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My Ex Moved On and It Hurts – 7 Experts Share Their Best Tips + Insights

by Michelle Henderson – MA, LMHC, Megan Carnahan – MSW, LISW, Hilary Jacobs – LCSW, Shannon Knight – MS, LMHC, Rachel Armstrong – Psy.D., Monica Burton – MS, LMFT, Beverly Joy Pedroche – PsyD

My Ex Moved On and It Hurts

“You can love them, forgive them, want good things for them… but still move on without them.”

~ Mandy Hale

You Can Love Them Forgive Them Want Good Things Mandy Hale Quote
Rachel Armstrong

Stories of broken hearts are everywhere in our culture. They are in the media and they are in the stories we hear from our friends and family. We all relate. The pain of a broken heart is undeniable. 

Many women may have a broken heart from a relationship and then the pain is exacerbated when they find out their ex has moved on. Once your ex moves on, the loss can feel more real and can lead to more questions of how to heal.

What is the best way to heal? Try these tips to help feel progress.

One- Don’t think of it as a black or white process. It’s not broken heart or a healed healthy heart. It’s a progression, it has ups and downs, it has regressions. Don’t be frustrated by the time it takes to see change.

Two- Find self-compassion. Recognize that we, as humans, share in the hurt of losses. Let yourself feel sad and mourn the relationship.

Three- Process your old relationship. What was positive about it? What was negative about it? How can you use this information to be able to grow into your next relationship?

Four- Resist the urge to compare yourself to his new partner. Each relationship is vastly different and no matter how much you try to scour social media trying to learn about his new love, it will never be enough to answer your questions. Fight the urge. Searching for answers outside of yourself will never satiate the urge. Look within yourself to heal.

Five- Practice your best self care. Get support. Go to your friends, cry and yell. Journal. Exercise. Listen to music that evokes your emotions and helps them flow. Stuffing your feelings back will leave you feeling stagnant. 

If your emotions are stuck and you’re feeling depressed, consider seeking out help from a therapist. A therapist can offer support that is different than what you get from friends. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re struggling.

Six- Trust that your time will come. A new partner will come along, a new relationship is in your future. Be patient. Use this time to work on you.

Rachel Armstrong, Psy.D. – www.rachelarmstrongpsyd.com

Beverly Joy Pedroche

So, your ex has moved on and it really hurts. Of course it does! 

One of the risks that comes with caring about someone is the potential for hurt. Risks are frightening but knowing that you can get through the hurt, move on, and not let the fear and the hurt prevent you from keeping an open heart is empowering!

After all, As Peter McWilliams said: “It is a risk to love. What if it doesn’t work out? Ah, but what if it does.”

Some tips for managing the hurt after a relationship ends:

#1. Focus on self-care. 

Self-care is simply anything that you do (or don’t do) to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Self-care fosters resilience and helps you to become better equipped to manage stress and to heal from hurt. Self-care can be relaxing (like bubble baths and good sleep) or it can be something intellectual or spiritual, physical or practical (such as exercise, assertive communication, and healthy boundary setting).

#2. Identify lessons learned. 

Take some time to reflect. What lesson(s) have you learned from the relationship? Do you need to work on your listening skills? Perhaps you recognize some codependent traits. What might you need to work on to be a healthier version of yourself? Dr. Susan Campbell, author of The Couples Journey, eloquently states that some relationships are “learning relationships,” not mated relationships.

#3. Grieve. Feel and heal. 

Grieving is an expected response, not just to death but, to the loss of a relationship. Be kind and gentle with yourself during the grieving process. Give yourself permission to experience all the emotions that arise. These feelings might include sadness, fear, loneliness, anger, rejection, and confusion. Utilize your support system and openly share your feelings.

If the hurt is so severe that it interferes with your functioning (your sleep, your appetite, your school/work performance), you’d likely benefit from professional help in the form of psychotherapy.

Beverly Joy Pedroche, PsyD – www.drpedroche.com

Monica Burton

Your ex has moved on and you are still healing from your heartbreak. 

You are out grabbing some coffee and you look up and see your ex walk by with someone else and your heart stops. You get flooded with emotions, feel like you can’t breathe and then either cry, call a friend or run to your car and start crying there. 

For the next several hours you are in intense pain and don’t understand why or how they could move on so quickly and you may even start beating yourself up for one reason or another. The negative self-talk and anxiety is high, and your friends are trying to help you feel better. 

Has this scene ever played out for you in some form? 

Heartbreak hurts and it hurts even more in the beginning when you see your ex with someone. I think even when it was a mutual break up it still stings to see that your ex has moved on. So how do we heal from heartbreak and how do we “feel better” when we see that our ex has moved on? 

Normalize your emotions, don’t run away from them. Heartbreak hurts and seeing your ex with someone is like a punch to the gut. We all hurt when we see our ex with someone else. Breath, breath and breath again. 

When we process our feelings in healthy ways it makes us feel a little better. 

When we stuff our emotions or turn to alcohol or sleep around to numb the pain it makes our heart break worse. Breath, exercise, keep a journal, cry your eyes out sometimes, watch a show that will make you laugh and focus on one moment at a time. 

Emotional pain registers as physical pain in your body so the better we can care for ourselves we do slowly feel better. 

Stop looking at your ex on any social media accounts and set healthy boundaries with your friends on what you want to know about what your ex is posting on the socials. 

We usually go into negative self-talk or we start to scroll on Facebook or IG to try and make ourselves feel better, but the truth is it hurts us even more. 

When you feel the urge to go check what they are doing on social media, pause, breath and ask yourself what am I wanting to gain by looking at what he is doing? And is this an act of self-love? 

I know it is hard to stop looking at socials because in some ways it is the thing that keep you connected to your ex-partner, but it is also the thing that keeps you connected to your pain. 

When we are in the healing process, we need to stop negative self-talk and focus on how to love ourselves. 

Say to yourself every day- I am enough, I am worthy, and I am of value. Find moments that you feel joy, aliveness, contentment, and peace, even if they are seconds, pay attention to these moments and not just the pain of heartbreak. 

Stop comparing your healing process or your heartbreak to your ex or anyone else. 

When we start to compare, we hurt ourselves. We say things like “he must not have loved me” or “I didn’t mean anything to him”, or “why was he able to move on so quickly.” These statements are all statements that are hurtful and are based on assumptions and comparisons which take away our joy and diminishes your self-worth. 

The truth is you don’t know what your ex is going through or what he is thinking, stop assuming and turn toward yourself in healthy ways to heal. 

Remember healing takes place one day at a time. Seeing your ex is hard and it is definitely a painful experience. Access your healthy coping skills, feel your feelings, connect with people that love and support you, remind yourself that you will heal, and the pain does go away and most importantly love yourself first.

Monica Burton, MS LMFT – www.monicaburtonlmft.com

Michelle Henderson

As if going through a relationship ending isn’t hard enough, it’s harder still when you see your ex moving on with someone else. A surge of emotions can go through us freshly, including anger, envy, and sadness. It can seem to be the final nail in the coffin of the relationship the two of you shared when you now see them start a new relationship with someone else.

With that being said, what can you do about it?

It’s important to treat the loss of this relationship as you would treat grief because that’s what is going on at the heart of everything you’re feeling. Grief is not just something we experience when someone dies. 

We can experience grief every time a big change occurs in our life and we lose someone or something that was once important to us. 

The grief of losing a romantic partner is complex because that person is still alive and well, just not in our life anymore, making it difficult to know what to do with the emotions we have. 

Below are some of the main things that I recommend related to processing grief in general and they are recommendations that can certainly be applied to losing a romantic relationship:

  1. Don’t do anything you’re not ready for.

It’s so common after a break-up to start throwing away everything that reminds you of your ex and to try to erase their existence from your life. You may have family members or friends telling you to do just this, but I would encourage you to pause and not do that if you’re not ready to. 

You don’t have to delete their number from your phone, throw out gifts they bought you, or burn anything. Only take steps to start erasing them from your life after you notice your current emotions lessening.

  1. Process your grief through writing.

Journaling, writing letters you won’t send, song lyrics, poems – any and all forms of writing help us process our emotions in a healthy way. 

Start writing in a way that you enjoy and feels comfortable to you and do it on a regular basis (at least once a week) while you’re processing the fact that he has moved on. 

Don’t censor yourself either. This is just for you so really write down and release anything you want to say.

  1. Distract yourself – but in a healthy way.

Especially when you’re grieving the loss of a relationship, it’s all too tempting to seek revenge by immediately finding a new relationship yourself. But please don’t do this! There are other ways to take your mind off your ex instead of diving headfirst into a relationship that’s just a rebound. 

Talk to your friends, pick up a new hobby, and start spending more time outdoors or moving your body. These are all much healthier ways to be with your grief and shift your energy onto other things than him. 

Michelle Henderson, MA, LMHC – www.nextchapter-counseling.com

Megan Carnahan

This can be very painful. Pain is a portal. It doesn’t always mean you’re still in love with your ex. There may have been a lot of hopes, dreams, or fantasies still attached to that person or that relationship. Grieving will unfold in layers.

1. Allow yourself space to feel:

You gotta “feel it to heal it”. As hard as it might be, allow yourself time and space to name your feelings, especially the uncomfortable ones. All feelings are messengers, they’re there to tell us something. So when anger arises, or jealousy or sadness, notice where it shows up in your body. 

Acknowledge it as sensation. 

Try not to judge it, or judge yourself for feeling it. Write about it. One good technique is to write from the angry or hurting part of yourself. Give it center stage and let it write, uncensored. Give it time to “purge out” anything it needs to let go of. You’ll know when it feels complete. Do this as often as necessary.

2. Practice self compassion:

It might sound silly, but this is such an important step, and one that is often overlooked. Learn to coach yourself through the painful waves of emotion. Chances are, you’re talking to a part of your inner child. Do I feel unloved/not seen? Do I feel used? Do I feel discarded? 

Learn to “parent” your inner child, and self soothe by letting it know that seeing your ex with someone else means none of these things. 

Maybe your ex is moving on simply as a tool to avoid feeling their own feelings. Maybe your ex moved on because it’s part of their own soul’s path. Chases are, it’s more about them and what’s going on with them, and less about you (or your primal wounds). 

Trust the bigger picture, and know everything is working out for your highest good.

Honor your feelings, honor your pain, but then know when to release and let go. Don’t stay “stuck” in the stagnation of the past. It’s just a story now.

Megan Carnahan, MSW, LISW – www.megancarnahantherapy.com

Shannon Knight

One of my guilty pleasures is that I *sometimes* listen to country music. Just by looking at me you’d have no idea, because I tend to look like someone who enjoys indie rock and some occasional heavy metal – and by looking at me – you’d be right. But like I said, country music is simply a guilty pleasure and when 

I found out I’d be writing about feeling hurt when an ex moves on, the song “Everywhere But On” by Matt Stell would not leave my brain. Believe me, I tried to replace it, but now it’s stuck. Country music does that to you. Stell sings about how he’s travelled all over the country, experienced some amazing things trying to heal from a breakup, but still can’t seem to move on from a past lover.

The truth is, a breakup is essentially another form of grief. 

We all know grief isn’t linear and there’s no right way to experience it or feel. So, why would it be any different in terms of a breakup and seeing your ex move on? 

One of my favorite analogies when working on breakups is defining it in terms of the grieving process. 

Grief doesn’t go away or “heal with time” like so many of our friends and family members like to say to naively comfort us. 

Our grief stays the same size, but our life grows around it and as our life grows it gives the illusion that our heartache is smaller. 

Since our life is growing, the heartache takes up less space, which is why it becomes less and less of a focal point.

When it comes to a breakup and finding out that our ex has moved on, we become hyper focused on the grief and heartache of the breakup again, which limits the ability for our life to grow. 

So, what do you do? 

  • You focus on building and strengthening your relationship with yourself, your friends, your family, your co-workers, and/ or your neighbors. 
  • You dive into projects that make you happy. 
  • You focus on expanding the areas of your life that bring you joy and fulfillment. When you do this your life expands, making the heartache of your ex moving on less and less important. 

This usually leads to the creation of an opening for another partner to enter as well. 

Eventually, you’ll be able to stop playing those way too catchy country break up songs or maybe just add your own lyrics to Stell’s song. Perhaps something like, “…and I’ve moved everywhere AND on.”

Shannon Knight, MS, LMHC – www.moderncounselor.com

Hilary Jacobs

When our ex has moved on it may signify the true end of our relationship. We may finally be able to process our loss so that we too can move on. 

Sadness is the natural and adaptive response to loss.

But sadness gets a bad rap. Myths in modern society lead us to believe that emotions are for weak people and that it’s best to “rise above them.” Stigmas surrounding emotions make us judge ourselves when we feel sad. We are instructed not to “wallow” or “be weak.” 

As a result, most of us strive to push sadness away. But it is important to allow ourselves to move through our sadness and fully process it in our mind and body, where emotions live.

Crying is one way we release sadness. 

Releasing sadness is vital for both immediate and long-term emotional health. For those of us who struggle to get the tears out or who want to process sadness but find it hard, the following gentle “prescription” might help. 

If at any point something doesn’t feel right to you, just stop. It probably means you need a live, emotionally-safe person to be with you. Nothing could be more natural.

A Gentle Exercise to Release Sadness

  • Get very cozy and comfortable on your bed or chair.
  • Bring a soft pillow, blanket, or pet to snuggle for comfort.
  • Take 5 or 6 deep belly breaths. Deep belly breathing is a skill that helps us move through the full wave of our core emotions.
  • Next, bring into your mind the loss you have experienced. 
  • Notice what changes in your body. Scan your body from head to toe as you breathe nice and easy, and see if you can find the sensations of sadness in your body. You might notice a heaviness in your chest, a lump in your throat, or a feeling behind your eyes. Or you might notice another sensation associated with sadness. There’s no right way. Whatever you feel is normal and natural for you. 
  • Stay with the sensations of sadness and breathe gently. You might start to feel the wave of sadness moving or building. Just deep belly breathe through it, noticing the sensations moving through you. If it feels too much, try dropping any thoughts or images in your mind and merely focus on the body sensations of sadness with a stance of curiosity and compassion towards yourself. 
  • Ride the wave of sadness, stay with it, allow yourself to cry until it is over and the wave naturally comes to an end. Stay breathing until you feel calmer. 
  • Finally, when you’re ready to move again and continue with your day or night, remember to treat yourself kindly and gently, like you would care for someone you loved.
  • Repeat as necessary. Soon you will feel all better and find the guy that’s right for you.

Allowing ourselves to cry when sad, either on our own or with someone else, is good for our emotional and physical health. 

Pushing down emotions leads to stress in the mind and body. If your sadness feels too overwhelming to experience on your own, AEDP psychotherapists or psychotherapists who are well-trained in helping people through big emotions will help. 

Painful as it can be to ride the wave of our sadness, that is precisely how we feel better sooner than later.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel, LCSW – www.hilaryjacobshendel.com

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