Can't stop dwelling on ex and on failed marriage

HomeForumsTough TimesCan't stop dwelling on ex and on failed marriage

New Reply
Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 21 total)
  • Author
  • #61460

    Hi. I tried to find a topic that already covered this, but I didn’t see one. Sorry if this has been covered.

    Quick background: Married for 11 years, 3 kids. Things fell apart slowly. We started couple’s counseling and she started an affair about the same time. Divorce finalized in 2012.

    In short, my problem is just what it says in the title: My thinking is stuck on her. Not in the gosh-it-was-so-nice-I-wish-I-could-have-it-back way, but in a way that’s much more destructive. Whenever my mind is not occupied with another task (work, kids, whatever), I start running through past interactions, reasons why I’m still angry at her and why she deserves it… I keep replaying arguments over and over again, or running through scenarios of conflicts that haven’t even occurred… Every free moment my mind just jumps to her, things she did ruin the marriage, things I did to ruin the marriage, ways I anticipate she’ll make me angry in the future and how I’ll ward it off just in case, how she cheated on me… The list goes on.

    It’s not healthy, but I can’t turn it off. And it’s been over two years. It’s exactly like having a song stuck in my head for two solidyears, but instead of the music it’s thoughts of anger, guilt, resentment… I need it to stop. I need to find a place of genuine peace so I can actually get through a day or two without thinking about my ex-wife and move on with my life.

    It’s clear I haven’t forgiven her, and I know that will be a key step in the process. But I don’t want to forgive her. I never felt she was really sorry for the hurt she caused. She was more concerned about me telling the people we know about what she did. So it’s very difficult for me to forgive her because it’s very difficult for me to get past the idea she doesn’t deserve forgiveness.

    I’ve always had a tendency to dwell on my own failings and hold grudges towards others for theirs, but this is operating on a whole new level. I need to stop dwelling on this!

    Please help!


    Hi Matt

    Thanks for sharing and I’m glad to say I can identify with this entirely. A very similar situation happened with me – 11 years, two kids and whilst not an affair, an ex who started chatting to someone she started seeing straight away, whilst leaving me in the dark during the final weeks leading to our split.

    I can only speak from my experience. It has taken me nearly two years to forgive and to let go of this past relationship. I took up yoga and did a bit of meditation, both of which have helped. I forced myself to move on with my life, and that has definitely helped. I still think of what happened and those events, but time helps an open wound to scar. But the scar will always be there. Accept that. It becomes part of us. I read a brilliant book called The Reality Slap – it helped me to understand what happened, that the only person you really know is yourself and that, over time, you can begin to appreciate what happened because you can’t help but learn from it.

    Even if your ex doesn’t show it to you, I guarantee that she will be feel sorry, ashamed even. And if she doesn’t then I would suggest you are better off without her. It is so hard when you share children – I see my ex once or twice every week during handover. But in letting go and forgiving, indifference comes and that is when you will start moving on properly.

    We all only have one chance at this thing called life, and we all make mistakes. I would suggest keeping yourself in the present, force yourself to things you enjoy even if you think you won’t enjoy them. Sleep well (that took me some time), exercise, eat well and talk to your friends about your feelings – don’t feel you can’t talk to them even though it was two years ago.

    You will get there.



    Hi Matt,

    When I read the topic, the thought that came to my mind was…’aah, well I didn’t post it’…it speaks my mind and heart.

    I read an affirmation somewhere which I would like to share here….’I forgive those who have hurt me and peacefully detach from them’. I inculcated this in my daily affirmations and I know how difficult it was to make myself say this aloud. Whenever the thoughts of past relation poison my mind, I remind myself that there are many beautiful things in life to know, do and explore. Why would I want to be stuck at people who weren’t true to the relation, I would be wasting my time and energy if I continued to think about them.

    Focus on things you would like to do, and do it.

    Lots of positivity and courage to you my friend…

    The Ruminant


    You don’t have to seek for an existing thread in order to tell about your own experience. Your situation and experience is just as important as everyone else’s, and is worthy of it’s very own thread.

    Considering that you’ve been through something that must’ve been painful and scary, is it any wonder that your mind would go through it over and over again? Coming up with new defence strategies, just in case that hurt happens again? It’s also hard to forgive if forgiveness hasn’t truly been sought. Yet again another potential threat: forgiving and forgetting might mean that you accept the way you were treated or would feel like being used and taken for a ride. How naïve to forgive when the perpetrator is still out there, out of hook. One must be prepared for another attack…

    Your mind is trying to find ways to protect you, albeit ironically in a destructive way.

    What if you felt really safe and secure? What if you were free of stress and anxiety, and knew that nobody could hurt you? Would the mind still keep on going like that? Would it be easier to forgive, because what would be the point of holding onto grudges?

    We try to learn from our past mistakes and learn how the people who hurt us operate, so that we could feel safe. You’re preparing for another attack. In a way it’s logical, but unfortunately, you’re just psyching yourself up and pumping up your adrenaline and getting angry even though nothing is happening. You’re playing the tapes in your head and each time it hurts and each time you react to it with anger. So in a way, you’re actually attacking yourself constantly. It’s like a rehearsal or obsession over the potential threat. So inadvertently, you’ll actually never reach the state of feeling safe through these exercises.

    If you were to seek the feeling of safety in other ways, like self-nurturing and meditation, it would make going through those thoughts obsolete. Take some time to really connect with the physical world around you and be mindful about it. There are no real threats, no need to be alert all the time.

    If you felt like you did the best that you could and it just didn’t work out, then why not forgive and forget, regardless of what she thinks? What matters is what you think, what you feel. She has her own journey to go through. You have yours.

    Be more loving to your own tender heart. It has been through a lot and it needs to heal. Your mind also has been working overtime, so it needs soothing.

    Change doesn’t happen overnight, so be understanding towards yourself. Give yourself the compassion that you need. Seek the company of those who care about you and who enjoy your company. Allow those relationships to heal you and make you realise that you’re not under any threat, and you are cared for and loved.

    If the tapes start playing in your mind again, then take a moment to mentally step back and see them for what they are. Take a deep breath and relax and be more compassionate towards yourself. It is understandable to go through those things and not be able to forgive, but what you need right now is to care for yourself and nurture yourself. The forgiving and forgetting will happen in time, when you’re ready.


    Hi Matt

    I cannot say that I have shared exactly the same experiences having never been married or having children. However I have been through bad break ups and cheating etc. I struggle with the same things letting go is really hard for me. I really recently took a trip to Nepal for a bit of soul searching and the thing that really touched me was the buddhist view towards compassion. Compassion for all beings. And when your ex may have wronged you I know mine sure did we can take comfort in the fact that she like all of us is human and is subjected to the same flaws we all are. This recognition can begin to sow the feeling of compassion, I know for me it was and is a big relief to look at things in this way. When you feel compassion for someone it removes the feeling of hate or frustration and replaces it with warmth. I would recommend you listen to some Dharma talks because the Buddha battled the same demons we all do and his insights can be helpful. Hope you find your way.


    I suspect on some level ~ a level that she can’t even think about ~ your ex feels shitty for what she did. No woman wants to brag about adultery, about breaking up a family, having the children cry at night for their Father. It is so painful and uncomfortable she can’t even think about it and so she goes about with an easy breezy veneer. It would be different if you did something Epic to disappoint her, but it seems it just unraveled by itself. Trust me for 99% of women we would feel terrible about our part of a marriage failing on some level. Otherwise she would be a sociopath.

    Also, even in the best of marriages with the best of people ~ if there’s a divorce, everyone Has Words. Words that are shocking that you will remember for decades. That is normal.

    It may take years (and years and years) but you will grow older. She will grow older. You will be different people altogether. You will see each other at every graduation, wedding and baptism. And eventually you will be OK with that.

    My parents ~ both had spit and bile for each other for 20 years. Now they each ask tentatively, almost plaintively, about each other to me. Under deep anger is hidden great love.

    Please look to the Light.

    • This reply was modified 10 years ago by Inky.

    For me I MUST forgive or I will have a resentment. A resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies. To forgive I first must see my side in it, and I always have a side. It can be something as simple as not being there for someone when they needed me. I did not mean to hurt the other person, but I triggered some fear in them and they reacted the way I would have if I were in their place.


    Hi Matt,

    I understand completely what you are going through. What happened to you, and what happened in my marriage, mirror each other quite a bit.
    I don’t have any great advice like other people who posted back to you. It’s been 3 years and I am still trying to move on. Right now, I don’t know how to forgive my ex. Especially after spending so much time building a family and life with her.

    All I can say is, forgive yourself first. It sounds like you cared about your marriage and did the best you could to save it. I don’t think you necessarily have to outright forgive your ex to her face. I think that is something that will just be for yourself. Take care


    Thank you all so much for support and suggestions. There is much here to take to heart and I thank you for taking the time to share.

    Jamie, I will take a look at The Reality Slap. It sounds like it will be very useful.

    Anyone, I’ve been trying to get into the habit of doing daily affirmations without much success. But yours, “I forgive those who have hurt me and peacefully detach from them,” speaks to a core need for me and may be just what I need to make it a habit.

    The Ruminant. Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that I feel has described my problem so clearly and completely before. This part especially: “So in a way, you’re actually attacking yourself constantly. It’s like a rehearsal or obsession over the potential threat. So inadvertently, you’ll actually never reach the state of feeling safe through these exercises.” And this, which I haven’t really been doing at all: “Be more loving to your own tender heart. It has been through a lot and it needs to heal. Your mind also has been working overtime, so it needs soothing.”

    I think what you’ve said is exactly right if I understand. I felt so hurt and betrayed by her actions, I’ve determined I won’t let her do that to me again, so I constantly replay what happened as well as act through new scenarios as a defensive measure. In a sense, I’ve been caring for myself strictly from a place of conflict and defense, and it’s time to do so from a place of peace and growth. I need to give myself permission to do that. Your words bear more reflection and thought, but I think you shot to the crux of the problem in a few paragraphs in a way months of therapy failed to do. Thank you for that insight.

    Adam and Inky, I’ve gotten so used to seeing my ex as the villain, I have lost sight of the person. Your words will help me move to a more centered place in my thinking, I hope.

    Anonymous, I like that quote about resentment. I’m going to make a desktop wallpaper out of it as a daily reminder.

    Steve, the forgiveness is hard. My struggle is with it as a chicken-and-the-egg kind of problem. Do I need to really feel a sense of forgiveness before I can say it, or is saying it a needed switch to release the feeling?

    Thank you all so much.


    Matt, Thank you for the feedback on our feedback. We only want to help. We help ourselves by looking at your situation through our own experience.

    I just want to add that I have ALWAYS been able to find forgiveness when I looked at “my side”. It is a well known suggestion that you pray for the person you feel you need to forgive (because you are in pain from the resentment) but you can’t. It is usually suggested that you give it 1-2 weeks daily. During this time you will usually see “your part” (however small).

    As soon as you can see your part, you can see “Yes when I felt threatened I ran away/yelled/justified lying ect”. This small thread of forgiveness is all that is needed to start forgiving.

    In the end we are all “humans” going through a “human experience”. This person who has hurt you so much is a human just like you and me who is full of fear and plenty of mistakes.

    I want to know joy, I cannot when my heart is blocked by resentments and anger (anger is always some expectation that wasn’t met… she was suppose to love me forever and not ‘change’).


    Thanks, Anonymous. Can you clarify this part? I think some words got a bit mixed up? “It is a well known suggestion that you pray for the person you feel you need to forgive (because you are in pain from the resentment) but you can’t. It is usually suggested that you give it 1-2 weeks daily.”

    When you talk about “my side”, do you mean my part in the failure of the marriage, or in my continued dwelling in it? A lot of anger stems from me being all to willing early on to acknowledge my part of the failure of the marriage and how my actions/inactions led to it, and resistant to doing the same for her. Later, when I came to more fully understand her roll not just as regards the affair, but her actions/inactions throughout the marriage, I let myself be angry. Really angry. And I just sort of stayed there.

    Even so, I’ve had time to think on what everyone here has shared, and I think I am starting to free up a bit. For example, I’ve recited the affirmation Anyone shared, and I think I feel some movement. I think I just need to acknowledge there’s not going to be an instant fix and to commit to taking the actions I can each day to disengage my mind from the situation, and trust a genuine peace will come in time.


    On the first part I meant that many have suggested that you pray for a person you are angry at, or have a resentment, each day for 1-2 weeks. You pray for their well being.

    Otherwise I think you are OPEN and WILLING. That is what I have needed to do.

    I had a massive anger and resentment at my son’s mother for moving to the other side of the country and then demanding huge child support. Everyone was on my side that she was and continued to be “the bad one” (wasted the child support / neglected my son / yes I tried with the lawyers but the law was on her side / ect). Years of this tearing away (I was the one drinking the poison) at me led me to seek help.

    Today, I have FULLY forgiven her. This has taken years to get to this place. Man it feels great!

    SHE didn’t change, the only person I can change is myself.



    Just thought of adding few words…

    Forgiveness is the trait of the strong. And when we talk about forgiveness, it doesn’t mean it was ok what other person did, but you forgive her for you have a big heart and you’re a strong person.

    I think you’re applying too much mind on what to do and what not to do, the answer is you don’t need to analyse what happened coz it’s past…So hold your head high and move on…With the passage of time things will be better… ‘Time is the best killer’.

    Hope it helps…. Sending lots of love and positivity your way… Grab it 🙂



    I just wanted to add one more thing on the forgiveness. I had not talked to my son’s mother in awhile because my son is now 19 and there is no longer child support ect. Well she is now dying of Cancer and her call was to see if I was going to fly out there when she passes to help my son with the burial (of course I will – I think the call was really about one parent saying goodbye to the other). We talked about other things but as we talked I realized that I am so happy I forgave her because, I have also been able to forgive myself for “may part”. Otherwise the guilt would be overwhelming for me right now. Guild like resentments is very painful. I can’t deal with guilt until I forgive myself. I can’t forgive myself without forgiving her first.

    And we wonder why our heads get filled with all this suffering and we go round and round?

    Anyway I just wanted to share that.

    Take Care!


    Thank you for sharing that, Anonymous. That’s got to be tough. I’m sure it’s very helpful for your son to see you acting in such a positive manner. I hadn’t thought about forgiving her being a precursor to forgiving myself. I’ve told myself I forgive myself, but I still carry a sense of shame for my part in the failure of the marriage, as well as for theanger and cruelity I lashed back at her with, so I guess I haven’t.

    Anyone, you raise two points I struggle with. “Forgiveness is the trait of the strong.” I know you’re right about this. Part of my shame and guilt in the whole process is having to admit how weak I’ve been. But it is well past time to be strong and move forward. I also tend to reflect on and analyze everything to death, and never really give my mind a break.

    I think I really need to be working on how to let go of anything that needs being let go. But I’ll get there.

    Thanks so much!

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 21 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Please log in OR register.