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It's 3 a.m. on a Tuesday. I wake up sweating because in my dream (nightmare), a demonic bird was chasing me around. I breathe a sigh of relief — it wasn't real. Then, I slam myself with a super healthy, self-loathing anxiety spiral: “I'm too old to be single and everyone is married and my ex just moved in with his girlfriend and can I have the Satanic pigeon back please because reality sucks?” (I have no chill.) The signs you still love your ex are like nightmare-bird sh*ts in that they will hit you out of nowhere.
By 8 a.m., I've settled on “never mind, that was the insomnia talking; I'm over that dude for sure.” It's too shameful to admit that I might be hung up on somebody who is never coming back, so I drag myself out of bed, put on a podcast, and think about how terrible I am at both having good dreams and having good dates. (Shout out to the trolls! You called it.)
By 9 a.m., I give myself a little credit and think about how I am having a strange year in that I lost my mom (F cancer) and putting effort into dating hasn't been my jam of late, and I'm probably just thinking about exes because I'm not meeting new humans. I've been hermit-y for sure, but I'm also pretty tortoise-like at moving on from past relationships.
Sick of my self-pity and self-loathing yet? Same, so I'll get down to it: It's hard to know if you still love your ex or if you are just bored and looking back at the past. Is the need to get back with your ex reaching critical mass, or are you just being a butt about getting back out in the dating pool? Here are three signs you are still in love with your ex and it's stopping you from finding love, according to me and relationship and etiquette expert April Masini (because clearly, I struggle in this department).
1. You Still Think About Them, And It's Consuming
Facebook, Instagram stories, LinkedIn updates, and all of the notifications our hand-screens afford us mean that you're going to be reminded of your ex once in a while. Even if you've cut the social media umbilical cord, you're going to think about your ex because you spent a lot of time with them. It would be a little socio if you didn't. However, if it's a constant, “I wonder if they had their regular egg sammy from the bodega before work today?” every damn day, you're probably not over your feelings.
“The best question you can ask yourself to test your recovery from the breakup is, ‘When was the last time you thought about your ex?'” explains Masini. “As you get over an ex, it will be longer and longer between thinking of that person.”
You'll inevitably be triggered by the reminder that it's their birthday or your anniversary, and that's OK. Swiping on a dating app while pining for someone else is hard, but it can speed up the healing process. Getting back out there is step one.
2. You Lose It When You See Them With A New Partner
I'm a loser who never gets into a new relationship, or even an almost-relationship, before the person I'm getting over gets into a new boo. I definitely don't have that “je ne sais quoi” that leads to 18 DMs from cuties the minute I'm single. I'm just not that cool, and when I have a lot of feelings for someone, it takes me an embarrassingly long time to get over them. When I see that first picture of an ex with a new partner, it stings me in a big way.
If you get obsessive about your ex's new partner, you're probably still harboring some very big feels.“If you can see your ex with a new partner, and be happy for them, or at least be OK with them, then you're on your way,” says Masini.
That's a super mature thing to be able to do, and I dream of getting there one day. Plus, if you can accept the reality that your ex is with someone else, you can concentrate your energy on your new partner, or new prospects. If you're really stuck in love with your ex, wait it out. Unfortunately, time is the only thing that's going to help you get over an ex.
3. You Obsess About What You Could Have Done Differently
Thinking back on past relationships and what you might have done differently is healthy and means that you are a self-reflective, thoughtful adult. However, if you are constantly looking back to the past and wondering if that text message you sent was the meteorite that careened into your relationship, then maybe you're still in love with your ex.
If you're just trying to sort out how to be better in your next relationship, that's cool, but if you are looking back as a means to keep your energy in the past, rather than getting that energy out there in the dating game, you should rethink your priorities.
Your ex shouldn't be your priority because for whatever reason, things with your ex did not work out. I wish I were a magical fairy who could wave a wand and help you get over your ex, but if I had that power I would definitely be out there making millions with my wand, not writing advice for a website.
What you can tangibly do for yourself is give yourself some time to mourn the loss, and as soon as you have one percent of energy available, go on a Bumble date. It can be an awful date, and it will still be a story. At the very least, you won't have thought about your ex for one whole night, OMG, amiright?
For those of you who are still committed to the idea that you will forever and always be in love with your ex, I say, send them that email. Tell them in mature, kind words that you are not over it, but then treat whatever their response is as a final answer. Maybe just saying the words will give you some power over them.
Sheryl Sandberg has a great book out about loss called Option B. I think her advice can apply to breakups as well. Even though you'd really like option A to be true, whether option A is getting your ex back or having a family member around at Thanksgiving, sometimes that option simply doesn't exist anymore and you have to go with option B.
In relationships, option B is getting back out there. It's not easy, but you're going to be OK. Date until you don't have feelings for your ex anymore. I promise that day will come.