At some point after a breakup, you're going to move on, forget about your ex, and release any thoughts of getting back together. You might even start dating someone new who is nothing like your ex, makes you happy, and who's excited to see where things can go. But even if you've moved on, it can still hurt a lot to see that your ex has moved on to someone else as well.
"Breakups are complicated for a number of reasons," Kate MacLean, resident dating expert at Plenty of Fish, tells Bustle. "Whether it was a mutual decision or not, you shared intimate moments and a part of your life with someone. Now you're expected to separate yourself from them."
That's never easy. With social media, it's even harder to completely forget about your ex. According to MacLean, a recent Plenty of Fish survey found that over a third of singles still follow an ex on social media to see what they're up to, despite nearly 50% saying it's better to give yourself a clean break and cut all ties.
If you've moved on and you happen to see that your ex is with someone new, you should feel happy for them, right? Ideally, yes. But sometimes seeing it can feel like your heart is breaking all over again. According to experts, there are reasons behind why seeing your ex move on hurts even if you have no intentions of getting back together.
1. Your Current Partner Is Just A Rebound
A rebound relationship is a romantic relationship that happens shortly after a breakup. Many use rebounds as a way to distract themselves from pain and to move on as quickly as possible. But according to April Davis, professional matchmaker and founder of LUMA - Luxury Matchmaking, jumping into another relationship right after you got out of one means that you haven't had time to fully heal from heartbreak. "If you see your new partner as a rebound and then you see your ex move on to a new relationship, that would hurt because you may still have feelings for your ex," Davis says. Even if it looks like you've moved on, you really haven't. "Seeing your ex move on would result in you being just as hurt as if you were still single," she says.
2. Your Ego Is Taking A Hit
In some cases, the "pain" you feel might not have anything to do with having lingering feelings for your ex. It may just be your ego getting bruised. "Ego can play a big role in feeling hurt," Davis says. "Some people like the idea of someone having feelings for them even if they don't reciprocate it back. It makes them feel wanted." There's comfort in thinking there's someone out there who's still hung up on you. Seeing your ex with someone else can ruin the illusion you created for yourself.
It's also human nature to compare yourself to the new person your ex is with, which can make you question yourself. As Kevin Darné, relationship expert and author of My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany), tells Bustle, "One of the worst feelings is for some people to see their ex seemingly stepping up or doing better after a breakup."
3. You Were Each Other's First Love
Your first love may not be the love of your life, but it's still hard to forget them. According to Davis, some people feel protective over their first loves long after the relationship is over. "Since you 'got there first' you might have a slight feeling of possession over them," Davis says. "So when you see them with someone new, even if you don't want them back, you might feel that the new person shouldn't have, or doesn't deserve your ex."
4. You're Worried Your Past Relationship Didn't Mean Anything To Them
"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference," Darné says. "We want to believe that if we bump into our ex there'll be an awkward pause or an uneasy feeling. A lack of jealousy or envy on the part of someone's ex can have a negative effect on some people." It doesn't matter if you're already in a happy relationship yourself. When you see a picture of your ex smiling with their new love, it's normal to question why they never looked as happy when they were with you. That can lead you to wonder if they were even serious about you at all.
5. It Can Make You Feel Like A Failure
When you invest a lot of time and energy into trying to make a relationship work, it can make you feel like a complete failure when it doesn't. According to Dr. Caroline Madden, PhD, licensed marriage and family therapist, seeing your ex happy with someone else can be a reminder of that failure. It's easy to forget the fact that your partner was emotionally unavailable and place all the blame on yourself. "Keep in mind that everyone looks happy in the first part of a relationship. Eventually your ex will pull the same thing on their new partner that they pulled on you," Madden says.
6. You Haven't Fully Healed From The Breakup
Even if you feel like you've moved on and your current relationship status shows that you have, you might still need a little more time to fully heal. "Just because you moved on, doesn't mean the remorse or grief over the dissolved relationship totally disappears," Laurie Berzack, MSW, matchmaker and dating coach, tells Bustle. "You may still be grieving a relationship that you were once attached to." Taking some time to clear out negative feelings towards your ex and your past relationship can help you fully heal and move forward with your current one.
7. You're Human And It's Normal
It can be a little confusing to feel pain after seeing your ex with someone new, especially when you're already with someone else. But it's a completely normal reaction. As Toni Falcone, Psy.D., licensed psychologist who specializes in relationships, tells Bustle, "Attributing extra meaning to a normal reaction is a primary contributor to the pain (and stress) often associated with this experience. Just because it feels icky or it hurts to see your ex move on, doesn’t mean you still love them or want to be with them." It's OK to recognize that you're feeling hurt and jealous, but then do your best to move on. Trying to figure out why you have these feelings and what it really means, will only make things more confusing for you.
Feeling hurt over seeing your ex move on is completely normal. It doesn't necessarily mean that you're still in love with them. The best thing to do in this situation is to leave the past behind, focus on your relationship now, and move forward.
Kate MacLean, resident dating expert at Plenty of Fish
April Davis, owner and founder of LUMA - Luxury Matchmaking
Kevin Darné, relationship expert, author of My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany)
Laurie Berzack, MSW, dating coach, owner of Carolinas Matchmaker
Dr. Caroline Madden, PhD, licensed marriage and family therapist, author of Blindsided By His Betrayal
Toni Falcone, Psy.D., licensed psychologist