Why Do I Still Feel Connected To My Ex? - 15 Reasons You Can't Let Go

It's been months, but you can't let them go. A part of you still feels connected to your ex.

Coming to terms with this can be challenging, especially if you want to move on and put that chapter of your life behind you.

Breakups are complex and can affect you in many ways. So, there might be several reasons why your ex is always on your mind.

If you can't shake the lingering feelings about your ex, the first step to moving on is understanding the issue further.

Things to know

  • Unresolved feelings, strong emotional attachment, loneliness or difficult life moments may cause you to still feel connected to an ex.
  • To truly move on, you've got to cut all contact with your ex, work on processing your emotions and rediscover yourself.
  • Even something like a new relationship can make you think of your ex-partner, but you can still take action to change things by accepting reality and letting go.

To help you make sense of everything and move on, we'll be looking at these key areas:

Why Is My Ex Suddenly On My Mind?

If your ex is suddenly on your mind, it might be that:

You're lonely

As human beings, we’re hardwired to crave deep connections. We also seek out romantic relationships to experience a sense of security and community. So, your ex could be on your mind because you're lonely.

It's easy to miss people who aren't in our lives anymore when we’re lacking companionship or feel disconnected from those around us.

You're going through a breakup

It's not uncommon to be reminded of an ex-lover or a previous relationship when you're experiencing a breakup.

Breakups tend to expose old wounds. Suddenly thinking of your ex is a sign that your mind is making associations between what you're experiencing now and what you experienced in the past.

You have regrets

When you ended things with your ex, you felt happy to have dodged a bullet. But you’re not so sure anymore. Unresolved feelings can keep you stuck, and if you’re second guessing how things went down between you, your ex might stay on your mind.

Something triggered your memory

Our minds are very good at linking certain events, places, and objects with people. Something as simple as a coffee machine can remind you of all the times you bonded over a fresh brew in the morning.

This might be why they're suddenly on your mind after hearing a particular song or spotting their favorite snack while shopping.

You ran into your ex

If a song can trigger thoughts of your ex, imagine the damage actually seeing them can do. Bumping into an old flame isn't only awkward; it often brings back memories and triggers old feelings of attraction. So if you've run into your ex recently, it's no wonder they're on your mind.

You had a dream about your ex

Dreams are usually a sign of unresolved issues and emotions. If you're dreaming of your ex, your subconscious mind might be trying to resolve unfinished business between you.

Because they’re symbolic, dreams about your ex might have nothing to do with them. Your ex may simply represent a frustrating situation. Either way, deciphering the meaning behind your ex’s sudden appearance in your dreams is bound to leave you thinking about them.

They're in a new relationship

Even when a relationship has ended, and you've made peace with it, seeing that an ex has moved on still stings. This is because it triggers our insecurities and may subconsciously make us compare ourselves with their new partner.

If you happen to come across a post on social media or if a mutual friend let it slip, this revelation might linger in your mind.

15 Reasons Why You Still Feel Connected To Your Ex

Can't seem to move on? Here are some possible reasons:

1. Your relationship ended recently

If you broke up with your ex recently, you're still emotionally attached. Strong romantic feelings often take months to resolve. If it’s only been a couple of days since you said your goodbyes, you might be suffering from love withdrawal syndrome.

Since being in love stimulates the same brain regions associated with drug addiction, suddenly being cut off from the source (your ex) often leads to intense cravings and extreme psychological suffering.

2. You’re still in love with your ex

Even after going your separate ways, you may have very deep feelings for your ex. They may have been your first love or your best friend. You may have invested so much into the relationship that you can’t fathom being without them.

It’s possible that you're still holding on to the idea that they're your perfect match. Your strong emotions are likely preventing you from moving on.

3. You were in a serious relationship

The more meaningful your relationship was, the longer it will take to let it go and move on. Strong bonds such as those formed between couples in long-term relationships can be challenging to dissolve.

If you were married or shared a life, home, and other responsibilities together, coming to grips with being separated or divorced will take time.

4. You developed a shared identity

Is your ex the reason you love certain things? Did you take on their interests in an attempt to grow closer to them? Well, this is all pretty common when you are in a relationship.

Getting involved in each other's lives and interests is an important part of bonding and becoming a couple. This usually results in a shared identity. If you still do the things you used to do with your ex, you might feel like they're always with you.

5. They influenced who you are

We'll always remember the people who've played an important role in shaping who we are. Perhaps your ex stuck with you during a rough patch. Maybe they supported you and helped you achieve your dreams. If this is the case, you'll always feel connected to them.

6. You have children together

If you have children together, avoiding your ex or shutting them out of your life is impossible. You'll always be connected because of your children. Moreover, it's important for your children that you have mutual respect for one another, even if you don't like each other much.

7. You haven't let go

A popular theory holds that moving on takes half as long as being with someone. Some studies even suggest that it takes between 18 and 24 months to move on. Because we all process pain in different ways and at different paces, there's simply no timeline for healing from a broken heart.

Still feeling connected to your ex is a strong sign that you haven't fully recovered from the breakup.

8. You're still friends with your ex

Remaining friends might seem like a good idea. You might even think it cushions the blow of a breakup. However, the opposite is true: being friends with an ex can slow down the healing process.

It's not uncommon for friendships with exes to turn into toxic situations. You might get stuck in a vicious cycle of making and breaking up, or you could get caught up in an 'exes with benefits' situation.

9. You're still in contact with your ex

Being in contact with your ex is equally damaging, even if you aren't exactly friends, simply being exposed to them can trigger hurtful memories and negative emotions. A negative emotional connection is a connection nonetheless. And this might make moving on difficult.

10. You don't have any other meaningful relationships

It's easy to stay hung up on a person when they're all you've ever had. If your ex took on the role of a friend and lover, their absence has left a large vacuum in your life.

So, if you still feel attached to your ex, it might be because you haven't formed any other meaningful attachments.

11. You're surrounded by constant reminders

If you're still living in the space you shared together, you might be reminded of your relationship on a daily basis. Random objects might send you on a trip down memory lane and keep your ex on your mind.

12. You're clinging to an idea

Do you feel like your ex is the one that got away? Was your romance cut short because of circumstances? If so, you may still feel connected to your ex because of a lack of closure.

Lingering or unresolved feelings about what could have been are the main reason people struggle to shake the memories of exes. As long as you're still clinging to an idea, you'll never be able to move on.

13. Your ex cheated on you

If your ex cheated on you, you might be running low on self-confidence. Being cheated on can knock your self-esteem and affect how you view relationships.

Plus, if your ex blamed their cheating on you, you may have internalized that you're inadequate‌. If you haven’t dealt with it, it might feel like your ex is following you around in your head and seriously affecting your self esteem.

14. You have an insecure attachment style

Attachment theory tells us that our earliest experiences of love affect how we relate to romantic partners. If you tend to feel anxious or fearful in romantic relationships, you might have an insecure attachment style.

Because you often lose yourself in relationships or derive a sense of self-worth from being paired up, letting go and coming to terms with things might be harder for you.

15. You're soul mates

Even if you don't believe in the idea of soulmates, there's a scientific basis for why we choose to consider a particular person as special and worthy of our undying devotion.

As human beings, we’re born with the neurocircuitry to form bonds with favorable mates. This means we have the ability to decide on a mate and stick with them forever. If you’ve done that with your ex, they’re your ‘soul mate,’ and this explains why you still feel connected to them.

How Do I Stop Being Emotionally Attached To My Ex?

Still feeling connected to someone after a relationship has ended may point to an unhealthy attachment. To determine if you have an unhealthy attachment to your ex, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did you/do you still feel the need to gain your ex's approval?
  • Did you lose your sense of self in the relationship?
  • Are you struggling to function without them?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you might have an unhealthy emotional attachment. Here's how you can break it:

Zero contact

If you're still in contact with your ex, breaking your emotional attachment will be difficult. So, you've got to create some distance between you. This means no texts, calls, or spending time together.

Zero contact is the perfect way to reflect and process your emotions. Initially, it might be difficult to ignore your ex, but it's important to stick it out. With enough time, you'll stop feeling emotionally attached to them.

Invest in your other relationships

When you're getting over someone, it's important to have a good support system to lean on. Start investing more into meaningful relationships in your life. Start spending time with close friends and family members who make you feel safe.

Being surrounded by people who care about you will lower your stress levels and increase your sense of well-being.

Start dating again

Even if the prospect of dating again feels scary, it's a great way to move on. Meeting someone new might be the fresh start you need to finally let go of your ex.

Having someone else find you desirable might be the boost you need to feel good about yourself again. You might find someone more compatible and finally understand why things never worked with your ex.

Give yourself time to heal

The first step to letting go is acknowledging your feelings. Accept that what you shared was meaningful and that a part of you will always feel connected to them. The next step is to actually process your emotions. This means finding healthy ways of dealing with them.

Journaling is a great way to organize your thoughts and get what you're feeling on paper. If you'd rather talk to someone, pour your heart out to a close friend or family member. Physical activities like walking, cycling, and dancing are great ways to combat stress and get a dose of feel-good hormones.

Finally, you've got to give yourself time to heal. Although getting over a breakup can take anywhere between 11 and 12 weeks, everyone's journey will look different. So, it's important not to pressure yourself.

Allow yourself to process everything in your own time. If you're struggling, it might be time to see a mental health professional.

Remember the negatives

Whenever you start to miss your ex, reflect on why your relationship broke down in the first place. Make a list of all the reasons you were incompatible, and think of all the times your needs were neglected.

Remembering the negatives will give you a realistic view of the relationship. It will also stop you from idealizing your ex. Coming to terms with how things are and not how you want them to be will help you move on.

Figure out who you are without them

Sometimes, being in a relationship can make you lose yourself — especially if you place it above your friends, interests, and hobbies. To detach from your ex, you've got to figure out who you are without them.

Rediscovering who you are is a powerful way to move on. So, explore your interests or take on a new hobby. More importantly, reflect on what truly matters to you and go after it.

Get rid of any reminders of your relationship

To be free of your ex, get rid of any reminders of your relationship. Memories associated with strong emotions are so powerful that they can be triggered by images, objects, and places.

Do some redecorating if your space reminds you of your ex. Then, get rid of any personal belongings they left behind. Remember to hide away any vacation mementos while you’re in recovery. You might also benefit from scrubbing your social media clean of any evidence that you were ever together.

Stop stalking them on social media

Purging your social media accounts of all reminders of your ex won't work if you continue to stalk them. Every time you spy on your ex, you’re making it that much harder to move on.

Seeing that your ex is dating someone else might trigger your insecurities or open old wounds. Knowing that they're simply carrying on while you’re stuck grieving can seriously affect your mental health.

Treat yourself with compassion

Being rejected by someone you love can wreak havoc on your confidence and leave you with low self-esteem. If your ex left you for someone else, you might feel hopeless and unlovable. However, it's important to treat yourself with compassion.

How would you support your best friend if they were in a similar situation? What would you say to them? What would you do? You certainly wouldn't put them down or make them feel worse about themselves, so avoid doing that to yourself.

Change your mindset

Instead of seeing your failed relationship as 'proof' that you'll never be happy, look at it as a valuable learning experience. Getting more fulfillment out of future relationships will depend on how well you know yourself.

Therefore, it's essential to reflect on why things didn't work out with your ex. Did you have different attachment styles? Were your core values misaligned? What red flags did you ignore? Answering such questions will give you a clearer picture of what you want in a relationship and partner.

Seek professional help

Heartbreak can change your brain chemistry and make you more prone to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. If your feelings are overwhelming and you're having a hard time simply functioning, seek professional help.

By working with a mental health professional or relationship expert, you can finally process your emotions and move on.

We Want To Be Together, But We Can't

If you had to break up due to circumstances such as living or working in different countries, you didn’t end things willingly. As such, you may still have very strong feelings for each other.

Here’s what to do if you still love each other but can’t be together:

Try a long-distance relationship

Relationships are challenging even when you can spend as much time as you want with each other. With different time zones and locations in the mix, there's an increased demand for compassion, understanding, and compromise.

However, with effort and consideration, you can make a long-distance relationship can work. If anything, treat it as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship.

Be sure to understand each other's needs and expectations — especially when it comes to communication. If you don't set clear expectations, you might mistakenly frustrate each other and drift apart.

Virtual dates may not come close to the real thing, but you can still use them to feel close to each other. You can also explore other forms of sexual intimacy while you are apart.

Consider pooling your resources so that you can see each other as often as possible. If you want to be together long term, think about a more sustainable solution. Could your ex find employment and move closer to you? Would you be willing to do the same?

Accept things and let each other go

If you aren't willing to try out a long-distance relationship, then cutting ties and going through a period of no contact might help you move on.

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