Breakups, regardless of how long you’ve been together, can be painful, confusing, and a time of loneliness.
Dealing with your emotional wounds, the trauma of those final days, and the harsh shock of starting all over again by yourself can be enough to send even the strongest people into a downward spiral.
But, eventually, most people learn to move on and build a new life or a new relationship. Others, unfortunately, become stuck in a cycle of despair.
If you feel like that might be you, and that getting over your ex is proving to be much harder than you thought, read on.
In this article, we’ll look at 12 reasons why you’re still holding on, and some useful tips on how to finally start healing and moving on with your life.
Why you can’t move on from your breakup
1) You’re still in contact with them
No one who has been through a breakup will fault you for wanting to try and keep in touch with your ex – we’ve all been there.
You see stories of exes who were once at each other’s throats but are now the best of friends, and you probably think that you’ll be able to have the same.
It is possible to be friends in the future, but this can only be done once you have both fully healed and moved on from the relationship. And this can take time.
So instead of clinging on to your ex, whether it’s in the hope of friendship or because you miss them, accept that you have to let them go, for your own good.
In the months and years following a breakup, it’s essential to give time to yourself and heal from all the heartbreak. Being in contact with your ex won’t allow you to fully move on and reflect on why things went wrong in the first place.
2) You don’t think you can find better
If you are fearful that you won’t find someone better than your ex, just remind of yourself why you broke up.
The act of learning to let go is tough, and although your ex might have had wonderful qualities, and maybe a lovely person, they aren’t necessarily the right one for you. There’s a reason why you broke up.
We can often end up idolizing those who have hurt us, and focussing only on their good qualities because it serves our pain and gives us more reasons to feel like a victim.
Learn to separate your image of them from reality, and recognize that they also had flaws and aspects of their personality which didn’t agree with you.
And, if that’s not enough, remember that there are just under eight billion people on this planet. Your ex might have been a good catch, but they certainly aren’t the only ones out there.
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3) You haven’t accepted the breakup
The truth hurts. There are no two ways about it, and relationship endings can be a cold slap back to reality.
They’re often messy, complicated, and confusing, so it’s natural to not have accepted the fact that you aren’t together anymore.
Maybe you spent years imagining your life with this person, making plans and dreams together. Ultimately though, you have to start the healing process from somewhere, and being in denial about your breakup isn’t the way forward.
Often, our expectations can get the better of us. We build them up so much, to the point that we can’t accept it when they don’t go our way.
World-renowned shaman, Rudá Iandê addresses some of these issues in his free masterclass ‘Love and Intimacy’, where you can learn how to overcome these relationship barriers and create positive, healthy relationships in the future.
4) This breakup has brought up old traumas
For many who have experienced attachment issues as children, a breakup can be especially difficult.
Psychotherapist Matt Lundquist explains how different attachment issues can make breakups much harder for Well+Good:
‘Oftentimes, they feel like they’re not good enough for the relationship to begin with. Sometimes, unfortunately, that leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy: Being afraid you’re not good enough can be a turnoff.’
If you struggled with attachment issues as a child, going through a breakup can bring up old wounds which you may not have resolved growing up.
To successfully move on from your relationship, you’d need to first resolve these issues and get to the root cause of your attachment problems.
5) You lost yourself in the relationship
Some relationships can feel like they’re all-consuming. Maybe it’s been a rocky relationship from the start, or the ending was particularly bad.
Either way, we can sometimes lose ourselves in the relationship. And by that, I mean lose a piece of your confidence, personality, or just general passion towards life.
You might have spent so long obsessing on how to fix the relationship that you stopped focussing on yourself and your wellbeing.
6) You haven’t given yourself time to grieve
In some ways, the end of a relationship can feel like experiencing the death of a loved one. The main downside is that you might cross paths with this person again (and even worse, as they hold hands with their new partner).
Ask yourself, have you given yourself time to really think about what happened? Have you processed the fact that things didn’t work out and they aren’t in your life anymore?
Maybe you’ve been distracting yourself or keeping busy so that you don’t have to face reality. Or, maybe you’ve just pushed it to the back of your mind because you know that the pain will be intense and difficult to deal with.
Whatever the reason may be, not giving yourself time to grieve the relationship will only make it harder to move on.
7) You keep focussing on the positives
This is quite similar to the point earlier of idolizing your partner, except here you’ve started idolizing the relationship.
In your post-breakup pain, all you can think about is every lovely, heartwarming memory you have of the relationship.
Robert N. Kraft for PsychologyToday explains this as being a natural process which often depends on our emotions at the time of recalling memories:
‘Memory can idealize and memory can vilify. If you are missing someone, memory will select idealized positive images. If you are feeling angry, memory will select images that support this anger.’
Trust the process – as your emotions start to become more grounded, you’ll start seeing the relationship for what it really was and the reality of it will become more apparent.
8) You still follow all their social media
Are you still Facebook friends? Do you search their Insta every chance you get? This behaviour can become borderline obsessive, as you search for hints of a new partner on the scene or feel a need to know their daily business.
In reality, by following their social media, you aren’t giving yourself a chance to move on. Their face litters your posts feed and you’re constantly reminded of them when you check your phone.
At this point, their business shouldn’t be your concern. What you should be focussed on is healing yourself, and that can only be done in an environment free from them and memories of them.
9) They hurt your ego
Your ego is a powerful thing, and if you don’t learn to control it, it can easily cause you to hold onto things that aren’t good for you.
If your ex left you, there’s probably a hint of ego or pride in you that doesn’t want to accept the rejection.
So it’s a good idea to stop and evaluate; is it really heartbreak or is it your ego which is broken? Are you struggling with the rejection more than being without that person in your life anymore?
As Joyce Marter writes for PsychCentral in her article on Love, Heartbreak and How To Recover :
‘Release feelings of anger, hatred and thoughts of revenge. Understand this are all related to ego and cause you more harm than good. Anger exacerbates anxiety and depression, keeps us tethered and prevents us from moving forward.’
10) You have a fear of being alone
It’s natural to feel lonely after a breakup; you’ve become used to having company and feeling love and affection. The fear of being alone affects many people, and it can be tough to overcome unless you actively find ways to overcome this fear.
As Susan Russo, a relationship coach writes, fear of being alone is enough to make most people stay in unhappy relationships, so you can imagine how strong this emotion is.
‘People try desperately to avoid this fear. The mere thought of being alone can make people feel insecure, anxious and depressed. They replace the loneliness with junk food, shopping, social networks, and addictive behaviors to comfort themselves.’
This can be overcome in many ways, from surrounding yourself with loved ones to find new hobbies and passions in life.
11) You see the breakup as a loss, not a lesson
Our mindset can be hard to change, but not impossible. And once you change your mindset, so many issues become easier to deal with.
If you still see your breakup as a detrimental loss to your life, you’re giving it a whole heap of importance and energy. Instead, looking at it as another one of life’s lessons will help to put it into perspective and make the healing process much easier.
12) You think you need closure
For years, relationship advice included seeking closure before being able to fully move on. But is it really as necessary as we think?
What if your ex can’t provide the closure you need, are you then doomed to a life of misery?
And, if you do finally get some closure, how can you be sure that it’ll make you feel better? As written for EliteDaily on the topic of closure:
‘The relationship didn’t work out because it just wasn’t meant to be or the timing was off. Do you really want to reopen old wounds with pieces of closure you can obsess over for the next six months?’
Sometimes closure can be a good thing, but more often than not we hang on to the notion of waiting for closure, mainly because we just don’t want to start the healing process.
Tips on how to move on from an ex
Hopefully, the list above will give you some indication as to why you’re struggling to move on. So what now? Well, it’s time to start the healing process and get that spring back into your step.
Here are a few things you can do which will help you deal with your breakup:
- Take time for yourself. This is probably one of the most important things you can do following a breakup. Many people make the mistake of throwing themselves into work, or by entering a new relationship.
Instead, take time to heal, process your thoughts, and reflect on what went wrong.
- Following on from that point – reflect. The process of reflecting can do wonders in helping you identify areas of negativity in your relationship so that you can work on this for future partners. Taking responsibility for your part in the break up through reflecting can be a great life skill to learn which will help you get back to being your best self.
Reflecting on the relationship will also reveal some of the warning flags from your ex during the time you were together, so you’ll know what to look out for in your next relationship.
- Do things to make yourself feel good again. What did you enjoy before you entered your relationship? We often give up hobbies or passions to make room for a new relationship, so think back and start revisiting feel-good activities.
- Exercise. Exercise releases many happy hormones, can make you feel and look better, and can also be a social activity (sports clubs, new gym buddies, etc). There’s never a better time to get into light exercise than when you’re working your way through a tough situation. It provides mental clarity and also gets you out of the house.
- Surround yourself with people who care about you. A good support network of friends and family can go a long way when dealing with a breakup. Not only will it help with the initial loneliness, having people to talk to and rely on will relieve some of your pressure and help you deal with your emotions.
- Seek professional help. There’s no shame in seeking the advice of a trained therapist. Sometimes, we have previous traumas and issues to deal with which may have surfaced during your breakup. Or, maybe the breakup is a result of these issues. Either way, talking it through with a professional can help you identify these issues and resolve them.
If any of the points above resonate with you, know that you’re not alone, and things will get better, eventually.
Breakups often force us to face issues that we don’t want to; we’d rather go on living in a comfortable bubble instead of making painful changes to our lives.
But, to move on, you first need to accept and acknowledge that your relationship is over and that you will survive it. After that, you can begin the beautiful journey to rediscovering yourself and finding healthier relationships in the future.