Can't get her ex out of your head? Here are the signs you may be letting things get on top of you and what you can do about it
We might be reluctant to admit it, but we've probably all thought about our partner's exes from time to time. One thing's for sure, pointless comparisons and blowing the ex issue out of proportion are never going to get you anywhere. If you can't get her ex out of your head, don't fret. NZ MEN has the know-how.
- Your thoughts are churning - If you find yourself re-working thoughts of her ex in your mind, in the unlikeliest of everyday situations, the chances are you're fixating on it too much.
- Your mind runs away with itself - You start thinking about scenarios that aren't actually happening, which may become increasingly outlandish, and you're getting worked up about them.
- Your partner notices - If your partner starts commenting on how often you bring the ex issue up, it could be a sign that you're obsessing over things.
How to stop fixating:
Recognise the issue
"The biggest thing that anyone can do is recognise that they have the issue," says life coach Andrew Johnson. "It doesn't matter what's going on in someone's life. If they deny it and think they don't have a problem, then nothing will help them. Recognising that you're fixating on the issue is half the battle."
What's the real problem?
"Men have a much stronger tendency to try to solve things," says life coach Becki Houlston. "Define what the problem is - that's the biggest thing." People tend to think that the problem is their partner's ex. "Often that isn't actually the problem," says Becki. "First of all, define what the problem is and not what you think it is. That takes a big degree of sitting there and thinking about yourself, rather than trying to solve something."
Have you done this before?
"A lot of the time, what men need to investigate is whether this is a repeating pattern," says Andrew. "Then investigate how to break that habit." A good question to ask yourself is "Have I got fixated with a partner's ex before?" If the answer is yes, you might need to take a closer look at your own behaviour.
Keep things in perspective
Dating expert James Preece advises keeping things in perspective when it comes to the ex issue. "Remember that if she wanted to be with him, she'd be with him, but she's chosen to be with you now," says James. "Obviously she's moved on: what was right for her at the time isn't right for her anymore and now it's right with you. Everyone has exes, and they're exes for a reason."
"Monitor your behaviour and make sure what you're doing is rational," says James. Avoid looking up your partner's ex on Facebook, and going over scenarios in your head that haven't even happened.
Talk to your partner
"If you're concerned about it, then talk to your partner," says James. "Let them reassure you that nothing's going on. Communication is the secret to a good relationship, but we don't always do it as we find it hard. The longer you leave it, the harder it can be." Good communication with your partner is a great way to build trust in a relationship too.
Developing breathing techniques may help you worry less about her ex
Andrew recommends using deep diaphragmatic breathing if you find yourself fixating about a partner's ex. The very fact that you're concentrating on doing something physical, can help to stop you obsessing over something in your mind. "Diaphragmatic breathing brings you back to the moment," says Andrew. "It gets you in touch with your resources, and your common sense, bringing you back to reality and the present moment." For more information on breathing techniques, visit the Andrew Johnson website.
Use positive distractions
Andrew also recommends distracting yourself in a positive, rather than a negative way. Instead of heading to the shops to start up smoking again, or going to the pub and drowning your sorrows, try something positive like having an honest chat with good friends and family, or getting immersed in a book or film.
If your partner's behaviour is giving you cause for concern about her feelings for her ex, you need to broach the issue with her. Having a calm, honest and mature conversation is the best way to raise any worries you have and decide whether they have any foundation.
If the fixation isn't linked to your girlfriend's behaviour and has more to do with what's going on in your head, be honest with yourself. Is this fixation with her ex linked to your own self-confidence? "Jealousy as an emotion is very much an indicator of a lack of self-confidence," says Becki.
If your self-confidence is the root of the cause, working on building it up is a very positive step you can take, for your relationship and most importantly for yourself.
"Make sure you have your own circle of friends that you hang out with, other than your partner," says James. "Not to make your girlfriend jealous, but just so you have your own things to think about."
If you catch yourself fixating about your partner's ex, turn your attention to yourself. Instead of thinking about them, makes plans for yourself. Get busy and arrange a night out with friends, book tickets for a band you'd love to see or get exercising.
Help & support
If you're still having trouble getting your mind off your partner's ex, getting professional help could be useful. Relationship counsellors, life coaches and even hypnotherapy sessions are all practical ways to address any fixations you might have and to deal with the root causes.
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