I had a friend who was so obsessed over his ex-wife, she was all he could talk about. Even on dates. Everything triggered a comment or conversation about her… meals, restaurants, movies, a gift he was given by a nice lady who was interested in him (The “Ex-wife gave me one of these on our 2nd anniversary!” response put an immediate stop to that), music, weather, even a drunk man he once drove past.
And we’re not just talking memories… he goes on and on about who she’s currently dating, where she goes on vacation, and what she’s posting on social media (“Why is she posting stuff like that?”).
Ironically, he’s the one who filed divorce, but he now pays more attention to her than he did when they were together.
Disclaimer. I am a narcissistic abuse recovery coach and work with clients who suffer from cognitive dissonance and trauma/biochemical bonding. This post, however, refers to breakups from people who do not suffer from serious mental/emotional disorders.
Hello kettle… you’re black
I’m the last to judge though. I’ve given an ex or two way too much of my brain-space in the past.
It’s like I forgot that while giving all my time and attention to someone whose life I was no longer a part of, I left my own life on ignore.
This was not only frustrating to the people around me, but especially exhausting for myself. So much so that I dedicated months trying to figure out how to detach and move on. I got so good at getting over breakups that people began referring to me as the “Breakup Queen”… I even specialized in breakup recovery coaching in the past.
The first thing I had to consciously remind myself was that after losing someone’s love, the most important thing I can do is give more love & attention to myself.
This meant I had to practice No Contact and stop draining my energy on the following things:
1. Digging around for closure
I get how badly you want/need a clear and solid reason that you can understand & accept, but whatever their reason for ending the relationship, they decided this wasn’t for them.
My ex husband once asked me (when I was BEGGING him to give us another chance):
“Why do you want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you?”
A slap in the face, but it left a lasting impression. At the time I was in full “save my marriage” mode, spending all my time and energy researching the possibilities of how he could just up and out from our lives. I joined support groups and consulted with marriage counselors and psychologists.
But that question alone put a halt on all that. He doesn’t want to be with me… yet here my life revolved around trying to get him back.
In the big scheme of things, the how, whys and other details really don’t matter. He/she no longer wants in on the relationship. As much as that sucks, that’s the reality at this point you need to invest all of that time and energy into yourself instead.
2. Competing to happiness
The quote, “Happiness is the best revenge” can be an empowering thought after you’ve been slighted. However, you can’t truly be happy if “revenge” is what you focus on.
Just as harmful is when you try to compete with your ex for who can be happier – or get to happiness first.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to focus on yourself after a breakup. This means doing your best to feel whole again, without being part of a couple. Because when you are truly whole, you will find confidence and happiness.
When you focus on being happy for the sake of “stickin it to em” in an effort to make them jealous – or perhaps have second thoughts about the breakup, you’re still depending on the ex to make you feel whole.
That’s a whole lot of power and responsibility you’re giving to someone who’s no longer a part of your life. You know where that’s gonna get you? Not far.
Your ex has been removed from the path you’re walking. There’s no one there to compete with. So work on being happy – not because you want your ex to “think” you’re happy… but because YOU want to be happy.
3. Waiting for them to regret it
It might happen – and it might not. It really doesn’t matter because that’s not your reality right now.
Sure, it feels good to imagine your ex calling or texting one day to tell you that breaking up with you was the worst decision they’ve made in their lives and they’re miserable without you, but those fantasies are not helpful for your recovery.
I once had a client who kept this fantasy playing in her head and she actually started to feel good and began making improvements in her life. While it looked hopeful from the outside, it was pretty disturbing from the inside because everything she was doing was motivated by the hope that her ex will come back for her someday.
When she discovered that he was in a new relationship, she was devastated and all the good feelings and improvements she made were thrown in the trash.
Don’t make this your driving force. There are no guarantees when you put all that responsibility on someone else – especially an ex relationship. It’s dangerous to try healing, walking on such unstable foundation.
4. Constant ex-talk
Talking about your pain and confusion after the breakup helps in dealing with and healing your injured heart. However, doing more ex-talk than self-work will not make you feel better or improve your situation.
While it feels good to have your family and friends agree and support you, the only thing that happens when you constantly talk about your ex for a prolonged length of time is confirm the relationship went wrong.
Get it off your chest… then think, “I am so sick of being stuck in this angry/sad space! What the hell can I do to stop obsessing over them so I can let go and move forward with my own life?”
And if you need to to keep talking about the ex, find a good therapist who will help you guide your dialogue about the ex and the breakup in a healthy direction.
5. Remaining friends
Nope, not right after a breakup.
Of course, there are couples who break up / divorce and get along much better afterwards than when they were together, but you’ll already know if that’s the case, and it will happen naturally.
Don’t try to force (yourself or the ex) being BFFs just to remain in their lives. That’s like settling for scraps because you can’t get the prize. Plus, it will hinder you from truly healing because you’ll be too busy behaving in a way you think will be most appealing to your ex.
Maybe you’ll cross paths later on after you’ve healed and realize you can be friends again. Just don’t force it now because you really need all the space you can get to recover without distraction.
Breakups are hard. Be kind to yourself and give your love, time, and attention to the person who deserves it the most… YOU.
P.S. Lemme know what you think!
Carmen is a mom, life strategist, religion teacher, best selling author, advice columnist, foodie wannabe, and advocate for victims of narcissistic abuse. She is currently living la vida loca in Vegas with her not-so-little human… prepping him for med school while pseudo-adulting, Tahitian dancing, and exploring the delicious world of bubble tea *woo!*