I’ve been thinking a lot about romantic relationships lately. And for good reason. After a recent breakup, I found out my ex had been dating a girl I knew. Every morning, many afternoons and most evenings for a while now, I've been watching my mind ruminate about what their new relationship looks like. What I would say if I saw her or him? Or both of them together?
Of course, I knew (and know) that this kind of obsessional thinking is neither useful nor helpful for my own growth. I have learned to have conversations with myself in order to stop my brain from going down a self-destructive rabbit hole.
I should note that I don't have any desire to get back together with my ex. And still the very thought of this other girl sleeping in the same bed I slept in is enough to make me ill at times.
Even though I can clearly see my ex repeating old patterns, I know it’s not my place to point them out or try to heal him. I can no longer be his teacher. Nor do I have a desire to be one in my future relationships.
Yet I said something to a friend a few weeks ago that I now realize sounded pretty absurd. In the midst of an emotional spew, I exclaimed: “I want to shake him and wake him up. Because he would have been the perfect man if only …” It was then that I paused for a moment. I knew what was coming next, and how "crazy" it sounded. I continued anyway. “Yes. He would’ve been perfect if only he was the man I wanted him to be.”
I'm pretty sure we’ve all done this — whether in romantic relationships, friendships, with family members, and maybe even businesses associates: hoped for, wished or expected something different from somebody. It is those hopes, wishes and expectations that tend to keep us in relationships long after they should be over, and often even after they're over.
In my mind, "getting over" your ex isn't the be all and the end all of a breakup. Because let's face it: it’s hard to let go just like that. All that said, it's especially hard to try to let go when you’re focusing on all that could’ve been, all those "if only's." Fixating on the past, and/or dreaming about the future, doesn’t create your future reality. It's changing your present that does.
Here’s the thing: it’s OK to grieve the process of letting go. You decide to go about doing it and however long it takes. Let the thoughts have their day, their glory moments, with all the gory fabricated, and fantastical details.
But if you just watch and acknowledge your thoughts and feelings free of judgment or condemnation, you’ll tire of them. Period. They simply will stop holding onto their power and will start to dissipate. Eventually, they will disappear. I'll admit, after another recent relationship ending, I still have difficulty believing this myself, as I find myself feeling familiar pains. But I know it to be true. Time heals all wounds.
After telling my story for the umpteenth time, I threw my hands in disbelief: “I’m tired of hearing myself talk about this!” The good news is, with this statement, I’ve expressed a desire to be done with the story. None of this is about getting over my ex, but about the fact that I've let myself heal through allowing the feelings to run their course. To be honest, the pull to live in the stories in my head gets weaker even as I write this.
And if tears continue to come, I’ll let them fall. They will dry. I’ll close the chapter and begin a new one with thoughts not about what could have been, but the amazing things to come.