She Said, He Said: Breaking up in the world of social media is hard to do

Lori Ann Kret and Jeff Cole
She Said, He Said

Dear Lori and Jeff,

I think I’m losing it. I was in a two-year relationship that ended mutually about nine months ago. Even though we both decided it was best to move on, we thought we could try to be friends. For the first few months it was awkward, and then we just started drifting apart. It’s been over a month since we’ve talked or seen each other. Part of me feels like it would be best to let this disconnection happen naturally and really move on. The problem is I can’t stop checking his social media. I feel like I’m going crazy. I’ve stopped following him, but am still connected to his friends and family. Every time I see something in their feeds about him, I have the automatic reaction to go to his pages, and then I start going through every one of his posts and pictures. Help! How do I really let go?


Instagram Stalker

Dear Stalker,

Lori and Jeff: We get it. Most of us have let curiosity about an ex override our better judgment at one time or another.

Lori: There are two post-break-up processes that are worth taking a look at. First, you may still be grieving. Break-ups that have this long transition can be more complicated to grieve than those with immediate finality. Because you still plan to have this person in your life, the losses are less evident at first. You can even trick yourself into thinking there isn’t anything to grieve because he’s still there. But any relationship change comes with loss, and loss comes with feelings that need to be felt. Healthy grieving entails embracing all of the relationship before letting go. This means taking time to reflect on the good, the bad, the laughter, lessons and losses, and creating a full narrative about the relationship that gives justice to it all. If you haven’t gone through a deliberate grieving process, your compulsion to social media may be a subconscious way of trying to heal. Looking at posts and pictures is one way to begin writing the story. But the challenge with grieving in this way,is that social media only gives you edited snapshots. It doesn’t show enough of the picture for you to build a full, healthy narrative.

Jeff: Second, the compulsive-social-media-stalker-side of you is likely looking for answers. Your job is to figure out to which questions. We often assume that when we’re fixated on another person, we’re trying to learn something about them. With exes, we often want to know how they’re doing, if they’re doing better than us and< if they’ve moved on before us, we want to know why. We look for evidence that we’re better off without them, that it really is best that we’re no longer together.

The theme that runs through all of these questions is a search for relief. Relief from knowing you didn’t make a mistake, believing you really are good enough, valuable, lovable and worthy, or simply the relief that comes with knowing you’re OK. Intimate partners and relationships become mirrors for us. They can influence how we see and define ourselves. When we feel loved, known, respected and adored simply by being in a loving partnership, we get confirmation that we matter. Often, when relationships end, those feelings of acceptance and mattering can be shaken — even for the person who initiated the break-up.

Jeff and Lori: Really letting go of him (and your compulsive stalking behavior) means learning to hold onto yourself. Whatever validation you’re looking for (Am I…? Did I…? Can I…?) is not going to be found in his feeds. Close the app and shift your focus to finding resolution and peace within.

Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to and your query may be selected for a future column.


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