Getting Back With an Ex

Dear Liz,

I dated a boy in high school for 3 years, he studied abroad in Italy for 4 months, and we broke up while he was there. Our relationship wasn’t the best, but we were in love, and we both knew that for sure. It was a controlling relationship, on both ends. This past summer I began to date a new boy, it was very different -less controlling-but I still thought about my ex ALL THE TIME and because of this, I broke up with the new guy.  Why am I still thinking about my ex all the time? Does this mean I should try and pursue him again? I’ve always heard “if you can’t go a day without thinking about the person, it’s worth it”…. HELP!!!!!!  


Dear Friend,

I’m curious why the two of you broke up after being together for three years:  was the distance too much of a strain…did you realize “our relationship wasn’t the best…it was a controlling relationship, on both ends…”  I’d ask if the break-up was mutual, though I don’t think there’s any such thing—someone usually wants out, for any number of reasons, and at best the other someone accepts the decision without great resistance—but someone gets hurt.  Either way, you are still caught up in him, and so you did the right thing by ending it with the “new guy.”  No one wants to be second in the heart and mind of another—I’m glad you were thoughtful enough to make the decision you did.

Is your ex in the same space you’re in?  Would he like to give it another try?  Here are some tips for giving a relationship a second try:

  1. Can you clearly and mutually identify why it ended the first time around (You named the controlling dynamic you both brought to the relationship—are you each willing to own and address that style of interacting?)
  2. If someone/both acted in a way that caused hurt/a break of trust, are you both willing to delve into that with open hearts? Is forgiveness possible, or is someone stuck in a space of resentment?
  3. Most importantly, ask yourself, what has changed?

It’s not unusual when we are young to be unclear about our future and how the person in front of us will fit into that future—so sometimes we end things, due to that uncertainty.  You are still young—are you ready to re-commit for the long haul?  You’ve already invested three years, so I would imagine a reconciliation will take the two of you into the space of “serious” pretty quickly.

It’s important for you to address why you were controlling, whether or not you do in fact reconcile with your ex, because more likely than not you will bring that behavior to your next relationship, and it will hurt your intimacy.

Controlling behavior is always indicative that there is a deep hurt—we manage that hurt, that suffering, by controlling something/someone externally.  The wound could be any number of things, and the depth of the wound varies, but no matter the wound or its depth, we seek to control because we are so “out of control” internally.  The cure for controlling behavior?  Let the pain of the wound(s) rise up and confront/feel them.  This takes work, and there is no shortcut.

And just as an aside:  Honestly reflect upon your behavior—are you a genuinely controlling person, or were you told that you were controlling?  The reason I ask is because women often ignore their gut feelings and/or values, feelings and values that lead us to find some behaviors unacceptable—and when we voice our unwillingness to accept certain things, a common defensive response is to be labeled “controlling.”  Just keep in mind that you are not being controlling when you honor yourself by knowing what you can and cannot accept.  If we can’t accept a choice our partner is making, and we express that and ask for it to end, our partner may experience it as controlling, when it is really a matter of knowing what we can/cannot live with.  However, we can’t make a partner end a particular behavior.  Only s/he can decide to do that.  All we can do is stay and accept it, or leave.

A good rule of thumb:  Give a relationship a second try once, and if doesn’t work the second time around, this is no match made in heaven.  Move on.

 

Love, Liz

 

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