Sad woman sitting on her bed trying to stop obsessing about ex.

Remember that old pop song “Breaking up is Hard to Do?” No matter how old you are, breaking up is always difficult and the desire to stop obsessing about your ex is an important part of the healing process. Regardless of whether you get dumped or decide to leave your current relationship. It is especially painful when it is not your choice, and it is certainly hard to move forward right away.

So give yourself some time to process and separate from this person you are no longer with.  Anyone you have shared life with is important.  The memories are still there.  Give them some time and space to dissipate.

One of the hardest parts of the process is to stop thinking about or being reminded of what is missing. It is hard to stop thinking about something. Like that pink elephant, we are told to ignore in your thoughts (don’t think about a pink elephant!), just saying, “Don’t think about her or him” just doesn’t seem to cut it.

It may make it even worse. There is so much to remember and think about, after all.

The key to getting past this problem may not be just the passage of time (which may help some) but taking on the process actively. Don’t wait until you get upset about your obsession with that person; take action to prevent this from happening so much. You will continue to be haunted by this painful past if you don’t do something about it.

You may actually find that you want to feel that pain and continue to stay hurt and angry. But let’s not be crazy about it.  It is human to feel pain, but it is also human to feel happiness.

Grieving is, of course, important. Look at what there is to learn and share your feelings with a friend or just a diary. This may take a few weeks.

Before trying to forget about the person, spend some time thinking about what you can learn from the relationship and the break-up.  How did the relationship enrich your life?  How did you grow from the situation?

When you are ready (we suggest that time is now), here are some things you can do.

  • Don’t hold a grudge or make the person wrong. See the weakness in the person, and sense that they did their best. Have compassion for their weakness. Forgiveness will set you free to move on.
  • Don’t make yourself wrong either, and remember that you are a great person. Maybe not the best fit for every potential relationship. There is a better relationship out there for you. You can have that.
  • One thing you can do is write a letter to that person, that you may send or not, that acknowledges the importance of the relationship and the things that person contributed to your life. Include your responsibility for how the relationship was, and end with a statement of acceptance.  By the time you get to that step, you will feel much more free and complete.
  • Avoid triggers. These are obvious situations — songs, places where you have strong positive memories. Eat at new restaurants, or find a new band to follow.
  • Go see a movie that you might not have seen that you like that your ex would have disliked.
  • Be with your friends, especially those who did not like your ex.
  • Get out and do things, even if you don’t feel like it. Your brain has been programmed by previous experiences with this person; you need to create new associations to new experiences with new people. The new feelings will come later.
  • Start a new project at home or at work. When it is done it will be something good that you did without your ex.
  • Take a class. You will meet new people and maybe learn something that is fun or useful. Never mind if you have never done anything like this before. You might try cooking, painting, pottery, a book club or gardening.
  • Get some exercise. If you exercise regularly, try some new stuff.
  • Fight the urge to be in touch with your Ex. If you think you can stay friends that will never be true right away. Maybe in six months or a year.
  • Take care of your health. Breaking up can be like the Flu, rest and recover like it was a physical wound. In some way it was.
  • Be in action. Don’t just sit around! Do something creative or fun that helps you feel grounded in yourself.

It is not uncommon to obsess about your Ex. The takeaway here is that you can DO something about it. You need to decide when to start. It takes a little time but you may be able to move on sooner as opposed to later.

So, when you are obsessing, make yourself do something. If you are wondering when the answer is NOW.

There is no “right” way to do this. Trial and error may be just fine.  If you get too frustrated or just scared, get some professional help from a counselor or coach. We do a lot of this sort of work. You can call us for a brief consultation or set up a formal session. It can really help at a deep level in a very short time.

 

About Couple Power

Phyllis Koch-Sheras, PhD, and Peter Sheras, PhD, are clinical psychologists and a married couple for over forty years, who have written several books and articles about relationships and who see couples for weekly sessions, week-end intensives, and couples groups and workshops in Charlottesville, VA. They are co-founders of Couples Coaching Couples and do presentations and workshops around the country. You can find out more information about them on their website, www.CouplePower.com or reach them by calling the office at 434-971-4701.

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