Quarantine Loneliness? Why Some People Are Missing Their Exes

7 Minute Read

There are many reasons why people miss their exes right now. The most obvious being that feelings of loneliness and isolation are amplified in these times of social distancing. However our psychological need to reconnect with a romantic partner from the past goes beyond wanting to feel less alone.

Keep reading to learn the reasons that may explain why some people may be missing their exes more than others right now.

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1.The Mind is Solution-Focused

Right now we’re feeling lonely and maybe even experiencing a lot of existential dread. This may be surrounding our choices or the status of our relationships. So how do we solve this acute loneliness that’s currently plaguing our reality? The quick and easy solution for many people is to go through their Rolodex of intimate relationships, so it’s a no-brainer that your ex would come to mind. When we think about past relationships, we often focus on where we went wrong and how we could fix things if given the opportunity.

When we think about past relationships, we often focus on where we went wrong and how we could fix things if given the opportunity.
loneliness

2. A False Belief That a Relationship Can Fix Our Problems

If we’re feeling lonely, regret, or self doubt, these are all pain points that we naturally want to alleviate. A way to soothe these pain points is to adopt the false belief system that a relationship will fix the problem (or at the very least help us feel happier). Thinking about an ex may also be comforting for some and therefore may seem like the remedy to our negative feelings. When we’re motivated to squelch negative emotions, it can become even more tempting to reach out.

3. Feelings of Nostalgia are Powerful

Human beings are nostalgic by nature. People like to reminisce and to look back on the good times, or fantasize about what could have been. When we look at the past with feelings of longing, it’s easy to confuse nostalgia for a true sense of intimacy. These warm and fuzzy feelings can be intense and powerful, however they can be misleading if we’re so hyper-focused on the good times that our minds distort what the relationship was really like.

nostalgia and loneliness
Thinking about an ex may be comforting for some and therefore may seem like the remedy to our negative feelings.

4. Mistaking Feelings of Intensity for Intimacy

Similar to nostalgia and longing, people often confuse intense, emotion-filled moments within a relationship for true intimacy. Maybe you can recall a friend in a drama-filled relationship labeling her couple as ‘passionate’ instead of recognizing what everybody else saw as clearly unhealthy. It’s normal that if we miss an ex, these feelings of loneliness, regret, and longing are especially intense right now. When we reach out to an ex, we’re likely just going to experience more intensity, instead of the intimacy we’re truly craving.

People often confuse intense, emotion-filled moments within a relationship for true intimacy.

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5. Idealizing the Past

This also ties into nostalgia. People have a tendency to paint a rosy picture of the past. We see this frequently in long distance relationships where people more easily remember the good and forget the bad. It’s convenient in the short term however it’s potentially problematic. We’re all in long distance relationships right now in this ‘new normal.’ Just like when you’re dating someone long distance, you get to imagine them at their best and idealize them. The distance allows you to project your needs and desires onto that person to create the ‘perfect’ partner. Then you conveniently forget the reality of the situation because it’s easy to forget about the problems and disappointments when you’re not physically with that person.

Remember the lessons that you learned from the relationship ending and let it stay in the past.
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6. Forgetting Why You Broke Up

Remind yourself that didn’t work out for a reason. It’s common for people to regress into this ‘Magical Thinking’ mode where they are under duress; living in a fantasy world instead of reality provides a pleasant escape and is soothing in the short term. But in a far-off fantasy world they forget that the relationship ended for valid reasons and that they are in fact happier or better off having left that relationship behind. You want to try to remember the lessons that you learned from the relationship ending and let it stay in the past. Don’t try to resurrect the past.

What if I want to Reach Out to my Ex?

If you want to reach out, ask yourself why you feel motivated to and evaluate the quality of your energy. Are you reaching out because you’re genuinely curious about how they’re doing and want to wish them well? Or are you only focused on your own needs and looking for a quick and easy dopamine hit?

Just because you’re feeling lonely doesn’t mean you should cross someone’s boundaries.

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Every situation is unique, but a safe rule is to always err on the side of caution and be reflective and respectful of boundaries. You don’t want to reach out to someone who’s clearly said that they need space. Just because you’re feeling lonely doesn’t mean you should cross someone’s boundaries. To do so would be intrusive and a violation of their emotional space. On the flipside, sometimes distance allows you to gain a sense of gratitude and compassion. Reaching out might be appropriate if there’s a high probability that you and your ex are both emotionally mature enough to see that it’s coming from a genuine place. This feels much different compared to someone reaching out as an act of desperation or simply to make themselves feel better. For example, a heartfelt message along the lines of, “I was just thinking of you and wanted to see how you are,” feels more benevolent and less exploitative.
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Feelings of loneliness, longing, and heartbreak are emotional signals that there’s still healing left to be done.

What if I’m Still Tempted to Get Back With My Ex?

A key to getting through life is learning how to heal heartbreak. Your feelings of loneliness, longing, and heartbreak are emotional signals that there’s still healing left to be done. Practice self-compassion and self-forgiveness, and extend that compassion for your ex by not acting on impulses.

Don’t Act Impulsively.

Not acting on a whim also promotes healing and simultaneously protects and honors that experience. For some, this may be the right time to do some forgiveness work. Maybe you’re having residual negative feelings towards an ex, or maybe you need to forgive yourself for how things fell apart. Focus on self-healing by engaging in loving kindness meditations and acknowledging your heartbreak.

Negative feelings are cues to work on self-compassion and self-forgiveness so that you can continue healing.

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Feelings of Loneliness Are Normal Right Now.

Idealizing the past, confusing intensity for intimacy, and forgetting why you broke up are all human experiences that are amplified in these times of social distancing. When you’re feeling intense emotions, remind yourself that getting back with your ex isn’t going to fix how you’re feeling, or any previous relationship problems you had.

When the urge to reach out persists, get curious about the ‘why’ behind your motives before hitting send. Take negative feelings as a cue to work on self-compassion and self-forgiveness so that you can continue healing.

 

 

Your Turn: Are you struggling with feelings of loneliness during this period of self-isolation? Have you been missing your ex? Let us know how you’ve been coping in the comments below.

Here’s to Love, Clarity + Staying Strong Together,

Dr. Logan Jones

Dr. Logan Jones is a Psychologist and Founder of Clarity Therapy. Sign up for his free 30 Days of Gratitude email series and follow him on Instagram at @drloganjones.

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