Will My Love for My Ex-Partner Fade?

Updated March 31, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

The days and weeks following a breakup can bring difficult emotions and waves of negativity. It is normal and healthy to grieve the loss of a relationship, but sometimes that grief and emotional burden can feel overwhelming. If feelings are left unaddressed, grief can become stagnant. Taking time to process your relationship is an important part of moving on.

Don't despair, though. If you're worried that you should have moved on from your ex, and you haven't yet, you can try a few things. This article will discuss how to process your former relationship and put your feelings in perspective.

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo
Can't get over your ex?

Breakups and the brain

Losing a partner causes major changes in the brain. Moving on from an ex isn't just a mental process; it's a biological one. One of the key changes is an increase in activity in the brain's reward center, which is responsible for controlling feelings of pleasure and motivation. This increased activity can lead to intense cravings for the lost partner and an overall sense of emotional pain and longing.

In addition to changes in the reward center, the brain experiences decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex, which controls emotional responses and decision-making. This decrease in activity can lead to impulsive behavior and difficulty controlling emotions, further complicating the healing process.

Studies have also shown that losing a romantic partner can cause changes in the brain's stress response system, leading to increased levels of stress hormones and stress overall. This stress burden can lead to various physical and emotional symptoms, including difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, and overall feelings of anxiety and depression.

Falling in love is an intoxicating experience, literally. The process releases a neurotransmitter, dopamine, that stimulates the brain's reward center, producing an intense euphoria. At the same time, the parts of the brain associated with stress also activate. One theory for why the stress center activates centers around developing a sense of separation distress. Separation distress creates a feeling of unease or anxiety when a person is separated from their loved one. It can serve as a powerful motivator to regain connection with that person.

There isn't a set level of grief that is acceptable after a breakup. Each person will grieve their relationship for a different length of time and with differing degrees of severity. Ultimately, healing from a breakup and moving past an ex require rewiring the brain. The process can be slow, but it is persistent.

How to start the healing (or keep it going)

If you're having trouble getting over your ex, you likely need more time. Your brain is rewiring itself, and it is impossible to predict how long that process will take. The amount of recovery depends on the length and intensity of the relationship. For example, a long-distance relationship that lasts a few months is much easier to recover from than the end of a 15-year-long cohabitating partnership.

Recognizing the importance of giving yourself the time to heal, recover and grow is critical. If your relationship lasted a long time, or if you felt you had found your mate for life, the recovery process can take some time. Evidence suggests that it is normal and acceptable for recovery from a long-term relationship to take as long as two years.

While taking a while to get over an ex is normal and healthy, there are some breakup patterns that are not. Abusive or severely unhealthy relationships can complicate the healing process. A manipulative partner or traumatic exposure can cause changes in the brain that make leaving someone difficult. If you believe your difficulty moving past your ex is due to manipulation, narcissistic behavior, threats, or coercion, consider working with a therapist or other qualified professional to help guide you through the recovery process.

If you or someone you know is experiencing dangerous or abusive behavior at the hands of their partner, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help. Call 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also seek assistance through the hotline's online chat.


Helpful strategies

You don't just have to sit and wait for the love you have for your ex to fade. There are strategies you can use to help get yourself back on track. Confronting your feelings is required to heal and move on. In fact, avoiding the thoughts and feelings with distractions and activities may increase the time it takes for you to move on.

Below are a few basic tips and approaches to help you move on from your ex:

Cognitive reappraisal

This strategy involves reframing how you think about your ex and past relationship. It comes in two forms: positive reappraisal and negative reappraisal. In positive appraisal, you shift your focus away from negative thoughts and emotions and focus on the positive aspects of your life and relationships. Understanding the positive aspects you brought to your relationship can help you rebuild confidence and self-esteem.

Negative reappraisal takes the focus off you and places it on your ex. Negative reappraisal has you consider your ex's negative aspects and what was unpleasant about your relationship. In the emotional turmoil of a breakup, the drive to reduce separation distress causes some to downplay the negative aspects of their relationship. Take time to remember exactly why you want to get over your ex and don't want to return to the relationship.

Anecdotally, positive reappraisal works best for those who did not initiate the breakup, while negative reappraisal works best for those who did initiate the breakup. Whether you prefer negative or positive reappraisal, taking the time to consider and re-evaluate your relationship is an essential part of moving on.

Notice emotional reactivity

Grieving a relationship involves striving for more moments of acceptance than pain. The stages of grief do not follow a set order or duration. You might move in and out of these stages over minutes, days, or months. To determine if you are ready to move on, take note of your emotional reactivity when you think about your ex.

If you can acknowledge both the positive and negative aspects of the relationship while recognizing your own value in a new relationship, then you are likely ready to move forward. If you still experience strong emotional reactions or are having difficulty moving past an issue, note what those feelings tell you. The problems or topics that produce those feelings are excellent targets for introspection and reflection.


A growing body of research suggests that self-compassion, rather than self-esteem, is a more effective way to overcome complex emotional barriers. Self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness and understanding during difficult times, which helps increase self-esteem, or the ability to evaluate yourself positively based on your achievements.  

Self-compassion has been linked to increased resilience, motivation, and better mental health, while a focus on self-esteem can lead to perfectionism, fear of failure, and a constant need for external validation. Self-compassion allows individuals to accept their mistakes and limitations and move forward with a growth mindset. A self-compassionate approach to your relationship will help you feel more confident and surer of yourself than if you took a negative, self-deprecating approach.

Not-so-helpful strategies

Experts have identified a few approaches to getting over a breakup that are unlikely to be effective. The most significant piece of expert advice advises that you avoid casual hookups as a means to get over your ex. Modern culture has popularized the concept of sleeping with someone shortly after a breakup to help you move on quicker.

Casual hookups are more likely to bring emotional disruption than relief. A vulnerable heart can be wounded by sudden unexpected emotions. Casual hookups aren't a problem on their own merits, only when they are used to distract from the emotional pain of a breakup.

In fact, there are better ways to go than distracting yourself. Research suggests that distractions tend to prolong feelings for past relationships rather than help you move on. However, as a short-term solution, distractions are acceptable. If you're too overwhelmed in the moment, don't worry about processing your relationship; find a distraction to help you regain calm.

Can't get over your ex?

How online therapy can help

Online therapy can help you make sense of your past relationship and help you move past your former partner. Meeting with a therapist online removes much of the burdens associated with finding a therapist, like traveling to a physical office or being restricted to only nearby therapists. Therapists who practice online use the same evidence-based techniques, like cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other standard techniques are just as effective when administered online.

Counselor reviews

"He's amazing - he's gotten me through some tough times and reminds me I'm not made of superhuman strength - that I'm human with normal emotions, and it is, in fact, okay to cry. He has been an amazing support through a horrible breakup."

"Lisheyna is an amazing person with really beautiful insights. I was struggling with my separation, and she helped me regain new insights, which helped me become friends with my ex-wife again and understand her perspective. I am grateful to Lisheyna for her support and would highly recommend her to anyone seeking any personal or relationship counseling."


Getting over an ex can be brutal. Changes in the brain cause emotional turmoil, difficulty concentrating, and genuine heartbreak. While the process is unpleasant, almost everyone can move past their ex. However, the process can sometimes take longer than anticipated. You can't run from processing the relationship; distraction-seeking tends to slow recovery, not speed it up. Taking time to reflect on your relationship and make deliberate changes moving forward is necessary for moving past an ex-partner.

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