So, you walked away from that dead-end relationship. Now what? If you can’t stop thinking about that ex, here’s some advice: stop trying!

Research has proven that the more we stop trying to think about something, the more our brain focuses in on that thing. So, by actively avoiding thoughts about that ex-beau, you are actually telling your brain to pay MORE attention to him.

So, instead of trying to forget, try remembering!

I remember when I broke off my 8-month engagement. My emotions were a rollercoaster. One day I was up, the next I was down. It was like I couldn’t get a firm grip on what I wanted or even how I felt.

Although the initial parting of ways is not easy, it is much easier to leave than it is to stay away. One day we find ourselves affirmed in our decision, feeling more confident in ourselves, loving ourselves, and learning how to make healthy choices. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, we are blindsided by loneliness. We are overwhelmed with the grief of what we seemed to have lost. We are shaken and in despair. We begin to doubt ourselves, to doubt God, and to doubt His promise to us: that He would never leave us, nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6). We find ourselves feeling more alone than ever. I call this the “Hills and Valleys” of singleness.

In chapter 15 of Exodus, we see the Children of Israel thanking and praising God for delivering them from the bondage of Egypt. They sang, “The Lord shall reign forever and ever.”

Miriam, the prophetess and sister of Moses, answered, “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!” The Children of Israel reveled in their high places. They were loving life on the hills.

One chapter later, in Exodus 16, we see the Children of Israel enter the wilderness, or the valley. Their praises were quickly swapped for complaints as they mourned what they thought they had lost and would never receive again. Exodus 16:3 reads, “And the Children of Israel said to them, ‘Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we had bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’”

Once the people entered into their wilderness experience, a place of isolation and barrenness, their carnality began to yearn for the past, when they were fully satiated in their flesh, even though their spirits were starved. Because they couldn’t see how God would provide, they lamented what they lost and could not focus on what they had inherited, complete and total victory. As a result, they wandered in that wilderness for 40 years, and many of them never got the chance to behold the promise that God had prepared.

Sound familiar?

I know you may not have been on your journey for 40 years, but sometimes it can feel like a never-ending cycle, like you’re just going in circles. Just like any journey, there will be ups and downs. Some days, you’ll feel like you’ve finally gotten it mastered, and the next day, you may awaken feeling more incompetent than ever. What do you do when you begin to believe you’ve made the wrong decision? How do you endure the fear that what you walked away from may have been the best you’ll ever experience? How do you survive the hills and valleys of singleness?

You embrace them. Allow yourself to think of him. Give yourself permission to remember. Grieve what you lost. Think on his smile. Recollect the feeling of his touch on your skin. Consider how he made you feel. Then, consider how he made you feel. The valleys of singleness are deceptive. They lend themselves only to the good, while ignoring the struggle. When you are in the valley of singleness, you seem to remember the peaks of your relationship without taking the time to focus on the pits. So, take time to remember. Not only the highs, but the lows as well. Remember the pain. Remember what you had to compromise. Think back on the morals you felt pressured to abandon in order for the relationship to progress. Remember the convictions that began to weaken over time. The voice that you lost in the process. Then, remember why you chose to leave. Remind yourself that the physical and emotional pleasures were not enough. That you wanted more. That you needed more. Ask yourself if the promise you’ve received is worth risking for something that was only mildly satisfying in the first place. Mourn. Release. And rededicate yourself to your choice to walk away.

What do you do during those times when you are grieving past relationships? How do you pull yourself out of the valley? Comment below!

Click here to learn more about the psychology of unwanted thoughts.