I’ll admit to getting stuck in a negative feedback loop where I had lots of trouble with shutting down my thoughts about an ex in the past. Maybe you can relate.
Wouldn’t you want to know how to stop thinking about your ex? I sure did. I wished that my thoughts of him would just fade, but I am stubborn and was pretty obsessed. It seemed like everywhere I went, there were reminders. The jokes we told. The places we went. The things we bought together. All of the bonding experiences. Sad breakup songs. Everything.
And it was over.
I wondered how he was. I thought about calling and/or texting. I fantasized that he might realize what a huge mistake he made (I thought) and come running back. I was wasting time living in the past, hoping for a relationship that just didn’t seem to be re-materializing, no matter how much wishing and hoping I did.
The days turned into months, and I realized he wasn’t coming back, but that didn’t seem to stop my incessant thoughts about him. That’s what drove me to come up with this game plan to finally get the obsessive thoughts of him gone for good.
1. Clear Out Your Environment
Get a friend or family member to help if you’re feeling weak and not quite ready to completely clear the decks. Go through your house and find everything that they gave you or that strongly reminds you of them. Grab everything within reason, but clear it out as well as you can. If you’re feeling strong, donate or toss. If you’re not sure, box up the most tender items and give them to a friend to keep for you until later. Set aside everything that still belongs to your ex.
It is also helpful to rearrange your furniture and declutter. If you make a visible change to your environment, it will leave a “changed” input on your self conscious that will help you mark the end of the relationship.
While you’re clearing out your environment, you’re clearing a path to stop thinking about your ex. Once you finish this step, the anchors in your environment which remind you of them will be gone, replaced with a fresh slate. This is so powerful, and people are most tempted to skip this step, but it’s one of the most important.
2. Tie Up Loose Ends
Next it’s time to take the items that still belong to your ex and make concrete plans to give them back. If the items are small, postal mail is a nice way to do it. That way you get to mail it off and it’s done without dealing with your ex or ripping the wound open by seeing them. If you can’t afford it or the items are large and numerous, then your next options are thus:
A. Call them and have them pick up the items – This is a tough one, since you’re relying on them to show up, follow instructions, heed your wishes, etc. This can be a tough bargain with an ex, especially one who you aren’t getting along with. This is not recommended.
B. Beg a friend to drop the items off – This is an option for the sheepish and heartbroken.
C. Call them and arrange a time to drop their items off – The nice part about this is that you don’t have to worry about whether they will show up, let you down, turn up late or any other nonsense. If they aren’t there when you get there, you can leave the items.
If they won’t respond to your communication, you have several options. You can notify them via text or mail that if they don’t collect their stuff within 30 days, you are going to donate everything or sell it. You can drop the items off anyway. Whatever you do, you must do something with their stuff to get it resolved and out of your life.
By far, the best thing to do is to handle it head on. Get the items to their zone, and get it over with.
If you do the call and wait option, you’re on the hook for whenever (if ever) they want to parachute into your life. Be proactive so that you can get past this. If the whole point is to get them off your mind, waiting for them to come deal with their stuff is not the way to do it.
Also, deal with your joint bank accounts, get them to forward their mail if you both lived together, get all the lose ends tied up that you can.
If you’re working with lawyers, do what you can to get the process moving along more smoothly. If you’re in the way of progress when it comes to custody or the court, rethink your position. Do whatever steps you can that smooth out the transition from your end. If you’re holding onto something of theirs, release it. You don’t need it anymore.
3. Delete Them From Your Social Media
I debated about whether to make this it’s own separate step or simply put it under “loose ends.” I made it separate because having reminders of your ex available over social media 24/7 is such a pervasive thing. Social media updates, cyber stalking and the ramifications of a breakup over social media, drives people to distraction so often that it deserves its own article.
Go to all of the social media outlets you use, and clean out your ex. Do a full sweep of all of your photos, “unfriend,” “unfollow,” etc. Go out of your way to delete all traces of them. Even if the service makes it difficult. Even if you worry that you’ll be hurting their feelings. Even if you have pictures where you’re both tagged together. Doing this will reduce the tendency to obsess, be thrown into a tail-spin every time you see something from them, wonder when they’re going to delete you, etc. Do it all.
This way you aren’t tempted to cyber stalk them in moments of weakness or send them telepathic status updates. Just clear them out the same way you did with their stuff. Don’t concern yourself with what they think, what your friends and family think, what your dog thinks. This is about getting your life and your sanity back. You need to erase all reminders of them from your life. If you aren’t feeling strong, remember that you can always re-add them later if there is some huge new development. For now, delete all.
4. Talk About Your Breakup Incessantly For 7 Days
Talk about him until you’re sick of hearing yourself for the next week. Give it a full 7 days of non-stop discussion of all things breakup. Wallow. Do it.
Asking people to stop obsessing cold turkey just doesn’t work. You need the floodgates to open so that you can shut them. Go at it, with the solid resolve that you’ll completely stop discussing them after the week is up. To stop thinking about them, you’ll need to stop talking about them, but first, get it all out.
5. Put An End To All Discussion
After the week is up, announce to your friends and family that you no longer want to hear about your ex or discuss him anymore. Tell them that you really appreciate their support so far and you are making the steps to move on so you would appreciate if they wouldn’t mention him at all. Tell them you don’t want updates about how your ex is doing either, if the friends are mutual.
If they slip up, change the subject gracefully. They have supported you tirelessly up until this point, remember. Your ex has become “your news.” Since you’re working on refreshing your news, be compassionate. If they’re really just hoping for gossip and going on and on, distance yourself from them for now while you make changes. Eventually all mention of your ex will cease driving you crazy.
6. Do A Little Ceremony
After the seven days are up and you’ve told your friends and family that the ex topic is over, it’s time to do a little ceremony that symbolizes moving into a new chapter in your life. You can burn a few pictures of the two of you together, like on friends, or you can simply burn candles and think about the start of your shiny new life. Use your creativity, but whatever you do, the point is to signify that a new beginning has arrived.
7. Get Yourself A Rubber Band And A Stop Sign
Each time that your ex pops into your head, picture a big red stop sign and snap a rubber band on your wrist. I particularly like using one of those rubber bracelets for a cause, this way you’re stylish, support a good cause AND getting over him at the same time. You’ll feel silly, and this is the point, but stick with it. If you have to, say “Stop” right out loud. Immediately focus on something else.
8. Use The 3×5 Method For Stubborn Thought Patterns
If you’re having trouble with only using your stop sign and rubber band, every time your ex pops into your mind, center yourself using the 3×5 exercise:
1. Notice 3 things that are currently seeing visually.
2. Notice 3 things that you are currently hearing.
3. Notice 3 things you smell.
4. Notice how 3 things you are touching feel.
5. Notice 3 things you taste.
Once you’ve done this, it’s hard to be anything except centered in your own body. Use this reboot whenever you’re lost in the past. It’s a good way to snap your consciousness right back into the present.
At some point in the past, before you knew you ex, you didn’t think about him. That sounds glib and obvious, but it’s not. It’s easy to get stuck on the idea that your life will never, ever be okay again. This is simply not true. Remember that all of this will take time and practice. You can’t do these nine steps and then magically have the clouds lift without some work.
Remember that this is your opportunity to use your breakup to recreate an amazing life. You’ve been given the chance to start over with a fresh slate. This is scary sometimes, but a rare opportunity to do the things that you love and might have neglected while you were coupled up. If you ever felt stifled in your relationship (and who doesn’t, on occasion), you have a fresh new start.
If your feelings about your ex go beyond this level, or your life feels like it’s falling apart, it might be time to see a therapist or consider your options that way. Don’t let this breakup be the defining action of your life.