Ex Still Renting Space in Your Head? 11 Tools to Break Free

Lifestyle
26 Jul 2023
10 min read
11 Steps on How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex Today

Breakup is a tough one. It comes in all colors – red for a painful breakup, green for a calm mutually agreed one, blue for one that leaves you sad, and yellow for one that was not really closed out and left unresolved issues. And the irony is that we’ve all had past relationships in at least one of these categories. Mostly, how a relationship ended may have left you with lingering feelings about your ex. And you wonder, how to stop thinking about your ex?

No matter how it went down, when your ex is jogging around in your brain way too much, that’s not pleasant. At times, it almost seems like having some obsessive thoughts – when you try to sleep at night, drive past the restaurant you used to go to together, or “your” song pops up on your playlist.

But here’s the point: if thoughts about your ex are annoying and unpleasant, that’s a clear sign you should learn to get over them. The signs of such obsession include:

  • Your ex is taking up way too much of your thought time
  • You have a hard time moving on in your relationship
  • After the breakup, you spend way too much time by yourself, feeling sad and depressed
  • The breakup has caused you to lose self-confidence in getting back “out there” and start dating again

If you recognize yourself in one of these signs, it’s time to break this pattern and figure out how to stop thinking about your ex. The goal? To reach final closure and have your mind completely clear! Let’s see those 11 things you can do for yourself.

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1. Start with the Obvious – Cut Off All Communication

If you haven’t done this before, block them from everything right now. And we really mean “everything” – phone, email, and social media accounts. Make sure there is no chance for you to receive their phone calls, text messages, and anything else that can remind you about them.

While it won’t feel good initially, you must stay strong. It’s easy to get caught up in checking up on them, especially on their social media accounts, but you can’t ever get over the emotional connection until you absolutely cut off all contact or any attempts to find out what they are up to.

While cutting off all communication won’t automatically keep you from thinking about your ex, it will stop new thoughts about causing more pain than you currently have.

If your ex still manages to contact you, perhaps through mutual friends, you really need to explain that you need to begin moving on. Make it clear that you would appreciate it if they stopped attempting to contact you via a friend or family member. Inform everyone that you don’t want any communications forwarded to you.

Your people should provide you with emotional support and don’t judge you when you feel sad or have a painful experience. Otherwise, there is no point in keeping them around.

2. Move Through Your Own Grieving Process on Your Own Time

Grief after a loss is a natural process, and it contributes to a person’s coming out the other side with their mental health intact. You should be courageous to put yourself on a “tough” exterior – donning some rose-colored glasses and not allowing yourself to have all of the feelings you have a right to have – denial, sadness, anger, guilt, and even depression.

Ultimately, you will go through some form of some pretty common stages of grief, ending up with acceptance and the ability to move onto a new healthy relationship (or more). While they say “time heals all wounds,” no one can define that amount of time for you. The only thing is sure: it will end, and you will feel good.

If you still feel “stuck” in getting over your ex, you may want to contact a relationship expert for professional help. Asking for support in a critical moment and talking to a psychologist in your circumstances is not a shame.

Related reading: What Is a Break in a Relationship?

3. Distract Yourself

Part of the healing process involves eliminating obsessive thinking about your ex. The only way to do this is to get your thoughts on other things.

What you do is an individual choice, but it should be something you enjoy spending time on. You might increase social occasions with friends or family, consider a new hobby, or take a course.

Also, consider volunteering. Getting outside of yourself by serving others helps you stop thinking about your ex and lets you recognize that you have value if you have been unlovable after a breakup. Helping others in need is a healing process in itself.

Who knows? Any new activities may bring out new skills and talents you didn’t know you had.

Related reading: How To Maintain Your Individuality While In a Relationship

4. Write About Those Painful Feelings

There is a timeless saying – the only way in life out of something is through it. And this is certainly true of getting over a breakup. While you and your ex may not have been married, it’s like a divorce.

One of the ways that psychologists say to move “through it” is to write about it. You may be having obsessive thoughts about your ex and the breakup, and getting all of those out by writing them down can allow you to stop thinking about your ex.

More than that, research shows that trauma can damage brain tissue but writing about it changes how that experience is organized in the brain. Here’s an interesting article that you might want to read.

5. Self-Care

“Sometimes when we get involved with another person, we forget about ourselves…the act of weaving one’s life with another, naturally, contributes to this “‘forgetting me’ process…Getting back to the activities you enjoyed and the relationships you may have allowed to go to the wayside will be vital now…make every attempt to recapture you again.”

Alex Caroline Robboy, therapist and clinical psychologist

Self-care includes all the things that make you feel better and remind you about self-love. Consider getting a new hairstyle, trying some retail therapy, or setting up a calendar of meetups with friends and family members. You can even start a project you have been putting off in the name of self-love!

Self-care activities are meant to help you stop thinking about your ex. If they do this, then keep them up.

Remember: the focus of taking care of yourself is you and only what pleases you.

6. Analyze Past Relationships in Terms of This Breakup

Can you see the pattern in your past relationships? If it exists, it may be tough for you. But think about those past relationships and why there were breakups.

Here are the questions worth asking yourself:

  • Do you keep choosing an abusive relationship?
  • Have you been too possessive or jealous?
  • Do you keep engaging in relationships with narcissists or “players” who tend to cheat on you?

If you can find some patterns, then it may be time to consult with a licensed marriage and family therapist to get to the root causes of the choices you are making in relationship involvement and how you can change that with any new relationship with a new partner, you may seek in the future.

Related reading: How to Stop Being Codependent and Reclaim Your Life

Avoid all the reminders if you what to know how to stop thinking about your ex

7. Avoid Reminders

You and your ex had lots of experiences together. And if you want to stop thinking about them, you need to stop thinking about those places and experiences.

Driving by your favorite restaurant spots will be like the snap of a rubber band, bringing up all of those feelings you are trying to avoid.

Resolving to avoid everything that brings up memories and reminds you of the person who is now in your past is necessary. They will only make you emotional, angry, or sad all over again, and you cannot begin to heal this way.

If you get social with friends, ensure you do not go to places where you and your ex went. After all, you may even run into them in their new relationship – how would that make you feel? Just remember this: memories that bring out negative emotions are never good.

Related reading: What Are the 5 Signs the No Contact Is Working?

8. Get Some Perspective

Will this be the final breakup you ever have? Probably not. Relationships are complex, and most of us have several breakups. Your story is neither unique nor the pain you feel as you think about your ex.

Discuss the pain and look for some higher wisdom in what happened. Sharing the experience with your best friend will be especially helpful. Talk about your breakup over a glass of wine and swap related stories to put your emotions in perspective and realize that you are not alone in this grief.

9. Having Lingering Feelings About Your Ex Is OK

One of the most important things we all must realize is that love is not always enough in a relationship. We started dating this person with all the best thoughts about the future together. But as the relationship unfolded, it became clear that this was not a partner for life.

There were too many differences, and eventually, the best thing for both of you was to make the break. Maybe it was a mutual thing; maybe not. However it happened, your present life involves too much thought of them that you need to get into your past.

This doesn’t mean that you have to stop caring about your ex. As you move forward with your life and heal, you will be at peace with the breakup, focus on the good memories when you think about them, and hope that they also start a new chapter in their life that is as good as yours will be.

But of course, if the relationship failed because of their abuse and/or cheating, you don’t have to have kind thoughts!

Don't engage into obsessive thinking about your ex - that's a rubber band for you now

10. Don’t Romanticize Your Ex

Yes, there were good memories during your life with your ex. And it is helpful to bring them into the present as you work on controlling some of your negative emotions, like anger and hate. But don’t get into the mode of creating a false image when thinking about an ex or that relationship.

Every loved one has flaws, so be realistic. That relationship was anything but perfect, and if you romanticize it, it’s just harder to move on.

11. Move Forward Slowly

“People indulge in rebound relationships to get over the pain and memories of the person they loved…sometimes they think the best course of action is to jump into another relationship.”

Juhi Pandey, psychologist

We’ve all seen friends have rebound relationships. These are never good ideas. So, if you are considering this, put a stop sign in front of your face and keep it there.

It’s easy to feel unattractive and unwanted if you have been dumped but think about it. Suppose you haven’t fully debriefed yourself from the relationship. In that case, you will make the same mistakes again – possibly choosing the same toxicity or bringing the same behaviors that contributed to the past failure into new current relationships that you get into. You are fooling yourself if you keep doing things the same way and expect different results.

Related reading: How to Reconnect After a Relationship Break: 16 Tips to Function as a Couple Again

How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex: It’s Not Easy

If you can’t get your ex out of your mind, face that you have some work. This list should give you some helpful things as you work through this process. Among these several options, you will find what works best for you.

If you find that, even after trying these options, you are still not moving on, you may want to talk with a professional who can guide you through the process.

Remember – your emotions are valid for you, no matter what anyone else says. Getting over a failed relationship and emerging healthy on the other side is an individual process. You do all of this on your own time and in your own way.

Dating Tips Author
Shelly Standford
After a devastating relationship breakup, I threw myself into the dating scene by registering on Hily. I had over 100 dates - some absolute disasters, some pretty average, and some that were actually great. So many stories to tell and insights to share with you guys!
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