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.

How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex Boyfriend ExHusband

How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex

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.

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).

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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

How to Stop Thinking About ExHusband Ex BoyfriendRead 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

how to let go of someone you loveRead 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.

how to stop Obsessive Love

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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203 thoughts on “How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex and Get On With Your Life

  • Vicki

    It has been almost a year since my husband walked out after 21 years of marriage. He had sent me a text when I was at work that he had moved in with his mother. Over the next few days when I wasn’t home he and his mother emptied out our home, taking everything he wanted and decided what I should keep. He had not worked in years and I was working two jobs to support us. I found out my life had been a lie, he is addicted to opioids, online sex, meeting with local women. He took everything he could. Our divorce was final in February. I have my little poodle and all the marital debt. He is free of all responsibilities and debts. I agreed to that just to keep my dog. Since he left I see him almost daily so he can see my dog. I told him this week I can’t keep doing this and I feel bad because I know how I would feel if I could not see my dog. But he has a naracisstic personality and for years he has been emotionally abusive. I feel like I am dying inside and miss him all the time. I need to find a way to let go of what I thought was real. We did not have children together but I have grown children, my husband tried to force my daughter inlaw to have sex with him among other things. My family has been devastated.

    • Cheryl

      Make a list of all the bad things about him. Then ask yourself why you miss him. What was good about him? He has acted terribly and the incident with your daughter in law is unacceptable. Why can’t you get a restraining order? Stay away from his person. You’re too nice. He doesn’t deserve to see your dog or you. You don’t deserve his abuse. Explain he forfeited the right to see the dog when you took on all the debt. If you can’t do that then why not tell him you have full custody of the dog and he has no visitation rights? He is horrible to you and your family. Who knows if he would hurt your dog. Make it so you don’t have to see him anymore. You deserve it!

      • Vicki

        Thank you. I have made a list and I have went no contact as of yesterday. I sometimes think I am walking around in a daze and waiting to wake up from this nightmare. I do miss him everyday but I would not want to ever have a life with him again. I guess, it is letting go out what I thought was real. I thought I had the most amazing husband and I had been told that I was so lucky to have him. He is so handsome and 14 years younger than me and now at 58 years old I have to accept that he is not what I thought he was. I have mostly isolated myself for the past year just trying to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other. I am not trying to sound crazy just trying to figure this out.

  • Angelica

    I am still in the process of trying to heal my heart and emotions of my breakup from my ex-boyfriend of 2 years that happened 2 years ago. The reason that I am still hurting is because he didn’t give me the gift of relationship closure. As soon as we broke up he ended up marrying his ex girlfriend that he told me he was just friends with. I guess I was a fool for believing him. I was just trying not to be classified as the jealous girlfriend so I still allowed him to be friends with her. Then she started up a business and he signed up under her which made them have to have constant contact with each other (meetings, promotions, etc). I’m just so mad at myself for giving him a chance because when we first met, he had just broken up with her because he claims that he wanted to be with me. If I paid more attention to the red flags, I should have ran for my life because I would have saved myself from this heartbreak💔. It’s such a huge process trying to mend my broken heart. I’m also dealing with Multiple Sclerosis and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia so this broken heart has been so tough on me. So to make a long story short, I started noticing dramatic changes once we made it to a year and a half in our relationship. He stopped calling as much as he usually do, he stopped coming over as much, and stopped taking me to family events, parties, etc. There is one day that Is so hard for me to forget. The final time that he took me to the Detroit Auto Show, He made me feel so low. He kept leaving me, he wouldn’t take any pictures with me, he wouldn’t introduce me to his friends that he ran into and he looked like he was so mad at me like I did something wrong. I should have called my parents to come pick me up because I felt so disrespected. But I was just trying to understand and hang in there with him. Then he did one thing that let me know that something was going on. He told me that he just wanted us to work on our friendship. He just wanted us to go to movies and stuff with no strings attached and I tried it. But I was so in love with him that it was hard to suddenly be cut off emotionally in that way so I told him I couldn’t just be his friend. So after that I thought things would go back to the way things were before but he grew even more distant. So I called him while he was on his way to work to see what was really happening with him and he just went off on me saying that he wasn’t fulfilled in our relationship so we got in a huge argument. So emotions was running high so I told him that if he wasn’t fulfilled than we should just call it quits. After that, a couple of weeks later I was trying to see if he wanted to talk but he turned down every opportunity. lol and behold, I look on Facebook and I see him and his ex which was his new girlfriend in a picture with him and his family. My heart fell to the bottom of my chest. Then 3 months later, I found out that him and her is married now. Even though I have been making every attempt to let all of this go, my heart is still broken. I’ve been in 2 relationships since then and this has constantly been on my mind and I’m still hurting because I never got any closure. He just walked away. That was my first long term serious relationship so I think that’s why it fell so hard on me. It was his 4th long term relationship so I think that’s why it was so easy to walk away. I just wish I never met him because he’s married living the good life with his wife while I’m here still trying to heal my broken heart 💔. I know that in the Bible it says that God is near to the broken hearted and I know that I will be healed one day. There is so much more bad things that he did but this all sums it up in a nutshell. I’m just trying to move on totally with my life but it seems like the past won’t me no matter how hard I try. I really need help. 😔

    • Cheryl

      You seem to be trying to figure out what you did wrong so you can understand why he hurt you. From what I read you did everything right. He was passive aggressive and trying to get you to break it off so he didn’t have to be the bad guy or explain and give you closure. Do not internalize his short comings. He’s a cheater and a cad. He will likely cheat on her too. Find a guy you deserve and treats you better. He ghosted you he doesn’t deserve your time and you deserve much better.

  • Varshini.K

    Me and my boyfriend broke up because we wanted different things. I’m 20 and I’m doing masters and he is working. We initially planned on getting married when I am about 21. After which there were a lot of problems and I was like my studies is more important. My mom and his mom were also there (we have a different culture in India, especially Tamil Nadu where the women who must get their family approval before marriage and my mom didn’t approve, I tried hard but I couldn’t convince my mom not right now It’s so hard for me now even though I love him I had to break up because I couldn’t get my mom’s approval ) and so we broke up but both of us feel that one day we will get back to each other although I wonder whether it’s possible.We both love each other and talk to each other since that day until now. If I talk to him I feel guilty after doing it (because my mom is totally against this ) but still, I talk to him every day because I feel much worse If I don’t talk to him. I really don’t know what to do? Should I make it work or should I stop contacting him? I want to study and also have him and also my mom. Please walk me through this.

  • Siphosethu

    I was addicted to my boyfriend, I love him so much but I messed up because of alcohol. He is not drinking but I am.
    I’m trying to stop thinking about him but I can’t. the first day of breakup I wanted to die but I thought twice. I love him even now and blame myself for everything. but I learned from my mistakes.


    Hi, my response comes late but its because i was researching about forgetting an ex when i bumped into this… ours was a sweet relationship, very sweet but i messed up by overreacting and threatening to leave the relationship every time things didnt go my way (juvenile and controlling, i now know) he gave me enough chances way many chances then eventually he stopped, so i begged him to give us another chance he said yes but he wasn’t the same way again he, i tried to hold up for the relationship but i just realized it won’t work and that he will never ever look at me the same way again, so i told him we should just stop trying because i believed he deserved to be happy and start afresh after all the pain i caused him, off course i apologized, he accepted my apologiy, we talk sometimes, he calls to check up on me, now we haven’t talked for like four days and i don’t feel like calling him or texting him (unlike before when i was blowing his phone with calls and texts hehe) but he is just in my mind i wake up thinking about him, through out the day at work he is on my mind, at night.., basically every time, i look at myself through his eyes sometimes, lol wondering how he would think about my hairstyle e.t.c, i really loved him like crazy but i understand its over, its just the thoughts remaining, i don’t cry anymore i dealt with the pain and guilt and i came to terms with what i did and forgave myself( it was hard work..hard work, really hard but i did) what makes it easier is i pray for his happiness, peace and joy daily, and i always pray that he meets a gal who will love him unconditionally and treat him well and that he forgets about me and all that i did to him, sometimes when i see him on fb looking happy i just thank God and i feel like i am forgiven, by loosing him i have learnt so much about myself and what not to do do next time, i believe the relationship failed for a reason because i know next time i will treat my man better and i believe so. excuse the long text

  • Laurie Post author

    One of the best ways to stop thinking about your ex after a breakup – and to accept the loss of such an important relationship in your life – is to take time to think about the purpose of your life.

    Here’s an article to help you balance letting go with looking forward:

    9 Healing Ways to Find Your Life Purpose After a Sad Breakup

    You may never forget your ex, but you can move into a fresh new life! First, you grieve. Weep. Let go. Accept. Heal.

    And, take whatever glimpses of hope, joy, peace, and glory come your way. Hold on to the good, for there is still lots that is good.

  • Maya

    I think I could stop thinking about my ex boyfriend if I had a reason to live. I don’t want to stop living, I just wish I had a life purpose.I was with my boyfriend for 13 years and I dedicated my whole life to him. He was my reason for living, for breathing, for existing. Now that we’re over I don’t know how to stop thinking about him and I don’t know what the purpose of my life is. Can you help me? I know you don’t give relationship or breakup advice but maybe you could give me something to hang on to or work towards.

    Thank you so much, Maya

    • Sarah

      Me and my ex have been apart for nearly 2 years we where together for 13 years we go back and forth with sleeping together n then he always hurts me but I keep going back probably why I can’t move on. He’s hurt me again for the 4th time and this time I’m determined to move forward n it’s hard he’s the first thing I think of waking up and before I go to bed. I constantly check my phone to see if he’s messaging me even harder we have a kid so communication is a must. Have you moved on what have you done to make it easier

  • Jorge Angulo

    I’m in the beginning of a divorce that came out of the blue. My wife suffers from a mental illness and got off her medication. She acted violently in the home and threatened the children. The police were called but instead of having her hospitalized, I had her go with some friends of hers. The next day they helped her prepare for divorce. I haven’t spoken to her since (going on two months) and she has changed the narrative so many times as to why she wants to get a divorce. This is devastating to me and my children. I have hope that she will remember how much I love her, but in the meantime my therapist and lawyer have told me to cool down. This is so hard since before her breakdown we lived as if we were in love and I thought she was my best friend and I hers. My life is family is being ripped apart, I cry all the time, and luckily I am my own boss, so work hasn’t really been an issue. Also, luckily I have not been hurt physically (my doctor tells me i’m healthy). I just can’t give up yet and move on when the hope is that as quickly as she broke down, she can come home. But her friends are isolating her from her life and have prevented me from speaking with her. So I’m cooling down a bit, but until my lawyer says time to quit fighting, I’m not going to stop fighting for my family. But I don’t know what to do.

  • Laurie Post author

    Dear Jess,

    I can hear your pain. You are in a good marriage and you have children, yet you can’t stop thinking about your ex-boyfriend. You know that your husband is a better man for you then your ex boyfriend, and yet you can’t stop yourself from thinking about him. I’m sorry you’re going through this – it must be confusing and frustrating to have one foot in the present and one foot in the past.

    The healthiest way to move on from a past breakup is to fully grieve the end of the relationship. If you haven’t processed the breakup in healthy ways, then it will always come back to haunt you. It sounds like you didn’t fully grieve and let go of your ex boyfriend.

    Here is an article that may help:

    How to Heal Your Heart Without Relationship Closure

    You have clearly given your past relationship a lot of thought. Why do you think the breakup keeps coming back to consume your thoughts? What is going on? What do you think you need to let go of in order to move on from the past?