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Can’t Stop Thinking About Your Ex? How to Let Go…

Can’t Stop Thinking About Your Ex? How to Let Go…

Break Your Attachment To Your Ex

Have you ever found yourself saying (or thinking) “How do I stop caring about my Ex? Why am I still thinking about my Ex? I don’t care! But I do…” Like so many of our breakup counseling clients or divorce recovery clients, you’re wanting to fully heal your heart so that you can let go of the past, and move forward into a new future.

But —as we all know — letting go of a relationship is easier said than done. It’s close to impossible to turn off your feelings for someone else, even when you know, logically, that the relationship should be over.

Many people come to us for therapy or coaching after a breakup or divorce for this exact reason: They need support in figuring out how to move past the past, reclaim their power, and start feeling good again. The most maddening thing is often knowing the relationship is over…and yet they’re still thinking about their Ex. Still fantasizing about them, even. They sometimes think about getting back together with their Ex, or whether they should try to rekindle the relationship. Sometimes they try… and quickly remember all the very good reasons whey they broke up.

And yet, despite knowing that the relationship is wrong for them (or perhaps even toxic) they still think about their Ex. They still care about their Ex. They still feel jealous knowing that their Ex has moved on. They hurt… and they want it to stop.

But how? How can you break your attachment to someone? How do you turn off the feelings? How do you stop thinking about your Ex?

Why You’re Still Thinking About Your Ex

One of the first things we do with breakup and divorce recovery clients in therapy or coaching is helping them make sense of their feelings, so that they can learn and grow from them. Also, we need to normalize what is happening: Having lingering feelings for an Ex is very common, and there are many complex reasons for it.

Sometimes, people can’t get past a breakup because they have unfinished emotional business with the past. They have lingering feelings of guilt, anger, regret, or pain that are holding them in the past. They may never have gotten closure around their relationship having ended. They need to do the work of growing and healing before they can move on.

Sometimes, people are still thinking about their Ex for months, or even years after the relationship ended because of lingering insecurities or comparisons they’re making — even subconsciously. This is often true when your Ex has moved on before you have. The path to healing here is to focus on growing your own self-confidence, and feeling like you’re moving towards your goals.

Perhaps the most insidious kind of Ex-attachment is that related to your biology: When you don’t understand how you’re maintaining your attachment to your Ex on a neurological level, you can get stuck for years — even though you want desperately to move on. (For much more on this subject check out my book, “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to An Ex Love”)

Yes, it’s hard to stop thinking about your Ex, but it’s also necessary: Not being able to move on emotionally after a breakup or divorce can impact your life in major ways.

Dating While You’re Still Thinking About Your Ex

Continuing to have feelings for an Ex is not just frustrating, it can also limit your ability to move on and start a new, healthy relationship with someone else. When you’re dating while you still have feelings for your Ex, it can interfere with your ability to form a new attachment. Comparing your new love interests to your Ex can also lead to your breaking things off with someone who could be great for you. If you’re officially broken up but still sleeping with your Ex? No judgment (this is surprisingly common) but you’re going to be stuck for a long time, unless you make some changes.

Emotional Zombie: When Your Feelings For Your Ex Die… But Then Come Back

Another thing we often hear about are situations where you think you’re over your Ex, but then something happens: Your Ex moves on into a new relationship, or you have some new contact with them, and the feelings flare up all over again. Or perhaps you’re still connected with your Ex through social media or have shared friends. When you see or hear about your Ex starting a new chapter without you, it can bring all the pain, regret, anxieties, and even jealousy come roaring back. 

If these feelings are strong enough, they can get in the way of your enjoying your life in the present. It can be hard to focus or concentrate at work, you might worry about running into your Ex and their new partner, or you might even make life decisions based on your feelings about the breakup. None of this is good for you, or fair to you.

The path to recovery often involves working through complex feelings related to grief, longing, guilt, regret, anger, and even self-forgiveness. While you can’t “turn off” feelings about an Ex, you absolutely can use them to do important personal growth work that will move you forward.

How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex, For Good

If you’re still thinking about your Ex, and wishing you could let go and move on, today’s Episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast is for you.

On today’s episode, we’ll be discussing:

  • Why you can’t stop thinking about your Ex
  • Why understanding your biology can set you free
  • What to do when you’re obsessing about your Ex’s new relationship
  • Why anger and guilt can keep you trapped in the past
  • How to let go of insecurities and jealousy about your Ex’s new relationship
  • How to get closure after a relationship has ended
  • How to let go of a toxic relationship
  • How to (authentically and honestly) work through the feelings in a healthy way
  • How to use this experience as a launchpad for growth

Your partner in growth,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps: Some of the resources I mentioned on this podcast refer to other, past episodes, other articles on the blog, and also some listener questions about breakups I answered on IGTV. I’ve sprinkled links to them through this article. Do you have follow up questions? Get in touch through Instagram, or leave them for me in the comments below! LMB

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Can't Stop Thinking About Your Ex? How to Let Go and Move On...

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Torrelli and the Fuse, “Forgive and Remember”

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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.

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More Breakup Recovery Advice on The Blog + Podcast

Healing After Loss

Healing After Loss

Grief: The Price Paid For Love

As a therapist and life coach, I help people through many different forms of loss. One of the most common that I see is “ambiguous loss,” or a loss that happens without closure or understanding such as a breakup, a move/huge transition, a miscarriage, or lost dreams. I also help people mourn the death of a loved one.

Grief can take many different forms and it looks different for different people, but today I hope to give you a strategy to help you work through grief – in all its forms.

Types of Grief

There is no right way to grieve. Sometimes it results in an overwhelming sadness that is accompanied by loss of motivation, difficulty sleeping, or loss of appetite. It can also take the form of irritability, anger, or numbness.

Sometimes it feels scary to face the feelings accompanied with grief. There may be the fear that you will never stop feeling the pain, so it seems easier to ignore it. Choosing to not deal with the sadness, hurt, and anger that often accompanies grief, however, may leave you feeling lost, lonely, and overwhelmed. I often view the grieving experience as “waves”.

When you “ride the wave” by allowing yourself to feel and deal with your emotions, you will experience some relief from the pain faster than if you choose to “fight the wave.”

The Stages of Grief

The stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, and acceptance are very true experiences for those who are grieving and are true for ambiguous loss as well. I used to believe that these stages were linear, but they certainly are not.

Typically, when you go through these stages it tends to be “out of order” in the sense that you can be angry and sad at the same time. Or maybe you feel acceptance one day but anger the next.

While these stages are a great reference point, it’s important to give yourself the space to feel your emotions without judgment. Everyone grieves differently and for different periods of time. If you’re working through grief in the aftermath of a loss, here are a few strategies that might be helpful to you:

Strategies for Healing After Loss

  • Talk About It: Finding a safe space, either with friends, family, or a grief and loss group to talk about your loss. If the loss is of a loved one, it can be helpful to share memories about them in a place that you feel emotionally safe.

  • Make Space For The Feelings: The emotions often come in waves, so try not to suppress the emotions but allow yourself to “ride the wave” when it comes. Some helpful ways to do this is by journaling what you are feeling or expressing what your feeling to someone you trust.

  • Practice Self Care: Do something that you enjoy. As difficult as it is, engaging in self-care activities like exercising, spending time with friends, or enjoying other hobbies often provides a moment of relief from the heavy emotions that come with grief. This is probably one of the most difficult things to do when you’re grieving, so finding someone to engage in these activities with can be helpful as well!
  • Get Support: Connecting with a caring grief counselor can help you process through all of the emotions that you are feeling in a way that helps to promote healing from the grief and normalize your experience. If you are experiencing grief in any form, it helps to have a caring professional to help you navigate the painful journey of grief.

Light at The End of The Tunnel

In the long run, it is better to go through the grief than to suppress it, although in the moment it is much more difficult to allow yourself to feel it. By going through the grief, you will allow yourself to process in a way that allows you to heal. As difficult as this process is to experience, giving yourself the time and space to work through your emotions helps to alleviate your pain and allow you to feel like yourself again.

Wishing you grace through your healing.

Warmly, 
Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFT-C

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFT-C helps her clients create their very best life. She has a warm, compassionate, and gentle yet highly effective approach to personal growth work. She specializes in helping couples create healthy, happy partnerships, and assisting individuals to heal from past hurts in order to create fulfillment and joy.

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Should You Have Sex With Your Ex?

Should You Have Sex With Your Ex?

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.

It’s so hard to let go…

 

It would be so much easier for people if, when a relationship ended it came to a full stop and everyone got out of the car and went their separate ways. That is not what happens though. Very often, couples continue to coast along for months after the engine stops turning. Sometimes years. They hook up, hang out, and sometimes even cohabitate, all while officially broken up.

Let’s face it: Even after you break up or divorce, your Ex still feels like your person even though you know in your head the relationship is over. Everything about them is familiar, and it can be very easy to fall back into old patterns… or fall into bed.

In the aftermath of a breakup, many people continue on with their Ex in quasi-relationship “situationships.” Living with their Ex, having sex with an Ex, being hang-out buddies with an Ex, or texting back and forth with an Ex are all common.

Sex With Your Ex is Understandable

When your heart is broken, maintaining contact with your Ex — sexual or otherwise — feels like the only thing that will stop the pain, even for a moment.

Especially if you’re not the one who initiated the breakup, any time spent with your Ex is the only thing that feels normal. The rest is just a nightmare you can’t wake up from. 

Human beings are built to bond, and these attachments don’t turn on and off at the flip of a switch. When you are hoping for reunion, any sign that your Ex still cares is what you live for. If your Ex invites you over, texts you, or is okay with you still living there, it feels like hope is possible.

Sex With Your Ex is Always Destructive… To One of You

However, hanging around in extended post-relationship limbo, or having sex with your Ex is almost never a good idea. As a therapist, marriage counselor, and breakup recovery expert, I have had a ring-side seat to many, many relationships, divorces and breakup recovery situations. I’ve spoken to the broken hearted, as well as to their Exes and have learned a lot about why.

On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m sharing my perspective on:

  • Why people going through breakups often do self-destructive things in order to maintain their connection with their Ex
  • Why having sex with an Ex is always damaging (but only to one of you)
  • The power dynamics at work in every breakup
  • How your Ex really feels about hooking up with you
  • What post-breakup purgatory is really about… and what it does to your self esteem
  • The magical thinking that people going through breakups are vulnerable to
  • How to cut the cord and set yourself free

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps: We discussed a number of resources in this episode. Here are the links to learn more:

 

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Should You Have Sex With Your Ex?

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Moushumi, “Stay”

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Dealing With Heartbreak? Get Your Breakup Questions Answered.

Dealing With Heartbreak? Get Your Breakup Questions Answered.

Getting Over Heartbreak

For years now, it’s been a personal passion of mine to help people recover from heartbreak. I know that when you’re going through a bad breakup or divorce, it can be absolutely overwhelming emotionally. Most people describe feeling “obsessed” with matters related to their breakup: Thinking about their Ex, or plagued with incessant thoughts about what went wrong in their relationship, why the breakup happened, what it means about them, and — most importantly — when they’ll ever feel better.

A bad breakup or divorce can turn your world upside down. The life you’ve known feels shattered. The pain seems bottomless. It can feel hard to function, or “be normal” when you’re so sad. And the swirling questions often have no answers, but gnaw at you constantly nonetheless.

I’ve found for many people dealing with heartbreak, the unanswered questions, or confusion about what to do in different situations, are on their minds constantly. I get many questions from people in the process of trying to get over heartbreak, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to answer some of them today on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

We’ll be talking through the following breakup questions:

  1. “I was blindsided by my breakup, and feel totally confused about what happened. Should I try to have a ‘closure talk’ with my Ex?”
  2. “I was getting past my breakup, but then learned my Ex started dating someone else. Now I feel devastated all over again. Why do I feel so upset by my Ex’s new relationship, and how do I move on?”
  3. “My Ex moved on quickly. Now I’m struggling with low self esteem after my breakup, and I can’t stop thinking about my Ex. How do I move past this?”
  4. “I have to work with my Ex, and see him flirting with his new love interest who is also a co-worker. I have been feeling anxious and depressed as a result. How do I cope with this terrible breakup situation?”

Listen now to get some advice for how to cope with a breakup, get your confidence and self esteem back, start feeling like yourself again. If YOU have a question for an upcoming episode of the podcast, you can leave it in the comments section of this post, or call 720-433-1110 to leave me a voicemail that I may use on an upcoming episode.

In the meantime, take care…

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. Did you know that I host a free, online breakup support group on Facebook? This is not a therapy group, but simply a space for you to connect with other people going through a painful breakup. Breakups can be so isolating, but you don’t have to go through this alone. This group is a secret, private group, so no one can see that you’re a member except other members, and your posts will only be viewable to the group. If you’d like to join, please message me via Facebook, and we’ll add you to the group.

Dealing With Heartbreak? Your Breakup Questions, Answered.

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Tristen, “Into The Sun”

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Are You an EXaholic?

Are You an EXaholic?

 When You Can’t Get Over Your Breakup…

Have you been struggling with intense pain over the end of your relationship? Maybe for longer than your friends and family think you ought to? In my experience, many people struggling with heartbreak worry that something is wrong with them for taking it so hard and “not being able to get over it.”  Some breakups are easier to cope with than others. Sometimes, it’s just a break up. Sometimes, you become an “Exaholic.”  Learn the difference and how to help yourself move on from an unwanted attachment to another person…

Why Relationships End

Regrettably, relationships end. Neglected marriages can be overgrown with the relational equivalent of cancer, festering malignant hurts so deep that not even the best marriage counselor in the world can restore the trust and goodwill. (Though like cancer treatment, early detection plus prompt treatment with evidence-based marriage counseling can often blast it into remission). Other times couples with great chemistry, over time, discover insurmountable fractures and persistently grinding fault lines between their personalities and core values. Sometimes, for mysterious reasons, one person is just less “into” the other. They apologetically leave, guilty and relieved, while their blindsided partner is left to cope with the devastation of the rejection, and their suddenly empty life.

The stories and circumstances of everyone’s relationship are unique, but the core cause of breakups is always the same: One person stopped believing that the other can ever be who they need them to be. The rest is details. When hope of improvement is lost, the relationship is over. Even if the couple is still going through the motions of cohabitation and daily life for the time being.

How do I know so much about the anatomy of breakups? As a marriage counselor and relationship coach I’ve helped literally hundreds of people repair and rebuild their relationships. But some couples show up at the door with situations that can’t be repaired. They’ve waited too long, or they are fundamentally incompatible. In these instances, one partner often stays in counseling with me to work through the loss. We walk through their divorce recovery or breakup recovery process together.

Love: The Mother of All Addictions

Through this work I discovered an important concept that has revolutionized the way we think about breakups and their recovery. I’ve written about the science behind relationships and breakups extensively in my award winning book, Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to An Ex Love,”  but here’s the punchline: Love is addictive. (Want more? Read Polly Drew’s article about Exaholics on Recovery.org).

It makes sense, when you think about it. Nature has built us to bond, fiercely, to one “irreplaceable other” just as we must attach deeply to our children. The literal survival of our species depends on the strength of these attachments. This is powerful, primal stuff. We have survival drives that compels us towards love and bonding. And when those bonds are broken against our will, the pain is unlike any other. It’s like every cell in your body is protesting the disconnection, screaming for reunion.

What Are Exaholics?

I think of “Exaholics” as people who have bonded, at a deep chemical and emotional level, with someone in the context of an unsustainable relationship. There is nothing necessarily wrong here, except the circumstance. When two compatible people become fiercely bonded to each other in the context of a healthy, sustainable relationship it is an epic love story that lasts a lifetime. But sometimes people become intensely bonded to people who can’t be good long-term partners. (Read: Are You Addicted to a Toxic Relationship?) When the relationship inevitably ends, they have the harrowing experience of being thrust into a biological / emotional / psychological state that has a lot in common with the withdrawal from other addictive substances: Obsession, craving, and compulsions for a “fix.”

Signs You are an Exaholic:

  1. You cannot stop thinking about your Ex, even though you want to
  2. You fantasize about getting back together, even if you know the relationship was bad for you
  3. You crave their love and approval, even through you know you don’t want to care
  4. You do things you know you shouldn’t to maintain your connection to them (stalking them online, pumping friends for information, accepting “friends with benefits” arrangements).
  5. You have intense and persistent feelings of anger, hurt, regret, guilt that don’t get better with time.
  6. Other relationships, even good ones, don’t feel the Ex-shaped-void in your life
  7. You feel like your friends and family don’t understand why you feel the way you do
  8. Your self-esteem has been damaged, and you feel ashamed that “you can’t just get over it”

But What About “Normal” Breakups?

Here’s the confusing part: Not everyone goes bananas during every break up. Why? What’s the difference between an “Exaholic” and someone going through a “normal” break up? We all know lots of people who rationally decided a relationship was wrong for them, returned the key and went on their way. You’ve probably done that yourself at least once in your life. Yes, you may have spent some time feeling sad, eating too much ice cream, daydreaming about the past, and feeling the absence of your once-present companion. But you also thought about how “it’s better this way,” and knew, in your heart, that this relationship really needed to end. You didn’t feel like you were slowly dying in the flaming pit of unrequited love.

There are lots of reasons why not every one descends into Exaholic madness with every single breakup, but I’ll distill it into the two big ones for you:

  1. You didn’t feel that intense of a connection with that particular person
  2. You came to terms with the need for the split (and grieved the loss) before the relationship ended

Again, neither of these circumstances is better or worse, or more emotionally unhealthy or more virtuous than bonding deeply. It just is what it is. It’s not your fault that you felt that way when you did the breaking up. More so, it doesn’t mean anything terrible about you if your Ex is inhabiting this space either. (Even though I understand that it might feel like it).  Similarly, being an “Exaholic” doesn’t mean anything about you except that you cared deeply about this person. 

You CAN Get Over Your Breakup

The good news is that healing and recovery is possible. You can stop hurting, get your life back, and rebuild your self esteem. While this doesn’t necessarily get better with time (as your well-meaning friends and family tell you earnestly, I’m sure) there is a path through heartbreak and into peace. The first step is establishing connection with a safe person or group to help you process your pain, and support you in the deeper work of healing.

So here’s my question for you? Who are your “safe” people that you can turn to for non-judgmental support? Make your short list, and plan to be in contact with them regularly for the time being. If no one readily comes to mind I sincerely hope that you take positive action on your own behalf and get some. You can try the free online support group available at www.exaholics.com, google “divorce support groups” in your area, or consider getting involved in supportive therapy. Breakups are isolating, and it will be worse for you if you try to go it alone. Be brave, reach out, and let caring people help support you on your journey.

All my best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

For more information and advice on handling your breakup, check out this free Q & A Webinar from exaholics.com:

 

 

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Can’t Stop Thinking About Your Ex? How to Let Go…

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