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

How Do I Finally Let Go Of My Ex For Good?
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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. 41
    Rhiann

    I had  my fair share of trying to let go of my ex. The 1st ex, it took me about 5 years to get over it before i started a new relationship. The 2nd ex, it took me about… well, I wasn’t sure yet if I had fully get over him. It took me about half year before I started dating once again. While I’m with my current boyfriend, I will occasionally think about him. Being with my current boyfriend, he meets my core needs. Comparing him & and my ex, I prefer to be with him. My ex will occasionally text or call, I tell myself not to respond to it. Bearing in mind that, I shall not allow the same man to have any chance to hurt me again. I focus on my current boyfriend. Whenever I have the tendency to think about my ex, I’ll myself “No Point”. Of course,  I have the needed  support from  my friends as well.

  2. 42
    Lily

    Leesa, I see your point, but my 8 year relationship did meet many of my needs. I always thought we would be together forever, he was married twice and was gun shy. Of course now I know better. Within the first 2 years if he hasn’t made a solid, real committment to me, I will walk away from him. I regret not giving him an ultimatum, and if he broke up with me then, at least I would know his truth. Evan has helped me realize how important it is to maintain high self esteem in any relationship and to always have walking power if the man is not treating you as if you are THE ONE. I realize a man will take his cue from me. If I EXPECT good treatment, and committment, I will get it, because if not from him, then from the next guy who I meet after breaking up with, and getting well over, the disappearing guy. Who, as Evan reminds us, sucks.

  3. 43
    Sam

    Sheesh. Tough crowd here.   As someone who also been on a long, arduous journey to stay away from a verbally abusive man with whom I also share a very deep emotional and physical connection … I can tell you it’s not the healed self that remains drawn to him. It is the wounded self, that sustained very similar abuse as a child. So the compulsion (chemistry/attraction/karma/etc.) towards that type of “love” is just there. I didn’t intentionally put it there.   Beating myself up for desiring a man who verbally berates me, seems to only lock the whole nasty system in place.
    I believe that as long as I keep my compass focused to being in a kind, compassionate relationship I will get there.
    In the meantime, shaming statements such as, “get your shit together, or else… ” do nothing more than perpetuate painful feelings and low self-esteem issues.   Just another P.O.V.

  4. 44
    Lily

    It’s true we often have a “hook” from childhood that makes us feel attracted to a man who might be aloof and witholding. It takes awareness of this negative pattern to be able to break it and finally be with a healthy man who appreciates you and does not withold affection and committment. I really like Evan’s down home approach to this issue. You get the kind of relationship you put up with.

  5. 45
    Ron Diggity

    While I totally agree with Evan, I can’t wonder if we are all being too hard on the OP.   Perhaps it’s biology that makes women yearn to be treated like dog crap, while dumping on guys who treat them well.   Certainly is common enough of a flaw that it can’t be ignored

  6. 46
    Leesa

    hi lily and sam. i definitely have unresolved childhood wounds which i mentioned above which i think made me crazy about this last guy.   it’s so painful. but i’m hoping all the crying i’ve done in the last 8.5 months and for  however much longer i cry for will help heal this deep emotional wound and help me see more clearly in the future with regards to men. also, actually, i have been massaging my abdominal area (and diaphram etc) at the suggestion of my massage therapist and it has helped relieve some of the emotional pain … at least temporarily. but the thoughts are still persistent and i still cry every day.   i really think after my experience, i’ll never put myself in  a position with a guy like that again.   personally i was very naive, even at 40. i don’t remember previously  coming accross such a manipulative liar and user … he was very good. but i did put up with behaviour which didn’t feel right because i identified his emotional struggles and i thought i was being loving, patient and  compassionate   … like i said, i felt sorry  for  the hard done by hero.  but now i feel like i’ve seen it all and i will watch and listen very closely to any guy who comes near me whom i’m actually attracted to in the  future and get to know them really well (for months)  before  getting physical with them  – if that’s still an option after that time. i don’t know about you guys, but for me, men are very few and far between and the ones who do come along are  undesireable (uncharismatic selfish users). it’s the charismatic, selfish user i fell for hook line and sinker.  actually, i am one of those types  … pretty, smart and  strong. i’ve been an overachiever all my life.   and i have extremely low self esteem.   i can’t help thinking that their’s a relationship between being seriously driven, being attracted to ba$tards and having  unresolved childhood  issues.  

  7. 47
    ofwdating

    totally agree with you evan, hearing jennifer’s question a little dumb. but the moving on part… ahm i don’t strongly suggest that focusing on the bad memories would be right. i mean, somehow the guy has been a great part of jen’s life and even though it turned out bad doesn’t mean you have to hate him to forget. -jen, i say just be grateful for what you have shared when you were together and period. try to move on the right way, focus on your current boyfriend and when for longer time, you still can’t move on from your ex, maybe you aren’t just ready to have a boyfriend at the moment. i don’t think he well deserves someone who’s with him and still not forget the feeling she had with her ex.

  8. 48
    Greg

    Hey Leesa,  
    I can relate to your pain.   Many of my female friends who have confided in me have felt the same way you do.   One thing I found interesting is that many of these men play on the empathy of good women and tell them the same stories of troubled pasts to  receive  pity.   It’s a  manipulation  technique.   I’ve heard the troubled childhood story, the terrible ex-girlfriend or wife  excuse  and the close family member friend dying story.   Sometimes its a combination of all three.  

    My best advice would be to stop trying to figure out why your EX is the way he is.   Guys like him don’t make any sense.   You will have to accept the fact that he’s the way he is because he’s an idiot.   Trying to figure out what makes him tick is as useless as trying to pick the brain of a serial killer.   You  will NEVER understand or find a satisfactory  explanation.The more you think about it, the more he will be on your mind and the harder it will be to move on.

    The jerk didn’t treat you bad because you’re unlovable.   Don’t take it personally.   For some of my friends the rejection and crap treatment validated how they felt about themselves. They felt  unlovable  and their crap relationship confirmed this. Some continued to battle for the affections of these idiots to “win” and prove how  great  they really were.   Sometimes they would temporarily “win” and get the guy to return and treat them nice.   However, they would always ended up “losing” eventually and feeling worse about themselves after each “defeat.”

    No matter how nice you were it wouldn’t have mattered.   Find someone who  appreciates  you.   Follow the advice on the blog and always work on being the best woman you can be. There is someone out there who will love you.

    1. 48.1
      JoJOe

      AWESOME GREG.. AWESOME…

    2. 48.2
      Jen

      I agree – AWESOME advice here! Thank you. 😀

    3. 48.3
      Nuala

      bless you! Feeling so relieved after reading and re-reading your comment

  9. 49
    Leesa

    hi greg, thank you so much for your advice. my mouth dropped to the floor when i read: “the close family member dying story”. i remember that he did mention an incident like this. i did judge him in the beginning for being a workaholic but having no money, and being wary because he told me he’d drunk heavily most of his life and his kids wanted little to do with him. but the reasons he gave were all quite reasonable and i never saw him drink that much around me. but i concluded that judging him  made him feel  on edge  and  uncomfortable around me, which is understandable.  then i stopped judging him (even my mum was impressed with how accepting i was of him)  but it was like he never got over that and i thought that’s what made him unstable with me.   like he was always expecting criticism and so always defensive and uneasy around me.  and i beat the $hit out of myself  every day for not being more like evan’s wife  in the beginning.
      but on the other hand, i have never had a guy behave so unstable around me before.  and my three closest friends are guys who say i’m cool as (i asked them to tell me the truth about myself). and my brother who’s been with his wife for 15 years  (and she is a shocker)  and who  is unhappy in his marriage doesn’t go to the pub  or lie  or cheat on his wife.    had i been like evan’s wife with this guy in the beginning, and then he  still behaved like this, then i guess i wouldn’t be trying to figure out … how much of it was just him and how much of it was his reaction to me being judgemental of him in the beginning.  i guess i’ve thought that if i was more like evan’s wife in the beginning, he would have been more loving, faithful and stable. but i also think that if the behaviour i saw is the way he deals with stuff, then maybe i could have been perfect and it would have just made it easier for him to lie and cheat and use me for longer.   anyways, thanks again so much for your comments.

  10. 50
    Greg

    No problem Leesa.   And when Evan talks about not being  judgmental, he’s talking about not getting bent out of shape that your man likes to watch lots   of football, can’t dress well or is a bit messy around the house.   Drinking problems are not something anyone should accept.   The same goes for addictions, violence, cheating, lying, severe financial ruin etc. You have to stand up for what is right.
    You sound so much like three of my friends.   They are such cool, caring and loving women and I’ve always enjoyed their company.   However, they fell for men like your EX, and boy was it hard for them to move on.   One still hasn’t. Trust me, it is not your fault that your EX is a moron.   You’re a great woman I’m sure.   Get some therapy if needed to help you move on.   I know you will find someone who loves you and treats you right.  
      

  11. 51
    Leesa

    hi greg, i’m not sure if you’ll read this again but i was thinking about what you were saying. i’m not asking you to comment but rather just making extra thoughts  out aloud. and would you believe, i’ve been  getting  intense therapy for the whole time.   i tell you,  unfortunately, no reasoning seems to take the pain away.   so i guess it’s just a time thing.  but i do find myself still trying to  reason and  work it all out.   i can think that maybe i was too judgemental, because although he did lie to me and  he did  all the player moves (actually, he told me he had a bad childhood, an ex wife who cheated on him and  he had  a friend who commited suicide), maybe although he drank heavily, he wasn’t an alcoholic, maybe he worked his a$s off because his ex wife got everything and he was trying to rebuild himself financially, maybe he was always grumpy with  his 3  kids because he was tired from working his a$s off.   because now i see that this chick he took off with moved in with him 4 months after they hooked up and she has two kids and now they’ve been together for 8.5 months.   so i can’t imagine he’s so unstable with her that he’s breaking up with her and coming back every other day (but i also heard that he works away for a month at a time now).   i think that she’s only 31, and she probably didn’t jump to negative conclusions about him being a workaholic/alcoholic like i did.   she didn’t judge him, she just supported him – he told me “she understands me”. like evan says about his wife: she’s easy and she accepts him as he is and doesn’t judge him.  and maybe i was a rebound for him because he’d been broken up less than a year with his  wife  when we  met so he just wasn’t ready and reacted negatively to me because he wasn’t  in a place to give love back (like evan says in one of his posts about people who get out of long term relationships).  so i guess that’s why i beat myself up.  because it’s easy to focus on all the crap he did, but there’s also the other way to look at  it as i have just presented.  had i read evan’s website prior to meeting him, i would have  tried to ignore my strong attraction,  i would have been able to identify the red flags, and at best  been friends with him  and developed a level of mutual respect and trust for one and another.   the thing is, that i was married about 8 years ago. and my ex-husband who is the smartest guy i’ve ever known, used to get the $hits with me because i didn’t make any decisions … i let him take  control of our lives and supported whatever he wanted to do etc (i gave up some pretty spectacular opportunities to support what he wanted to do).   so then  now when i tried to take an active role in  the decision making with this last  guy, he freaks out because  he’s not in control, i’m questioning his judgement, i’m not supporting his  decisions entirely but rather  presenting a different option for him to consider which he thinks makes him look dumb and i don’t respect his decisions or judgement.  i guess at the end of the day, i come back to how he deals with other people when things aren’t going his way … chronic lying, anger, using.   no respect for other people (since he was still bonking me until i found out about her then i put an instant stop to that and went into total emotional meltdown).   i guess you could say that i did it to myself because i dove in without getting to know him first. but chemistry did prevail and i didn’t know how to identify the warning signs.   there are a couple of things which i have learnt from this experience. like i said, all the shedding of deep emotional pain has made me feel more emotionally stable myself, i feel that i have the ability to love myself and other people better than i did before i met him, evan’s website helps me feel not as afraid about being unknowingly used and heartbroken in the future. before i found his website, i was afraid that in the future, i’d still have trouble trying to figure out how i could tell if a guy was genuine or not (so i never have to go through this hell again) and now i know how  to better  “keep the ball in my court” so to speak. for me it comes down to respecting myself and respecting those i meet unconditionally. i think that an attitude of respect and taking an active listening role will keep me out of alot of trouble in the future.

  12. 52
    Zann

    Thank you, Sam   #43! You hit the nail on the head. It’s more complicated than the need for the adrenaline rush, or the opiate, although I agree that it’s addictive behavior. Intimate relationships bring up old, ugly, complex drama/trauma/garbage. That’s been documented to the point of exhaustion. It’s not some psycho-babble, it’s real, and it keeps people in bad and abusive relationships.  

    Evan, I realize that this is a dating advice blog and not a therapy setting; and I also realize that sometimes absolute candor, just cutting through the crap and getting straight to the heart of the matter can be the best solution. But how can it possibly be helpful to someone — someone who came to you for advice — to demean her with a comment like “Get your sh*t together”?  

  13. 53
    Androgynous

    Tyler and Zann. In defence of Evan, I think he is only responding to the information Jennifer provided about her already having gone into therapy. She would then have known if her inability to let go was connected to long standing, deep seated emotional pain or scars. Someone in this position would never describe her relationship with an abusive man as being “euphoric”. They would describe their experiences as painful and hurtful but that they couldn’t wean themselves off the pain and hurt. The way Jennifer describes her situation doesn’t strike one (even one not professionally trained) as someone who only responds emotionally to pain and hurt, since she has and does enjoy happiness and yes, love with a good man.

  14. 54
    Ellen

    Greg #48. Thanks for posting. Your comment/observation gave me an “aha moment” when I read it recently. SEVERAL guys I’ve dated in the past dwelled too long on past hurts, difficult childhoods and particularly “nasty” ex-wives, girlfriends early on in our relationship. Now I see what they were doing. I mean I kinda figured they were doing the “poor me” act but it never occurred to me this was their standard modus operandi with women. Their excuse for being basta*ds basically.

    I have a kind face/demeanor so maybe that’s why they prey on women like me in the first place. I am always approached by street people for example. lol

  15. 55
    Goldie

    @ Ellen #55, Greg and others, I’ve had it happen to me too and I still don’t know what to think of it. On one hand, to use a horrible family tragedy as a pickup line is so unthinkable, I really hope that’s not something the man did to me intentionally. On the other hand, it worked on me and apparently on a number of other women as well (some of them shockingly young, attractive and otherwise out of his league). Personally I hadn’t even wanted to go on a first date, and was stalling as best I could, when he dropped the bomb via text. I remember reading it and feeling that I couldn’t say no to him anymore because of what he’d just told me. Which of course, in hindsight, is a dead wrong thought to have, because you should be able to say no to anyone. Still, I don’t want to even think about the possibility of him having done this on purpose. If I find out it’s true, I’ll just lose whatever little faith in humanity I have left. Best not dwell on it. I guess what we can learn from our experiences instead is, no matter what a guy tells you he’s been through, even if he says he just watched his whole family die in a burning house, it is still okay to say no to him if we feel he is not a good match. Just tell yourself it’s for his own benefit, and say no. He’ll have no compunction saying no to you, so go and do the same if you need to.

  16. 56
    Greg

    Goldie your situation rings a bell.

    This is so sad.   Two of my friends were approached by this one creepy loser.   They both knew him already so he invited them both over.   (not at the same time of course)   My one friend who is has a no nonsense personality said no. She said that later on he texted her saying that his cousin had just been involved in a terrible accident and how  devastated  he was.   She saw through his games, ignored him and he gave up.

    Weeks later I found out that my other friend was hanging out with this loser.   I asked her what was she smoking!!   It turns out that she ignored his messages for a few days before he sent a text saying that his cousin was dying and that he was soooooo  devastated.   She fell for it.   She’s very beautiful and way, way out of his  league  in the looks department.   The guy looks seriously creepy, like a child molester.   She told me she’s not even physically attracted to him, but he’s a master manipulator and now he won’t go away.   Every time she has enough of his angry  outbursts  and bad behavior she cuts him off, but he   begs her to come back and blames her for kicking him while he’s down. He promises to change and she always falls for it because she “cares.”   It’s been a year now and the cycle continues with her and this creep.   I had to cut her out of my life for now because the drama was getting pathetic.

    So Goldie its very possible/likely that this was done on purpose.   Even though you might not  initially  want to go on the date with said  creep, you could very well find yourself being sucked in by a  manipulative  guy.   It’s always OK to say no.

  17. 57
    SS

    Greg,
    I knew a woman who always came up with a “family tragedy” to keep a boyfriend around whenever he seemed like he wanted to leave. First it was “my dad hit my mom,” or “my mom is in the hospital.” It was always conveniently around the time they had an argument and he said he was going to move on.
    He had some personal issues himself, so he was drawn into this drama… but yes, I do remember this “tragedy” tactic and know for a fact some people will use it to manipulate a person into showing interest/sticking around.

  18. 58
    Leesa

    hi greg, oh my god, that’s exactly what my ex did to me for a year … with the angry outbursts and bad behaviour,  i’d say that i couldn’t take it  and he’d come crawling … telling me that he  is crying out for help and i want to abandon him … acting like a lost puppy dog with droopy eyes and his tail between his legs.   i realised that in my last post i was just  making excuses for him (like you told me not to do) and beating myself up  too much (so my mum says).  and i was also thinking after that last post that that’s exactly how women stay too long with those $hitheads (apart from the addictive sex)  … because it’s easy to focus on how we’re not being totally perfect and beat ourselves up and ignore their unacceptable behaviour.    i imagine the same thing will happen to your poor suffering  friend, the creep will end  up finding somebody else and she’ll get ditched because she’s hard work. then she’ll look back and wonder why she put up with the hell for so long and have trouble getting past it.   actually  previous to meeting  my nightmare ex,  i had another guy approach me and tell me that his wife and child had  died in a car accident. he was pressuring me to “put out” and even said that he didn’t want to see me unless he could touch me.   he’d call me every day  but  rarely make the effort to come and visit me. i gave him the flick because i wasn’t attracted to him anyway … thank god. at the time, i was still naive, but looking back, after what i went through with this last idiot, i think that he was really lying about having a wife and child that died. upon reflection, my ex and him had one thing in common (and i’m wondering if other women can relate to this) … they both say they  had very, very bad relationships with their mothers growing up.   my ex’s mum apparently had put him in a “naughty boy’s home” when he was 12 because she couldn’t handle him (he got out when he was 15)  and the other guy i’d met had been adopted and his adopted mother was very unloving and cruel towards him growing up.   now, i must say that this isn’t impossible to believe although i realise that you wouldn’t know what to believe because of their degree of dishonesty. but something made them absolute units and lack of love from a mother and abandonment growing up  wouldn’t be too far fetched.

  19. 59
    Leesa

    hi, i wanted to share with anybody who looks back on this post … i found out today that there is actually a name for the type of person who lies, manipulates and does the type of behaviour that jennifer, me and greg’s friend has experienced from a guy like  evan discusses in this post. apparently they are called sociopaths.   in particular, i found that if you google the name, you can find a good website which has “the profile of a sociopath” and other websites which talk about: “are you dating a sociopath”.   so it seems that evan is right when he said that this type of guy (or girl)  will leave a wide swath of destruction.  it’s very sad really for the sociopath and anybody who falls prey to a sociopath. these websites say that it’s very difficult to tell that a sociopath is lying, which is why i guess it’s so easy to be fooled and sucked in by them. but as i, jennifer and others reflect on our experience with these guys, there are other signs which they will exhibit (apart from lying, which we can’t identify) which should be huge red flags that we shouldn’t ignore.   i hope this information helps people.

  20. 60
    LD

    Lol…Evan, you’re freggin awesome. LOVE this reponse and LOVE reading your Blog.

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