“Why do I still love me ex?”: 13 reasons you can’t let go

It’s over. But as much as you tell your head that, your heart simply won’t seem to catch up.

Even though you’re no longer a couple, you still love your ex.

Is it normal to still love my ex? And how long is too long to still be in love with an ex?

We’ll answer these questions and more as we take a look at the reasons why you might still love your ex.

“Why do I still love my ex?”: 13 reasons you can’t let go

1) You’re still grieving their loss

The fallout from a breakup is huge. Never underestimate it.

Healing from that is a journey (sorry to be cliche, but it’s true). And there is no prescribed timeline. It will be unique for everyone and for every relationship.

As much as we may wish we could put a time limit on how long is too long to still harbor feelings for an ex, and when we “should” have moved on by — it doesn’t really work like that.

But it is probably longer than you think. One study said that it can take up to two years to move on from a serious relationship or marriage.

The initial stages of a breakup especially wreak utter havoc, impacting us on a neurological, physical, psychological, and emotional level.

Studies have shown that your body reacts to heartbreak in the same way that it does physical pain. Being forced to deal with the loss of an ex puts us into a hyper-alert fight or flight state.

That’s quite the rollercoaster we have to ride on.

At the end of the day, heartbreak is a grieving process, and that process is not necessarily linear. You may still love your ex because you are still going through this natural process.

2) You’re still in contact

I do believe that some people can remain friends with their exes. But personally, I think the only healthy way for this to happen is when both sides no longer have romantic feelings left.

The reality is that staying in your ex’s life makes it twice as hard to move on.

You may think what you have is a “friendship” but it may just be the leftover attachments and habits from a relationship that you are too scared to let go of yet.

You’re far more likely to stay in love with an ex if you have regular contact with them. If you still speak to one another, try to continue a friendship, or see each other often.

I have made this mistake once. I kept myself prisoner by being “friends” with an ex.

It left me stuck for over a year after we broke up and unable to move on from the loving feelings I still had for him.

Cutting contact completely was the way I started to genuinely move on and let go of him and the relationship.

3) You’re watching their life on social media and it opens old wounds

Think of this as a continuation of the above point. Because social media contact still counts as contact.

Watching someone’s life from the outside is always a bad idea, but when it’s an ex, doubly so.

We get just a glimpse to keep us hooked. We aren’t getting the whole picture, but we still get the highlights in order to weave and project our own stories.

Every social media story of theirs you watch, every post you scroll back on, and every secret snoop onto their profile that you indulge in takes its toll.

Social media can be challenging for our mental health at the best of times, but when you’re trying to move on from an ex it’s definitely an added drama that you don’t need.

4) You’ve lost your sense of self (and with it your perspective)

In a relationship, it’s easy for our lives to merge together with our partner. In the process, we can unwittingly lose ourselves a bit.

But that means when we are no longer a “we” and go back to being an “I” it feels harder to move on.

We struggle to remember who we are without the other person. And so in some ways, we cling to them by holding onto those feelings.

As strange as it may sound, often after we split with someone we need to spend some time getting acquainted with ourselves again. Particularly if it was a long and significant relationship we’ve left behind.

Finding yourself after a breakup might require some soul-searching. Reflect on what makes you tick, your likes and dislikes, and take some time to explore those things again.

As you regain your own sense of self, you may just find that you find along with it your sense of perspective about your ex too.

5) You love your ex and want to get back together

Here’s the thing:

I don’t want to in any way dismiss your feelings in this article, or try to argue them away.

There are many potential reasons why we would still feel in love with an ex.

One of those perfectly legitimate reasons could be that you love your ex because, despite your problems, you had an overall good relationship. And you feel like there is unfinished business.

You know what went wrong, and you think you can fix it or genuinely believe things could be different next time around.

Some couples certainly do manage to reconcile and rebuild their relationships. After all, people grow and change.

If you feel strongly that you want to win your ex back then I’d recommend checking out this free resource from relationship expert Brad Browning.

In his free video, he talks you through the steps you need to take to re-spark your ex’s interest in you.

It’s full of tips and tricks that can take you closer to reconciliation if that’s what you decide you truly do want.

Here’s the link again for that video.

6) You haven’t met anyone else yet

They say that the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. As crass as that expression potentially is, they kind of have a point.

We might not like to think it, but there are plenty of fish in the sea.

That’s not to diminish the importance of every relationship we have. But the truth is that there are endless combinations of people on the planet who can come together to create wonderful, fulfilling, and successful relationships.

And nothing quite helps you remember this like meeting someone else who sparks your interest.

Maybe you have had other flings or even other relationships. But if you have yet to meet the “full package” it’s understandable you’d think back to the last person who made you feel a certain way — aka your ex.

It’s human nature to feel a longing for an ex when we haven’t yet found someone who can replace their role in our lives yet.

7) You’re not trying to let go

Time for some tough love:

It may be that you’re unable to let go of your ex because you’re not doing the things that would help you process your emotions and move forward.

Don’t get me wrong, it is cathartic to cry, to wallow for a while, and to let out all the sadness you feel.

But at some point, we need to know when enough is enough.

That means dusting yourself off, getting up after you fall down, and doing what it takes to try to move on.

Ask whether you have truly done this. Ask whether deep down you have tried to let go, or if you may have indulged in staying stuck.

This isn’t meant to sound accusatory, you may have done all you can. But maybe you haven’t because you weren’t sure what to do.

To try to let go and move on:

  • Get out there
  • Try new things (new hobbies, new courses, new activities, and classes)
  • Meet new people
  • Surround yourself with people who love you (friends and family) to feel the love that may be missing.

Try to let go by actively growing your social life, your prospects, and yourself.

8) You’re looking at your ex and the relationship with rose-tinted glasses

Part of the reason why you still love your ex could be that you’ve forgotten why you broke up in the first place.

We can have a tendency to reach for the rose-tinted glasses when we split up.

Often when we face rejection something strange happens, we inflate the person who in our eyes we cannot have. We attach more status to them because they feel out of reach.

In your ego’s over-simplistic reasoning they must be valuable if they don’t want you but you want them. Rejection makes us behave in some strange ways.

As explained in Insider the pain of rejection may be rooted in basic survival instincts:

“For some species of animals, their odds of survival improve when they work together in groups. And on some levels, humans are the same — we’re social creatures and our brains have evolved to help us want to preserve social bonds. And so losing any of these bonds, including romantic ones, can cause us to feel strong negative feelings.”

Losing a relationship can cause us to idealize it, and our ex. We think only about the good times and forget about the bad.

But this skewed focus makes it harder to let go of loving feelings, instead, it intensifies them and the longing we feel.

Don’t shy away from your ex’s flaws and the problems you had in your relationship if you want to let them go.

9) You’re mourning the life you thought you would have

Sometimes it’s not always our ex we love, but the fantasy of the life we envisaged having with them.

No matter how much you try to resist the urge, we all end up forming expectations in relationships.

It’s common to daydream about a future and create an imaginary life in the process.

You may have envisaged yourself settling down with this person, having children, traveling together, and making a home together.

When we lose an ex, we don’t just lose them. We are also asked to give up all those dreams and desires we had been cultivating about the relationship.

And in many ways, this is just as hard to lose. Even though it was never “real”, accepting that it won’t happen how we imagined it is a big blow.

10) You’re spending too much time thinking about the past

**Potentially controversial opinion alert**

Closure is BS.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice idea but not always so easy to find.

When shitty things happen we often want to know “why”. But particularly when it comes to matters of the heart, there isn’t always a clear and definable explanation.

We can get so hung up on looking for explanations and answers that it keeps us stuck.

We start craving rational explanations for what went wrong, but this just leaves us digging around in the past, and in the process neglecting the present.

Licensed clinical social worker Meg Josephson says:

“People find comfort in logic and being able to pinpoint the cause and effect of what went wrong. Unfortunately, because of the complex emotional aspects of romantic relationships, it’s often hard to define exactly when and how something went awry. Without concrete information, which is typically not articulated, people tend to blame themselves and feel that it is a reflection of their overall desirability,”.

Rumination can be incredibly destructive. When you’re always looking backward how can you expect to move forwards?

Or in the more poetic words of Henry David Thoreau:

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”

11) You haven’t properly processed the emotions from the breakup

Everyone deals with an initial breakup differently. Some people find it so painful that they try to avoid having to deal with the emotions that they are feeling.

So they push them away, try to bury them, or distract themselves as much as possible. This is a defense mechanism, and sometimes it’s what we need in order to cope.

But when we do not process emotions properly they linger and can come back to bite us in the ass later. 

Research has found that reflecting on a recent breakup helps with the healing process. And studies have shown that simply talking to someone about how we feel helps bring relief.

You don’t have to go it alone, you can get help. If you’re in need of some impartial professional support, then check out Relationship Hero.

They offer 24-7 access to trained relationship coaches when you need it the most.

Unlike therapists, they’ll not only provide a sympathetic ear, but they also offer you practical advice on what to do next.

If you’re curious to know more, you can click here to get started.

12) You’re confusing loving feelings for being “in love”

When we spend a lot of time with someone, we get attached to them. And that attachment means that it’s normal to have lingering feelings of love for someone, even after you are no longer with them.

These feelings may begin to fade with time, or you may always keep hold of a certain amount of loving feelings towards your ex. Especially if you respect them and despite everything, you once had a good relationship.

But that doesn’t mean you are still “in love” with them or that you should be together.

We are capable of loving in many ways.

When a romantic relationship breaks down, some forms of love may still remain. And that can be very confusing for us.

We wonder what it means, or whether we should feel that way.

But love is an endless resource. You can continue to love many people in your life all at the same time. And that love doesn’t always need to be neatly wrapped up and defined.

13) You need to boost your self-esteem

If your ex treated you pretty badly and broke your heart, yet you still love them, then I promise you, you’re not alone. Many people feel this way.

But here’s the thing, even though it’s normal to feel like this, you are inadvertently putting your ex above yourself.

Above your own happiness, and your own well-being.

When we find ourselves feeling stuck and in love with someone who doesn’t love us back, we need to inject some self-love into our lives.

Remember that breakups can really knock our confidence. Even years later.

Research says that heartbreak changes our brain chemistry and we experience a drop in the production of our feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin.

So you may find yourself feeling depressed or anxious. All of this is going to mean your self-esteem has taken a knock.

You may be struggling to let go of your ex because you are yet to emotionally build yourself up again.

Help yourself to bolster your self-esteem:

  • Be kind to yourself as much as you can
  • Focus on building positive relationships in your life
  • Do the things that make you feel good about yourself
  • List all of your strengths and positive qualities
  • Tackle your negative self-beliefs

Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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