Breakups are almost universally painful. The reasons why may vary, but the fact remains that ending a relationship can be rough, and the last thing you want are lingering thoughts and regrets about what might have been. If you're finding yourself in this situation, knowing how to stop dwelling on thoughts about your ex, no matter how impossible that might be feeling right now, can be a game-changer.
First, rest assured that you're not alone. Trina Leckie, breakup coach and host of the Breakup BOOST podcast, tells Elite Daily that having nagging thoughts about former partners is an all-too-common experience. "You get attached to them, so it’s hard to just suddenly adjust to life without them. You become so used to being around them and keeping in touch with them, whether it was a healthy situation or not," Leckie explains.
Part of why it can be so hard to let go is that it can be easy to view a past relationship in hindsight with rose-colored glasses. If the one who got away seems so amazing in retrospect, it's only natural to dwell. Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships, tells Elite Daily that this is a very effective way of keeping yourself from healing and moving on. "It’s astonishing how many people keep their ex on a pedestal after they split up. Playing the comparison game with each potential date is bad for your emotional health, and will delay the healing process so you can be relationship-ready when a more compatible match comes your way," she says.
Ultimately, dwelling on a former partner comes down to feeling like something's missing from your life, as Connell Barrett, Dating Transformation founder and dating coach with The League, tells Elite Daily. Specifically, the romantic connection you had with them. "We’re all wired to need love and connection, and when we lose that, it’s natural to let our minds wander to what we’re now missing. It’s a little like being hungry, which only makes you think more about the food you don’t have," he says.
Fortunately, it doesn't have to stay that way. It's possible to move on and put your former flame in the rearview for good.
Find a new connection.
A breakup can feel as though you're losing someone in your life, and that loss can leave you feeling like you've got a person-sized hole in your heart. This is why Barrett advises finding new connections to take their place so you aren't holding onto the past. “That doesn’t mean you have to date or have a romantic relationship right away. There are different forms of connection,” he explains. For example, Barrett shares, you can reach out to other loved ones like friends and family and deepen your connection with them. “Or you can dive into a hobby or a purpose that’s important to you, which is a form of connecting with yourself,” he suggests.
Reframe the breakup in your mind to find closure.
When dealing with lingering thoughts of an ex, it's easy to get caught up in circular thinking with all the what-ifs just running through your mind on repeat. If you want to put a stop to those ideas, it's time to break the cycle by changing the way you view the relationship. “Other than dwelling on what you miss about them, focus on how this relationship made you a better person or added value in your life,” suggests Barrett. “It’s about looking at them through the lens of gratitude. One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself about a breakup or a past relationship is 'How is this something that happened for me, rather than to me?'" This way of thinking recenters you, and your needs, growth, and happiness, rather than fixating your ex.
Decide to move on.
If you're ready to stop dwelling on your ex, then Cherlyn Chong, a dating and breakup recovery coach for professional women, says the time has come to decide to move on. Sure, that sounds more easily said than done, but, as Chong tells Elite Daily, making a conscious choice like this is more powerful than you think. “Yes, it can be as simple as deciding to move forward. That means that no matter what, you've determined that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that there's hope,” she says.
Out of sight, out of mind.
If memories and thoughts of your ex are haunting you, take a moment to consider what it is that's triggering these thoughts. Are there any external factors, like not being able to resist doom scrolling through their Insta? If so, Spira says it's time to do a digital detox. “The easiest way to get over the need to obsess about your ex is to remove the couple's photos on social media, delete their text messages, and delete their contact information from your cell phone. Sure it seems harsh, but we’re talking about the need to recover, and the sooner the better,” she advises. “Staring at your ex’s social media to see if they’re dating someone new will drive you [bananas].” The same goes for any physical momentos that make thinking about them unavoidable. “Remove all of the photos of them from your phone and surroundings so they don’t keep triggering you,” adds Leckie.
Get back out there.
There's no rush to get back into the dating scene, so take whatever time you need to heal and feel ready again. However, if your fingers are itching to fill out a dating profile, Spira says meeting new people can be one effective way to stop dwelling on the past. “It’s very empowering to post a new profile on a dating app or two,” she says. “Once you finish your dating profile, be proactive, start swiping, and watch your date cars fill up.” Meeting new people and getting back out there reminds you of the possibilities of what the future could hold, rather than on the past. Not to mention that “it increases your chances of meeting an amazing person who deserves to be with someone like you,” says Spira.
Letting go of what could have been with an ex can be hard, and that’s OK. Just remember it will get better, says Leckie. “Even though it may seem like you’ll never get over your ex, you will. The feelings will eventually dissipate and you’ll be able to breathe again," she assures. "Just be patient with yourself."
Connell Barrett, Dating Transformation founder and dating coach with The League
Cherlyn Chong, a dating and breakup recovery coach for professional women
Trina Leckie, breakup coach and host of the Breakup BOOST podcast
Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships