I passed a big milestone this week. I’ve been waiting for it to come and go, to feel the shift, to appreciate the delicate breakdown of my past. I’m so grateful it’s behind me and life can continue moving in the direction I create. Being haunted by an ex is a disturbing feeling - it’s as if your mind is being hijacked by uncontrollable emotions when all you want is to forget about someone you once loved. Here are 7 ways to fix the problem and to stop thinking about the past.
Warning: I do not prescribe getting a lobotomy or numbing out with prescription or recreational drugs and alcohol even though the thoughts definitely crossed my mind many times!
Going through my past breakups, I didn’t let the trauma of ruined love hurt the sweetness I shared. But, I admit, I’ve been easily haunted (for a very long time) by certain memories and have fallen prey to lots of nostalgia and loneliness. So when you tell me that you wish you could just forget about them or you want to get to peace and acceptance, I get it!
This is where the adage of time as a healer comes in, Especially when it comes to thinking about an ex-lover. I like that time does heal all wounds. I’m grateful that as time passed and the months and then years went by, I’ve thought less and less about the “one who got away” or the “one who hurt me the most”.
I’m a big fan of scheduling mourning - when I deliberately set aside time during the week or during the day to remember my past, shed a few tears and then shift to focus on the day at hand.
I have patience with being human and a big tolerance for the tears when they come. I’m able to recall choice moments of affection and the hope we once shared, have a good cry then let it go. I understand that I’ve been marked by a lover or two and that they hurt me on a soul level. Sometimes I wonder, who hasn’t been? I may not like it, but I get it.
Each memory etched another piece of me. I can’t reverse any of that nor can I fight with it. So I’ve decided that making peace with who I was and what I got myself into helps immensely.
I’ve developed compassion for anger and no longer look for retribution. I’m grateful I’m over wanting to play God or enact punishment. But it wasn’t easy! My role isn’t to harm another, to keep tabs, to listen for their downfall the way my imagination so badly wanted to for way too long.
I’m grateful I’ve let go of needing to know. Because in my heart of hearts (and I’m open to being wrong) I know they’ll suffer too one day - if they aren’t suffering and hurting now. I know because I know what they’re capable of and I remember who they are.
Being haunted by them lasted for years. As an “expert” I wish I could say you won’t be haunted or that “getting under another lover” will help you forget about the “one who got away”. Unfortunately, you will be haunted for quite some time, and another love simply prolongs the inevitable mourning period. It’s just the way things are.
But the passage of time matters on many levels - the milestone I passed this week celebrated the 7-years since I was last with him. Just to help keep things in perspective: every 7-years our body turns over all its 75 + trillion cells. I like to think of those cells equal in number to the stars in our galaxy. I no longer have a cell within me that slept with him. That is a freeing feeling!
Now when I have a memory, I do so with distance, objectivity, and wisdom. I’m no longer beholden to my hurt self-esteem, low self-worth or a broken heart. But it took some time and I needed to come face to face with that old pattern of falling for men who didn’t treat me well. I needed to heal that part of me and to make genuine love possible.
As you read through this personal story, I hope you feel hopeful. Your life will evolve and change. Your story gets to unfold as long as you want it to. You always have the possibility of letting go and finding new love. And you get to decide how much mourning you need to do.
In order to fix the problem of haunting ex’s, you also have to create courage and be willing to let go. If it doesn’t happen overnight, you’re going to have to be willing to take back your self-confidence over and over and over again. Just to be clear, I still think about him! But, I no longer let those thoughts affect me. It’s become more important over time, and as I regained my equilibrium, I’m the one to decide what makes me worthwhile and lovable - not someone else.
We all know that we’re supposed to be the ones to manage our thoughts. We all know we’re worthwhile and can handle when a man or woman leaves us. But in the moment of being haunted, nostalgic, lonely, and sad it’s easy to forget what we’re supposed to remember.
My advice is to get clear about what you’re up really against -
- the passage of time: 7-years to change all your cells… yep, that’s a bit of time
- the need for courage… to overcome the need to reach out, be afflicted by sentimentality, and nostalgia
- patience… with just how tough it can be some days
- compassion… for being human and having a memory
- scheduled mourning time… when you’re allowed to cry and weep and definitely feel sorry for yourself
- time… one day you’ll remember the story without the sadness or anger
- hope… for finding someone who wants to be with you for the long-run.
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach at laurabonarrigo.com. Laura's a writer, public speaker and the founder of doingDivorce School an online coaching program for those ready to shed the pain of divorce. For empowering and practical ways to have a better divorce, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com and laurabonarrigo.com.