How To Stop Obsessing Over An Ex: A Five-Step Solution
By: William Drake
Updated December 21, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Deborah Horton
Having a significant other is something most of us spend a large portion of our lives looking for. We try out different relationships to find the fit that will last forever. Unfortunately, however, this continual "trying on" of relationships comes with a cost - the cost of breakups. Difficult and painful, breakups mean loss, even if the fit wasn't right. That said, normally we expect the pain of a breakup to last for a few months and then for it to be done. This isn't always the case though. On occasion, you can find yourself still upset a year down the road, and when this happens you tend to be desperate to learn how to stop obsessing over an ex.
Luckily, there are some steps you can take that will help you do just this.
Step 1: Get Rid of the Reminders
Pack up anything that reminds you of your ex, and get rid of it. This includes all of the things they bought you and all of your pictures together (including pictures on social media), etc. You may find that you're having difficulty moving on because there are too many reminders around triggering thoughts of your ex.
Some of these items might be easy to throw out. Others, like books or clothes, can be donated to charity. However, some things might be harder to release. Maybe there is a photo of the two of you at your sister's wedding. Consider putting items like this in a box in the attic or the garage.
Getting rid of or packing away reminders from your old relationships will help keep you focused on the present and your future instead of dwelling on the past. Those old pictures and keepsakes will likely keep reviving a lot of painful emotions until they're out of sight. Now that your relationship is over, it is time to find ways to focus on your bright future.
Step 2: Write a List of All of the Reasons You Broke Up
Write a list of the reasons you broke up, and don't leave anything out. Why didn't the relationship work? What about them irritated you? Write down everything you can think of, and then read through it to remind yourself that you are better off without them. Additionally, keep this list, and read it as often as you need to.
When we start missing someone we cared about, we can get so focused on what we missed that we overlook the reasons why the relationship did not work in the first place. Remember that those issues are still there, and there is a difference between who we want the person to be (or even who they could be) and who they actually are. Keeping things in perspective can stop you from returning to a relationship that didn't work for you. Instead, you can focus on the kind of relationship you really want and deserve.
Step 3: Delete All of Their Contact Information
Delete their phone number, unfriend them on Facebook, unfollow them on Instagram and Snapchat, and remove their email from your contact list. In short, cut off all routes to communication. When you are tempted to get in touch -- and you absolutely will, we all do - this step will stop you before you make a mistake. Nothing will set you back faster than contacting your ex, so prevent this before it happens by permanently removing them the ability to contact them.
After a breakup, we all have emotional moments when it seems like contacting our ex will be a good idea. Yes, contacting your ex may temporarily relieve the difficult emotions you are feeling, but it will only make things harder. Cutting off all channels of communication can also keep your ex from contacting you. If your ex is having trouble moving on or is sending you mixed messages, eliminating those links will help both of you.
Step 4: Accept You Aren't Going to Forget Them
Part of moving forward is learning to accept the breakup. While you will stop hurting, you probably won't forget your ex. That's okay. After all, your ex is part of your past, and the past helped shape the present you. Accepting this can help you close the door on the relationship.
Most people will only be a part of our lives for a season, but just because relationships come and go, it doesn't mean the relationship wasn't valuable. Even if a romantic relationship ends badly, it can still have a positive impact on you. After a failed relationship, it can be so easy to forget what you lost that you also forget what you've gained.
Now that the relationship is over, a new door has been opened, so you can have a happier relationship in your future. You have learned about yourself and about your wants and needs. Chances are this experience will help you discover strength and resiliency that you didn't know you had.
Step 5: Seek Professional Help
Sometimes the best thing you can do is to admit you need help. Admitting you're in pain and can't move forward on your own -- even after you've completed the above steps -- allows you to receive the help you need. Therefore, consider finding a licensed or certified professional to help you process your feelings and guide you to successfully getting over your ex.
Losing such a significant relationship is a grief process. Letting go of all of the goals, dreams, and plans you had for the relationship can be challenging and painful. Some may find they need support in healing from the hurt and disappointment.
Breakups can also impact the way we see ourselves. Some find that a failed relationship may aggravate or lead to insecurities about themselves. Losing the hopes and dreams that you had for a past relationship may leave others feeling hopeless or discouraged about having a happy and healthy relationship in the future. A qualified therapist can help with all of these concerns.
If moving on from a difficult break up continues to be a challenge for you, talking with a therapist can help. Sometimes the grief we feel after the loss of a romantic relationship decrease fairly quickly; at other times you may need additional support. If a breakup leads to anxiety, depression, or feelings of hopelessness, this is a clear sign that a therapist can help.
Betterhelp is a convenient and affordable way to work with a licensed counselor online. If getting past the loss of a relationship is still hard for you, talking about it can help. When it comes down to it, getting over your ex can be unpleasant and difficult. However, if you put in the effort to move on, these feelings of hurt and loss will inevitably get better. It's simply a matter of time. Read on to hear from people experiencing similar issues, who found support with BetterHelp counselors.
"Julia is a very open-minded, understanding and warm-hearted person. She listened with kindness and without judgement. Her advice helped me tremendously through a bad break up and ensuing personal problems. Her advice and understanding has been very helpful in guiding me to a healthier mind frame."
"I've never been to therapy and so was really hesitant about opening up at first. But Whitney has just been so great! I signed up for Better Help because I was going through a breakup with problems I knew stemmed from problems with myself. I knew I felt unhappy in my relationship but could not for certain say why. Therapy with Whitney has been so great in helping me become more self aware and reflective. And, of course, the break up was hard at first. But every day, with Whitney, I was able to feel a little bit better than the day before."
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I stop obsessing over my ex?
You want to move on from your ex, yet your mind has other plans. Your ex takes over your mind. You always have obsessive thoughts about your ex. You may have an obsessive thought about them every day, or your obsessive thinking does not seem to stop. These obsessive thoughts are like quicksand, where the more you want to stop thinking about it, the more your obsession takes over your mind.
So how can you stop obsessing over your ex when you can't stop thinking about them? Here's how.
- Set up a no contact rule. Block them on social media and delete them from your contact information. This method can sound a little much for some, but if you're always looking at old text messages or stalking them on social media, the no contact rule can help. Delete your text messages if you have to.
- Mindfulness is a technique that can put you in the present and eliminate any self-defeating thoughts you may have. Through breathing techniques, body scans, and learning to live in the moment, you can stop thinking about your past as much. Read a book on mindfulness to help get you started.
- Besides that, a therapist can help. It's difficult to "Stop thinking" about your partner, but through cognitive behavioral therapy, you can move past that. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you to identify any habits or thoughts that can lead to your self-destructive behaviors and thoughts.
- Do activities you enjoy alone. Don't be afraid to start a new hobby. If you decide to do activities, make sure you're doing them with good friends or family members.
- Figure out your triggers. Certain places, thoughts, or media can remind you of your ex. Make sure you avoid any triggers, if ever possible.
What does it mean when you can't stop thinking about your ex?
If you're unable to stop obsessing over your ex, you may wonder why that is. Often, this is because you still have feelings for your ex, even if they were the one who broke up or your relationship was toxic.
Sometimes, it's not necessarily about your ex. You may be having these feelings due to something else, such as nostalgia. You may love the person you used to be, or love them for who they were.
Other times, you have a personality that makes you obsessed.
If you do want your ex back, and the feeling is mutual, then perhaps it's time to get back together. Otherwise, you may want to seek a therapist to help you stop obsessing over your ex.
How do you stop obsessing over someone who hurt you?
Our mind can sometimes be mean to us. We want to stop obsessing over someone who wasn't good for us, but our mind keeps thinking about them. So how can you stop obsessing over the person who hurt you?
- First, figure out why you're still obsessed with your ex. Are you obsessed with the person who hurt you, or are you obsessed with the person they used to be? If you're obsessed with their past self, realize that this self is not coming back. Instead, you must look to the future.
- Don't answer any of their messages or give into stalking their profile. Delete them from all forms of social media and take a break.
- Be mindful of your thoughts. When do you find yourself obsessing over your ex the most? What do you think you can do to avoid that?
- Speak with a counselor or a therapist about your obsessions. Moving on from a toxic person who you're obsessed with is a challenge, but a counselor or a therapist can help.
How long does it take to stop thinking about an ex?
There is no magic time for you to stop thinking about your ex and move on. Some people stop thinking about their ex right away. Others, it can take a month. There are some who are still not over their ex years later.
On average, it may take a little over a month, but it all depends. The longer you're in a relationship, the longer it may take for you to get over it.
If you feel like you're not over it yet despite the time passing, it's important for you to talk to a therapist about it. Techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness can help you with that.
Is my ex thinking about me during no contact?
During no contact, there's a good chance that your ex is still thinking about you. They may not be, but if they still have any feelings, there's a chance that they are still thinking about you.
Don't use this as a reason for reaching out. Instead, stick to the no contact rule.
Is it normal to still think about your ex after 2 years?
You may still think about your ex from time to time, even after a few years. Certain sights or memories can trigger thoughts about your ex. Feeling a little upset about those thoughts is normal, too.
However, if you're still obsessed with your ex almost two years later, then you may need to seek help. Being depressed over a breakup two years later could be a sign of something worse. Perhaps talk to a counselor or therapist and see how they can help you.
How do you know if your ex is thinking about you?
You obviously can't read someone's mind, but there are a few ways you can assure that your ex is thinking about you. If your ex is talking about you to your friends or family, for example, they're clearly thinking about you. The more they try to contact you or your friends, the higher a chance they can't get you out of your mind.
If you have to talk to your ex, pay attention to their behavior. If they seem nervous or distant, they may still be thinking about you.
If you are wanting your ex back, perhaps send them a message. If you don't want your ex back, continue to give them space.
How do you know your ex is over you?
After you break up, your ex can still have an obsession over you or have you on their mind. With time, the ex learns to move on. Here's how you can know if an ex is over you:
- They don't call or text you anymore. When they do, it's clear that it's as friends and not an awkward attempt to reconnect.
- Your ex is no longer talking about you to mutuals. If they do, it's just to ask how you're doing and nothing more.
- Your ex is in a relationship, and it's clearly not a rebound. Their partner isn't a clone of you, and they've been together for a long time.
How do you know if your ex is still in love with you?
When you break up with someone, it's always possible that they're still in love with you. Many exes don't move on at first, and here are a few ways you can know if an ex still loves you.
- They still have photos of you two on your social media, and they're people who are active on it. This especially applies if they have yet to change their main profile pic.
- Your ex still talks about you to any mutuals. For instance, your friend may say that your ex keeps talking positively about you. This is a clear way to tell that your ex is still in love with you.
- They'll always check up on you and ask if you're okay. This is a sign they care about you deeply.
If you're still in love with them, this may be an excuse for you two to get back together. However, if you don't want the relationship to be a thing, perhaps you should give this person some distance.
How do you get someone out of your mind?
At times, we wish our brain was like a hard drive, where we could choose our memories and erase them if we so wished. However, life doesn't work that way. Some people we want to forget about, but our mind doesn't forget.
If you want to get someone out of your mind, here are a few ways to do so.
- Find a distraction. Watch a good movie, read a book, go outside, or do something else to occupy your time.
- Practice meditation. Learn how to clear your mind of any invasive thoughts.
- Mindfulness helps too. This allows your mind to be in the present whenever possible.
- If you find yourself thinking about them, see if there are any triggers. Did you go to a place that reminded you of them? Did you think of something else related to them? Knowing your triggers may help you with getting them out of your mind.
- Talk to a therapist. Often, we can't stop thinking about someone, and a therapist can help us forget. Through cognitive behavioral therapy and other techniques, a therapist may be able to help you. See if they can, and clear your mind.
What is a symptom of obsessive love disorder?
Obsessive love disorder usually involves someone who is falling in love with another person, usually instantly, and whose mind is always preoccupied with them. Someone who has obsessive love disorder may have low self-esteem and instead put this person on a pedestal, always texting them, being near them, and unable to function without them. Someone with obsessive love disorder can have a toxic, controlling relationship.
If you have obsessive love disorder, you may want to see a therapist about it. It's something that may ruin your life if you let it enable you.
Can someone feel you thinking about them?
Many people can swear that they know if someone is thinking about them. Different sensations on their bodies, to them, can confirm this. Sneezing, hiccupping, a tingling sensation, the list goes on. You can find plenty of psychic and spiritual resources telling you how to know if someone is thinking about you?
However, from a scientific standpoint, no one can truly know what someone is thinking. Usually, we look to one's actions to determine whether or not they're thinking about you. For instance, if that person keeps texting you or gives you gifts, you're usually on their mind.
What to do when you start thinking about your ex?
When you start to think about your ex, and you don't want anything to do with them, you should get them off your mind as soon as possible. This can be a challenge, as you normally can't control your thoughts. Here are some ways to help.
- Do something you enjoy to help you get your mind off your ex. Work out, start a hobby, hang out with friends, or do anything else that's good for you.
- Practice meditation and mindfulness. These methods can help you live in the present and allow you to think about your ex a whole lot less.
- Avoid talking to them or lurking on their Facebook. Instead, shut off all devices if the temptation is a little too much.
- Seek help. A therapist may be able to help you by teaching cognitive behavioral therapy. This can help you identify behaviors and thoughts that can lead to self-destructive actions, such as talking to your ex when you know they're not good for you.
Do exes miss you?
Most exes miss their significant others, even if they initiated the breakup. This especially applies if the two of you were together for a long time. Even though the relationship didn't work out, the ex may miss the memories you've had together, or they may just miss being in a relationship. Sometimes, missing someone can lead to reconnection, but other times, it's just a challenge someone has to take when they move on.
What are the stages of a breakup?
Just like grief, going through a breakup can involve stages of emotion. If you look up the stages, you'll notice a few articles throwing around a certain number. For the sake of simplicity, the stages of grief can apply to the breakup.
We all know DABDA. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These can apply to a relationship. Let's explain.
When someone tells you the relationship is over, you may deny this. They have to be joking, right? They must be kidding, or they're just angry. When emotions are high, some people will declare the relationship to be over, but they're just blowing off steam, and you may think that applies despite you knowing that deep down, the relationship is over.
Your emotions are high, so you may be angry at your ex for breaking up with you. However, that anger could be directed at yourself as well, especially if you believe that something you've done has led to the breakup.
You may find yourself texting your ex, asking them to give you another chance. Though, not all forms of bargaining come in the form of getting on your knees and begging. Some people bargain by asking their ex how they're doing and attempting to get back in their good graces slowly.
You're starting to realize that it's over, and you're crying. Perhaps you're listening to some sad music, or you're drinking at the bar. (With that said, remember not to abuse drugs when you're dealing with depression.) You don't want to do anything other than cry or be alone.
While it may still hurt, you know that it's over, and there's nothing you can do about it. You must move on, whether that means you try looking for another relationship, or just enjoy your life on your own terms.
Just like the stages of grief, these stages can vary greatly, and not everyone will experience these stages in order, or at all.
How long does it take for an ex to miss you with no contact?
There is no magic number. For some people, their exes start missing them the second they initiate no contact. For others, it can take a few days, weeks, or even months. Sometimes, it may not end up at all.
However, no contact is good for the breakup, because not only can it help to get your ex to return to you if your relationship was meant to be, but not contacting your ex is good for your mental health in the long run.
Does the no contact rule work if you were dumped?
If you were dumped, you might consider implementing the no-contact rule. Most people who are dumped try messaging their ex to reason with them or hope to get them back. However, by deciding to ignore them and not talk to them at all, the no contact rule can work in quite a few ways, such as:
- You're putting the power back in your own hands. Instead of your ex putting the ball in your hands, you're simply throwing the ball back. This means that it's up to your ex to contact you.
- You can give yourself some much-needed space when you don't contact someone. When you try to contact your ex or are stalking their social media, it puts a lot of stress on you. Meanwhile, if you don't contact your ex, it can help you to move on.
- Of course, a no-contact rule only works if you are enforcing it. Make sure that you don't initiate any contact. Use mindfulness to stay in the present and don't let yourself message your ex without thinking.
What does the dumper think during no contact?
When you initiate no contact with a dumper, the dumper may not care, but some do. This is because you are taking the power back. You are showing the dumper that you don't care that they dumped you. Some dumpers may be annoyed and try to get you back.
Either way, if you want to stick to your no contact rule, stick to it. Don't even tell the dumper that you're not interested.
Do dumpers come back?
Even though they're the one who dumped you, some dumpers do come back eventually. There are different reasons as to why this can happen. If the person who dumped you did it amicably, or if there was a reason beyond their control, they may return to you in the future. Other times, they regret dumping you and will come crawling back.
Some dumpers may pretend they don't miss you, but they may show they do by texting you constantly or trying to make you jealous.
Do all exes eventually come back?
While many believe that when a relationship is over, it's over, there are quite a few exes who do return to their relationship. Sometimes, it's a temporary relapse, and the relationship will end again. However, this isn't the case with every relationship, and some reconnections last a lifetime.
With that said, a good chunk of exes will not come back. If they've blocked you on all social media and have appeared to move on, there's a chance they won't come back. If your ex is always checking up on you and appears to still love you, there's a chance the two of you will reunite.
Why is my ex still single?
If your ex is still single, you may wonder why that is. There are many reasons why this could be the case, but the most likely is that they feel like they aren't ready for another relationship. Alternatively, they are enjoying the single life.
If you and your ex ended the relationship amicably, then perhaps your ex wants to date you again. If you want to, consider reconnecting at some point. If you don't, then give your ex some space until it's time for you to move on.
What does it mean if you can't stop thinking about your ex?
It is not uncommon to have thoughts about an ex after a breakup. If the relationship was long-term or if your ex was a significant part of your life, it can be difficult to move on after the relationship ends. Other things that may make it difficult to find ways to stop thinking of them is if your ex was once your best friend. For many people the desire to have a perfect relationship with a soul mate makes the idea of breaking up and moving on unthinkable. Having occasional thoughts or feelings about your ex is not uncommon after a breakup. However, if you are having obsessive thoughts and feelings, this may be a sign that you need help addressing your thoughts and feelings so that you can move forward with your life.
Why am I still obsessed with my ex?
Obsessive thoughts and feelings are not something that someone purposefully has. If your previous partner, ex-husband or ex-wife is the one you thought who your one true love would be, it can be hard to let go. If you are experiencing obsessive thoughts about your ex, it may be a good idea to consider seeking professional help, such as talking to a therapist or other mental health professional. It can be scary to think of moving on in your life without someone you care deeply for. However, if you can muster up the strength and courage to reach out for help and to give yourself permission to heal, you may find peace of mind free of obsessive thinking.
How do I stop thinking about my toxic ex?
If you are still thinking about your toxic ex, the first thing you need to do is to evaluate your activities and any ways that you are keeping the ex’s memory present in your life. For example, if you still have your ex’s picture as the screensaver on your cell phone or computer, delete it. In fact, it is important to remove any reminders of your ex and find new ways to occupy your time. Consider joining a support group or a local singles group in your area.
Why does my toxic ex keep coming back?
The key word in this question is “toxic.” Toxic relationships tend to have a rubber band effect. They can stretch you to unimaginable limits and then, just when you think it can't get worse, the rubber band (relationship) breaks. A toxic ex may come back to you because they are experiencing obsessive thoughts about you. If you have come to a place in your life where you have found a new lover or are trying to build a long-term relationship with someone new, a toxic ex may attempt efforts to sabotage your new relationship, making it harder for you to move on.
Why do I miss my ex so much?
You could be missing your ex for any number of reasons. If you were in a long-term relationship, it may take you longer to stop missing them or wondering what is going on their life. It is normal to think about an ex from time to time. In fact, being able to reminisce about the good times without having a breakdown is a good indication that you are handling the breakup well. However, if you are experiencing obsessive thoughts and can’t seem to find effective ways to stop thinking of your ex, you may be experiencing obsessive love disorder that is directed toward your ex.
Red flags that may indicate obsessive love disorder include having obsessive fantasies about your ex, spending significant amounts of time seeking to find where your ex is or constantly looking at pictures of them or having physical or emotional symptoms of distress if you are not able to know what is going on with them. If you are experiencing any of these signs, it is important to talk to a counselor or mental health professional. A counselor can help you get to the root of your obsessive feelings and teach you ways to effectively communicate and how to form healthy attachments with others.
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