How to Overcome Obsessive Thoughts about a Girlfriend's Past

Obsessive thoughts can keep you from being happy.
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Obsessive thoughts about your girlfriend's past can stop you from enjoying the present -- unless you learn how to move past them. Although you might feel like you have no control over your thoughts, the opposite is true. You have the power to change your thinking as soon as you decide to accept the past.

1 Obsessive Thoughts

Obsessive or ruminative thoughts are repeating statements in your head that are bothersome and don't stop. You might have thoughts like "I wonder if her last boyfriend was a better kisser than me," or "I wonder if her ex brought her to this restaurant." Obsessive thoughts don't help solve problems, but keep you stuck in a state of worry. Recognizing that your thoughts are a problem and are not helping you is the first step in getting rid of them.

2 Problem to Solve

Sometimes people ruminate about things that can be solved. For example, if you are worried about an upcoming exam at school, you could study harder to do well. In the case of your girlfriend's past, ask yourself if there is a problem you are trying to solve with your obsessive thoughts. Perhaps you feel insecure about your own ability to please your girlfriend, or maybe you don't trust that she is over a past relationship. If you find a solvable problem, make a plan to address it, such as building your self-esteem or discussing your concerns about her ongoing connection to her ex-boyfriend. On the other hand, if you are simply caught up in thinking about her past and there is no problem to solve, consider that you need to accept things as they are and start living in the present.

3 Time for Rumination

If you continue to be plagued by obsessive thoughts, consider setting aside a specific "rumination time" dedicated to focusing on your worries, writes Leahy. For example, if a thought pops into your head at lunch such as "I wonder if she used to visit this place with her ex," make a mental note that you will think about it at a later time, such as at 4:30 p.m. Collect any ruminative thoughts that arise through the day and schedule them into that time slot. You will be able to continue with your day and focus more fully in the moment.

4 Seek Outside Help

Sometimes obsessive thoughts spiral out of control to the point that you might need help from another person. If you are having trouble getting a handle on your ruminations, consider speaking to a counselor at school or someone else you trust who can help you make a plan for overcoming the obsession. Speaking to an outsider might give you the perspective you need to move on and forget about the past.

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.