How to Deal When Your Ex Starts Dating

There’s no denying it. Divorce is an emotional whirlwind. You’re sad and bewildered one moment, overcome with anger the next. You get glimmers of relief and finally feel confident about moving on – until you find out your ex is dating or even has a new partner. Suddenly, all those feelings come crashing down on you again. 

Now what?

Why am I upset that my ex is dating?

Your ex was the person you planned on spending the rest of your life with, and you spent years building a life around that assumption. 

Even if you’ve been pretty good about keeping your focus on the future, all it can take is this one trigger to send you spiraling back into heartbreak. You may be flooded by memories, memories, and unanswered questions.

The thing is, love isn't a switch you can turn on and off. Although there were probably some heartbreaking lows at the end, there were probably many highs throughout the years. Even though you want to start a new chapter with gusto, the thought of your ex-spouse with someone else can throw you off. 

Here are some possible reasons why you might be struggling.

You haven’t fully processed it yet

Divorce grief is a multi-layered experience that takes time. And, it takes different routes for different people. You’re grieving in your own way. Distracting themselves with a new relationship may be your ex’s way of dealing with their grief.  

Idealizing your marriage

All it can take to bring all those old memories to the forefront is the thought of your ex sharing romantic moments with someone else – especially when you’re feeling vulnerable or lonely. The mere knowledge that your ex may be in the throes of a new romance can make your marriage suddenly seem far rosier than it really was. 

It’s important to be realistic and remember why you’re no longer a married couple. 

Unresolved feelings

Do you still have lingering feelings? Deep down, were you harboring thoughts of a possible reconciliation? Even if you swear you weren’t, all it can take is the thought of your ex having a romantic relationship with someone else to make the finality of your marriage come crashing down over your head.

You’re still angry

Perhaps your ex lied, cheated, or betrayed you in another way. And here you are, alone, while they go on their merry way. When you envision them with someone else, having a new happily-ever-after, the whole situation can make your blood boil

You’re feeling unsure about your future

Maybe your ex’s new relationship reminds you that you’re alone. Will you ever find someone else? You may even be questioning your self-worth. Were you that easy to forget? What does the new person have that you don’t?

How to deal with these complicated feelings

Feeling upset about your ex’s new relationship is a human response, and it’s natural to experience conflicting emotions. How can you move through these so they don’t hold you captive?

Acknowledge those feelings

Don’t beat yourself up about your feelings. They’re there, they’re normal, and they’re valid. Let your feelings and realizations be a springboard for your self-knowledge and healing. 

Consider the kids

If you’re co-parenting, your ex’s new relationship may become part of your kids’ lives, too. Take care to measure your words about your ex’s love life for everyone’s sake, particularly your children’s.

Set boundaries

If you share mutual friends with your ex, it’s okay to ask them not to share details about your former spouse’s love life. 

Limit your triggers

In today’s digital world, it’s easy to be your own worst enemy. Fight the urge to stalk your ex or their new person on social media. At first, you might also want to avoid going to places or gatherings where you might cross paths. 

Reframe your thoughts

Turn negative self-talk around. Just because your ex is dating someone new, it doesn’t devalue what you had. You are now both different people with different needs. 

8 strategies for moving forward

Healing is about moving forward, but you can’t do that if you’re stuck. With the right tools, a good support system, and a lot of time and patience, you’ll get through this even stronger and more attuned to what you want going forward.

  1.  Practice some self-compassion. It’s only human to hurt, but you also deserve a life of love and happiness. Be kind to yourself first. 
  2.  Start a journal. When you write down your thoughts and feelings, it’s a good gauge of your progress. Journaling can offer a reminder of how far you’ve come, which can be great for your mental health.
  3.  Avoid comparisons. There’s nothing more self-defeating than comparing yourself to your ex’s new boyfriend or new girlfriend – or comparing your timeline for healing to your ex’s. 
  4.  Invest in yourself. Take this time to embrace new people, new interests, new hobbies. Every moment you spend enhancing your well-being makes you a more interesting and vibrant person. 
  5.  Remind yourself why it ended. There are good reasons you and your ex-partner are no longer partners. Regularly remind yourself of those. 
  6.  Grant yourself fleeting moments of self-pity. It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself every once in a while, but don’t get stuck there. Set a time limit, take a deep breath, and move forward. 
  7.  Reaffirm your deservingness. Whether it’s through visualizations, affirmations, or writing yourself little love notes and leaving them around the house, remind yourself that you deserve happiness, peace, and love.
  8.  Get some support. A therapist is a great resource when you’re not feeling on your game. They can help you gain insight into what happened and offer coping skills to help you get over these bumps. If you don’t resonate with one therapist, look for a different one, or join a support group. There’s nothing like a group of like-minded people to help you recognize your worth and have your back when you need it. 

Seeing your ex move on after a break-up can bring on complicated and conflicting emotions. But it’s simply part of the story. You’re in charge of writing your own next chapter. 

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Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.