How to Get Over Your Ex

How to Get Over Your Ex

How to Get Over Your Ex

Getting over anything is easier said than done, let alone an ex that you just can’t seem to stop thinking about. As a Denver-based breakup recovery expert and breakup therapist, I have seen this firsthand on countless occasions. So, today we are going to talk about how to heal a broken heart when it comes to your ex.

We will talk about subjects such as how to deal when your ex moves on (ouch, I know), how to stop obsessing about your ex’s new relationship, and whether or not you are an Exaholic. While the idea of getting back together with your ex might seem like a good one at times, we are going to talk about why and how you should work to get over your ex. 

The truth is, your breakup was probably a good thing. So, let’s get you started on the healing process!

‘Getting Over It’- What Is An Exaholic?

Last week I spent a delightful evening doing an online chat with some of the members of If you haven’t heard about Exaholics, it’s an online community for people who are struggling in the aftermath of a breakup. I’ve been involved with them from the beginning and have done a lot of writing and consulting for them. 

Anyway – it’s a fantastic site. But when I was chatting with these Exaholics members the other day it seemed like the theme of the conversation was “why do I keep thinking about my ex, and how do I stop feeling so obsessed and tormented?”

It made me think that an instructive podcast on the subject of “How to Get Over Your Ex” was highly overdue.

So on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast, we’re going to be talking about this ubiquitous problem of obsessing about your ex, not being able to let go, and what you can do about it. Listen now to learn how to get over your ex… and start enjoying your life again.

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How to Get Over Your Ex

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Hi, this is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. 

[Intro song: Goodbye, My Sweetheart by Uncle Neptune]

Dr. Lisa: A nap bed of cuteness. That’s Uncle Neptune with Goodbye, My Sweetheart, is what that song is called. I like it. Silly. But our subject today is not silly. It’s very serious. We are going to be talking about how to stop obsessing about an ex-boyfriend or an ex-girlfriend. This has been on my mind because last week, I spent a delightful evening doing an online chat with some of the members of If you haven’t heard about exaholics yet, it’s a great resource. It’s a website. It’s an online community for people who are struggling in the aftermath of a breakup. I’ve been involved with them from the beginning. I’ve done a lot of writing for them, consulting, and it’s a great site. I love it because it’s a place for people to go when they’re really in the midst of that obsessing and just cannot get over a breakup or the end of a relationship. It’s just a place where everybody’s in the same boat and can get a lot of support and companionship around that. 

But anyway, so, when I was chatting with these exaholics the other day, it seemed like the theme of the conversation. Everybody was just in the same place of “I cannot stop thinking about this person,” and “What do I need to do to stop feeling so obsessed and so tormented?”  I know it’s such a common problem, so I figured I would devote a whole entire podcast to it, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. If you have ended a relationship, what you can do, not just to get over it but just to figure it out, take a bottle scrubber to your brain and quit thinking about your ex constantly. So that’s what is on our agenda today. 

But first of all, before we start talking, if you are just now listening to this show, I’d like to say “Hi.” I’m Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I am here because I’m trained as a psychologist. I’m also a marriage counselor, and I’m a life coach. In my practice in Denver, I specialize in love, happiness, and success. I work with a lot of people around all things relationships, having better relationships, getting along with our family, friendships, breakups, dating, coaching, all that kind of good stuff. But also individual issues, anxiety, depression, being a better person, personal evolution, and then also life coaching. I’m a board-certified life coach. So I really specialize in not just what’s going on and how you feel about that but what are you going to do to change it. 

So I started making this podcast a while back because I thought that you might be able to benefit from some of this information, too. So I started recording these podcasts. It’s my own personal service project to put some good information out in the world. Hopefully, it finds you in your moment of need and that you benefit from it or can share it with other people. If you hear some of these podcasts that might not totally apply to you, but you think “Oh, my friend really needs to hear that,” pass it along. I’d love it if you stay in touch with me. 

Join me on Facebook, or Twitter at @DrLisaBobby. Tell me what you would like to hear about so that I can make some podcasts that are based around your interest and your needs because I always want these to be helpful to people. Last but not least, if you haven’t already, I have even more good stuff for you available on my website. You can go to my practice website, which is, or you can also just go straight to my blog and podcast at and sign up for my happiness class. 

I made a free online tutorial, this cognitive training that I teach my clients so often, I was like, “I have to just put this online.” So I did that, and you can sign up for it. It’s totally free. It’s a training that will teach you how to develop a mindset that will help you be able to regulate your mood and feel better on the inside no matter what is going on on the outside. So check that out. Take advantage of it. It is there for you. Okay, that’s all I have to say about that. So let’s talk about our topic today. Let’s talk about obsessing about an ex and what’s going on with that and what you can do to feel better. As I mentioned, when I was facilitating this live chat the other day on exaholics, the theme of the hour was “Please help me stop obsessing about my ex.” When I asked this group of people where they were in their grief process, there was sort of this collective, like, “Eh?”

Being Stuck in a Breakup

Asking a few more questions, I quickly realized that what was going on for these people was that they were still in the space of a breakup. Even some of them, considerably after this breakup that happened, like a year later, where they are kind of thinking and feeling and hoping and wishing they could maybe get back together with their ex. This is a problem. It really is. Because as long as you’re in that space of thinking that the relationship could be resurrected, it is very hard, if not downright impossible, to do the work of grieving that you really need to do in order to really heal from a relationship and fully move on. 

Today, I wanted to talk a little bit more about what that involves, what it looks like, and also give you some understanding of the biological underpinnings of this obsessive phenomenon so that you can hopefully, leave this episode with some ideas, and some things that will help you be able to feel better, and feel like you can move on. 

First of all, let me talk a little bit about the phenomenon of a breakup and the biological basis of why you’re obsessing, okay? My dear friend and colleague, Dr. Helen Fisher, has done some amazing research into the biology of love. She is an evolutionary biologist. She did a fascinating series of experiments where she took people who were in love to that super special place at the beginning of a relationship where they think the other person is perfect and just super excited, and really just subjectively feeling in love. During this period of time, she put them into brain image scanning machines, and took pictures of their brain, and had a series of experiments where she got them to look at a neutral control or a picture of their beloved. 

What she found is that when people looked at pictures of their beloved, they had all kinds of electrical activity in the region of their brain that is impacted by addictions. So, pleasure centers. You have, deep inside of your brain, a series of neurological structures that, when they’re activated, are your pleasure reward center. If you sniffed some cocaine, or shot some heroin, or pulled the handle on a slot machine, these reward centers get all fired up with excitement. Those are the same reward centers that get activated when you fall in love. 

She took another group of people, and she took a look at their reward centers—these people who were going through a breakup. What she found when she did brain image scanning is that the reward centers of their brains, when they looked at pictures of their beloved, are very similar to what you see with addicts who are in withdrawal, who are prevented from using their substance of choice. Her hypothesis is that when we fall in love, it is really an addictive process. I think that there is some merit to this. I’m certainly not a neuropsychologist, but what I see in my practice is that people can get really addicted to a person to their detriment. 

When you think about the basis of an addiction is that you’re using a substance or activity to change your mood, and it’s causing negative consequences. Even though you know that, you still can’t stop. That’s kind of the definition of an addiction. People who are in really toxic or unhealthy relationships are very much falling into that same pattern. If they’re not with their beloved, they’re devastated, and can’t think about anything else, and totally wrecked, and totally crushed. The only thing that will make them feel better is to have an interaction with this person.

This person is really patently not good for them. That’s not a high-quality relationship. It does not bring good things into their life. This person does not have the kind of character that they can really sustain a high-quality relationship with. They get cheated on. They get lied to. They get stolen from- all kinds of stuff. But even though they know that the consequences of this relationship are not good for them, and they might be far-reaching, their kids might hate this person, their friends and family might not like this person, they might be shunned socially for their relationship with this person, it doesn’t matter. 

Whatever they do, they can’t stop. That’s when they show up for therapy as an addict who’s like, “Hey, Doc, I can’t quit drinking. What’s going on?” or whatever. It’s very much a similar process in terms of the addictive nature of relationships. Of course, not all relationships are this negative and this toxic, although they can be. But what I also think is true is that when people are going through breakups, it’s like you’re moving into this space from where you are connected with this person that you really love. This relationship, it makes you feel good. It brings you a lot of stuff. You have magical moments. Then, when it gets taken away, I think that it’s an interesting analogy to think about that it is like going through withdrawal when you are prevented from being with this person anymore by your own choice as you finally decide, “I had to” or this person breaks things off with you.

What you see is that people obsess, all they can think about is their ex. What are they doing? What are they doing now? How about now? I’m going to drive by their house and find out what they’re doing. Who are they talking to? Stalking them online? What are they tweeting about? What are they posting on Facebook? What are they doing? It’s just this insatiable urge for connection of any kind, and information. There’s a craving. A real longing to be reconnected with this person or have this person finally realize that they do love me after all, and they were wrong, and they can’t live without me. A lot of fantasizing about that sort of thing.

I just want to share that to validate the experience. First of all, is that if you’re going through this you’re not making it up. You are really experiencing cravings, longings, obsessions, and that is the normal experience of going through a breakup. That happens to everybody. It’s not just you, and it won’t last forever. Today, I’m going to be telling you about some ways to move that process along. I don’t really think that there’s any way around it entirely. I think you have to experience some of it, but I don’t think that it has to drag on for years. That, at least, is my hope for you. But there’s a biological basis to support your experience. So I hope that that brings you a little bit of comfort, this idea that it’s normal and expected. 

Let’s talk about some of the ideas that I wanted to share with you. It came up in this exaholics conversation the other night because, as I mentioned, when I was talking to this group of exaholics, what I quickly realized is that on their healing journey, in their process, is that none of them had gotten to the place where they had been able to accept that their relationship was over. This is really problematic because, as I mentioned, it blocks the grieving process, and it blocks the healing process. It leaves you in this purgatory of turning away and thinking about the relationship without really being able to heal and move on. 

What I was telling them about, is what I’d like to share with you, is that when a relationship ends, it’s really a death in a very real way. A relationship has died. The end of a chapter of your life has occurred. Something that used to exist does not exist anymore. It’s a death. But the problem is that in a real death, as horrible as it is, not that I’m wishing this on anybody, that when somebody dies it is permanent. It’s concrete, and it is just a fact that that person isn’t coming back.

We have a lot of rituals in our culture to support that, and to honor it and acknowledge it, and facilitate it. For example, we’ll have a funeral where people gather, and they recognize that this is it, and we’re coming together today to say goodbye to this person, and to talk about our memories, and to lay this person to rest. There’s great power in that ritual. There’s a lot of closure that comes from those kinds of rituals, so I think it’s important to partake in them. 

But with the end of a relationship, that’s not what happens, is it?  It’s much more vague. There’s a big fight and somebody leaves, but they’re still, three miles away. They could come back. A lot of relationships have ups and downs, right? You have a fight, and then you find your way back to each other and work things out again, and then, it’s okay for a while. Then you have another fight and go off the rails, and come back together again. So there’s also this phenomenon of an intermittent reward. There’s another psychological principle at work here, which is I think part of the reason why slots—I don’t know why slot machines are coming up so much in today’s podcast but they are, anyway. 

But slot machines are so powerfully addictive because they are intermittently rewarding, meaning that you can pull the lever 10 times, and on the 11th time, you win, right? What that trains you is to keep pulling the handle over, and over, and over again. And the next time you do it, oh, you’ll have to pull two times that time, and the next time you have to pull 15 times. Anyway, what that trains you to do is just to keep at it. To be very persistent. Relationships are kind of like that, too. You have a fight, and he’s mad at you for a few days but then after you try to talk to him, like, seven times, then he starts warming back up to you, and then it’s okay again. 

Sometimes he’s available, and sometimes he isn’t, and this intermittent reward experience really sinks that hook in pretty deep. What it says, what it teaches you is that there is hope. “If I try hard enough, or if I’m patient enough, or if I do the right thing, and I say the right thing, I can get this person back again.” These two things, the fact that it’s not a finite death in a way that biological death is, the death of a relationship, and the fact that you’ve had these past experiences that have trained you, “It could work out. It has worked out in the past when we’ve had a rough patch.” 

Both of these things conspire to create this almost expectation that we could get back together again and that the separation is temporary. It creates this continued feeling of attachment to the person that you love and that you’ve lost. That attachment remains very powerful, even when you’re not together. With it, and that biological, we’ve talked about the biological basis, and then I just described kind of the psychological and emotional basis to keep kind of grinding away psychologically and in your mind about a relationship. To be able to continue thinking about it, even when you know that you shouldn’t be, these are the factors that are going into that. 

So when you are in space, when you’re still thinking about the person all the time, still feeling emotionally attached to them, it is so hard to acknowledge and accept the fact that the relationship is over. Make peace with that fact. Come to not just accept it, but appreciate it in some ways. Do the work of grieving and then really being able to move on. As they say, in Alcoholics Anonymous, watch that first step. It’s a *beep.* The first step is really hard. The first step of getting over a relationship is accepting that it’s over. 

When I was bringing up this concept to my exaholics group the other night, I said, “Have you accepted the fact that this relationship is over?” to the group and it was like crickets chirping for at least two minutes while people were thinking about this. Then, they started slowly, comments coming back in of, like, “I just can’t imagine that it’s really over,” or “No, I would be so devastated if it was actually over”. When that happened, I knew that we really hit the nail right on the head. 

So that is what I would like to suggest to you, is that if you are really having a hard time getting over a relationship, to reflect and see if you are still really harboring hopes that they’ll come around, that you’ll get back together, and that there’s still a future there. If that is the case, I would like to suggest that you do the work of letting go of that relationship, as painful as it will be. Because as soon as you say this is over and really allow yourself to feel that, you’re right, it’s going to hurt. It’s going to push you into grief, but it’s healthy grief, and it will have an end as opposed to this continual heartache that you’re experiencing when you just feel separated from your beloved who may or may not come back. 

Here are some strategies that you can use to facilitate your ability to let a relationship go, and accept the fact that it’s over, and to start your work of grieving. Step one, you could even just write that down. You could write a letter to yourself, “Dear self, this relationship is over. You are not ever going to see this person again. You’re never going to talk to them again. You won’t ever be intimate with them again. You won’t ever kiss them again. You won’t ever have X, Y, Z experience that was really important to you. That is not going to happen anymore.” That’s a hard letter to write. It’s hard to think that that’s true because it brings up a lot of sad feelings. 

But that’s also your reality. To let yourself be authentically sad, and grieve the loss of the relationship will set you free. That’s why you’re listening to this podcast is because you want to learn how to stop obsessing about your ex. I am showing you the door. It might not be a door that you want to walk through, but it’s still the door. As soon as you can do this, you will start to feel better. You’ll feel worse for a little while but then you’ll feel better. 

You can also, in addition to writing through this and acknowledging the end, have a little funeral for your relationship. Get a box and start putting stuff in the box that symbolizes the relationship: some little mementos and things that you got from your ex, cards they sent you, pictures that you have. Put little objects that symbolize a relationship in it. Close the box. Write a eulogy, “The things that I appreciated the most about this relationship are X, Y, Z,” and have a ceremony because you deserve to have that closure. So have a eulogy, talk about the things that you’ll miss. When your ceremony is over, put the box away. You can burn it. You can bury it. Or you could just simply put it away in a place where you don’t have to see it. You don’t have to think about it anymore, but it’s contained. 

Funerals are powerful. Those rituals are powerful. To have that moment of closure might be really helpful. Along with that, I hope that you’re understanding, and I probably didn’t say it out loud, but any contact with your ex is not okay. You can’t call them. You can’t text them. Go ahead, and block their number in case they try to call or text you. Delete their contact. Do not look at their Facebook page. Don’t follow them on Twitter. Tear off that band-aid, and be done. Because if you are constantly stimulated with contact, and know what they are doing, and having information about them, having reminders of them, it’s going to be so hard for you to get over this. So just have it be over. Take away all of their access to you and all of your access to them, and simply let it be a death. Let it go, truly. 

Another thing that you can do in order to make this easier is to focus on the parts of your relationship that did not work, and focus on the “Why are we broken up?” part of it, because I think that will make you feel more comfortable with the death of the relationship. When you can remind yourself of those things, it’s very, very, very easy to idealize and idolize an ex and think about the good parts of the relationship, and the parts that you miss, and the parts that worked. Totally forget about all the things that didn’t work, and why you’re broken up, and maybe you initiated the breakup. It’s good for you in a lot of ways if you did. But it’s really important for you to simply make a list of “These are the reasons why we’re not together,” and be reminding yourself of that very deliberately. Particularly, in the first weeks and months of a breakup to maintain your resolve and remind yourself of why this has happened. 

If they broke up with you, I think it can be even harder in some ways because you might not have all of the reasons for wanting to be broken up. I would like you to consider the fact that you deserve better. You deserve to be with somebody who can love you for you. If they’re rejecting you and not wanting to be with you, you deserve to be with somebody who is excited about you and who wants to be with you. That is what is in store for you in your future. Just consider that idea as something to move towards.

Those are some ideas and some ways if you are stuck on obsessing about an ex to consider, and really the biggest one is just ripping off the band-aid having it be done. The other piece of this, in addition to having that closure and having the finality, is that then when obsessions start to creep up in your head, your job is to remind yourself, “This is over. I don’t need to think about this anymore because it’s not happening.” This would be a good time to practice some of your mindfulness skills. I don’t know if you’ve heard any of my podcasts on mindfulness, but when I say mindfulness, I mean, connecting to the present moment by using your physical senses. So, focusing on what am I actually seeing with my eyes right now? What am I hearing with my ears? What am I feeling with my body? What am I smelling? What am I tasting? These are the things that are happening in reality. 

When you have intrusive thoughts about your ex, your job is to say, “Okay, I’m having a thought right now about something that isn’t happening. What is happening is that I’m looking at the green lamp on my black desk, that is what is happening right now. I feel the couch underneath me, and I hear the sound of my own voice talking to you right now, or whatever it is.” To notice what is happening in physical reality will help you get out of your head, come back into the moment, and will provide you with a refuge from obsessive thoughts. 

Also, you can try a stop-and-replace technique, which is “Oh, I’m noticing that I’m having a thought about my ex right now, and I’ve decided that I’m not going to think about that anymore because this relationship is over. So I’m going to come back into reality, and I am going to instead think about what I’m going to have for dinner tonight, or what I’m going to do on Friday night. I don’t want to be alone, so I would like to make plans with my friends. Who am I going to call, think about what we’re going to do.” It’s very intentional. I noticed I’m having a thought, I’m going to stop that, and I’m going to replace it with a different thought. 

Those two techniques, they sound really simple, in some ways, the mindfulness and also the stop-and-replace, but they’re very powerful, and they’re very effective. You might need to practice them a few times, maybe, at first, 20 or 30 times a day, as you have these thoughts about your ex popping into your head. But as you practice them over and over again, they will get easier. So consider that. Then also, if you would like more information on just the grieving process in general and what it might involve for you, you might want to check out a podcast that I published a little while ago. I believe I titled it something like “Letting it go,” “How to let it go.” So look at that, or listen to that. It’ll help you understand more about just the grieving process and what to expect there. So check that out. But I do hope that these ideas have been helpful to you so far. 

Again, to recap, your obsessions are real. It’s linked to an addictive process in your brain that’s stimulated by romantic attachment so just know that. Also, you’re perpetuating obsession and being stuck on a relationship by not accepting the fact that it’s over. Do some writing. Do some thinking. Have a funeral. Make peace with the fact that it’s really over, and then, it will really open up a whole new chapter for you where you’ll be able to grieve and move on. Once you’ve decided that is over, then you can also use those mindfulness techniques and the stop-and-replace techniques for managing thoughts that I mentioned, too. Those were really helpful as well. Again, I hope these ideas help you. I’ll talk to you again, soon, on the next episode of The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. Bye-bye.

[Outro song]

Episode Highlights:

  • Being Stuck on a Break-up
    • If you cling on to hope that you may recover your relationship, you’ll never be able to move on.
  • Love as an Addiction
    • Falling in love is much like developing an addiction. 
    • As such, moving on from a break-up feels like going through withdrawal.
    • So, know that longing for your ex is normal. However, you can move this process along.
  • Have a Funeral for Your Feelings
    • In many ways, a break-up is like a death. 
    • However, there is still a chance for you to resurrect your relationship.
    • To move on, you must first accept that it’s over.
    • Grieve your loss by holding a funeral for your relationship. 
    • Remember, any contact with your ex is not okay. 
    • Focus on the parts of your relationship that did not work. 
  • Techniques for Managing Your Thoughts
    • Practice mindfulness: If you’re having intrusive thoughts regarding your break-up, connect to the present moment through your physical senses.
    • Try the stop-and-replace technique: if you find yourself thinking about your ex, stop and replace it with a different thought.

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