Some exes are just hard to forget.
If you have that one ex who keeps popping in your head and visiting your dreams even if it’s been ages since you’ve broken up, you might take it as a sign that they’re the one for you.
While that’s possible, it’s highly unlikely you’re haunted by them for other reasons.
In this article, I will give you 13 psychology-backed reasons why you can’t stop thinking about your ex and what you can do about it.
1) Young love is oftentimes sweeter
When we’re younger, everything is just more magical.
We’re innocent and worry-free. Well, not entirely. We still cared about our homework and what to wear to the prom. But we had no bills to pay, career ladders to climb, reputation to uphold, and health issues to worry about.
Because of this, we were able to truly enjoy love and relationships, despite the lack of resources and strict supervision of our parents. In fact, they’re also sweeter because of it. We borrowed a few dollars from our friends just to have burgers and milkshakes with our beloved.
We saved up a month’s allowance just to give them a gift.
Adult love is, of course, still wonderful, but it just doesn’t have that child-like innocence anymore. Maybe you miss your ex because you long for the good ole days and the pureness of your love.
2) Nostalgia makes us remember the good stuff
Do you notice that when someone dies, you can’t help but remember good things about them even if you thought that they were insufferable when they were still around?
That’s because the mind knows how to cope by mainly remembering the good things.
Your ex was surely awful in some ways—it’s probably the reason you broke up—but now that you’re no longer butting heads all the time, you keep recalling all your good times together.
You can’t help but miss them.
Even things that once drove you up the wall might become endearing, given time!
3) Your meeting was magical
We pay importance to stories, especially when it comes to love.
Maybe you met while you were backpacking in the Himalayas and had a magical moment where one of you saved the other, and that made a strong impression on you. To your mind, this makes them more special than they really are.
If your best friend met the love of their life on Tinder, your magical relationship would also thrive right?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Just because people met in seemingly mundane situations doesn’t mean they can’t find magic in each other. Likewise, just because your first meeting was cute and magical doesn’t guarantee that you’ll last longer than three months.
A grand, magical first meeting would nonetheless make a strong impression. You would pine for that magical moment, and might even find yourself unable to bear the thought of finding love in ‘ordinary’ ways.
4) They’re your first in many things
They say “first love never dies” and while it’s quite cheesy, there’s some truth to it.
Your ex was probably the one who introduced you to many things—they could be your first kiss, first dance, first cuddles with the opposite sex.
They could have also introduced you to many exciting things like mountaineering, tap dancing, and other things that you can’t forget. And every time you do these things, you just can’t help but be reminded of them.
When you go hiking, you might remember the first time you scaled a mountain together. When you kiss someone else for the first time, you might find yourself thinking of the way your ex kissed you.
5) You invested a lot in them
One possible reason that an ex is hard to forget is that we invested a lot in them.
We’re not talking about money, although that’s possible too. We’re talking about other things like putting in a lot of effort in building a relationship, imagining a future together, traveling to the other side of the world just to be with them.
And as The Little Prince said, “It’s the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important…You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.”
Your ex probably became more valuable to you because you sacrificed for them and the relationship more than with anyone you’ve ever been with.
6) Your story feels unfinished
It’s harder to forget someone when the reason for your break-up is lame or isn’t so clear.
They’d ask you “But why did you break up? You’re both still in love!”
And you rack your brain out thinking of a reason but can’t find anything that’s reasonable—no cheating, no big fights. It probably just faded.
Our brains are used to clear endings and clear beginnings. When something feels “unfinished” in our heads, we often think of it as a very long story that will have a happy ending someday—pretty much like the Before Sunset trilogy.
Even if you’re in a loving relationship, and even if you aren’t even so in love with your ex, your mind will tell you that it’s a story that should continue.
7) You want show them how much you’ve changed
Let’s say you broke up because your ex thinks you’re irresponsible and you constantly jumped from one job to another.
It was such a huge blow to your ego that you changed who you are just to prove to them that you’re not that bad—no, that you’re actually awesome.
Even if in reality you really aren’t in love with this ex anymore, your mind tricks you into thinking that you are. But what you really want is validation that you’re an okay person.
You might be trying to please them because that’s the kind of love that’s familiar to you because your parents also treated you like trash.
The moment they acknowledge that you’re awesome, this longing for your ex might go away for good.
8) You’re unhappy with your current relationship
If you’re in a relationship right now and you’re unhappy, it’s only natural that you keep thinking about your ex. You might even dream of your ex often too.
You might end up thinking about how your ex was more attentive, or how they were much better in bed.
Don’t take this as a sign that your ex is the one for you, take it as a sign that it’s time you re-evaluate your current relationship.
What do you remember most about your ex? What traits did they have that you wish your current SO has? Take the time to really reflect. Use your ex as a guide, not as a literal solution to your unhappiness.
Because chances are, if you were to get back together with your ex, you’re likely to break up again.
9) You like the version of you when you’re together
As mentioned earlier, you were probably young and carefree when you were still together.
Maybe you were also more creative, more funny, more interesting, and more loving.
You might have at some point thought that you were that way because you were together with your ex.
But while it’s possible that your ex was the one who encouraged you to become the person you once were, it’s most likely that you are all these things all along.
You can always give it some thought and become that person again without them if you tried. What matters is that you try.
10) They’re now living the life you both used to dream of
When you’re still together, you both had this grand dream of becoming rock stars who travel the world.
When you broke up, you forgot all about it and focused on practical things instead—getting good grades, landing in a good company, buying a house with a white fence. Life was okay.
Well then, one day you find out that your ex is now a signed artist and is indeed having concerts all over the world. You’re truly happy for them but a part of you would regret that you ended things.
While it may feel that you still have feelings for your ex, that isn’t likely. You just see clearly how the possibilities of your life branch out and you can’t help but feel a pang of regret for not taking the path of the artist’s life. You see? This isn’t really about your ex but about you and your life choices.
11) They pushed you to become better
Your ex was a little annoying. They always think you’d turn out to be someone great—that you’ll not only be a good writer, but you’ll be the next Victor Hugo.
Your ex probably thought the sun shines out of your ass, and no one has made you feel this way.
They’re probably tough on you but it’s the sort that makes you feel taken care of. They push you to pursue your dreams relentlessly.
Now that you are exactly how they imagined you to be, you can’t stop thinking about them. It’s not because you feel pity towards them, it’s probably because you’d do anything just to thank them for having seen the potential in you.
12) You’ve turned them into a goal
When you broke up, you promised them that you’ll be better and that one day you’ll be together again!
This kind of determination has made you do many impossible things—you started a business that became successful, you worked on your weight, you’re now someone everyone wants to date.
You’re now at the top of the world, looking down on all the steps you’ve taken on your way up. And you can’t help but think of your ex for every second of it.
And that’s because you’ve made your ex your goal. You’re doing all this not for yourself, but to bring them back to your side.
This is, unfortunately, quite destructive. Suppose your ex doesn’t come back, or that they got hitched with someone else. What then?
You might just end up losing the will to keep going when you realize that it has all been in vain. You had become so fixated on the image of a perfect life you had in your mind that when things don’t go as planned you get mad and hurt.
You’ve convinced yourself that they’re the only thing missing in your life.
13) You’re convinced that they’re irreplaceable
When we’re young, we believe that it’s easy to find a connection. But as we grow older, we realize that genuine connections are hard to find and build.
Maybe you had a really strong connection to your ex and you’ve convinced yourself that they’re irreplaceable.
Sure, other people might make you happy too, but you’re so fixated on what your ex did that nothing they do will ever compare.
So you keep on thinking about them, wishing that they were at your side.
The kicker is that your ex most likely isn’t even as good as you had come to imagine them to be. It’s like you’re playing a game of telephone with yourself. With every retelling, the story changes a little, and small things become a little grander. Eventually you end up with a badly distorted fantasy.
In the same vein, it’s important to keep in mind that your ex probably isn’t as irreplaceable as you think they are.
WHY YOU SHOULD STOP THINKING ABOUT YOUR EX
You have to remind yourself that they’re not the same person anymore, and neither are you.
What you had was definitely special, but it ended for a reason—and it’s supposed to stay in your past.
Trying to reconnect with your ex with the delusion that they’re still the same person as before is foolish. It’s also risky. Sure they will be the same in some aspects, but they definitely have a different life with different sets of problems.
While it’s alright to give it another try and find out for yourself, I strongly don’t advocate you pursuing your ex if you’re currently in a stable and loving relationship, if you’re merely going through a life crisis, or if you know that they’re happy with their life.
Just consider the fact that you longing for your ex might not actually be because you still want them back in your life. Is it worth the risk? It’s clearly up to you. But there’s a chance you’ll get yourself in much deeper trouble, ruining the good things that you already have.
HOW YOU CAN STOP THINKING ABOUT YOUR EX
If you’ve decided that you don’t want to go down the path of pursuing your ex again, then you’ve already done half of the work. It’s the confusion that keeps us from truly moving on and accepting our life sans our ex.
Here are the steps you need to do to stop thinking about them:
1) Stop feeding the beast
If you are dedicated to yourself rather than to your ex, unsubscribe to them.
Cut off communication, stop viewing their stories, and for crying out loud watching their Tiktok videos!
Quit them like you quit cigarettes or any bad habit. The first three days will be hard but it will get easier and easier each day.
And if you slip on some days because they contacted you first or someone you know posted their photo, don’t feel discouraged. Keep at it. One day, they won’t even enter your mind anymore. Or if they do, you won’t ever think of them romantically.
2) Look for a love that doesn’t feel like you’re settling
If you’re in love with someone who can make you feel like a million bucks, you probably won’t be able to think of your ex.
Go look for that kind of love. Don’t stay in a relationship because you’ve invested a lot in it, or because it’s the mature thing to do. Stay because you feel this is the kind of love and relationship you want to have for the rest of your life.
Otherwise, you’d be haunted by your ex until you’re old and wrinkly. Don’t allow that to happen to you.
3) Focus on your life and your relationship
Try to be present in your life while it’s happening instead of imagining the future or getting nostalgic of the past.
What you have now is all you’ve got. Focus on what now has to offer. If you’re in a relationship, be truly in it. If you’re still struggling at the bottom of the career ladder, then work hard.
And if you’re unhappy with how your life turned out, put all your energy into making it better instead of fixating on your ex.
Think about this: every minute you spend thinking about your ex is taking you away from the time you should be spending making your relationship and your life better.
4) Remind yourself of why your relationship didn’t work
They might have been great, but you shouldn’t lose sight of their flaws as well.
Maybe they were the sweetest, but they were flaky and kept blowing hot and cold. Or maybe they’re smart, but they also thought they could get away with cheating on you.
Every time you find yourself thinking of how good they were, remind yourself of their flaws. Get a notebook and write them down if needed.
Trust me—they DO have flaws. Real ones, like their cruelty or inability to accept blame… and not just the cute ‘flaws’ like them having a messy bedhead every time they wake up in the morning.
They’re still human, despite everything.
5) Cultivate a more carefree lifestyle
If you figured out that the reason you miss your ex was because you mainly miss being young and free, then it’s time you make some lifestyle changes.
Think of the things that are frequently causing you great distress. It could even be your current partner, too. Then it’s time you make some changes in the relationship or even have a short break so you can introspect.
If you think you’re too stressed because of a job you hate, then it’s time to start updating your LinkedIn profile.
In other words, instead of actually pursuing your ex, pursue the feeling you had when you’re together and apply it to your life right now.
6) Dream big dreams again
Make your life so exciting again that you forget or stop fixating about the things in the past.
Go make that movie, write that novel, start that business. Try to be great and do great things!
That way, your ex will have very little space in your mind. In fact, it could be the reason you’re thinking about them more often—you just miss the feeling that life was once a big adventure.
Your life has just started. Don’t look back because it’s useless to waste your time on a love story that wasn’t meant to be. Instead, live a full life and go after the life you’ve always wanted.
One day in the future, you’d look back at this moment and say, “I almost went back to my ex but they really weren’t what I was looking for.”
Use this time to work on yourself and your ex would become less and less significant to you as time goes by.
Just because you can’t stop thinking about your ex doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s something special about them.
What’s often the case is that there’s something you’re missing in your current situation, and you’re using the memory of your ex to “remember” better times.
By idealizing your ex like so, however, you end up blinding yourself by focusing so much on what you don’t have. You also end up overlooking the good things that you do have.
Getting over your ex might not be easy, but by knocking your ex down a peg and thinking of them as just another human being, you’re helping yourself along.
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
I know this from personal experience…
A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.
If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.
In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.
I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.