There are certain life skills that I do not have, and being good at physics is one of them. Also on my list of non-fortes: folding a fitted sheet better than a chimpanzee might, poaching an egg, patience while waiting in line, and not mentioning people from my past whom I dated and really liked. It's like mentioning an ex's name every third conversation with my BFF somehow confirms that he was a sentient being who once dug me. It's hard to know when to stop talking about an ex, because usually, when you're feeling sad, your friends are unlikely to tell you to shut your trap.
Even if your friends have the life skill of "being patient while listening to diatribes about your ex," sometimes, it's most important for you to stop talking about your ex so that you can move on. Even if you are talking about your ex in a negative way, if you are talking about them constantly, then you are still giving them attention (see: Trump and the 2016 election).
Here's the thing: As one who is terrible at moving on from people I catch the real-real feels for, once the letting go finally happens, it is f*cking liberating. At the risk of sounding overdramatic, it's truly a bit euphoric. After all the consternation that comes with staying in contact or by associating certain bars, restaurants, or even TV shows with exes, it's really healthy to give them a "time out" from your life (except in therapy, because mentioning someone every time you see your therapist doesn't count, right?). So here's some insight on when you should make that time out happen.
There's No Exact Timeline For Moving On
Le sigh, I know. Wouldn't it be magical if there were some law of nature that stated, "If you don't speak of your ex for three months, you'll be certifiably 'moved on'"? Unfortunately, the hackneyed saying that "every relationship is different" is absolutely true when it comes to moving on. "I don't have any hard and fast rules about [when to stop talking about an ex]," says Dr. Gary Brown, a licensed psychotherapist in Los Angeles. "The process of grieving a loss can take a while."
Dr. Brown says that the end of a relationship is not unlike a death, and that it is important to mourn the loss properly. When grieving, "it often helps the grieving to talk about it with family and friends," he explains. So if you are feeling the need to mention Bobby for the millionth time, go for it. (Maybe try a new friend this time, though.)
Many Different Variables Affect Your Ability To Move On
I have definitely spent far too long dissecting and digesting half-relationships, I have listened carefully to friends ruminate over one-time hookups at length, and I try to remember that we are all different in terms of how easy or hard it is for us to move on. Depending on where we are at in life, it may be a lot harder to let go. After losing my mom this spring, I have certainly done a weird "hang tight to everyone from my past" thing.
Some other factors that might affect our need to continue talking about an ex include "the amount of time we were with [our ex], how attached we were (or weren't) to them, the degree of emotional and physical intimacy, the timing of when the relationship ended — particularly difficult around the holidays — and the nature of the conflicts that brought about the end of the relationship," says Dr. Brown. If you're still mentioning your ex on the reg, there might be a very legitimate reason behind it.
But At A Certain Point, Enough Is Enough
Dr. Brown says that eventually, however, if you are constantly speaking about your ex and it is getting in the way of your work life, social life, or even your future love life, it's time to take that time out. "If you've slipped into a state of sadness that you just cannot seem to break out of, maybe it's time to seek out some professional support to help you make the transition so that you can move on with your life," he adds. I cannot second therapy as a helpful tool for moving on enough. Friends are not therapists; therapists are therapists.
As with all things, the amount of time you should spend talking about your ex after a relationship is over depends on multiple factors, from how hurt you were to how much you tend to dwell in the past, to your proximity to your ex, and how often you see them on your social media feed. Give yourself time to mourn the loss, but don't allow yourself to hold onto something that is holding you back. And if you're not sure if you've been talking about an ex for too long? Ask your friends. They'll tell you if you ask for the real-real truth.
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