Relationships leave big impressions on our lives - no matter how long they lasted or why they ended. It's natural for thoughts about ex-partners to pop up now and again, and even for those thoughts to be invasive for a long time.
If you're hoping your ex-partner still feels a slight spark or nostalgia for you, you've probably wondered if they're even thinking about you. On the other hand, you might know that the breakup was the right thing, but still crave a connection with your ex.
Things to know
- If the bond that you shared with your ex was strong, your ex still thinks about you, as the bonding process between romantic partners creates powerful patterns, especially in committed, long-term relationships.
- If your relationship was toxic, your ex probably thinks about you but not in a good way, as strong negative associations tend to stick around for a lifetime.
- If your relationship ended recently, your ex thinks about you, as the excitement of being single again has worn off and they're probably regretting the breakup. They may obsess about you, and certain situations or places may trigger unwanted thoughts.
For whatever reason, many of us will wonder if our exes think about us. And fortunately, it is possible to tell! If they are thinking about you, there's a chance you'll rekindle that flame or get that closure you need. Here 24 telltale signs that your ex thinks about you:
- You Were In A Committed Relationship
- You Had A Toxic Relationship
- Your Relationship Recently Ended
- They Walked Away From You
- You Broke Up With Them
- You Spent A Lot of Time Together
- You Achieved Mutual Goals
- You Experienced New Things Together
- You Cooked Together
- You Faced Challenges Together
- They Still Have Physical Reminders Of You
- You Have Children Together
- They’re Nostalgic
- Your Relationship Shaped Who They Are Today
- You Made Them Feel Valued
- You Taught Your Ex Something About Themselves
- They’re Falling In Love
- You Supported Them
- You Were High School Sweethearts
- They Have Lingering Insecurities
- They Miss You
- You Have Mutual Friends
- They Idealize Your Relationship
- Check Your Thoughts
You Were In A Committed Relationship
If the bond that you shared was strong, your ex still thinks about you. According to relationship expert Helen Fisher, our brains develop neural pathways based on learned patterns.
The bonding process between romantic partners creates powerful patterns, especially in committed, long-term relationships. Even if your ex has a new partner, their brain has retained traces of those patterns. This means they might think about you from time to time. And just like you dream of your ex, they might dream of you too.
If your relationship was one-sided or not that serious for them, you might be a distant memory. But you’re a memory nonetheless, and we don’t have control of the memories that invade our conscious or subconscious minds.
You Had A Toxic Relationship
Toxic relationships are emotionally charged. The strong negative associations that are formed tend to stay with us for a lifetime. If your relationship was toxic, your ex probably thinks about you but not in a good way.
Psychological scars can take years to heal. Your ex could still be dealing with the trauma of your relationship. Certain situations or places might trigger unwanted thoughts. And because you’re linked to these thoughts, you’ll also come to mind.
Your Relationship Recently Ended
If your relationship ended recently, your ex thinks about you a lot. The excitement about being single again has worn off, and they're probably contemplating the breakup.
During this stage of contemplation, your ex may even obsess about you. Finding your belongings amongst theirs might bring back a few memories. Even hearing a particular song on the radio could trigger an intense longing to be with you.
They Walked Away From You
You might be having a hard time coming to terms with the breakup. You’re probably even trying to figure out how to get your ex back. The thing is, even though they walked out on you, they’re probably not faring any better.
Research has shown that partners who initiate breakups tend to have difficulty coping with regret, frustration, and uncertainty.
So, chances are they still think about you. They may still be plagued by constant what-ifs or repeatedly play alternative possibilities in their minds.
You Broke Up With Them
Rejection affects us in profound ways. Years later, we find ourselves thinking about that one ex that jilted us. We may even experience residual effects such as insecurity or abandonment issues. If you broke up with your ex months or even years ago, they might still think about you.
If you broke up recently, they’re definitely thinking about you. They might be hounding you or begging you to give them another chance. If you haven’t heard from your ex, they might be making use of the no-contact rule. Don’t let their silence fool you; you're on their mind constantly.
They’re probably fighting the urge to contact you and trying to figure out what to text after no contact to make you reconsider your decision.
You Spent A Lot of Time Together
If you spent a lot of time together, it's likely that they still think about you. This is even more likely if your ex still visits the places you made the most memories together. Whenever they go to that fancy restaurant where you used to have your anniversary dinners, they’ll think of you.
If they see an ad about a holiday destination you once visited, memories of that trip might come flooding back. Your ex could be out bowling with their new girlfriend or boyfriend when a few strikes remind them of the time you won a tournament together.
They could even be shopping when something as trivial as seeing your favorite brand of shampoo triggers a thought of you.
You Achieved Mutual Goals
Perhaps you and your ex helped each other through college or you kicked a few bad habits and helped each other get healthier. Maybe you saved up and bought something significant like your very first home.
If you worked hard to accomplish mutual goals, your ex would remember the times you helped them. That success is now a part of them, and whenever your ex builds on that success, they’ll remember how they achieved those first steps with you.
You Experienced New Things Together
Maybe the first time your ex went bungee jumping was with you. Perhaps you introduced them to the splendor of spending time out in nature. You might have even explored a few cities together.
If you and your ex had an adventurous relationship where you tried out different things, all those fun times might come to mind whenever they're thinking of trying something new.
You Cooked Together
Often, the simplest things are the most memorable. If you and your ex cooked together, simply being in the environment where you made all your favorite meals could trigger thoughts about you. Did you attend cooking classes together? If you did, there’s a pretty good chance that you come to mind whenever they’re trying out those recipes.
They might even chuckle over that time you almost burnt the house down baking a cake for a mutual friend. Even enjoying their favorite meal might get them thinking about your disastrous first attempt at making it.
You Faced Challenges Together
If you and your ex overcame any significant challenges together, you'd retain those memories for the rest of your lives. This is because we tend to form long-lasting bonds with those we make it through trying times with.
Any time your ex thinks about how they made it through those difficult times, you'll probably come to mind.
They Still Have Physical Reminders Of You
Physical objects are strong memory triggers, and relationship therapists often recommend getting rid of them to move on from a breakup.
You may have bonded over buying a particular piece of art. Perhaps you gifted them a coffee mug when your relationship was still great.
Whether it’s a piece of art or a coffee mug, physical reminders of you will evoke memories. Even the couch you spent many cozy weekends on could send your ex down memory lane.
You Have Children Together
If you and your ex have children, they definitely think about you - it comes with the territory. You may have gone your separate ways, but you’re co-parenting and making important decisions about your children.
This means that you keep in touch and see each other quite often. Whether they still think about you in a romantic way is an entirely different story.
We reminisce at some point during the day, several times a week on average. Experts have coined this 'nostalgic reverie' or a process where we alter our memories and make them more positive.
Simply put, we lie to ourselves to recreate our pasts. We use nostalgia as a way of reshaping the truth, so it's psychologically easier to bear. This can improve our sense of well-being and prevent mental health issues.
Much like our childhoods, failed intimate relationships are also subject to nostalgia, meaning your ex thinks about you from time to time.
Your Relationship Shaped Who They Are Today
We all have an ex we once cared about deeply. They could have been there for us during a life-changing situation and helped shape who we are today. Perhaps they encouraged us and gave us the confidence to chase our dreams.
Maybe they inspired us to pursue our passions or took care of us financially while we ‘found ourselves.’ For your ex, that could be you. Even though life has taken you in different directions, they might spare you the occasional fond thought.
You Made Them Feel Valued
We wouldn't regret our old relationships, especially if they were positive. We become more sentimental as we age, meaning our minds brush over the hard times and recall things more fondly.
It's possible that your ex barely remembers the tension between you. All of those fights you had probably don't even matter anymore. All they might recall is that you made them feel loved and valued.
They might think of you not because they want to get back together but because, in some shape or form, your relationship made them feel a certain way about themselves.
You Taught Your Ex Something About Themselves
Relationships tend to teach us real-life lessons about how to relate to other people. So, your relationship taught your ex something about themselves. They might have realized what they want or need in a relationship. Perhaps they figured out the different ways they express love.
Being with you gave them a blueprint for navigating subsequent relationships. That’s why they may still think about you even if they've gone through the grieving process and moved on.
They’re Falling In Love
When we fall in love, we are often reminded of all the times we fell in love in the past. Naturally, the people we've loved may come to mind as well. If your ex has fallen in love or is in the process of falling in love, they might think about you.
Because it's common for our emotions to bring up experiences with similar emotions, being in a new relationship could bring up unresolved feelings. If your ex is in a rebound relationship, this effect is compounded. You might even be influencing their behavior.
Your ex might subconsciously compare that new person to you and even project their strong feelings for you onto them. Whether they realize it or not, you're on their mind.
You Supported Them
A strong support system helps us get through tough situations. It’s why women tend to cope better with breakups. Women have female friends to lean on, while men tend to rely solely on their romantic partners for emotional support.
If you were your ex’s main source of emotional support, they might think about you quite often. You may come to mind when they’re going through a rough patch or when they just need to tell somebody the long story about why they’re currently not on speaking terms with their best friend.
You Were High School Sweethearts
If you and your ex met in high school and experienced 'young love,' they think about you just like you think about them. The neurological attachment that occurs between young lovers is quite strong. This is why it's not uncommon to hear of high school sweethearts reconnecting after many years.
Even if this isn't the case with you, being your ex's first love means the attachment you once shared may continue to shape their thoughts and behavior.
They Have Lingering Insecurities
As a result of lingering insecurities, your ex might think about you years after your relationship ended. If they haven’t moved on or if they've experienced a string of broken relationships since then, you might come to mind often — especially if you seem to be happier.
If your relationship ended because of infidelity, your ex might compare themselves to all the partners you've had since then. There's even a good chance that they harbor resentment towards you for their trust issues.
They Miss You
Whether it's been months or years, a friend request or a random check-in from your ex is a sign that they miss you. You can be sure if your ex sends you a text message, it’s in response to a random thought about you. If your ex still follows you on social media, any posts you share might remind them of you.
Men and women tend to regard ex-partners differently. Women are more likely to blame their exes for a failed relationship and regard them negatively even years later. This is why your ex-girlfriend might think about you. But not in the fuzzy way you hope.
Men, on the other hand, think of their ex-partners more fondly. If your ex-boyfriend suddenly likes all of your posts, leaving flirty comments, or messaging you, he’s not only thinking about you; he's trying to get your attention.
You Have Mutual Friends
While you may both have a few new friends, your mutual friends will always keep you connected. Being part of the same social circle means you’re likely to bump into each other at weddings, parties, and other social events.
You might even come up in conversation from time to time. Whenever a friend lets it slip that you're dating someone new or that something exciting is happening in your life, your ex will think about you.
They Idealize Your Relationship
Idealizing a past relationship makes it out to be more than it was. Even without realizing it, we might compare all subsequent relationships to that one relationship. We might even attempt to re-capture the magic of the connection we lost with different people.
If you were the ‘one that got away,’ your ex probably still thinks about you. They might hold unrealistic thoughts about your relationship and why it fell apart in the first place.
Check Your Thoughts
While you're not privy to your ex's thoughts, you're aware of yours. If you can't stop thinking about your ex, you might have unresolved feelings to work through. Reflect on how you really feel about them and explore what you can do to set your mind at ease.
If getting back together is still a possibility, reach out to your ex and explore that option. If it’s not, accept that what you’re going through is normal and give yourself more time to move on. If you've moved on, but thoughts of your ex are affecting your current relationship, take stock of your mental and emotional health.
Your mind could simply be making associations or falling back into familiar emotional habits. Whatever the case may be, you’ll benefit from speaking to a professional.