Ask Stef: I Am Obsessed with My Ex's New S.O.

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By Stefanie Marshall


Dear Stef, 

My ex is dating someone new and they are the complete opposite of me. I’ve become completely obsessed with them and can’t help but compare myself to them. The differences between us seem to just highlight the ways in which I fell short in my past relationship, making me feel unworthy and horrible. I even thought about changing my hair color to match theirs. Of course I never went through with it, but the fact that the thought crossed my mind really worries me.

I feel like a big troll constantly checking up on them. I’m so ashamed of my behavior. I want to end my obsession - I just don’t know how to.

Down in the Dumps of Comparison

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My Dearest Down in the Dumps of Comparison, 

I’m happy your question came after last week’s because I think it is a perfect example of how social media keeps us linked to the past way longer than we should allow it to do so. The ease with which we can find out what our exes are up to, and with whom, is such a hindrance to the mending process. And so, like I believe we should unfollow our exes after a break up, I also think we should limit the “new girlfriend/boyfriend trolling”.

I know this is hard. I’ve been through it. I wrote a piece on Medium about it a couple years ago. It was an open letter to my ex-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. I wanted to write out the urge to look at her life. In the midst of dealing with our relationship ending, I became infatuated with her instead of dealing with the heartbreak. It became almost a reflex. I didn’t even understand it, really. I would look, be upset, compare and torture myself, and then swear I would never look again. So please know that I understand on such an intimate level what you are going through. After I wrote the piece, I swore to myself I would stop lurking. I was torturing myself for no good reason. That story is my most viewed piece on Medium, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I have so many women reach out to me to say thank you for saying what we are all ashamed to admit. You are not alone.

There is that extremely accurate sentiment “Comparison is the thief of joy”, and I was handing my joy over on a silver platter. So don’t. You must not compare yourself to this new person. The reasons for your breakup likely have zero to do with why they chose this new person. Your mind is playing tricks on you by trying to justify your broken heart. When you have something solid and tangible to blame, it makes it easier for your mind to process what happened. It’s not easy for the brain to comprehend the idea that someone just stopped loving you. The head and the heart don’t play on the same field. But if you can make a list of all the ways this new person is “better” or “different”, then you have something the brain can handle.

When you get the urge to go down the rabbit hole, try to remember these things. Remind yourself that it has nothing to do with this new person. Take a deep breath, reach into your heart, and quiet your mind. Instead of peeking at their instagram, post something yourself - something that makes you happy or feel good. Maybe you can put a friend on “troll patrol” so whenever you think you want to snoop, you text a friend who encourages you not to.

Another option to consider is taking a few weeks off Instagram (or whatever app you are using the most) altogether so that you aren’t tempted to snoop. If you’re really addicted to checking all the time, you may need to go cold turkey until the urge subsides. Sometimes we just do what’s familiar, sort of like how so many of us just start typing “facebook” into our browsers when we’re online without even realizing what we are doing. So think about it. If you were trying to quit smoking, would you still buy the pack of cigarettes and lighter, and light the cigarette (but just not inhale)? Probably not. Avoiding all triggers is safer.

I hate to say something so trite as “stay distracted”, but the easiest way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. Every time you feel the urge, replace it with something else that is good for you. You aren’t going to be able to move forward and heal until you let this habit go. And it will feel so good when you do. I believe you can do this, but you have to believe it too. I am sending you all my love and light.

Stef

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Stefanie Marshall

Stefanie is a writer and a hopeless romantic. Probably both because of the other. She likes her whiskey neat and her men bearded. Mostly, she's told she's the good kind of terrifying.

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