If you've gone through a breakup recently (or even some time back), you might still be missing your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend, regardless of whether you want to get back with them. You may even feel that is has become worse as time has gone on.
In fact, according to a study conducted on 257 college students, time since breakup didn't lower distress nearly as much as expected. They discovered that if it was a strongly committed relationship and lasted a while, distress can be felt long after the breakup.
That's not to say that time doesn't help in healing the pain, but that you shouldn't be surprised if it's been a few months and you're still missing your ex.
This is one of the most common questions we get from our clients. It's easy to just conclude you're unhappy or feeling lonely, but that doesn't change how you feel.
It's not just your ex you're missing, it's also who you were with them and what you had. You invested your time and self in the relationship and it's only natural that you're feeling the loss now. And it's just as natural that these feelings will take some time to subside.
The biggest problem with missing someone is that it can be unpredictable. You may have been fine for a few hours, and then you suddenly can't stop thinking about them. Maybe you found some clothes they left behind, maybe you happened to come across a song you both love, maybe you were on Instagram and noticed a new post by them, etc.
And once you start thinking about your ex, it can spiral out of control. Reminiscing about the good times, wondering how things could be so much different, wishing for things to change - all of these are just going to make you miss your ex more, and it's mostly out of your control.
There's no magic bullet. No trick or one-stop solution that you can apply to your situation and fix things instantly. Especially since everyone's situation is unique. The first thing you have to accept that this is a process and it will take time. There's no walking around that.
Also, in case you're looking for how to get your ex to miss you.
This sounds pretty obvious, but a lot of people won't actually follow through with this. If you have pictures of you both on your table, or if you're still using that bag they got you, or if you're still listening to their favorite song, etc, you're not making things any easier on yourself.
It can be a bit daunting to get rid of any mementos we have. The relationship already ended and taking this next step can feel like the final nail in the coffin. A lot of us will subconsciously hold on to these items and mementos as a means to feel closer to our ex, or to be more accurate - to feel closer to how we were during the relationship. But it's ultimately holding you back.
Every time you spot something that reminds you of them, it'll just send your train of thoughts spiraling - thinking all the thoughts you should try to avoid right now.
Start by returning any things that your ex might still want/need. After that, get rid of anything you are sure you'll never want and put the rest away out of reach.
It's easy to constantly think about what went wrong, whose fault it was, how things could've been prevented, etc. You might think that blaming your ex and creating a negative mental image of them might help you move past them, but it's just as likely to hold you back.
Worse, you might be blaming yourself for everything that went wrong. Now, it's important to take responsibility for your mistakes and shortcomings. But that doesn't mean you constantly entertain thoughts like you're not good enough or that they never cared about you or you'll never find someone else, etc.
Whether you're blaming yourself or your ex, whether you're even just blaming the circumstances - these thoughts will just keep fueling your yearning for him.
Maintain strictly no contact with your ex. This includes phone calls, text messages, messages and comments on social media, etc. This might seem counterproductive if you're both still talking to each other. After all, when we miss someone the solution is generally to reach out to them. But in your position, it'll do more harm than good.
In some ways, it's an expansion of the first point (get rid of all reminders). Every time you talk to them over the phone or in-person, exchange messages, or even just check out their social media updates; you might be making yourself feel a little better in the short term, but it's ultimately just going to make it harder for you to stop missing them in the long term.
If you guys are still in touch, it's a bit rude and unfair to your ex to suddenly just break contact. Instead, let them know of your decision and why you're doing so. They might try to change your mind, but it's important to stick to your guns here. Let them know that you need time and space so that you can move forward, and also that this isn't permanent - you will reach out to them when you're both in a better place.
If you're not keeping yourself occupied, you're likely to keep dwelling on the past and your ex. The more empty space in your schedule, the more you'll keep thinking about your ex. Instead, you need to fill that space up.
I could say "keep yourself busy" but that's really just one part of it. Firstly, it's not that simple to just "stay busy". You probably have something you know you should work on, but just can't get yourself to do it. It's important to take small steps towards your goal. When you're already feeling low, you're unlikely to feel motivated to finish the report you have due next week in class.
You start thinking about everything you need to for the report and it becomes a giant mountain that you can't climb over. Instead, you need to break it down into smaller parts, eg. start with gathering a list of sources, draft a simple 1-page outline, watch a video on a similar topic, etc.
Secondly, you might be keeping yourself busy the wrong way. Binging TV shows and Youtube videos or scrolling through your Instagram feed for hours might keep your mind off your ex for a while, but they're not very productive. It's important to prioritize activities that will contribute towards your positive growth, like joining a new spin class with friends, doing some charity work with your classmates, etc.
I often advise my clients to divide their week into chunks of specific hours to help structure their lives. There are 168 hours in a week. Let's subtract 90 hours for work (40) and sleep (50), so that leaves us with 78 hours. If you don't make a conscious decision to plan out those remaining ~80 hours, you'll probably spend them all just thinking about your ex. 80 hours is a lot of time and to make a conscious effort to use them productively, you have to come up with a plan. eg: 12 hours for working out each week, 20 hours for friends, family, and relaxation, 20 hours towards learning music, etc.
As we discussed in the last point, it's crucial to have a plan for how you spend your time. Hobbies and activities you enjoy should make up a significant part of your free time. A lot of people end up paying less attention to their hobbies and favorite activities when they get seriously involved in a relationship, so it's very likely you've not been paying as much attention to things you've loved.
Also, assuming you have a 40-hour workweek or even 60-hours, you have 60-80 hours of free time that you can put towards taking up new hobbies and activities. Taking part in and learning a new activity with people is a lot of fun and helps almost everyone when it comes to not thinking about their ex.
More importantly, you'll be actively working towards making yourself a better more well-rounded person, and if you're looking to get back with your ex at some point, this is crucial.
A lot of us spend most of our time with our partners, so when we break up, we're often left feeling extremely lonely and like no one can understand us. But that's not true. Most of us have experienced the pain of a breakup and we feel some empathy towards others going through it.
This is even more true in the case of friends. Depending on how long you've known each other, you've probably helped each other cope with breakups before, too. That said, this isn't necessarily about having a shoulder to cry on. In fact, besides informing your friends about what happened, it's probably not smart to dwell on the breakup and your ex for too long.
It brings us back to point #1 - you're trying to avoid thinking of your ex as much as possible.
Of course, you may be in a position where you don't really have any friends around. Maybe most of your friends are in other cities or you've grown apart from them in recent years.
That's why you should also invest some time and effort into meeting new people. It's not that hard to make new friends. Think about the friends you've made in the past and how it happened. For almost all of them, you probably became friends as you both spent more and more time together because of outside reasons (like school, work, sports, etc).
And it should be the same now. Building on the last two points - structuring your life and being involved in hobbies/activities - the best way to make new friends is to figure out some new hobbies or activities that you want to learn and then getting involved with some group or class on it. It's hitting two birds with one stone. You learn a new skill while making new friends, all the while keeping your mind off your ex.
When we're doing the same thing over and over for an extended time, our brain stops feeling excited about the routine and gets a lot more space to dwell on things you don't want to (like your ex). This is especially true after a breakup. You were used to life with your ex, the texts and phone calls, eating and sleeping together, doing activities together, etc. Now going through your routine just reminds your brain how your ex is missing from all your plans and activities.
On the other hand, doing new things, going to new places, meeting new people, etc., gives your brain a lot more stimuli. When our brain is exposed to something positive it hasn't seen before, we automatically get more involved in the present (and think less about the past).
So take a trip with your friends, start learning that language you've always wanted to, go bungee jumping this weekend, etc.
Throughout this post, we've been talking about keeping our minds off our ex, off the past. So it's understandable if you're a bit confused with this one.
However, at some point, it's helpful to reflect on specific things about the past. Especially if you're already unable to stop thinking about your ex. In other words, if you're not thinking about your ex or missing them, then you can just ignore this, but if you can't stop thinking about them already, then it's important to focus your thoughts productively.
According to a study conducted on 72 participants, spending 20 minutes every day journaling about the breakup helped the participants feel less resentment for their ex, care less about them, feel less guilty about the breakup, and overall have less intrusive thoughts related to their ex.
Be objective about your reflections. Try to focus on what you learned from the relationship/breakup and maintain a positive angle.
As cliche as it is, this also happens to have a 100% success rate. Given enough time, you will ultimately stop missing your ex. Of course, depending on how things were, this could take weeks to months, maybe even years.
Right now, it might feel like the end of the world. It probably even feels like you'll never get past this. Emotions can warp our sense of reality, especially negative ones. And at this moment, they're making you feel like you'll never stop missing your ex.
But it will get easier with time. Science tells us so and we've also seen this with all our clients.
Everyone's situation and experience is unique. While the points I've mentioned above will help anyone that is trying to get over an ex, nothing can substitute a personalized plan specifically for you.
Therapy and counseling are often helpful for people going through hurt and pain after a breakup. Therapists often deal with clients who go through heartbreak and teach them how to cope. And you'll probably learn a lot about yourself that you can apply in your future relationships. It also feels so much better to know that you have a professional on your team.
Besides therapy, relationship coaching is also a great option. Here at Relationship Hero, we've helped over 25k clients achieve their relationship goals, and a large majority required help to stop missing their exes.
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