There’s no denying it: breakups are hard. No one expects you to get over it right away. Allow yourself enough time to experience a full range of emotions. But if it’s been months since you and your ex split up and you’re still not over him or her, you may feel like you never will be. So, what can you do? There are some behaviors we all engage in that make it more difficult to move on from an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. Check out these seven common reasons why you might not be over your ex, and hear from an expert on what to do instead.
1. Stalking him or her on social media
We’re all guilty of Facebook stalking our exes at one point or another. We can’t help but check up on their lives now that we are no longer in them. “I see it all the time with my friends,” says Alaina, a first-year graduate student at Emerson College. “You can tell when someone’s not over their ex because they still constantly keep tabs on what that person does, through social media or otherwise. They want to be involved in that person's life, and still bring him or her up in conversation way too often.”
As you most likely know deep down, continuing to scroll through your ex’s Instagram or watching his or her Snapchat story every day isn’t going to help you get over the breakup. According to Dr. Ramani Durvasula, psychologist and author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, “Social media has been documented to really complicate the ‘mourning process’ in a relationship. Anything that maintains false hope, continued contact, regret and rumination is not good for you,” she says.
If you can’t help yourself, try unfollowing them on all social media platforms, and block them from seeing your posts as well. It might seem harsh, but it will be easier to forget once they aren’t popping up all over your News Feed. Plus, this way you won’t be able to send any (drunken) messages or Snaps that you’ll regret the next day. Dr. Durvasula also says that you may need to distance yourself from shared friends for a short while, as they can serve as reminders of the relationship as well.
2. Continuing to text him or her
It’s natural to want closure after a breakup, but unfortunately, we don’t always get that from the other person. Constantly texting or calling your ex might make you feel better, but it will only drive them further away. “Technology lets us talk first and think later,” says Dr. Durvasula. “Those little technological hiccups (late night text, social media comment) can set back the process of healing and letting go, and because it is so easy to be so quick with it, [it] is often where mistakes are made.” In order to remove the temptation, Dr. Durvasula suggests deleting his or her phone number completely.
If you still find yourself wanting to talk to him or her, try putting your thoughts down on paper instead. Write a letter (with or without the intention of sending it), listing everything you couldn’t say. Just getting the words out of your head is therapeutic in itself, regardless of if you want to send the letter—or even read it.
3. Obsessing over the “what ifs”
It’s easy to feel regret after a breakup, but chances are, you did as much as you could. Don’t stress over what could have occurred or what you might have done instead. Everything happens for a reason, and sometimes people you really care about do end up hurting you. Try to remind yourself that you can’t control other individuals. You are only responsible for your own actions, so be confident in your decisions.
Dr. Durvasula lists self-care as a healthy way to deal with a breakup. Elements of self-care include “sleep, exercise, pampering, healthy food (and good food), time with friends and loved ones, hobbies and reinvention (learning something new, traveling, trying new things),” she says.
4. Isolating yourself
Right after a breakup, some of us just want to curl up in bed and never come out. If you need to, take a few days to relax with your favorite TV show or book, but don’t isolate yourself for too long. “In terms of coming to terms with [the breakup] on your own—time, distraction, meaningful activities, support, therapy, avoiding contact with the past and him [or her]—these help with your process of letting go,” says Dr. Durvasula.
Even if it feels difficult, reach out to a friend, a family member or someone else you trust. Let them know that you and your partner broke up, and that you’re hurting. Try your best to tell them what you need on their end, whether that’s the occasional text checking in or to sleep over at their place. It’s important to surround yourself with the people who love you unconditionally and to understand that although you’ve lost someone, you aren’t alone.
5. Turning down new people
While it isn’t advisable to jump into a rebound relationship right after a breakup, there is no harm in going on a few dates or trying to meet new people. If you’re saying no to potential suitors just because they aren’t your ex, you could be missing out on someone great for you. “It is OK to be tentative when you first date,” says Dr. Durvasula. “There is no…magic number of days. If I had a rule of thumb, four to six weeks is often enough time to get through the initial bumps and reinvigorate yourself so you can start slowly meeting people again.”
Rather than comparing everyone to the last person you were with, look for the unique qualities in each individual. It’s probably not advisable to go for someone exactly like the guy or girl you just broke up with, anyway. “Do not talk about the ex on any of your first ten dates,” Dr. Durvasula says. “It’s bad form.” Be self-reflective, and if a new flirtation is a good distraction, there’s no harm in that!
6. Holding on to reminders of the relationship
If you still have pictures on your wall or articles of their clothing in your drawers, get rid of them! You don’t have to throw everything out if something is extremely sentimental to you, but at least hide it away for the time being. Don’t dwell, and definitely don’t listen to your song over and over while you cry. Why torture yourself like that? You can also cleanse your social media pages of pictures of the two of you together if that will help you move on. How are you supposed to stop thinking about this person if reminders of them are all over the place?
“Closure is a personal process,” says Dr. Durvasula. “[It’s] not dictated by someone else. [He/she] may make it more difficult, but setting up the proper ‘firewalls’ is important when letting go in a clean way.”
7. Blaming yourself
Regardless of who actually ended the relationship, you are probably both a little bit at fault—or maybe you just weren’t right for one another. It takes two people to be in a relationship and two people to end it. The worst thing you can do is to continuously ask yourself what you did wrong. You might not have done anything! Blaming yourself for things not working out won’t bring your ex back, and it will only make you feel worse. If you did make a mistake, try to forgive yourself.
You can reflect further on what happened when you have a little more distance from the situation. For now, try distracting yourself with your passions and hobbies. Try your hand at a stress-relieving coloring book, find some new music or change up your room. Dr. Durvasula also says to “be aware of your vulnerable times.” Mornings can be the hardest, or maybe you are a late-night texter. If you need to, “block him [or her] or have a friend you call to stop you,” she says.
Breakups aren’t easy, and we tend to make them even harder on ourselves. Rather than over-thinking or dwelling on the past, try your best to move forward a little bit every day. According to Dr. Durvasula, “Time does heal…We don't know the number of days until that magic day when you get over the hump and it is palpable. Trusting the process is very hard when you have a broken heart—but just like you know that the moon will be full in 28 days even if it is not tonight—healing will come.” Look to the future, and remember to be kind to yourself. You will get through this!