*Author’s note: The examples used here are entirely fictional and loosely based on some of the things I hear from clients in my work as a divorce coach.
Dating after my divorce was a disaster.
Every time I’d be on a date with someone who seemed nice, images of my ex would just pop into my head.
Whenever I’d be spending time alone, reading a book, trying to enjoy my alone time, memories would creep up, causing me to romanticize the past until I was miserable.
It’s hard to move on after we lose a partner through divorce or a breakup. And one of the reasons we struggle with it so much is we can’t get our exes out of our heads.
This sort of stuff can creep up on us when we least expect it, especially when the split wasn’t exactly amicable.
So, the next time you start thinking about your ex—wondering why they changed, why they are acting so differently, how they could have moved on so quickly with someone else, how they can be so happy in spite of all of the bad stuff they did to you and all the hurt they have caused—I want you to remember the following:
Your emotional energy is finite. Don’t waste it dwelling on your ex.
If there’s one thing all my awesome readers have told me, it’s this: you want to move on and you are ready for a new life.
Think about it—we have a lot of work ahead of us. We are learning how to let things go. We are embracing what it means to be independent and on our own. We are discovering what it means to make decisions that are best for us. We are finding out what living life on our own terms means and how to put ourselves first for a change.
That’s a pretty awesome to-do list because it focuses on our recovery and taking our lives back. So, where do these kinds of thought patterns fit in with our recovery?
“I get so angry thinking about how my ex screwed me over with savings and retirement and now he says he can’t pay spousal support. What a pile of crap!”
“I’ll admit it: I’m envious that my ex is getting married again and they want our children in the wedding party. Are you f*cking kidding me?!”
“I’m so worried about my ex—he’s been so depressed since I told him I couldn’t be married to him anymore. He calls me every day to say how sad he is. I feel so guilty!”
Hmmmm…I’m having a hard time figuring it out. And do you know why?
Trick question! None of these thought patterns fit into our recovery because worrying about our exes doesn’t.
Investing our energy worrying about what our exes are doing or harboring resentment for the crap they pulled on us is only hurting ourselves. We’re only slowing down our own recovery.
And we’re taking away the gift our divorce/separation/breakup has given us—the gift of a second chance.
We all deserve better than that.
And I’m going to help us get there with the following awesome-as-hell exercise:
Ex Out—Awesomeness In
The next time you catch yourself thinking about your ex, do this. Or, you can even be proactive about it. Even if you’re not thinking about your ex, this is still an amazing shift in your thinking that will help with your post-relationship recovery.
Step 1: Ask yourself: how does this thought pattern help in my recovery?
This is the first step in decreasing the emotional energy you spend thinking about your ex. And the more mindful you become by asking yourself this question whenever thoughts of the ex start to drag you down, the more tuned-in you can become to letting that unhealthy thought pattern go. So, let’s take a practice run:
“My son mentioned my ex’s new fiancée and it really pissed me off.”
“I heard that he’s driving a new sports car but he says he can’t pay alimony. What the hell?”
Wait! How does feeling pissed off help me?
Hmm…Thinking about the ex doesn’t help me. I am going to acknowledge that I heard the information, acknowledge the thoughts about it, but not allow them to consume me. I will let the thoughts come and go, focus my energy on the present moment and not waste it all in obsessive thinking.
Step 2: Write down: what can I try instead?
When you become aware of the destructive emotions when thinking about your ex, direct those emotions elsewhere—specifically toward something balancing and healing for you. So, practice saying to yourself:
“I recognize this anger I feel when hearing about my ex. Instead of letting that anger get to me, I am going to flip the switch and channel those emotions into something that serves me.”
“The next time I realize I’m thinking about my ex, I instead will pay attention to all the great stuff going on in my life. I am going to look forward to my yoga class this evening instead of thinking about my ex. I am going to spend the 15 minutes I’d spend stewing about my ex playing with my dog and his silly squeaky toys. I am going to watch that hilarious YouTube video. I am going to write in my gratitude journal instead…”
See what I mean? There are dozens of other awesome things we can spend our emotional energy on that will help our healing, so let’s rock the hell out of those!
Granted, switching to this frame of mind may not happen overnight, and it certainly comes with practice. But the more mindful we are and the more kindness we show ourselves in the form of channeling those destructive feelings into something that’s actually good for us, the less stressed we will be.
Author: Martha Bodyfelt
Image: Jacob Ufkes/Unsplash
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Social Editor: Sara Kärpänen