It’s hard to let go of a relationship after investing so much of yourself into it. Very often you still feel connected to them, and it can even feel a bit like they are still a part of you in some way. So seeing your ex with someone else can sometimes feel incredibly painful.
If you’re still emotionally attached when the relationship ends, you may find it hard to feel a sense of closure. This can make it really difficult to form new, quality relationships (Wilson, 2008). Understanding why the relationship ended and why it didn’t work out can help you let go of lingering feelings.
In the first instance, try asking your ex why they ended it. Allow them to speak and resist the temptation to defend yourself. Keep it light and explain from the outset that all you want from the conversation is closure. Ex-partners may feel that you want to meet as part of a ploy to reignite the relationship, so set it squarely and maybe ask to meet in a public place like a coffee shop to make your intentions clear.
One way to let go of an emotional attachment to an ex-partner is to focus on new relationship options. This doesn’t have to mean starting a new relationship – research suggests that just having a positive outlook on potential future relationships can help with reducing the attachment to previous partners.
Timing is quite crucial here; moving on before you gain closure could mean that your emotions are out of kilter. Sometimes after a relationship, you need a little time to rediscover your own identity. If you aren’t yet happy in yourself, you may struggle to form a new partnership. However, if the time is right for you, considering potential romantic opportunities might be what you need to move on. One Canadian study found that “focussing on specific new relationship options can decrease attachment to an ex-partner for anxiously attached individuals” (Spielmann, MacDonald, & Wilson, 2009).
Before you can cope with the idea of your partner with someone else, you’re probably going to need a bit of time. If you can avoid seeing them in the meantime, then that’s going to serve you well. However, if your Facebook page and other social networks are going to keep shoving it in your face, then the temptation to scroll through your ex’s photos might prove too great. It may be worth blocking them for a while, or even taking a break from social networks for a few weeks. You can always reactivate your account once you feel ready.