I was watching a men's pick-up
basketball game and standing within earshot of me were two
"How can I stop thinking about her?"
"The girl you were with last summer?"
"Dude, that was months ago! You've got problems."
Yep, dude's got problems. He can't get her out of his
Unfortunately, after sharing your life with someone for
months or even years, it's nearly impossible for the human
brain to just flip a switch and turn the thoughts and feelings
off. But, relationships end and at some point, people have
to stop thinking about the ex.
That's what this article is about: How to stop thinking
about your ex.
Instead of spouting one person's opinion and instead of
writing about what people think others SHOULD do, I simply
asked people who've been through a break-up how they managed
to stop the thoughts. For the vast majority of people, time
was the only solution. They lived in obsessive hell for
a month to several months (some people even longer) and
eventually they got past it.
people, though, were able to get past things more quickly.
For these individuals, they usually went through two phases:
Phase One -- Distraction
Phase Two -- Realizing the Bigger Picture.
Phase One -- Avoid Obsessing by Creating Distractions
Far too many people break up only to go right back in a
week or two. If you give yourself all kinds of idle mental
time to just think and remember and play out the being-alone
scenarios, you, too, will soon be re-thinking that break-up.
And this is bad. Chances are you either SHOULD not be
together or, since the person dumped you, you CAN not be
together. So, hoping to BE together once again is just
a big waste of time and mental effort. Your relationship
is over. Stop trying to find ways to get them back. Stop
reliving the past. Stop thinking about what you should've
done or said. Stop thinking about what you WILL say or do
if given the chance. It's over. Done! Even if you get
back together, eventually the same reasons for the breakup
and the true incompatibility will surface. (And NO, HE
WILL NOT CHANGE.)
The more free time you have to just sit around and think,
the more you'll just sit around and think. And when you've
just broken up with someone, even if you know, I mean truly
know, that the person is a smelly pimple on a dirty butt
kind of person, the worst thing you can do is THINK.
So, somehow you want to distract your mind so that you
don't constantly wallow in the cesspool of thoughts that
is your ex. No matter how difficult, painful, and depressing,
somehow you just have to deal. So, for a while at least,
you want to occupy your mind. You want your mind to be
active, to be creative or involved in some specific activity.
(No, this does not include watching TV.) Here's a list
as a start:
outside and touch things and look at your world VERY closely
Walk, blade, run, or ride a bike - but
do so intensely
Paint or write your masterpiece (as
long as it's not about the ex)
Donate your time to kids, elderly, disabled,
Clean your house, car, bathroom, basement,
Cook something new from a recipe
Complete all levels of a video game
Build something that involves a physical
or mental challenge
Devote yourself to something
Learn or develop a new skill
Road trip (avoid the touristy things
and really explore)
Call an old friend (but do NOT mention
your ex or your break-up)
Call your father
(This list could be so long that I've decided to write
another article, "1001 things you can do to stop
thinking about your ex." When it's done, I'll elaborate
on many of these and provide links to make it even easier
for you to distract yourself. Check back soon!)
Your goal is to do something to keep your mind and body
active. And no matter what you do, the best activities
are often those that cost nothing.
Eventually, if you distract yourself for a long enough
time, most of the pain and the memories will fade to a
manageable level. But you can't be busy 24/7, right?
At some point you'll lie down to rest and then your mind
will return to the ex. This is where Phase Two comes
But first, there's another way to distract yourself. This is the easy-cheezy
Find a replacement person
This is so common it warrants its own discussion.
When you go out and find a replacement person, all the
excitement and intrigue of meeting someone new and getting
to know them can easily dominate your thoughts. This
is that rebound situation that so many can't keep away
from. (It can also be that time when you "re-connect"
with a friend to the point of being obsessive and terribly
selfish of their time. Don't do this, either.)
The problem with the replacement distraction is when
people replace one person with another, they most usually
find someone who really is not what's best for them in
the long run, which leads to yet another break-up and
then they're right back here trying to find a way to distract
There are many people, women mostly, who go from one
serious relationship directly into another, directly into
another, directly into another… and seem to never NOT
be in a relationship. This is bad.
People who never experience being on
their own lose a part of themselves. Either that
or they don't give themselves the opportunity to allow
their true essence of themselves to surface. All of
their adult life experience is centered around
someone else. A person needs time alone to reflect, to
search themselves, to find what it is that drives them,
pains them, and causes them to really act.
When I learn that a woman's life wasn't a lengthy serious
of relationships, that tells me that she may actually
be able to entertain herself, that she has outside interests,
that she's taken the time to actually get to know herself,
explore passions and hobbies, develop skills, enjoy her
world, and become someone who deserves good things to
happen. It's a sign of strength and confidence, creativity,
independence, and the ability to just appreciate things.
Of course, there is that small possibility that the person
is a whacked-out psycho hosebeast,
but these are the exception and not the rule.
When you die and you're standing at the Pearly Gates
experiencing that review of your life and gaining that
true understanding of what it was your soul was to gain
from this experience on Earth, the gatekeeper could give
an angel's ass-cheeks if you didn't have a date last Saturday.
It's OK to be alone. In fact, it can be a very good
Two: The Bigger Picture
Before people rise to the point of enjoying being alone,
they pass through and graduate from Phase Two. Phase
Two is when people don't just understand but actually
feel inside their being what I call THE BIGGER PICTURE.
After talking with people about their past failed relationships,
there was a near-unanimous conclusion: after all was said
and done and after time allowed the wounds to heal and
some perspective to be developed, it was ultimately better
that the relationship ended. Here are some of the things
I've heard repeatedly said:
"I was never truly happy and I wasn't aware of how
unhappy I was until I was away from the bastard."
"I finally found a partner that I was far more compatible
with and I never would've met him had my relationship
"I wasn't myself. Now that I look back, everything
I did wasn't because I thought it was what I should do
or what I wanted to do; instead it was so that she didn't
get angry and make the entire day or week miserable for
myself and my kids."
One girl told me this story:
"Upon graduating from college, I had several offers
from excellent companies all over the U.S.
and even abroad. I decided to take a lesser-paying job
far from home just so I could live with my boyfriend of
two years who I thought was the greatest thing ever.
After living with him for some months, it became obvious
that we weren't meant to be. I became sad and confused
and miserable and started kicking myself for being so
easily manipulated into moving halfway across the country
to be with him.
"After we broke up, I kept trying to think of reasons
to call him or to just get together, hoping that maybe
we'd reconsider our new "friendship." Eventually
it got in my head that we would never get back together.
"I was put on a new project at work and soon met
someone. Despite him not being anything I ever imagined
myself with, I couldn't stop thinking about him. Had
I still been involved, I never would've given the guy
a second look. We eventually got married and after 15
years, I am still deeply in love.
"Some people say I should never have moved away
like I did. But had I not taken that lower-paying job,
I never would've met my husband. In its own strange way,
that failed relationship was necessary for me to meet
what I now consider to be my true soul mate."
I shared that story because there are so many others
just like it. I could fill an entire Chicken Soup for
the Soul book of how a horrible relationship led to meeting
There's no reason why you should be the exception to the
rule, so when you get past all this crap, good things
will eventually happen.
"I'll Never Find a More Perfect Person for Me"
I've heard people whine, "There's no way anyone
could be more perfect for me than (my ex). How could
I possibly meet someone that's better?"
For those who have had a number of relationships and
have had time to release these and look back upon them
with perception, there are some that were better than
others but for the most part, as one person put it, "It's
not really about someone being better than the other since,
thanks to them, I grew into a different person and grew
to want and appreciate different things. I couldn't possibly
compare the relationship I had when I was 17 to that when
I turned 32."
other words, think about this silly apple analogy:
I could never compare any of my past loves any more than
I can compare juicy, crunchy apples. When I eat an apple,
I don't think, "Holy moly!
THIS apple is SO much better than the last one."
No, instead I think, 'This apple tastes SO freaking good.
I am loving life!"
With relationships, it's often not about finding the
absolute best apple or wishing for apples of the past.
It's about simply appreciating the one you have at the
time. (One must also keep in mind, though, that when
a person finds a bad apple they don't keep eating it just
because that's what they have in their hand. They drop
it and reach for another.)
I'm sorry to say this, but your ex had a bruise and it's
time to throw that apple away.
(Ok, no more apple talk.)
"I Don't Want to be Hurt"
Have you ever heard someone say, "I just don't want
to be hurt again?"
Being open to relationships isn't about being open to
getting hurt again. Past relationships aren't about the
bad that happened. It's about the good that comes out
of them. I love to love. I love to learn about someone,
to grow, to share, to see things
from a new perspective. All this comes when you meet
Have I been hurt in the past? Sure I have. Have I been
incredibly happy in the past? Hell yes. And I plan on
continuing to accumulate happy experiences as I continue
to learn and grow and live and eat those incredible, juicy,
crunchy apples. (Sorry.)
So, the clichés are actually true:
You broke up for a reason.
You'll come to love another person
when the time is right.
There's always a bad apple or two
in the bunch
Without the risk of getting hurt again,
you will never find THE ONE.
The biggest cliché needs further elaboration: There is
a reason the two of you broke up: a bigger reason. It's
not something like, "He cheated on me" or "I
gained a lot of weight and was a constant nag." Instead,
it's a reason that comes from your soul that says, "It's
time you moved on to something else. You are finished here.
You have other life experiences to gain from."
The challenge is to accept this deep within your moral
fiber. If you can truly understand that that there's something
out there, something else, that you were meant to experience
and, more importantly, that you won't experience until you
release this person from your mind, then you will be able
to finally stop thinking about that ex.
Having said all that, the mental goal you want to have
as far as your emotions for this person is NOT dislike or
hate. When you like or love something AND when you strongly
dislike or hate, either way your thoughts are drawn to this
something. This is exactly what you're trying to avoid.
Your goal is neutrality -- still remembering, still appreciating,
just unattached. This neutrality allows you to be a good
person to this individual while also allowing your life
to blossom into something new. (And if it makes you feel
any better, the only thing that bothers an ex more than
the psycho temper tantrums and the vicious name-calling
is complete indifference. Being nice AND unavailable will
drive that person crazy!)
Often the only thing holding someone back is not that they
wish to get back with that person but instead, that they
still harbor hate and ill-will towards them. Spiritually,
on the deeper soul level, a person must release this attachment
before their soul can progress.
So, release the hate. And release the love. Learn from
the experience. That person, good or bad, contributed to
who you are today and especially to who'll you'll be once
this is all over.
So, if need be, distract yourself until you understand
the bigger picture -- until you become neutral.
From there, your eyes and your mind will open and before
you know it, exactly what's best for you will simply appear
before your eyes.
tried to throw in one more apple thought just to tie it
all together, but none that came to mind were worthy.)
Stop thinking already! Enjoy your life.