I Can’t Stop Thinking about My Ex

“Oh, James. I really messed it up.”

Olivia was sitting in my office with her head in her hands.

When she and her boyfriend broke up last month, she thought she’d handled it well. She kept her feelings under control. They had a mature conversation and parted on amicable terms.

But a week into her new life as a single woman, she started panicking.

She began to think she’d made the biggest mistake of her life. What if he was The One? What if his flaws weren’t such a big deal after all? What if she never met anyone like him again?

She had too much free time on her hands. Instead of spending it with her friends, she wrapped herself up in her softest blanket and curled up on the sofa to watch romantic movies and scroll on her phone.

Every night, she pulled up his social media accounts. She read the comments he posted. She poured over the pictures he’d been tagged in, looking for evidence he’d met someone new. She tapped like on a picture he’d posted, so he’d see she was happy for him.

She wanted to see him again, but she needed a good excuse. She stopped by the campus coffee shop when she knew he’d be going there after class. She ran into one of his friends and had a long chat, hoping to learn how he was doing. She saw a book she knew he’d like and sent it to him with an anonymous note.

He never contacted her back. He never even said hi. It was driving her crazy.

She needed to see him just one more time. She needed to talk to him. She needed to apologize, to explain how she felt, to see if he thought they could try again.

Then one day she logged into her account and discovered…

He’d blocked her.

Why Does Love Drive Us Crazy?

I knew Olivia. This wasn’t who she was.

Olivia was a kind and thoughtful person who always respected other people’s boundaries.

So why was she pursuing her ex to the point where he felt like he had to block her?

Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher has a hunch. Her research shows that “romantic love is the most addictive substance on earth.”

Which means that those powerful feelings of loss after a relationship ends are comparable to withdrawal.

When a man is the source of so many good feelings—especially if you are physical with him—you can become addicted to him.

When you stop seeing him, it’s like you’re going cold turkey. Withdrawal makes you crave him even more.

You feel terrible without him. You may even feel like you’ll die if you don’t get back together.

It feels like destiny even though it’s driven by chemistry.

You’ve become dependent on him to get feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin.

Weaning yourself off him will take time, so dig in for the long haul. Withdrawal will test your resolve like nothing else. Luckily, these 3 tips can help.

1. Commit to a period of “no contact.”

Imagine you’re on a diet, and someone puts a huge platter of your favorite food, the one you have no willpower around, on the table in front of you just out of reach.

Will you be able to resist thinking about it? Reaching for it?

Of course not!

Whether you’re trying to wean yourself away from the wrong foods or the wrong man, make it easy on yourself by avoiding temptation.

Don’t look at his social accounts. Don’t seek out his friends. Don’t hang out places where you might bump into him. Remove yourself from temptation.

Give yourself as long as you need to feel like you have some willpower again.

2. Engage in dopamine-boosting activities.

Your relationship was the primary source of pleasure chemicals in your life for so long.

But it’s only one of MANY sources of pleasure.

Guaranteed pleasure boosters are novelty, friendship, and excitement.

So don’t hide yourself away in the weeks after a breakup, going through the same dull routine of work, home, and Netflix.

Do something new. Try out a new class at the gym, eat at a café you’ve never been to, or start researching places to go for your next vacation.

Surround yourself with people who love you, even if you don’t feel like you’re good company.

Seek out excitement. Listen to live music, participate in a competition, or go on a roller coaster. Anything that gets your heart pumping and gives you that tingly feeling of being alive.

3. Get some perspective.

Sometimes when we break up, we think that the only time we were EVER happy was when we were with our ex.

But that’s not true.

You have lived most of your life without your ex!

And overall that life has been pretty good. You have done so much and experienced so many things.

To help jog your memory, connect with people who’ve been in your life for a long time.

Talk about the past. Reminisce together. Look at photos.

He was a small part of your life, but he’s not your entire life. Your life is so much bigger and richer than one person. You have values and goals. You have dreams and a purpose. Remember who you are.

Have you ever found it hard to break an addiction to an ex? Share what helped you get over him in the comments!

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