Can't stop picturing it!
December 11, 2012 6:47 PM   Subscribe

How do you stop picturing your ex having a romantic date and sex with the new person he's dating, when someone has told you exactly where they are and what they are doing?

Alright MeFi. I just had a whirlwind of an intense romance for the past month. It abruptly ended with me being dumped, and the guy moving on to an acquaintance of mine almost immediately.

A few days ago, he ended things with me by telling me he knows I'm not the one, and that he and this other girl had hooked up and are dating now. Then yesterday, a different acquaintance told me all about this big movie/dinner date that he and the other girl have coming up tomorrow and how excited the other girl is about it. (The acquaintance had no idea that this guy and I had been dating, and was just making some gossippy chit-chat about people we both know.)

I am extremely raw about being dumped, and I am going to be picturing every minute of this date. Every time I look at the clock tomorrow I am going to know where they are and what they are doing. I am going to be picturing all the kissing and hand holding.

When the movie is over I am going to be picturing them going home and having sex together. I am going to be picturing them in bed naked and having pillow talk. I am going to keep trying to think of other things and distract myself but my mind is going to keep snapping back to it.

HOW DO I STOP THIS????? I do not want to be imagining these things at all. I do not want to be thinking about these people. How do you stop picturing this when you KNOW what is happening?? Help me :(
posted by galenka to Human Relations (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do something else. Go to a movie, see friends, re-read Pride and Prejudice.

Oh, this guy sounds like an ass, so if you prefer, imagine him dumping her in a month.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:49 PM on December 11, 2012 [13 favorites]

Go out and do something awesome during this time, preferably physically exhausting and with friends. Don't drink a bunch of alcohol.
posted by justjess at 6:50 PM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Don't spend the evening alone. Do something really fun, engaging, with friends. See a great long movie or concert. But do not spend the night sitting at home alone.
posted by alms at 6:51 PM on December 11, 2012

Take your mind off of it by doing something you enjoy. Exercise, get together with friends, take yourself shopping. Besides, how do you know they're going to even do any of that stuff? They could have a miserable time. Maybe he can't get it up. Who knows.

Every time you feel your mind drifting that way, tell yourself, "Stop. It doesn't do any good to fixate on their night together. There's no way I can even really know if they're having a good time or not. He's not the guy for me."

Then politely let your friends know that you'd appreciate it if they didn't mention your ex in conversation like that.
posted by thank you silence at 6:54 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

First of all, remind yourself that everyone experiences this by watching this scene from the movie High Fidelity.

Then forgive yourself for being human, because yeah, this will dwell on you a bit...then see a movie, a big blockbustery one with a lot of guns and explosions. Fluffy dumb brain candy stuff.

Then tell the guy who told you about your ex that you do NOT want to gossip about your ex any more so they don't inadvertently put you in this position again.

You will get past this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:57 PM on December 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

Step 1: If you haven't already, de-friend this guy on Facebook, delete his contact info from your phone, email, and everything else.

Step 2: The next time an acquaintance brings him up in conversation, politely steer the conversation away. If the subtle approach doesn't work, try being more direct: "Would you mind if we talked about something else? So, any special plans for the holidays?"

Step 3: Tomorrow do something amazing. See your favorite people and do your favorite things. If, for whatever reason, you don't have access to friends or awesomeness tomorrow, you could always go the entirely opposite direction, and wallow in ice cream and cheesy movies. Cry it out and let it go. (Alternatively, you could concoct an elaborate narrative where this date goes horribly, terribly wrong. Be as liberal with the humiliating moments as you need to be).
posted by murfed13 at 6:59 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

if there is one near you, i can highly recommend smacking the shit out of some softball pitches at a batting cage. you'll be sore as hell the next morning, but the during is pretty freaking awesome. you can imagine batting the faces of those who wronged you.
posted by koroshiya at 7:01 PM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I would hate this too. Because I am, by nature, a jealous bastard.

But y'know what? He is SOOO not worth the headspace. You need to be very, very busy that night. In fact, you need physical exercise. Do you have a gym membership? Personally, I'd be hitting my health club for a high-energy group fitness class, followed by a spa and sauna, followed by a healthy dinner and a great night's sleep.
posted by Salamander at 7:04 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ugh, I'm picturing it and I don't even know the ass.

I've honestly found no way to keep myself from picturing it and going crazy. I think knowing there are a lot of other people out there who would be feeling just like you helps. You're not wrong for feeling like you do, it's the natural way to feel.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:24 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Imagine she has herpes and he gets it from her.;-)
posted by orange swan at 7:28 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Bonus distracting mental imagery: Imagine during the date he inadvertently tucks his shirt into his toilet paper dick hammock and is therefore escorted off the premises at a fine dining establishment.

In all seriousness, Salamander has a fine idea. You need to get your mind onto something else and the easiest way to do this is to get physically tired and then do things that require progressively less mental focus until you can drift off to sleep and wake refreshed.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:36 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

To paraphrase Dan Savage, the only cure is other people's saliva.
posted by deathpanels at 8:10 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Tell your friends not to tell you about stuff like this because you don't need to know and it only causes you pain.
posted by victory_laser at 8:19 PM on December 11, 2012

Me in this situation? Take a klonopin and go to bed.
posted by greta simone at 8:53 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, go ahead and imagine it. No point in fighting it. Them out at dinner, at a movie. Making out.

But just be clear about what you're seeing. Just imagine it fully, with each of them wearing their personally appropriate, black t-shirts with white lettering.

His T-shirt: "I'm an ass"

Her T-shirt: "I've not really got anything to be proud of regarding my behavior, either"

Because that about sums up the two of them and their behavior.

Your T-shirt?

"Sucks. Big time. But I guess I dodged a bullet there, didn't I?"

See it for what it is. And appreciate that the fact that you'd probably never behave as shitily as either one of them is the clearest indicator that you deserve better. It's going to down-in-the-doldrums suck for a while until you see some other guy that stirs your pot and makes you smile. But never, ever regret going all out for love. Love's worth it - it's just the hooking-up-with-your-aquaintance-loser-guy-who-you-just-happen-to-find-attractive-because-biology-just-works-that-way-jerkface who's just not.

So hold your head up. You own this.
posted by anitanita at 9:58 PM on December 11, 2012 [17 favorites]

When I am trying to reset my brain, I do any/all of the following:

-make a list of things or try to name all of something in my head (name every professional football team, all the states, every country I can think of in Africa, all the current world leaders I know by name, now all the world leaders I know by name in history, current royals of European countries, animals you find in the forest, now desert, now jungle...etc.)

-make a to-do list of errands to run, places to visit in my lifetime, movies I've been meaning to see, books I want to read, books I've read about recently that I should want to read, etc

-sing a song to myself and try to remember all the lyrics

-try to remember a favorite movie or book from childhood in as much detail as possible, including picturing the setting and your favorite lines or scenes or jokes or what have you.

They all have helped me moment to moment at different times when I was sick of thinking about something but my brain wasn't.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:00 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

I second orange swan who mentioned imagining herpes is being transmitted. Create some negative associations in your mind for their relationship or date to give it an icky feeling, such as spreading sickness, horrible bad breath, unbathed bodies, unwashed clothes, drunkenness, cigarette smells, or whatever turns you off the most. Then the whole thing won't feel so interesting to you anymore and you'll be glad you are not there and they are instead.
posted by Dansaman at 11:02 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would try to think about them as little as humanly possible and about you as much as possible.

Therefore - movie marathon with your favourite sexy actor.
posted by heyjude at 12:20 AM on December 12, 2012

I have also found that I am bothered by thinking about an ex having sex right up until the moment I start having sex, and then I don't care anymore.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:07 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, tell your mutual friends to not talk about this person to you in future. If you don't know what he's doing you won't be able to picture it.
posted by Decani at 1:48 AM on December 12, 2012

Like Snarl Furillo, I run through lists, or more actually, I multiply 2. 2 x 2 = 4, 4X 2 = 8, 8 x 2 = 16, until I get stuck and lost on the multiplication and go back and start again. And the other thing I've been doing (because that had become quite boring) was to imagine numbers, 1, with complete design. Say 120 pt, with large neon outline, and tribal pattern within. I suppose I could draw them, but that wouldn't take the mental power that imagining them does.
posted by b33j at 2:00 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

You can't force your brain to not think of him. But you can practice the meditation technique of acknowledging the thought and letting it go. And you can give yourself other interesting things to focus on, so that you don't get bogged down in thinking about him. Good ideas above, and I highly recommend doing something intense and physical. If you can find a volunteer opportunity doing something different, do it.

Also remember you have NO idea what is really happening. You know their plan as of whenever the mutual friend talked to you. But one of them could cancel, or they could have a boring evening, or she could spill tomato sauce on her dress, or the food could be bad, or right up front she could mention that she loves chewing gum and he could realize that this will never work because he hates gum, or .. any number of other things.

Wouldn't it be ludicrous if you wasted your evening imagining them whispering sweet nothings to each other and while in reality she came down with the flu and had to cancel?
posted by bunderful at 3:54 AM on December 12, 2012

This really just is a matter of not thinking about it. It's not complicated. If you have the thought, think about something else. You can practice this skill with meditation. If you haven't been regularly practicing meditation, then yes, it is going to be a struggle for you and will suck. It's like if you have never gone running before, and suddenly you find yourself chased by a woolly mammoth. Your legs are going to hurt and you'll be out of breath. However, if you go running each day and get trained up like a marathon runner, next time you are being chased by a woolly mammoth, it'll be no big deal. Situations like this are why it's good to practice meditation.

The reason you need meditation is that there is no logical reasoning that will make the state of events not painful. You wanted something and didn't get it. You liked something and lost it. There is no logical answer to make that okay. Saying to yourself, "I didn't like it anyway!" is not effective because that's completely inauthentic. So, there is no easily accessible logic that will make your pain go away. Therefore, really the only way to handle this (at least until your life is so wonderful that you can authentically say you are happy about the state of events) is to get the thought out of your head. Meditation, thought stopping, etc. The only answer besides that is "time."

Something that helps me when bad things happen is to think of all the other people on the planet that bad things are happening to. I won't list them here, but you don't have to look too far to find examples. Put yourself in another person's shoes who has just had ["unfortunate" event x], imagine what their life is like, then imagine what they have to do next. Usually what they have to do is focus on the future and take some sort of positive action for themselves.

In this particular situation with romance, another helpful trick is to stop your empathy, even if you can't stop your thoughts altogether. If you find yourself thinking about what is going on his his mind and her mind, stop yourself with, "It is really impossible to know that." You have 100% knowledge of the current factual state of events. Your exbf is gone and you are currently not in a relationship with him, and it's likely you won't be tomorrow. However, everything else you are thinking (his feelings, her feelings, etc.) is 100% pure speculation... and sometimes this speculation is what is most painful, even more painful than the facts. If you must think about something, think about the objective realities of your situation, e.g., "We broke up, he is not here, I am X years old, I live on Q street in Anytown USA," which is something you know for sure. This is more useful and also more accurate than putting yourself in his shoes and ruminating on his thoughts (or her thoughts). I find that it's easier to stop my empathy, e.g. ("Stop being empathetic, Kellybird! You can't know that for sure") and focus on facts, than it is to stop my thoughts and feelings on a topic altogether.

Another technique is to find things that are positive to focus on. When the world looks grey (or even black) this is not easy to do. Fortunately, internet to the rescue. I sometimes watch a ton of TED talks on video... it's hard to find more inspiration than TED talks. TED talks are like meaning and inspiration packaged into 10 minute segments. Just as long as you pick positive ones that are not going to push at any of your particular sad buttons. Just put one on and see what happens!

Something else that's effective for me is to spend time rereading my own history. Looking through old journal entries, and/or cards from my family and friends over the past 10 years, or stuff I created when I was younger... this can have the effect of reminding you of the whole, complete person you've been for much longer than the few months you knew this guy. It's a reminder that you exist without him and you'll keep on going for the next decade, also, and that your life will keep having richness and complexity to it.

And lastly, in the case of romantic troubles, it can be useful to take a look at how many times you've fallen in love before. Look at the past 5 years. If you've had 4 romances, then your rate is one romance about every year. Then consider how many more years you will be alive. The statistical probability is really really good that whatever nice feelings you had this past month, you'll have them again. And, not in a decade's time, but in a shorter span, statistically speaking. So just prepare yourself for that.
posted by kellybird at 4:47 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just picturing it? You have no idea how easy you have it. This is 2012! Be thankful he isn't Twitter-flirting and swapping sex songs over Facebook and posting couple photos to Instagram that your other friends like, all in real time. (I have seriously texted friends being all "OH MY GOD PLEASE INSTAGRAM SOMETHING RIGHT NOW. ANYTHING. YOU KNOW WHY." More than once, for more than one dude.) Although that's not really different from your situation, just hyper-accelerated. It doesn't matter whether you get your info from friends or followers; the world's still one big ol' panopticon that is very happy to present you with endless cheery stories about how awesome your ex's new relationship is.

But that's what they are, stories. Everyone imagines the best possible version of other people's lives. Right after this happened to me recently (well, minus the whirlwind romance, really minus romance in general), I'd scored a second date with a guy I'd been seeing before. I didn't tell everyone about it, because that's not my style, but oh man would it have sounded great: Saturday night out at a cozy Greek restaurant near me, drinks afterward at my favorite intimate wine bar, a glass of wine later at my apartment. The blow-by-blow would have been excruciating to picture - almost as excruciating as the date itself, where dinner conversation was forced, where the bar was too crowded to even enter, where my roommates got home early making wine and et cetera rather awkward, and where he wouldn't even look at me the next morning. Because that's what early dating is like. (Go browse the dating tag here.) When you've just been dropped and when the dude's moved on within days (IT WAS LESS THAN A WEEK, WHAT THE FUCK), it's really tempting to imagine that Girl No. 2 isn't just somebody new but The One, with whom he'll live in matrimonial bliss forever in your face. It can happen, I guess - but it's incredibly unlikely. Especially with guys like this dude who are - how do I put it? - fickle. (Also, possibly jerks!)

It's pointless to try not to picture the date. (Don't think of a pink elephant.) So picture it going as horribly as possible. You'll have just a good a chance of being right - and schadenfreude feels a whole lot better than misery. If you can do something fun that day, that's not a bad idea. If it's possible for you to line up some other dates, and if the prospect makes you happy instead of filling you with creeping malaise, that's not the worst idea either. If you just want to get your mind off it, go to bed early - you can't dwell on things while asleep.

Oh, and one last thing? The dinner-and-a-movie date, this early on, is one of the more likely to end awkwardly. Think on that, maybe?
posted by dekathelon at 4:58 AM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, uh, this isn't Matt, is it?
posted by dekathelon at 5:14 AM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, FWIW, dinner and a movie is really boring.

The day I am excited about a dinner and movie date, kill me.
posted by kellybird at 6:42 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.

Go out. Have a one night stand.

You'll be ok - it just hurts really badly right now, but you'll be ok. =(
posted by Georgia Is All Out Of Smokes at 8:23 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, if these are the people mentioned in your last question, the easiest way to get over this whole thing is to recognize that these are shitty, awful, ghastly people who are not worth a single second of your time ever, ever again.
posted by elizardbits at 8:53 AM on December 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

elizardbits speaks the truth.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:59 AM on December 12, 2012

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