You know the feeling…. you and your ex-lover just broke up 2 weeks ago, after a roller-coaster of a relationship where you were constantly abused and lied to. But you just can’t seem to shake the breakup blues. You don’t want to leave the house, your friends are tired of listening to you talk about your ex, and all you do is cry and lay in bed. While everyone tells you that it was for the best - and a part of you believes it was for the best, you just can’t stop thinking about your ex. You think about everything including the good and the troubled times. Thinking about your ex-lover, turns into an obsession, almost like a drug you begin wondering about what they are doing, who they are with, and if they are as hurt about the break-up as you are. Perhaps you check their social media accounts, maybe you drive by their house hoping to see them and who they are with, you call their phone from a blocked number to see if they will answer or just to hear their voicemail; you sniff their old clothes that they left behind to smell their scent, or maybe you camp out at a spot where you are hoping they will come by and see you. When you do find out what your ex has been up to, you are shocked because they have moved on, and are in love again. Your partner looks very happy with their new beau, and doesn’t appear to even be thinking about you or your recent breakup. You can’t seem to stop thinking about them, and now you don’t know how to move with your life, despite how terrible the relationship was. And now your obsession kicks into overdrive. Here are some tips to help you move stop obsessing about your ex and the relationship which brought you a lot of pain.
1) Don’t be impulsive, or engage in behaviors that you will regret. Sometimes when we are hurting, we want to do anything to alleviate that pain or try to hurt the person who made us feel that way. This would include things like begging our ex to come back, doing drugs, sleeping with other people (especially people that your ex knows), destructing our ex-lover’s property, and blasting our ex on social media. Keep in mind that after a breakup, you are experiencing an emotional turmoil – thus you may not be thinking clearly. All you know is that you are hurting, angry, and you want those feelings to stop; or you want to hurt your ex as much as they hurt you. Keep in mind, engaging in behaviors like this isn’t going to stop the pain, or change what happened. You are more likely to feel upset about engaging in something that may cost you in the end. It may also be more beneficial to “disconnect” from social media for a period, so that you can work on your healing without spying on your ex, discussing all the details of the break-up, or trying to openly shame your ex.
2) Allow yourself time to heal. If you were truly invested in your relationship, that means you put a great deal of effort and emotion into it. Thus, you can’t “just get over someone and move on” without feeling hurt. Understand that above all else, you are a human being, and you are entitled to feel and express your pain. Everyone is different in how they express their pain and the length of time needed to recover; there is no one size fits all. You have the right to feel upset, angry, sad, and pissed off. Those are all natural feelings. Allow yourself the time and the space to go through these feelings in a safe space.
3) Focus on yourself and your healing. This is done by doing things that help you feel better, and assist you in your healing process. Reading self-help books, and journaling can be very therapeutic and informative. It allows you to try and gain understanding. Other things that you can do to focus on healing are doing things which may help you to feel better even if it’s only temporary. Examples of this include: watching your favorite movie, going for a walk, or going out with a friend to a nice dinner. While you may need to be proactive and “force yourself” to do this initially, over time it will become easier.
4) Allow yourself a specific amount of time to grieve and think about the loss of the relationship. I want to preface this with the statement, this works exercise works better for some than for others. How it works: allow yourself a specific amount of time to think about or grieve your ex and your previous relationship each day, with the notion that you will gradually decrease this allotted time weekly. For example, during the first week of the breakup, allow yourself 2 uninterrupted hours a day (you can adjust the amount of time) to cry, be angry, and to sit with those uncomfortable emotions. The following week decrease the amount of time to 1 hour and 45 min a day and so on. The idea is that you allot yourself time to grieve and process the loss, but you don’t allow it to consume you.
5) Make room for support. You may have the urge to isolate yourself from friends and family, or dwell on the relationship or your ex. When most people have experienced a break-up (even in a toxic relationship) they experience a range of emotions such as anger and depression, they want to isolate and withdraw, thus sinking deeper into a negative state of feelings. The better solution is to do the exact opposite by reconnecting with others and rekindling other positive uplifting relationships. However, I would implement a boundary here as well – allot yourself a specific amount of time to talk about things that happened in your relationship; or ask your friends and loved ones to cue you if you continue to dwell on the topic of your former partner/relationship. You want your friends and family to be a positive support system and a distraction; not help you continue to focus on the negatives.
6) Seek out therapy for support and feedback. Finding a therapist can be a great start to helping you understand your pain, being supportive and objective, and identifying concerns. Further, a therapist will provide education and insight about you, your situation, and provide additional coping skills.
7) Medication. If you are not able to eat, sleep, work, talk to anyone, go to school, care for your children, your family and friends grow extremely concerned about your emotional state, and you constantly continue to obsess over your ex in an unhealthy manner, and a substantial amount of time has passed (2-3 months or more) – you may want to explore medication options with your primary care physician or a psychiatrist. Medication, combined with counseling can help to provide additional support during your critical adjustment period.
Breakups from relationships can be difficult, even if the relationship with abusive, unhealthy, or didn’t meet your emotional needs. If you broke up with someone who was particularly manipulative, you can easily get sucked back in and be consumed by the relationship in an even more destructive way – which is the reaction that they were hoping for. Working on healing yourself, learning from your experience, and continuing to move forward in spite your experience will prove to be far more beneficial.
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© Natalie Jones, LPCC, PsyD. | Clinical Psychologist