Sure, it’s time-consuming and awkward to unfriend your ex on Facebook, remove him from your chat list, or to tell him to stop contacting you. But if those things are keeping you from recovering, what’s a half-hour of deleting and a couple weeks of awkwardness compared to months of perpetuated angst? Is electronically blocking someone so much worse than finding out via his Facebook newsfeed that he has a new girlfriend? To find out why cutting digital ties is necessary to heal and move on, we turned to the YourTango Experts. Here, then, are eight reasons you need to break up with your ex.
1. To grieve.
Sadness, anger and regret are natural components of the grieving process, but it’s hard to get past those feelings if you’re fixated on your ex. “The main benefit of breaking up with an ex is to get rid of the emotional hold they may have on us,” says dating coach and YourTango Expert Mick Lolekonda. “Avoiding staying in touch during the healing phase is the best way to get them out of our heads and move on.”
2. To emotionally reconnect with yourself.
Once your ex is completely out of your life, you’ll find that he’ll start receding from the forefront of your mind. The emotional clarity will help you decide what to do next. Lolokonda says that keeping in touch “can slow down the healing process, which includes re-acquainting oneself with our deepest relationship need, as well as becoming more centered and healthy for the next relationship.” Relationship coach and YourTango expert Jennifer Tardy agrees: “If you are not focusing on yourself, how will you ever know what you need in order to heal?”
3. To avoid idealizing your ex or the relationship.
When you’re feeling the pain of a failed relationship it’s easy to remember the good times and overlook your ex’s imperfections. “If you hold onto the past, you might put your ex on a pedestal that they don’t deserve to be on,” says YourTango expert and dating coach Julie Spira. “As a result, you’re not completely open to a healthy new relationship when you haven’t completely closed the door on the past.”
Not only do we tend to idealize an ex once they’re gone, but we also overemphasize the importance of that relationship. Just because something was meaningful doesn’t mean it has to be permanent; loving each other doesn’t mean you’re right for each other.
4. To avoid ex sex.
Sex with an ex is familiar and easy, but according to YourTango Expert and therapist Mary Jo Rapini, “If your reasons [for having sex] are more about soothing your loneliness or feeling like a couple again, the chances are high that this is temporary filler.” In the same way that new relationships have a honeymoon stage, many reinvigorated relationships begin on a doomed high. “The couple usually gets along better at this time than they did when they were married or together,” says Rapini. “The relationship has a heightened sense of energy and sexuality. The lust and excitement you feel during this phase will soon fade as all of the old issues begin to surface again.”
Tardy agrees: “When you take your ex back, you also risk taking back the pain, frustration and other emotions you’ve suffered previously. This is a high risk, especially if you’ve already made it to the point where you can go without crying over them.”
5. To lay the groundwork for, at some point in the future, (maybe) becoming friends.
It’s tempting to want to “just be friends,” but doing so right away will keep you attached to your ex and will make it harder to heal. “I always recommend having some time immediately after a break-up with no communication at all,” says YourTango Expert and psychologist Dr. Amy Johnson. “You can always establish a friendship later if that’s something you both want.”
It is possible to be friends with an ex—after all, you might still like them as a person, just not as a romantic partner—but you shouldn’t try our friendship when you’re still mourning the end of your romance. “Many people think that you have to be a superhero and let everything go—including the person,” says Tardy. “That is simply not true. You are letting go of the situation—you and him together.” Later (much later on), you can reconnect.
Cutting off ties isn’t so easy if you have kids, work in the same company or share a group of friends. If you must see your ex, minimize contact as much as possible, and only resume normal interaction once the pain has lost its immediacy.
6. To replace self-doubt and negativity with better self-esteem and a positive outlook.
“Most of the time when a relationship ends it means it was broken,” says Rapini. “Settling for the brokenness will deteriorate your self-esteem and any respect you have for yourself.” If you make every effort to stop including your ex in your daily life, “All of the negativity and complaints about your ex will not be a part of your daily vocabulary,” Spira says. “Letting go of a bad relationship means you can start to think more positively about yourself and your self esteem.”
7. To find a new relationship — one that’s right for you.
Even though your ex might seem like the love of your life, the fact remains that your relationship didn’t work out for a reason. If you find yourself getting caught up in “he’s the One” syndrome, keep in mind that “the One” would not break your heart so badly that it would ruin the relationship. “By staying in touch with your ex, you have one foot in and one foot out. It’s not fair to the new person you might start dating when your excess baggage comes along on a date,” says Spira.
Johnson compares dating to clothes shopping. “You’re not committed to everything you try on,” she says. “The whole point of trying things on is to test them out before you commit. If they don’t fit, you simply move on something else—you don’t need to keep giving it chances to fit or trying to make it work.”
8. To come out the other side better than you were before the relationship.
Although you might start new hobbies or activities to get over your ex, you’ll find after awhile that you’ve learned to enjoy those things for their inherent value. In letting go of your ex, you’ve acquired a new passion. You’re no longer who you were in the relationship, so why let it hold you back?
“Many great authors, entrepreneurs, and activists discovered their passions in life through hard times, including break-ups,” says Tardy. “Think of this as an opportunity to ‘do it better’ next time.”
No relationship is a waste of time—ever—no matter how it ends,” says Johnson. “Every union is an opportunity to experience love, grow as a person, and learn things you’ll use to improve future relationships. Keeping in touch after a break up has nothing at all to do with any of those things.”