So you wake up in the morning and your ex is on your mind.
You can’t get thoughts about them out of your head. For that matter, when you go to sleep, you find your innermost thoughts wandering back to those times when you and your ex boyfriend or ex husband or ex wife, or former girlfriend (whatever the case may be) spent precious and memorable times together.
How do you go about stopping yourself from thinking about your ex?
How do you stop fantasizing about your ex coming back into your life? Perhaps you fantasize about your ex knocking on your door with a bouquet of flowers full of apologies.
Or maybe it isn’t the good times with your ex husband or ex wife you want to usher back in, but rather you find yourself thinking about how sad you feel and how they hurt you with their words or actions
Whichever the case, you often find yourself haunted by the thoughts and memories of your ex and you want to make it stop.
Its not easy to feel like you don’t have control over what you are thinking and when you are thinking about your past broken relationship. And when you are not thinking about your ex on the conscious level, it seems that your subconscious is conspiring to remind you of the many little, seemingly non consequential things you and your ex use to do together.
It is those little precious, little gems of thoughts about your ex that can drive you to the the edge of insanity.
Sometimes it is just a matter of hearing a certain sound or seeing a specific thing and before you know it, memories of your ex come flooding back like a giant tidal wave and you become caught up in forces that are far beyond your control.
If you are a woman, what will likely plague your mind immediately is how to get your man back after the marriage goes south. I wrote about how to navigate these difficult relationship waters in this post…
I think all men and women who are torn up inside from a failed relationship or marriage struggle, particularly in the early days, weeks, and months, find themselves completely alone except for the thousands of haunting memories of their ex.
It is not like we have a magic wand that can be waved and suddenly all of our pains and destructive passions fade away.
Often times, you feel utterly helpless.
You know what I mean, right?
Your friends and others tell you it is in your best interest to stop thinking about your ex husband or ex wife. The people you trust tell you that focusing on the past, especially the good times you had with your ex, is asking for trouble.
But sometimes you can’t help it. These persistent thoughts of your ex, so you think at the time, just seem to have a mind of their own. They come rushing into your whole being as if they are welcomed forever, yet they haunt your todays and tomorrows.
So how does one go about breaking this habit or routine of allowing oneself to think far too much about your ex? Should you try and stop your thoughts about your former lover?
I mean after all, you reason, your ex husband (or ex wife) did bring you some fulfilling moments, right?
So what could be so wrong with thinking about the times when they treated you like your were a princess or king? Can’t you take some pleasure from those fond memories you have of your ex?
Does it really hurt you in the long run or is it OK to just allow yourself to slip into the places of the past where things between you and your ex were much more simple and felt so good?
It’s pretty tough to know what is the right thing to do when you find yourself stretched emotionally like a piece of taffy.
Marriage is hard and getting yourself to stop thinking about your man is even harder. I explore this topic in this post….
Sometimes, you welcome those wonderful memories of lying in bed together or waking in the park. You treasure those memories when you and your ex made love or simply held hands and walked down the street or throughout a beautiful park. Is that so wrong, conjuring up such wonderful visions of the past?
Or is it a form of slow torture?
On the other side of the coin, you know that it is also true that sometimes your mind gets flooded with some of the ugliness that’s unfolded in your life. You remember how your ex screamed at you and accused you of things, some of which were entirely untrue.
The hurt that resided in the middle of your chest actually returns when such frightful and painful memories of your ex are conjured up. So you think to yourself, “I will never allow myself to go there again. I will never think of my ex again”.
But it is not easy to control our minds. Thoughts just seem to slide in and out, willy nilly.
So whether your feel enchanted by your memories of your ex or haunted by the misfortunes that came upon the two of you, it is important you know that experiencing such thoughts is a perfectly natural way of dealing with your grief and recalling the realities of your past circumstance.
You are no more capable of turning off your mind from these thoughts of your ex than the most powerful, strongest minded individual of the world. You see, our thoughts reflect our mood to some degree.
And unless you are Mr. Spock, your break up with your ex is going to result in you taking a journey through the wonderland of many moods.
So folks might tell you to stop thinking about your ex. They might tell you to simply shut him (or her) out of your life, both your real, everyday life and your mental and imaginary world.
Some people might encourage you to turn all your thoughts to other things, warning you that any thoughts of your ex husband or ex wife (or boyfriend or girlfriend) will scar you for life and prevent you from being able to move on.
I think such advice is short sighted. Our past experiences with our ex boyfriends or girlfriends inform us and instruct on the good things that we did and shared with our former lover. And they also help us understand some of the mistakes we made with our ex. Without our ability to reflect on the past, we cannot learn how to better tackle the future.
Not Thinking About Your Ex Is Unrealistic
The truth of the matter is that in order for you to stop thinking about your ex, you need to take some time and do the opposite.
I know! I know! You are thinking, “now how in a heck does that work?”
For now, give me a little trust and keep on reading! There is a method to this perceived madness and hopefully you will come to understand the point I am making
It is rather simple. If you and your ex are no longer an item….if you guys are no longer together….then in the early days of the separation I want you to do what is normal.
Basically, I want you to go through a mourning stage. You need to feel bad about missing your Ex. That is a perfectly normal stage of grief. You have lost someone. Don’t try to make it complicated. Much later, you an figure out if you want to try to get your ex back. But for now, mourn your loss.
It is OK to feel bad about your ex husband or ex wife no longer being a integral part of your life. So just let it all hang out.
Yes, that is what I think you should do. Now, I am assuming you have already gone through the stage of being shocked and bewildered by the breakup. That is really the first stage of the cycles and stages of emotions you will typically experience. So let those thoughts come out, if they have not already been purged.
You see, the thing about being human and recovering from heart break is learning to given in completely to your emotions. What would you do if you were a small boy or small girl? You would feel bad. You would cry. Now of course, you should probably do all these things in private. But learn from the emotional wisdom of when your were child and do what is natural.
Sometimes we get caught up with what we are told to do and feel and forget entirely about allowing ourselves to truly “feel”.
But there is a limit to the amount of time you want to spend in each emotional stage. If you get stuck in any one stage for many days and weeks, then you end up doing yourself a disservice.
You end up suffering much more. You do not want to wallow in break up misery.
And importantly, if you cannot allow yourself to feel and experience the loss along this emotional curve (which I will describe in more detail in just a bit), you will find it exponentially more difficult to stop obsessing and thinking about your ex husband or ex wife or whatever ex we are dealing with here.
I guess we should give you a little run down of the type of emotions you can expect to experience after experiencing a breakup. Once you allow yourself to slide through this scale of feelings, only then will you be better equip to stop thinking about your ex on a regular basis.
It’s important you have some insight about the emotional roller coaster that unfolds after a break up. It will help you understand why it is so difficult to stop thinking so much about your spouse (or boyfriend or girlfriend).
But as with all wild and crazy roller coaster rides, there will come an end to the flood of what I like to call “the break up thoughts”.
The Stages of our Emotional Loss Following a Break Up
I submit to you that your best defense against the rampaging thoughts you might have about your ex is to make sure you have properly allowed yourself to get in touch with your feelings.
You see, we are feeling creatures first….then thinking creatures second.
Oftentimes it is necessary for us to work through our emotional loss, but it is easy to get stuck in neutral. Sometimes we are seduced by the lure of thinking far too much about our past experiences with our ex.
To help you navigate through this maze of the “crazy ex blues” as I like to call them, it is helpful to get acquainted with the path forward.
Look at your journey over the first weeks following your breakup or breakdown of the marriage as an experiential process. Indeed, this journey can be broken into component parts.
Let’s call them stages.
There are 5 of them.
And if you are going to put a stop to the running thoughts about your ex boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife, then you need to walk through the valley of these 5 stages.
What are they? Well, let’s find out.
A Break Up Can Lead to Denial & Isolation
When your relationship goes down the tubes, one of the first stages you will experience is an overwhelming sense of grief.
Losing an ex is like losing a part of yourself.
It is as if your best friend, best lover, best of everything had died or vanished. But you should know that it is perfectly natural for you to experience these feelings. And also know that in the course of trying to process the loss, you will experience this overwhelming sense of denial that your marriage or relationship is over.
“It simply can’t be true“, you will think over and over again. But it is true and it is happening.
Unfortunately, our psyche needs time for reality to catch up.
So when you are confronted by these obsessive feelings of missing your ex and they seem to dominate every thought, just know that many of the thoughts to follow will be filled with a sense that none of this can be really happening.
You might even freak out at times because the very notion of thinking about losing him or her is just too much for you to process. And as much as your rational mind will try to convince you that it is really happening, a part of you will cling to the notion that the whole thing must be a dream.
Or that you have somehow misinterpreted what is really happening. Or that your ex somehow didn’t mean what they said. Or that your ex just overreacted and that soon, everything will be back to normal.
I am sorry to burst your bubble, but none of these things are usually true. It is just your “psyche of denial” taking over, leading you down the wrong path.
So be ready for this kind of thing. Understand what you are going through is a normal stage of grief for losing your ex. Understanding such things, helps you cope better with the raging thoughts of your ex in those early days.
Anger Will Take Root
Eventually your sense of denial will give end to a bubbling sense of anger.
You will very likely go through a phase where many of your thoughts toward your ex husband or wife are focused on the negative aspects of their behavior.
You will remember every word they said, but now many of them will be cast in ugliness or with a lack of sensitivity. Remembering that will make you mad. And you will think about your ex’s words and actions even more, churning them through your mind over and over.
Before you know it, you will be running through your mind over and over again all kinds of scenarios. Eventually your anger will boil over as you start thinking of all the cruel and angry things you could say to your ex husband or ex wife to get them back.
Though this emotional stage is largely unproductive, it is hard to stop yourself from these thoughts and feelings directed at your ex. It is better to try and get them purged out quickly. So as you experience such thoughts, which come from the right brain, activate your left brain (i.e. the logical and rational side) and remind yourself that you are going through a phase and it will eventually pass.
It is better to exercise these feelings and work them out so that you can be rid of them. While your rational mind can make a case that your ex is not so bad, remember, when you are in this stage of grief, you are not thinking with your rational mind. You are living within the right side of the brain….the emotional side.
So allow yourself the opportunity to experience this stage unimpeded. I know it sounds crazy. I don’t mean to encourage hate or perpetuate angry feelings. But such feelings are likely bottled up in side and you need to find a healthy way to get them out. Otherwise, the thoughts of anger will roll over and over in your mind and lead to self destructive behavior.
Do Be Surprised if You Feel the Need to Bargain with Your Ex
Eventually as you leave the anger behind, you come face to face with this notion within you that just perhaps you can work things out with your ex.
But in most cases, it is far too soon to make up and get back together again. Usually, you need to go through all the 5 stages and then you need even more time to properly heal and rediscover what you want in your life.
So beware of the little “makeup devil” that resides within you. Psychologists refer to it as a period of trying to “bargain” with your ex husband or ex wife.
Bargaining with your ex is almost always a losing battle. So beware of that monster inside you. Your inner mind will try and convince you that if you do some pleading or even some begging, he (or she) will take you back. Seldom does that happen in the world of relationship breakups.
Keep your dignity and stay true to your journey through self discovery. I realize it is easier said that done. And if you do find yourself trying to prematurely recover your ex husband or ex wife back , then just know you are not unlike many millions of other men and women who have traveled that same path.
Break Up Depression Takes Hold
So as you travel down the path of the various emotional stages, a depressive state usually takes hold. The degree and magnitude of the depression will vary depending on each person and their circumstance.
It is OK to feel the rush of the break up blues. It is well within the normal range of how people should react to feel low and depressed. None of us are like machines that can be turned off when things go off kilter. Relationships can be difficult and when you break up with your ex husband or ex wife, the feelings and thoughts you experience on a daily basis will taking a bruising.
So let it all hangout because by doing so you can help wring out the break up blues.
But you do not want to wallow in self pity for an extended period of time. While it may take days or a week or two to navigate through the difficult times, just be aware that if your break up depressive state grows legs and starts running away with you as its hostage, you probably need to seek some professional help.
The key thing for you to understand is that it is OK to feel the break up blues. If you pretend the whole affair doesn’t matter to you or try to run away from your true feelings, it will take longer to fully recover. And you will find yourself victimized by an endless stream of thoughts about your ex.
Finally Acceptance and Forward Movement Unfolds
So as you take your journey through the five classical stages of break up recovery, just know that you are following a fairly regular cycle. Don’t fear what is ahead of you. Embrace it. It is how we human beings recover from grief and tragedy.
And the most important thing for you to understand and embrace is that you will come out of this difficult period. You will eventually accept what has happened and act constructively to better yourself and your self interests.
Knowing How Things Unfold is Empowering
Of all the things I could teach you, the most important of them all as it pertains to preventing you from constantly thinking about your ex….whether it be your ex husband or your ex wife….is to accept that you will travel through various stages of grief.
Part of this journey is accepting that you will be filled with many thoughts of your ex. Some of them sad. Some of them remembrances of past happier times.
The way forward is to not fight your feelings of grief. But don’t dwell in grief.
The way forward is not to give in to anger and denial. These feelings will come upon you, but know that they will soon pass.
Allow yourself to move along the chain of emotions you will invariable experience. Know that you will be susceptible to bouts of trying to negotiate with your ex and reconcile differences.
Sometimes you might even get results. But often, such efforts soon after a break up are not in your best interests.
Eventually, you will see the bigger picture and get in touch with your truer feelings. Take advantage of opportunities to be active because it is in the pursuit of exercise, whether it be mental exercise such as reading or physical exercise like jogging, you will be able to lessen the burden of the recurring thoughts of your ex.