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How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex

Updated on October 1, 2012

Phase One

I overheard a loud cell phone conversation...

"How can I stop thinking about him?"
"Who?" (I could actually hear this as the phone was way loud.)
"The guy you were with last summer?"
"Girl, that was months ago! You've got problems."

* * *

Yep, girl's got problems. She can't get him out of her head.

Unfortunately, after sharing your life with someone for months or even years, it's nearly impossible for the human brain to just flip a switch and turn the thoughts and feelings off. But, relationships end and at some point, and people have to stop thinking about the ex.

That's what this article is about: How to stop thinking about your ex.

Instead of spouting one person's opinion and instead of writing about what people think others SHOULD do, I asked people who've been through a break-up how they managed to stop the thoughts. For the vast majority of people, time was the only solution. That's probably not what you want to hear, but that's just how it is. They lived in obsessive hell for a month to several months (some people even longer) and eventually they got past it.

Some people, though, were able to move on a little more quickly. For these individuals, they usually went through two phases:

Phase One -- Distraction
Phase Two -- Realizing the Bigger Picture.

Phase One -- Avoid Obsessing by Creating Distractions

If you give yourself too much idle mental time to just think and remember and play out the being-alone scenarios, you may soon be re-thinking that break-up. Far too many people break up only to go right back together in a week or two.

And this is bad. Chances are you either SHOULD not be together or, since the person dumped you, you CAN not be together. So, hoping to BE together once again is just a big waste of time and mental effort.

Your relationship is over. Stop trying to find ways to get them back. Stop reliving the past. Stop thinking about what you should have done or said. Stop thinking about what you WILL say or do if given the chance. It's over. Done! Even if you get back together, eventually the same reasons for the breakup and the true incompatibility will surface. (And NO, HE WILL NOT CHANGE.)

The more free time you have to just sit around and think, the more you'll just sit around and think. And when you've just broken up with someone, even if you know, I mean truly know, that the person is a smelly pimple on a dirty butt kind of person, the worst thing you can do is THINK.

Distract the Mind

So, somehow you want to distract your mind so that you don't constantly wallow in the cesspool of thoughts that is your ex. No matter how difficult, painful, and depressing, somehow you just have to deal. So, for a while at least, you want to occupy your mind. You want your mind to be active, to be creative or involved in some specific activity.

The challenge with this is something the activity actually encourages more thinking. For example, mowing the lawn or doing some other non-mentally-engaging activity ends up being the exact mind-fodder for reliving conversations. (Watching TV is another bad activity, especially with food next to you.)

Here's a list as a start:

  • Go outside and touch things and look at your world VERY closely
  • Walk, blade, run, or ride a bike - but do so intensely
  • Paint or write your masterpiece (as long as it's not about the ex)
  • Donate your time to kids, elderly, disabled, or hungry
  • Clean your house, car, bathroom, basement, etc.
  • Cook something new from a recipe
  • Complete all levels of a video game
  • Build something that involves a physical or mental challenge
  • Devote yourself to something
  • Learn or develop a new skill
  • Road trip (avoid the touristy things and really explore)
  • Call an old friend (but do NOT mention your ex or your break-up)
  • Call your father

Your goal is to do something to keep your mind and body active. And no matter what you do, the best activities are often those that cost nothing.

Eventually, if you distract yourself for a long enough time, most of the pain and the memories will fade to a manageable level. But you can't be busy 24/7, right? At some point you'll lie down to rest and then your mind will return to the ex. This is where Phase Two comes in.

But first, there's another way to distract yourself. This is the easy-cheezy lame-o-temporary-and-only-leads-to-yet-another-breakup solution:

Find a replacement person

This is so common it warrants its own discussion.

When you go out and find a replacement person, all the excitement and intrigue of meeting someone new and getting to know them can easily dominate your thoughts. This is that rebound situation that so many can't keep away from. (It can also be that time when you "re-connect" with a friend to the point of being obsessive and terribly selfish of their time and all you do is talk about yourself and live in a pity-party world. Don't do this, either.)

The problem with the replacement distraction is when people replace one person with another, they most usually find someone who really is not what's best for them in the long run, which leads to yet another break-up and then they're right back here trying to find a way to distract themselves again.

There are many people, women mostly, who go from one serious relationship directly into another, directly into another, directly into another… and seem to never NOT be in a relationship. This is bad.

People who never experience being on their own lose a part of themselves. Either that or they don't give themselves the opportunity to allow their true essence of themselves to surface. All of their adult life experience is centered around someone else. A person needs time alone to reflect, to search themselves, to find what it is that drives them, pains them, and causes them to really act.

When I learn that a woman's life wasn't a lengthy serious of relationships, that tells me that she may actually be able to entertain herself, that she has outside interests, that she's taken the time to actually get to know herself, explore passions and hobbies, develop skills, enjoy her world, and become someone who deserves good things to happen. It's a sign of strength and confidence, creativity, independence, and the ability to just appreciate things.

Of course, there is that small possibility that the person is a whacked-out psycho hosebeast, but these are the exception and not the rule.

When you die and you're standing at the Pearly Gates experiencing that review of your life and gaining that true understanding of what it was your soul was to gain from this experience on Earth, the gatekeeper could give an angel's ass-cheeks if you didn't have a date last Saturday.

It's OK to be alone. In fact, it can be a very good thing.

* * *

In Phase 2 of this article, we’ll discuss the bigger picture, giving you an interesting perspective that’ll make it somehow easier to finally stop thinking about that ex.


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