How Do I Finally Let Go Of My Ex For Good?

How Do I Finally Let Go Of My Ex For Good?

Evan, I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years and I’m a big fan. Your advice has helped me make a lot of changes about how I view things. But I’m stuck. I hope you can help.

I have a great boyfriend who does all the important things right. He’s funny, smart, kind, dependable, loyal, trustworthy, crazy about me, and fun to be with. He’s a good person. I love him. I’ve been dating him for four years but I’m still mentally and emotionally stuck on my ex way more than I should be, since we broke up more than 5 years ago. The ex was the classic charismatic, unavailable alpha male now but there was a time when we had a real relationship. Every time we tried to get back together after the breakup, he disappeared and hurt me, but I am still stuck on him. The euphoria I experienced with him has never been present with my current boyfriend.

I have tried therapy and self-help books and blocking his phone number. I know love is a choice. But do you have any tips on how I can make real progress towards letting go, once and for all? Any practical advice for me? I think I’m doing everything I can but maybe I’m missing something. From time to time, memories of the ex flood over me and it makes it hard to give my boyfriend the love he deserves. Is that normal? What should I do?

–Jennifer

Jennifer,

Do I have any tips on how to make real progress towards letting go?

Hmmm. Let me think about that one out loud for a second…

You’re dabbling in some revisionist history, thinking that somehow, magically, you’re going to get all the good stuff from your ex, without any of the bad stuff.

Do I have any tips that would prevent you from holding your hand on a hot stove?

Do I have any tips that would prevent you from taking up heroin?

Do I have any tips that would prevent you from jumping out of a plane without a parachute?

Sorry, but, to me, that’s what your question sounds like.

The fact that you’re even considering trading the “funny, smart, kind, dependable, loyal, trustworthy, fun, crazy-about-you” guy for the “charismatic, unavailable alpha male” who broke up with you multiple times is the kind of thing that makes me want to punch a hole in my wall.

You know it. I know it. And yet you still feel what you feel.

You want another hit of the heroin, because you never felt so high in your life. How can you get that feeling without the downside?

You can’t.

And if you want to really kick this ex to the curb like a bad habit, instead of thinking of how great you felt when things were good, how about you focus how bad you felt when things were bad.

The times he lied to you.
The times he insulted you.
The times he cheated on you.
The times he didn’t want to listen to you.
The times he broke up with you.
The times he hurt you.

Because right now, you’re dabbling in some revisionist history, thinking that somehow, magically, you’re going to get all the good stuff from your ex, without any of the bad stuff.

Uh uh.

No matter what woman that guy meets, he’s going to cause a wide swath of destruction like Sherman did in the South.

The reason to not touch the hot stove is because you’ll get burned.

The reason to not try heroin is because you’ll get hooked.

The reason to not jump from a plane without a chute is because you’ll die.

Nothing good comes out of the thrill. It’s all downside.

Your ex-boyfriend is all downside, Jennifer.

And your current boyfriend deserves someone who appreciates how great he is, not someone who pines for a man who treats her worse.

Get your shit together or let your boyfriend go.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Flower White

    Hi I am very curious are you still in therapy?
    Think about all the bad stuff that he did. Think about if a man was doing that to your Mother, sister,  daughter or beloved friend. What would you tell them?
     
    Sure, I miss my alcoholic ex. When he wasn’t going from 0 to 60 in a minute, he was drinking to the point of 3x weekly. Still, after dumping him,  I missed that mean rude sucker like the desert misses the rain…what really helped was thinking of all the crap he did. Hope this helps.

  2. 2
    Angie

    Two things:
     
    (a) Maybe your current boyfriend, for all his wonderful qualities, isn’t a good match for you.
     
    (b) FIVE years?!?!  Jennifer, this is a long time to not be able to get over someone.  I do think some people thrive in high drama situations (actually, idk if “thrive” is a good word choice, but they feel more alive).  I don’t really think “euphoria” is an everyday relationship feeling.  It’s an addict feeling.  Love is meant to feel warm and safe, not high.
     
    Can you take up some extreme hobby and get your adrenaline rush from sky-diving instead of romance?  Also, you should read “The 5 Love Languages”.  It will help you determine how you interpret love.  Perhaps you need your boyfriend to be more demonstrative in a certain way, but perhaps you are just not that into your boyfriend.  Is he a 4-year rebound???
     
    Falling in love again is often the cure for a broken heart, but you also need to consciously close the door on that relationship yourself.  Besides evaluating your current boyfriend, I’d also consider finding a new therapist!  What is this one doing?!

  3. 3
    nathan

    Evan’s right. You’re not really stuck on “him,” you’re stuck on the emotional /sexual highs that you experienced with him. It’s sounds to me like the “real” relationship is what you are in right now, and it would be such a shame to toss that overboard for some guy who can give you a fleeting boost, but little else.
     
    One thing you might try is this: whenever those passion-filled memories appear, just sit with them, watching and feeling without reaction. Don’t make up any more stories. Don’t try and sooth the longing. Just watch and let it move through you. Because it will pass. And the more you practice this, the less intense those memories should become. If you want to, you can also say to yourself “I let you go. May you be well” during this process. I did this daily for over six months with one Ex, and while memories of her still appear from time to time, they don’t influence how I act while dating any longer.

    1. 3.1
      Marie

      Nathan, I’m glad I read these comments. I like what you have to say. I’m going through what sounds like the exact same thing as Jennifer. All the ex and I  had was intense passion, too bad he was a selfish judgmental jerk, so that was my “heroin” and I need to let it go. I’m with the most amazing guy ever now (though the sex is not comparable). I think what also hurts, is that I’ve never been rejected… although I left him (because he said he didn’t see a future with me an ignored me for 10 days) I still felt rejected and I’m used to being the one to not feel and want to reject. 

      Anyway, I like your idea of that technique, but am not sure what to do about the dreams. Stupid subconscious… I’d rather die than relive our memories through my dreams or see new things occurring with him. I also dream that he tells me he loves me (which he never said that in real life) and we kiss and then decide to never let each other go. When I’m awake I sure as F*#$ don’t want that! But why does the stupid subconscious think it? my sister thinks it’s because I want that passion I felt with the ex again, but I just really wish his face would just stay outta my dreams dammit! :-( and yes, I’ve gone to therapy for this.

  4. 4
    Jane

    I don’t think this woman is suggesting that she wants to get back with her ex, she just wants to get him out of her head so she can fully focus on her current relationship. The amount of time it takes individuals to move on emotionally from a past relationship varies widely from person to person. For some, it takes a few months, for others it can take years. i can sympathize with Jennifer because I tend to hold on for a very long time, not by choice but because despite my best efforts, that past relationship has a grip on my soul. With enough time it eventually fades. I had a terrible break up with a fiancé once. It took me a good decade to completely shake the emotional hold that relationship had on me. But i never once considered getting back with him. Hang in there Jennifer, whether you stay with your new boyfriend or not, you will ultimately be able to let go of that other guy, and find that you have learned a great deal in the interim.

    1. 4.1
      flavia

      You are absolutely right. 
      One may not want to get back to the ex, But it is difficult to shake them off, contact or no contact.
      In my case it’s almost like I have a blind spot towards him. He moved on 5 years ago But still tries to contact me in a friendly early every now and then, even though I never contact first.
      My current boyfriend isn’t a perfect match for me, But he loves me and I love him a lot and I do feel the warmth when I’m with him. 
      Even though I can’t quite tell what is it about the ex, maybe it’s just the rejection, I’m never leaving my current boyfriend. 

    2. 4.2
      Janet

      Over 2 years ago I asked my ex to leave.  He had swept me off my feet with his words and wit.  The problem was that he was a little bit crazy.  Without going into all that, after waffling for years, he left.  I waffled because I was afraid to be alone and feel hopeless.  He moved on immediately-within a week, and probably he was arranging this relationship while he was still living with me.  As much as I try to review what didn’t work, I am obsessed with exposing him to the new one.  They have been together for 2 years and it feels like I live for the day they split, and fear they won’t.  I could use some advice on this one.

  5. 5
    Lance

    I think you are selfish or maybe just self obsessed. Try getting a pet, raising a family, taking up gardening, doing meaningless volunteer work at some charity, writing a check.

  6. 6
    Hmmmmm

    I agree with both points that Angie made in (2).  

      The OP obviously needs to figure out how to get past the ex.  She said in the letter “I have tried therapy and self-help books and blocking his phone number…”  Blocking his phone number?  Why would you have to block the phone number unless he’s continuing to try to be a part of her life?  If so, she needs to cut off ALL contact and let him know in no uncertain terms that she doesn’t want any contact with him at all.  That means they can’t be “Facebook friends” or have coffee every once in awhile or whatever else is keeping them tied together.

      But more importantly, I have to believe the boyfriend she has now is not right for her.  He may be loving and kind…whatever.  There are many loving and kind men that are not the RIGHT men for her.  The relationship doesn’t appear to be fulfilling her needs.  After four years it seems its time to figure out why or get out.

  7. 7
    Dan

    Having been on the dating circuit for some time now, I am actually surprised (and disappointed) at the large number or woman (and men) who still can’t get over an ex after 2, 3, 5 or 10 years after the relationship ended!
    I have dated these women, and I know some of these men as my friends. Years later, these people have been in and out of relationships. The relationships failed because they are not over the ex or there is still baggage from the ex.
    In dating such women, this has hurt me too. Nowadays, if I see this sign, I cut bait, which is surprisingly often among the mid-30’s crowd and above.
    I don’t hold anything against anyone who is not over their ex. I just wish they would figure their s&^% out, and get over it. please, just don’t date anyone as a part of their therapy because that will hurt one more person.

    1. 7.1
      Janie

      Dan,

      We all have baggage if you considered past hurts to be ‘baggage.’ There’s no way around it as a human being. Emotions don’t have an off-switch. Healing periods vary from person to person and dating is part of the process. No one can predict how they’re going to feel with someone until they’re with the person. For you to not have compassion towards others for their personal journey could be the reason why you’re still single. 

  8. 8
    Laurie

    Well said, Evan, and as strongly worded as the situation calls for. Jennifer’s current BF deserves a woman who appreciates him. Right here right now.

  9. 9
    Ray

    Unfortunately, alot of people associate the ‘highs’ with ‘love’
    Evan hit the nail on the head with the association to heroin.  I think our culture kind of supports this version of ‘love’ too.  The kind that gives you that ‘rush’… rather than the peaceful, comfortable feeling one develops with someone they truly trust, respect, and admire… and who offers the ACTIONS of love.  Not just the ‘feelings’ of ‘love’. 
    Sometimes it does take some painful self-reflection and therapy to understand how our early childhood experiences shaped what we view as ‘loving’ behavior. 
    I also wonder if this isn’t just another form of commitment phobia.  Someone comes along who does all the right things, and the OP can’t take the final step herself of opening up to him.  Maybe the past BF is just the excuse of the day to keep herself from emotionally investing??
    Very sad… although it is something we’ve probably all done at some point in our lives.
     
     
     
     

  10. 10
    agreeneyedchica

    Jennifer…

    I think that you’re not into either one of them.  I think that you love all those great qualities that you have with your current boyfriend, but you miss the chemistry you had with your last boyfriend.  I don’t believe that you have to choose between chemistry and a good person, I believe that the right person for you will have all the important things that you desire.  Having feelings for your ex doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to be back with him, and it doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate your current boyfriend.  But, it does mean that you’re missing something that you need and continuing to ignore it is unfair to both you and your current boyfriend. 

    1. 10.1
      Jen

      agreeneyedchica –
      I love what you’ve said here. I’ve actually been thinking it the entire time. It’s what I’m worried about as I move on, because my breakup is very recent – two days old, in fact. This weekend, someone sent me a photo of my now ex-boyfriend and his ex-wife – very much back together. I had suspected it for a while and some tried to tell me, but I ignored the signs. He was obsessed with her even though we had intense passion between us. So a friend found this photo on a mutual friend’s Facebook wall and yeah, okay, I finally couldn’t keep my head in the sand. I won’t get into how stupid I feel and how many red flags I ignored, but the point is – we had intense passion and the “highs” that made me truly believe I was intensely in love. Maybe I was, but either way, how will a man in the future stand a chance? How will I end up not comparing the passionate sex I had with my ex to whatever I will have? It worries me, but I know I won’t ever settle for someone “safe” just because they make me feel loved and secure. Evan’s right that this relationship is the kind you want – but you truly deserve to wait until you find it with someone who makes you feel passion as well. It’s what I will wait for as I step out again into the dating world, one day in the not-too-distant future.

  11. 11
    Michelle

    I believe Nathan’s response is right on, the whole thing.

    I had a relationship where I feel in love hard with a man I had incredible chemistry with (love/chemistry at first sight)–and he NEVER treated me badely, great guy and always honest.  He just wasn’t in the same place I was in regard to what I wanted, or maybe he wasn’t as into me as I thought he was, who knows.  It took me a year to get over him…to add insult to injury, I compared how I felt about him to every other man I dated since then.  This includes the man I’m in a relationship with now.

    That doesn’t make me in need of therapy or that I have to break up with the man I’m dating now.  It means I need to remind myself that relationship taught me a lot, that it was a very sweet time in my life, we brought a lot of pleasure to each other’s lives, it was a unique relationship not ever to be exactly duplicated, and most importantly, if it was meant to be, we would be together now.  I think a mature person can have feelings about a past experience, reflect and contemplate, and then come back to reality, without feeling badly or guilty. 

  12. 12
    Daphne

    @Michelle, maybe you and the guy who you had such a great relationship w was the right guy for you. Have you tried getting back together w him ?

  13. 13
    Leesa

    evan, you are so funny.  i can relate to jennifer. i am still pinning over my last boyfriend who was an alpha male (he took off with another chick 8 months ago whom he met at the pub while i was away). i have to ask myself every day what is it that i miss so much about him and then i have to remind myself to thank god every day that he’s gone and that he’s now toxic to some other poor/desperate women.  he lied to me, he cheated on me, he never spent time with me, he didn’t give me anything or take my anywhere, he didn’t listen to me. i was miserable and yet i couldn’t let go (and i’m pretty, fun to be with, easy going with a masters in engineering and had other guys trying to crack onto me). so what was it that would have made me hold on for the rest of my life if he’d have me … it was the sex. it was like a drug (the ultimate high which i had to have more of even though being with him was making me soul sick – and no, i’m not a nympho). it was best i’d ever had and i thought it was a reflection of the way he felt about me. and it was all the bull$hit he said about himself which was designed to make me think he was a hero. but the sad reality was that he was obviously good in bed with all women (because he said “i’ve been told i’m good in bed”) and the bull$hitting about being a hero was to hide the fact that if i knew what he’d really done (cheated on his ex-wife, was a total as$hole to live with) etc, few women would go near him in the first place. and yet, i still miss him like crazy. it’s a very cruel wound which i’m sure comes from unmet childhood needs. i can’t help thinking that Jennifer didn’t spend enough time on her own to totally heal emotionally from her alpha male and instead, ran away from her unresolved emotional wounds by hooking up with this nice guy earlier than she should have.  i could be wrong but my objective now, being in jennifer’s situation 4 years ago, is to totally get over the alpha male, going through all the crying, and pinning and the hell of heart break for as long as it takes (no matter i’m 40 and my time is running out so to speak). then i think i will be ready to really give love to another human and identify and appreciate whom has the ability to express love to me if it ever comes along again.

    1. 13.1
      Jen

      Leesa,
      Yes to everything you’ve said. You’re not alone. As I posted above, I’ve just been through something very similar. I chalk it up to very low self-esteem coming out of a bad marriage a few years back, but honestly, I had no great excuse. The sex was incredible and I now know that he was back with his ex-wife probably for months before I found out, if not longer. I’m slowly admitting the painful truth – that this wasn’t about love, or that he didn’t really love me, in any case. Not really, or he would never have done this. It’s awful, but in my pain I will admit it reassures me to know that he hasn’t moved on to something better with his ex – he was still seeing me until I confronted him two days ago with proof. So he’s been lying to her all this time as well. Good luck with that (bitter, I know!). And yes, it will take lots of time to get over all of this but we’ll get there.

  14. 14
    Flower White

    @Lance I like how you think! Sweet and simple.

  15. 15
    Margo

    Evan, you’re the man! Poor Jennifer. Sex with the ex must have been out of this world!

  16. 16
    Lorna

    I always change the guy’s name in my phone to whatever he did to me, so that I’m never tempted to pick up the phone or text back because I’m remembering the “good times.”  Like, I’ll save his name as “I Stood You Up On Christmas,”  “I Lied & Said I Wasn’t Married,” “I Didn’t Call You When You Lost Your Job” or whatever offense he did.  When I get a text with their horrible action, instead of their name, I have the strength to never answer.

    1. 16.1
      Bernice

      Lorna, i’m going to try that, that sounds to me like a very very very good plan

  17. 17
    Diana

    She needs some serious therapy. I was recently contacted by a guy I dated for two years. The relationship ended about six years ago. He is trying to squirm his way back in, but thanks to Evan’s blog and my current beau’s kindness, trust, and love, I told him firmly not to contact me again. That is what women do when they truly love the man they are with-they forsake all others. He seemed shocked that I did not care to hear from him and stated that “I should know the kind of man he is…” His statement implied that he is a good man. Because I do know the kind of man he is, I DEFINITELY do not want to experience that sickening, emotional roller coaster of a so-called relationship again. Jennifer, do yourself a favor and get as far away from the ex as you possibly can.

  18. 18
    mellie charnalia

    Try switching therapists (because it sounds like oyu’re having some obsessive thoughts about this, 5 years after the fact, and you need someone really good to work with you on this, if you’re not able to by pure free will, change this) & try to look into the Calling into the One course, or other in-depth readings by people who focus on clearing out old patterns, old emotional addictions, etc. It’s not about the ex–it’s about this addiction to that high that happens after someone has treated you like crap and then you get the breadcrumbs of something nice. Did you have this pattern before the ex? Perhaps even try couples counseling to figure out ways to strengthen your current relationship? As others have said, your current boyfriend deserves to have all of you. And, you deserve to be in the relationship 100%, too. 

  19. 19
    Margo

    Lorna, good one! I have to remember that one. I’ll make it easy and just name them “Scumbag #_”. I’m currently up to Scumbag no. 22! Just kidding. Lol. Oh, and Evan, you look so hot in your current website video.

  20. 20
    Ellen

    Leesa you wrote: “no matter i’m 40 and my time is running out so to speak”.

    Says who? I am 58, started online dating at 55, and have had something like 30 dates since then so even MY time hasn’t run out apparently. Approx. three of those men wanted to get serious btw and all but one wanted repeat dates! So I still consider myself mostly in my prime actually….. The point is it is never too late- all it takes is one as Evan says.

    Also, okcupid’s blog has all these tables and charts now showing (or attempting to show) the men on their site how they NEED to expand their age ranges given the dating stats (who the young women are dating in actual fact, etc.). I can’t tell you how many men I notice who are 40 or 45 or 51 or 55 and put on their profile as their UPPER range women two years younger or at MOST a year or two older. Too many do cap the age at 50 unfortunately. Pathetic really.

    If we are in reasonably good shape, we don’t really start to age in earnest til our mid-fifites from what I’ve seen either. 40 imo is the new 35 anyway! 50 the new 45 also…

    I also like Dan #7’s comments. I, too, have met MANY men who weren’t over their exes. All I can think of is we are all different in how quickly we can assess/process/understand the past, heal and/or move on to another. Some people open their hearts only once or twice a lifetime and others (the people I am always in search of, seemingly) can be emotionally open/ready to love when necessary. Some also seem to harbor some unconscious need/desire to re-connect somewhere in the future with the ex and until they bury that desire for good are NO good where others are concerned.

  21. 21
    lawyerette

    Lorna: I’ll save his name as “I Stood You Up On Christmas,”  “I Lied & Said I Wasn’t Married,” “I Didn’t Call You When You Lost Your Job”

    LMAO! I used to save guys that I’d blown off as “Do Not Answer” so I would know not to answer the phone when they called again. But this is hilarious! 

  22. 22
    Ray

    After reading some of the other posts here.. I often wonder how my parents made it all these years.
    Sure, they were very attracted to each other, but that stuff dies very quickly if there is no trust or respect.
    CHARACTER FIRST people… is all I can say.  When I used to do online dating, I’d read profiles adnauseum talking about so-called ‘chemistry’.
    Dating and relationships seem like a ‘hobby’ for some people.  In the meantime, there is a whole world filled with people who have someone in their lives they can rely on most of the time… and maybe they aren’t living a romance-novel… but at the end of the day… they have the comfort of knowing that person is there for them.
    I’ll take that over *&^% ‘chemistry’ any day.
     
     
     

  23. 23
    Goldie

    I’m pretty proud of my Mom on this one. Before I was born, when dinosaurs roamed the earth (lol), she turned down a hot, popular, charismatic, alpha male and went on to marry my nerdy dad. When she met the alpha guy, she was 25. He was 18. They were together for two years. He wanted to marry her, to the point where his mother came to talk to my mom once, to try and convince her to marry her son. The reason my mom gave me for not having wanted to marry her alpha was “He was the kind of guy that would cheat on his wife”. Soon after they broke up, he married one of the girls that had a crush on him (he had plenty to choose from). I went to daycare with their daughter. Guess what… he did cheat on his wife. (It’s a small town. News traveled fast.)
     
    I wish I could say I’m as good as my mom at choosing the right men, but no. I am the kind of person that learns from her own mistakes.

  24. 24
    Kathy

    Jennifer,

    I too had the charismatic, unique, guy with the mind-blowing sex, who, when I was with him, the world stopped and we were one.  But when we were apart, not so much.  I thank God repeatedly that he kicked me to the curb! Apparently, he lied to me, cheated on me and really was never as invested as I was although it took me six months to start to rap my head and heart around this.  Apparently, I was in a 1.5 year relationship with myself, with the potential of the man, and not the real man.  Lessoned learned.  With the help of Evan and others I finally woke up to the reality of the situation–you apparently have not. Like Nathan stated above, you can experience what the realtionship was, for what it was, without letting it take hold of you.  Understand you have to let go of your fantasy and move on.

    Why are you pining over a man who doesn’t love you?  If he did love you you’d be with him, plain and simple.  If it’s been over 5 years and you’re with someone who does love you and you STILL have feelings for your “ex” then you need to seek professional therapy and let your current boyfriend go.  Stop playing your “ex” to your current boyfriend.  STOP IT.  What you’re doing to your current boyfriend is inexcusable.  

    I couldn’t agree with Evan more. Get your mind right, get some self esteem and learn to love yourself first.      

  25. 25
    Peter

    @Ray.  There is something wrong here.  I agree with you.

  26. 26
    Peter

    @Ray.  I agree that long term stability does not come from feeling “in love” at first sight.  First get the basics right.  My basics – attitudes to trust, level of delivery of detail in promises and daily life = commitment, similar spending priorities, compatible sharing of domestic tasks (hard to tell without living together of course) etc..”In love” will follow once you’ve made the commitment and it will last longer than waiting for two years of chemistry with Mr./Ms. Desirable (who is also Mr./Ms. Desirable to everyone else).  Mr./Ms. Desirable is probably hooked on endorphins themselves.

  27. 27
    Casey

    Lorna @16, TOO funny and absolutely brilliant!

    Leeza, you may think your time is running out at 40 but trust me…if you are dating at 50 something you will have a whole new view of how young 40 really is and how many opportunities there still are!!

     

  28. 28
    m

    ” I wish I could say I’m as good as my mom at choosing the right men, but no. I am the kind of person that learns from her own mistakes. ”

    @ Goldie 23 – LOL.

    Is your mom giving man-picking lessons?  Because I would sign up to hear whatever she has to tell me. :-)

    (A holiday hint to  any ladies who would like it — just because you learn from the gurus who scream “Be More Approachable!”, and more men, and more, and numerous more during the holidays, come up and approach — do know that all that means is that the time you spend on Weed-Out Duty is going to increase exponentially.  So do prepare for that.  Perhaps more gym time and vitamins.  Le sigh.) 

  29. 29
    m

    I also think Lorna and lawyerette have the right idea. :-)

  30. 30
    Jennifer

    (not the letter writer)
    Nathan, I think your advice was extremely helpful.

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