Hooked on your Ex

Sometimes, old romances are harder to get out of your head than a theme park song (like, It’s a Small World, After All). Much harder. In fact, people have been known to linger emotionally in past relationships for months — or even years! Some go so far as to convince themselves that they are no longer hooked on the old lover, though their friends and family can tell otherwise. 

It’s a familiar situation. After all, almost everyone has had a relationship end when they didn’t want it to, and letting go is no easy task. Particularly if you don’t realize you’re hanging on. 

Here are some signs that you’re stuck on a dead relationship:

Let’s start with the obvious. Nicely framed photographs of the old flame, a lock of hair and a pile of movie-ticket stubs all displayed neatly on a night table like a Wiccan altar for instance, suggests that you haven’t been able to cut the cord. Don’t have a shrine per say, but think that candid shot of your last trip together on the fridge doesn’t count? Wrong.

Calling someone by your ex’s name can be another clear clue (and a supremely embarrassing one in the bedroom and out). Sometimes this is just habit. Other times, it’s a Freudian Slip – and a valuable look into what (or who) is on your mind!

And, while we’re on the obvious, jealousy regarding your ex probably means you haven’t let go. If the thought of them being in another relationship bothers you, then you’re still hooked – at least more than you want to be. A relationship that has ended means that the two people involved no longer have any business in each others’ personal affairs, no matter how hard that sounds. 

More often, the hints that you haven’t been able to move on are far more subtle. So subtle, that you may not even recognize them yourself!

For starters, people often blame a breakup entirely on themselves – even though it takes two people to tango. Some might blame their physical appearance, thinking that they weren’t attractive enough to maintain the romance. They convince themselves that the outcome would have been so much better if they were slimmer, had a better hairstyle or wore trendier clothes. Others take this even further in a subtle attempt to reignite the romance — they try to drastically improve their looks — solely to show the ex “what they’re missing” and without thoughts of feeling better about themselves and/or attracting someone new. Face it. True love can see beyond some blemishes, a few extra pounds or even a bad hair day!

Another sure sign you’re holding on? A lot of people who are still stuck on an ex continue to engage in habits and hobbies that were familiar to the relationship, even though they have very little personal interest in them. Going to familiar places, like your regular restaurants, or even hanging out more often than usual with mutual friends can be an omen that you haven’t made peace with your past.

On the other hand, going to the opposite extremes can be one of the most blatant (but often unrecognized) signs you’re caught in the grip of a failed relationship. Tearing your ex’s image out of your entire photo collection or burning every last gift and memento in an angry rage are signs something’s not quite right. Likewise, displaying an overwhelming hostility toward your ex may mean you still place a tremendous amount of importance on that person. While anger and hurt are all normal reactions, consider that hostility is neither healthy nor attractive (and certainly doesn’t do anything for the people you may start to date). 

When a relationship ends, it’s normal to hurt. And everyone requires time to heal. But in the interest of saving yourself too much heartache (or at least healing yourself as fully and healthily as possible), do your best not to live in the pain for too long. Pack up the pictures and other reminders of the romance and store them away. Even if you aren’t interested in a new partner, try to go out and mingle with others who share your interests. Know when to call upon your friends (for counsel or for fun). Learn to appreciate yourself as an individual, rather than as half of a pair. As time goes on, you’ll find that the memories fade and new, even better, opportunities will present themselves.

While a period of mourning accompanies the end of most relationships, dwelling on the past can become obsessive and damaging. Only you know when you’ve crossed that line.

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