Breaking up isn’t easy. The act of ending a relationship may only take a few seconds, but the effects of ending the relationship can linger for months and in some cases, years. It’s not uncommon to want to talk about your ex, the relationship you shared, and how you felt when it ended, but how do you know when you’re talking about your ex a little too much? You have every right to talk about how a person has wronged you. Talking through your emotions can be helpful, but unknowingly harping on the past for too long can have damaging consequences for your current and future relationships.
“It is heart-stoppingly easy to get stuck in the darkness of bad memories. They are emotional quicksand and exert a strong downward pull on the psyche,” explained Judith Sills, Ph.D., in an essay for Psychology Today. “The power to get past the past does not lie primarily with the nature of events themselves. They count a lot, sure. But so do the steps forward a person is willing to take and how much effort he or she is willing to expend to push some emotional rock up, up, and out of the way.”
One of the most important steps required to cease living in the past is to make the conscious decision to stop giving the past event space to dwell in your conversations. Here are signs it’s time to take that step.
Your loved ones know all of the stories by heart
A sure sign that you have reached the point in the healing process in which talking about your ex-partner is no longer beneficial is when the people who care about you the most appear visibly worn out at the mention of your former partner’s name. They know all of the stories and can likely recite them by heart at this point because it’s all you ever talk about.
A substantial amount of time has passed and you’re still seething
While there’s not a one-size-fits-all timeline for getting over past relationships, time does have a way of easing the pain of past hurts. If it’s been years and you are still as emotional and outraged by what happened in your former relationship as the day it happened, it might be time to stop talking to your family and friends about it and get in front of a therapist who can help you to work through the past in a more constructive way.
You’re in a committed relationship with someone new
It’s virtually impossible to establish a healthy relationship with a new partner when you are still reliving the events of your old relationship. This will almost always create an environment in which history repeats. Your new partner may be nothing like your old partner, but there’s a good chance that your reactions and attitudes to situations will create an environment similar to your old relationship because you are still reliving it.
Victimhood has become a part of your identity
It’s extremely easy to fall into a cycle of victimhood. So much so that it becomes a part of your identity. This is not to say that you weren’t wronged in your former relationship, but constantly rehashing what happened can cause you to assume the role of the victim in all aspects of your life. This will leave you feeling like a spectator to the events of your life as opposed to an active participant who has choices.
It’s making your new partner uncomfortable
Discussing exes is a normal aspect of the “get to know you” phase of a new relationship, but there are limitations. Most people will assume that a person who frequently speaks of her ex is not over her past relationship. This can result in feelings of insecurity, resentment, and even the demise of a new relationship.
Conversations lead to social media stalking
Almost everyone checks up on their exes from time to time. However, regularly checking up on an ex-partner’s social media accounts points to a deeper issue. Most of the time, doing so will only make you feel worse about what happened. Further, talking about them frequently will almost always increase the temptation to peek at their pages.
Talking about them places you on a downward spiral
Talking about the past can be helpful. Sometimes. But a sure sign that these conversations are not beneficial is how you’re left feeling after the fact. If talking about your ex often leaves you feeling angry and saddened for an extended period of time, it’s a clear sign that these conversations are not helping your healing process.
You’re truly ready to move on
When you’re really ready to move on from a situation, you no longer choose to make it a part of your regular conversation. You realize that by talking about it repeatedly, you make yourself a prisoner to the past, thus preventing you from moving forward.
You find comfort in reliving the past
For some of us, there’s comfort in dwelling on the past. It’s familiar and we already know what to expect. Of course, this is unhealthy as doing so prevents you from truly living in the now and makes you more likely to repeat unhealthy patterns. We have a tendency to romanticize the past and when it comes to relationships, that means you’ll likely skip over the bad in the relationship and remember all of the good parts.
It’s stopping you from enjoying your current relationship
When you are unable to enjoy your current relationship because you can’t stop talking about or thinking about the trauma caused by your past relationship, it may be helpful to begin having these conversations with a therapist who can help you to make peace with the past and find healing.