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How to stop dwelling in the past

Jesse Martin

April 16, 2014

From a reader:

Hi Jesse,

I have been reading your articles and they are very helpful. A few months ago my ex broke up with me a week after our one year anniversary. It was long distance and she was from LA and I am from Philadelphia, but we both met at Penn State. She still has time at Penn State and I graduated a year ago and I have had the most trouble with not contacting her and this has caused massive problems for us and our image after one year. My anger and obsession with her has gotten worse and worse as I found out more and more things about her and how quickly she moved on (weeks after she broke up with me). What's your suggestion for getting back my confiendence, getting over her, and realizing that it was over and things were probably not going to work out for the longrun? I loved her but the distance was very hard on both of us. She moved on so quickly but how can I try and move on and stop dwelling on the past?

Thanks Jesse

It's hard when you're having a harder time getting over her than the other way around. Unfortunately this is often the case because we as guys generally aren't as tuned into the status of the relationship as women are. Women are constantly monitoring the relationship and it's something we as men, need to learn to do. Realizing that it often isn't ingrained, natural behavior for us, is the first step.

The distance likely made it easier for her to get used to the idea of not being in a relationship with you. When women break up with guys it often looks as if she's able to move on incredibly quickly. At some level this is true, women are generally better prepared for the breakup when they initiate it. They roughly know where to go from there and and are better positioned to get on with their lives. But they owe their head start due to being better in tune with where the relationship was going and unconsciously coming up with contingencies.

Guys, however, are frequently not in tune with the status of the relationship. They are blind sided when their girlfriends initiate a breakup and are shocked to hear that the "things weren't going well". It sounds like this, to a certain extent, is what happened to you. As a result you have to accept this whole new reality. Not only was the relationship not going well, it's beyond saving now, it's over.

A reality shift like that can be very hard to deal with. So I would start by giving yourself some slack. Instead of condemning your obsessive and excessive behavior, come to understand it. You were living in your own reality and she just introduced you to the real world. That hurts and your natural instincts are going to be to fight this new reality with everything you've got.

You've done that now. You've obsessed over her, you've probably contacted her in desperation and left voice mail messages on her phone. I've been there, friends of mine have been there and thousands of other readers have been there. Accept that you're still obsessed about her and accept that you were unable to control those feelings before. It's because you feel so attached to this person and you couldn't help yourself.

To get more to the point and answer your question. You move on by going through all of the pain, instead of running away from it. You've probably read and heard that you need to accept that it's over. It doesn't stop there. You need to accept that a part of you doesn't want it to be over. You need to accept that you're still a bit obsessed with her. You need to accept that this might be one of the most painful experiences of your life and that you're not good at handling it. You need to accept where you are now, and it might not be a pretty place.

Accepting the different facets of your current situation creates some mental space for yourself. It doesn't make things less sad, or less hard. It gives you just a little bit of mind space to plan ahead and to start building a new life. Because that's your mission going forward: building a new life. And if that sounds daunting, guess what, that too is an emotion you will need to accept and embrace.

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