Sunday 26 February 2017

Dear Patricia: Why do I yearn for an ex who will never love me?

Patricia Redlich

Five years ago I started dating someone I loved very much. We were together for two years. Then he got a job in Europe and the long-distance relationship was a killer.

He stopped putting any effort into it, his phone calls diminished and his visits became a rarity. When he did come back, twice or three times a year, he'd ring me, we'd go out together and have a wonderful time. But he never committed to anything and didn't stay in regular contact.

I tried to date other guys, but always found something wrong with them. And my mind was still on the man I loved and I kept hoping each time he came back that things would be different. Each time he said he wasn't ready.

Then I met this amazing guy who truly loves me. I gave my ex one last chance to say he was serious, but he refused and I told him never to contact me again. He didn't. That was 18 months ago and the man I'm now with is really good, and very loving. He's great and he's serious about me. Yet I can't stop thinking about my ex. I still feel the pain and hurt of him not loving me. And I still miss him. What am I doing wrong? Is this just my head playing games with me? Or am I with the wrong person? I don't want to end up throwing my life away for an ex who will never love me and ruining what I have with this guy.

Persisting with a love which will only bring heartache is self-destructive behaviour. You know that. It's obvious. What's a lot less obvious is the fact that it makes sense -- not in the conscious world, but in the hidden world of our unconscious. Put another way, no behaviour, or symptom, or feeling or thought-process is stupid, or irrational. In our emotional world, which lives beneath the surface of our everyday lives, it is always entirely logical.

Some women love men who are truly awful to them. Why? Maybe they have low self-esteem and feel they deserve to be treated badly. Maybe they've chosen someone like their dad, hoping to win in this adult relationship where they lost in the child-father relationship. The daughters of alcoholics, don't forget, are more likely to choose alcoholic husbands. Or maybe the woman just feels on familiar terrain with a non-loving boyfriend.

Maybe it's something you are used to, being abandoned I mean, having your ex pick you up and drop you again. Maybe there were elements of that in your childhood, from either your mother or father. Because mothers matter in our choice of man too.

Then there are women who are on a kind of dogged, persistent, stubborn mission, wishing to win over a hard case, testing their own strength and emotional endurance to the extreme.

Yes, all of these strategies are damaging. But they are never senseless. What you need to do is face down your own particular life-pattern, the forces which drive you to mourn an ex who will never love you. All the scenarios I painted above were only examples. Yours, like everyone's, is a unique story, your own particular experiences. You just have to work out what it is. To do that, you have to first believe one thing. It is not about the man. It is never about the man. Your ex in that sense is irrelevant. It could be any man who leaves you unloved. Because this is about your past, a particular emotional road you've chosen in an attempt to make things right for yourself, however absurd that might seem on the face of it. Yes, I know I'm repeating myself. That's because I think it's a hard truth to take on board. It takes some digesting.

My advice? Stay with the man who loves you and helps you feel good about yourself. And start that journey of self-exploration, if necessary with professional help.

Sunday Independent

Read More

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in this section