How to Stop Obsessing Over a Past Relationship

Apr 9, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. ET
Image: Ashley Britton/SheKnows

It’s probably one of the hardest things about dating… breakups and ending all contact, thought and obsession over the ex. At times, it feels like you may never stop thinking about them. Even worse, you start obsessing over the life they may be living without you, who they may be dating now and whether you’ll ever get back together. Here’s what to do if this sounds like you.

Give up social media for a while

Social media has made it harder for women to stop obsessing over a partner, so the first thing Toni Coleman, a psychotherapist and relationship coach, recommends is to unfriend someone, at least until you are over them, or make a commitment not to check their page. “In addition, you will need to be careful of the pages/posts of mutual friends where you can see pictures and hear things about the ex and possibly the new person they are dating.”

Get rid of anything that reminds you of your ex

These can be small, inexpensive gifts and mementos, cards and letters, even clothing that once belonged to the ex should be purged. “These are all reminders that can trigger strong emotions and memories that lead to obsession,” says Coleman.

Resist the temptation to stage run-ins

I know this may sound rather elementary, but this one is important. “The very best way [to move on] is to eliminate all forms of contact, including meeting in person,” says Dr. Gary Brown, a relationship expert. That means not planning a run-in at your local coffee shop or gym. Rearrange your schedule if you need to.

Have a vision of the future… without the ex

In other words, imagine how good your life will be when you have finished grieving the loss of your ex. “The more details you can flesh out, the better your chances of bringing your new vision to life,” says Brown. Make a vision board of what you want for your future if it helps.

Do not contact them!

This is a big one. Initiate a no-contact rule until you have done your grieving and moved on to a place of acceptance that it is over. “As long as you can rationalize there is even a glimmer of hope that your ex still has feelings, has concern for how you are doing or wants to hear about what is going on in your life, you will not be able to break the cycle of obsession,” says Coleman.

Seek help from friends

There is nothing wrong with asking your friends to encourage you to stop talking to or about your ex. “Instead, ask them to encourage you to lick your wounds and take steps to move on with your life,” says Brown.

Book a vacation or start working toward it

When you go through an intense breakup, it can feel like where you live is a standing reminder of the relationship you lost, explains Amica Graber, a resident relationship expert for TruthFinder. “Sometimes the best way to break out of a rut is to try something dramatically different. Take that vacation you’ve always dreamed of. Invite your best girlfriends — or better yet, go solo. There is nothing more liberating than traveling alone, and you’ll remember how great being single can feel.”

Move, or at least redecorate

If you shared your living space with the ex, it’s going to be hard to move on when everything in your home reminds you of them, says Graber. “Consider moving to a new area of your town to get a fresh start if your lease is nearly up. At the very least, move around some furniture and repaint the walls.”

Start dating again

Get on a dating app and start dating again. “You might not enjoy it at first. Perhaps you won’t be able to stop thinking about your ex on a few inevitable bad dates. But make dating again a habit. As the saying goes, you fake it 'til you make it,” says Graber. At the very least, dating apps can help preoccupy you while your heart continues to heal.

Seek professional help

If it’s been months and you’re still obsessing to the point that you’re having a difficult time functioning socially, at home, at work and perhaps in school, it may be time to see a therapist, suggests Brown. There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help. All that matters is that you stop obsessing over your ex.

Do things for you

While you might feel like your world has ended and you’ll never get over your ex, you will. Graber recommends writing a bucket list of everything you want to do before you settle down and start doing them. She also notes, “Most people get married multiple times, experience multiple relationships and fall in love over and over again. The world hasn’t ended because your relationship did."

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