Is it healthy to miss my ex?
The break-up of any intimate relationship, whether it's casual or long-term, is never easy. It can be devastating, frustrating, and even downright infuriating. To lose someone that we have connected with in such a meaningful way can make us feel as though we’ve lost a part of who we are. A break-up is a wound that–although heals over time–leaves a scar on our hearts that never fully fades away.
You might think of your past partner at a friend's party or family dinner, remembering their unique energy and aura that would light up any room. You might long for their bright smile, contagious laugh, or the comfort of their embrace as you lie awake at night. You might also miss the person you once were when you were in this relationship. Perhaps you felt more confident and supported in your decisions with them in your life. Maybe they brought out your wild or sophisticated side, which dissipated after the break-up.
But maybe the relationship only comes to mind when you visit certain places or see old faces that remind you of them, filling you with a sense of nostalgia but at the same time, loss.
Whatever it is that makes your heart ache for your ex, know that it's okay to feel those feelings no matter how much time has passed. It can be hard to move on from something so important to us, but it's important to remember that there is something better and healthier to us coming in the future. Ultimately, a breakup is always the right decision.
Let's take a look at why that is...
The Impact of Grief
When I experienced my first-ever break-up, for weeks I found myself curled up on the couch in tears, unable to comprehend what I had lost. One day, my dad came into the living room to comfort me, and rather than trying to fix the situation (like most dads try to do), he aimed to validate how I felt. He told me that the pain of a break-up is comparable to losing someone to death. And you know what? He was right.
When someone close to you has died—whether it's a friend or a family member—it feels like your world has stopped. You feel empty inside. You feel as though you can no longer find joy in anything because a person who made your life so special has left forever.
So when you experience a breakup, many feelings will surface: feelings of anger directed at yourself or your partner; feelings of failure; feelings of rejection, loneliness and isolation… All those emotions run parallel to what we feel when a loved one passes away.
And just like when someone dies, we grieve over break-ups...and grief can impact our lives in so many ways. When you’ve been through a break-up, it can feel like the end of the world. You might feel like there’s no hope for finding love again, and that you’ll have to spend the rest of your life alone. Or you may think that your ex was perfect for you, and nobody else will ever measure up.
Such thinking can be detrimental to your wellbeing and future relationships. For instance, if you were to fear being forever alone, you might find yourself jumping back into the dating scene too quickly, without taking any time to reflect on the relationship you just had and what you want in a future partner. An alternative scenario is that you avoid dating altogether as you believe you are unworthy and can never be loved by someone else, preventing you from exploring amazing, potential relationships.
What to Do if You Miss Your Ex
#1 Trust in Time
The worst part of a breakup is the feeling that your life has been irrevocably changed, or worse, lacks purpose or meaning. But the truth is that even if your life does change forever after a breakup, it doesn't mean that it won't be for the better.
This realization comes with time.
It's true when they say, "time heals all wounds." The amount of time it takes to heal from a breakup can vary. Some people need weeks to get over their ex and move on with their lives, while others struggle for years.
Maybe you feel like you will never get over your ex—and that's okay. You don't have to get over them right away. But keep in mind that each passing day it does get easier, and eventually you will feel better about yourself and your life.
If you are still feeling sad or depressed after a few weeks, it might be time to seek professional help from a therapist, counselor, coach, or someone who can help you work through these feelings and move on with your life (I strongly encourage this).
#2 Fill the Void (In a Healthy Way)
The first thing we need to do when going through a break-up is to take time off from dating. It may be tempting to jump right back into the dating scene and find someone new, but this can be dangerous for several reasons: you might end up repeating the same patterns with new partners, or try to be someone you’re not.
Instead, fill this void with new people, places, and passions. Spend more time with your friends and family; go explore a new city or country; and try out something new that you've always wanted to try. Do all the things you had wanted to do that you didn't have time for when you had a partner. Focusing on yourself in this way can allow you to engage in self-discovery and healing, which will ultimately allow you to move forward.
#3 Don’t Try to Get Back Together
After a breakup, it's tempting to try to get back together with your ex. You might think that if you just give it time, or if you make some changes, or if you say the right things, they'll come around and want to get back together with you.
But here's the thing: trying to get back together doesn’t mean changing who you are to have them back in your life, and the same goes for them (and for them to change is entirely out of your control, so it will most likely lead to disappointment). Be realistic and don’t push for something that just isn’t meant to be.
The best thing you can do after a breakup is to take some time apart so you can heal from the stress and trauma of breaking up (and maybe from some of the ways you might have treated one another during the relationship).
#4 Leverage the Contrast
The best thing you can do when faced with a challenging situation like a break-up is to leverage the contrast. What I mean by this is to seek what sort of clarity the situation provided for you. For example, despite being heartbroken, my first relationship taught me that I needed to deal with my past childhood trauma to be a good partner. Because I had avoided confronting my past, it seeped into the relationship, making me overly dependent and immature. However, by taking the time to reflect on the relationship and seeing how my actions impacted it, I was able to learn so much about myself. Today, I am confident I am mature enough to explore dating again.
Seeking out clarity and the hidden gift in any situation can help you make effective decisions going forward so you can get closer to what you want. I recommend answering the following questions about your past relationship, and as you reflect on your answers you will learn quite a lot about yourself and what you are looking for:
- What do you miss about your ex?
- What do you miss about companionship?
- What did you learn from this relationship?
- Why were you in a relationship with this person?
- Why did this relationship end?
- What do you want in a future relationship?
#5 Find Closure By Forgiving
To truly move on from a relationship, you need to find closure. Often, closure requires you to forgive not only your ex but also yourself. You may feel like you did everything right during the relationship—but maybe there are some things that happened that you feel guilty or ashamed of now.
Maybe you're wondering if you could have done something different to prevent the breakup from happening in the first place. You might be questioning your worth and whether or not you're good enough for a future relationship. And then, you might add guilt into the mix: Why did I do this? Why did I let them do that? How can I be so selfish?
But here's the thing: You're not selfish—you just wanted to be loved by someone who would love you back with equal fervor and intensity. And that's totally normal! But unfortunately, sometimes people don't want what we want and their needs differ from ours….and that's okay too!
So how do we find peace with this reality? How do we forgive ourselves for failing at something so important? How do we allow ourselves to move forward without feeling like failures?
An exercise you can do is write a letter to them without actually sending it. In this letter, you should express all of your feelings about what went wrong in the relationship and why it didn't work out. You can include any insights or lessons learned from this experience that might help you improve your future relationships. This letter is not meant for them; it's a way for you to get everything off your chest without the risk of hurting anyone else's feelings by saying those things out loud. This will likely be very difficult at first because there may be so much anger or sadness that comes up when thinking about the breakup itself—these are normal emotions and they'll pass with time (and lots of tissues). However, writing down these thoughts will help clear them out of your system so that they no longer affect your everyday life as much as they did before writing this letter.
A Final Note
It's okay to feel sad about the end of a relationship. It's okay to want to stay up all night watching old movies and crying into your pillow. It's okay to miss them and wish things were different.
But missing them is for the best. Regardless of who broke up with who, it ended for the right reason. Perhaps the reason was lack of compatibility or maybe you were holding each other back from pursuing your goals and dreams. Or maybe the relationship was toxic and abusive. No matter how it ended or where you are at in your healing journey, I genuinely hope that you reach a place of acceptance and peace.
Although this chapter in your life is closed, I can promise you that not only will you be okay, but this ending will allow you to get closer to the person you’re meant to become and the soulmate you’re meant to be with.
Written by Guest Author, Hailey Rodgers