How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex In 8 Tiny steps



Awhile back I went through an upsetting breakup where no matter what I tried, I could not seem to stop thinking about my ex.

Since you have found yourself here, maybe you can relate.

All I wanted was to just forget about him like our whole relationship was a bad dream.

At the time, I wished my thoughts of him would fade, but I was pretty obsessed and I had very little idea about how my mind worked.

I thought I wanted to feel better but all that occurred to me to do was think about him more.

To make things worse, everywhere I went it seemed like something reminded me of him. Then I would be dragged right back into thinking about us.

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 forever.

I wondered how he was.

I would fantasize that he might realize what a huge mistake he made and come running back to me. I was wasting time living in the past, hoping for a relationship that didn’t even work.

But no amount of wishing and hoping made any difference.

As the days turned into months, and I realized my ex was never coming back.

But realizing he was gone did not stop my incessant, annoying, constant, obsessive thoughts about my ex boyfriend.

That agony is what eventually drove me to come up with this game plan for how to stop thinking about my ex for good.

If you are going through that too, I know how it feels.

With that said, here are the specific steps for how to stop thinking about your ex.

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 out reminders of your ex.

Go through your house and find everything he gave you or that strongly reminds you of them.

If you’re feeling strong, donate or toss it.

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.

Rearrange your furniture and declutter your place.

While you’re clearing out your environment, you’re clearing a path to stop thinking about your ex.

When you make a visible change to your environment, it leaves a “changed” input on your self conscious and gets rid of the constant reminders of them.

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 decluttering step, but it’s one of the most important.

2. Tie up any leftover loose ends with your ex.
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 in person.

If you can’t afford the mail or your exe’s things are large and numerous, then your next options are:

A. Call your ex and have them pick up their things.

This can be a tough way to go, since you’re relying on them to show up, follow instructions, heed your wishes, etc.

I realize this can be a tough bargain with an ex, especially one who you aren’t getting along with. But it’s the most adult and efficient.

B. Beg a friend to drop your exe’s things off at their house.

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 your ex is not home when you get there, you can leave the items.

If your ex won’t respond to your attempts to get in touch, 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 your exe’s 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, ASAP and get it all 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.

This is why it’s more helpful to be proactive so that you can get past this.

If the whole point of doing all of this is to stop thinking about your ex, waiting around for them to come deal with their stuff whenever they feel like it is counterproductive.

Also, if there are other complicated matters to deal with besides giving back their prized teddy bear, then make a list and deal with that too.

For example, deal with your joint bank accounts and get them to forward their mail somewhere else if you lived together.

You get the idea. 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 as smoothly as possible.

If you’re the one standing in the way of progress when it comes to custody or the court, please rethink your position.

From your end, take whatever steps you can to smooth out the logistics and practical matters around your breakup.

If you are holding onto something of your exe’s in a superstitious effort to change their feelings somehow, release it.

You don’t need it anymore.

Whether you manage to get your ex back sometime down the road does not depend on keeping your exe’s granny’s china or holding onto her favorite sweatshirt.

3. Delete your ex from your social media.
I debated about whether to make this it’s own separate step or simply put it under “loose ends.”

I decided to make the social media section separate because having reminders of your ex available over social media 24/7 is such a common thing.

I get a lot of questions about how to deal with social media during breakups.

Social media updates, cyber stalking and the ramifications of a breakup over social media, drives people to distraction so often that following your ex on social media deserves it’s 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 your exe’s feelings.

Even if you have pictures where you’re both tagged together.

Getting rid of social media reminders about them this will reduce the tendency to obsess and 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 for right now.

If you aren’t feeling strong, remember that you can always re-add them later if there is some huge new development like you get back together. For now, delete it all.

4. Talk about the breakup incessantly for 7 days.
Talk about your ex until you’re completely 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 about your ex and the breakup.
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.

Remind your people that you don’t want updates about how your ex is doing either, if you happen to have mutual friends or acquaintances with your ex.

If your friends and family slip up, change the subject gracefully. Remember, they have supported you until this point.

Your breakup with 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 stop triggering you or driving you crazy, but today is not that day.

6. Give yourself 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 personal brand of 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.

Then, immediately focus your thoughts on something else.

(Potentially humorous side note: someone complained in the comment section on an earlier version of this article that the rubber band part of this suggestion was promoting self harm.

If your thoughts weren’t currently harming you, you wouldn’t be here reading about how to stop thinking about your ex. If the rubber band is too much self harm, skip it. It is meant as a literal physical reminder to snap out of it.

And… you are the boss of you– so you can decide whether you want to use ANY of the breakup advice here or not.)

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 your mind using the 3×5 exercise:

Notice 3 things that are currently seeing visually.
Notice 3 things that you are currently hearing.
Notice 3 things you smell.
Notice how 3 things you are touching feel.
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 any time you get lost in old memories. It’s a good way to snap your consciousness right back into the present.

9. Getting into maintenance mode.
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.

When your grief and pain feel overwhelming, remind yourself that it will pass. It is thought, only.

It sucks, but it’s a THOUGHT. A new one will be along shortly.

Even if you’re in agony now, feeling better usually takes a while.

Feeling better will probably take time and practice.

And, if you’re wondering WHY you’re still thinking about your ex after all this time, it’s probably because you have been thinking about them all this time. I have 1:1 coaching clients ask me about this all the time.

How long you have been thinking about your ex after the breakup is not a sign of anything except that you have been in the habit of thinking about them.

You might not be able to do these nine steps to stop thinking about your ex and then magically have the clouds lift without some emotional maintenance. Most other people can’t either. That’s normal.

You will probably have good days and bad. That is completely normal too.

Even if your ex was a total slimebag and have moved on too fast with their next door neighbor, thinking about them is normal.

The bottom line about how to stop thinking about your ex.
This breakup 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.

And, this is scary sometimes, but it’s a rare opportunity to do things 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 now 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 find a professional to help with your situation.

If this breakup ends up being a defining moment of your life, let it be because of the all the growth you receive from the experience. Not because you struggle and suffer way longer than absolutely necessary.

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