Don't let the memory of your ex be the "third wheel" in your new relationship.
This is the seventh post in our series 8 Signs You Aren't Ready for a Relationship.
We all have unpacked emotional baggage from our past relationships, and it's difficult, if not impossible, to completely get rid of it; that's just being human. But if you find yourself still pining for, very angry with, or otherwise consumed with emotion over your ex, you need to get past it before you'll be able to be in a new healthy relationship.
It's totally normal to take time to heal from a major heartbreak, and the greater the love there once was, the longer it takes. Make sure that you are treating yourself right by giving yourself that time.
If you're not sure that you're over your ex, ask yourself the following questions and be completely honest with your answers (after all, you're the only one that will hear them):
Too Much Emotional Baggage
Do you find yourself wanting to call (or actually calling) your ex just to see how he's doing?
When you see your ex out at a social event, do you find yourself drawn towards him and wanting to flirt with him?
When you're out with others, including on a date, do you often find yourself talking about your ex, either in a good or bad way?
Do you find that you are still feeling emotionally fragile from your breakup?
Are you still angry or do you still cry when you think about how you were treated or how you were rejected?
Are you going out of your way to remain "friends" with your ex in order to maintain contact with him?
If you answered yes to any of these, as difficult as it may be, you need to make a clean break from your ex and let your heart heal so that you'll be able to move on to the relationship that you are meant to have.
The Rebound Relationship
I remember it all too well. Even though all of the advice I was reading said the same thing: don’t get into a new relationship until you’re over the last one; avoid the rebound; take your time to get over the one you’re getting over; it didn't matter. I just wanted the pain of the heartbreak to go away, and it seemed like the only thing that could make me feel any better was finding someone else to replace the last one, as quickly as possible.
And so each time it would end, sometimes even before it actually ended (but I could see that the end was coming), I would put all my effort into meeting someone else who could get my mind off of it and make the pain and hurt go away. Then I could tell myself (and maybe even tell my ex if I was really feeling hurt) that it didn't matter because there was already someone else. Somehow I felt like that would validate me, my worth, and show him just how insane he was for letting me go, because, see! Someone else wants me!
Of course the problem was that the replacement guy wasn't really the guy I wanted to be with. The guy I wanted to be with was the guy that broke my heart. So instead of taking my mind off of the sadness and heartbreak of the relationship that had ended, the new guy just made me think about all of the things that I missed about my ex.
When the new guy failed to measure up to what I felt the other one was, it would just confirm to me that I really had missed out and messed up a relationship that, at least in my mind, could have been the one. But of course the truth was that the previous relationship wasn't really all that, and I was just romanticizing the good times (as often happens when we feel something has been taken from us) and only remembering the positives in an idealistic way. (Yes, I'm very guilty of being idealistic, as my husband gently reminds me of even now when I was going on and on about how wonderful my childhood home was. That is, until we recently visited there and I found it was not quite what I remembered!)
Eventually I’d see that the new guy wasn’t what I really wanted either, and that would bring an end to something that really should never have started in the first place. And then I would be all alone once again, feeling even worse than before, particularly if I had broken the new guy's heart in the process.
Change The Behavior
I finally got it, that this wasn’t working. This was no way to live. I wish I could say I figured it out early on, but I didn’t. So take comfort if you’re still stuck in that place of looking for a rebound relationship to feel better. It takes a while to learn new healthy behaviors, especially when it’s been a routine temporary bandage to help quell the pain that only another woman with a breaking heart can know. So don’t beat yourself up, but do your best to change this unhealthy behavior.
So what do you do?
Just know that if you're trying to get your ex out of your head, make a clean break from him. If you can't completely break from him, for example if you work together, then set boundaries so that you are only interacting with him on a level that's as limited as possible. Then focus on your own needs until you feel that you're: a.) Not wanting to get back together with him and b.) You're no longer angry about what happened.
Take a break from any kind of relationship or dating until you get to this point. It usually helps to realize that the fact that the relationship ended means that it was not the right relationship for you to be in, and it means that you saved yourself greater heartache down the road.
Of course if you meet a guy during this time that has real potential, and you find that he not only takes your mind off of your ex but he completely makes you forget about your ex or even makes you happy that the relationship ended, then by all means go for it! Just make sure that you're starting the relationship for the right reasons, and that you're not getting into it to try to forget about your ex, because it just doesn't work that way.
Next post in this series: Stop Trying To Be Something You're Not?