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Thinking About Past Relationships: Is It Normal?

Moving forward from the end of a relationship is not an easy feat. Various emotions might come up as memories of that significant person surface which can be both unnerving but also nostalgic to think about. For many thinking about a past relationship, the primary emotion that comes up might be anger; others might focus on the positive impact that relationship has brought to their lives.

Whether this writing might remind you of a former romantic relationship or a friendship that has since ended, it is important to recognize that what we feel about this former relationship is valid. What we can also recognize before moving forward is that the relationships that we had in our lives continue to impact us in many forms. Whether it’s how we move in life or how we think, there’s a strong chance that who we are today has been impacted by those that have been in our lives.

While some people might find it easy to bounce back up, others might find it harder to do so. Whether you are on one side or the other, it is important to recognize that the separation of relationships can be an emotionally painful experience.

Even though it might be difficult to let go of that past experience, there could be many reasons for that. Whether our lifestyle has been influenced by that person or our perspective of a safe space has been shifted, it can also be said that these past relationships have had a significant impact on daily life.

It is also valid to say that with the end of a relationship, whether platonic or romantic, it might feel like you’re in a strong space of vulnerability. Something important that was once a present part of your life is now an absent part. Life experiences like these can have an effect differently on people.

It is possible that thinking about past relationships can be associated with a form of trauma. In that trauma can be defined here as a type of mental wound that stems from a distressing experience whether it’s regarding safety, feelings of shame, or lack of affection or supportive care. Other times, trauma can be linked to a violent event. Either way, the distress of one’s trauma can affect their thought processes especially as it relates to emotional pains that a relationship may have caused. 

There may be many stories about relationships that were once loving, supportive, and caring that have been hurt or broken by a specific event. Or perhaps the relationship has also run its course because of the changes in one’s life experiences. Regardless of the reason for why the relationship has ended, it is likely that both you and the other person continue to have thoughts about each other. The emotions felt are valid here because this relationship has had an impact on your life!

Professionals have also noted that after the end of a relationship, our bodies can go through experiences similar to that of withdrawal because we miss that part of our lives both physically and emotionally. In a 2018 article regarding breakups specifically, Dr. Wyatt Fisher explains that there should be the expectation for feeling these symptoms for up to 6 months; and that an increase in social support is important during that time. This may come true especially as one of the strongest support systems is suddenly no longer a part of our life.

To put it simply, it is valid and normal to have thoughts related to a former relationship. Some people might notice memories surfacing at a particular point in time after a relationship ends. Other times, people might have a harder time with moving forwards from those memories.

Here are a few reasons that can more concretely explain why that might be:

The Relationship Hurt You

Whether the relationship in question was a friendship or a romance, it can be understandably hard to let go of the things that have caused us pain. If someone in your life you placed a lot of trust in has hurt you, the conflicts and past experiences we have not considered before can easily come rushing in. It can be easy to ruminate on the situations and try to resolve what led to the end of the relationship. Similar to grieving, the pains that have brought us to this point can continue to come up at certain times; and we cycle through the various phases of grief because of the connection that is now lost.


A particularly strong reason that we might be thinking about our past relationships is because of the numerous reminders we have in our lives about that chapter in our lives. After the relationship has ended, some things in our lives might be providing deep reminders. Whether it’s the pieces of a home that you’ve purchased together, or something simpler like a picture you happened to scroll by. This can be a reminder that while a particularly bad event has led to the end of the relationship, there have also been positive experiences. Particularly in relationships or friendships that have had longer chapters than others, special memories are bound to be plentiful. It is okay to feel bitterness towards the relationship because of the pains it has caused. But it is also okay to simultaneously cherish the memories without dismissing your valid thoughts that the relationship was not for you.

Something Was Left Unresolved

Just like the issue of pains and hurts, an unresolved issue can leave many questions wanting to be answered. But, it is more difficult to find those resolutions because the relationship that’s caused the pain has ended and that person is no longer in your life. Looking for closure from an ended relationship can be common in many scenarios. While it may be painful to some, it is not necessarily the case for others. There might be times when you realize you did not really know who this person you were connected with was; and there may come moments in time where you wonder about that mysterious part. It is normal and valid to have questions about a past relationship especially if there were questions about why the hurts have happened or about who this person really was.

Plans Were Established

Speaking specifically about romantic relationships, you may have had a plan in mind with your significant other. Perhaps it was about moving in together, or about the possibility of marriage. The end of that relationship can imply that the future you had in mind is now blurred. While there can be many complex reasons for why thoughts of the former relationship come up, it’s not impossible to correlate thinking about new plans for your life and how this can be similar to that of a plan you had in mind with your former partner.

Feeling The Pull to Reach Out

With all these considerations, it’s valid that the question of whether or not to reach out comes to mind. It is understandable that the thoughts and emotions we have can push us to impulsively establish a line of communication with that former relationship. So with the question of “should I reach out?” in mind, it would be fair to say that there is no real answer to that. In that this ultimately comes down to the experience of that relationship and the situation itself.

There may be situations such as a volatility or safety of the relationship that would pull us away from reaching out. While there are also times where we feel the pull to seek an apology, perhaps, for a pain that was caused by that relationship. Though even with the notion of seeking a form of closure, it is encouraged to also be mindful of the possibility that we may not get the closure we want. It’s also important to recognize that neither you nor the other are obligated to reach out or seek that apology or explanation for the pains caused in any way. It very much depends on the nature of the relationship and whether or not the importance of reaching out is worth it.

Closing Thoughts

Many wounds heal over time. Some might need more processing than others, but there may also be moments where the healing process leads us to think about former relationships both platonic and romantic. Feelings and thoughts like these are normal and are valid as the relationship in question has been a part of you for a chapter in life. 

Navigating thoughts about a lost relationship can be emotionally difficult. While it may not be all good, it’s important to be cognizant of the possibility that things were not all bad either. Every memory can be a cherished one. But it’s also good to recognize why the pains are felt the way they were.

Thanks for taking the time to read!

Learn More:

How Long Does Grieving Last?

Loving Bravely by Alexandra H. Solomon PhD

Managing and Breaking Away from Toxic Relationships