Picture this: You’re in a brand new relationship, and you honestly couldn’t be more pumped. Your new boo is fun, sexy, caring, and honestly everything you could have hoped for in a partner. But for some reason, every time you see an Instagram post or story from your ex, it still sparks anger and hurt feelings about the breakup. You thought you were over them, but what does this all mean? If you’re mad at your ex and in a new relationship, it could cause problems for your bond with your new partner.
Breakups can be messy, and sometimes it takes longer than you’d like to fully move on from someone. But it can be especially confusing when you find yourself wrestling with angry feelings toward your ex even after you’re dating someone new. To help get clarity on this, I spoke to Dr. Erika Martinez, a licensed psychologist who helps people with breakup recovery. She says that if you notice yourself feeling mad at your ex, you should pay attention to those feelings rather than sweeping them under the rug. “It's possible that these feelings could spill over and impact your new relationship,” Martinez explains. “That's not fair to either of you; it's not your new partner's fault, and you deserve the chance to explore this new relationship without holding onto baggage from old relationships.”
I know what you’re thinking. “But I swear I’m over them!” Just because you feel like you’ve moved on doesn’t mean your mind has totally let go of the past. “It's possible to move on from a person or a relationship, but not to have moved on from the experience and emotions that they stirred up in you,” Martinez explains. You may not want to get back together with your ex, but you still feel wounded every time you see them living their life on social media. Especially after a messy breakup, where someone broke your trust and your heart, it can take a long time to heal.
As soon as you notice this anger, pay attention to it. “Be on the lookout for the ways that the unresolved anger may be showing up and sabotaging the new relationship,” Martinez notes. “Those unresolved feelings can take away from your ability to be fully present in the new relationship, but it doesn't mean you can't love simultaneously.” If your anger is distracting you from enjoying time with your new partner, or if it’s causing you to hold yourself back emotionally, you might need to address it head-on.
Martinez explains that there are several ways to work through this anger productively. “It really depends on your preferences and the particulars of your experience in that past relationship,” she says. “Journaling, writing your ex a message (regardless of whether you send it), meeting with your ex to speak to him/her about your lingering feelings, or seeking support from a therapist or clergy are all popular options.” A licensed professional can help you understand what’s at the root of your anger, and then help you process it in a healthy way.
You may also need to take some time alone to work through these feelings. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to end your new relationship, but you might want to take some space from your partner to process what you’ve been through, whether it be a week-long trip or just an afternoon alone with your thoughts. “If the relationship was very limiting, maybe taking a trip or trying something new and daring may help broaden your perspective and help you process those feelings,” Martinez suggests. “If you're angry that you lost yourself in the last relationship, perhaps you need to date yourself to get reacquainted with yourself.” Your new partner can support you in a lot of ways, but they can’t necessarily help you work through feelings about your ex. That’s something you’ll need to process and heal from on your own.
Ultimately, it’s not cause for panic if you notice yourself feeling angry at an ex when you’re with someone new. But at the same time, these painful feelings should not be ignored altogether. Take the time and energy to process them so you can show your new boo — and yourself — the love you deserve. You’ll come out stronger and better able to love deeply as a result.