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10 Reasons It's So Hard to Move On from Some Breakups

9. You're still in contact with the ex.

Key points

  • There is no exact timeframe for healing from a breakup, which can sometimes be the toughest part of the experience.
  • Someone may have difficulty moving on if a part of them is holding onto hope that they will get back together with their ex.
  • When grieving the loss of a relationship, we often assume that avoiding painful emotions will bring us relief when the opposite is true.
Triocean/Shutterstock
Source: Triocean/Shutterstock

If you've gone through a breakup and you’re trying to move on but can’t, it's likely starting to impact your daily life. You may feel like constant reminders of your ex surround you, and moving on can feel impossible.

There is no exact timeframe for healing from a breakup, which can sometimes be the toughest part. The passage of time does help, but it is not the panacea it’s often made out to be. For some people, time helps, and others find themselves unable to move on months or even years after a breakup. If this is the case for you, consider whether any of the following reasons are prolonging the healing process for you:

1. You have hope that you can reconcile. You may have difficulty moving on if a part of you is holding onto hope you will get back together with your ex.

2. You didn’t get the closure you were seeking. It can be particularly difficult to move on when a relationship ends abruptly. Often when people don’t know the reason why the relationship ended or didn’t have a chance to have an actual conversation about it with their ex, they may ruminate frequently about what went wrong, which can prevent them from letting go.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to rely on another person for closure. You can write your ex a goodbye letter and rip it up or burn it, or you can try the empty chair technique where you pretend they are sitting in a chair across from you and say all the things you didn’t get a chance to.

3. You have a skewed perception of your ex. When someone has difficulty moving on from a relationship, it is not uncommon to fantasize about the good times they had while dismissing the red flags and issues that indicated incompatibility. Try writing down a list of reasons why the two of you are no longer together and often review the list.

4. Your ex represented an important first for you. Perhaps your ex was the first person you fell in love with or your first sexual partner. Breakups are difficult regardless, but it can be particularly difficult to move on when the person represents an important first for you.

5. You haven’t allowed yourself to grieve. When grieving the loss of a relationship, we often assume that avoiding painful emotions will bring us relief when the opposite is true–doing so will often prolong the healing process. When you’re ready, try to process your grief in whatever way feels most comfortable, whether that’s through talking to trusted friends, a therapist, or journaling.

6. You haven’t given other people a chance. It can be difficult to move on if it’s been a while since the breakup and you haven’t met someone you click with. Perhaps you tried to date, but your heart wasn’t in it because you weren't ready. Maybe you had hope that you would reconcile with your ex, or you're comparing everyone to your ex. It’s difficult to make a genuine connection with someone else if you aren’t fully open to it.

7. You’re drawn to the same type of partner repeatedly, and your ex fell into that category. People often subconsciously try to heal what happened in the past by replicating the same dynamic they witnessed as children between their parents or caregivers and holding onto the false hope that it will turn out differently this time around.

This pattern is often repeated until the wound from the past is brought into conscious awareness and healed. For example, if one parent or both were absent from your life or emotionally unavailable, it’s not uncommon to be drawn to the same type of partner repeatedly as an adult because it feels familiar.

8. You saw a long-term future with this person. If you were really in love and saw a future with your ex, you were truly invested in the relationship. As a result, you’re not just grieving the end of the relationship but the loss of the hopes and dreams you had for the future of this relationship. If you are mostly focused on what could have been, it’s hard to be fully present and make room for new dreams and opportunities.

9. You’re still in contact with your ex and/or keeping tabs on them through social media. If you’re still interacting with your ex and/or following them on social media, it can be a painful reminder of the relationship you once had while at the same time maintaining hope that you could one day reconcile. Ultimately maintaining contact and/or following your ex on social media can feel like pouring salt on a tender wound and may be prolonging your healing process.

10. You experienced an identity loss in the relationship. If you experienced an identity loss or became disconnected from your support system during the relationship, it could be difficult to move on because you may not know who you are outside of that relationship.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute professional or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or another qualified health provider with questions regarding your condition or well-being.

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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