Coming to terms with a breakup can be an ongoing and painful process. Unfortunately, in order to fully detach from an ex, letting go of the relationship has to happen sooner or later. For some folks, part of that detachment process includes deleting all traces of them from social media, but that's easier said than done. If you can't bring yourself to delete photos of your ex, first off, know that you're so not alone. Digitally erasing an ex from your past is far from easy, especially if the relationship was particularly meaningful.
"Going through a breakup is hard enough in and of itself," NYC-based relationship expert and love coach Susan Winter tells Elite Daily. "Erasing your past adds another layer of discomfort to the process. Unsurprisingly, struggling to wipe away every trace of an ex from your life is totally normal, according to Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent dating and relationship therapist in Los Angeles. "It is completely normal to have a bit of trouble deleting pictures of your ex," Dr. Brown tells Elite Daily. "One of the obvious reasons is that it's another step in acknowledging the end of your relationship."
As hard as it may be to fully cut the cord, if you're avoiding it in the hopes that you and your partner may reunite in the future, this could set you up for a much longer and more difficult recovery.
"[Deleting photos of an ex] can be even more difficult if you are holding on to the hope that the two of you can reunite," agrees Dr. Brown "This could also mean that you may unintentionally be setting yourself up for even more emotional pain such as prolonged sadness and even depression."
Both Winter and Dr. Brown believe that there are definitely some situations where it's totally OK to keep pictures of an ex, with one caveat. "Every time you see a picture of your ex ask yourself this question: Do I feel better seeing the picture or do I feel worse when I see their picture?" recommends Dr. Brown. "The answer to that can be the key to answering the question of whether or not to delete the pictures."
Not everyone will be negatively impacted by holding on to photos of past partners. For some people, keeping pictures of an ex can actually give them a positive boost and bring back fond memories. If you aren't particularly bothered by seeing your ex's face, Winter says it's totally OK to embrace that.
For example: "I met a woman recently who delighted in showing me photos of her former lovers," says Winter. "Rather than feeling sorrow at a relationships ending, she chose to spin her story to that of 'desirability.' As in, 'Look at the type of men that I attract.' It's another angle of interpretation for another type of individual."
Ultimately, both Winter and Dr. Brown agree that when it comes to photos or anything else that reminds you of your ex (even posts on social media), if they make you feel bad, then it's important to minimize your exposure. That said, if you feel like you're able to heal without fully disconnecting, then that's totally valid too. "Photos provide tangible proof of happier times," explains Winter. "This can be an important reality for us to remember in the dark days after the breakup."
If you're still not sure which decision's best for you, Dr. Brown urges people to honestly confront the situation. "It's time to let go of everything that links you to your past love if you find yourself staying home and pouring over pictures of them or memorabilia that reminds you of them," says Dr. Brown. "If you find yourself in this situation after more than a week to 10 days, it's time to take some action so that you don't slip into a deep depression."
Healing after a breakup can take a lot out of someone, so try to remember that there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, things will get better. So in the meantime, try not to let your aching heart convince you to give up on love. And in the end, if pictures are what's standing between you and moving forward, then it's probably time to let them go.