Why Do I Miss My Ex? Understanding the Science, Nostalgia, and Moving Forward


Breaking up with someone you’ve been in a relationship with, no matter how long or brief, can be incredibly difficult. One of the most common struggles people face after a breakup is missing their ex. What’s worse is that this feeling doesn’t always disappear as quickly as we’d like it to. This article takes a closer look at why missing an ex is such a common problem, the science behind it, and how to cope with it in healthy ways.

The five topics we’ll cover in detail include: the science behind missing an ex, the power of nostalgia, moving on versus holding on, coping strategies for missing an ex, and the connection between missing an ex and self-esteem.

The Science Behind Missing an Ex

Feeling like you’re missing an ex can be confusing and overwhelming. However, some psychological and biological factors may make it easier to understand why this occurs. One of these factors is the hormonal changes that occur when we’re in a romantic relationship. During such a relationship, we experience an increase in hormones like oxytocin and dopamine, making us feel more connected to our partners.

Research findings reveal that the same chemicals released during romantic relationships also get released when we break up, making it an adjustment many people find difficult. People are biologically programmed to seek connection and it’s natural that, after a breakup, we may still feel like we need the love and support of an ex. Even if a relationship ended due to unfortunate circumstances such as infidelity or distance, we might still miss them.

The Power of Nostalgia

Missing an ex is not just about how we can be biologically wired, it is also connected to vivid memories and experiences from our past. Our relationships with our exes are often full of reminiscences and amorous adventures, which are now put to an end. This can lead to nostalgia or a wistful longing for the past, and it is common even among those who initiated the break-up.

Memories and thoughts related to ‘good moments’ can be powerful enough to evoke feelings of loneliness, sadness, and the need for companionship. It is important to note that it is possible to appreciate memories without wanting to rekindle the past or allowing it to impact our present and future relationships negatively.

Moving On vs. Holding On

It is natural to think about an ex after a breakup – no matter how long it’s been since it happened. However, it’s essential to distinguish between missing an ex and holding on to one.

You might find yourself holding on to your relationship, and it can manifest as a hesitant approach to new beginnings, a constant need to monitor your ex’s life and communicate with them, or having a hard time taking ownership of an ended relationship.

If you’re hesitant to move on, you may want to examine why you’re unhappy holding on to a relationship. It might be fear, lack of confidence, or even a reaction to familial or societal pressure. Regardless of the root cause, it is essential to let go of the past to make room for healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

Coping Strategies for Missing an Ex

When you’re struggling with missing an ex, it can be challenging to imagine a life without them, as if they were a part of you. Therefore, finding functional ways to manage these emotions can help ease the burden.

You may want to think about seeking support from friends and family, who will give you honest guidance, and a safe space to express your feelings. Practicing self-care and an active focus on personal goals can also lead you toward inner growth and greater self-awareness that can help provide a sense of fulfillment. Additionally, learning to balance or manage the triggers that lead to feelings of missing your ex can be an effective way of dealing with the feelings.

The Connection Between Missing an Ex and Self-Esteem

If you find yourself missing your ex frequently, it might be affecting your self-esteem. A sense of worthlessness and low self-esteem can be exacerbated by breakups, hitting our confidence and self-worth. However, it’s vital to recognize that these feelings are normal and valid after a breakup, and it’s essential to work on rebuilding self-esteem to move on effectively.

Self-care can come in little moments – treating ourselves kindly, making self-care a priority, and finding activities that inspire joy. Exercises such as setting personal goals and dreams, celebrating successes, and overcoming self-doubt can be beneficial. If you need a little help along the way, therapy and counseling can be great ways to access support and professional tools to rebuilt your self-esteem.


Missing an ex is a challenge that many face after a separation. While it is a natural part of the process, it is possible to heal and move on healthily. Recognizing it as a normal feeling and understanding it can be a powerful first step to emotional freedom. Whether it’s finding practical coping strategies, focusing on building self-esteem, or learning to distinguish between genuinely moving on and holding onto the past, there are affirmative ways to grow from the experience.

We hope that the tips and advice shared in this article will help you find comfort and support during this time of transition and change.

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