Thinking About Your Ex All The Time? Here’s Why, And How To Stop.
Why You Can’t Stop Thinking About Your Ex
WHY YOU CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT YOUR EX | Is your Ex always on your mind? Do you think about your Ex first thing in the morning, throughout the day, and last thing at night? Does every little thing trigger memories of your Ex?
If you are like many (most? all?) people struggling with the aftermath of a painful breakup — even a breakup that you know was the right thing for both of you — you may find yourself tormented with non-stop thoughts about your Ex.
Have you ever found yourself saying (or thinking) “How do I stop caring about my Ex?” or “Why am I still thinking about my Ex?” or “Why can’t I get my Ex out of my head?” Like so many of our breakup counseling clients or divorce recovery clients, you’re wanting to fully heal your heart so that you can let go of the past, and move forward into a new future.
Obsessed With Your Ex? It’s Not Just You…
As we all know — letting go of a relationship is easier said than done. It’s close to impossible to turn off your feelings for someone else and detach from someone you love, even when you know, logically, that the relationship should be over. It’s especially hard when you thought you were getting over your Ex, but then they move on with a new partner, and the feelings flare up all over again. Nothing like thinking about your Ex having sex with someone new to rip the slowly healing scab right off again. Ouch.
Many people come to us for therapy or coaching after a breakup or divorce for this exact reason: they need support in figuring out how to get their Ex out of their head, reclaim their power, and start feeling good again. The most maddening thing is often knowing the relationship is over…and yet they’re still thinking about their Ex. Still fantasizing about them even. They sometimes think about getting back together with their Ex, or whether they should try to rekindle the relationship. Sometimes they try… and quickly remember all the very good reasons why they broke up.
And yet, despite knowing that the relationship is wrong for them (or perhaps even toxic) they still think about their Ex. They still care about their Ex. They still feel jealous knowing that their Ex has moved on. They hurt… and they want it to stop.
But how? How can you break your attachment to someone? How do you turn off the feelings? How do you stop thinking about your Ex?
Why You’re Still Thinking About Your Ex
One of the first things we do with breakup and divorce recovery clients in therapy or coaching is helping them make sense of their feelings so that they can learn and grow from them. Also, we need to normalize what is happening: Having lingering feelings for an Ex is very common, and there are many complex reasons for it.
Sometimes, people can’t get past a breakup because they have unfinished emotional business with the past. They have lingering feelings of guilt, anger, regret, or pain that are holding them in the past. They may never have gotten closure around their relationship having ended. They need to do the work of growing and healing before they can move on.
Sometimes, people are still thinking about their Ex for months, or even years after the relationship ended because of lingering insecurities or comparisons they’re making — even subconsciously. This is often true when your Ex has moved on before you have. The path to healing here is to focus on growing your own self-confidence, and feeling like you’re moving towards your goals.
Perhaps the most insidious kind of Ex-attachment is that related to your biology: When you don’t understand how you’re maintaining your attachment to your Ex on a neurological level, you can get stuck for years — even though you desperately want to move on. (For much more on this subject check out my book, “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to An Ex Love”)
Yes, it’s hard to stop thinking about your Ex, but it’s also necessary. Not being able to move on emotionally after a breakup or divorce can impact your life in major ways. Here are just a few of the consequences you might be experiencing… Can you relate?
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Dating While You’re Still Thinking About Your Ex
Continuing to have feelings for an Ex is not just frustrating, it can also limit your ability to move on and start a new, healthy relationship with someone else. When you’re dating while you still have feelings for your Ex, it can interfere with your ability to form a new attachment.
Comparing your new love interests to your Ex can also lead to you breaking things off with someone who could be great for you.
If you’re officially broken up but still sleeping with your Ex? No judgment (this is surprisingly common) but you’re going to be stuck for a long time unless you make some changes.
Emotional Zombie: When Your Feelings For Your Ex Die… But Then Come Back
Another thing we often hear about are situations where you think you’re over your Ex but then something happens: your Ex moves on into a new relationship or you have some new contact with them, and the feelings flare up all over again. Or perhaps you’re still connected with your Ex through social media or have shared friends. When you see or hear about your Ex starting a new chapter without you, it can bring all the pain, regret, anxieties, and even jealousy roaring back.
If these feelings are strong enough, they can get in the way of you enjoying your life in the present. It can be hard to focus or concentrate at work, you might worry about running into your Ex and their new partner, or you might even make life decisions based on your feelings about the breakup. None of this is good for you or fair to you.
The path to recovery often involves working through complex feelings related to grief, longing, guilt, regret, anger, and even self-forgiveness. While you can’t “turn off” feelings about an Ex, you absolutely can use them to do important personal growth work that will move you forward.
How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex, For Good
If you’re still thinking about your Ex, and wishing you could let go and move on, today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast is for you.
On today’s episode: Why You Can’t Stop Thinking About Your Ex, we’ll be discussing:
- Why you can’t stop thinking about your Ex
- Why understanding your biology can set you free
- What to do when you’re obsessing about your Ex’s new relationship
- Why anger and guilt can keep you trapped in the past
- How to build your self esteem back up after a breakup
- How to let go of insecurities and jealousy about your Ex’s new relationship
- How to get closure after a relationship has ended
- How to let go of a toxic relationship
- How to (authentically and honestly) work through the feelings in a healthy way
- How to use this experience as a launchpad for growth
- Why traditional talk therapy can keep you stuck in obsessions about your Ex, and why evidence-based breakup recovery coaching that uses cognitive strategies breaks you free
Your partner in growth,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
P.S: Some of the resources I mentioned on this podcast refer to other past episodes, other articles on the blog, and also some listener questions about breakups I answered on IGTV. I’ve sprinkled links to them through this article, but here’s one more: Our “How Healthy is Your Self Esteem” quiz. Do you have follow up questions for me? Get in touch through Instagram, or leave them for me in the comments below! LMB
P.P.S: Want more articles and podcasts like this one? Check out our “Healing From Heartbreak Collection” — It’s all for you. xo
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Why You Can’t Stop Thinking About Your Ex
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Music Credits: Torrelli and the Fuse, “Forgive and Remember”
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[03:14] Why Can’t You Get Over Your Ex?
- It’s common for people to not be able to easily and effortlessly get over a relationship.
- You are a healthy, normal, loving person that is capable of developing deep and powerful bonds with other humans.
- It would be more concerning if you didn’t have lingering feelings and thoughts about your Ex.
[06:30] Why You Still Think about Your Ex: The Biology of Attachment
- There are systems in your brain and in your body that exist for the purpose of maintaining bonds, attachments and connections to other human beings.
- Some newer research into addiction actually postulates that the reason why people get addicted to drugs and alcohol is because they are artificially stimulating the parts of the brain that are there for the purpose of bonding to other people.
[19:06] How To Stop Thinking About Your Ex
- One of the first things we work on is beginning to detach that feeling part that’s having this monkey-mind experience from the rational part of your brain.
- We need to start moving into this other piece of the brain, which is very different from the emotional part of the brain.
[25:12] The Phases Of Letting Go
- Denial, bargaining, and imagining these possible outcomes, is, among other things, a very effective way to protect ourselves from the feelings of grief.
- A lot of times, when people move into this grieving phase, it’s deeper grief, and it feels like a more profound loss.
- Another place people get stuck is when they are still angry with their ex and they haven’t been able to fully process this anger.
- Another thing that can get people stuck on an ex is wanting their approval and love.
[31:07] How To Get Over Your Ex
- A secure and supportive attachment to a therapist or coach who’s able to, first of all, make it feel safe enough to go there but also actually help you stay there instead of pulling back out of it super quickly.
- We need to go in and drain those emotional abscesses.
- Even if you hate your ex and don’t want to have anything to do with them, you can still be accidentally maintaining your attachment to your ex simply by thinking about them.
[39:41] How Attachments Are Formed
- Our connections to other people are formed through repeated contact over and over and over again.
- The emotional part of your brain cannot tell the difference between things that you’re thinking about and things that are actually happening in front of you.
- But the limbic system, the part of your brain that experiences emotion, will have the same feeling from a mental movie that you’re playing in your head, the same feeling between that and something that you experience in real life.
[43:12] Doing The Work To Get Over Your Ex
- Unfortunately, what actually happens is that you have to do all these other layers of work first, because there is valuable information.
- You will eventually, sooner or later, have to do this work.
- It does become time to learn thought-stopping skills, distract and replace skills to very consciously and deliberately shift your attention elsewhere.
- What I have experienced time and time and time again, as I’ve walked with people through this process, is that there comes a time when people have done all this work, that they don’t think about their ex at all.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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