Even if you're completely over your ex, you might still feel wistful hearing the Cardi B song they played on repeat, or buying their favorite cereal. You might feel nostalgic reminiscing on the magical Miami getaway you took together, or the warmth of the winter holidays you spent with their family. Next thing you know, déjà vu creeps up as you re-read their favorite novel at their go-to café. The fact of matter is, you may still miss your ex years after your breakup, and that's OK. While you may feel guilty, frustrated, or unsettled about this fact, know there's nothing wrong with wondering how your ex is doing or even musing on the fun times you shared.
Todd Baratz, a psychotherapist who specializes in relationships, says that sometimes, missing your ex can go hand-in-hand with missing who you were in that relationship, or simply missing the relationship in general. Because you might not actually miss your ex. You might just be craving someone you can snuggle, split some noodles, and marathon-watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine with. And even if you do miss your ex for the person they are and how they made you feel, that's nothing to be ashamed of. "Some people think that if you miss your ex, you’re not over them. Don’t listen," Baratz tells Elite Daily. "It’s OK to miss someone." Not only is it OK, but it's extremely common, Baratz says. It's worth considering how grief and loss play key roles in everyone's emotional, post-breakup turmoil.
"There isn’t one way to grieve and get over lost love. It’s a huge transition that is often accompanied by longing and even regret," Baratz says. "People’s experiences after the end of a long-term relationship are often more intense because of the cultural misinformation and judgment that is out there about relationships. Don’t listen to the B.S. — know that whatever you are feeling is legit and valid."
He adds that for many people, getting over an ex or feeling "less bereft" can take a long time. But instead of recognizing your mournful feelings about your ex and beating yourself up over them, Baratz recommends looking at your emotions as an opportunity for introspection.
A key way to do that is by going to therapy, if possible. "If it’s been years [since your breakup], that is totally OK," he says. "But [the feeling of missing your ex] definitely is reflective of powerful meaning, that I would encourage you to utilize. A therapist can help you work through the messages that may be hiding beneath the feeling of longing for your ex."
One of those takeaways can be that you miss being in a relationship. Clinical psychologist Dr. Joshua Klapow previously told Elite Daily that moving on from a relationship "means getting out of a routine," including losing someone you regularly talk to, as well as the "social status of being in a relationship." Ask yourself: Do you miss your ex as a person (their personality, the way the treated you, their mannerisms and their habits), or do you miss the happy moments you shared and having someone to hang out with 24/7?
If you can't see a therapist to talk out your feelings, remember that self-care after a breakup is key. That can mean journaling, taking warm baths, breathing fresh air, eating good food, and getting adequate sleep. And of course, in this technologically plugged-in day and age, a valid form of self-care is also muting or blocking your ex on social media.
Along with therapy, Baratz also encourages his clients to date and be intimate with other people, if they want. Missing an ex, he says, doesn't necessarily mean you're not ready to start dating again after a breakup. "You’d never turn down your dream job because you were sad about quitting your prior one,” he says, so go out and date and be intimate with other people! "This can be extremely helpful in opening yourself up to feeling desire and being desired. This can be powerful and is often part of the process of healing from a breakup."
And finally, if you feel like it's appropriate, you can also reach out to your ex for closure — but proceed with caution. "Just be mindful about why you want to or don’t want to be in contact with an ex. If your relationship was a long-term relationship, it's not uncommon that folks remain friends. That is OK, too!" Baratz says. "Just make sure to establish new rules alongside the new relationship that is no longer romantic."
If you and your ex haven't spoken in a long time (or at all), be extra thoughtful. "After you have spoken, take time to reflect upon the feelings that arise without judging them, or using them to try and make conclusions," Baratz advises. That's to say, don't start scheming to get back together just because your chat didn't turn into an argument. The ability to just observe your emotions without passing judgement is crucial, Baratz says.
Whether you're decoding your twinges of longing on your own, unpacking them with a therapist, or re-learning desire by getting back in the dating game, be patient with yourself. It might be awhile before you feel OK clicking through their Instagram Stories or listening to Shawn Mendes, but that's all a part of the process. You're exactly where you need to be.
Todd Baratz, psychotherapist specializing in relationships