Please help me get her out of my head.
April 29, 2014 1:50 AM   Subscribe

I broke up with someone just over 3 months ago and I just cannot get her out of my head. I don’t know if this is a fixation, obsession, rumination or normal grieving?

I have written my story here before, but a brief synopsis to give some context:
I was recently in an on/off relationship with a woman which spanned about 4 years. She dumped me 3 times, each time it came out of the blue and each time by text. I was/ am still very much in love with this woman and I’m still upset about the most recent break up which happened just over 3 months ago.
I know this relationship has been unhealthy for me and it would be insane to ever consider getting back with her as clearly she does not feel the same way about me as I feel about her. However, I am constantly thinking about her and it is wearing me out. I don’t want to be constantly thinking about her and it feels as if she has polluted my thoughts. I don’t know if what I am going through is a normal part of grieving or something else? I want it to stop, or at least know that it will stop.
I haven’t tried, nor have any intention of reconciling with her, so why can’t I get her out of my head?

Here are some of the positive things I am doing to get me through this break up:

No contact. I haven’t attempted to contact her since she ended it and I don’t cyberstalk, hang out in places she might pop up etc. I’ve done my utmost to completely stay away from her.
Staying fit and healthy: I am eating well, have got a good fitness regime and have cut back on alcohol consumption.
Hanging out with friends
Spending time with family (My elderly parents and grown up sons)
Giving myself things to look forward to such as holidays.

Here are some of the things I feel may be counter-productive:

Spending too much time visiting websites that have advice about breaking up, broken hearts, relationships etc: At first I think it helped but now I think maybe they anchor me in the break up feelings.
Reading self help books: Again, as helpful as they can be I wonder if they just make me more aware of how upset I am about this relationship and it’s break down.
Listening to melancholy music.

Has anyone got any advice about how I can stop constantly thinking about her, and if it’s common for people to feel like this after this kind of break up?
I don’t feel like I have gotten closure on this relationship because of the nature of how she ends it with me. She never really explains her reasons. The most recent break up was communicated to me via a text telling me she wasn’t feeling the relationship anymore. This, a week after telling me she loved me .I also have this feeling she will get back in touch someday because each time she has dumped me previously she has gotten back in touch months later. As a consequence this has me in some sort of weird waiting mode.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
posted by blokefromipanema to Human Relations (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Has anyone got any advice about how I can stop constantly thinking about her, and if it’s common for people to feel like this after this kind of break up?

Yes it's common, and it just takes time. Keep busy and hanging out with people. It'll eventually pass.
posted by empath at 1:58 AM on April 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yes, it is common to feel like this after a breakup, especially one ended by a coward, by text.

How to stop constantly thinking about her? The common, and true, answer is Time. But sometimes Time takes a long time coming. Some ways of quickening it along involve visualisation. My friend imagined their 'nemesis' on a chair that was slowly but surely moving away from her, her home and family. I drew my nemesis and then methodically cut the drawing into small pieces. I couldn't help but cackle when cutting. Neither of these actions worked immediately but they had the subconscious benefit of moving the nemesis' Importance from the conscious mind.
posted by Kerasia at 2:13 AM on April 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

My observation has been that often these thoughts represent an idealized version of the person far from the real life version you actually know. This makes it difficult to avoid facing the reality of the situation. If you find yourself in a waiting mode, you should ask yourself what you're waiting for and why. Are you waiting for her to reappear, get your hopes up, and dump you via text again? Your closure is the realization that she is not a good person, because good people don't walk in and out of your life in a haze of mystery and hurt feelings. You don't have to hate her, but it's really okay to be angry at her for leaving you hanging like this. This isn't how good people end relationships. Are you waiting because it's easier to keep waiting than to face up to the enormity of the alternative?

It took me a long time to go from answering "no," to "yes," to moving on.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:51 AM on April 29, 2014 [8 favorites]

This might sound weird, but what are you good at?
Go and do it. Running, reviewing movies, gardening, whatever.
Rediscover it.
posted by edtut at 3:27 AM on April 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

The first thing you should look for in a partner is that they want to be with you. To keep thinking about a person who does not want to be with you in the context of them being your partner is unhelpful to your happiness.

I'm no psychiatrist but I suspect there is some short term pleasure in dwelling on thoughts about this person. Like there is short term pleasure in scratching a mosquito bite. Or bingeing on crispy, fat- and sugar-rich food. Or jerking off. None of these things are bad but you probably shouldn't spend all day doing them.

Perhaps you should try to identify your dwelling on thoughts about this person as not obsessive but maybe a bit self-indulgent? When you find yourself trying not scratch a mosquito bite, what do you do? Probably bottle that thought up and forget it. As soon as you start thinking about IT identify it as something you control yourself and stop yourself. I think you're probably doing this already. If you are, keep doing it and be strict with yourself.

If this was someone's death you were talking about this would probably be unhealthy advice, But it's the end of a relationship and people generally think that is something you get over eventually.
posted by Brian Lux at 3:34 AM on April 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

The only thing that helped me (besides time) was being really busy, with mind-stimulating activities which really cut down on how much time I could devote to thinking about him. Eventually I eased up all the busyness but thoughts of him never returned.
posted by Aranquis at 3:45 AM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's normal, and it sucks, and I'm sorry. Time and space are the cure, and you're already doing well. Let yourself continue to grieve a little, but start filling the time with pleasant distractions that don't remind you or her or your sadness. Now's the perfect time for you to catch up on books (fiction, not self-help!) or TV shows you've been meaning to get around to. Revisiting ones you've liked before helps, too.

Two bits of advice that apply to all breakups but I think specifically apply to yours: first, the amount and duration of pain you experience during the breakup isn't necessarily a gauge of how great or bad the relationship was. It doesn't mean she was the woman for you, or that she was horrible. Second, closure is a completely artificial concept and doesn't happen for most people, and longing for it or attempting to pursue it will almost always just drag things out further. That door will always remain open a crack, and you will either want to close it or look into it, but doing either will only result in your continuing to fixate on the door. Walk on, instead. The further away you are from that door, the less it will bother you.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:33 AM on April 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Focus on why the relationship ended rather than how it started. It ended for a reason beyond your control so it really was a dead end. Be glad that you are out now and can move on rather than later. Many, many people break up and find more suitable partners that make them happy beyond their wildest dreams, much happier than you were with her.
posted by waving at 4:34 AM on April 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I always recommend immersing yourself in a program of some kind. MBA, Reiki, Microsoft Access. Something where you're using your brain to learn a new thing, something where your brain is out of the emotional part and into the logic part. Let the logic part flex a bit, give your emotional brain time to rest and relax.

Stop going to sites about relationships and broken hearts. This relationship didn't fail because of something you did, or something you didn't do, it failed because it was never meant to be. There is no magic formula or recipe for a relationship. So many people think that if only they had zigged, instead of zagged, that they'd be snuggled up with their loved one right now. It just isn't so.

As mentioned above, do you love this person exactly as they are, or do you love some other version entirely? I think we all know the answer to that.

Do things. Eventually, you'll hurt less, and gain perspective, and then, move on.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:24 AM on April 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I get a bit obsessive with my thoughts occasionally. I will simply gently remind myself that I don't want to be thinking about whatever it is. Over and over and over with the gentle reminders. Just notice it and start thinking about something else. Do not beat yourself up or yell at yourself - just say "Oh, I'm doing it again; isn't that interesting, now it's time to think about dinner or to look out the window or to shift my attention back to work."

It feels very silly but it works. The gentleness is key.

I'd also look into counseling. I know you said you tried that but that you still thought about it too much. Are you still going? If it's not helpful, perhaps try a new counselor?

Good luck.
posted by sockermom at 5:35 AM on April 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Remember all those bad times you had with her?


Remember them.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:39 AM on April 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I think you need to decide that it's over now, for real, due to your own agency. If she comes crawling back, you don't want her.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:47 AM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go do other things. Yes, you are making it worse by wallowing. This is a choice you are making.

Be busy, and do it outside your home. Join an adult sports league, get involved in your community, do volunteer work. It is not that hard to find opportunities, check your local city/county government web page to start. Take a class - a physical class outside your home, start with CPR/First Aid if that's all you can think of, everybody should know it and there are always classes somewhere. Sign up for Home Depot's free weekend seminars.

Other people don't give you closure, you create your own. Yeah, stop going to the websites, stop reading self-help books. If you know something's making it worse, stop doing it. At this point, if you still require assistance, you need to get it from a professional.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:27 AM on April 29, 2014

Best answer: i've been thinking lately about the idea of "emotional metabolism" - just like with food, where it takes a certain amount of time for one's body to process the food we take in, to distinguish its good properties from bad, to use the former and get rid of the latter, and to eventually be hungry again - so too with our hearts. not to discount the excellent advice in this thread about active ways you can process your feelings - but maybe also acknowledge that things take time, and putting pressure on yourself won't help. this is by any measure a volatile experience that you have had, you repeatedly opened yourself emotionally to someone who, in the end, didn't treat you well. be gentle with yourself. by all means be active about it, but also cut yourself some slack.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:46 AM on April 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

One thing I've discovered is that it takes close to the amount of time you were with someone to get over them. You're just not going to be "over" a partner of four years in three months. That's not realistic.

I hate to say it, because I know you want a quick and easy solution, but the answer here is time. My advice? Get a new hobby. Some interest you can bury yourself in for six months or a year without being confronted with her.
posted by Sara C. at 8:35 AM on April 29, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the helpful replies and advice. A couple of you have suggested seeing a professional, and it is something that I have thought about. However, I have decided to not go down that route at this point in time and here are my reasons: After she dumped me for the second time early last year I went to seek help with a counsellor and seperately with a hypnotherapist.
Neither worked for me.
I was also considerably poorer as the sessions weren't cheap.
On reflection I think I was probably trying to take a shortcut by speeding up the grieving process. Also, though I was upset, I wasn't depressed (at least I don't think I was)
And, after all of that, she reached out to me 6 months later and I took her back, so it really was a waste of everybody's time and my money.
I vow not to take her back again should she ever reach out, but I want to see if I can just get through this tough period in a more natural, organic way this time without trying to force myself to get over it. I'm also abstaining from dating for now for the very same reason...because I'm probably a bit too emotional for it and I don't want to use an unsuspecting woman to help myself get over the last one.
posted by blokefromipanema at 8:38 AM on April 29, 2014

You're going to find someone wonderful who will treat you better and be committed to you. Some of this comes from missing having a girlfriend, not missing her specifically. That part is easier to fix - it will resolve when you find your next girlfriend.

You don't want to rush into dating since you're still feeling this way, but one sure-fire way to start to over someone is to develop a crush on someone else, and to have your daydreaming imagination be taken up by that new person instead.

You might even try just making an OKCupid profile and browsing. Don't start contacting people yet (unless you want to), but get a sense for how many other wonderful women are out there.
posted by amaire at 9:03 AM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about blocking her from contacting you? You can do this with Facebook and with your phone. That way, you won't have to worry if she reaches out.

It's easy to be attracted to people who draw you close and push you away. It's a challenge you can try to win, and when you lose, you spend time ruminating. The whole thing is a great way to avoid having any kind of real intimacy because on some level you know that the other person can't reciprocate and the time you spend ruminating over it keeps you from living your life in the present. Ask me how I know.

But if you can get some perspective on it and start dating again without the expectation that the people you're date will tug/impact you so intensely, you'll have a chance to have some fun and maybe develop something real.
posted by alphanerd at 9:06 AM on April 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am so sorry you are going through this. It sucks. One thing that stood out for me (as I have had this similar experience), is that she broke up with you three times, over text, and OUT OF THE BLUE. This can create an anxiety that stays with you.

It is that living in the unknown with her that may have set you up for what you are feeling now. You may have internalized the anxiety of waiting for the other shoe to drop, and now the relationship is gone, but the anxiety is still there, which adds to the difficulty and pain in trying to move on.

As to what to do? I personally like to take any thoughts that come up and, in my mind, throw them over the horizon, stick them in the trash, whatever visualization connects with you. It is something you do over and over again, until time does its work.
posted by Vaike at 10:34 AM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Date someone else! Right now! Go ask someone out. Have a rebound. You can do this honestly and ethically.
posted by quincunx at 10:59 AM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't feel bad about listening to melancholy music. Some experiments suggest it is neutral or even good for your mood.

What helps me is writing lots of details about the relationship that ended. Put the fond memories down on paper. How did each of the break-ups happen, moment-by-moment. What things did I do that might have had some role in it maybe not being the best relationship. What have I learned that I want in a future relationship. What do I know I want to do differently in a future relationship.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 11:06 AM on April 29, 2014

I'm sorry to hear what a tough time you're going through.

When I was in a place like this, I indulged in a lot of melancholy music-listening as well. But eventually I realized that listening to that music, although it made me feel understood and that seemed like a positive at first, was actually a form of wallowing (to use a word a few others above have used), and a negative choice I was making. On the other hand, I wasn't helped by listening to peppy, upbeat music, or even empowering break-up anthems, because those made me feel like everybody felt good but me. So what I did was look for music with lyrical themes that acknowledged sadness and difficulty, while focusing on hope and the possibility of moving on.

Here's one thread with song recs that might be appropriate, and there are probably more around, or you could ask for some in another question. I know this answer focused on just one small part of your question, but it's something concrete you can do. And just in my own experience, my music-listening habits were something I needed to change before I felt better. I hope you feel better soon too.
posted by honey wheat at 11:12 AM on April 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's fine to hold off on dating and therapy if you feel you need to but keep them in your back pocket.

Finding a good therapist can be difficult and to somebody feeling worn down already it can just become one more problem. My experiences with it have always been frustrating and brief, so I understand where you're coming from. I don't think of it as wasted time or money though. If the sessions themselves didn't really offer much clear help, the routine of going did. It became "thing I do in difficult times." Broke up my weeks and months. Added another obligation to my routine. And even when I disagreed with the therapist or felt the conversations went in circles, it made me think more critically about my problem. Rather than just dwelling or stewing on the pain and its cause (which I still did plenty of) I could begin to consider why the therapy wasn't addressing what I felt it needed to. It would put just a little wedge of distance between me and the issue. So even if it "went nowhere," in the sense that nothing clear was solved and I left after a handful of visits, it still helped.

Dating is trickier. You'll start to know when you're beginning to be ready. If you're still worried you'd use any potential date as an unsuspecting aid in your recovery, I'd say it's probably a little too soon. Get at least a little more confidence in your sense of self and worth as a partner. You don't need a ton, at first, but some helps. It's good to start inching your way to something new. Be honest with yourself and whoever your future date is. It could be a while before you're ready to be a good partner to somebody new but no real harm in trying. Don't get ahead of yourself and be aware if you're wading too deep. Shitty dates aren't the end of the world and you might even be able to make a friend or two.

And to address your initial question, 3 months is not that long. Your constant thought loop is normal and yes, its exhausting. At this stage, you just have to muscle through. Time really is the answer. You'll most likely always think of her but eventually the whole experience will get filed away with the rest of your "major moments in life." Closure is a false concept/goal and if you fall back into contact with your ex do your best to avoid looking for it. You're both on your own now. Your memories and feelings about the relationship are yours. Hers are hers. Things broke, unhappily, and there's very little chance of reconciling the two now. All you can do is be kind to yourself. You'll feel better. The corny "one day you'll be walking down the street and suddenly realize you feel great and have felt great for days" is true.
posted by AtoBtoA at 2:23 PM on April 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Date someone else! Right now! Go ask someone out. Have a rebound. You can do this honestly and ethically.

While I'm sure this works for some people, I really wouldn't want to be the person on the other end of this (I can just see myself agreeing, in some situation, that I understood they didn't want something serious because it was just a rebound, and then falling for them anyway). I don't know. That seems like a good way to possibly hurt someone else and not a great way to deal with what you're going through.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:31 PM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I vow not to take her back again should she ever reach out, but I want to see if I can just get through this tough period in a more natural, organic way this time without trying to force myself to get over it. I'm also abstaining from dating for now for the very same reason...because I'm probably a bit too emotional for it and I don't want to use an unsuspecting woman to help myself get over the last one.

This is good. I would mark this best answer and do it. Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:05 PM on April 29, 2014

Date someone else! Right now! Go ask someone out. Have a rebound. You can do this honestly and ethically

No, you really can't. Please don't.
posted by Violet Hour at 11:04 PM on April 29, 2014

Response by poster: There are so many good and helpful answers that I'm having real trouble deciding which one is the best. I hope I don't cause offence if I don't select your answer as best, especially if you have taken the time to write some wisdom and advice for the benefit of me....a total stranger.
I have taken a lot of heart from many answers and feel a bit better today because of them. I'm going to save a link to this page so I can always refer to it for inspiration over the coming months.
On the subject of dating, I can understand why the suggestion of meeting someone would arise. If I got lucky and met someone I really clicked with, then of course it would go a long way to getting her off my mind. But the likelihood is, especially in my current frame of mind, that I would 'settle' for someone to help me feel better. This would be unfair to her if I then emerged from my break up fog only to decide I wasn't really into her that much.
So I'll remain single for now
Onwards and Upwards.
posted by blokefromipanema at 8:16 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am glad you feel better. This WILL improve with time, particularly if you put in the hard work. It will get better if you do not allow yourself to dwell.

I left a man that loved me for eight years unconditionally five years ago. I was in bed crying over losing him yesterday. I let myself do that for about three minutes and then I forced myself to get up and ate a sandwich and then I sat down and did something else that was more important. I didn't think about him again until now. That took practice and it wasn't always that way but I have better things to do with my time than miss him. It almost feels narcissistic when I wallow like that now. It didn't at the beginning - where you are - but now it does. It's been five years since I've heard his voice. That's ok.

I have a friend who also lost someone in a similar way to you. She is still talking about it two years later. Sometimes she will get in a deep funk and talk about it for hours. It is a pain that will never go away. But that pain comes at great cost. She loses time to it, and not infrequently. Friends have distanced themselves from her because they do not want to participate in those discussions. They care but they don't want to help her keep the pain alive. They also want to live in the present. If this loss is a shadow over everything and other people are aware of that they do not want to be involved.

Our pain over our losses will never entirely disappear, but the way we deal with that pain will hopefully change over time. I do not want to be stuck in the past. I miss the man I called my best friend for eight years, but that's life. There's a good quote from the TV show Girls: "Why is it sad that we no longer talk? Because we once shared earth-shattering intimacies and now we are mere strangers? That's not sad - that's life."

I think that talking about it is a way of keeping it alive. Asking about it on metafilter and reading and re-reading responses is a way of keeping it alive. It is in the past. It doesn't need to be kept alive for too long. It is great that you are asking this now because that shows that you don't want to feed that hungry pain beast forever. That is great. Focus on that desire. When you feel like you miss her and you catch yourself thinking of her remind yourself "I do not want this. I have asked Metafilter how to make this stop multiple times. I can make it stop. Time to think about something else now."

I'd urge you to figure out a way to gently tell yourself "I am the only one keeping this alive and it does not have to be this way." You don't want this. That's good.

Keep taking care of yourself.
posted by sockermom at 8:39 AM on April 30, 2014 [8 favorites]

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