If you’re anything like me, you’ll know that familiar sense of loss that comes after a relationship ends. It can be tempting to mistake a longing for the comfort of a relationship for missing your ex, but it’s important to know the difference before you throw yourself back into the arms of a person you don’t actually want.
Are you being too hard on yourself?
The aftermath of a breakup is rarely easy. Even if you were the one to put an end to the relationship, there’s usually still a feeling of loss that comes along with it. It’s a huge shift in dynamic from having your life connected to someone else to suddenly being on your own. In the wake of such a shift, feelings of longing are to be expected.
Are you missing a person or missing a status?
In the midst of that longing, there are usually a lot of different emotions flying around. You could be feeling a mix of pain, anger, liberation, sadness, curiosity, loneliness, and excitement all at the same time. Along with that, there’s probably a part of you that feels like someone is suddenly missing from your life. It’s important to figure out if you’re actually missing your ex or if you’re just feeling the loss of your relationship status. Of course, you probably miss your ex in some ways—you were together for a reason—but missing a person is not the same thing as missing the way you felt with that person.
Why did the relationship really end?
Every breakup happens for a reason and no matter how much you might miss your ex, it’s important to keep in mind the reason that it ended between you. Were there insurmountable incompatibilities? Did your life paths lead in different directions? Were you no longer able to be happy together? Did one of you fall out of love? Paying attention to the things that prevented the relationship from continuing can help you recognize whether you’re painting a rosy picture of someone who wasn’t good for you.
Are you thinking of your ex in particular?
When you get that sense of longing, what is it that you’re missing? Is it the way he laughs, his particular sense of humor, the pet names he had for you? Or is it simply laughing with someone, sharing jokes, and being given terms of endearment? This is an exercise in self-honesty and it can be hard to separate one from the other sometimes.
Are you just missing what they were able to provide you with?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting someone to share your bed, whisper sweet nothings in your ear, and share your life with. Desiring companionship is a totally normal thing, but it’s good to remember that those things aren’t necessarily attached just to one person. If you’re not sure whether you’re missing your ex or just missing a companion, try to feel what it is your body wants. Is it really your last lover or just a lover?
Could you imagine being with someone else?
This thought experiment is maybe the best way to tell what it is you’re actually craving. Imagine the moment you miss sharing with your ex—cuddling up to watch a movie, going for a walk through your favorite neighborhood together, making love. Now, could you imagine doing those things with someone else? It doesn’t have to be a real person, a faceless companion will do. Take note of how open our body and mind is to imagining someone by your side who is decidedly not your ex.
How does flirting feel?
If you’re still getting over your relationship, it could be too early for this, but if you feel comfortable with it, see how it feels to flirt with other people. Is it exciting? Fun? Invigorating? If so, you could just be missing the warm fuzzies that come from connecting with another human being. That doesn’t mean you have to go jump into another relationship immediately (in fact, I’d recommend not to). However, it could at least offer some clarity on what it is you’re missing. On the other hand, if you feel scared, uncomfortable, or a sense of betrayal, you’re probably still hung up on your ex.
If you’re in contact with your ex, how does it feel?
Sometimes contact after a breakup is the best way to gauge what your feelings are moving forward. This is a delicate balance since too much contact can prolong lingering feelings and not allow for a clean break. With occasional contact though, it’s possible to see how you feel with and without your ex. After contact with them, how do you feel? Is there a sense of yearning or a sense of relief? Are you convinced that the breakup was necessary or are you still questioning if it was the right thing? Either way, you can use this contact as a way of figuring out what it is you’re really longing for, the person or the relationship.
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