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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

5 Reasons You’re Still Thinking About Your Ex (and What You Can Do About It)

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I have this image of the brain after a breakup. It’s laid out like the room that manages all of the electricity for a large building. Huge levers line the walls where the power can be controlled to each section of the building. One by one, you shut down each breaker that sends energy to any thoughts about your ex until your mind is dark and peaceful.

Of course, it’s not really that simple.

No matter how much we try, thoughts of our exes find their way in, both through brute force and devious sneakery. The thoughts can range from disturbing to amusing, but no matter their particular flavor, they are often unwanted, displacing more welcome thoughts and dreams.

So why is it that even though they are out of our lives, they refuse to vacate our minds?

 

You’re Wanting Things to Be Different

Maybe you’re berating yourself for mistakes you made that led to the demise of the marriage. Thinking that if you only did or said something differently, that you would still be together. Or maybe you’re holding onto the idea that you can still become the person your ex wants and you’re entertaining the illusion that somehow you can still be together.

This desire keeps your ex in the forefront of your mind because you’re turning your thoughts around like puzzle pieces, trying to get them just so in the hopes of bringing everything together. And just like a puzzle, it’s hard to walk away when it feels unfinished.

What you can do…

This is a time for some tough self-love. What you’re doing is a type of magical thinking. Wanting something to be true is not enough to make it true. You cannot change the past no matter how much you allow it to occupy your present. Pay attention to when your thoughts venture into this territory and repeatedly remind yourself, “That is past. I cannot change it.”

These thoughts are often at their most intrusive when we are dissatisfied with our present lives. Are there areas in your life that need filling? Turn your attentions that way.

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You Miss Them (or You Miss the Idea of Them)

Obviously, at some point, you were attracted to your ex. You liked them as a person and found them interesting and desirable. And then as the relationship grew, their presence in your life grew as well until they occupied one of the more prominent positions. So it’s no wonder that you miss them. That the bed feels empty and you find yourself seeking out their smell or the particular sound their footsteps made on the stairs when they came home.

And of course, when you miss them, you’re thinking about them. And probably with rose-colored glasses too. You’re remembering the person you fell in love with, not the person you divorced.

What you can do…

This can be a time to counteract each of those positive memories with a negative fact. Although this isn’t a great strategy for the long term, it can help when you’re struggling to let go. If you need more ideas, read about how to fall out of love.

 

You’re Feeling Lonely

I equate a breakup with the cold void felt by the remaining person in a bathtub when the other person steps out. There seems to be too much time and too much emptiness, and that’s a difficult combination. It’s natural to want to fill that void with thoughts of the last person to occupy it. You equate their absence with your loneliness and so you fill your loneliness with their imagined presence.

The problem is that believing what loneliness tells you is a bit like trusting yourself to make wise decisions when you show up to the grocery store starving. Until you address the loneliness, your brain will be feeding you nonsense.

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What you can do…

Keep busy. Nurture connections with other people. Engage in meaningful work. Give back. Need more ideas? Read 52 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Lonely.

 

It Hurts to Think of Them Moving On

There’s a reason that the most common search that leads to my site is some version of, “My ex is getting married and it hurts.”

Because it does.

No matter how much we like to deny it, it can be painful to see them moving on, especially when we still feel flattened by the divorce. We wonder if they’re happy. Happier, even. We compare ourselves to their new partner and we judge our life by their curated one.

What you can do…

Block them on all social media. You do not need to see the pictures of them with their new partner. You crave the information, yet at the same time, you feel worse whenever you consume. So go cold turkey. Need more? This video offers more support and points to think about.

 

You’re Curious

You used to know almost everything about them. And now they’re almost a stranger. It starts innocuously enough, “I wonder if…” But then it spirals as you keep wondering.

Even though this reason doesn’t carry the weight of the others, taken too far, it can still interfere with your ability to move on.

What you can do…

The brain abhors a vacuum. If you don’t know something, the mind will fixate until it has answers. So give it answers. Not by social media stalking or constantly asking your kids, but by telling yourself some version of, “Their life is no longer part of mine. I don’t need to know what they are doing because it does not impact me.” If you have no contact, it’s okay to tell yourself a story (ideally a boring one) about what they have going on. And then go get your drama elsewhere.

 

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