways to find that same level of comfort.

You keep being reminded of your ex

Maybe you still have pictures of them on your phone or reminders in your home that keep bringing up memories and feelings. You may even be seeing them out and about, which can bring up a whole range of emotions.

All these things can make it hard to move on from the relationship.

You’re afraid of moving on

It can be frightening to think about what life will be like without your ex. You may be worried that nothing else will ever compare and you’ll never find happiness again. This fear can hold you back from fully letting go and embracing the future.

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