Breakups are painful. They shatter your confidence. They upend your whole life. And most of all….they break your heart.

But on top of all that, you have to deal with that overwhelming feeling of loss, because you’re missing the one person who you’d normally turn to in this situation. They go from partner to ex overnight and it feels like there’s nothing you can do to make the pain stop.

There are several things you can do right now to make yourself feel better, and set yourself up for a shorter and more productive healing journey. I’ll also talk about how to decide if moving on is the right choice or if you should think about reconnecting with your ex. 

It’s Normal To Feel Pain For A Long Time After A Breakup

But first, I want to say that it’s normal to miss your ex after a breakup. If you feel like your pain is a sign of  weakness or is “too much”, it’s okay. This happens to everyone at one point or another. Some people feel more pain than others–or they’re just not as good at hiding it–and that’s okay too.

That’s not a sign of weakness or a flaw in your character. We’ll talk in a moment about WHY you may feel more pain than others based on your particular situation, but I need you to know that your pain is valid and you shouldn’t try to hide it or push it away because you feel ashamed. 

And yes, this is true even if it’s been a long time since the breakup. Time does help heal our wounds but it can take a LONG time to heal from a breakup.

And your pain is also valid if YOU were the one who ended the relationship. Just because you decided that you couldn’t see this person any more doesn’t automatically make things easy. In fact, being the dumper can be really difficult for a whole other host of reasons that we’ll talk about.

Reason #1: It hasn’t been very long since your breakup

Yes, if you and your ex just broke up last night and you wonder why you’re feeling this way then there’s a pretty clear answer for you… It takes time to get over someone and you can’t rush this process nor can you just push these feelings away and move on.

Generally the more significant or intense the relationship, the longer you’re going to feel this way, regardless of what you do right now.

While there are things you can do to feel better, you have to accept these feelings and let time pass if you want to stop feeling this way.

Reason #2: You didn’t actually process the breakup 

While many people think of themselves as stoic masters of their emotions, often these people are good at just avoiding these feelings, pushing them aside and pretending like they’re over it. 

The problem is that these people always find that these feelings come back to them in one form or another.

Maybe they burst into tears one day and don’t know why. Maybe they develop a problem with drugs or alcohol. Maybe they become bitter and jaded. People opt for this approach because they don’t see another way through the pain, which I understand.

So if it’s been awhile since your breakup and these feelings are popping up again, think about how you processed the breakup initially. Did you allow yourself space to really grieve the loss or did you fight these feelings and try to pretend like everything was fine?

Reason #3: You have “unfinished business”

It’s hard to leave a relationship that worked well, but sometimes it can be even harder to leave one that was really troubled or even toxic. We feel a sense of unfinished business when a relationship like this doesn’t work out because our head is full of what-ifs.

Maybe if we’d met under different circumstances. Maybe if they were further along in their career we would have had more time together. Maybe if they’d just let me in. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Even though things never really worked, it feels like they ALMOST worked and that can drive you crazy.

This can also be the case if you were broken up out of nowhere and still don’t really understand why it happened. 

Or maybe you got caught up in the potential of this person, rather than who they really were. You felt like if they would just step up and treat you right then everything would have been different. 


Reason #4: They ARE the one for you

This is the one that probably troubles you the most. You think “maybe they were THE ONE, the person who I could be happy with.” That’s a really, really hard thought to face when you’ve broken up.

And that’s because you may be right. Now I don’t believe that there’s only one person for each of us and that if we miss this chance, we’ll never be happy again.

But while breakups happen for a reason, like I said, they don’t always mean the end of a relationship. Sometimes a breakup can be the catalyst that’s needed to create a better relationship with this person in the future.

It’s unfortunate that it has to go this far but sometimes a breakup creates the space needed to have these conversations and to show you what’s important. If you’re in this situation then you need to fight for your ex.

Reason #5: You’re bad at being single

Many people struggle with breakups because they struggle to be single. This is both because of how their life changes when they’re single and how they look at being single as a concept. 

A lot of this comes down to our needs and wants out of life as well as what makes us happy. If you really dislike solitude and struggle to get through life on your own then being single can be a really unpleasant experience.

If you’ve spent the majority of your adult life in relationships then being single can also feel overwhelming and scary. Now all of a sudden you come home to an empty apartment and you have to cook every meal yourself?

Not only that but now you have no source of physical affection, no one to talk to all day, and no one to sleep next to at night? Not ideal. 

I think that people who handle breakups better are those who value solitude and can see the benefits of being single. There’s a certain kind of freedom you give up in a relationship. It’s usually worth the trade off but it IS a trade off.

Being single, even for a short while, gives you opportunities for introspection….it allows you to explore and change in ways you just aren’t able to in most relationships.


Many people don’t recognize this so they treat being single as a problem to be solved. So every day they wake up like “where are they? Where’s the person that’s going to save me from all of this” or they look at being single as something to white knuckle through, like a prison sentence. This is a really tough way to live.

And you also need to think about how you feel about being single as a concept.

Because many people really don’t want to be single for reasons that have nothing to do with the actual experience of being single. It’s all about how it makes them feel. They feel like it’s embarrassing and a sign that they’re not loved and that they can’t make a relationship work.

They look at it as a scarlet letter, marking them as “less than” everyone who is in a happy relationship. It’s as if a boyfriend or girlfriend is a mark of social status like a new car.

So it’s pretty easy to see how these attitudes are going to make you miss your ex. Whether consciously or subconsciously, feel like your ex is the solution to these feelings. If you were still together, you wouldn’t have to worry about these feelings at all.

You could just be happy and content with your partner by your side and your loneliness would be a thing of the past. You essentially miss your ex not because of who they are, but because of what they did for you.

If this is your situation, I’d advise you to try to remember that there are things to enjoy about being single: the quiet of a morning alone, the lack of pressure to fulfill someone else’s needs, the fact that you only have to deal with your own family during the holidays. Think of this as an opportunity. What’s something that you couldn’t do because of your relationship? Now’s your chance.

And getting better at being single doesn’t mean that you have to stay single or move on from this person right away. You don’t even have to like it. It’s more about accepting the situation as it currently stands and leaning into the benefits that it brings.

By becoming better at being single, you’ll actually become better in your next relationship because you’ll be able to be comfortable without them around. 

Reason #6: You’re set on settling down

Many people feel a lot of pressure to find someone, settle down and start building a life together. Every day that passes without an engagement feels like one step closer to being alone forever. This mindset is pretty common these days.

But again, in this situation, while it seems like you miss your ex, you’re really just worried about the future and you’re afraid to be alone and start over.

As you can see, it’s pretty easy for our anxiety and our hopes and needs to get all wrapped up in the idea of our ex. While it’s hard to miss someone this much, in a way, it’s simpler for our brain than trying to cope with what we’re REALLY worried about. It’s simpler to think “If I had this person back all my problems would be solved.”


Reason #7: You have rejection sensitivity

It’s hard to be rejected. It makes us feel like we’re not valuable and that no one wants us. So even if you know consciously that your ex ended things for a variety of reasons, on another level you think it’s really because they secretly thought of you as not very interesting, and ultimately, disposable. 

It can be very hard to make ourselves see that we ARE valuable and loveable just the way we are. It doesn’t take the love of another person to make us worthy. 

In this situation, you don’t want your ex as much as you want the validation that you are worth loving. This is something that may take talk therapy to really sort out but recognizing you feel this way is the first step.

So to recap, there are a lot of reasons these feelings of missing your ex dominate your thoughts in this way and it’s often more about what your ex represents than about the particular person. 

That said, there are situations where missing your ex is a sign that you might want to give things another try with them. Again, many people break up and get back together after a little time. 

There’s a pretty common idea that “they’re your ex for a reason” and that’s true, but they were also your partner for a reason and sometimes that’s more important. 

You also should know that studies have shown that 50% of couples have broken up and gotten back together at least once. This isn’t a sign that they’re incompatible or that they’re making a mistake.

Dave Barker

Breakup Coach

About the Author

Dave Barker is a breakup and 'ex back' coach with over a decade of experience helping clients repair and improve romantic relationships.

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