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How to Stop Caring About Someone

The process of moving on from someone who seems like they don't care
Stop caring about someone

Whatever you do, don't think about elephants.

You're thinking about elephants now, aren't you? This is the issue with trying to stop caring about someone. When you care about someone, likely, they're often on your mind. The harder you try to stop thinking about them, the more you do. You get frustrated with yourself for continuing to think and care about them, and so you think about them more.

The process of moving on

It is possible, though, to stop caring about someone who seemingly doesn't care about you. It's a five-step process, and the results aren't instant. Depending on how deeply involved you were with the person, and how much you care, it could take weeks, months, or even a year or longer. Nevertheless, when someone has taken over your mind and heart in a way that is damaging to you and your other relationships, the work towards getting unstuck will be worth it. Each day will get a little bit better, and the time between caring thoughts will lengthen until you stop caring about them altogether.

Step 1: Cut them out

It's crucial that you cut off all or as much contact with the person as possible.

By "as possible," I don't mean "as much as you can handle emotionally." If the only thing connecting you to the person is emotions or shared history, cutting them out of your life cold-turkey is the way to go. Otherwise, avoid interacting with them as much as you can. This might mean having to ask your boss to transfer you off of a project or move you to a different office, explaining to family members that you won't attend an event if the other person is invited, or avoiding some social gatherings.

Once you no longer care about the person, occasionally seeing them won't be harmful. But for now, interacting with them is going to make this process much more difficult. If you're a naturally caring person (which you must be since you're reading this!), it is nearly impossible to successfully stop caring about someone with whom you're in contact, even if the contact is just seeing them from across the room at a party.

Step 2: Write a list

Consider writing a list of all the reasons you should no longer care about the person who doesn't care about you. Be specific. Don't just write, "He cheated." Write out every instance of betrayal. Don't just write, "She was never there for me as a child." Write out every memory you have of when your family member let you down or hurt you. Keep this list with you at all times. When you find yourself thinking about them, re-read your list.

If you often have the urge to contact them, every time you want to pick up the phone or email them, re-read your list. If they try to reach out to you, every time you're tempted to answer the phone or respond to a message, re-read the list. Put a checkmark in your calendar or diary at the end of every day you had no contact with them. Think of it like a twelve-step program, but instead of marking and celebrating every day you don't drink, you're acknowledging and appreciating every day you don't speak to them. These markings will help you see that this process gets easier over time, which will help you stick with it.

Step 3: Write a letter

Sometimes, even with a list of reasons of why you shouldn't think about someone who doesn't care about you, they're still on your mind. You start thinking of things you want to say to them and questions you want to ask. However, calling them up or sending them an email or text is a terrible idea. It will just set you back in this process. Instead, you can write them letters.

You're not going to send these letters, and you don't want to be tempted to, so it's best to write them in a journal with pages that are hard to tear out. Because you're not going to send them, you can be as free and honest as you want. Let out all your anger and sadness and fear on the pages. Then, later, when you find yourself thinking about them, re-read the letters to remind yourself why they're not worth the room they're taking up in your head.

Step 4: Fill your time and mind

You think about someone you don't want to think about most often when you're idle, or when you're doing something that reminds you of them. You need to fill your time and your mind in a way that pushes them out and replaces them with enjoyable activities and positive thoughts.

You could ask for more responsibilities at work, start a new project, or take a class. If it's a friend or romantic partner that you want to stop caring about, your instinct might be to replace them with a new friend or partner. I don't recommend this, at least not until you're further along in the process. You'll inevitably compare the new person to the old one, and even though you might think the new person is better, the old one will still be on your mind.

Ideally, you want to fill your time and thoughts with new things to care about and get invested in - things that the person you're trying to forget about has nothing to do with.

Step 5: Forgive yourself

Are you having a hard time to stop caring about someone who doesn't care about you? Congratulations, you're a good person! You care about people, deeply. So deeply, in fact, that once you start caring, it's hard to stop. The issue isn't that you care; the issue is that you're caring about the wrong person, someone who doesn't deserve it. You know that you've got the room in your heart to care about someone who will care about you back, and that's a beautiful thing. Congratulate yourself every day on what a caring person you are. This will help you forgive yourself.

It's difficult to stop caring about someone who doesn't care about you, but it's not impossible. It takes work, but the work isn't complicated. It takes time, but every day, it gets easier. In the end, you'll be glad you did it because you'll have room in your life, in your heart, and in your head, to care about someone who cares about you too.

For more support, join our empathetic community, chat with a free, trained listener, or start affordable online therapy today.


Posted: 01 August 2019
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Andrea Brandt, PhD, MFT

Dr. Andrea Brandt is a marriage and family therapist with over 35 years of clinical experience in the role of individual family therapist, couples counseling, group therapy and anger management classes.

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