Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
August 10, 2020

Ask Arden: How do I get over my ex-boyfriend?

By ARDEN ARQUETTE | April 29, 2020

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This week’s “Ask Arden” column answers how to get over a breakup.

I want to start by saying that this is completely natural to feel after a breakup. Your ex-boyfriend was at one point a significant part of your life and someone you cared for, so it’s natural to wonder what he’s up to now. Sometimes even years after we sever a relationship with someone, we wonder what or how they’re doing. This is common, but that doesn’t make it any easier; it’s a tough temptation to get over. 

It would probably be most helpful to spend some time thinking about why exactly you want to reach out to your ex. 

Sometimes we want to reach out to our exes because we’re seeking validation from them. This is a common cycle to fall into, especially in unhealthy relationships. When one partner treats another poorly, the partner on the receiving end can lose confidence and then end up seeking validation from the harmful partner. Even after it’s over, that need for validation can remain (hence the urge to stay in touch). Know that this is not your fault and that you deserve to be treated well. Once you distance yourself from toxic people and start having higher expectations in your partners, your confidence will return. 

Sometimes we want to reach out to our exes because we miss them. In which case, remind yourself of all the ways you’re better off without him. It can be helpful to make a mental list of the reasons he wasn’t right for you. Maybe he was rude to your friends, embarrassed you in public, annoyed you with his daily habits or gaslit your feeling.

If you’re missing your ex, think about all the other people in the world that you are attracted to. Make a dating profile. Start talking to other people to satisfy your romantic craving. 

Sometimes we want to reach out to our exes because we’re worried about them (say, if the breakup was rough for them). In which case, remind yourself that since he’s a part of your past, you are not responsible for his emotions. You don’t need to take care of him anymore. 

Sometimes we want to reach out to our exes in order to ensure that we “won” the breakup. It’s natural to be competitive when there’s hostility, but remind yourself that it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t. If your ex is hypothetically hugely successful, that does not take away from your own success and worth. It is easier said than done, especially when someone who treated us poorly is doing well, but success is not a capped commodity. All you can do is be your best self. Whatever they are doing now is no reflection of you.

Sometimes we want to reach out to our exes because we’re genuinely curious about what they’re up to. In which case, remind yourself of why he is a part of your past. And, again, remind yourself that whatever he is doing now does not have to impact your future. Your ex is in your past.

Additionally, to get over the temptation of reaching out, you can start turning your attention elsewhere. Namely, start prioritizing yourself. Think about all the things you are excited for in your life. Make a list. Maybe an upcoming trip? A step up in your career? I often find that being future-oriented helps me in a time of crisis, especially after a breakup. 

Finally, though, when people are particularly vulnerable (say in times of high stress, like the pandemic we’re all currently facing), thinking things through may not always work. This is in no way a shortcoming on your part. When we’re stressed, we tend to act more impulsively. In situations like these, for a short-term fix, you can lean on your friends or distract yourself. Tell your friends that you want to reach out to your ex but know that’s a bad idea. Ask them to check up on you.

Another short-term option is to distract yourself. Try going for a run, working on a puzzle, writing a story or working on an assignment to get your mind off of your ex. 

It may sound simple, but you deserve to be with someone who makes you happy and who would never treat you terribly. You deserve — and will find — someone whom you trust, who makes you feel special and who treats you well. Your ex-boyfriend is not worth any more of your time.

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