You're In A New Relationship, But Thinking About Your Ex. Here's What It Means. (2024)


You're In A New Relationship, But Thinking About Your Ex. Here's What It Means. (1)

You’re dating someone new — who’s great, by the way — but thoughts of your ex keep popping up. Try as you might to move on, memories of this person continue to resurface — and you’re wondering what it means.

If this sounds familiar, take heart in knowing that thinking about an ex, even while you’re in another relationship, is a pretty universal experience.


“Each relationship impacts us in both big and small ways, and we carry those changes with us as we move forward in life and relationships,” therapist Nicole Saunders, owner of Therapy Charlotte in North Carolina, told HuffPost. “It’s also very normal for our present experiences to trigger memories of the past. For example, if your current partner loves breakfast in bed and that was a ritual you had with your ex, those memories are naturally going to resurface.”

Plus, an ex is a person who was, or is, important to you. So it’s understandable that they’d still be on your mind.


“It’s not uncommon to think about people we care about,” Toronto-based relationship expert and sexologist Jess O’Reilly, host of the “Sex With Dr. Jess” podcast, told HuffPost. “And caring doesn’t necessarily end when a relationship ends, evolves or shifts to a new format.”

Not to mention, we live in a world where it’s easier than ever to keep digital tabs on an ex, from watching their Instagram stories to seeing their Venmo charges, “so it’s no surprise that you may find yourself thinking about them or even missing them,” said O’Reilly.

You're In A New Relationship, But Thinking About Your Ex. Here's What It Means. (2)

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If you find yourself fondly reminiscing about a former partner, you might be engaging in what psychologists call “rosy retrospection.” Another term for this is “euphoric recall.” It’s a type of cognitive bias in which we tend to recall the past in a more favorable light than we actually experienced it at the time.

“This distortion can negatively affect your experience of the present and skew expectations for the future,” O’Reilly said. “You may even find that these memories become more positive over time. And, of course, it may also leave you pining for an idealized version of your ex.”

Many folks believe you can’t be truly happy in a new relationship unless you’ve totally let go of the last one, said Savannah, Georgia, therapist Juan Olmedo of the Avanza Therapy Practice. But in reality, things often aren’t so cut and dry.

“Not every relationship ending is tidy and resolved. We often start something new while working out some leftover ‘stuff,’” he told HuffPost. “I prefer to ask: What am I thinking about in particular: an ex-partner or the way things ended?”


If you’re thinking a lot about a former partner, it may mean you still have some lingering feelings for them. But reflect on what, in particular, you’re missing, Olmedo advised.

“Are you missing that part of the relationship or getting that from the ex?” he said. “It’s important to take some time to clarify what the nature of the feelings are and whether you can work through them on your own.”

If you find you’re more hung up on the way things ended, you may just need more time to process the relationship or its dissolution, O’Reilly said.

And if you’re thinking about your ex frequently but you have no desire to get back together, “the memories are likely symbolic and reflect things you’ve learned about yourself,” said Saunders.

“These memories might highlight aspects of a relationship that you need or don’t need, which can be very useful in deepening your self-awareness,” she added.

How To Know When These Thoughts Have Become An Issue

You're In A New Relationship, But Thinking About Your Ex. Here's What It Means. (3)

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O’Reilly summed it up this way: Thinking about your ex a lot is really only a problem if it’s a problem for you.

“There is no barometer of what’s normal when it comes to what we think about or how we regard an ex,” she said. “For some people, exes are a big part of our lives even after a breakup. This may be a matter of logistics — e.g., perhaps you’re co-parents or have shared financial or business interests — or preference — you may share fondness and friendship even if you no longer want to be in a romantic relationship.”

That said, there are some signs that might indicate your thoughts have veered into potentially problematic territory. For one, it’s worth paying attention to whether thoughts of your ex come and go or if they tend to linger. If they start taking up “most of your mental energy and focus,” then things are likely out of balance, Olmedo said.

Take note of how frequent and intense the urge to reach out to your ex is, he added. And if you two set a boundary about staying in contact post-breakup, have you been respecting that? Constantly checking their social media to see what they’re up to is another sign something might be amiss.


Consider, too, whether thoughts of your ex are interfering with your ability to be “present and available” in the new relationship, Olmedo added.

If you’re longing to actually get back together with an ex when you know that’s not an option, you may need to figure out ways to work on moving forward, O’Reilly said.

“But getting over a breakup isn’t a perfectly linear process,” she said. “There is no universal test to determine if you’re still hung up on them.”

How To Deal With Frequent Thoughts About Your Ex

Trying to get over an ex by just ignoring your feelings is not the way to go — and can even backfire.

“A new partner may want you to stop thinking about an ex, but it’s unfair and unrealistic for anyone to ask you to control your thoughts,” O’Reilly said. “In fact, the more you try to banish a thought, the more likely it is to reoccur.”


Allow yourself time and space to grieve the loss of the relationship if you need to.

“It’s OK to feel a range of fluctuating emotions,” O’Reilly said. “You might relish in feeling free and independent one day and then be burdened by a sense of grief the following day. It’s normal to experience feelings of grief, sadness, loss, fear, anger, confusion, excitement, uncertainty, joy, regret, etc. You don’t have to analyze, explain or understand every feeling.”

If you find yourself idealizing your ex, you’d probably benefit from looking at them and the relationship through a more objective lens.

“Why did you break up?” O’Reilly said. “What didn’t work out? You don’t need to dwell on the negative, but simply reframe idealizations into more realistic thoughts.”

“Caring doesn’t necessarily end when a relationship ends, evolves or shifts to a new format.”

- Jess O'Reilly, relationship expert and podcast host

It may also be helpful to reassess your social media habits as they relate to this person. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to unfollow or block them, “but you might mute their content for a period of time or set limits on how often you engage — especially if you find yourself scrolling like a detective,” O’Reilly said.


And remember there’s no set amount of time it takes to work through the dissolution of a relationship or heal from a hard breakup, Olmedo said. But consider whether you are emotionally available enough for a relationship at this time and “be up front about that with someone new,” he said.

“Take some time to talk about things with friends who can be good listeners — the ‘sounding board’ type, instead of the problem-solvers who want to focus on a new person,” Olmedo said.

And remember: Thinking about an ex isn’t usually problematic, it’s human. “Go easy on yourself,” O’Reilly said. “They will cross your mind. It’s normal.”

You're In A New Relationship, But Thinking About Your Ex. Here's What It Means. (2024)


You're In A New Relationship, But Thinking About Your Ex. Here's What It Means.? ›

If you find yourself fondly reminiscing about a former partner, you might be engaging in what psychologists call “rosy retrospection.” Another term for this is “euphoric recall.” It's a type of cognitive bias in which we tend to recall the past in a more favorable light than we actually experienced it at the time.

Is it normal to think about your ex while in a relationship? ›

While thinking fondly of past relationships isn't in itself a bad thing, romanticising to the point of questioning current choices or being preoccupied with reconnecting can be problematic, especially if you're in a new relationship or you're struggling to move on.

How to stop thinking of your ex in a new relationship? ›

  1. Allow yourself time to grieve. It's normal to experience feelings of grief after a breakup. ...
  2. Engage in healthy activities. ...
  3. Remove exes from your social media. ...
  4. Learn about the healing process. ...
  5. Get rid of their things. ...
  6. Avoid their friends and family. ...
  7. Be kind to yourself. ...
  8. Focus on you.
Feb 26, 2024

Why do I keep thinking about my ex spiritual meaning? ›

When you constantly think about your ex, it may be a sign that your soul is trying to bring your attention to unresolved issues or lessons that need to be learned. Perhaps your ex represented a significant karmic relationship or soul connection, and your thoughts are a reflection of the unfinished business between you.

What is your ex thinking during no contact? ›

The person who did the dumping (a.k.a. the dumper) usually feels strength (and often relief) at the very first, but with the days and weeks of no contact your ex likely begins to develop feelings of doubt in their decision, missing you, fear that you have moved on, and confusion that you have not chased, begged, and ...

Is it normal to miss your ex when in a new relationship? ›

Sure, it is okay to miss your ex and relive the memories you shared with them. Until and unless it does not strain your current relationship and makes your partner suspect you, there is nothing unhealthy about thinking about your ex.

Can you still love your ex while in a relationship? ›

"If you still love an ex, that is normal and OK. It just means that you are processing the many emotions that come with being in a relationship," says Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, Psychologist, and Hope for Depression Research Foundation's Media Advisor. Of course, it may feel as though your entire world is over.

Is it normal to have feelings for an ex while in a relationship? ›

It's completely normal to love your ex even as you get to know a new love interest. It can be hard to stop loving a person with whom you share real love. Your ex may have been a large part of your world.

Do exes ever come back after dating someone else? ›

Do exes come back after a new relationship? It's definitely possible, and this may be a good thing in the long run. It's super painful to hear that your ex is dating someone new, and it's totally normal to be upset about it.

How long do rebound relationships last? ›

Can Rebound Relationships Last? “Rebound relationships typically last between one month and a year, and commonly struggle to last past the initial infatuation period. They are often not based on deep compatibility, so differences can start to strain the connection,” says Stein.

How do you know your ex is manifesting you? ›

Your ex may be manifesting you if your opinion of them improves. You used to think they were the worst, but suddenly, your perception of them has changed—could they have been “the one?” If your feelings about your ex have shifted for the better, they could be trying to manifest you to love them again!

Can you sense when your ex misses you? ›

There are a few practical signs that your ex misses you, like if they tend to keep popping up in your life or you notice them liking your social media posts. Those are the biggest indicators, but it's best to be straightforward and ask someone if you want to know how they're feeling.

How do you know if your ex is thinking about you? ›

If your ex is contacting you frequently or engaging with your social media often, this can be a good indicator that they are still thinking of you.

What is the 21 day rule in relationships? ›

As Hussey himself explained in a video posted on his Instagram page, the "21 day rule" implies that if we leave someone, we must commit to absolutely no contact for 3 consecutive weeks.

How do you know if your ex still cares about you? ›

If your ex is still contacting you, it's a good sign that they're still interested in you. This could mean texting, calling, or even just liking your social media posts. If they're making an effort to stay in touch, it's likely because they still miss you and want to be a part of your life.

Is it normal to fantasize about your ex while in a relationship? ›

A small survey conducted in the UK found that 46% of women and 42% of men admitted to fantasizing about someone else while they were having sex with their current partner. Even more relevantly, 60% of the people surveyed also said that an ex was the subject of those thoughts.

Is it cheating if you think about your ex? ›

There's no need to go down a rabbit hole of thought-policing yourself, especially if you're clear and transparent with your partner. "To think about an ex isn't an act of cheating," agrees Ingham. "We may stop seeing people but we still think about them.

Is it normal for your partner to think about their ex? ›

Although it is normal to bring up one's ex, frequently mentioning them may be a sign of lingering feelings. If your partner seems to be constantly mentioning their ex, it is likely that they are still on their mind. Even if they are badmouthing their ex, too much talk can indicate that they have not moved on.

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