For some, moving on from a relationship once it’s over is easy, especially if things didn’t end well. But if you break up mutually or you still love them, walking away and building a new life without your former partner is easier said than done, especially once they get into a new relationship. Before you get any more obsessed with your ex or your ex’s new girlfriend, even if they don’t have one yet, here’s how to stop thinking about your ex completely (and why you can’t get them out of your head in the first place).
Why do you spend so much time thinking about your ex so much after a breakup?
It’s only natural that when you’ve spent a lot of time with someone and invested time and energy into your relationship with them, they’re going to have a big place in your heart and in your life. When they’re no longer part of your life, you can’t just switch your feelings off. Life doesn’t work like that, unfortunately. Even if you know the relationship wasn’t right or that the breakup was necessary for your own self-preservation, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to build a new life without them.
Thinking about your ex is a normal part of the grieving process. You’ll likely go over where things went wrong and what might have been done differently. You might even focus on your ex’s less than desirable qualities in a misguided effort to leave them in the dust. Regardless of the reason they’re on your mind, make no mistake — they’ll likely be there for a while to come.
Are there any upsides to thinking about your ex?
- You remember love does actually exist. After a bad breakup, it’s easy to convince yourself that love is dead and you’ll never find it again. As you think about your ex and the times you’ve shared, you’ll remember the good stuff too. When you think about how happy you were together, at least for a time, you realize that hey, love is out there. You had it once and you’ll have it again someday.
- You can pinpoint and learn from the lessons the relationship had to teach you. Without taking the time to reflect on your relationship, you can’t learn what you’re meant to learn and ensure that you don’t repeat the same mistakes in the future. Reflection is key.
- You can reevaluate what you want in a partner and a relationship. Not only are there lessons for you to learn about where you went wrong, but you can also think about why you and your ex didn’t work out. Did they have a quality that just didn’t mesh well in your life? Did they want different things? Zeroing in on these things will help you in choosing future partners.
What about the downsides of letting your ex live rent-free in your head?
- You avoid facing reality. The longer you sit and ruminate on your relationship with your ex, the longer you avoid the reality of the situation. What you had may have been great once, but it’s over. By refusing to face the music, you continue to live in a delusion. Is that the type of life you want to live? I don’t think so.
- You hold yourself back from healing and moving on. This is probably the obvious thing. While you’re obviously not going to be able to forget they ever existed (and you shouldn’t!), you also don’t want to waste weeks or even months ruminating on someone who’s no longer in your life. The process of healing and moving on will take time, but there’s no time like the present to get started!
- You may ruin new connections (or miss out on them altogether). Thinking about your ex means you’re not going to be thinking about the possibility of meeting someone new. Obviously, you need to take time and make sure you’re ready for that step when it comes. However, you’ll never get there if you’re stuck on your ex.
- You lose your dignity and self-respect. Sure, this is petty, but it matters. Do you really want your ex to have the satisfaction of knowing you’re pining after them when they’re playing it cool, calm, and collected? Come on, you’re better than that.
How to stop thinking about your ex
- Recognize that your feelings are valid. Have you noticed that when somebody tells you to stop thinking about something that you’re way more drawn to thinking about it? That’s often how the mind works. If you tell yourself to completely block something out or to stop feeling the way you do, it’s going to make things worse. Instead, accept that the way you’re feeling is completely normal. If you still love them and get upset at the thought of them moving on then that’s okay. Your feelings are valid.
- Remind yourself of why it ended. As hard as it may be to accept it, the harsh truth is if you were meant to be together then you would be. For some reason, it didn’t work out. Try to focus on that reason whenever your mind starts obsessing about them with someone else. Hopefully, this will make you realize that everything happens for a reason.
- Concentrate on the present moment. You can’t change what’s happened in the past or control what will happen in the future, but you can control what you do now. The end of a relationship can be a confusing and upsetting period, so try to distract yourself by focusing on current tasks. This can be watching TV, reading a book, or delving into your work. Anything that allows you to fixate on something that isn’t your ex is a good start.
- Practice daily self-care. Make time in your daily schedule to practice some self-care techniques. Doing a kind thing for yourself will help you to reconnect with yourself and build a stronger relationship. This could be something that you’ve been neglecting recently, which is why you’re finding yourself fixated on someone else. When you take a step back and reflect on the fact that your relationship with yourself is the most important, you’ll feel much better for it.
- Change your perspective on the situation. Feeling upset about your relationship ending and jealous at the thought of your ex moving on is normal, but it’s also a good idea to find another perspective on the breakup. Try to see it as a learning experience or a way for you to grow and build a stronger relationship with yourself. You will move on and find happiness and your partner most likely will too. It might not feel like a reason to celebrate right now, but you’ll soon look back on it and see it as a good thing. Just because one relationship didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean you can’t build healthier relationships elsewhere.
- Acknowledge that the relationship is completely over. One of the main reasons why you keep thinking about them with someone else is because you don’t want them to move on. Maybe part of you still has some hope that you will end up back together or they will get back in touch. But thinking like this isn’t going to help you move on with your life – it’s going to hinder your progress. The sooner you accept the relationship is over, the better.
- Avoid checking up on them on social media. Admit it, you’re probably tempted to check their social media to see what they’ve recently uploaded. You’re not sure what you are looking to find or how it will benefit you in any way, but the temptation is there. Those feelings are normal but they’re not going to help you move on. And they definitely won’t put your thoughts to rest – if anything, it will just make your thoughts spiral. Just remember that what they do isn’t your problem anymore. Accepting that is the key to moving on. And while you’re at it, it might be a good idea to delete their number.
- Stop the cycle of comparing yourself to someone else. Your ex’s new partner won’t be you and their relationship won’t be the same as your past relationship, either. It will simply be different. That’s a really good thing because it means there’s no reason to compare. Use this time to appreciate your own appearance and personality and talents. What makes you, you? Writing a list of the things that you like about yourself will help you to gain control of the situation and improve your self-esteem. These are two things that can help you to move on from your ex.
- Give yourself time to actually move on. Some people move on very quickly while others take a bit longer to process the sudden change. There’s no timescale for how long it should take before you can move on and begin a new relationship. It could take a few weeks. It could be a few months. But one thing is certain – it will happen. In the meantime, give yourself that time to heal. Refocus your efforts on your career, your relationship with yourself and others, and shifting your perspective. Good things will come!