I am often asked my advice for how to forget an ex, or, in a more severe case, how to stop obsessing over them.
Obsession is not a good thing in a relationship. It’s normal and natural to think about your boyfriend or girlfriend, your husband or wife. But if that natural impulse gets out of control, then you get obsession.
Think about it. We must eat to live. It’s normal to get hungry and want to eat. But if that impulse gets out of whack, then you eat way too much or way too little, and that eventually can kill you.
Thinking too much about your current partner leads to an unhealthy, controlling relationship that’s not much fun for either of you. Thinking too much about someone you aren’t together with anymore either makes you miserable and no fun at all to be around, or you become a stalker.
Go too far down that road and you end up crazy or the cops come knocking on your door.
If you’ve just broken up with someone, of course you’re going to think about them quite a bit. That’s perfectly normal. If they dumped you, then it’s even more likely you will spend a lot of time thinking about them. I don’t expect you to just snap your fingers and stop thinking about them.
We’re talking about obsession, an unhealthy level of thinking about them.
If a month or two has gone by, and you’ve followed my advice (and the advice of many other relationship experts) to refrain from contacting your ex during that time, and you’re still thinking about them all the time, then you need to address the problem.
Get a Life
So, how do you stop obsessing about your ex? The answer is simple to say, but maybe not so simple to do. It is this: Get a life.
What I’m trying to tell you is that if your ex is so important that you don’t have time to think about all the many other aspects of your life – your health, happiness, job, friends, hobbies, dreams, family, pets, home, education, sports, travel, and so on – then someone needs to slap you in the face and tell you to grow up.
If your ex dumped you, they did so for a reason. That reason is most likely something about you, no matter what they said. Most of the time when people say, “It’s not about you, it’s about me,” they’re just protecting your feelings or avoiding confrontation. Trust me – it’s about you.
Time to Focus on You
So, to get ready for another relationship, whether with your ex (possible, but it’s a long shot) or with a new person, you must focus on yourself for a while.
Make a list of things you enjoy doing, or of dreams you have that you’ve never pursued. This list is private, just for you, so don’t be afraid to write anything you want on it. The only caveat is you can’t write things on there that involve a romantic partner. That may be a challenge for you, but you can do it.
Think of hobbies you enjoy, or always wanted to try. Look around for clubs or local sports leagues you could join to meet new friends and have fun.
Make a list of cities or countries you’ve always wanted to visit. Consider studying a new language – check the website of your local community college or even an adult school or other community center. You’d be surprised what sorts of classes they offer.
Travel. Take a trip, whether large or small. Even a weekend drive in the country can be a refreshing change of pace. Remember, you are doing this for yourself, not for anyone else. Keep the focus on yourself.
Once you’ve joined the sailing club, or the local bowling league, or taken some Italian classes or French cooking lessons, or gone hiking with the Sierra Club, you will have met some new, fun people.
You will have laughed and had a few adventures that make you a more interesting human being. You’ll have some stories to tell.
All this is vital because you are reminding yourself, every day, that you are a fun, interesting person. You may still prefer to be in a romantic relationship, and hope for one in the future, but you will realize that you can still have fun and enjoy your life even when you are single.
And, paradoxically, it is that ability to enjoy life when you are single that makes you more interesting and attractive to potential partners.
Also Possible You Need Professional Help
If you have a more serious problem with your obsession with your ex, ask for some help from your friends. Ask one of your good friends if you can call them when you feel like you might phone your ex or go over and try to see them.
Figure out what kind of behavior you want to avoid, like calling your ex at work and trying to have a conversation about your relationship. If you feel the urge to call your ex at work, call your friend instead. Talking through the issues with them, even in a voice mail if they don’t pick up, can really help you clarify your feelings and stop yourself before you get in trouble.
A professional therapist can also help you with obsession – they can help you plan strategies, or “off ramps” as they sometimes call them, to protect yourself from acting on unhealthy impulses. A therapist can help you recognize when you are getting into an obsessive state of mind and learn to protect yourself.
By combining these strategies – building yourself up in a positive way through fun activities and social interaction, and protecting yourself from any obsessive impulses, you should be able to return to a balanced and happy life pretty quickly.