Let's Finally 'Spring Clean' ALL Of Our Exes Out Of Our Lives, Shall We?
Love & Relationships

Let's Finally 'Spring Clean' ALL Of Our Exes Out Of Our Lives, Shall We?

It’s kind of wild that I’ve never really pondered why spring cleaning actually happens in the springtime. After I did some Googling, I realized that I probably never knew because (luckily) allergies aren’t something that I personally have to deal with. If that is something that happens to be your struggle, though, basically, it’s a good idea to do some serious cleaning up, in every room of your house, on the earlier side of the spring season; that way, you can get rid of dust and allergens that could make this time of year completely miserable (on the coughing, sneezing and watery eyes tip) for you.

And since spring cleaning consists of doing things like organizing stuff and — eh hem — getting rid of what’s no longer needed and also since this season coincides with spring fever (you know, when the extra sunlight, chirping birds, and warmer weather can sometimes put people in a more-than-usual mood to get into a relationship), I thought that this would be a great time to explore what it looks like to spring clean an ex — or all exes — if that is something that you’ve been seriously contemplating as of late.

Yeah, if organizing your feelings and removing what’s taking too much of your time are on your relational to-do list these days is important to you, let’s dive into what you can do to FINALLY “spring clean” your past loves out of your present life. You know, in my opinion, asking certain questions can reveal answers that will put you on the path to forward movement — and true freedom. So, let’s go over a few that I think can help you to achieve your ultimate goal now.

(By the way, I’m going to address this as if one ex is the issue, yet if there are more, please make all of this plural as you go along.)

WHY Is He Your Ex?


I can’t believe that it’s freakin’ six years ago this year that I went on what I call a Get Your Heart Pieces Back Tour. It was so personally impactful and significant that I actually wrote about it for the platform a few years back (check out “Why Every Woman Should Go On A 'Get Your Heart Pieces Back' Tour”). The journey basically consisted of me reaching out to guys who I still felt things were unfinished with (at least on my end) in order to, well, finish them.

I was finally able to get my first love out of my system (listen, it’s not romantic to be so caught up in nostalgia that you find yourself emotionally stagnant while giving someone heart access to you who really doesn’t deserve it…the tour taught me that). I was also able to see the guy who I used to coin as “the one who got away” as the now-divorced guy who does some odd things to get back at women who do him wrong (not dangerous just…odd). He’s still fine as hell and just as super successful as I thought he would be — it’s just that the tour got me to see how/why it would’ve never worked out. Over and out. There were a couple of other guys who were more like super friendly sex partners (check out “5 Things You Should Ask Yourself Before Having Sex With A Friend” and “How To Preserve Your Friendship After BAD Casual Sex”) who I had a couple of questions for that I got answers too as well. And as a direct result of the tour, my heart is completely whole again, which is awesome. Clear on all-things-the-past feels…amazing. Empowering even.

All that from having a few conversations? Yep. Well, that and also getting serious with myself about why the exes were my exes to begin with. My first love? We always had a great connection and honestly, “first love bonding” aside, never formally or officially breaking up (not having a real conversation about ending things) was our main issue. Yet once I got real with myself about how we were somewhat trauma bonded, how his past poor choices left him an ultimate commitment-phobe (along with being someone who, at one point, slept with and impregnated the woman who hooked us up in the first place years after he and I broke up…she decided to tell me years later) and I accepted that, although he’s now a really great dad, I have no desire to be a step-mom (like AT ALL) — he’s an ex because our lives never were going in the same direction, past or present (“present” meaning the last time I checked which has been years ago at this point).

Whenever we bump into each other, it’s always all love but not IN love. And the one who got away? Timing never was nor ever will be right. Even when we reconnected and talked for almost eight hours straight on the first call, we knew that the chemistry was still there and strong — just not much else. Just like before. And so, once I sent him an email stating that I think I can move on and stop communicating but that I also wished him super well, and then when I heard years later that he got married for a second time, I was genuinely happy for him…because our chapter was fully closed.

A wise person once said that you can’t know your “what” until you deal with your “why.” And I can vouch from very up close and personal experience that once you are willing to remove your feelings out of the way long enough to address the WHY of why your ex is an ex, it will start to make handling these other questions a lot easier to do.

What Do You Miss About Him/the Relationship?


If you don’t get anything else out of this article, please — PLEASE — hear me loud and clear when I say this: SOMETIMES WHAT YOU THINK IS LOVE IS REALLY NOTHING MORE THAN GRIEF (check out “Why You Need To Grieve Your Past Relationship”). Take it from me, that when you miss someone or something about them, that can manifest in a way that makes you think that you still love them when really, you just need to be intentional about going through the five stages of grieving them — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance — so that you can actually and finally let them go.

I mean, think about it. When you miss a person, doesn’t it often manifest as:

  • Thinking about them a lot
  • Feeling lonely without their presence
  • Physical signs like sleeplessness, loss of appetite and maybe crying off and on
  • Wanting to talk to them or tell them one last thing (for the umpteenth time)
  • Longing for or even craving them

Yeah, those are some pretty powerful emotions. Problem is, one definition of miss is literally “to be unsuccessful.” Yes, you might miss them, but if the relationship was unsuccessful, you’ve got to be honest with yourself about that side of “miss” too.

So, the next step? Ask yourself what you miss about the relationship. Do you miss the sex at the expense of “forgetting” that the two of you were totally unsuccessful when it came to getting on the same page with communication? Do you miss being in a relationship on special occasions at the expense of “forgetting” that he never wanted anything more serious than what the two of you had established? Do you miss quirky little nuances about the two of you at the expense of “forgetting” that your needs were never fully met?

There are things about some of my exes that I’m always going to miss. However, on this side of healing, those things aren’t enough to reconnect, in an intimate way, ever again. The longing doesn’t trump the unsuccessfulness anymore. How about you?

Are You “Editing Out” Some Realities?


Did you know that there is a part of our brain that stores up memories to the point that, whenever we reflect on them, there are literal chemical reactions that will transpire? In fact, some medical professionals believe that some memories can actually "trigger" us into wanting to recreate what we're thinking about. For instance, an article on the topic that I read on Healthline's site (here) literally said that if memories of your first kiss were good, it could cause you to want to find someone to recreate that memory with as soon as possible (pretty wild, right?).

Keeping all of this in mind, doesn't it make perfect sense that good memories about your ex would cause you to want to talk to them, get close to them, and "recreate the good" with them? Here's the thing, though — if you're only thinking about the good, that means you're editing out the bad, and doing that could get you into some deep trouble.

So, when it comes to this particular question, get quiet, get still, and then do some journaling. In fact, go the old-school pros and cons list route and organize your memories by writing down what was good about the relationship on the left side and what wasn't so good on the right. When it comes to the not-so-good things, also jot down how those things made you feel.

I've got a friend who is back figuring things out with an ex as we speak, and this is something that she's doing. As she's remembering that although the good was really good, she also has to admit that the bad was awful. Yeah, you don't want to let your missing someone cause you to overlook why you left them alone in the first place (or how you felt when they up and left you). Besides, oftentimes, if the bad was super bad and they never apologized or tried to make amends (check out "Heads Up: It's NOT An Apology If An Amends Isn't Made"), all you're doing is sending the message that they can treat you the same way without them experiencing any real consequences for their behavior — and that could actually end up making round two (or 10) so much worse.

Definitely, something to think about…

What Do You Feel Is Unresolved?


This question, while it might be difficult on the self-awareness and self-accountability tip, that doesn’t make it any less necessary to ask: when it comes to your ex, is something genuinely unresolved, or have you simply purposed in your mind to not let him and/or the relationship go, regardless of what he’s doing or what you know needs to be done? In other words, do you really need answers, or do you already have them, and you’re just in denial about the fact that you do?

Case in point. A few years ago, an ex of mine needed to get some things off of his chest. A damn near seven-hour conversation kind of irritated me because he kept asking me the same things, on a loop, that we had already discussed before. Personally, I don’t think that he was looking for resolve so much as he wanted me to feel like I didn’t make the best decision by ending things in the first place. (Chile…CHILE)

So yeah, this is an important question, too, because resolving matters is all about figuring out how to come to a DEFINITE DECISION as well as how — by literal definition of the word — BREAK THINGS UP. That said, if you know that you need to get rid of the feelings that are holding you back, what things do you need to discuss with your ex that will help to make that happen? Hmph, while we’re here, let me take it a step further and ask if you actually need their input in order to get the answers that you seek because, sometimes, being real with yourself is all the resolution that you need.

In Present Day, Would the Relationship Be a ‘Recycle’ or an ‘Upcycle’?


Most of us have heard the saying, “Your ex is an ex for a reason,” and while there is a lot of truth to that, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on the fact that sometimes getting back with an ex can actually work out. Sometimes things end, not due to a lack of love or even a solid connection — it’s just that both people need more time to do some processing and maturity separately before coming back together again.

So, with that said, be honest with yourself and really ponder if getting back with your ex would be a recycle or an upcycle. Now before you answer, I want you to think long and hard about the following definitions of both words first:

Recycle: to use again in the original form or with minimal alteration.

Upcycle: to process goods or materials so as to produce something that is often better than the original.

Do you see the difference? I’ll be honest, back in the day, a huge pattern that I used to stay in was recycling exes. I would get back involved with them, on some level, even though nothing about the dynamic had really changed. This meant that the good stuff remained good, and the BS remained the same ole’ BS. And honestly, that only proved to be 1) ultimately a total waste of time and 2) something that tarnished the good because either one or both of us would realize that we were only prolonging the inevitable: realizing that we really weren’t meant to be and that we were holding each other up from fully getting on with our lives which ended up creating some relational resentment and low-key disdain for each other.

Upcycling is different. Relationally, it’s not about getting with someone after you’ve barely done any changing and they’ve hardly done any evolving. Both of you are different individuals now, and so, while you have the foundation of familiarity, to get back together would be so much better than it was before.

Now if you feel like you and your ex have “upcycle potential,” I still advise you to take it slow, to talk things over with one of your “keep it real” friends (so that they can give you an outside-looking-in perspective) and that you have some serious discussions with your ex before officially getting back involved — oh, and that you lay off of sex for a while so that you don’t cloud your judgment.

Yet if it looks like there is some real upcycle potential and you both agree on that…perhaps what you’re doing is not spring cleaning an ex in the sense of getting rid of them but spring cleaning in the sense of reorganizing the role that they play in your life.

Is Your Ex Keeping You in a ‘Circle’ or on a ‘Line’?


I share the quote often because it’s a sobering one. There is a Chinese proverb that simply says, “It’s later than you think,” — and that is something that I keep trying to remind another friend of mine who is entertaining an ex, one who looks totally different from the guy she recently broke up with…oh, but he damn near acts just like him (that’s not a compliment). And because of this, relationally, she is operating in a “circle,” not a straight line.

What do I mean? Back when I was in elementary school, one of my classes had a hamster and a hamster wheel in it. That hamster would be running for his damn life in that wheel, and while I guess the silver lining is that he got some serious cardio in, ultimately, he wasn’t getting anywhere.

Putting this analogy into human form, maybe getting back with an ex can get you some good sex (you know, fun cardio), but c’mon — is it really getting you anywhere? Is the nostalgia actually nothing more than just…that? Will the following weeks or even months really help you to get anywhere closer to where you want — or, more importantly, need — to be?

I’m here to tell you that when you’re trying to make the best (meaning most beneficial) decisions for yourself (check out “Need To Make A Big Decision Quickly? Do This.” and “Before You Make A Life-Altering Decision, Read This.”), always ask yourself if it’s going to keep you stuck or move you forward. Because no matter how great something might make you feel, it’s really not the best thing for you if it doesn’t help you to maximize your time (time you can never get back) and get you ultimately to where you need to go.

Exes can be a hard thing to shake — trust me, I know. Still, use this spring season to organize your feelings, get rid of who is no longer holistically serving you and be honest about what is turning you into a progressive person and what is a direct enemy of that.

A clean house is bomb. So is a clean heart. Pun intended here on every level, sis.

No time like the present. Get to cleanin’.

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Featured image by Tony Anderson/Getty Images



Stacey and Dalen Spratt

How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.

I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.


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