After going through a breakup, it’s normal for there to be lingering feelings, thoughts and emotions tied to your ex.
Whether you dated for 6 months or 6 years, the intimacy that comes with building a relationship and sharing your life with someone creates a strong bond, one that isn’t automatically broken just because the relationship is.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re still in love with your ex just because you get emotional when a breakup song comes on during your ride home, or because you went 6 months back in their Instagram feed while the four vodka sodas you drank earlier that night whispered their approval.
We’re all human, and those kinds of moments are cliches for a reason.
However, there are some tell-tale signs that you are still in love with your ex, as much as you may not want to admit it. Spoiler alert: if you’re reading an article about how to tell if you’re still in love with your ex, you might already have your answer.
But don’t worry, you’re not alone. You fell in love with them for a reason, and it’s okay if those feelings are still there.
In this article I’ll not only help you get clarity on how you feel, but tell you what you can do about it.
“I Still Love My Ex”: 15 signs that you haven’t moved on yet:
1. You still think about them daily.
Thinking about your ex from time to time is normal, and practically inevitable. This person and the relationship you shared have been renting space in your brain for a long time and, as much as we may want to, it’s impossible to evict them the moment things end.
In the first couple of weeks or months following your breakup, there is a lot to think about. It’s a healthy and necessary part of going through a breakup to allow yourself time and space to process the relationship and the reasons why it ended.
However, if it’s been many months since the breakup and you still find yourself thinking about your ex and the relationship on a day to day basis, that is a sign that there are lingering feelings there.
2. You’re looking for any way to keep them in your life.
“I hope we can still be friends!”
It’s a nice thought, right? In a perfect world, we’d all be friends with our exes, we wouldn’t get kicked off our parent’s health insurance at 26, and there would be world peace.
Unfortunately, while that sentiment is tacked onto the end of many breakup conversations, it’s rarely a good idea.
If you’re feeling desperate to keep them in your life, in any capacity, ask yourself: “what are the reasons behind that need?”
3. You’re still analyzing the relationship
Old arguments or fights play in a loop in your head until you have them memorized. You wish you could rewrite the script, thinking maybe if you hadn’t called them that name or if you had just dropped that one subject you wouldn’t have found yourself at this ending.
This rumination can be triggered by almost anything.
When coming to terms with a break-up, your brain seeks to make sense of it.
Why did things fall apart? What could you have done differently that could have led to you still being together? Was it something you did?
For a woman, the best thing you can do is to dig a little deeper and get inside their mind.
Because men and women are different and we want different things from a relationship.
What drives him as a man? What does he want from a relationship with you?
You may think that men are all about money, sex, food, sports, and power.
Sure, those things all come into play at times. But I think there is a deeper truth that few women are aware of.
Men are actually driven less by those external things above and more by how you make them feel about themselves.
Above all else men want to feel essential to the woman in his life.
This doesn’t mean you have to cling on and suffocate him with attention. What it does mean is that you need to make him feel that he is providing you something that no other man can.
In other words, he needs to feel like your hero.
There’s a fascinating new concept in relationship psychology that’s generating a lot of buzz at the moment.
It’s called the hero instinct.
The hero instinct is the drive inside a man to live a life full of meaning, to provide for those he cares about, and the desire to earn respect from those around him.
Men don’t want to be an action hero but they want to do something with their lives that matters and they want to make a difference.
This is especially true for how they approach relationships. They want to protect their woman, treat her right and earn her love in return.
The simple truth is men want to be your hero. And if you want your relationship to succeed, you’ll let him be one.
How do you trigger the hero instinct in your guy?
The best thing you can do is watch this excellent free video by relationship psychologist James Bauer.
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t spoken for months. James outlines the simple things you can do right now to make him feel more essential to you and to re-trigger his attraction.
I don’t often buy into popular new concepts in psychology or recommend videos. But if you want your guy to throw himself into your relationship, I think learning about the hero instinct can make all the difference.
4. You have emotional reactions when reminded of them.
You’ve spent months or years with that person, sharing experiences, making memories and learning about what makes them tick.
With all of those memories and information come countless reminders that will whisk you away to a conversation you shared, that trip you took to Boston together or that time they said “I love you” for the first time at The Lumineers concert. Songs, movies, or even certain foods can remind you of your ex.
While some of those reminders may never go away, it’s the way you react to those reminders that can be telling.
It’s one thing if you’ll never be able to go back to that dive bar where you had your first date without thinking of them, but it’s another thing if walking past the front door has you blinking back tears or makes your heart race.
5. You compare every other potential partner to your ex.
Every time you match with someone on a dating app or meet someone new, you automatically size them up with your ex in your head.
You can’t stop thoughts like “well, they aren’t as funny as Taylor” or “they don’t play guitar like Alex” from popping up, and none of these new people ever seems to quite compare to the qualities your ex has.
6. You question why the two of you decided to break up.
You find yourself doubting the reasons behind the choice to end the relationship in the first place.
What felt like deal breakers in the heat of the moment can begin to feel like solvable problems or hurdles you could overcome together now that you’ve had time and space to gain a new perspective about what’s truly important.
7. You’re constantly checking their social media accounts.
Without even being fully conscious of the fact that you’re typing their name into the search bar, you find yourself staring at their profile within seconds of opening Instagram or Facebook. You’re checking for updates at least every day, always keeping tabs on what they’re doing and, most importantly, who they’re doing it with.
You’re reading into every caption, story and photo, and wondering if any of it could possibly be a subtle message to you.
You’re clinging to each post because it allows you to feel you’re still involved with their life as it moves forward.
8. You’re making changes in your life for their sake.
New haircut, check. New outfit, check.
New expensive materials for a new hobby that you probably will drop in three weeks but will make you feel better in the meantime, check.
Making some changes to shake up your routine and fill the void left by your partner is necessary when going through a breakup, regardless of your feelings towards your ex.
That said, if you are making changes in your life in the hopes that the news travels back to them, or changes that could have improved the connection you had with them (for example: getting into hiking because they were passionate about it, or cutting back on partying because it bothered them), that’s a clear sign you’re still holding onto the idea of a future together.
9. They’re still the first person you want to share news and life updates with.
Whether it’s something exciting like a promotion at work or something crushing like your pet passing away, when you reach for the phone needing to talk to someone, it’s their number your fingers want to dial.
They make celebrating the good news more fun and processing the bad news more bearable and, regardless of how long it’s been since you’ve spoken, they’re still you’re go to person.
10. You don’t want to put yourself back out there.
Well meaning friends and family members may try to set you up with their co-worker who is “literally the funniest person you’ve ever met” or encourage you to sign up for an app because “you can’t know until you try!”
Whether or not someone is ready to move on, it’s normal to meet those suggestions with some resistance.
It’s daunting to dip a toe back in the dating pool, especially if you’ve been washed up on love island for a while. Normal hesitancy aside, if you’re completely resistant to the idea of meeting anyone else or seeing what else is out there, it could be because your love is still reserved for your ex.
11. You’re jealous of anyone your ex spends time with.
Seeing a photo posted on social media of your ex out with someone else or seeing them laughing across the room with a new friend makes you sick with envy.
You find yourself wondering what they’re talking about, what they’re laughing about, and wishing it was you sharing that moment or joke with them instead.
12. You’re still holding on to the idea you’ll find your way back to each other.
Whenever you let your mind wander, whether it’s a daydream while you’re procrastinating at work or in the darkness of your bedroom in those vulnerable moments between consciousness and sleep, it wanders away to that fantasy of you two together again.
You can’t shake the thought that, even if you’re not quite sure what path you’re on right now, it’ll somehow lead back to them.
13. You won’t get rid of relationship mementos.
Her shirt is still tucked away in the bottom of your dresser. His half empty cologne still sits on your shelf.
Maybe the two of you have already done the exchanging of items, but you can’t bear to throw away the ones that slipped through the cracks or weren’t deemed important enough to be returned.
You’re holding onto these items because these items symbolize your ex, and you’re still not able to let them go.
Even if this version of “them” comes in a slightly tattered band tee you used to hate.
14. You care about your ex’s opinion of you.
Regardless of what terms the relationship ended on, you still want your ex to think highly of you.
When you make choices, whether it’s something small like learning to cook, or something big like changing your career path, you catch yourself wondering what their opinion would be.
Most telling, you catch yourself hoping they would approve.
15. You’re always bringing them up in conversation.
Whether it’s a chance to reminisce about the happy memories or a chance to get some new information about what they’re up to now, you jump on the opportunity to direct the topic to your ex when talking to your friends. No matter how much of a stretch it might be.
And yes, relating your coworker’s morning croissant order to that romantic trip the two of you took to Paris last year counts as a stretch.
Your choice: Get back together or move on?
Did any of the above resonate with you? Did it trigger a variety of emotions? Of course love or nostalgia, but also confusion, sadness, or even frustration are perfectly normal. Now that you’re able to admit you are still in love with your ex, what are you supposed to do about it?
As complicated as it may seem, there really are two simple options if you still love your ex: get back together or move on.
Think about the reasons for the break up, and how you’re feeling right now.
If you broke up over something big, like your ex cheating on you or not seeing eye to eye on core values, and the realization that you still love them comes with frustration and regret, moving on might be the healthy option for you.
If you broke up over something smaller, or you can’t even remember exactly why you broke up, and identifying your love for them brings butterflies and optimism, it could be worth it to see if you two have another chance.
What to do if you want to get back together:
1. What’s your plan?
Not all break ups need to be permanent. In many cases, getting back with your ex is a better option than moving on with your life and finding someone new.
True love is extremely hard to find. I know. I’ve been searching for it most of my adult life. If you still love your ex, then you should at least consider getting back with them.
Pleading your case to them and making an intellectual (or worse emotional) argument about why you’re better together than apart is clearly not going to get it done.
You need to be smart about it. You need a plan.
Whenever someone asks me about getting back with an ex, I also recommend they check out relationship expert Brad Browning.
He’s probably the most popular ‘get your ex back’ expert on the internet. He doesn’t claim to be a guru (there are plenty of other experts out there who claim that), but he does dispense very practical advice based on sound psychology.
Check out his excellent free video here. You’ll see immediately that he knows that he’s talking about.
I’ve recently read an eye-opening statistic from Brad. He claims that, in his experience, 90% of relationships can be salvaged. While that sounds high, I think he’s absolutely on the money.
Couples get back together all the time. And they end up having better, deeper and more passionate relationships for having spent time apart.
The key is to identify what went wrong in the first place, and to make a few positive changes to yourself and your relationship.
If you want a concrete plan to get back with your ex, watch Brad Browning’s free video here.
2. Treat the breakup as a lesson.
Heartbreak is devastating and defeating. It can be difficult to find anything constructive to take away from it. But heartbreak is also a huge opportunity for growth, even though that might be hard to see right away.
Couples who take time to learn from their breakup have the opportunity to reconnect and create a relationship that is even stronger than the first one. But it takes time to get there.
If you want the chance to be with your ex again, you must identify exactly why you broke up in the first place. If you aren’t crystal clear on what was broken, you won’t understand how to fix it.
It can be tempting to rush back into a relationship with the person you love, but it will have the same effect as slapping a bandaid over a wound that needs stitches. Yes, it may stop the bleeding, but it won’t heal properly.
And wounds that don’t heal properly will most likely reopen, potentially causing more permanent damage.
While each relationship, and therefore breakup, is unique, experts and relationship coaches have noticed common reasons that result in couples separating. Read more about common breakup reasons here.
3. Make changes in your life that could improve a new relationship with them.
Reflect back on the relationship and those issues that cracked your connection. What opportunities for improvement are within your control?
The old relationship you had is over, and it didn’t work out for a reason. If you were to find long term success and happiness with this person, that would need to come from a new type of relationship with them.
What would this new, successful relationship look like? What issues from the old relationship would need to be left behind? Most importantly, what role did you play in those issues?
Once you’ve identified where you can be accountable, act on it.
If you and your partner would fight because they didn’t feel like you were independent enough, spend time reconnecting with friends, or plan a trip to take on your own.
If your excessive hours at the office (remember that?) caused your partner to feel neglected, work on creating work/life boundaries and carving out time during the week where you can focus on the people important to you.
4. Be honest with them.
As scary as it may be, be open with them about how you feel and what you want.
This doesn’t mean texting them begging for another chance, or showing up outside their bedroom window with a boombox over your head.
After reflecting on the relationship and breakup, you’re inevitably going to have some new realizations and insights about the relationship and what went wrong. Send a thoughtful message to your ex highlighting what you’ve learned since the breakup, what you’ve worked on/are planning on working on to improve things moving forward, and let them know that you still care about them.
This is an opportunity to show both accountability and understanding, but this doesn’t mean you have to take full responsibility for the breakup and shoulder all the work of getting back together. It sparks connection and begins lighting the way for more open and productive communication, from both sides.
5. Begin the process of reconnection.
After giving your ex time to process your realizations and feelings, you want to start putting in effort to build connection through more consistent communication.
You know this person on a deeper and more intimate level than most people in their life, and your connection was formed on some amount of commonalities and shared interests. This gives you plenty to talk about, but remember to still keep things light, friendly and not overly-flirty. You want to re-engage them in a low pressure way, and just focus on reopening the line of communication.
Experts suggest a few different methods for successful conversations starters. Read more about them here.
6. Initiate plans to see them.
Take initiative and ask them out. Depending on how communication is going between the two of you, you may want to keep it casual like catching up over coffee to start. That said, if conversation is progressing well and things have already turned flirtatious between the two of you, you can be more direct by suggesting dinner or drinks at a spot the two of you used to frequent.
What to do if you want to move on:
1. Find other ways to fill the void they left in your life.
Right now, there may not be one person that is going to be able to completely fill up that role in your life that your ex had. That’s okay and doesn’t mean that the void can’t be filled at all.
Lean on your friends, family and community members during this time. If your ex was the person you went to the gym with, enlist a friend to be your new gym buddy. If every Sunday was your date night, join a book club in your community that meets Sunday afternoons.
Change isn’t easy, but open yourself up to opportunities that will bring new people into your life, and welcome love and support from those already there.
2. Be patient with yourself.
The last thing someone going through a breakup wants to hear is “just give it time.”
Heartbreak is painful, and it’s natural to want immediate relief from that pain.
But remember to be patient with yourself. Moving on is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight, and there is no magic timeline that will guarantee when you start to feel better. It’s different for every person and every relationship.
It’s okay if you’re not ready to let them go yet. It’s okay if you still think about them every night.
Progress is never totally linear, but there will come the day that you start to think of them a little less.
Eventually there will come the day that you don’t think of them at all.
3. Cut them out of your life.
To fully move on, you need distance from them. There may come a day where you can be in each other’s lives in some capacity, but today is not that day.
Whether you’re trying to maintain a semblance of a friendship or you haven’t been able to bring yourself to drop out of that softball league you joined together, seeing your ex is going to be a constant pain point.
Set the boundaries, find a new league, throw out the pictures. You can’t be expected to move past someone who is right in front of you.
4. Let yourself grieve.
You lost someone. You lost a partner, you lost a best friend. You lost the possibility of a future together. You need to give yourself permission to grieve that loss.
It can be intimidating to let yourself sit in the sadness, to let yourself fully experience the pain. But crying is your body’s natural response to painful experiences, and you need to allow your body to feel those feelings in order to process them.
Studies have shown that crying releases stress hormones that help calm you down, which is why you can feel relaxed or tired after a good cry.
5. Remind yourself of your incompatibilities.
At the end of the day, the relationship ended for a reason. While it’s normal in any relationship for there to be arguments, there were incompatibilities or differences of opinions that lead to an official breakup.
As time goes by, and the feelings of hurt, annoyance or betrayal fade, the importance of those reasons can fade too.
Write down a list of all the reasons you broke up. Of all the times they didn’t treat you the way you deserved and needed. Read and reread those lists every time you start to forget.
In the beginning it can be helpful to hang those lists in some place you look at every single day, like your bedroom mirror.
Whether you decide to get back together or move on, trust your instincts. While your friends and family members may have opinions on what is best, no one can make this decision for you. No one can fully understand the nuances of a relationship except the two people in it, and what may have been a good choice for one person may not be a good choice for someone else.
The fact that you still love your ex right now doesn’t mean that you’re meant to be together. The fact that your previous relationship had issues doesn’t mean a future relationship with them couldn’t still work out. Take time with your decision and trust that, regardless of the outcome, things will work out the way they should.