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"Guiding Your Journey Through Relationships, Dating, and Emotional Wellbeing"

Thinking about our ex after a breakup: What's normal and when is it excessive?

It's pretty common and a natural response to think about our past relationship and our ex after a breakup. Our mind is wrestling with the changes and emotions while adapting to the new reality.

Reflecting on the relationship in a healthy way doesn't necessarily mean clinging to the past, but rather acknowledging the impact it had on our personal development. When we take time to reflect on a past relationship and its end, we create space for a deeper understanding of the emotions, experiences, and lessons it brought into our lives. It can foster a greater awareness of what relationship dynamics are healthy and unhealthy for us. Understanding our likes and dislikes clarifies our preferences, values, and needs. This empowerment enables us to make more informed choices and avoid repeating past mistakes in future relationships.

Navigating a breakup and reflecting on it can allow us to work through our emotions, promoting healing and closure over time. It can also enhance our emotional resilience, another much-desired life skill.

By looking back, we have opportunities to reframe our stories surrounding the relationship. We can shift perspectives, allowing us to adopt a sense of gratitude and love for the experiences we had, the growth we've undergone, the lessons we've learned, and the strengths we've developed through challenges.

However, getting caught up in constant rumination or excessive dwelling about the past and our ex can hinder our ability to move forward, negatively affect our well-being, and disrupt our daily routines. Constant rumination is like being stuck in a hamster's wheel, endlessly spinning without making progress or finding a way out. It keeps looping the same thoughts and emotions, potentially drowning out other aspects of our mental landscape.

Here are some signs of excessive rumination:

Constant preoccupation:

If thoughts about our ex or the past relationship occupy our mind most of the time, making it difficult for us to be present in the moment or fully engage in activities. We may notice we’re struggling to maintain focus on tasks or to complete them. There may be a noticeable decrease in our overall productivity.

Conversation monopoly:

If we consistently bring up our ex in numerous conversations, finding it hard to actively listen to others or discuss topics they’re interested in. We might even try to redirect the conversation back to our own narratives when they switch the subject. In turn, these behaviors can potentially make other people feel unheard, unimportant, or frustrated, as the focus continuously remains on our own experiences and hinders the reciprocity of the conversation.

Emotional intensity:

While it's normal and okay to experience a wide range of emotions after a breakup, if these feelings persistently remain intense, overwhelming, and difficult to manage whenever we think about our ex and the past relationship. This may be a sign that we’re struggling to regulate our emotions.

Repeated sleep issues:

If these thoughts interfere with our sleep, causing difficulties in falling asleep or waking us up during the night on most nights. This is a definite sign that they’re taking a toll on our mental and physical well-being.

Unpleasant physical sensations:

Continuously focusing on distressing thoughts, like when we repeatedly think about our ex and the break up, can keep our body in a state of stress and tension, triggering a series of unpleasant physical sensations. For instance, constant rumination can lead to an increase in muscle tension, particularly in the neck, shoulders, and head. This tension might result in headaches, including tension-type headaches and migraines. Also, constant rumination can really drain our mental resources and energy, leaving us feeling mentally exhausted and physically fatigued.

Neglecting self-care:

If we notice a lack of concern or motivation to complete our usual self-care routines, and might even neglect them, such as irregular teeth brushing and showering.

Isolation and withdrawal:

If we find ourselves constantly avoiding social activities, isolating from friends and family, and losing interest in things we used to enjoy. The constant immersion in distressing thoughts and emotions can lead to us feeling emotionally and physically tired, making the idea of social interactions and physical activities less appealing and even overwhelming. It can also create a strong desire to avoid social situations to reserve or protect our energy.

Inability to make decisions:

If we constantly feel overwhelmed with decision-making or find it difficult to make even simple decisions because our thoughts about our ex and past relationship are always on our mind. This may be a sign that rumination is affecting our mental ability and clarity.

Lack of improvement over time:

While healing takes time, if we notice that our thoughts and emotions are still as overwhelming as they were immediately after the breakup, even after months have passed, and there’s no noticeable change toward feeling better or being less impacted when we think about our ex or the past relationship, nor any reduction in the amount of time we spend thinking about these things.

There's an area on the spectrum where we move from healthy reflection—where acknowledging past relationships becomes a constructive part of self-care and personal growth—to the trap of constant rumination that keeps us stuck in unproductive patterns. When we can pinpoint where healthy reflection transforms into excessive dwelling, we can wholeheartedly choose to embrace new opportunities for the future, avoiding getting entrapped in unhelpful thought loops.


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