If it’s been a few months since your breakup, and you’re still listening to Adele’s “Hello” and crying into your food, I hate to break it to you — but you’re probably still in love with your ex.
In all seriousness, I sympathize with you and love you. You are not alone in whatever pain you may be experiencing. It causes incredible heartache to still care so much about someone and feel bound to them, while simultaneously being urged by everyone around you to move on.
The thing that it’s time to realize is that you do need to move on — by doing whatever that means for you. Some women need to confront their ex and find closure, while others simply need more time. Of course, moving on is easier said than done, but I’m here to help you along.
Related: 4 Reasons Your Breakup May Have Been a Mistake
- Find a community to rebuild the love you had
If you’re looking for someone to heal your wounds, finding a few new friends to surround yourself with might be a huge help. They won’t necessarily replace the love in your heart for that person, but they will provide a reciprocating relationship of mutual friendly affection, and help wean you off of your ex.
It’s okay to feel lost after your relationship, but a huge step to moving on from your ex is rediscovering your own identity. College is such a beautiful time of change and personal growth, and any leftover feelings for your ex are going to slow down your transformation into the person you’re meant to become.
“It had been nearly a year since my breakup, and even then I found myself in my room way too often, usually crying and binge-stalking him on Instagram,” says sophomore Hana Petschl, a student and peer counselor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. “I was really lucky that my roommates I got assigned to tried to bring me out of my painful little cocoon. They made me hang out with them all the time and encouraged me to get involved in a bunch of stuff on campus. Now I’m in a sorority and a peer counselor, and I help people all the time that had my same situation of not being able to get over their ex.”
It is entirely possible to find people that fulfill you in a way that your ex never could. Having besties to watch movies with, fellow Star Wars lovers to share your geek passions and a new community to love you in the way you truly need can completely distract you from your last relationship. It’s time to move on and blossom with a loving community right behind you every step of the way.
- Give it time
It’s commonly said that it takes half the time that the relationship lasted to move on from it emotionally. This equation for recovery is pretty inaccurate. Everyone has different speeds of healing, and unfortunately, yours might take a bit longer than most if you’re still in love with your ex.
This is one of the most painful and irritating processes of healing and moving on — because let’s be honest, human beings just hate being patient. We want everything RIGHT NOW, but the heart doesn’t work like that. The longer you distance yourself from your ex and actively work to move on (this means you can’t cave to sending late night text messages that say “I miss you”), the more those feelings of longing for your ex will fade to a dull ache.
- Either confront them and work it out, or completely remove them from your life
There is no in-between. It may be time for you to end it — for real this time. If you’re still in love with your ex, you may be in a place where you seem to be in an on-again/off-again relationship with them since you guys can’t seem to let go.
“Just take my word for it, and dump his ass,” advises Sarah Arroyo, a senior at Boston University. “You’d be surprised how many girls do this, and I’ve seen it way too often with my best friends. They’ll go through a breakup but won’t actually let their ex go for MONTHS! It’s emotionally exhausting for them, and after dangling each other out on a limb for so long, they can’t even be friends because it’s gotten too messy. Just decide to be together, or don’t be together at all!”
Confront them about your feelings, and really communicate about where the two of you are at. It’s best for them to know that you still have feelings, and they may have advice on how to heal, or they may even be feeling the same way. Every situation is unique and there’s no way we can tell you what decision to make, but sometimes it’s just better for things to end. Your life existed before your ex, and it can certainly exist without them.
- Consider that you’re not as in love with them as you thought
Love is such a complex emotion, and it’s never straightforward. Experts recommend some serious introspection to determine if you’re actually still in love with your ex at all, or if it’s just some leftover emotions that are making you confused.
“Often times, I’ll have my patients practice mindfulness exercises when they feel an anxiety attack, or painful memories coming on,” says Kimberli Andridge, a licensed psychologist for gender and sexual inclusivity. “These can be really helpful for calming yourself down and getting to the root of where these feelings are coming from. After practicing the exercises and acknowledgement of the feelings, patients tend to realize that their attachment is not because they are still longing for their previous partner, but rather they’re dealing with some alternative issue or are facing another type of unhappiness in their life that keeps them holding on to something psychologically.”
College can be such a whirlwind of craziness, and transitioning your life through a break up is the last thing you need. To finally move on, you may need to sort out what you’ve been feeling and see that you’re not in love with them anymore. The way you feel could stem from a place of jealousy, resentment or even a lingering desire to receive their affirmation. The next time you’re stalking your ex on Instagram and helplessly trying to devise a plan to win them back, just take a moment to breathe and let go.
“After rough breakups, people are kind of all over the place, and for a long time I thought I was still in love with my ex,” says Amber Charter, a junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “I wish that I’d been smart enough to realize I really wasn’t. I just wanted his relationship with his new girlfriend to fail, and I hadn’t found another person to like, which is why I stayed so attached to him.” No matter the way in which you choose to heal from still being in love with your ex, above all else remember to work on loving yourself. Realize that you did the best you could, and that actively choosing to move on each day will empty you of yucky, lingering emotional baggage.
- Try to have a relationship with them again
From a personal standpoint, exes are exes for a reason — but for some people, a time of separation leads them to want to have a relationship again, and that’s okay. Maybe your heart is trying to tell you something by not letting you move on.
“After about three months of being separated, my ex and I got back together,” says Lisa Oakley, a junior at Northeastern University. “Pretty much all of my friends and family were against it, and it was hard. I don’t think a lot of people make that choice, and the whole time I was skeptical of my decision, but I couldn’t let him go. We’ve been together for another year-and-a-half since that happened, though, and in the time we spent apart we both really grew up a lot, and now we are at an even better place than before. So, I don’t regret my decision at all.”
When you share your life with someone, that love you once had never truly goes away. Sit down and seriously think about your feelings. Make a list in your head of every screw-up, fight, unanswered text and annoying habits that you dealt with, and if you still want to get back with them after going through all of the cons, then you should go for it. We wouldn’t recommend this if your ex is a total scumbag and did really awful things to you because there are obviously certain deal breakers like if they were unfaithful or abusive in any way. If they’re someone decent that deserves a second chance and is also willing to give you one and forgive your mistakes, then why not?
Related: An Open Letter to the Guy Who Helped Me Realize I Deserve Better
Navigating the path of still being in love with your ex is messy and hard, but above all else, consider your own feelings and heart. You are strong, beautiful and totally in control of your life, so choose to surround yourself with people who will love you the way you deserve. Have patience with yourself while you heal and move on, and the rest will come with time.