What Can I Do to Get Over my Ex?

Written by
Michael Wells

What Can I Do to Get Over my Ex?

I Feel Like I've Tried Everything...

Written by
Michael Wells

What Can I Do to Get Over my Ex?

I Feel Like I've Tried Everything...

Written by
Michael Wells
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QUESTION
"What else can I do to get over my ex? I feel like I've tried everything! I've blocked and deleted. We don't talk. What else?"

Moving on after a relationship ends is one of the most difficult experiences humans can experience. But don't worry... your brain is working just fine, and there are a lot of good reasons you were wired this way.

I'm going to talk about a few different angles that will help you better understand your attachment, and how you can approach letting go

Let's start from the top.

First, Why Do You Miss Them?

There are two different reasons you miss your ex, which I'm going to describe as "Missing the Relationship," and "Missing the Person."

You may be experiencing both.

Missing the Relationship

250 million years ago, nature discovered that there was strength in numbers, and that social groups give us a huge survival advantage. We protect each other, we raise our young together, we look after each other when a tribe member is sleeping, injured, pregnant, young or old.

It was a big deal, and mammals thrived.

So why is it that mammals like to live in groups, but reptiles like to live alone?

Our motivation stems from a few key neurotransmitters - chemicals that exist in our brain and motivate us to form and protect our relationships. Among these, you've probably heard of oxytocin and serotonin, and perhaps vasopressin.

Here's why this matters.

The reason you want relationships to begin with is that you're wired to seek them for survival. In a practical way, you get...

  • Added security, when there is danger
  • Protection, when you're asleep, or sick, or pregnant
  • And maybe... the opportunity to reproduce, if you're lucky
All of these chemicals serve two key goals shared by all life everywhere... survive, and reproduce.

And of course, you're a mammal too, which is why you also have all of these emotions.

If you were in a relationship, and now you're not in a relationship, your emotional brain is throwing a tantrum for three reasons-

  1. it doesn't understand the situation, and why you're not with your partner any longer.
  2. It thinks you should be trying to pursue getting back together at all costs.
  3. It feels at risk, without that person there to protect and look after you - or conversely for men, it's often the desire to protect and look after that person.

Missing the Person

Besides being designed to seek security and social connection in general, we're also wired to attach to specific people who at some point, we associated that with.

This is largely the function of oxytocin, and vasopressin.

When you're in a close long-term relationship with someone, mammals develop "pair-bonding" attachments, where they feel strongly attached to a particular person.

This is the feeling of love! And it's

But when it's challenged, or under threat- you feel all kinds of other intense emotions;

  • Jealousy
  • Grief
  • Heartbreak
  • Homesickness

All of these can be thought of as "love gone wrong." Your secure relationship is not working the way it's "supposed" to, and your emotional brain is designed to be very unhappy about that...

Because, on some level, it believes your very survival is at stake.

What You Can Do

To Combat "Missing the Relationship"

Most importantly, understand that the emotions you're feeling here are not about your ex. Your ex is not "creating" those feelings in you, and distancing yourself from your ex won't change your emotions.

Instead, recognize that those emotions are happening because you are not in a secure relationship.

Fix that. Focus on building some connection with others.

  • Emotional connection - good friendships where you can be deeply honest and open about what’s going on in your life. Same-sex relationships are usually easier here, including for men. You can be very open and honest with a good friend, without it getting weird. In opposite-sex relationships, becoming deeply intimate emotionally might start to feel complicated if attraction enters into it.
  • Physical connection - take a dance class, or an acrobatics class, or an acro-yoga class. Something where you are close to people and there is non-sexual physical contact. Humans need that. I recommend Kizomba, Bachata, or Zouk dance. Or take a massage class, where people practice on each other as giver and receiver.
  • Intellectual connection - find people with similar interests, and have activity groups. Meetup.com is a fantastic resource for this.

Connection with yourself is just as important.

  • Emotional connection - Meditate. I can’t stress how essential this is if you want to connect with yourself emotionally. Also, Journal- write down your thoughts and feelings each day.
  • Physical connection - take yoga, do kickboxing, go to the gym.
  • Intellectual connection - read, write, be creative. Do art, play music. Find things that fascinate you and discover why.

To Combat "Missing the Person"

This one is a bit harder, and mostly takes time. You'll go through the 12 stages of grief, because to your emotional mind you've lost someone important to you.

But all of that is OK, and important, and you'll be in a much better place afterwards.

Perhaps the most important practical things you can do...

  1. Don't rush it the recovery. These things take time. If you try to replace them with a new relationship before you're emotionally ready, you'll struggle emotionally... and you'll probably harm that new relationship before it's even had a chance to begin.
  2. Surround yourself with great friends. Create a "family" to protect you, and your emotional brain will feel less anxious about being vulnerable.
  3. Focus on connecting with yourself.
You'll be surprised how strong you can become when you learn how to show yourself love in practical ways.

How Do I Tell Which One I'm Feeling?

Honestly, you probably can't.

The best thing to do is to assume that you're experiencing some of both. The one that you can take the most practical steps on is "Missing the Relationship," so focus your efforts and attention there. Whatever is left over emotionally, is probably the oxytocin attachment.

If you've taken care of creating good social connections and surrounded yourself with a great family tribe, you'll be able to heal much faster.

Enjoy the ride.

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First published on 
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March 11, 2021

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