How to Stop Obsessing About Your Ex’s New Relationship

How to Stop Obsessing About Your Ex’s New Relationship

How to Stop Obsessing About Your Ex’s New Relationship

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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 you’ve been coping.

Then you found out that your Ex is sleeping with someone new.

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 is made all the more cruel 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.

In order to rescue yourself from the impotent madness of this obsession, you must learn and practice three new skills very deliberately, every day, until you’re in the clear: Self-Awareness, Mindfulness, and Shifting.

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, 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. 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 intentionally shift your attention to something positive or pleasurable.

For example, you can 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 get stronger. When you practice shifting, the intrusive thoughts about your Ex will get weaker.

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.

I hope that these techniques 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

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Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT, BCC

"Hi, I'm Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. For over a decade, I've been helping people all over the world create Love, Happiness and Success in their lives through positive, compassionate and effective Marriage Counseling, Therapy and Life Coaching. I'm so pleased to be able to help you, too. There is help for you here, and I'm glad you've found us.

This website is devoted to your wellbeing, and offers loads of free information and actionable advice that you can start using today to create positive change in your life. Browse around to meet our experts, get free advice on our blog, listen to a podcast, or take our "How Healthy is Your Relationship" quiz. Or, if the time is right, you can schedule a free consultation with any of us to talk about your situation -- and, most importantly -- your hopes for your future." -- Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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How To Get Over Your Ex

How To Get Over Your Ex

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 break up. I’ve been involved with them from the beginning and done a lot of writing and consulting for them. Anyway – fantastic site. But so when I was chatting with these Exaholics members the other day it seemed like the theme of 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.

Are You Obsessing About Your Ex?

Are you craving contact with your Ex, even though you know it's bad for you? Are you "stalking" your Ex through social media? Are you awake at night rehashing old memories? Are you feeling stuck in sadness, anger, or guilt, and wishing you could just let go, and move on?

Help is here.

Heal Your Broken Heart: The Online Breakup Recovery Class

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is a breakup recovery expert, and she has helped countless people all over the world heal their broken hearts. Now her guidance is available to you through an affordable, online class. 

Heal Your Broken Heart teaches you how to:

Decide If You Should Try Again • Release Your Emotional Attachment • Find Forgiveness • Repair Your Self Esteem • Stop Obsessing • Restore Your Inner Peace • Trust Again •  Love After Loss

The First Step in Recovering From a Breakup: Validation

The First Step in Recovering From a Breakup: Validation

I’m a therapist now, and often help people heal from the pain of a breakup or divorce. But I wasn’t always. I think one of the reasons I have so much genuine compassion for people going through heartbreak is because I’ve been there too.

One of the most harrowing, soul crushing life experiences I’ve ever had was during a break up. I was very young, barely in high school.  I was too young, looking back now, to handle the emotional intensity of that relationship — but it was what it was. My parent’s unhappy marriage had become a pressure cooker of resentments that was finally cracking and pulling apart at the seams. While my mom and dad were preoccupied with their own problems I developed a deep connection with… let’s call him James. He was my age, but seemed older: Passionate, intense, demanding. Neither of us had much else to attach to, so we clung to each other.  We spent every every day together, every night on the phone. He drove me to school, and carried my books. He loved me intensely and my fragile self felt strengthened by that love. If James thought I was so special, then maybe I was. For the first time in my life I felt important, and irreplaceable. His love made me worth something.

We were together for two years. (The equivalent of two decades, in high school years). We were the ever-stable unit within in a group of friends that was my world. I’m not exactly sure when the attraction began between he and my best friend, Laura. But during the summer when I was sixteen I felt things changing. The love I’d come to depend on from him faded. He seemed remote, and irritable with me. The mirror he held up that had once shown me that I was cherished now showed me that I was annoying. But our love was something that I’d come to depend on, and it seemed as certain as gravity.  I wanted him to be happy with me again, but when I asked about the emotional detachment I was feeling from him, he agreed… and said he wanted to break up. I was shocked. But it was done.

I felt like I’d been kicked out of Eden, and into a nightmarish dream-world of pain and betrayal. Laura lived across the street from me. Late at night, I sat in darkness, fanning cigarette smoke out the window and listening to music that was even darker, and watched James’s nocturnal visits to Laura’s house. Watched him slipping into Laura’s bedroom, conveniently located just behind the sliding glass door on the ground level (her parents sleeping in ignorance, three stories above). Other nights I watched her silently run to the waiting car packed with friends — my friends — that was idling, headlights off, at the bottom of the hill. I watched them all drive away to the subversive, smokey midnight gatherings that had been the glue of my teenage social life, while I sat alone in the darkness, envisioning the two most important people in my world with their arms wrapped around each other in the dark backseat of the car.

I felt like my guts had been scooped out and replaced with broken glass. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t speak without my voice cracking into tears. I felt like I walked the halls of my high school covered in blood, enveloped in a repellant fog of aching vulnerability. I had lost. A career politician is less sensitive to falling political power than a sixteen year old, and my former friends set their gaze firmly on distant objects over my shoulder as we passed in the hall. James had moved on, taking my value with him. They confirmed his judgment. I was worthless.

I felt trapped, and entirely powerless. I had to go to school. I had to see them every day, and watch them every night. I couldn’t get away. I had to sit in classes, watching notes being passed, plans being made, eyes being rolled in my direction. Every day brought a new trauma to endure.

It was around this time that my parents brought me to see a shrink. This was my first experience, and I was hopeful. She was youthful, with curly hair in a banana clip, and the stiff nebula of fluffy bangs arranged into a cupcake on her forehead that was so prized by my peers. I told her what was happening to me; as best I could. I told her that my boyfriend and best friend across the street were together now, and that I had been abandoned by all my friends. What I really meant to say was, “I am dying. Help me.” She apparently heard me say, “It’s just Puppy Love, I’m fine,” so she smiled kindly, gave me a relationship book, and told me that I should get more exercise. I drove to the trail-head and sat in my car, and looked at it for awhile, chain smoking cigarettes with tears rolling down my face. I knew that there was no help for me.

No one in my life had tolerance for my being a seething mess of pain. My parents were anxious about me, but had no idea what to do. Once when I was crying hysterically, my mother offered me a whiskey sour. I’d been trivialized by my therapist. I felt entirely alone. I was flailing. I started asking teachers that I felt close to for advice: My science teacher said that it would just take time to get over. My piano teacher listened with great compassion, and told me that it was James’s fault. But my psychology teacher, Mrs. Gibbs, really saw me. She got it. And I will never forget what she said:

“My high school break up was worse than my divorce. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through.”

And in that moment, I felt the first peace and healing that I’d felt in months. To have another human being validate the fact that what was happening was horribly traumatizing to me, was an incredibly meaningful and important piece on my journey of healing. I felt like I was drowning, and Mrs. Gibbs threw me a life ring. Her words didn’t pull me out, but they did keep me afloat. I wasn’t crazy. There wasn’t something wrong with me because I was so devastated. It was real.

And that is what I’d like to offer you today: Simple acknowledgment of the fact that what you are going through is agonizing, traumatizing, and very difficult to heal from. You might think you should just be able to “get over it.” That is simply not true. (Here’s lots more information on that subject if you’re curious about why I can say that with such certainty). You have every right in the world to be sad, grieving, and even afraid. The life that you had just got exploded into little bits and thrown in the air, and the pieces are going to be swirling and reassembling themselves for a long time. And some of those pieces may have names like “Rage,” “Fear,” “Guilt,” “Rejection,” and “Pain,” not to mention the experience so profane that there is not a word for it in our language: The experience of being victimized by someone you thought loved you. Perhaps there is some nifty 19 syllable German word that combines “the pain of betrayal” with “shame of rejection.” If not, let’s put it in the suggestion box.

If you take anything from my story, let it be this: As much as the people in your life might want you to — as much as YOU probably want to — you cannot “just get over it.” There is nothing wrong with you because you feel this way. Other people — every one, in fact — goes through this too, sooner or later. And as horrible as this experience is, you can heal. I know this, because my sixteen year old self grew up to be a shrink. What I do for a living now is walk into the darkness to find people, and help them back out. I’ve walked this journey many times now, and I know how to help people heal. I’ve shared a lot about what I’ve learned, in other articles, in my podcast, and I’ve even written a book on the subject of breakup recovery.

Step one in healing: Know that your pain is valid, legitimate, and understandable. It is okay to not be okay for awhile. And you are not alone. There is support for you. Send me a private message on Facebook if you’d like me to add you to our secret online breakup recovery support of people in the same situation. And I’d also like you to know what I know now (that I did NOT know as a kid, but would have shortened my suffering by years if I had) is that there is also a path to healing. If you’d ever like my help with that, I’m here.

With all the best to you on your journey of recovery…

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby