Breakups are hard. Period. The whirlwind of emotions that incapacitate us post a breakup—the piercing pain in the heart, the inability to eat and sleep, and the ever-present feeling of despondency, are exclusive to this life event. Thereby, the aftermath of the dissolution of a relationship can be painful to deal with as there are plenty of novel thoughts and emotions, accompanied by the feeling of love, which now has no place to go.
All of this often results in a head and heart conflict; while your head pushes you to move on, your heart can't seem to let go. As tough as it is to fall in love, it's probably tougher to fall out of it. So, if you're still lusting for your ex—even though you may be in another relationship—chances are that you're seeking closure and may have unfinished feelings that need to be sorted out.
Niyati Kapadia, a psychologist and REBT therapist who consults on Practo, elucidates the tell-tale signs that suggest you may still be in love with him or her.
Constantly Thinking About and/or Longing to Be with Your Ex
If you're spending much of your time thinking about them and daydreaming about the possibility of getting back together, it could be a red flag. Frequently ruminating and having an uncontrollable urge to share the good or bad happenings in your life with them may indicate that they enjoy a prime position in your mind. During a relationship, there is emotional support shared between the partners. And post a breakup, it may be difficult yet helpful to find a new source of emotional support.
Stalking Your Ex on Social Media
Frequently checking your ex’s profile on social media platforms and/or checking their friend’s updates to catch glimpses of them and keep tabs on their activity is a strong sign. While this activity may appear to be harmless, research suggests that lurking on an ex’s profile slows down growth and adjustment, giving rise to increasing distress over a breakup, increase in negative feelings and sexual desire, as well as longing for your ex.
Trying to Reach Out to Your Ex
Finding different opportunities to talk to your ex, flirting with the idea of asking them out, trying to visit places where there is a real possibility of bumping into them or wanting to spend as much time around them is a pretty good indicator that you may still have feelings for them. Although, remember that chasing the past does not serve any good. At the end of the day, there was a reason why the relationship didn't work out.
Painting Your Ex in a Positive Light
Inhibiting criticizing your ex or their behaviour, painting them in a positive light, and feeling guilty when negative thoughts about them stem up suggests that you're trying to justify their wrongdoings and take the sole blame onto yourself. Not expressing painful emotions of hurt or anger towards them might hinder the process of healing. Research suggests that inhibiting thoughts and emotions can have ill effects on the mind and body while voicing them can remarkably improve mental and physical health, as well as offer a different perspective to look at the situation with.
Feeling Lonely and Helpless About the Future
The feeling of loneliness often stems from a lack of belongingness and companionship, which most people desire. Jumping to the conclusion that it won’t be possible to love anyone else—or with so much intensity—is probably false. Such a feeling of emotional entrapment and hopelessness may cause you to remain in a rut, lusting for your ex who is no longer in your life.
Feeling Anxious and Envious of Another Potential Partner
Ruminating and being paranoid about the possibility of your ex finding a new partner may also be a tell-tale sign. This may further lead to a desire to keep close tabs on their activities and social circle. And in case your ex starts seeing someone new, the feeling of envy may arise. Basically, the inability to imagine them being happy with anybody else suggests that you may not be entirely over them.
Comparing Your Current/Potential Partner with Your Ex
Placing your ex on a pedestal, considering them to be perfect, idealising them, and ignoring their vices is known as selective abstraction. It is a cognitive bias in which only a partial amount of information is used to prove a point, while the bigger picture is ignored. Comparing your potential or current partner with your ex and constantly being dissatisfied is a powerful sign. Research suggests that those who evaluate their ex-partner negatively showed better post-breakup adjustment and a less depressive effect.
Frequently Sifting Through Text Messages and Pictures, with an Unwillingness to Discard Memories
The mind often tends to replay what the heart can’t delete. Hesitating to get rid of texts, photos and objects associated with the ex because doing so feels like letting go of the lingering bits and pieces of their existence is a major red flag. Holding on to these constant reminders of the ex hampers the healing and moving on process, causing you to be emotionally stuck.
Focusing on Relationships Rather Than Personal Growth
Spending most of your time thinking about your ex and replaying the relationship and the breakup in your mind rather than using the time to heal and reorient is a pretty big sign. A relationship usually begins when two people start experiencing shared feelings. As the relationship grows, partners start forming a shared identity which continues evolving. But when there is a breakup, there is a loss of this shared identity which creates a void. This void can be filled by finding activities that will help reorient oneself to adapt to the new situation, such as engaging in hobbies and self-care activities.
While each person’s healing journey is unique, research suggests that it is more difficult to change unconscious attitudes as compared to conscious attitudes. Hence, conscious attitudes towards your ex-partner are likely to change quickly post the breakup, whereas unconscious attitudes are likely to stay positive and may require longer to change. While grief is usually associated with the death of a loved one, it is also triggered by the loss of a valuable relationship. Allowing oneself to feel all the emotions and heal, strategically distancing oneself from the ex, paying more attention towards self-growth and establishing a new support system might help.
However, if grief takes the form of prolonged, complicated grief or clinical depression, professional intervention is required. Here are a few warning signs that may indicate it’s time to seek help:
1. Significant changes in sleep and appetite, and severe weight gain or loss
2. Prolonged feelings of sadness
3. Experiencing anxiety or panic attacks
4. Having thoughts to harm self and/or end life
5. Indulging in alcohol or substance abuse
6. Having obsessive thoughts about the ex and the relationship for a long duration
7. Losing interest in activities that one used to enjoy
8. Having intense yearnings related to the lost relationship
Mental health professionals might use multiple modalities during the treatment to help overcome the complicated grief and depression, and aid the goal of moving on.