I’m still in love with my ex-husband. It’s been eight years since I ended things when it became clear he didn’t love me. He didn’t disagree. He met someone new shortly thereafter and remarried a year later. Still, I think of him daily. I wish he still loved me. On my bad days, I regret ending our 12-year relationship and think I lost the love of my life. But he was a liar and a cheater. I know he was wrong for me. How do I let this go?
Stuck Like Glue
Dear Stuck Like Glue,
Eight years is a pretty long time to beat yourself up for a relationship that you knew wasn’t right for you. I can tell by your letter that ultimately you know you needed to break up with him. You deserve to be in a relationship where you feel loved and respected.
If he was cheating, lying, and admitted he didn’t love you, then of course you had to let him go. That said, sometimes it can be hard not to obsess about the past. You may be feeling lonely now, and you can trick yourself into wondering if maybe it wasn’t so bad, or you made the wrong decision. Don’t second guess yourself.
You say you’re “still in love” with your ex, and maybe you do love him, but I wonder if what’s actually happening here is that you are stuck in a cycle of victimizing yourself.
When you lament a past decision, or what life used to be like (or could be like), you’re not in the present moment, when everything is actually fine. There’s a part of your psyche that may even feel comfortable in that victim place.
Perhaps that’s what you knew as a child, or in earlier years, so it’s what’s familiar to you. You’re now caught in a pattern of re-creating that feeling, which actually makes it less about your ex, and more to do with you and your emotional state.
You were already victimized once by the cheating, lying, and not being loved, but yet the last eight years has been a continuation of that process that only you contributed to, not him. Your ex is off living his new life. Only you have the power to now inhibit your own happiness. Chances are, the version of him you are pining for again doesn’t even exist. It’s just fantasy.
What would it be like if for the next year of your life, instead of lamenting on something that wasn’t good for you anyway, you begin to think about what’s next for you, and look for those opportunities?
What if you finally ask the cute guy at Chipotle if he wants to grab coffee, or join a new dating app?
This may be a juncture for you, a chance to really ask yourself if you want to continue doing this to yourself, or if you want to make a decision to move on and love yourself fully. You don’t deserve to be victimized, by yourself or anyone else.
Perhaps you could even create a symbolic ritual, maybe sage your living space to start fresh, or close and lock a box with your ex’s socks he never picked up from you after the breakup (or in true dramatic form, you could burn them in the backyard). This would give you a chance to put the past behind you, and start anew.
We all want to be loved, and I can tell you are no exception. The good news is, there’s one person always available to you. As RuPaul says every Friday night, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
The main priority is always taking care of yourself first, even if that means giving up that sadistic, yet comfortable habit of wallowing in a loss. We can’t control what others do, but we can control how we treat ourselves.
Jake Myers is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist licensed in California, practicing online therapy in the age of social distancing. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, with a specialization in LGBT Affirmative Psychotherapy. He currently has openings for tele-health (video therapy) if you reside in California.