How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex and Get On With Your Life
These seven simple, effective tips on how to stop thinking about your ex-husband or ex-boyfriend will help you overcome obsessive thoughts. Take heart, for you will move on with your life. You can stop ruminating about the past – and you can rebuild your life, renew your heart, and restore your joy!
The most important thing to remember is that you’re caught in a destructive, habitual thought pattern. You aren’t trapped and helpless; you are simply in the grip of an obsessive way of thinking. Learning how to stop thinking about your ex simply requires you to break the habit. It takes energy and dedication at first, but you can stop the obsessive thoughts about the person you lost – you can let go of someone you love. Another important thing to remember when you’re learning how to stop obsessing is that you are not alone. Millions of people have broken their addictions to their ex-boyfriends or ex-husbands, and so can you.
Here’s what one man said about his ex-girlfriend: “I still seem to be obsessing about my ex. She crowds into my thoughts a dozen times a day. I’m trying my best to forget about her, but, despite what I’ve read and the advice I’ve gotten, I CAN’T GET HER OUT OF MY HEAD! I feel like I’m going through my days as half a person, with nothing ahead of me but regrets about what might have been….how do I stop my thoughts?” ~ from my article on healing your heart without relationship closure.
6 Tips on How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex
Different women find different strategies helpful. Here, I combined both practical and emotional tips on how to stop obsessing and restore your joy in life. I encourage you to try different things until you find what works for you.
The best way to learn how to stop thinking about your ex – and find what works for you – is to try different things for at least two weeks. Really incorporate one or two of these strategies; don’t just try for an hour or a day. If a month goes by and you’re still obsessing, then try another technique. Eventually, you will find what works for you.
Don’t give up. Don’t let your obsessive thoughts take over. You can be happy and you will heal! It just takes time to grieve and move forward with your life.
1. Use the dog-and-vomit analogy (it’s gross, but it works!)
It is disgusting, but hang in with me here! I recently read There Is a Season by Patrick Lane, about his journey through addiction and recovery. He said thinking about sad things in the past is like a dog returning to his own vomit. The dog-and-vomit analogy is actually in the Bible; it’s in Proverbs 26:11: “As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.”
I love this analogy because it’s so visual and concrete. I use it when I start berating or beating myself up for something I regret doing. Instead of raking myself over the coals, I tell myself that I’m not a dog and I refuse to go back to my own vomit…and I then think “Eeewwww…” and I move on. This is a very practical, effective tip on how to stop obsessing about what happened.
2. Learn how to grieve your loss
Entire textbooks are written on grief because of the importance of the grieving process. If you haven’t grieved the end of your relationship, then you’ll find yourself obsessing about your ex-husband or ex-boyfriend.
I recently went to a half-day grief workshop by Norman H. Wright, author of When the Past Won’t Let You Go. Grieving a loss is so difficult – and so important! Learn how to grieve, and what to expect during the grieving process. Death isn’t the only even that we need to grieve. We must grieve all the losses we experience – even the seemingly trivial losses, such as our favorite quilt or a beloved dog or cat. Learn how to grieve, and you will learn how to stop thinking about your ex-boyfriend or ex-husband.
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If you haven’t grieved about something or someone you lost in your past, you will find yourself unable to fully accept and grieve this breakup. Learning how to stop thinking about your ex isn’t just about grieving your current loss…it’s about resolving all the losses and disappointments you’ve experienced.
3. Use the “rubber band technique” to stop thinking about your ex
In psychology, a popular technique for overcoming obsessive thinking is to wear a rubber band around your wrist. When those obsessive thoughts come up, snap the band and replace your obsessive thought of your ex with a different thought (which you planned in advance).
Your replacement thought should be something that makes you feel good, and can range from “Which three pairs of shorts should I take on my Mexican vacation?” to “Wow, I did an awesome job on that work project! I really nailed it.” Learning that you can control your thoughts is a valuable tip on how to stop thinking about your ex.
My replacement thought is a Bible verse: “Come to me, all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens,” said Jesus in Matthew 11:28. “I will give you rest.” Whenever I start to feel scared, tired, or heartbroken, I recite this verse to myself. I picture myself face to face with Jesus, my little child hands resting on either side of his face. I look deep into His eyes, I see the scars from the abuse He endured, and I know I am free from suffering. Jesus suffered so I don’t have to. I accept His freedom, love, and grace. I am humbled and awed by the power of His spirit. Who needs a rubber band when you have Jesus?
4. Incorporate two new activities into your life
Here are several practical tips on how to stop thinking about your ex:
- Plan a trip to Mexico.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
- Be a Big Sister through the Big Sisters/Big Brothers mentoring organization.
- Take a sushi making class.
- Join a snowshoeing or hiking club.
- Take Zumba dance lessons.
- Find a new place to live.
- Make new friends.
- Reconnect with old friends in person (not just on Facebook)
It doesn’t matter what the new activities are, really…what matters is that you find new, interesting things to do with your life. Don’t give yourself time to keep obsessing about your ex-husband or ex-boyfriend. Practice replacing the obsession and habitual thoughts with new and interesting ideas.
5. Get emotionally and spiritually healthy
Read Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change by Robin Norwood.
This is an especially helpful book if you find yourself attracted again and again to troubled, distant, moody men – and “nice guys” seem boring. Do you obsess over men who are emotionally unavailable, addicted to work, hobbies, alcohol, or other women? Do you neglect your friends and your own interests to be immediately available to a man? If you can’t stop thinking about your ex-husband or ex-boyfriend – or if you feel empty without him – you need to heal yourself emotionally and spiritually.
Struggling with obsessive thoughts is a sign of unhealthiness in your life and unhappiness with who you are. You haven’t build your self-image on God’s healthy, consistent, and powerful love for you. You haven’t found life – or you haven’t found a way to stay connected to His source of life and healing. If you can’t stop thinking about your ex, you need to heal how you think of yourself. You were created for a purpose, and you are deeply loved by your Creator.
6. Schedule a set amount of time be filled with regret and anxiety
If you can’t bear the thought of not thinking about the breakup, then set a specific time to let your obsessive thoughts about your ex-husband or ex-boyfriend take over your mind, body, and soul.
Decide that you will set 15 minutes at the beginning or end of the day – and maybe a 15 minute stint at lunch, too – to simply obsess. Allow yourself to ruminate over the same thoughts and feelings, and give yourself freedom to finally stop focusing on how to stop thinking about your ex. You have your scheduled obsession time, and you should use it fully. During this time you will sit and do nothing but think, wail, cry, and obsess about your ex-husband or ex-boyfriend.
When you find yourself thinking about your ex at non-scheduled times during the day, tell yourself that you need to focus on the present moment. Later, have time to obsess and ruminate. Right now, however, you must focus on what is right in front of you.
After a few days of this scheduled obsession time, you may find it exhausting and boring to sit and do nothing but think about the breakup. You may even find it unhelpful and unproductive. That’s great! If you still need to grieve, however, read Words of Comfort When Your Heart is Broken.
7. Stop trying so hard to stop thinking about the breakup
Have you heard the “elephant in the corner” analogy? Whatever you resist, persists. So when you attempt to force yourself not to think about the elephant in the corner (or your ex if you’re trying to stop obsessing), then of course he is all you can think about. Instead of focusing on the idea that you’re obsessed with love, just allow your thoughts to flow through you. Don’t try to stop them. Instead, accept the thought – and then replace it with one of the strategies I suggested above.
It takes determination and self-control to control the direction your thoughts take. But, ultimately, you do have control over your thoughts. You just need to find the willpower – and the right technique — for overcoming obsessive love.
Resources on How to Stop Thinking About Him
Read How to Let Go of Someone You Love. I wrote it after I lost someone I loved (and still love) very much. Instead of focusing on what I lost, I started concentrating on what I wanted more of in my life: freedom, peace, and joy. The result? Freedom, peace, and joy! It really is amazing how much power we have in our lives.
If you want to share your thoughts on how to stop thinking about your ex, I welcome you below. Sometimes writing can change your perspective and bring healing. I don’t give advice, but I read every comment.
Another great book on how to stop thinking about your ex is Obsessive Love: When It Hurts Too Much to Let Go by Dr Susan Forward. Here’s what one reader says about this book on how to stop thinking about your ex:
Susan Forward explains the difference between love and obsession – and they are two very different things! Obsessive Love is written in a nonjudgmental way, and Dr Forward’s compassion comes through on every page. This allows readers to take the first painful step: admitting that we’re obsessing about the breakup. This leads to letting go and healing.
May you learn how to stop thinking about your ex-husband or ex-boyfriend, let go of obsessive thoughts about the breakup, and restore your joy. May you find peace and healing. Most importantly, may you find God. He loves you, He has a plan for your life, and He will carry you through the most painful moments of this loss.
Choose life. Be free.
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