Why Can’t I Get Over My Ex?
Three big lies we tell ourselves that keep us stuck in old relationships.
Our minds have a way of tweaking the truth, especially when we think about our ex’s. Sometimes we think of our ex’s more negatively than is objectively warranted (He or she was the devil!). Sometimes we think of them more positively (I will never find someone as amazing as he or she was.). Sometimes we try to avoid thinking about them all together (Let me jump into a new relationship fast!). And sometimes we can’t stop ruminating about them (Please help me turn off my mind!).
No matter how we tweak the truth, we rarely remember our ex’s accurately. And it can keep us stuck in old relationships—long after they have ended.
The good news is that there are things we can do to help ourselves move on. Namely, we can be more honest with ourselves about how our relationship really was. Acknowledging and confronting the lies we tell ourselves about our ex’s can help us move on.
Lie Number 1: It was such an amazing relationship!
I hear this lie most commonly among people who are hung up on their ex. They think about them through overly romantic goggles. Often, they cannot remember even why they broke up! “He or she was perfect, right? Why did we break up? We should be together. It could definitely work.”
The truth is that there is a reason you broke up. Although you might not remember exactly what it is, I am quite sure there was a reason. Parts of your relationship may have been wonderful—but parts of it clearly were not. So, unless the reason you broke up is no longer relevant, it is very likely that the relationship would still not work.
If you find yourself thinking of an ex through rose-colored glasses, think back. What was your relationship really like? Why did you break up? If you truly can’t remember, try dating the person again—if only in your imagination. Either it will be different this time, or you will quickly be reminded why your relationship ended in the first place!
Lie number 2: It is all his or her fault that it didn’t work!
This is the most common lie I hear people say when going through contentious breakups or ugly divorces. This is especially true when something objectively difficult happened—cheating, betrayal, ongoing fights. In these situations, people often focus only on what their ex did to them.
It may be true that your ex treated you very poorly—that is certainly a common experience. But it does not mean that he or she is fully to blame for your relationship not working. The truth is that you also contributed to your relationship not working. Because everyone involved in a relationship contributes to whether it works or not. Always.
When you want to point the finger at your ex, the most helpful thing you can do is to point the finger at yourself. Try to understand how you got here. How did you contribute to what did and did not work in the relationship? Did you fight back? Stoop to their level with insults? Try to keep the peace at your own expense? Stay too long because you were afraid to be alone? Focusing on what you did to contribute to the demise of your relationship will help you own your role in the relationship not working.
Lie Number 3: My next relationship will be different (even if I stay the same)…
This is a lie I see most often in serial daters—individuals who jump from relationship to relationship, looking for the next Mr. or Mrs. right.
The truth is that humans operate in patterns. And the biggest predictor of future behavior is past behavior. In that vein, we will repeat the same mistakes in all of our relationships unless we change. We may pick people with the same character traits. We may be emotionally reactive to the same issues. We may lack the ability to actually get close to another human being. In essence, we will play out our baggage with everyone we date!
So, if you think the answer to your relationship woes is simply to find a new partner (and another partner and another partner) when each subsequent relationship doesn’t work, pause. Go back to understanding yourself and why you choose the partners you choose. It may be that you do need a new partner! But to ensure that your next relationship is positive and fulfilling, you also need to remember what you are going to do differently to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes.
The Naked Truth is this: Getting over an ex can be hard. That person can occupy our thoughts and heart for days, months, or even years. When you can’t seem to get over an ex, ask yourself: “How did I get here? What did I do to contribute to the ending of my relationship? Was I really happy? What would I do differently?” Honestly answering these questions can provide the valuable information about yourself that you need to move on.
For more help getting over your ex, Exaholics is a great resource: www.exaholics.com
Copyright Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D.