As a clinician, I often hear clients talk about missing their exes.
They reflect on how much they loved the person and how happy they felt when they were with them.
It’s easy to romanticize a relationship when it comes to an end. Our brain seems to forget all the disappointments and arguments. Instead, it replays the relationship in our mind as a romance novel—turning a dysfunctional relationship into the plot from “The Notebook.”
No, your ex did not write you 365 letters like Noah wrote Allie.
This is when I often challenge clients on their romanticized notions. We process the negatives of the relationship, such as incompatibilities and past transgressions.
People often get into relationships to fill voids within themselves. Therefore when the relationship is over, the void is no longer filled and those old feelings come rushing back. It’s like those blankets you stuffed hastily in a closet that come crashing down when you open the door. You think to yourself, “Damn, I thought I put those in better.”
Similarly, at the end of the relationship you often think, “Damn, I thought I had resolved those issues.” Instead of working on them, often people throw themselves into a “get back your ex” plan through weight loss and a new haircut.
This leads me to a question that requires self-awareness and insight to answer:
When we miss someone, is it the person we miss or how we felt with them?
Consider this. Do you miss him/her or…
1. Having a significant other?
2. Feeling loved or desired or wanted?
3. Feeling safe or secure or stable?
4. Having someone to text?
5. Having frequent plans with someone?
6. Taking someone to family functions?
7. Posting photos of you two on Instagram?
8. Not having to deal with being single?
9. Having someone to rely on?
10. Having someone to build a future with?
11. Having someone to split the bills with?
12. Having someone to cuddle with?
13. Having some to check on you?
14. Are you scared of being alone?
15. Are you worried no one else will love you?
You get the point. And those are just a few of the questions you can ask.
If you are honest with yourself, some of those might have hit home. It’s those pesky old blankets crashing down. Clients often find it easier to obsess about an ex (Instagram stalk the sh*t out of him) instead of taking a good, hard look in the mirror, because that takes honesty and courage. It’s not fun—and neither is waxing your eyebrows. But both need to be done.
As you answer each question, don’t let your brain play tricks on you. It may be racing with thoughts of, “He’s my one true love,” and, “No one else will understand me.” Barf. I am not saying that you do not love and miss your ex. I honestly bet you do. It hurts and I understand that; what I am saying is look at the other factors at play. They come from our own insecurities or trauma. These factors often keep us hanging on to an unhealthy relationship or pining over our ex.
When you ask these magic questions, I want you to tune into the sensations in your body. Allow yourself to ask your body how it feels—also known as “listening to your gut.”
This is where the work actually begins. This is you working on your issues. So journal about it or make a therapy appointment to discuss it.
That new haircut may not make him come back. But you becoming a healthier version of yourself? Priceless.