Is it Normal to Still Love My Ex?
Oftentimes, new relationships feel like a fresh start. Wonderful ideas like soulmates and true love become a reality, and we’ve never been happier.
So when heartbreak comes along, our bodies go through a kind of romantic withdrawal. We become cynical yet find ourselves still in love long after the breakup.
When we’re happily in love, our brains produce dopamine and other chemicals that make us feel good, and a biological connection is formed. The longer this relationship goes on, and the more dopamine is produced, the more “addicted” our brains become.
In short, it’s perfectly natural to miss (or even love) your first love or old flame for a while.
However, if strong feelings persist and you’re having a hard time moving on from an ex-partner, you may still be grieving.
Breakups are a type of loss and may follow the five stages of grief. You may experience each stage or only some, in no particular order.
As with any form of loss, you can lean on professional help to learn how to healthily process a breakup and reconcile your feelings.
To help you better understand your grief in the lens of a breakup, we’ve listed the five stages below:
1. Shock or denial
Even after the relationship ends, you and your ex-partner may slip into old habits, exchanging texts and making plans.
This isn’t unusual; breakups can be traumatic, and denial is a powerful coping mechanism. It helps soften the blow until we can process our emotions.
When we have strong feelings for another person, our love and affection may morph into anger and resentment following a breakup.
You may blame yourself or your partner for the relationship’s end. You may lash out, pointing out the other person’s flaws, or resent loved ones for their successful relationships.
Bad relationships and breakups can also affect your self-esteem. Depending on the nature of your previous relationship, these intense emotions may linger and prevent you from connecting with a new partner.
Restoring a past relationship can feel like the solution to newfound instability and insecurity, whether you truly want to try again or not.
You may promise to be a better person or suggest their current partner isn’t right for them. You may also find yourself caught up in nostalgia, sending “I miss you” texts in the middle of the night or calling up an old flame.
Alternatively, you may shift your focus to work, school, or exercise, using increased or over-productivity to regain a sense of control.
During this stage, you may spend a lot of time alone, scrolling through your ex’s social media and rereading text messages.
While you may not necessarily cry, you might be low on energy and lack motivation for your usual interests.
Though it’s important to lean on friends during this stage, they are not relationship experts and all forms of grief can be hard to cope with, especially if you have a mental illness. If you feel depressed for more than two weeks, it may be time to speak to a mental health professional.
Loving someone and learning how to let go are fundamental life lessons.
If the relationship was unhealthy or unhappy, then parting ways was the right decision, and you’ll eventually go on to find someone better. Likewise, if you two were happy together, then it’s very likely you’ll be happy again with someone else.
Knowing this, you may still have lingering feelings for your ex.
This is perfectly normal. What matters is that you’ve learned how to reconcile your emotions and have begun to reconnect with friends, families, and new partners.
Tips on How to Move Forward
Moving on from a breakup takes time. As you navigate your emotions, stay mindful of the pull of fond memories and practice self-care to get through the hard days.
To help you move forward, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Stay off of social media
A lot of people fall into self-destructive patterns following a breakup. If you’re comparing yourself to the couples you see online or checking up on your ex a lot, take time away from social media. Reinvest your energy into work and hobbies, and learn how to see yourself outside of a relationship.
Listen to music with themes of self-empowerment and independence
Researchers have found that listening to your favorite music releases dopamine, one of the “happy brain chemicals.”
Blast your favorite playlist on your way to work and host concerts in your shower. Rediscover some high school favorites, dance alone in your room, and lean into the self-empowering messages that you loved as a teenager.
Remember why you broke up
Not only is journaling a great way to process your emotions, but it can serve as a physical record of what went wrong with your relationship.
Alternatively, you can reach out to a close friend and get their perspective. If they were present for the duration of the relationship, they likely can lend some insight into why you two broke up.
Throw away or get rid of mementos and keepsakes
It’s a lot easier to cling onto memories if we still have physical reminders lying around.
If you feel like it might give you closure, return the gifts your ex gave you. Throw away or donate anything else you might’ve held on to that reminds you of them. Though it may be bittersweet, it’ll help you think of them less as you go about your day.
Write a parting letter, but don’t send it
To help you process your emotions, try writing a parting letter.
Write down everything you wanted to say, from the angry to the good. Let it all out and once you’re done, throw it away. You can think of this as a physical release from the relationship and the power it once held over you.
Delete their number and block communication
In addition to staying off social media, avoid stalking your ex’s posts.
To stave off temptation, block them on all your accounts and delete their number. If you’re still hurting, do not engage with them if they try to reach out or happen to ask a close friend about you.
Get support from friends and family
If you’re having a tough time coping with a breakup, reach out to your loved ones.
Friends and family members can be a crucial source of support during this difficult period, so try to make plans and reinvest energy into non-romantic relationships.
Seek professional support
There is nothing wrong with asking for help.
Work Through Your Feelings with Emote Online Therapy
Whether they were your first love or your first serious relationship, it’s not unusual to still love your ex. After all, they were a major part of your life, and letting go is never easy.
Through therapy, it’s possible to healthily address unresolved feelings and recover from a broken heart.
By matching with one of our highly qualified therapists, you can gain the tools you need to cope with a breakup. Through therapy, you can even discover a new side to yourself and learn how to connect with a new partner.