focus on yourself & the future,
not on your ex- & the past
It’s a theme that I repeat throughout this guide that needs to happen in every step of your recovery process: you need to make a real mental effort to focus on YOU and YOUR future, not to obsess about your ex- and the past.
I know how tough it is. You obsess about the relationship and the breakup. Every object in the world, every sound, every smell, every song, every conversation, every breath of air reminds you of your ex-. Not a minute goes throughout the day where you don’t think of the relationship and want to cry.
A lot of the quick-and-easy breakup recovery columns on the internet say something like “Here’s the secret: stop thinking about your ex- and work on yourself."
No, really?? Duh!! Thanks, right?!
“Just flip the switch to focus on the future."
If it were that easy, then neither this website nor all the relationship forums would exist, there wouldn’t be tens of thousands of people posting their breakup woes on the internet, there wouldn’t be millions of people who’ve suffered so much from the pain of a breakup.
Maybe some people really can just “throw a switch", but personally, it never worked for me... and the only way I saw it happen in the thousands of cases I've followed is as a natural result of time and following the right post breakup steps: no contact, get rid of all reminders, spend time with friends and rarely alone, stay very busy, focus on keeping your work/school in order, start new activities and hobbies, meet new people, etc.
Still, to the extent that you can, try to make yourself think of other things. Especially in the first weeks and month, it can be impossible, which is why I push so strongly the idea of just doing things and thereby forcing yourself to think about things other than the breakup.
But little by little, as the weeks and months go by, you start to recover your strength and you'll be able to make the mental effort necessary to not let yourself fall back into wallowing over the past.
It's very easy to fall into the trap of obsessing non-stop about the relationship, the ex-, and the breakup. But the danger is that it becomes a form of escape: by obsessing so much about the past, you avoid the need to confront the present and the future. And you're the one who loses.
The past is the past. Obvious and cliché to say, but true nonetheless. So what about now? Post-breakup is a good time to reflect on yourself and the life you have now. What goals do you have? What dreams? Aspirations? What have you always wanted in different areas of life: family, friends, spiritual/religious development, education, career, activities/hobbies, etc? How would you evaluate the progress you've made up to now towards each of those goals?
And most critically, what are you doing now to achieve those goals and put yourself a little closer to a life you want for yourself?
Pain from failed relationships and regret about the choices both made and not made is inevitable. We all suffer, and we all obsess about it. In the years of this website, I've received messages from thousands of people who can't stop obsessing about the past. So don't kick yourself that you're doing it too. But dwelling in the past can became so obsessive that you're no longer living in the present. If you're not focused on the dreams and goals you have for the NOW - if you're spending more time thinking about the past than you're spending on the planning and work to achieve your life goals - then it definitely is too obsessive.
As you gain strength, make a conscious effort to cut down – or eliminate entirely – the amount of time you talk to anyone about the ex-.
Gradually limit how often you post to the internet about the ex-.
Set daily time limits for how long you’ll allow yourself to do nothing other than think about the ex-, and gradually try to reduce that time.
And to the extent that you do think about the relationship and the ex-, it’s important to focus not on the pain, sadness and your self-perceived faults, but instead on what you can take out of it to improve yourself and your life in the future.
Slowly, you'll realize that the break-up, the relationship, and the memories of your ex- will only affect you as much as you allow. As you control it more, your regret will be less about the relationship and the ex- and more about the amount of time that you've wasted wallowing in your post-breakup depression.
You'll no longer feel love, pain, hatred, or sadness. What you'll feel will be the true opposite of all those: indifference.
And that's when the memories will no longer hurt.