Stop Obsessing Over Your Ex

Stop Obsessing Over Your Ex

I used to have a really hard time getting over past relationships. I would find myself ruminating over the person, wondering if our breakup was a mistake and contemplating reaching out to see if we could try again.

That same thinking kept me in bad relationships for far too long and kept me stuck when I should have been moving on.

It wasn’t until I started doing therapy with clients who were in various degrees of anxiety and depression due to a break up that I started to realize that it’s not usually the person I was missing, but the idea of that person, the experiences and the feelings.

You Don’t Miss Them, You Miss The Idea of the Person

A woman once told me, and it was such a great line I don’t doubt that she heard it somewhere else before, perhaps in a movie, “You don’t want me, you want the idea of me.” At the time I thought she was totally wrong, but as I’ve grown and learned to understand myself and other people, I now know that she was absolutely right. I didn’t really know her, but I was attracted to her physically and had already become attracted to the idea of her being my person.

I was doing what most of us do subconsciously. We meet people and then make certain believes and assumptions about that person.

When we like someone, we tend to make them out to be this impossibly perfect person. Even when we notice their flaws we tend to justify, minimize or downright ignore them. This explains why we often ignore many red flags that signal someone isn’t good for us early in the dating process.

When this person starts not living up to who we created them to be in our minds, we tend to grow disappointed, unhappy and fall out of love because we start seeing the person for who they really are which often is in stark comparison to who we made them out to be.

Once the relationship ends, often we start remembering that person, not as the person they really were, but as the idealized person we created. We like to romanticize and we pick and choose memories that have strong, happy emotions over more unpleasant ones. We start missing that person, not as he or she was, but our idea of that person. Sometimes we even start missing the person we felt they could have been and not who they really were.

You Don’t Miss Them, You Miss The Way They Made You Feel

In our minds, we tend to downplay the more negative experiences and feelings. “Our fights weren’t that bad.” “Maybe I was just sensitive and he wasn’t a womanizer”. “He only yelled at me because he loved.”

This kind of thinking is sometimes called the Halo Effect. When you remember the good qualities of a person and minimize the negative. It’s partly why many people stay or go back to abusive relationships. It’s what makes it hard to separate from toxic people because they are usually really good at treating you special and then treating you like crap, putting you on a roller-coaster ride that can make you question your own sanity.

We start looking at pictures and remembering times when we were happy, smiling, having fun and madly in love with the person and pushing aside the things that weren’t so good and maybe were even awful about being with that person.

We miss the feeling of flutters in our heart that comes with being in love, of laying next to someone and talking all night long or holding hands, kissing and going out on dates. Suddenly, all the heartache they may have caused us doesn’t seem to hurt so bad.

If you don’t have friends or a journal to remind you of how terrible they treated you most of the time, it’s easy to fall back into missing how well they treated you every now and then.

It’s okay to miss people, but it’s not okay to miss anyone who used, abused or mistreated you. If you do, it means you need to take time for self-care and learn to embrace reality. You’re awesome and deserving of someone who will treat you better. It’s something I struggled to learn for a long time. It took understanding codependency and detachment for me to break that cycle.

You Don’t Miss Them, You’re Just Lonely

If you only miss the person when you’re lonely, then you don’t really miss the person. When we’re lonely, sometimes we think back to our past and wish we could lean on someone who isn’t there any more. We may even think we still love that person, but it’s not love it’s loneliness.

As humans, we don’t like to be alone, especially when we are dealing with problems. Sure, most of us like to have our space and time apart and some of us are really good at being alone, but most of us crave bonding, relating and socializing with other people from time to time. When you’re lonely, it’s easy to start longing for an ex because we wished we had someone.

Before you know it, you’re calling or texting that former flame or perhaps even worse, crying over that person, or should I say, the idea of that person.

If you don’t think about that person when you’re happy and having fun, perhaps wishing they were there to share the experience with, then you’re not still in love with them, you’re lonely.

You Don’t Miss Them, You Miss Who You Were With Them

When we think about our past with that person, the experiences and feelings we had together, it’s easy to believe that we are missing them when really we are missing the person we were when we were with them.

Just like we tend to idealize people and create versions of them that probably never existed, we do the same with our memories of them. Often, when we miss a person, what we really miss is how they affected us.

I used to ruminate on a particular woman I was in a relationship with and often times I missed the way she would make me laugh, or how we would go out on the weekend and paint the town red and I’d miss how we would sing love songs to each other. I minimized how drunk she sometimes go, how reckless she could be and how scarily volatile her moods were.

Once our relationship ended, I no longer had anyone to do those things with. I missed those feelings and I missed the person I was during those times because that person was a happier, more out going person than I was in reality.

I would find myself alone on a Friday night wishing I had someone to go out with and when I was out, I wished I had someone to sing off key love songs to. I didn’t really miss that particular woman, but the experiences, feelings and person I was in that relationship.

It is definitely possible to miss a person, but that is rarely the case. As humans, we’re so complicated with the way we torture ourselves by creating people, memories and emotions that aren’t always based on  reality.

Often we ruminate on people who don’t deserve our attention or energy.

Those same feelings and experiences we had with an ex, we can and will have with someone else if we allow ourselves to move on.                                                                      .

“I Love You” Versus “Love You”… Is There A Difference?

LoveDo you think there is a difference between someone saying “I love you” and just “love you?” I ask this question because personally I think there is a difference. I tend to say “love you too” when I am responding to someone I don’t really love. I usually tend to say “love you” to someone I don’t love in a romantic way, but in a friend or familial way. I prefer to save the “I love you” for someone I am truly in love with or when I am really expressing admiration to someone.

So is there a difference between the two?

I did a quick internet search and came up with some of these responses:

  • I say it more than “I love you”. I also say “loves”. For me, it’s just the way I say it, and the way my whole family tends to say it. We miss out the “I”. When people say “love YA” though, that bothers me. Again, it could just be the way they say things, but to me it seems insincere. It depends entirely on how they say it to others and any underlying issues with intimacy they may have. I have a lot of emotional issues so mine could well speak for that if only it wasn’t just the way we said it in my family. *shrugs* I guess I’m trying to say it’s entirely a “relative to the individual” thing as far as I see it.
  • Nope. “Love you,” is just something we say when hanging up the phone or closing an email. It’s more casual, but the meaning is still the same. It’s like “hello” versus “good morning”. We say, “I love you,” when hugging each other or being sappy during vacation. The phrase just depends on the circumstance
  • I say ” love you” allot to my husband (we tell each other several times a day, at random times) I don’t see a difference from “I love you” vs “love you” just the way I say it
  • I think there is a difference, The ‘love you’ one is more flippant and almost dismissive IMHO I hate “love you” I also hate “love u” and “ilu” all are dismissive hurried and lazy.
  • Defnitely a difference! While I am fine with “love you” it is nice every now and then to get a truly heart felt “I love you”. Just means more…
  • Well I tell my hubby “I love you” but I tell my best friend “love you” so meh I feel there is a difference but it also depends on the person as well. it may mean something different to them than it does to me or you.
  • I also think that HOW it is said makes a difference, I like to say I love you, and I am in love with you to my man and love you to my children as they walk out the door, I love them, but in a different way
  • The last two guys I was involved with both changed from “I love you” to more flippant responses like “love you” or “love ya” and both relationships went south about the same time.
  • I think it all depends on the context and the relationship of the people saying it. I used to get upset with my ex for saying ‘love you’ a lot, but it was usually because I was annoyed with him for other things and that was just an easy target to nag him about.
  • i tend to say love you alot in a kidding sense so i guess there is a difference.
  • I think the words “I love you” are very powerful, and people have dismissed it and reduced it to almost nothing, like the anoying – I whatever-.
  • Absolutely NOT! I think it’s silly to even think there is a difference. The difference is in the tone, not the words! Feelings are displayed in the tone! Simple as that!

So it looks like people have many different views on the subject, probably depending on their personalities, their relationships and their experiences.  I think however if in a relationship one person uses the words “love you” and their partner feels a certain way about it and would prefer to hear the more personal “I love you”, then that should be communicated. Otherwise, the person that prefers to hear “I love you” will most likely always feel a little sting when you lovingly say “love you”.

So what do you think? Is there a difference between “I love you” and “love you”?

 

Relationship Beliefs: Destiny Belief Versus Growth Belief

Tools-happy-couple-istockWhen it comes to relationships, what we believe about relationships and how they should be plays a major role in how we perceive and behave in them.

We all have preexisting beliefs about how we think relationships should ideally form. Some of those ideals can be very rigid, to the point that they keep us from entering and appreciating otherwise great people because they do not fit into our idealized image.

For example, many people look for that “special someone”, but that “special someone” has to almost perfectly fit into their preexisting beliefs. Maybe he has to be exactly six feett, six inches tall, or she has to have perfect blonde hair or has never been intimate with anyone else.

Even the ideal about the way we meet that “special someone” can influence us.

In college, there were many people I knew who expected to meet their “ideal partner” in school and most didn’t. Many tried hard to make relationships that weren’t compatible work, simply because of their beliefs. Many others left college disappointed, thinking that they will never find true love if it didn’t happen the way they thought it should have, in college so many relationships they entered after school they did so half heartedly and didn’t make much effort in sustaining them, at least initially.

Most of these people subscribed to what is called a destiny belief when it comes to relationships, meaning that they thought people were either meant for each other or not. I too believe in this to some extent, but some people believe in this so much that they believe little to no work has to be done in a relationship because if it were destined to happen, then it would magically just work.

People who have been in successful long term relationships and marriages can tell you that successful relationships take work. They don’t just magically happen. It takes compromising, understanding, negotiating, letting go, determination, love and a host of other tools to make a relationship work.

Most people who understand this and are in happy, long term relationships believe more in a growth belief where relationships have to be cultivated and developed through mutual experiences, which may include conflict. They understand that not everything is always going to be perfect, but even then there are opportunities to communicate, learn and grow with their partner, in their relationship and within themselves.

People who believe more in the destiny belief generally go out of their way to make a good impression during the initial stages of a relationship, and are constantly on the look out for signs that this person may not be “the one” so that they can move on to someone else. This sensitivity to signs that a relationship may not work out very early on can be helpful, but it can also be very detrimental as they often quickly rule out potentially great partners over the smallest of perceived slights or flaws.

For instance, a woman whose ideal mate is always well-kempt, is in a new, promising relationship with someone who is “perfect” so far, notices one day that he has dirty finger nails, may see that as a sign that he is not  the man for her and may end the relationship. They belief it is one “perfect” person out there for them and will reject any other partners that are even slightly flawed.

On the other hand, people who believe in growth belief place less emphasize on initial interactions and feelings, but want to develop understanding and closeness overtime to see how compatible they are with an individual. Even when faced with flaws, they will continue to see if they can live with those flaws as the relationship evolves through challenges, difficulties and resolutions.

For example, an argument might break up a couple if both of the individuals are heavily vested in destiny belief, while if both individuals are heavily vested in growth belief, the same argument can help them grow closer.

Both growth belief and destiny belief are viewed on a scale. People can be either high or low on that scale and I am not saying either belief is better. I for one used to be very high on the destiny belief scale, but as I have grown and had different experiences, I am much higher on the growth belief scale with a little destiny belief still in my heart.

I definitely believe in destiny and that some people and relationships are meant to be for one reason or another, but I also believe that without the willingness to work at and grow in a relationship, it most likely will not work. I do not go into a relationship thinking that this person is “perfect” and I don’t have to do anything to make our relationship successful. I go into a relationship thinking, this person seems worth investing my time and energy in (flaws and all)and if it’s destined, we will work out.

How do you feel when it comes to relationships? Are you more on the destiny side or the growth side, and if so, how high or low are you on those scales?