How Your Ex Keeps You Single (And It’s Not What You Think)
A bride texts her ex-boyfriend (a jobless heroin addict) on her wedding day
A divorced woman abruptly leaves a date to call her ex-husband to yell at him over a custody violation involving their daughter
A man cancels a first date because his ex-girlfriend changed her relationship status on Facebook
These are all true stories and I could tell about fifty more. In fact, I was inspired to write this article because a client contacted me and told me that a girl he was dating stopped messaging as often. When he asked what was wrong, she said she was “having ex troubles.”
He couldn’t believe that someone who had only hours ago expressed how much she liked him could suddenly seem so distant all because of an ex from months ago.
David already talked about the science of being stuck on an ex but in this article I’m going to talk about how your ex can sabotage your dating efforts. But, it’s not in the way that you think.
Sure, some exes will actively try to stop you from dating in a very direct way. These are the crazy ones who might threaten your dates, constantly pester you when they think you’re out, or use things like custody arguments to keep you focused on the past.
But, in most cases, exes keep you dateless in a totally different way. They’re stuck in your head and they live there “rent free” 24/7. And, that leaves very little room for your brain to find, bond with, and get into a relationship with someone else.
And, even if you’re dating or in a relationship, your attachment to your ex can create massive problems. Take my client, for example. He’s a successful guy with dating options. His attraction to this new woman won’t last very long if he feels she’s too emotionally invested in her ex.
Exes can mess up your dating life in several ways. Here are a few of them.
One of the most subtle ways that an ex can hinder you from meeting someone new is that you constantly compare the new man or woman to your ex. And, rarely can anyone new measure up to the image you’ve created in your head of your ex.
You likely have incredible and passionate memories with an ex. It could be years and years worth of them and they usually involve sexual bonding. You look at your ex through the lens of dopamine, oxytocin and a host of other “feel good” brain chemicals.
Your logical brain wants to move on and sees your ex as bad news. But, your emotional brain overrides the logic.
That poor man or woman in front of you on a date simply can’t compete with the years of brain chemicals attached to your ex no matter how attractive, successful, and “good for you” he or she might be.
Stalking and Overthinking
I know people who constantly check up on their exes. Maybe you’re one of them. They check their ex’s Twitter, Instagram, and other social media constantly. And, when they do that, they overthink and it can adversely impact their entire mood.
For example, if your ex suddenly goes private you might be crushed for days. Or, if you see a change in relationship, you might get jealous, sad, or hopeful. You could even look at every post or photo for a sign of how your ex really feels.
The issue here is that you’re still consumed with your ex and constantly think about him or her. If you have the time and emotional energy to focus on your ex to such a degree, guess what becomes difficult? Meeting, bonding with, and getting into a relationship with someone new.
Constant “What If” Thinking
My acquaintance who was texting her heroin addicted ex-boyfriend on her wedding day clearly wasn’t over him. She was a doctor (yes, true story) and could never have married an unemployed addict. So, she did what her family wanted and married a guy who looked good on paper, but for whom she felt nothing.
That marriage ended a year later (no surprise), but it shows another way exes can control people’s present and future: “what if” thinking.
Clearly this woman wished she could have been with her ex, but knew it was socially impossible. Yet, she still kept the fire burning, even if it meant random and inappropriate text messaging.
This “what if” thinking about exes is way more common than you might think. It happens when an ex is married to someone else, is socially unacceptable to date (e.g. an addict, a criminal), lives a long distance away, etc. So, people try to move on and date new people. But, the ex is still in their heads.
Sometimes this leads to behavior like reaching out to the ex or cheating, but most times it just occurs in silence as the person tries to move on, but secretly longs for the old flame. But, it keeps them from dating new people or fully embracing a new relationship.
Stop the Sabotage
How do you get an ex out of your head and stop him or her from sabotaging your dating life and future relationships? Unfortunately, it’s not always an easy fix. As I mentioned earlier, your feelings for your ex come from years of brain wiring and chemistry that can be difficult to fully erase.
A phrase I love is “you are what you focus on.” This means that the most powerful way to change your life is to change your focus, moving beyond thought patterns to actions. So, you can stop stalking your ex, force yourself to go out on dates with men and women you know you like, and give them a chance to prove themselves.
Gradually, over time, you can shift your focus from your past ex to new experiences with new people. Even if you don’t meet anyone new, you can still change your focus by exploring hobbies that interest you and doing what you love.
This relates a lot to the concept of mindfulness, which is paying attention in the present. By consistently living in the present and putting your focus there, you can unshackle yourself from the past.
Mindfulness isn’t easy, but the more you notice the world around you and enjoy every moment, the less tethered you’ll be to your ex.
Finally, you can set boundaries. If your ex bothers you or tries to get back in your life, you can block him or her. If you’re constantly stalking an ex’s social media, unfollow them and block. If you are looking at old photos on your phone or focused on physical mementos, then delete and discard. Constantly focusing on your ex only reinforces past feelings.
You might never fully “get over” your ex, which is fine. But, at the very least, you can evict your ex from your head and move on with your life. That includes being happy with yourself and finding a great relationship.
David made a video using a proven technique to make emotional change called EFT that can help you get over your ex. We would love you to try it! The video is below.