Compulsively Checking Up on Ex

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Hello, Please excuse any typos or bad grammar. I wrote this on my phone.

About four months ago my girlfriend and I decided to break up after realizing that right now may not be the best time for us to be together. When breaking up she told me that she still loves me and wants to be together one day, just right now it wasn’t a good idea since she was really invested in her Masters and wanted to do some “soul searching”. I believe her. Her parents and I are pretty close and they tell me that she loves me. She also has called me crying telling me how much she misses me as well.

However I find myself suffering from insecurity over what she had told me. There have been questionable situations in the past that have made me question her loyalty to me. I know she has done nothing wrong.

I have the password to her Facebook and found out that she has messaged her ex-fiancĂ© during our time apart. There is nothing revealing about the messages and it seems that they just needed closure from their bad break up. She even told me that they talked before we broke up months ago. I know I shouldn’t be checking her Facebook and invading her privacy however sometimes I just get a compulsive need to check it to ensure that she isn’t going back on what she promised me. After reading it, I feel horrible and start assuming the worse. It isn’t until I start forcing myself to think positively am I ok with it. However, deep down I still have my doubts.

Why do I have this compulsive need to check her Facebook? What is it called and what can I do to fix it?

If you need anymore information or details, please let me know. I really want an answer and solution.

A. Framing this issue as a compulsion suggests that it’s beyond your control. In other words, it’s as though you’re saying you can’t stop yourself from spying on your ex-girlfriend. If you can’t stop yourself because it’s beyond your control then it’s akin to saying it’s not your fault.

I don’t think there is a deep, psychological reason for your behavior. Perhaps you’re hurt about the breakup and want to know if she was being truthful about why she wanted to separate. Maybe the real reason is because you suspect that she left you for someone else.

A breakup is a breakup. It’s simple but it gets complicated when someone tries to place it in a bigger context. The context is not important. It is a simply a breakup. She wanted it and you didn’t, so you are hurt. If you wanted it and she didn’t she’d be hurt and relatively you would not be hurt in the way that you are now.

I mention this because you are now doing things that you are not proud of, like checking her social media. You are doing it to test her real feelings toward you. That’s because you really don’t buy her story about needing to focus on her degree. I don’t quite buy it and I would think neither do you. You shouldn’t come second to a degree for her. Your presence in her life should not be a hindrance to her. How many people do you think have graduated from law school and medical school while in a committed relationship?

Is it the norm to break up with someone when you enter graduate school? Of course not. Breakups happen and there is no nice way to do it but there are nicer explanations for why one does it. Basically they all fall into the category, “it’s not you, it’s something about me. You are not to blame and I still love you.”

Forget about the context surrounding the breakup or the explanation given. A breakup is a breakup. Somebody just told you that right now they don’t want you. It’s over. Maybe later they might change their mind and want you back but then again maybe not.

Consider it as being over. It was her choice. Move on and break all ties with her. That includes reading her Facebook page or private messages.

Think about it this way. If she caught you reading her private emails and letters, she would probably be upset. It’s a breach of trust. You’re hoping that the two of you will get back together but you risk completely sabotaging your chances. You don’t want to jeopardize your future with her, if there is any all. Walk away with your head held high. Give her her freedom. Respect her as much as an ex-girlfriend as you did when she was your girlfriend.

Also, the possibility exists that you could misinterpret her written communications. Picture a scenario in which she has a phone or text conversation and then follows it up with an email. Since you were not privy to the phone or text conversation you’d only have the email, only a portion of what was said. You might then attempt to draw conclusions based upon incomplete information. What was meant as a joke might be misconstrued by you. You could easily form inaccurate conclusions in the absence of the full context.

I think you already know how to correct this. Make a clean break. If you struggle with this, then you may want to ask a friend or family member to assist you. For example, when you feel the desire to log into her private accounts, call someone and ask them to talk you out of it. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice Blog

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Jul 2013

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2013). Compulsively Checking Up on Ex. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/07/02/compulsively-checking-up-on-ex/