“How long is too long to still not be over an ex??”
(Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash)
Rowdy After Dark is an unfiltered, inclusive and sex-positive column by and for college students. Do you have a burning sex or relationship question you’d like answered? Send it to us here*.
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Happy Tuesday lovers, and thank you to all who submitted questions. This week, we’re going to be doing a deep dive on heartbreak and healing.
“How long is too long to still not be over an ex??”
I thought this question was particularly fitting for the period we’re in right now. Being cooped up in our homes for months on end has elicited some strange behaviors from us, and the trend of briefly reconnecting with our exes may be among the most questionable.
Social distancing can make us feel lonely, so it makes sense why you might be thinking of the intimacy you had with your old flame. The added focus on our exes might also be simply born out of complete boredom — there’s only so much banana bread we can bake, after all.
I want to first and foremost remind you that it’s possible the feelings of missing your ex are being exacerbated by the quarantine. This is a time when we should all be a bit more gentle and forgiving with ourselves for not operating “normally,” so don’t put too much judgment on yourself for having these feelings come up now.
With that being said, I’m here to offer some evergreen ideas about why your breakup might be taking so long to move on from and how to make the process a bit easier.
It’s important to recognize that your question is operating under the assumption that there’s a “right” timeline in which you should heal from this relationship, and this simply isn’t true.
While Sex And The City popularized the idea that it takes half the length of your relationship to move on, it’s a bit less cut-and-dry than that. The circumstances for how things ended certainly plays a part here. Was it mutual? Were you blindsided by it? Has your ex moved on already? These are all factors that might affect how long the healing process lasts.
This leads me to my next question: how are you healing? In order to move on, it’s important to recognize what your idea of healing looks like and if your habits might need to be changed for the better.
Consider what your contact with them looks like: If you’re always the one reaching out, perhaps you’re holding onto the hope that things might work out again, instead of accepting the situation for what it is and making the appropriate steps to heal.
On the other hand, they might be the one constantly blowing up your phone. If you answer every message because you’d feel bad leaving them on read, I’d encourage you to work on setting boundaries with what kind and what frequency of communication works best to allow you to move on.
One of the most helpful things I did for myself after a bad breakup was muting — not blocking or unfollowing — the person’s social media accounts. It was just so I could go about my regular scrolling sessions without being slapped in the face by one of their posts.
If you find yourself constantly checking up on their socials or being sent into a spiral after unexpectedly seeing a new selfie of theirs, it might be time to hit the mute button.
Likewise, you can do this with the other reminders of them that interrupt your day-to-day. Do you have a stuffed animal on your bed that they got for you? Throw those memories into a box and hide it in the back of your closet until you can open it without being hit by a wave of emotions.
Is your camera roll littered with old pictures together? Put them into a folder that isn’t easily accessible, like Snapchat’s “My Eyes Only” or the “Hidden” feature in the iPhone’s photos app. I’m a big believer in not deleting pictures because one day you might like to see them again. But that day isn’t in the midst of the grieving process.
And to that point, remember a breakup is a grieving process. You’re mourning the loss of an important relationship. It’s OK to feel really sad about that.
A big reason why we can't get over a relationship is because we haven’t fully let ourselves process it. But to get past it, you have to go through it, and this includes the messy, painful parts.
Journaling is a great way to work out your feelings in a safe way. Talking with someone you trust can feel like taking a weight off your shoulders. Letting yourself cry it out can be super cathartic. There are lots of ways to feel these feelings, but pushing it down because it’s easier will likely only create roadblocks in your future connections.
This takes a lot of brutal honesty with yourself, and it can be uncomfortable, but it’s what will allow you to finally free yourself from the limbo that can come after a hard breakup.
And when you think about your past relationship, be realistic with it. Remember it for all that it was, the good and the ugly. Focusing only on the highlights reel might make you mentally idealize it and forget why it didn’t work out. It also might make it harder for you to move on. Your ex doesn’t have to be the standard for what your future partners should look like — they could just serve as a reminder to you about what you do and don’t want in a relationship.
On the opposite end, being angry about the ways they hurt you is an important part of the process, but don’t get stuck here. Holding onto anger is a heavy burden for you to bear. You don’t have to forgive them for the shitty things they did, but you can take away its power over you.
It’s also essential to take accountability for the ways that you might have hurt them —but forgive yourself for it, and use it to help you navigate future relationships.
Finally, do things that make you feel good about yourself. This can include things like positive self-talk and affirmations, reminding yourself that a breakup doesn’t have an effect on your worth as a person or a partner. It can also look like exercising, taking bubble baths, or flirting with someone new.
More than anything, let time do what time does, and be patient with yourself if you thought you’d be over it by now. Recognize it’s OK if a part of you always cares for this person. You can treasure the good times while remembering why you ultimately weren’t the right people for each other. A breakup doesn’t equal a failure; every relationship you have is a way for you to learn about yourself and what you want in a partner.
And if you’ve been practicing all of these habits for months on end and thinking back on your breakup hurts as much as the first day, it might be worth exploring counseling. UF’s Counseling and Wellness Center offers free resources, for example. I’ve experienced breakups both in and out of therapy, and I can confidently say that seeing a therapist while navigating those breakups made a world of a difference.
So I know the heart of your question was about a timeframe, and although I can’t offer a one-size-fits-all answer, I hope this column helps guide you on a path of healthier healing.
Morgan is an Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine and a fourth-year journalism and women’s studies student at UF. You can usually find her at a local coffee shop, petting her latest foster cat or on social media @morgangoldwich.