What are some hacks to not crave my ex?
July 19, 2013 4:23 AM   Subscribe

I am already doing no contact and no exposure to my ex. Still, I get very regular cravings, thoughts, and dreams about them. It takes time out of my day, and disrupts my other relationships. I don't imagine I can make this stop, maybe ever, or for a long time. It's already been about a year. What are some practical, concrete tips to make this impact me less?

I am open to any and all creative suggestions, and I'd love to hear what worked for you.

I have read this and this previous question. Compared with those answers, I'm looking for practical rather than emotional tips.

For example, someone on MeFi said he did a novel activity every day for a few months, like baking an apple pie or taking a martial arts class. By 3 weeks in, he was too exhausted to think of his ex. I have also read that low doses of psychedelic drugs over a long time can help, though I haven't tried it. (Would love to hear from someone who has.) I'm interested concrete tips like these, which have actually lessened the brain space that your ex takes up -- for you.
posted by htid to Human Relations (17 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
At a certain point, the craving is actually less about the specific ex than it is about just plain loneliness and a longing to be coupled (even if it doesn't feel that way). The traditional remedy is dating, even just really casually, like 40 First Coffee Dates or whatever.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:40 AM on July 19, 2013 [13 favorites]

Rubber band around your wrist. When you find yourself thinking about him, snap yourself with it.

It sounds dumb and '70s pop-psych-esque, but it works for every obsessive habit. Smoking, cursing, snacking, daydreaming... Mild, instant aversion therapy.
posted by Etrigan at 4:41 AM on July 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Seek novel surroundings and experiences. Familiarity and accessibility breed triggers. Create new associations that have nothing to do with the ex, so that when you are in similar situations your brain has new, ex-free pathways to consider. And don't feel bad about it being a year already. Some people just have a way of getting deep in your head. It's probably part of what attracted you to your ex in the first place.

That's what worked for me when I was in your situation, at least.
posted by tllaya at 4:47 AM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Insight meditation, like what's described in Mindfulness in Plain English [link to online pdf, or you can buy a copy] is about sitting still long enough and letting the feelings and thoughts stir around without pushing them away long enough that you can observe how they change as they run their course. As a start, a couple of weeks of practicing dailiy for a short time would probably take some of the edge off. (Not suggesting to meditate "on" your ex or your feelings about them, but just to let that stuff be there and watch it curiously while you meditate on your breath.)
posted by spbmp at 4:49 AM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Though it's more of a feeling than an intrusive thought, I'd consider some strategies for intrusive thoughts that I've been given for my OCD. When you have a thought that is distressing, don't try to get rid of it. Instead, play with it a little. See if you can make the image brighter, the sound louder, and the experience more overwhelming. Push the feelings you have about the thought to their limit...if you're feeling sad, try to deliberately push yourself into despair, and hang out there for awhile, in a conscious way. What, specifically, are you craving? Can you pull that apart? Examine it for a bit?

The longer you can hold onto the thought and dissect it, the less power it has over you, because you'll begin to realize that thoughts are just thoughts, and you can take control of them.
posted by xingcat at 5:22 AM on July 19, 2013 [14 favorites]

My brain is a diabolical genius at dreaming up exactly the right situation to affect awake and rationale skrozidile.


So, honest to god, I have started to consider this part of my brain a troll. I do not feed it. I don't tell people about the dreams, I don't ruminate on them after I wake up and figure out that the insanity of the night is not real, and I get up and go do something physical and distracting if some unwanted ex related feeling creeps up on me while I'm awake.

If things get super bad and I really do need to vent then I call exactly one person who will listen for an appropriate amount of time and then remind (/tell) me to go distract myself with something productive or not productive or whatever.

It has been super effective. I went from having the dreams consistently several nights a week for a few months to having them maybe once a quarter.

...but I mean psychedelics sound way more fun*. I am going to go look that up. FOR SCIENCE.

*unless you are a supporting character /plot device on hannibal.
posted by skrozidile at 5:39 AM on July 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

You need to slap your brain around a bit. You don't miss your Ex. Not the actual person. You miss being in a couple. You miss that loving feeling. You're lonely, you're bored, you're too tired to date.

So acknowledge and admit to yourself that it's not the person you miss, but the experience. Why do you think the "girlfriend experience" hookers get so much money? You get all the benefits and none of the drama of an actual relationship.

What you have is more like a crush. It's idolized, it's perfect and it's 100% fiction.

When you look back on your life, you won't remember how you felt, you'll remember what you did. So do some neat stuff.

Take a class that interests you, workout, train for a marathon, watch all the Kurosawa movies, join a band, learn cake decorating, sew slipcovers for your sofa.

If you find yourself dwelling, try EFT, Tapping Technique. It works fabulously for disrupting invasive thoughts.

Say an affirmation out loud every day: "I am perfectly happy as I am right now. I am fine alone. I have wonderful friends and a full life."

Say it alot. At some point, you'll know it's true.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:54 AM on July 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Write about it. Write out your fantasy of how it would go. For me this typically leads to confirming that what I long for isn't even him per se, it is some fantasy that would never happen. If he were that great, we would still be together, living the awesome life I craved and still crave. The reality is he would never say or do that thing I long for. That's why we aren't together. Duh!

Also, get romantic attention from someone else. Get your needs met so you aren't having these cravings "for the ex" which may just be your way of saying to yourself "I am hungry for romance/sex/emotional intimacy/whatever & the ex seems like the easy answer."

Take on something personally challenging that matters enough to you to stick through the tough times. Give that project or goal your mental space and emotionally energy. Save the whales, save local kittens, go to college, ardently pursue a promotion. Whatever floats your boat that can consume you.
posted by Michele in California at 6:16 AM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

When I was in your shoes, the solution was to start dating again. But I was so emotionally wrung out by my addictive cravings for my ex that I had neither the energy nor the desire to date. I felt numb to the dating concept. If this is you, here's my hack: masturbate. A lot. More than you think you want to.

It resets the programming and makes you feel alive & sexual again, and that opens your eyes to all the cuties you could be flirting with every day. And that helps a lot in creating new grooves in the brain so that your habitual thinking defaults to "oooh look at that hottie!" rather than "I wonder what Ex is doing right now and whether Ex misses me blah blah blah."
posted by janey47 at 6:47 AM on July 19, 2013

Meet someone else to replace your ex in that part of your life.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:55 AM on July 19, 2013

The "new things" idea sounds to me like it'd work. Also, travel?
posted by salvia at 8:02 AM on July 19, 2013

JohnnyGunn has it: date someone else. It's the only thing that ever worked for me.
posted by peacrow at 9:43 AM on July 19, 2013

Just wanted to say that yes, it's totally counterintuitive but focusing intentionally on negative or intrusive thoughts and emotions can be a great way to deal with them. The "trick" is to observe the thoughts without either 1) getting totally carried away by them or 2) arguing with them. Your job at that moment is not to agree or disagree with your thoughts, but to listen compassionately.

Writing, as MiC mentioned above, works particularly well for this. I suspect it's because you both give yourself free license to feel whatever it is you're feeling, while also allowing yourself to observe whatever you're thinking from a slight remove. In this case, it's quite literal - you write whatever's on your mind, and then you see it displayed on a screen or a piece of paper, i.e., outside yourself.

Another thing that's been helpful for me, when I have thoughts like "I'm going to be alone forever" or "I'm no good at my job" (RL examples! sharin' all over the place today!) is to say the word "maybe" to myself. Maybe that's false, and maybe it's true. Maybe I won't ever be partnered long-term, maybe I will fail in my career - and that would be painful. But for some reason, just acknowledging that it is a possibility to myself - no more, no less - often makes me feel calmer. And then it is easier to think more concretely about how likely it is and whether there's anything I can do to make it less likely.

Of course if you find you're really suffering, you may want to talk this through with someone else, but these are things you can do by yourself.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:20 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some fun new making out with new folks. Hit the bars. There is a reason that the traditional tools for getting over an ex is um getting under someone new . . .
posted by anthropomorphic at 1:49 PM on July 19, 2013

Join a team sport or do something else where you'll spend a lot of time in the evenings and weekends with a new crew of people? Do one of those Habitat for Humanity trips to another country?
posted by salvia at 2:35 PM on July 19, 2013

Whenever you start to think about your ex, think about something about them that always irritated you. They chewed with their mouth open. They never said thank you to waitstaff. Their breath smelled terrible. Nothing is too trivial. It only takes a minute or less of UGH THEY WERE SUCH A CRASS JERK UGH to help your brain move on to thinking about other matters.
posted by fox problems at 6:17 PM on July 19, 2013

I made a playlist of tunes on the theme "What An Asshole". Whenever I got lonely for the ex I played my tunes, worked up a little righteous anger, and the melancholy morphed into relief that the a-hole was outta my life. I did the small dose psychedelics thing years ago but regular ol' antidepressants work just as well.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:37 PM on July 19, 2013

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