You’ve probably heard this or felt this before:
“It;s been x years and I still think about him..”
“If I’ve never done x and y, we would still be together today…”
Been there, done that. Well, for some of us at least. If you’ve lived long enough, you’d always have that crush or date or boyfriend/lover that you’ve long since parted ways with but whom you spent an inordinate amount of time at some point (or perhaps now) thinking about.
Turning over various scenes in your relationship repeatedly in your head. Wondering what your ex is currently up to. Who he is with.. What he could be doing.. Does he miss you.
Before we delve into the reasons why we ruminate over people who are no longer our lives, let’s take a minute to assess if you are engaging in rumination/obsessive thinking.
Signs you are ruminating over your ex
#1 You have intrusive thoughts about him
You may be going about your day and suddenly thoughts of him pop into your head. You can’t seem to get him out of your mind. Every time you have free time, your mind drifts to him. Worse if you are reminded of something – a song, a place, a book, a photo – then all those memories of him flood back again.
You would usually find these thoughts uncomfortable and seemingly uncontrollable. You don’t seem to be able to stop them and may find yourself at the mercy of them. It’s easy to be led down spirals of memories and thoughts that can make you feel overwhelmed with sadness. This cycle repeats itself frequently.
#2 You stalk his social media
You are constantly on his social media page checking up what he’s up to, who is he with, has he found someone new etc. Just know that as long as you are keeping tabs on him, it’d be hard to move on. Stalking someone’s social media usually makes the habit a compulsion, it feeds into your obsession of your ex.
Are you able to sniff out red Flags on your dates? Check it out below!
#3 You may feel compelled to be at places he used to frequent
Just so that you could bump into him and see how he is doing. It could be a favourite cafe, a restaurant you guys used to visit often etc. Just know that such behaviours are also a form of stalking!
#4 Every single date or partner is compared to him
This is probably the worst and also very unfair for future partners. But when you aren’t over someone, you tend to automatically compare everyone with your ex. None of them seem to match up to your ex and in the process, you don’t find yourself properly connecting or engaging with new partners.
#5 You spend alot of time talking about him
What you think about, you talk about. So if you are constantly thinking about him, you’d be talking about him constantly to the people around you too. You may not be aware of it but trust that you’d be bringing it up often.
Why can’t I stop ruminating about my ex?
Now, the reasons why you find yourself completely unable to stop thinking about them repeatedly. Alot of us may think it’s because our ex is so awesome, the relationship so amazing and that is why we miss them.
No. Rumination happens all the time even when we’ve ended a bad relationship or left someone we shouldn’t have been with alone. These reasons are sometimes less obvious – let’s explore some below.
#1 You refuse to let go
You could be standing in the way of your healing and moving on, by simply refusing to let go of him and the relationship. If you are constantly refreshing his social media feed, thinking about him, talking about him, then you are actually hurting your own chances of moving on.
As long as you keep the memory, thoughts and emotions of the relationship fresh in your mind, you will never be able to move on. And you have to at some point – life is way too short to be perpetually hung up on one person.
So yes, take the time to grief, some feelings and thoughts may rise to the surface from time to time, let them be. But don’t feed into them. Allow yourself some distance and space to heal and grow from this experience.
#2 There was no closure or unfinished emotional business
Some of the rare few times in the past where I found myself ruminating over someone endlessly was when there was little to no emotional closure in the relationship. There was one in particular where he came on all hot and interested and then disappeared only to re-appear a few years later and disappear again. That brought up alot of questions and “what-ifs” which I had no way of answering and it kept me in a mental loop for years on end.
You might have experienced something similar – perhaps you were ghosted, or the relationship ended very suddenly without any explanation or reason. Where there are circumstances where there were unresolved emotions or incidents, you (and your mind) will keep replaying events over and over to make sense of it and fill in the gaps.
This is how rumination occurs.
#3 You feel wronged
Your partner may have done stuff in the relationship to you that made you upset, angry, resentful over the years. And perhaps instead of talking about it, you’ve bottled it up and when you both broke up, you feel as if your partner didn’t quite make up for the wrongs they did to you. This is made even worse if they were the one who initiated the split. It can feel as if you “lost” or that things were unfair. That can prolong your rumination.
#4 You feel you may never meet someone as good again
This is usually a result of a scarcity mindset or an issue with self-worth that makes you believe that you are unable to find anyone better, or that you will ever find love again. You may even think that your ex was the best that you could ever have been with.
When you have beliefs like that, it can be hard to move on when relationships end. Because if you are thinking, “this guy is the best” then it’s not very motivating to move on from him.
But, if he were really the best, would he be an ex? Food for thought.
#5 You feel lonely
It’s a strange place sometimes, to be fresh out of a relationship. Someone who was once so close to you and whom you were intimate with in various ways is now on the way to becoming a stranger. You may miss the physical affection, the chats, the quarrels even because it made you feel like you were connected to someone. Now when all that is gone, you feel lonely. That’s normal, especially when you are fresh out of a breakup. And it isn’t a sign you should go back to your ex.
#6 You feel rejected and abandoned
Breakups can sometimes bring up old wounds – making us feel rejected and abandoned all over again. If you have been struggling with feelings of being wanted, of self-worth in relationships, a break-up can resurface all of these hurts. And to make it hurt less, we keep pining for the relationship and the person, playing the relationships over and over again in our ends, wondering where it all went “wrong”.
#7 You haven’t adjusted to a new normal yet or given yourself time to heal
As I’’ve mentioned in #5, breakups can feel strange. It’s this in between place where you were lovers one moment and from now on, you are strangers. It takes time to heal and to adjust to this “new normal”. There are feelings to process, a whole new life to get used to. There’s also a lot of healing to be done.
So in the beginning few weeks or months, it’s normal to have your thoughts return constantly to your ex and relationship. You’d probably be going through lots of events, scenes, things you both said to each other and wondering what happened.
It’s normal to be ruminating constantly at this stage. But over time, it should fade.
How do I stop obsessively thinking about my ex?
There are several strategies that you could use and this works if you find yourself ruminating about anything else in general. There are two different types of strategies you can use to deal with a rumination situation with an ex: healing yourself from within AND moving on from the relationship.
Healing yourself strategies
#1 Get busy
Many people who ruminate often tend to do so because they arent very connected to themselves or their lives and they do not really have a sense of meaning or purpose to their everyday. Hence, they usually find themselves feeling empty, bored or with nothing much to do, and their thoughts will wander to their object of rumination.
As someone who used to ruminate all day long about crushes and boyfriends, it usually happened when I was emotionally disconnected from myself and my life. I wasn’t putting my full 100% on myself and truly living life, I was just stuck in my head all the time.
The cure was to find a purpose for your life, to really immerse yourself in what life had to offer and to fall in love with yourself all over again. When I decided to stop being limerent for other people (another phenomenon where rumination is strong) and started getting interested in my own stuff, the ruminating habits fell away.
#2 Do you have a scarcity mindset
This is something to really dig deep and ask yourself – when it comes to relationships, do you believe that there aren’t many good guys out there for you? Do you think romance is “hard to find”? If you do harbour those beliefs, it can make dating and relationships tricky.
You may find yourself putting up defenses for nothing, not allowing people in, being emotionally unavailable (and attracting other similar people as a result). It could also affect your vetting process in dates where you may find yourself in situations where you invest your emotions too early and may end up falling for people that are not aligned with you.
The world is a huge place, there are billions of people on this planet and there is definitely more than just one person out there for you. When you start to move away from the scarcity mindset in relationships, you will find that you are able to see the relationship and your ex clearer, you will start to view the end of the relationship with more clarity and gain a better understanding as to why things ended.
You would ruminate a lot less as well as you won’t be feeling like you are parting ways with the only person you will ever love in your life. There will be a lot more after this.
#3 Self-compassion and getting back to yourself
Alot of post-breakup ruminating occurs when we beat up on ourselves about the relationship. For various reasons. There could be alot of “if only” types of thoughts and playing things back and kicking yourself for behaving in certain ways…
Stop. Usually when break-ups happen, especially in relationships that have went on for awhile – points to underlying issues that have been there for awhile already. Maybe they could have been salvaged, maybe. But just take it as a huge lesson in life and in romance.
What are the takeaways? How could you be a better person – for you and for your future partner? What sort of person would you like to be in your next relationship? And how can you start moving to that version of you?
Have self-compassion for the pain that you are feeling, allow yourself to grief, and give yourself the space and understanding to process the relationship and move on in due course. You got this!
Moving away from the relationship
#1 Re-evaluating your ex and the relationship
When you have moved past the sadness, grief and anger at your ex, it’s time to start looking back at when went down with a rational lens. When the sharpness of those early emotions have died abit, you would be in a better headspace to process what went on. And this is a great time to objectively evaluate your relationship.
In the early days post-breakup, it can feel as if you are letting go of the most amazing man and relationship. But sometimes when you’ve gotten a bit of distance from all of that, you may start to see how things have not been working for awhile, it may start to dawn on you how the relationship may not be the best for you.
Alot of rumination happens because we feel like we’ve let go of something truly great. But great relationships don’t come to an end. Sometimes it takes a break up to give us the time and space to come to an understanding within ourselves that perhaps something hasn’t been working for awhile.
#2 Make a list of things you could never do with your ex and start doing them
Maybe he hated enchiladas, and you loved them. Maybe he hated picnics so you could never have them. The list goes on.. One of the things that made me miss any ex less is to think of all the stuff I could never go when I was with him, that I could start doing now because he is now out of my life.
It’s a great way to reconnect with yourself too. Because you could have been missing out on activities that you truly love because of your previous relationship.
#3 Learning from the past and looking to the future
I think the key thing about any relationship and breakup is the lessons learnt from them that brings you closer to the love that you are searching for, with someone who wants to build that love with you.
Relationships are a great way to learn more about yourself, to identify any possible love patterns that may be holding you back and look forward to healing those patterns and not repeating them again.
Accountability works really well here, so if you have a really good friend who can keep you in check and point it out to you when you start talking about and ruminating about your ex, it can really help with your healing process.