3 major reasons why you can't get over a fling, according to experts
There are people you know or interact with for short periods of time who can mark your life indelibly—and, for romantic encounters, that can be particularly true. Sometimes you have a romantic fling—and that person can break your heart with more blunt force than the unraveling of a long-term committed partnership. Of course, there isn’t always logic involved when it comes to matters of the heart, but when months and months pass and you still have an ache for a former short-term situationship, it can be a real downer. So why does it still hurt so badly? And what can be done to mend your heart?
First of all, don’t judge the feelings you’re having. It’s okay to feel the way you feel. “The time we [need to] heal doesn’t need to equate to the [amount of] time we date,” Dr. Jaime Zuckerman, a Pennsylvania-based clinical psychologist, tells HelloGiggles. “Each relationship is unique, regardless of time spent.”
However, if you do find yourself having a hard time letting go, here’s some insight on why flings hurt so badly—and what you can do about it, according to relationship experts.
Why it’s hard to get over a fling
1You may have developed certain attachment expectations as a child.
There are a lot of emotional and mental patterns around attraction and attachment that get programmed in childhood. Couples therapist Jana Edwards, LCSW, tells HelloGiggles that how we attach to a romantic partner is completely dictated by the expectations that have been stored in our brains since infancy.
“We project whatever we want to see onto that partner,” Edwards says. “If we imagine that he or she is somehow perfect or highly desired by others, it can make it very hard to deal with losing them. In addition, if someone has difficulties dealing with any significant loss, heartbreak can seem unbearable and will be postponed as long as possible by continuing to hope for a reconciliation.”
2The relationship could have ended or started at a pivotal time in your life.
As sexuality educator and sexual wellness coach Dr. Jill McDevitt tells HelloGiggles, flings could hurt because the relationship seemed particularly promising, because it came into your life at a particularly good time or ended at a particularly bad time, because you had a special connection, or because you were totally blindsided by the relationship ending.
And whatever the reason is for your prolonged heartache, there are no set rules as to how or when you “should” be healing. So, again, don’t judge yourself for what you’re feeling, even if you want to understand what about the relationship ending triggered such intense hurt.
3Your chemical makeup might be influencing your emotions.
Additionally, people can get attached really quickly and even fall in love quickly, Dr. McDevitt says, simply because of our body’s reactions to excitement and pleasure. “The big three—dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin—make you feel really good when the two of you are together, when the both of you touch, and when they pay special attention to you,” she says.
Then, before you know it, you’re attached. When our bodies are aflutter from the excitement of a new relationship, it’s a powerful feeling. And when those feelings suddenly go away, it can be difficult to say goodbye for good. (Not to mention, the relationship might end long before you find out all the things about them that drive you up the wall.)
How to get over a fling if you can’t let go
Rather than looking at the recovery time, Dr. Zuckerman says, become aware of how much your anxiety and sadness about the breakup interferes with your day-to-day functioning. That might mean withdrawing socially, not sleeping well, having intrusive thoughts of the person, or obsessively checking social media at the expense of work or school.
If the above occurs, Dr. Zuckerman says to set a self-care routine in place for sleeping and eating, doing things that you enjoy, and connecting with friends. Plus, you may want to talk about it with a mental health professional, especially if it’s really becoming a struggle for you. But one of the major things she suggests? Stay away from your ex’s social media accounts. This will only prolong the feelings of attachment and the hurt you may feel.