I Compare Everyone to My Ex, But Nobody Gives Me The Same “Feeling.”

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Evan,

Hoping you can give me some advice.  I dated this girl for 2 years and we broke up last year.   We broke up because she realized that she was no longer “in love” with me and that she felt there wasn’t enough of a spark.  Truth be told, there was another guy in the picture who she obviously had a bigger spark with.  This wasn’t my first breakup but it hit me really hard because I was so in love with her.  In my mind she was perfect in every way, (except for the part where she just wasn’t that into me).  I’ve been dating on and off the past year and I have two main problems:

1.  I’ve gone from being a serial monogamist to becoming completely commitment phobic.  The minute a girl starts to get serious with me, I want to run away.  

2.  I compare every girl to her and all I see is flaws in other people.  I keep waiting to have that “feeling” I had with her, because I’m scared that without that feeling, I will not be able to commit.

I’m worried I’m never going to get over this.  Any help is much appreciated.

Ken

I would be much more concerned with your second problem than your first.

Your first issue is that you’re commitment phobic. This is a common problem, one that is usually remedied by falling in love with someone. Once you’re crazy about a girl, you won’t have to think twice as to whether you want to be in a relationship with her. Which brings us back to your second problem:

I compare every girl to her and all I see are flaws in other people.  I keep waiting to have that “feeling” I had with her, because I’m scared that without that feeling, I will not be able to commit.

Let’s take these assertions line by line.

I compare every girl to her and all I see are flaws in other people.

Yeah. This isn’t good. Because it’s not real. It’s a rose-colored view of your ex, one that you’re having a hard time letting go of. Do yourself a favor and think of the things that you didn’t like about your ex. Now, I understand that she broke up with you, so you never really developed a chance to hate her. But that doesn’t mean she’s perfect — not by a long shot. Her main flaw, of course, is that she didn’t want to marry you. And any woman who doesn’t want to marry you isn’t really a very good choice for a wife. There are probably many, many more flaws that you glossed over due to your passion for her.

Being “in love” does this to people. In fact, Helen Fisher theorizes in “Why We Love” that being “in love” may be an evolutionary function that causes irrational thinking. In other words, in order to commit to something as irrational as monogamy, we’d sure has hell BETTER be blinded by love. Of course, that blindness wears off, which is why, when you talk to older couples who have been married for 30+ years, they’ll almost always tell you some version of “It’s hard work/We’re really just best friends/We know how to communicate and argue well/We support each other when it’s tough.” Etc, etc….

A favorite cliché says, “It’s not that my partner is perfect, it’s that she’s perfect for me.” We are willing to overlook all sorts of things when we’re in love. This explains a phenomenon like battered wives, who stay because even though their husbands hit them, they always claim to love them as well. Personally, I’ve put up with women who were selfish, delusional, inconsistent, unemployed, mean-spirited, jealous, and bad in bed. Sometimes I did this because I was weak and needy and just wanted someone in my life. Other times I did this because I was so enamored that her bad qualities barely even registered. But the truth only came out after the smoke had long since cleared.

So stop giving your ex a free pass. Apart from dumping you, she undoubtedly had some other character flaws. In a relationship, it’s smart to minimize the focus on your partners’ flaws. But once you’re out, it’s time to realize that she wasn’t as great as she seemed. Holding onto her perfection is unhealthy, since no new dates can possibly live up.

I keep waiting to have that feeling.

That feeling is great, isn’t it? But don’t be fooled. It’s false clarity. You know how I know this?

Because you had that feeling and she dumped you.

And I had that feeling twice and they both dumped me, too.

And, looking back, if those women hadn’t dumped me — if I had GOTTEN these women who made me glow, I would be absolutely MISERABLE right now. Despite their amazing assets, they both lacked some fundamental qualities that my current girlfriend has: Loyalty, compassion, patience, gratitude, big boobs. You know, the important stuff.

Listen, Ken, there are a few people who put it all together. They meet, fall madly in love, and, even when the smoke clears, they’re left standing together as one. My cousin and his wife are college sweethearts who have been together over 25 years. Another cousin met his wife in junior high school. Hey, it happens. And because it happens, because we’ve experienced that intoxicating feeling, we continue to chase it, to our own detriment. In hoping to replicate the simple clarity of puppy love — we usually forget that it doesn’t stick beyond the first year or two.

In hoping to replicate the simple clarity of puppy love- we usually forget that it doesn’t stick beyond the first year or two.

For just about everybody, the rush, the ecstasy, the high…it eventually goes away. And what you’re left with is a friendship that needs to withstand failure and temptation, financial ruin and sickness. And if your amazing ex-girlfriend couldn’t stick with you before any of those awful things challenged you as a couple, why would you ever think that she’d be willing to stick it out afterwards?

I said it in “Why You’re Still Single”, I’ll say it again: you can hit on 20, but you’re most likely gonna bust.

And after a beautiful Christmas with my girlfriend’s family — generations of couples who have stayed together for years – I’m inclined to think that the ultimate reward is far greater than the evanescent feeling you’re chasing, Ken.

The real reward is in building a life.

 

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Comments:

  1. 21
    Kat Wilder

    The really, really bad thing about comparing the person in front of you with the person who’s long gone is this: you are not being in the moment and experiencing the now.

    Your old lover is gone and you need to go through all the stages of “death” nger, grieving, etc. until you come to the place of acceptance. And then, you can live … in the present.

    You’ll never know if there’s a spark or not if you’re not fully present.

    Just my two cents …

  2. 22
    verbosity

    Let me see if I accurately summarize Ken’s facts….
    1. Loves Girl.
    2. Dates Girl for 2 years
    3. Girl leaves for another guy.

    One HUGE fact is whether girl met and/or cheated on Ken with the new dude. I am going to waaaay over-simplify things here. There is a reason she is an ex – she likely didn’t love you and sought other potential opportunities. Be glad it is over.

    Your problem is in the moving on…I respectfully suggest that you consider seeking some professional mental health help. (For those who thinks ‘shrinks’ are bad, think again). In fact, it is probably the best thing you can do. It may help you determine why you chose someone who did not love you, how to avoid it, and how to choose someone more suited to your needs and desires.

    the suggestion may sound like a cop out, but would you like to do some work now to prevent making the same mistake again for years?

  3. 23
    downtowngal

    Selena, I’m not sure I understand; you asked, “Why would I WANT to commit myself to someone I was so clearly incompatible with?”

    That’s how you feel but unfortunately many people don’t.

    Some people just have this fear of committing to relationships. I’ll bet if you asked most single women over 35 they’ll tell you about at least one guy they dated and fell for – the feeling was mutual but the guy cut it off when things were getting too serious – not because he doesn’t feel the same way, but because he ‘doesn’t want to end up like his parents’ or a myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with feelings for the other person.

    I know a guy in his 40’s who got engaged after 2 months to this woman he fell madly in love with only to break up a year later because he got cold feet.

    Ken, I commend you for your letter to Evan – lots of guys in your position would never question themselves this way. Good luck!

  4. 24
    Selena

    Downtown,
    I think I misunderstood your post. You wrote,”It has nothing to do with whether you’re right for each other or there are feelings involved.”
    “If you want someone in your life you’ll be serious about it – you won’t waste your time falling for people who are emotionally unavailable or with whom you are truly compatable and on the same page. ”

    I took that to mean you thought commitment itself was more important than those things. What?! I think those things are INTEGRAL to making a commitment (other than emotionally unavailable ofcourse). Am I right in thinking you are really saying, a commitmentphobe is someone who refuses to commit DESPITE having all those things in a relationship? That makes more sense.

  5. 25
    downtowngal

    “… commitmentphobe is someone who refuses to commit DESPITE having all those things in a relationship”

    Yes, Selena you are correct.

    Of course any relationship requires both people to feel the same way about each other. But some people say they want to meet that ‘special someone’ yet always find faults with every person they date. Or they only form emotional attachments to people who are emotionally unavailable (married, hung up on an ex, gay) and then complain they can’t find anyone – yet someone who’s available and shows some interest scares them.

  6. 26
    Jessica

    Just an aside to Markus based on a comment in your post here – Good for you, Markus. Glad you met someone you’re crazy about. All the best, Jess

  7. 27
    muzikjock

    People, please…..everyone knows that the dating game is crap at best. And the older I get, the less I like it. What works for me? A virtual social life. best of both worlds, a compromise. I get to meet people, have a good time, and when its over, go back to my life. Ive been married 3 times, and have had several monogamous relationships afterwards. Now my focus is on raising my boys and work. I choose not to date anymore because people out there are about nothing but game, and are at best dishonest. Look….you go to a club. The men are on one wall betting on who is going to get the best lay before the evening is up. the women are on the other wall betting on who they can swindle the most money out of without giving anything up. its a total joke. i hate it . and dont want to mess around with my life with it anymore. If there are no real people out there anymore, then so be it, I can handle that. I miss the intamacy, but more than missing the intamacy, I hate the being hurt and having my heart being carved out of my chest and served on a platter.Isn’t it amazing that honest good men always end up down this road. So I made my decision. Virtual social life. wake up, go to work, come home.,play on the pc; Meet new friends, then turn it off and go to bed. Nice life we have for ourselves. the alternative? get your life messed up with some manipulator who wants to control you and suck the life out of you before she spits out your bones and goes to the next victum. and then says “thanks for the meal, have a nice day”. Contrary to what you see in my writing here, I am a natural born romanticist. But im also a realist. and the wonderful woman who “stands by her man” and the house with the kids and the white picket fence went out with “leave it to beaver”. yes its nice to watch the reruns, but then you cant watch tv all day…it doesnt pay the bills. reality check people! chow!

  8. 28
    legal guy

    As soon as you conclude it’s “all a game” you close yourself off from finding happiness in a relationship. I’m sorry your three previous marriages didn’t pan out, muzikjock, but don’t disregard the healthy percentage of relationships that do. Obviously the only alternative to a virtual social life is not “get your life messed up with some manipulator who wants to control you “.

    Perhaps you’d do well to take verbosity’s advice to Ken: “I respectfully suggest that you consider seeking some professional mental health help. … In fact, it is probably the best thing you can do. It may help you determine why you chose someone who did not love you, how to avoid it, and how to choose someone more suited to your needs and desires.”

  9. 29
    muzikjock

    To legal guy:
    I respectfully agree to disagree with you. But that’s ok. I’ve been judged before. You’re not the last, or the first. Its easy to tell someone else what to do when you haven’t walked in their shoes. But ok. I get it. what ever. You know, I’m a slow decision maker. But once i do make a decision, i stick with it. No amount of persuasion will get me to change my mind about how i have viewed the matter. Tell you what, you do what works for you, and I’ll do what works for me…ok? agreed? And please keep your judgements to yourself. You have no clue who I am to recommend mental help. I didn’t write my post to ask anyone’s opinion or permission regarding dating or relationships. I simply added mine. The truth of the matter is that in most cases you don’t know you have been with an abuser or manipulator until you are already deep in the abyss. The ones that are good at it hide it until they know you are “caught”. Evidently you don’t know about this. After living and seeing the world through my eyes, the conclusion that i came to works for me. I never said it would work for everyone. But anyone that differs from your opinion needs professional help, right? In the end, i still choose no one. And i still prefer my social life to be on the other side of my computer screen. Its easier for me to spot the fakes. And easier to dispose of them if they cause problems. Ever try to get rid of a loser that has your real name, address and phone number? lol. I guess not. Legal guy, i have no bone to pick with you. I respect your opinion. And i hope that you continue to have success in your relationship. As for me, this works for me. Because finally i have a life that is livable. Its not perfect, and its not for everyone. But it works.

  10. 30
    downtowngal

    muzikjock it sounds as if you’re better off not being in a relationship.

    Most of us have been burned and lot of us out there are not manipulators or golddiggers. Dating isn’t the easiest thing but you have to be in a certain state of mind on order to do it and succeed.

    If that doesn’t work for you than all the best.

  11. 31
    legal guy

    Fair enough. I wish you years of virtual enjoyment to come.

  12. 32
    music dumb jock

    Yeah. Being a bitter loner is the one solution that works for me in the dating world. So I now have plenty of time in my virtual social life to post angry opinions on dating advice blogs declaring how “everyone knows the dating game is all crap”, but that’s just my scarred opinion anyway on what I think “everyone knows”. My last 3 marriages failed, but I’m certain that fact has nothing to do with me.

  13. 33
    muzikjock

    Downtowngal, your probably right. but at this juncture I’m not intending on dating. Don’t really want to. I’m not a teenager anymore, and I’m not a young stud. So I’m not out here marketing myself as a candidate. To be honest, if i finally do decide that i want to date again, i will probably be too old to care. You know, everyone has their own limits as to what they can allow in their lives, and what they can tolerate. It’s different for everyone. But also i need to add; to say that i will feel this way forever about dating would be in accurate as well. Everyone has to find their place in life where they can function; where they can get a grip if you will. So that’s where i am. And i know that I’m not alone, else why would there be so many virtual social outlets? If there were not, then there would be no purpose for their existence. No one would venture into a business that has no market; be it a physical place to facilitate this social outlet or hosting a website. I knew that posting my view would spark an opinion one way or the other. and that’s fine. I respect anyone’s opinion. I may not agree, but that is ok. As to “muzik dumb jock”, I care not to comment. Look…..my purpose for posting was to show the diversity that is in all of us, and that the “means to the end” may or may not be applicable to any particular person. I probably used an eccentric way of communicating that, and even caused some to misinterpret my purpose for posting. But no one that would take the time to read this site can tell me that they are relationally perfect or “have arrived”. That includes me. With that said, I would hope that all of us can find what works, and complete their course in life with what ever they find is successful and fulfilling for them. Sometimes that requires thinking out of the box. But some are just so used to the box, they hadn’t considered that there might be other ways, and other views. If someone wants to date, and finds that challenge acceptable, great. But i wouldn’t label someone who has another view as someone that has become pathological either. At the end of the day when you take a look in the mirror and you like what you see, who else’s approval do you really need anyways?

  14. 34
    Selena

    So Muzikjock–
    If you don’t want to date, why are you writing on a dating blog? I don’t get it. It would seem to be a waste of your “virtual time”.

  15. 35
    muzikjock

    The answer is simple Selena,
    Your comment suggests to me that you are still thinking in the box, as I mentioned above. Dating is a way of interacting. I simply choose to do mine on the other side of my monitor. Its easier to control. I talk to whom ever I choose. And who ever talks to me is not prejudiced by my looks, or by the car that I drive, the clothes that I wear, or by my wallet. If the conversation proves encouraging, then we chat again. If they seem to be a goof ball, I simply become invisible to them. Easy. You cant do that in real life dating. Getting rid of a goof ball who already has your phone number is grievous at best, worse if they know where you live, or where you work.

  16. 36
    Selena

    No muzikjock, that doesn’t answer the question at all. You don’t want to date and you have your reasons–fine. That doesn’t explain why you are writing–at length–on a DATING BLOG since you have no interest in dating advice. Would appear you have wandered into the wrong room.

  17. 37
    muzik dumb jock

    The other day, I wandered into a butcher shop and announced I prefer to eat tofurkey.

    Can’t get why all those narrow minded people in the shop couldn’t escape their mental boxes long enough to appreciate my p.o.v. Jeesh.

  18. 38
    JuJu

    I am aware enough to understand the truth of these words, and I realized all this myself quite a while ago. Unfortunately, however, when that feeling of butterflies is missing from a relationship, one instinctively feels that they could do better. They keep holding out for that “special someone” and not fully investing themselves into the current relationship, regardless of how emotionally healthy and actually special it may be!

    And what I think I know about myself is that if the man never does fall madly in love with me (in the course of our relationship), I wouldn’t be able to help feeling that he is only settling. :’-( Yes, I am a good person and have a lot to offer in every facet of life, but I don’t want his desire to be with me to be merely a prudent decision. 😐

  19. 39
    JuJu

    I was rushing at the time of writing my previous post and didn’t finish my thought: it’s not enough to realize the truth behind our feelings and emotions. It would require the enlightenment level ordinarily not achieved even by the self-aware to be able to “get over” this need, for this need is hard-wired.

    Or, rather, it seems to me that for women it’s much more important to be the object of this mad love, and for men – to feel that way about someone. But that’s just my observation.

  20. 40
    Sahaja

    I have kind of a similar problem – Maybe I am commitment phobic, but I always seem to sabatoge myself. I enter relationships where I know I wont end up with that person – that he doesnt do it for me, and He’s Mr Right Now. But everytime in my life Ive met someone that I really could care for and he does all the right things and ticks all the boxes, I seem to run for the hills or do something to ruin on purpose. What does that mean? Of course, when you’re younger sometimes you date just for experience or because its fun w/o thinking about the future. Is it asking too much for find a good-on-paper guy that leaps off the page? How do I get myself not to run?

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