ex kissing another woman in the background. woman looking the other way with her arms crossed. How to stop obsessing about your ex's new relationship.

How to Deal with Your Ex Being with Someone Else

Thinking of Your Ex with Someone Else?

Until now you’ve been handling your divorce or break-up process well. You’ve gone through the confusion of whether to stay or go and all the angst and hard decisions that come with leaving – but just been coping.

Then you found out that your Ex is sleeping with someone new. Maybe because you’re following up on their social media, or trying to be friends with your Ex. Maybe some well-meaning third party just thought this information would be valuable to you.

Now, waves of rage, pain, self-doubt, and resentment are crashing over you. “Coping” has been overwhelmed by a storm of emotion. It feels like your blood has been replaced with Arctic seawater: frozen and stinging at the same time.

What’s worse? It. Is. All. You. Can. Think. About.

“Are they on the motorcycle right now? He’s probably taking her to that restaurant I always wanted to go to that he said was too expensive. Are they holding hands right now? I bet they’re kissing. Maybe they are having sex right this very second. They probably skipped the motorcycle ride and decided to spend the day in bed. We used to do that…”

In your mind’s eye, you play out scenes from your life together. Except your role is being played by someone who might be sexier, more fun, or more interesting. You see your Ex — the happy, sweet, fun one you first fell in love with — sharing the best parts of themselves (and hiding the rest).

It’s worse at night when there are no distractions. The joy and passion you envision for them are made all the crueler by the stark contrast to your own silent bed. You lay sleepless, writhing in agony at the injustice. You want to stop thinking about it but you can’t. You feel trapped in your own head.

Believe it or not, the part of your brain that sees things in your mind’s eye cannot differentiate between something that you’re thinking about and something that is actually happening. So when you’re imagining your Ex and their new sex partner making out on the couch, you react to it emotionally (and physically) like you were seeing it happen right in front of you: your heart starts racing, you feel nauseous, and you are filled with pain and rage.

Being victimized by these intrusive images is incredibly traumatizing. Ruminating does not bring any value to your healing process. Instead, it keeps you from moving forward. Trust me on this one: I’ve been working as a divorce counselor and breakup therapist for a long time, and even wrote a book all about the recovery process — Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to An Ex Love; if you’re interested in learning more.

I know from walking with countless broken-hearted people who are suffering the same way that you are, that time alone does NOT heal this. (Nor does forcing yourself to date again — you’ll actually be more likely to miss red flags in your vulnerable state — or getting into therapy to “heal your self-esteem” or any of those things.) If you don’t take deliberate action to take control over what’s going on in your head and your heart, you can stay stuck in this place for a really long time.

In order to rescue yourself from the impotent madness of this obsessive love, in addition to moving through some very specific stages of healing, you must learn and practice three new cognitive skills very deliberately, every day, until you’re in the clear: Self-Awareness, Mindfulness, and Shifting.

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5 Ways to Deal with Your Ex Being with Someone Else

1. Self Awareness

Self Awareness is the ability to think about what you’re thinking about, and the fact that you are having an internal experience—not an actual experience. It sounds simple, but it’s very easy to get swept away in our thoughts without even noticing what’s happening.

The practice: As soon as you become aware that you are thinking about your Ex, say, (out loud, if necessary) “I am thinking about something that is not happening right now.”

2. Mindfulness

Recognize that your vivid thoughts are activating all these scary, painful feelings, but in reality, nothing bad is actually happening to you right now. You are sitting at a table, eating a bowl of cereal. You are breathing. Anchoring yourself to the reality of the present moment by using your senses creates a protective barrier between you and intrusive thoughts.

The practice: Look: Notice what your phone / tablet / laptop looks like right now. Notice the colors, shapes, and things you can see in the room around you.

Hear: What are you aware of hearing, right now? Yammering in a coffee shop. Music through your headphones. The hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen.

Feel: The chair under your butt. Your feet on the floor. The breath in your nostrils. The aching feeling of heartbreak in your core. Emotions are really just physical sensations. That’s why they are called feelings. Notice how your body feels, in the present moment, without judgment.

3. Thought Shifting

You’ve broken the obsession, and are in the safe space of reality. The third step to stop intrusive thoughts about your Ex is to shift your attention to something positive or pleasurable intentionally.

The practice: Shift to thinking about going to lunch with a friend this afternoon, or weekend plans. If shifting mentally is too hard you can also shift your attention to something that is happening in the present moment: watching a movie, listening to music, or petting your dog.

Shifting is important because the thoughts we habitually think about getting stronger. When you practice shifting, the intrusive thoughts about your Ex will get weaker.

4. Putting It All Together

You get stabbed in the brain with the image of your Ex having hot sex with the new person.

  1. Become aware that you are having a thought about something that isn’t happening right now.
  2. Shift your attention to physical reality: the color of the table, the taste of your tea, your heart pounding in your chest.
  3. Then, very deliberately, think about going skiing with your friend this weekend.
  4. Repeat as needed and plan on doing this many times a day at first.

Shifting your awareness or distracting yourself does not mean that you are avoiding or stuffing your feelings. “Obsessing” is not the same thing as “Processing.” It’s mentally picking at a scab that you are not allowing to heal. You have to get unstuck from the obsession phase in order for healthy new growth to occur.

5. Get Real Help

I will also add that, in my experience in working with people going through this (and in my own personal horrible breakup experience) these steps and strategies are easy to talk about, and much harder to do. Many, if not most people going through what you’re going through need support to move forward and get unstuck from this incredibly painful space.

Pro tip: Most therapists are mental health professionals who have not been introduced to the research around the biologically based reasons we get profoundly stuck on Exes and have a really hard time moving on. As such, many standard-issue therapists will attempt to “help” by getting you to talk about your family of origin, or challenging life experiences, your unusually low self-esteem, etcetera.

These mental-health-professional therapists are so well-meaning, but really do not understand that their attempt to connect your “stuckness” to some unresolved emotional pain or psychological disorder is not just misguided and unhelpful: it makes it worse instead of better. (When you’re already feeling low, the last thing you need is a therapist making you feel like this is happening because you’re inherently disordered or broken in some way.)

This is NOT why you’re feeling the way you are. You’re feeling this way because you are a human being who, just like the rest  of us, is built to bond. These bonds are fierce and enduring and are not affected by logic or reason. To begin releasing your attachment you need to be addressing it from an evidence-based, biologically-informed attachment perspective.

This approach is a “whole enchilada.” The five cognitive skills I shared with you are just one part of a much larger set of skills and experiences that the healing process requires. It’s the system of healing I made available for you in my online Heal Your Broken Heart breakup recovery program, and the type of breakup recovery coaching that we practice here at Growing Self. 

If you are interested in doing meaningful breakup recovery counseling with one of the coaches on our team, I invite you to schedule a free consultation call to discuss your goals and how we can help you move forward.

That said, these techniques are powerful tools, and I hope that they are helpful to you. I’d like to hear your thoughts about them. If you have other practices that you’ve used successfully, please share your strategies in the comments so that others who may be hurting can benefit from your wisdom.

— Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Growing Self Counseling and Coaching

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  • Hi Dr. Lisa,

    Thank you for proving these amazing insights and helpful tips in regards to exes and emotions. I just stumbled upon this article by accident after attempting to distract myself from painful and intrusive thoughts involving my ex.

    He and I have recently reconnected after almost two years of no communication. We have the same friend group, go to the same church, and are involved in each other’s lives more than your average couple of exes. Needless to say, it’s been difficult. We have reconciled and have been attempting to be friends, unfortunately, the only feelings never truly left for me and I’ve been struggling for quite some time. He’s been supportive and understanding, which has been more confusing than not. We know each other very very well and make fantastic friends, but the reality of the matter is that I’m hurting still, even after so long. I’m hoping and praying that I’ll be able to use these tips for when I’m laying away at night, like right now, missing him and what used to be.

    1. Rebekah, I’m so incredibly sorry to hear about this. Bad breakups are hard enough, but even worse when you’re in a situation where you’re interacting with your Ex on a day-to-day basis when you’ve not yet healed.

      I hear you wishing that “you could get these feelings to go away” and I completely understand that. But take it from me: We need to listen to pain, not push it away. I wonder if it might be more helpful for you to take important communication from your emotional guidance system (aka, “pain”) and take influence from it.

      For example, pain is a sign that we’re hurting ourselves. In this case, it’s probably not a good idea for you to be spending time with your Ex, and continuing to invest lots of time in the same friend group. Your pain may be telling you that it’s time to start actively creating a new life for yourself: New friends, and perhaps a new church.

      Your pain may also be telling you that it’s time to do more about this than trying to distract yourself, go on about your life and act like you’re not still hurting. Have you considered doing some very active and intentional personal growth work to help you heal and release this attachment? (NOT ambiguous talk therapy where you just rehash the past and talk about how bad you feel every time, that’s just going to keep you stuck). I mention this because it sounds like there’s a lot here that is extremely present for you, has NOT been processed effectively, and is continuing to impact your day to day.

      I know from experience that these feelings do not just go away. If you want to feel better and be free of this for good, you have to take meaningful action. Do the work Rebekah! There is so much more life and happiness for you on the other side of this pain. Promise! (But the only way out, is through). xoxo, Dr. Lisa

  • Hi Dr. Bobby,

    I’ve been divorced eight years and have two amazing kids with my ex-wife. We are fantastic parents and do a great job of coparenting. My ex wife dated a few people not too long after we divorced but nothing ever came of it. I have been on a few dates but nothing serious. It’s hard to date for me because my work requires a lot of my time And travel. Also my kids activities are my first priority. We get along around each other so well that a lot of people comment about how we get along. In fact sometimes we would still do things together with our kids like go to a movie or have dinner etc. She hadn’t dated for 4 to 5 years and recently told me that she was dating somebody. It really was like a punch in the gut. I realized that over the years people ranging from friends to coworkers to my barber had asked about if either one of us had gotten remarried. When I would say that neither of us had after all of these years people would start to say that perhaps we might get back together. I think I started to let a bit of hope sink in and so I have been pretty down since hearing this news. She has basically admitted that it was more of her fault that the marriage didn’t work. She was the one who wanted a divorce from me but honestly nothing that I did warranted a divorce according to basically every single person I’ve ever talk to about it. I decided I wanted to get the idea out of my head that she had ever thought about getting back together so I recently asked her if she had over the years ever thought about getting back together with me anticipating that the answer would be no and I could just move on. However she admitted that she had thought about it from time to time. But she said that she was now dating this guy. Now I almost feel worse and more depressed. Part of me wants to tell her that both she and I should get these thoughts out of our head and never think think about them again mainly for my benefit. Because I’m kind of agonizing over thinking there might be a chance to get back together and at the same time now and she is dating somebody. It really stinks. I’m trying to get back into the dating game but is very hard because of lack of time and also because I am very very picky. My ex-wife was my dream girl and I have a hard time imagining meeting somebody like that again. I know I need to move on, but it’s just really hard. I’m mad at myself for feeling this way. I welcome any advice that you have in dealing with this.

    1. Kirk, what a difficult situation. I’m so sorry.

      What I think I’m hearing in your story is that, even though you and your ex-wife have been broken up for quite a while, she has remained your primary attachment. You have not even begun to separate from her on a psychological or emotional level, even though intellectually you know you’re broken up.

      This is really common: Many, many people can spend months and even years in a hopeful, ambiguous, “We’re still hanging out! Can we get back together?” type of purgatory that is agonizing. Often, just like you, they only get slapped out of that space when their Ex gets involved with someone else. Only at that point does it start to feel like the relationship is truly threatened, and I’m afraid that is what is happening to you.

      It is not for me to decide whether or not it’s time to call it quits in your relationship, or whether or not you can get back with your Ex. But until YOU have determined that, you will have a really hard time moving on.

      I’d first recommend exploring whether or not your Ex wife would be willing to attend online couples counseling with you to see if there’s any “there” there. If not, the path forward for you will be to work with a breakup recovery coach or get involved in some divorce therapy in order to grieve this loss, release your attachment, heal and grow, and move on.

      We do offer additional resources here at Growing Self in addition to private breakup recovery coaching and divorce therapy including an online breakup support group, and an on demand breakup recovery course.

      However, my sense from your questions is that it would be more helpful for you to work one on one with a breakup recovery coach (who is also a licensed marriage and family therapist, BTW) in order to begin the process of healing and hopefully develop a strong coparenting relationship with your ex-wife that you feel good about, and that effectively supports the needs of your children too.

      I know it must feel weird to hear me saying that even though it’s already felt like such a long road, you haven’t truly started the process of “attachment detachment” and healing after a breakup, yet because I’m sure from your perspective you feel like you have. I hope that my saying this isn’t jarring for you. I hope that as you begin moving along this path and begin doing the work, moving through the stages of a breakup, and experiencing the difference in how you feel, it will all make more sense to you in time.

      Wishing you all the very best on your journey…
      Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

  • I’m having a very hard time letting go of pain and anger right now. My ex and I were living together just weeks ago. He always was the one pushng the relationship to being more committed. He said, I want kids, I want a future, I want to live with you build a life. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he said he really needed to work on himself. It was always something that I thought he needed, as he is recently sober person with no recovery community. So I accepted his tearful admission that he wasn’t able to be a good partner to me and he needed to be alone.
    I accepted and gracefully moved out, though it was painful for us both.
    However, he then stopped bein in contact after about a week after I moved out and I came to find out he started dating someone. DAYS after this whole speech of needing to be alone and being soooo sorry that he couldnt be a partner to me. How am I supposed to reason with this in my head? I sent him some messages about how hurt I was by this, and how disrepected I feel. How he acted dishonestly. He has not apologized or acted accountable. His response was that he swore he only met this person after we broke up (which checks out) and that basically I need to recognize that I knew I was dating an emotionally vulerable person. So it’s my fault? How do I justify the version of him that was the one who wanted me to be his wife, one week, dumps me the next, and immediately jumps into something with someone the next.
    I feel insane! Like reality is all messed up. And the girl he’s seeing is exactly his type. I know that within months he will be wanting her to move in, and do the same pattern again. I feel so used, because I don’t trust easily. Now I see that he can fall in love and commit to someone on a dime, and therefore be able to do a 180 just as easily. I cant stand this feeling. I’m having obsessive thoughts, and looking at pictures of his new girlfriend and wanting so badly to send him messages just ripping him apart. I know thats not going to help. I’m fairly self aware and have good self esteem but this is just impossible to reckon with for me.

    1. Oh dear, this is the worst of the worst. Not JUST were you blindsided by a breakup, you are having to simultaneously deal with your ex moving on. It is 100% normal to feel “insane” right now, as you said, and completely understandable, under the circumstances.

      It’s like you just found out that the relationship you had with this person for so long was not a lie necessarily, but much different than you thought in terms of his commitment to you, his capacity to love you, and even that he was telling you the truth. Its even harder when it’s difficult to for you trust people to begin with, and then something like this happens. This is a straight up relational trauma.

      Are you working with a breakup therapist or breakup recovery coach right now? If not, I would recommend that you get some support with this. But make it good, legitimate help please. Anyone who tells you that ___ specific thing is going to magically make you feel better and move past this is either misinformed or does not have your best intentions at heart.

      You have been traumatized, and you need to heal. What lies ahead of you is going to be a process, that will occur slowly, probably over months, and will involve a series of important, experiential growth “moments” including (but not limited to!):

      – making sense of what the hell happened
      – rewriting your narrative about who this person was
      – working through the anger all the way down into the hurt, grief and fear,
      – grieving this loss (not just of the relationship, but of your sense of safety and trust with other humans),
      – and beginning to release your attachment.

      That is just the first stage. Then, the time will come for you to go back through and figure out:

      – what you learned about yourself through this experience,
      – what you need to do to heal from this emotional trauma,
      – how rebuild your life and your sense of interpersonal security,
      – how to build yourself back up,
      – and then (perhaps and only if you want to) dip your toe back into the pool of finding a new and worthy love.

      And when you start dating and putting yourself out there, you can expect to get triggered and scared all over again and will have new layers of growth and healing that only emerge when you become vulnerable again.

      This is a long process. So 1) please don’t beat yourself up because you feel the way you do right now. Of course you do. And also 2) don’t beat yourself up for not being able to change this immediately. The path of authentic healing is long and multidimensional.

      But, hear this, as you move through the stages of healing you will be strengthened and you will grow and develop in ways that you would not have, had this terrible thing not occurred. I know that probably sounds hard to hear (and may not feel particularly helpful right now) but I will hold the faith that, years from now, when you’re in a healthy, committed, authentic, honest relationship that YOU created because of all that you wound up learning through this experience, you will have a quiet moment where you will suddenly feel gratitude for the opportunity to grow in the way you did. That the good healthy relationship you love so much would not have been possible, without you having done the work to attain it.

      No one gives these things to us. There is no advice. There is no blog post or podcast or therapist who has some “tip” or “strategy” can sling you over the slog of the growth process and arrive, triumphant, into the new state of being that awaits you on the other side of this journey. That is not how growth and healing happens. We have to earn it the hard way. The only way out is through. But once you have it, it’s yours to keep.

      SO: Connect with a good breakup recovery coach, do an experiential breakup recovery program that walks you through the steps, join a breakup support group, read some breakup recovery books…. basically, get to work. When you’re ready.

      Side-note: It is also 100% okay to spend as much time as you want to lay on the floor and cry and scream and send send hateful texts to the person who hurt you so terribly. Go for it. But sooner or later you’re going to get tired of feeling insane so at that point you’ll get up, and you’ll make the appointment, and you’ll join the group, and read the book, and you’ll do the things, and you’ll put one foot in front of the other and it will get better, in direct proportion to the efforts you make to heal.

      Not sure if this level of “radical honesty” is helpful or not, but it is the truth that I hold after years as a therapist and coach specializing in assisting people as they recover from this type of thing. My clients have done it. I’ve done it. You can do it too.

      Wishing you all the best my dear… Dr. Lisa

  • Hi Doctor, Is it normal to be in a happy relationship with a man who treats you like gold and still think about a particular ex and feel weird when you see him moved on with someone else on social media? Help me, I feel stuck in the past and guilty. This particular ex ghosted me and came back a couple of times, and I think I never fully recovered from it before moving on. I always wondered well, if the timing was right maybe that relationship would have worked out and my life would be so different (not that I want it to be). Just want to know if you’ve seen this before and have any initial advice. Thank you!

    1. Unfortunately, I have. It sounds like you have maintained your fantasy-based emotional attachment to a person who mistreated you. Listen, toxic relationships are always more addictive than healthy ones. I think it’s probably time for you to make a decision about this past relationship, namely that it wasn’t a good situation for you and not one that would have worked out anyway. I can assure you that someone who ghosted you on multiple occasions only to resurface and leave again would not have suddenly become a person loved you and treated you well. What you experienced actually *was* the relationship experience with that person. (Let that sink in for a minute).

      It’s time to let go of whatever fantasies you’re harboring about what could have been, and block that person from your life for good. Only then will you be able to release that unhealthy attachment and turn all of your mental and emotional energy to the person who deserves it: your extremely kind and loving partner.

      Good luck!
      Dr. Lisa

  • my husband of 20 years left me with kids. all i do is cry. i imagine him being constantly with her and i cannot move forward because we need to be in touch because of the kids. when kids called me this afternoon from his place i noticed he hung new pictures on the wall and i am more than sure these are her choices of art and she distributed them on the wall (he’s not very capable and creative). i am heartbroken. it’s been 4 months and i’m still crying like a baby….

  • I thank God for leading me to the site where I met a testimony about manuka temple who has done a lot of for people. I contacted manuka for urgent help to save my marriage my surprise about this priest in less than a week my went back to the court and cancel the divorce by his self and call me to come back home there’s no need for the divorce anymore. The reason am here now is to appreciate what priest manuka has done for my life with the reunion love spell he did for me. I will also his contact information here. ( lovesolutiontemple1@ gmail. com )

  • I live with my x wife, because we have an autistic boy together. He would not understand if I moved out. He would never adjust to me leaving the house. My x has a boyfriend, and I can’t stand the thought of indirectly touching him. She touches him then brings his nasty germs home with her. How do I stop feeling like I’m touching him. I want to move out. I can’t do that to my son. If I don’t move, I feel like I will harm myself or my x. Very depressing.

  • I live with my x wife, because we have an autistic boy together. He would not understand if I moved out. He would never adjust to me leaving the house. My x has a boyfriend, and I can’t stand the thought of indirectly touching him. She touches him then brings his nasty germs home with her. How do I stop feeling like I’m touching him. I want to move out. I can’t do that to my son. If I don’t move, I feel like I will harm myself or my x. Very depressing.


  • Great is the man called Lord Zakuza for he’s able to perform wonders with his ex back spell. Email lordzakuza7 @ gmail. com to reunite with your ex now.

  • Me and my ex broke up a month ago she had a rebound we also were together 3 years and planned life together as we chat she would say her new man is making breakfast or he has already met the child and that’s somthing she would never be letting happen so fast I love her but she has this rebound and teases me about her new man

  • Hi i was with my boyfriend for just over a year i recently was dumped by him who got another woman pregnant while we were on a break he is now acting really strange with me as if he never knew me the relationship wasn’t a healthy one but i really do love him and we have 2 kids together i am ready physically to let him go but emotionally i am struggling which effects everything else there is someone i am interested in but i want to be able to stop obsessing over him and this new woman who is now going to be apart of my children’s lives he has shown no remorse for his actions and i just want to be able to break the attachment and move on and never look back how can i do this?!

  • Hi, Dr. Lisa. My name is Samuel and I’m so obsessed about my ex’s new relationship, to the point where I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t think, I’m basically a walking dead. We broke up three years ago (I can’t remember why, but I think it’s cause we thought maybe we were too young and we needed a little bit of time to think about what relationships are all about) and we’ve been friends ever since. Even then, we would always share a kiss, go out and have fun together, it somewhat felt like we never broke up but then we just occasionally remind ourselves that we’re not a couple. This has been going on for the past three years since we broke up, three years is long enough for anyone to move on but we just couldn’t. I grew even more fond of her and she felt the same way. For three long years, I don’t know why I couldn’t say anything about it and obviously, she was waiting for me to make a move and tell her I wanna get back together but I didn’t. On April 28th, this year, my birthday, it was the day I also planned to do what I’ve been meaning to do for the past three years, I wanted to tell her how I feel, how I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her every second of the day and hopefully get back together with her. I threw a little house party and invited her over. We shared a really long hug and that moment I just knew that I’ve been really dumb not to realize that she is the love of my life and it’s near impossible for me to move on. I went for a kiss, which right after I planned to tell her everything, but she pulled away and told me she’s seeing someone. What hurts the most is the fact that she said it’s all my fault, she said I made her wait for way too long and she’s unsure about her feelings for the new guy. I can’t think, I can’t sleep, my imagination isn’t helping at all, everything reminds me of her and her words keep ringing in my head. I really don’t know what to do.

  • I want to stop obessing about my ex. i have to see her daily in office as she sits just beside me. please help me out.

  • Hi Mukul,
    I’m so sorry to hear of your situation. That must be extremely difficult. Being in such close proximity to an Ex makes it difficult to hear. I would encourage you to see if there are opportunities to get some physical distance from her. Second I would advise that you build healthy distractions in to your day: Planning to have lunch with other co-workers, taking frequent breaks to walk around, and if possible listening to music or podcasts while you are at your desk. Planning interesting after-work activities may help as well. Then your job is to shift your attention to the positive things you have planned, whenever intrusive thoughts about your ex come up. Good luck!

  • Hi,
    Thank you for the article, it has helped me put things into perspective. I have two questions:
    How long will it take to stop obsessing? I broke all contact to my ex recently and the pain is excruciating.
    Second question: how should I stop intrusive memories? We’ve been together for a very long time and all I can think of are snapshots of our past – the good parts, of course. I tried to apply the methods you describe, but it’s like fighting an impossible battle. All those memories that haunt me are not my imagination, they actually happened to me!
    Thank you

  • Hi Ana,
    I’m glad that the article helped you, and I’m so sorry for your loss. Congratulations on breaking things off completely. In my experience doing that is often the first step of healing. I would expect that your intense obsessions will continue for at least several weeks. However if you stay firm in your commitment to “stay away” they will get better. In the meantime I would suggest practicing mindfulness skills, shifting your thoughts, and also allowing yourself to grieve. You might want to check out my “How to Get Over It” podcast. All the best to you– Lisa

  • I was with a narcissist and after 8 weeks I am still waking up depressed with the feelings of frustration , as I put my all into the relationship and was just dropped off with my things as if I had bags of shopping ,he drove away and I had no explanation of why .. He was emotionless ,cold when I was with him , but for the first few months all over me and really loving then slowly it all changed ..When I txt to ask I was just told ,I think we came together when we needed each other and I dont regret a thing ,but for me I didnt feel this that I needed someone ,so I think I was used to help them get over their previous relationship as that’s all they talked about in the beginning ..I am now left with depression that the dr wont give me tablets for and this feeling of hopelessness even when I am out with friends ,whatever I am doing …I cant afford a councillor …I think your advice is amazing thank you for article .

  • Maureen, so sorry to hear that you got tangled up with a narcissist. Totally understandable that after everything you’ve been through you’d have an “emotional hangover.” FYI, I think you’re totally right: The way that narcissists typically operate is to find a gratifying “supply source” (aka, you) that they basically suck dry. Then, they move on. And, as you know so well, that leaves you sitting in the rubble of your life trying to figure out what the heck happened. (And as I write this it just occurred to me that I have not yet done a podcast on the subject of narcissists — it’s now on the list!)

    I’m sorry too that it’s feeling like there’s not much available help for you. As for the medication question, I can’t speak for your doctor’s decision, but I do know that there is a difference between clinical depression and situational grief. While medication can be very helpful for people who have a tendency towards biologically based depressive disorders, for many people going what you’re going through the best, healthiest way to heal is to work through the feelings. (Not necessarily the fastest thing, but at least you don’t have to deal with the side-effects of medication!)

    As for how to accomplish that: I know that private counseling and coaching can be expensive although many practitioners (even at Growing Self) do offer sliding scale rates. That might be an option to consider if you’d like to partner with a supportive guide who can walk you through this.

    If you’d prefer to explore self-help options you might also check out some of the low-cost resources I’ve developed to help people just like you navigate this sort of thing. There’s my “Exaholics” book, my Heal Your Broken Heart online breakup recovery program, and you might also consider checking out The Happiness Class. Hope those ideas help you find your way through this Maureen… LMB

  • I need help in moving on from my ex. We were on and off for a couple of years and I loved him very much but he looked at me as an option, which is why we never went official. He would lose feelings from time to time and the last time we were “on” he started liking another girl and distancing himself from me. I found out from his friends and he lied to my face about it. I told him I needed time and space to get over him because he could never be serious and he respected that. We haven’t talked in months and I have to see him everyday at school and I think he’s with that girl now. She sits beside me in class and I have to hear her talk about him to her friend, I feel like she does it on purpose to hurt me. The things she says about him and stories she tells her friends are very similar to memories I shared with him, and I feel like I’ve been replaced. It’s hard to stop caring for him because i spent years being in love with him. And he replaced me so easily. She hangs out with him everyday and texts him for hours and I hate that it used to be and him, but now we don’t even talk. The anxiety of going to that class now has built up to the point where I’ve been skipping the class for weeks. I really don’t know what to do. Please give me advice on dealing with this and how to just move on. It’s painful hearing her talk about him in front of me daily and knowing he likes her now. I fear I’ll become depressed over this situation, or end up trying to get him back. I just want to forget him and be happy but it never seems to work.

  • Betty. Ugh. What you’re describing sounds so terrible. I’m inferring from your story that you’re pretty young. (High school?) I have so much empathy for what you’re going through, as I lived through something similar when I was in high school. Here’s my story. The hardest part for me was exactly what it sounds like you’re struggling with the most: the lack of power to protect yourself. If you were older, you’d have more control over your schedule, and could avoid these people. But you’re forced to be so close to them every day, and just re-traumatizes you over and over again. I’m so sorry that this is happening.

    Here’s my advice: Do everything you can to set some boundaries and invest energy in building up other parts of your life. Talk to your parents or school guidance counselor to see if you can change your class schedule. Get some new friends. Join a club or team, or take up a new hobby that has absolutely nothing to do with them. I know it’s not the same, but it’s something. Do everything you can to fill your life up with positive new things.

    AND this experience might be great motivation to buckle down, study your butt off, volunteer for an admirable cause, etc so that when it comes time to applying for college you will be the STAR APPLICANT that they all want. You can get into some amazing university, perhaps with a scholarship, and leave all those a–holes coughing in your dust.

    In the meantime, you might also consider talking to your parents or school guidance counselor about getting into some counseling. NOT that there is anything wrong with you, but having a supportive person to talk to about all these feelings might be really helpful. (Just make sure they can be supportive and patient and non-judgmental). If you’re interested you can also join our free online breakup recovery group through Facebook. Its not a therapy group or anything like that, just a place to connect with a community of people struggling with similar feelings. It’s a private, secret group and the only way to join is by messaging me on Facebook (which you are welcome to do: https://www.facebook.com/drlisabobby/). Take care of yourself Betty — in just a few years things will be totally different than it is now, and you’ll have so much more power and control over the amazing life that YOU design. xoxo, Lisa

  • Hello! My ex of 7 months was perfect and everything was great. Within the last month or so we were fighting a lot about going out. He always wanted to, and it was never my thing. He ended it, and out of no where. He didn’t give me any time to figure out how to make it better or help. There is no way he really cared if he just dropped me like this??? He was so real and perfect and all of a sudden he changed. My therapist said he is a narcissist and used my anxiety to have power over me. I found out the day after we broke up, he started sleeping with someone else. I think he wants to be single so he’s only using her for sex. All I think of is how this isn’t the same person and I want nothing to do with him. But it’s my anxiety and my thoughts that sit and obsess and think of him and think of him having sex with her and it makes me feel so worthless and sick. I just don’t know what to do.

  • Oh Elaine! What a hard, hard situation. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I think that you share feelings that are common to so many people in this situation, like the anxiety, and the “What the h*ll happened” thoughts that are so confusing. I am really glad that you are in a relationship with a therapist so that you have support, and a place to go to process all of this.

    Things that will help: There are a few key points that I’ve addressed in numerous breakup podcasts, my book, “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to An Ex Love,” and my breakup recovery program, “Heal Your Broken Heart” that might be helpful to you right now. Namely, that early stage romantic love (the intense stage of love that sweeps you off your feet) is NOT the same thing as “true love” and attachment. It also takes a long time to really get to know people. What you ultimately learned about your Ex was very different than the information you had about him at the beginning, and that’s really, really confusing.

    In terms of your question, “What do I do with this?” I would recommend that you work with your therapist on how to set healthy boundaries around the obsessive thoughts themselves, as you continue to work through the grieving, meaning-making and anger-releasing aspects of your healing work. Any good therapist who practices evidence-based forms of counseling and coaching will be well-versed in strategies like mindfulness skills, cognitive behavioral strategies, and “stop and replace” techniques that are the gold-standard in managing the thoughts and anxieties that you’re describing.

    You might also consider joining our free online breakup support group on Facebook. To protect everyone’s privacy this is a “hidden” group so the only way to be included is to message me on Facebook and ask to become a member. I hope that you do — It’s a great group! Hope to see you there Elaine…. Lisa

  • I am going through a really tough time. My boyfriend and I broke up a year ago. But since we were from the same office, same process and same floor, we still get to see each other. It was hard moving on because of that. At times we would talk and quite get far from just talking. But we never really got back together. I would cry most of the time because I see him and miss him but can’t be with him anymore. Recently I saw him with a new girl who happened to be from his team. He was flirting with her and it was so hard to bear seeing them everyday. I would cry every night dreading the fact that I get to see them the next day. The worst thing is he doesn’t care if I see him getting close to her. I couldn’t accept the fact that he moved on to a new girl It drives me crazy to think that she could be the one for him. I feel unworthy. It’s so traumatic to see him doing things for another girl that he used to do for me. I looked for another job but haven’t had luck yet. I tried to avoid them. But now I think I am developing anxiety, panics and depression. I can’t eat and sleep. And I just cry at home after work. I am so tired trying and don’t know what else to do.

  • Kayes, I’m so sorry to hear about this difficult situation. I don’t know if hearing this makes it feel better or worse, but from my perspective you’re currently going through one of THE most challenging “perfect storms” of a bad breakup — being in a situation where you have to have contact with this person AND he’s dating someone else in your group, so you have to see that too! This is just so painful. I think that your question of “how to cope” with this situation deserves a better answer than I can provide here, and so I’m going to include it in a new upcoming breakup-questions themed podcast that will be posting soon. Look for it on or around 1/15. In the meantime please find small ways to take care of yourself, and if you can, limit your exposure to these painful / triggering situations. Also, if you do not currently have a supportive relationship with a counselor or coach I would strongly recommend that you seek one out, just to have more support during this terrible time. Also, if you’d like to, please join our free (hidden, completely private) online breakup support group via Facebook. (While you can’t join yourself because it’s hidden, you can connect with me @ http://www.facebook.com/drlisabobby to request to be added, and once we’re “friends” we can add you manually to the group). Hang in there Kayes….

  • Hi Dr. Lisa,

    Thank you for your response. To know that my situation is one of the most challenging “perfect storms” of a bad break up helps me understand that what I am feeling is reasonable or understandable. I have been asking myself what is wrong with me because i feel like my feelings and pain haven’t diminished since we broke up. To know that my feelings are valid makes me realize that I should be a little more gentle with myself. I am really looking forward to the podcast for this. It would be of great help as I have been trying my best to be accountable for my situation and my hardest to cope and to prove myself that I am not a damsel in distress. But this is really a tough time for me. As of now I have been scheduling travels every month just so I could take a little break and have time for peace since I haven’t found a permanent escape from this situation yet. I am really excited for the podcast!! Thank you so much!!!

  • Kayes, you bring up such a good point. SO many people beat themselves up for how terrible they feel after a bad breakup. Then they are heartbroken AND ashamed of the way they feel. I’m glad hearing that this is really, actually, objectively awful helped you feel validated in your experience. (I really needed that too, when I was going through my own personal hell). And I think it is so wonderful that you are getting out of town regularly — so smart of you to do that. I will post the link to the podcast here when it’s up. Soon! LMB

  • Hi I need some help I’m a junior in School and Me and ex broke up, I broke it off. I’m a Christian, and you know we had some fun in my relationship. But he always tried to get me to do stuff against what I believed in. He chose his days when to treat me good, and how to treat me. He always thought he was just too tough to even call me names like baby and etc. Now I feel bad for breaking up with him, but I felt like I did what is best for me. I love him still, but not like I use to like a friendly way. Now he hates me, no text messages, no talking at school. Spreading lies about me all around the school saying I broke up with him from something he made up but the truth is he was all on my phone saying it hurts but he try to act tuff at school. I want to be friends with him no other all, I don’t us holding grudges against each other cause it’s stupid and childish. But why does it hurt. He always try to make me jealous, everytime we break up, he want to jump into a new relationship, and do stuff to make me jealous, and I always just keep my distance from him… Any advice anyone it hurts?

  • My story is that in 2016 I met a Lady on a night out. I had initially made plans with her cousin who i am pretty close with and turns out she was there too. Now the Lady I knew from my childhood, our parents were very close but we had lost contact over the years. We hit it off that night had alot of fun and after visiting a few pubs she hit on me and proceeded to make out with me. I did not decline i was very happy to as i found her attractive. Thing is i some how always knew that I was interested in women as well but have never had the guts to act on it. We slept together that night too. This went on for about 8 months or so. Granted she lives in a neighbouring country we couldnt see each other as often but i did make a trip up there and we were in constant contact from the day we met. We build a quite a relationship. I have opened up in ways to her that i never have before. I went to visit her over new years 2016-2017 and we rekindled physically had a great time together got to spend alot of quality time. May I add that i was her first experience with a woman. The problem started as i revealed to her a few months after seeing in her home town, that I was in love with her.

    She laughed it off and said i was mad which was our usual crazy talk but i then revealed it again after a month or two and stating that i didnt need her to feel the same i was just saying how i felt. Soon after that i got a message saying that she has been doing some thinking and she cant be what i need right now. That she loves me but is not inlove with me and we should just try to be friends. I replied to it there was no nastiness from either side and we just stopped chatting for a while. I get that i was needy and temperamental i apologised for that. I just said that all i wished was that she would have been abit more emotionally available. We didnt chat for about a month and i initiated contact. We started chatting slowly again, and after about a month or so asked if she would come down to visit as she has