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How To Get Over An Ex: 13 Steps To Make Sure You Take, From Experts

Krati Mehra
February 01, 2024
Krati Mehra
By Krati Mehra
mbg Contributor
Krati Mehra is an empowerment coach, host of Experible podcast, speaker, and writer. She has a Masters from University College London and a Bachelors in Psychology from Panjab University.
February 01, 2024
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Parting ways with someone you've loved deeply and envisioned a future with is so profoundly heartbreaking that the devastation has inspired countless works of art, songs, cinema, and literature. Yet, finding a way to ease the heartbreak and pain remains a challenge. 

Getting over an ex is an emotionally taxing process. It's not just about letting go of someone who was a significant part of your life; it's also about grappling with a future you hadn't planned for. As therapist Erika Pranzo, LPC, points out, you're not just losing a partner; you are also losing your identity as a partnered individual and the life you were hoping to build.

And as psychotherapist Alana Durand, LMSW, further explains, the psychology of a breakup is the psychology of grief. "You're grieving not just the loss of the person but the loss of yourself at a moment in time. The person you were with a partner, with this partner, will inevitably be different from the person you become without this partner. This is universally true regardless of who ended the relationship or how the relationship ended."

Moreover, even the disillusionment and the pain of shattered dreams are not enough to turn off the love we continue to feel for our ex. Ending a relationship doesn't instantly end the feelings we've nurtured. The love lingers, refusing to be so easily dismissed.

"Love doesn't always fade immediately. It's essential to acknowledge these emotions but also recognize the importance of accepting the reality of the breakup to facilitate personal growth and healing," says licensed professional counselor, therapist, and writer Marissa Moore, LPC.

These emotions are not a weakness but a testament to the depth and sincerity of the relationship. We move on not by erasing the past or the shared emotions but by working through these complex feelings—and the process is as unique as the individuals involved.

"Recovering from a breakup can be an intensely personal and varied experience, often contingent on the nature of the relationship, individual coping mechanisms, and the support system available," Niloufar Esmaeilpour, MSc, founder of Lotus Therapy & Counselling Centre, tells mindbodygreen. 

So if you want to get over an ex, here are a few steps you can take, according to experts.

How to get over an ex


Feel your feelings

"The trick to finding your way forward is to stop trying so hard. Grief is so painful that we often want to toss it away like a hot potato—something that never works," Durand notes. 

In the desperation to block out old memories and overcome your longing for an ex, you may find yourself repressing your emotions, both the love and the hurt. Sadly, repression is a temporary solution. It may give you momentary relief, but all those unresolved emotions and abandoned thoughts are simply waiting for an opportune moment to flood back in, and when they do, you may find yourself more unprepared than ever.

"The day you allow yourself to name your grief and sit with it without judgment is the day that you start to move forward," Durand explains, adding, "It might seem counterintuitive, but acknowledging your feelings of both loss and love is often the quickest way to get over an ex."

Work through your anger, address your pain, and even relive old memories before you allow them to finally fade, and by doing so, move toward acceptance and, eventually, healing. "We can't heal from a truth that we are also trying to deny or don't see. Accepting the whole cohesive truth around your breakup will ultimately help you move on in a healthy way," says licensed marriage and family therapist Kim Egel, LMFT.


Remove all reminders & block all contact

Research1 shows that continued contact between ex-partners can cause psychological distress, and another study found that such contact can also impact the quality of current relationships that an individual may have with a new partner. 

To forget them, you must loosen the ties that bind you to your ex. Don't hang out with mutual acquaintances and friends. Avoid people who may remind you of your ex or want to discuss them. Clean up your environment of all visible reminders of your time together. Remove all photos and other mementos and either throw them away or store them somewhere hidden, preferably a place you rarely use.

According to clinical psychologist Harpreet K. Chattha, Ph.D., there's often an increase in social media activity after breakups. "This can be a way for some to stay informed about their ex or send implicit messages to their ex through posts. This activity keeps a person thinking about their ex when it's more in their interest to focus on taking care of themselves and healing," she says.

Unfollow your former partner on social media or restrict their content from showing up on your feed. Continual reminders can hinder your emotional recovery. Offline, i.e., in real life as well, you must avoid all contact with your ex, or your emotional wounds will never fully heal. 

If, for some reason, you must maintain contact, establish clear boundaries and limit your time together. 


Focus on yourself & indulge in healthy self-love

Netflix can be a good escape when emotions are running high, but too much screen time can be depressing in its own right. So, to aid your recovery, indulge in activities that bring a smile to your face and make you feel alive—anything from a decadent massage to long hours of yoga and meditation.

Unlike bingeing content, these activities are not mere distractions; they are acts of self-love that will cleanse your energy and revitalize your soul. 

"The fastest way to get over an ex that you still love is to think about yourself," explains Daniel Boscaljon, Ph.D., research director and co-founder of the Institute for Trauma-Informed Relationships. "Make a plan, once a month, to do something new and different. This can give you something you can look forward to that is not connected to the lost future of the former relationship," he adds.

You reduce the mental and emotional space available for past memories by redirecting your attention and energy toward your own well-being.


Rediscover your individuality & forge a new identity

The end of a relationship can be damaging to an individual's self-concept. One study2 even found that failing to reestablish a robust self-identity post-breakup can lead to poorer well-being and continued feelings of love for an ex. Therefore, you must work on repairing your self-worth and view yourself as a complete entity in your own right. 

"Identify the qualities in yourself that need to be addressed, improved, and strengthened. Use this opportunity to strengthen your sense of who you are, with or without a love interest," suggests author and relationship coach Nancy Landrum, M.A.

Meet yourself as you would a new friend. Embark on a journey of self-discovery. Place yourself in new, unfamiliar situations to uncover unknown facets of your character and personality. Maybe sign up for jujitsu or try some extreme sport. The adrenaline of such activities and the element of danger can bring a novel excitement to your life.

You will also find being able to do such activities quite a confidence boost. As registered psychologist and founder of Therapy Calgary Emotions Clinic Rod Mitchell, MSc, confirms, "Each new experience is a step toward rediscovering your individuality outside the relationship."


Reconnect with old friends

The process of getting over an ex can be lonely. Instead of rebounding with a random hookup or drowning in alcohol, consider a night out or a leisurely brunch with old friends. Romantic partners often monopolize our time, inadvertently creating distance from others, so take the opportunity to rekindle old friendships. 

It can shift your perspective around your breakup and remind you that people in your life love you and enjoy your company. "Social interactions can provide a refreshing perspective and remind you of your value and identity outside of the relationship," Mitchell says, adding, "Join groups or clubs that align with your interests; this not only broadens your social circle but also reinforces your passions and identity."


Revel in your singlehood

As much of a loss as it is, the end of a relationship also sets you free. A unique kind of liberation comes from embracing your newfound singlehood. It's an opportunity to reconnect with your desires, passions, and dreams, often sidelined in a romantic relationship.

As AASECT-certified sex educator Suzannah Weiss tells mindbodygreen, "Some people talk about a post-breakup glow that people have after a breakup because they are enjoying being single, they feel free, and the problems of their previous relationship are no longer weighing them down. She believes that for someone to experience this post-breakup glow, they must dive headfirst into being single. 

Do all those things that your partner was never interested in doing, and when you go out, dress up to your own delight. Flirt with people you find attractive. Make new friends. Eat delicious, exotic food. Take aimless walks. Seek out new experiences.

"If you can find enjoyment in being single, that is a sign you are moving forward," adds Weiss.

By fully immersing yourself in the experiences and choices that resonate with you and only you, you create a fulfilling narrative of self-growth and independence. This is no longer just about forgetting an ex; it's about crafting a chapter of your life where you are the main character, (re)discovering the richness and potential of life as an individual.


Plan a new future & set clear goals

The future you imagined with your ex may no longer be viable, but you can take this opportunity to re-envision a new future for yourself. By setting fresh goals and aspirations, you give yourself something positive to focus on and work toward. It is an empowering step toward redefining your life's trajectory on your own terms. 

As part of the process, you can self-reflect and think back to anything you may have given up for the sake of your relationship. It may be time to pursue those forgotten goals. As you work toward these objectives, you'll find that the memories and the pull toward the past relationship gradually diminish. 

One of the goals you set for yourself can be about gently stepping back into the world of dating. The analyses conducted as part of a study3 published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that initiating a relationship soon after a breakup can help enhance one's confidence and resolve over an ex, contributing positively to their psychological well-being.


Boost well-being through physical activity

The body and the mind are closely linked, so when you feel good in the body, your mind will also feel healthy. Exercise can help in that direction. It releases endorphins in the brain, relaxes your muscles, and relieves tension and stress in the body. 

"Your body's endorphins make great antidepressants," Treva Brandon Scharf, ICF-certified relationship coach and author, explains, recommending starting an exercise program as soon as possible.

Consistent exercise can also enhance your energy reserves, improve your self-control, and make it easier to manage difficult emotions. Also, get lots of fresh air and sunlight. Going out in nature can clear the cobwebs and rejuvenate you, making the world less dark and gloomy.


Seek closure through understanding

Every relationship ends for a reason, and often that reason justifies the pain of that ending. Understanding why letting go of your ex was ultimately for your own good can help you find clarity and closure. It allows you to see the breakup not as a failure but as a natural progression of life, where some paths diverge for the better.

A study4 from the journal Emerging Adulthood has confirmed the same, finding that understanding the reasons for breakup led to lower psychological issues, reduced romantic conflict, and higher relationship satisfaction and competence later in life.

"Reflect on the relationship to understand what worked and what didn't," Esmaeilpour recommends. However, she cautions against assigning blame or dwelling excessively over what could have been. The focus should be on learning from the experience, acknowledging the incompatibilities, and understanding the circumstances that led to the relationship's conclusion.

If your ex ended things, they may not be willing to explain why, in which case, understanding that your partner had already abandoned the relationship and by moving on, you did what was necessary, perhaps even beneficial for both parties, can be a transformative realization.


Self-express through creative pursuits

Pour all your anguish and heartbreak on paper. There is extensive research5 that shows the therapeutic benefits of writing about one's pain and trauma, highlighting its ability to decrease anxiety and other symptoms of depression significantly. In fact, narrative expressive writing has been known to have a positive physiological impact as well. 

You can also write letters to your ex. Whether sent or consigned to the bin later, these letters can offer a safe space to convey all your unspoken thoughts and unexpressed feelings. "This cathartic exercise lets you articulate and release emotions, closing chapters in your heart and mind," Mitchell tells mindbodygreen.

You can also engage in other creative pursuits. Whether it's painting, crafting, music, or any other form of art, these pursuits not only distract from the pain but allow us to construct something beautiful out of what has been a painful experience.


Create change for a fresh start

A breakup-fueled makeover that results in an extreme haircut or a tattoo is always a bad idea, but making some little changes in yourself or your environment can signify a new beginning. It's about creating a fresh canvas in both your personal space and life.

Consider starting with your surroundings. Weiss recommends redoing your room.

Rearranging your furniture, adding some new décor, or even just decluttering can significantly alter the energy of your space, making it feel new and disconnected from past memories. This physical transformation can reflect and reinforce the internal changes you are striving for.

Similarly, small changes in your appearance can be uplifting. Something as simple as trying a new cut, updating your wardrobe, or adopting a new fitness routine can invigorate your sense of self. Anything that makes you feel like you are taking solid steps toward a new future can help.


Seek support from professionals & loved ones

If the pain persists, lean on your loved ones. Talking to a trusted friend or family member can provide immense comfort and relief. It can bring to light all the hidden pain and anguish with someone sharing the burden. An outside perspective can also help make sense of your struggles. According to Esmaeilpour, social connections remind individuals that they are valued and not alone in their journey.

Going further, Boscaljon recommends treating the breakup as a step toward a more emotionally mature and resilient self. "A breakup can be one of the most traumatic things to recover from in our adult lives, but when handled properly, it can also be one of the few things that can help people heal from past issues." It's an opportunity to face and work through existing issues and past pain that may have surfaced as a result of the relationship's end. 

Consulting a mental health professional can be transformative for those who find the journey especially challenging. They have experience dealing with similar situations and can offer exercises, tools, and strategies uniquely suited to your situation. They can also prevent you from resorting to defense mechanisms that don't serve you.


Avoid romanticizing the relationship or demonizing the ex

As you miss your ex, you may find yourself reliving old moments and memories, and due to the emotionality of your situation, they may seem more beautiful and poignant. It's crucial, however, to resist romanticizing the relationship or idealizing your ex. Remember, if the relationship had really been perfect, you wouldn't be trying to get over your ex now.

Romanticizing the past can create an imaginary standard, making it impossible to appreciate new connections and potential partners, comparing them to a glorified phantom that never truly existed.

Boscaljon recommends compassionate detachment, suggesting that it's possible to maintain a sense of warmth and care for your ex while accepting the growing distance.

Meanwhile, Pranzo cautions against putting your ex on a pedestal. "We often look at our exes with rose-colored glasses. Remember that they are human, with their own flaws and imperfections, just like everyone else."

Another possibility is that you may find yourself bitter and resentful when thinking of your ex, but it's important not to let these emotions consume you. Don't bad-mouth your ex or villainize them in your imagination. Such negativity and anger may make you so cynical that you may trap yourself in your own hate, unable to move on. 

Moving forward

There will be significant milestones on this journey of healing; noticing these signs of progress can be incredibly uplifting. Each sign affirms that you're on a path to a brighter, pain-free future.

Signs that you're beginning to move forward

  • Good days outnumber the bad
  • Hope and optimism are beginning to replace despair and lethargy
  • Thoughts of your ex are less frequent and intrusive
  • You view your future with curiosity and gladness
  • Memories of your ex evoke fondness, and you reminisce over your shared past without feeling sad or bitter
  • You see the breakup as a part of your journey toward learning and growth
  • The lessons and growth from your past relationship are cherished and acknowledged
  • There is a renewed interest in old hobbies and other activities and a willingness to seek out new experiences 
  • You feel emotional stability with more reliable and less intense emotional responses
  • The prospect of dating once again feels exciting
  • Memories are beginning to lose their intensity and grip on your emotions
  • A sense of newfound freedom permeates your being, and your energy feels lighter
  • Laughter feels genuine and comes easily
  • There is a new sense of self-appreciation
  • You can view your past relationship clearly and with more objectivity

If you notice these signs in your behavior, find comfort in knowing that you're making steady progress, and soon the pain you feel will be reduced to a dull ache. However, if you feel that the struggle is not over yet, remember that healing unfolds in its own time, so be patient and remember that each individual's journey is unique.

As Durand reminds us, "Grief is not something we overcome but rather integrate into our self-understanding." Use tools like journaling, talk therapy, and other helpful techniques to navigate your feelings without being overwhelmed by them. "Turn pain into perspective," Durand encourages, adding, "It feels like the end, and in some ways it is: an end to one chapter but also the beginning of the next."

"It's not just about getting over someone; it's about healing your heart, rediscovering who you are, and redefining your future," clarifies Samantha Saunders, licensed professional counselor.

Additionally, Weiss recommends jumping back into the dating scene as soon as possible. "You can still be grieving when you start dating again. Sometimes, seeing who else is out there lets us know there is hope for our future," she adds.

As you go through this process, remember that the path of recovery is never linear. Some days, you'll feel as if the pain is almost gone, and then some random memory will float black in, disrupting your hard-earned peace and calm. It is completely normal. With time and self-compassion, you'll find your way to a place of peace and renewed strength.


How do you get over an ex you still love?

To get over an ex you still love, grieve the loss, self-reflect, indulge in dedicated self-care, and engage in activities that foster personal growth. Invite new experiences and connections into your life, and seek support from friends, family, or professionals to navigate this emotional journey.

How do I stop obsessing over an ex?

To stop obsessing over an ex, seek healthy distractions in creative pursuits, self-care, and personal development. Engage in hobbies, set new goals, and cultivate a supportive social network. Writing out your pent-up emotions or seeking professional counseling to process and move beyond the intrusive thoughts is also beneficial.

How long does it take to get over an ex?

While research indicates that many people begin to recover from a breakup within 11 weeks to three months, individual experiences can vary greatly. Recovery time will depend on factors like the length of the relationship, emotional investment, circumstances of the breakup, personal sensitivity, and the specific steps taken to move on.

How do you get over your ex fast?

Rushing through recovery from a significant emotional experience will only delay the pain and add to the trauma. It's healthier to take time to process your emotions with practical techniques and strategies. However, you can move at an accelerated pace by building a life that brings you joy, concentrating on personal goals and interests, fostering a solid support network, and seeking professional guidance.

The takeaway

Every person we love leaves an imprint on us, shaping the fabric of our character. Cherish the good memories, and consider the pain of the breakup simply another one of life's tests that, once over, will add strength and steel to your spine.

Most importantly, remember you are loved, and your worth is not defined by any relationship. If the love you continue to feel for your ex keeps pulling you back toward your past, be patient with yourself. Healing isn't a race; it's a journey. It's OK to have bad days; what matters most is that you keep moving forward. Each day brings you closer to a renewed sense of self, a world filled with new opportunities, and experiences meant just for you.

Your journey, with all its ups and downs, reveals your heart's resilience and the adaptability of your spirit. So, take a deep breath, keep your chin up, and boldly step toward the next chapter of your life. You've got this!

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