We often hear stories about couples who breakup and get back together, divorcees who end up remarrying their Exes, couples that split up but years down the line end up together again; as inspiring as this might seem for some, it is not always the desired outcome for everyone.
More often than not, couples slipt up and remain permanently separate and unless they have shared responsibilities (like raising children together) there’s usually no frequent communication. If you feel that you are craving contacting your Ex, but deep down you know it is a bad idea, then this article is for you.
Before we move on to the tips for fighting the urge to contact an Ex, it is important to first and foremost briefly understand why we might end up in such difficulty.
The end of a relationship is painful and even traumatic for some. When we experience being with someone we loved and was part of our lives is often incredibly difficult to completely let go. We develop almost a shared identity as part of being a couple and when that changes it feels like removing a piece of us… Besides, after a split up feels like starting over with a now new sense of identity as single people, as a result, being able to adapt to a new set of circumstances is hugely necessary.
However, the so needed adaptation to our new reality is a process and it doesn’t happen overnight, so during this period between the breakup and being able to actually move on from it there’s this period where life can seem daunting, understandably so.
In this daunting period there are a set of feelings/thoughts that may lead you to desperately want to contact your Ex: you might feel lonely with the added fear of believing you are going to feel lonely forever; you might miss what you had with your Ex; maybe you miss terribly his/her’s presence (companionship); or miss the partnership/responsibilities in some of the shores he/she shared with you (like taking out the trash/rubbish, walking the dog, dealing with the finances); or you miss him/her as being part of a family (network of support/family nucleus), etc. Basically, it can feel like the more you look around you, the more you miss your ex…
Furthermore, it is also important to consider that in this state of limbo with all the added pressures and fears that accompany this already painful ordeal, some of us develop nostalgia (rather than seeing the past for what it truly was, we recall it as a conglomeration of various memories, filtering negative ones out to integrate the positive ones).
It is not uncommon when we are struggling in our painful present, remembering the glorious past, even if altogether wasn’t that glorious, but we choose to remember the good bits and sometimes even enhance these.
So, in such times we might urgently need a reality check, not only to acknowledge our feelings and thoughts at that moment we are craving company, but also make an evaluation of everything that really happened with our Ex; on that note here’s my first tip for those who want to fight their urge to contact their Ex: Remember why you’re separated from your Ex.
Remember why the relationship broke down
Because we might be persuaded by our feelings of loneliness together with nostalgia, we may lose track of the real issues which drove us to this present situation in the first place.
The fact that a breakup occurred must involve a reason or a set of reasons as to why your relationship didn’t work and when feeling more vulnerable it is vital to remember why and how did you get here.
Those are definitely painful memories and we tend to want to avoid revisiting them, nonetheless, in these circumstances where, for a moment, we lose track of reality, it is extremely important to remind ourselves exactly where we stand in this breakup and start acting in ways that facilitate the recovery process instead of further dragging one down in this limbo.
If it helps, write down the reasons why you are broken up as well as the reasons why it doesn’t feel right to go ahead and contact your Ex.
Create a Distraction
Distractions can be a healthy and positive tool. They can provide an escape to ease pain, help cope and take attention away from a bad habit. Also, distractions remind us that we have a choice of how to spend our time and how to occupy our mind and I find this empowering.
The trick is to use distractions as a way to find relief and rejuvenation (healthy) instead of as a detachment from reality (unhealthy). When you find yourself obsessing over contacting your Ex, but deep down you know this is not at all beneficial, remind yourself that you have a choice of not to do so, more importantly, you can do something else instead to take your mind off of it.
You can contact someone else, maybe a close friend who you can open up to; or arrange to go out and catch up with an old acquaintance; maybe watch a movie; or practice a sport; maybe a hobby you really enjoy, etc.
Try your best to find ways to occupy yourself in those vulnerable moments, in essence, consider an healthier alternative that ends up being more advantageous for you than contacting your Ex.
Redirect your focus onto yourself
I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to practice self-care, starting by redirecting your attention onto yourself instead of focusing on you Ex.
In these moments where you feel more vulnerable and feel void, instead of resorting to your Ex, you can resort to yourself – you have the resources you need to deal with this ordeal.
Acknowledge your deepest feelings, write them down if you feel it helps; be kind to yourself, it’s okay to let your emotions out, allow them to be expressed without judgement; be that friend you need right now and be supportive instead of self-critical, all that can be achieved by changing your self talk.
Ongoing internal conversation with ourselves influences how we feel and behave, so it is vital to address one’s thought process if we want to address our feelings. Here’s a tip that can help you do that:
- Start by writing down what are you thinking,
- followed by how that thought made you feel,
- also, rate that feeling’s intensity from 0% (nothing at all) to 100% (maximum intensity),
- next, write down what you consider to be a more healthy/appropriate/positive/realistic thought,
- write down how that made you feel,
- rate these feelings as above (0%-100%)
- and finally look back at your notes and notice how the quality of your thoughts influence your feelings.
This exercise provides the opportunity for you to realise with this ‘map’ of your thoughts and feelings, which stands in front of you, how different thoughts can have a different impact on how we feel, and that impact will consequently influence our actions.
This is a brief version of a relevant tool frequently used in CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), created for a better understanding, as well as to facilitate adaptation /change of one’s cognition (core beliefs).
I find this tool to be very useful and I frequently recommend it in the Breakup context, where self-esteem, among others beliefs, is highly affected, in a situation where life seems very daunting.
It’s perfectly understandable how daunting change can seem to be, however change also means new things are to come, new opportunities and that can also mean positive things too, therefore change, as unsettling as it feels, it can also be embraced.
Change means that perhaps now it’s the perfect time to learn more about your likes, dislikes, your needs, and an opportunity to actually reinvent yourself! I understand it might seem extremely difficult right now to believe in a positive outcome out of this painful experience, but as difficult as it seems, more importantly – it is possible!
Practicing self-care not only refocuses your attention from your ex onto yourself, but it can also help you look after your needs and boost your self-esteem.
The recovery process is not simply depending on time passing by, but on what you do with it that is going to let you out of this limbo.
Small changes can make a huge difference.
Wishing you a kind recovery.