I remember how difficult it was for me to “Get Over” my ex-husband … whatever that really means. I tried to forget about my ex-husband, but the more I tried not to think about him, the more I thought about him. Like the more you try not to think about the candy in the pantry, the more you think about the candy in the pantry! (GRRRR!)
We tend to obsess about “How could he do this? What does she have that I don’t have? Why won’t he stop doing drugs, porn, alcohol, gambling? Why isn’t he willing to work on our marriage? What could I have done differently? Why didn’t I see this coming?
When we obsess like that, it is agony and misery magnified over and over and over again. We keep ourselves in emotional turmoil for way too long!
At the beginning of my divorce recovery trip, I felt despair, devastation, rage and a bunch of other unfamiliar and erratic emotions. After a while, I also felt guilt about how long it was taking me to get over my ex-husband and our divorce. He was legally out of my life, but he kept showing up in my thoughts, my prayers and occasionally in my dreams!
My ex had been in my life every day for more than 33 years, and as frustrating as it was, he kept showing up even when I trying desperately to stop thinking about him. I wanted to move on after divorce, but I didn’t know how. That’s why I developed the MasterPlan after I got better.
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Stop Trying To Stop Thinking About Him
Our friends and family, (people who love us), just want us to hurry up and move on after divorce. They all want us to get involved in anything that is not about our divorce.
Our culture, too, tries to suggest we can just move along, do “conscious uncoupling” like people in Hollywood do, and then go get another husband and another life. That’s definitely not how divorce recovery works in real life, no matter what the latest Entertainment/Gossip magazines say.
Here’s the reality of learning how to grieve and heal after divorce … and learning how to let go of our ex-husband:
We must do the grief work and the healing work we need to do, and then we can start replacing our ex in our thoughts and focus on what comes next for US.
We can’t avoid the grieving we have to do after divorce. The ending of our marriage is worth grieving and mourning. Even if the marriage was not good for us, we still have to grieve what we wanted and hoped the marriage would be. We also have to grieve that it couldn’t be fixed, as hard as we tried.
So give yourself the grace and the space to do the grief and healing work that you need to do after divorce. We can help you learn to set parameters around the grieving so that it doesn’t just seep into every minute of every day.
How To Stop Loving Him
Learning how to stop loving our ex-husband, especially after a long marriage, is complicated. I didn’t want to keep caring about my ex. What I really wanted was for him to fall off the edge of the earth, so I never had to see him again! But that doesn’t happen.
That’s also why divorce grief is more complicated and lasts longer than other kinds of grief. He’s still hanging around. He’s still doing things that make you disgusted or mad or sad. And it’s harder to let your ex-husband go, because you may still have to keep seeing him at family or community events and children’s activities.
How Long Does It Take To Get Over Him?
Because he’s still alive, and often feels like his life has taken a great turn for the better, it’s harder to “Get Over” your ex-husband after divorce. If he had just disappeared, he wouldn’t still be in your face. He wouldn’t be hurting your children’s hearts. He wouldn’t be creating havoc in your head while you’re trying your best to create a new life.
The financial disparities that often happen with divorce are some of the biggest culprits in keeping him in our thoughts. A midlife woman was usually sacrificing through all of the lean years of helping her ex-husband fulfill his career goals.
Then when you divorce, you might get very few of the rewards that you helped make possible. You have to start over financially, and you may be decades behind, on building any kind of career for yourself. That reality causes bitterness and keeps your ex in your thoughts in a negative way.
Those things are unfair. But, as my older brother said, “I agree. It’s unfair, but that doesn’t change anything. It’s still what you’ve got.” The sooner we learn to stop thinking about our ex, and start focusing on us, and what we need to do NOW, the better off we’ll be.
In the end, we can, and we must, learn the tools to control our thoughts. We can decide what we are going to think about.
Think About Something Else
Last week at church, our lesson was about dealing with anxiety. Our whole country seems full of anxiety. More and more teenagers are dealing with anxiety and depression. That’s especially true for families going through divorce.
The sermon focused on how we can stop thinking about things that aren’t good for us. We replace those unproductive thoughts with good thoughts that help us find peace and confidence that life is going to be adventurous and fun and full of all kinds of good things.
To get rid of the disruptive, anxious, angry thoughts, we have to consciously start putting different thoughts into our head.
Here is a suggestion from St. Paul. He tells us not to be anxious and to “make your requests known to God with thanksgiving.”
He also encourages us with this advice:
“Finally, friends, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen from me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:8-9
That’s powerful and life changing!
When my thoughts about my ex-husband (or anything else) get out of control, I sometimes take myself fishing. I have a little fly-box with all my tiny fishing flies in it. When I want to calm myself, I get out my fly-box and mentally take myself to my favorite fishing spot in Wyoming.
I visualize the feel of the air, the scent of the pines, the sunlight on the water … I mentally get into the visualization in every way I can. It works! Ask yourself where you can mentally take yourself to find thankfulness and peace!
YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR THINKING! TELL THOSE DISTRESSING THOUGHTS TO “GO AWAY! I’M BUSY!!” REPLACE THEM WITH SOMETHING WORTHY!
Avoid Contact: Block Him Out
One of the best things we can do to stop thinking about our ex-spouse after divorce, is to stop following him on social media or allowing anything but minimum contact with him. If we have children, we need to be informed about them. But allowing random communication from our ex, makes it much harder to stop thinking about him.
When we hear that ping on our phone, and see that it is a message from him, our physiology changes. Our heart beats faster, our mouth gets dry. We don’t want to be reminded of him at all, but by then it’s too late, and we’re upset for minutes or hours or days afterwards.
In most cases, the less communication with your ex the better,
Another strategy that helps us stop thinking about our ex-husband is to get rid of stuff that reminds you of him. Do a thorough clean-out of his closet, his side of the bathroom, his favorite chair. The familiar scents from his things can trigger emotions and memories long after he is gone.
Removing pictures of you as a family, or of him with the children, can also help you stop thinking about him. Anything that is a constant reminder of him is best removed and packed away or given away.
Focus On Yourself
Getting over your ex – not thinking about your ex – starts in your mind.
This is a time to focus on YOU! Most women in long marriages spend much of our time thinking about everyone else instead of ourselves. We made sure our husband and kids were meeting their goals. Our own goals and dreams … not so much! In fact, sometimes after divorce, we don’t even know what we think or want or like. Now is a time for that to change!
We can start getting over our ex-husband, by getting into ourselves. Who are we? What do we want? How can we get what we want?
- Your Body – What kind of physical shape are you in? Do you eat right? Do you exercise? Do you consider your body a temple of the Spirit? What needs to change?
- Your Mind – What are you interested in? What books are you reading? Are there classes you would like to take or new ideas to explore? What are you doing to keep your mind sharp?
- Your Spirit – What do you believe? Do you practice Spiritual Disciplines that can change your life? (prayer or meditating, fasting, worship, sharing, helping, celebrating) Are you around people with strong spiritual lives?
- Your Social life – Who are you going to invest time and energy in? What family and friends can you reconnect with? What new people can you meet, and where can you find them? Who can you cross off of your list of people who are keeping you stuck?
- Your Finances – Where exactly are you financially today? Do you have a budget? Do you have a plan for getting where you need to be financially? What can you do to get a grip on your finances … and your future?
- Your Surroundings – How neat and comforting are they? Do your things reflect what’s important in your life? Do you feel energized and welcome in your physical spaces? What can you get rid of that is stifling personal growth?
- Your Goals – What are your gifts and talents? What are some things on your bucket list? What do you want your legacy to be? How can you start fleshing out your own unique, personal dreams and goals after divorce?
Getting over or not obsessing about your ex-husband is a challenge, especially early on in the divorce process. We can help stop those destructive thought about your ex. Our MasterPlan can help you change your thinking and change your life for the better.
Our free 10-day online Divorce Recovery Crash Course is a good place to start. It’s a huge step toward getting over your ex-husband after your divorce is over.
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