I Still Love My Ex. Here's How I Came To Accept This Hard Truth

Written by Tanner Kennedy

So far in my life, I have learned that when we deny what we feel inside (even if we think we are protecting ourselves), the denial ends up taking away our personal power. For example, say we don't want to acknowledge our shame about a past event, and we deny it. What ends up happening is that we feel defeated, powerless and fragmented, even though our goal may have been self-preservation. This process is counter-productive.

By extension, I have also since learned it’s much easier to give love and compassion to yourself (and to see your next best step towards happiness) when you acknowledge your truth—no matter how painful, embarrassing or difficult it may be.

Finally coming to terms with my truth

More than five years ago, I ended a relationship with a man I loved deeply, and who I believed would be my husband. This relationship was different than all of my others. There was something intangible and ineffable that pulled us together. It was magnetic, gravitational. And it wasn’t the unhealthy, toxic kind of attraction either. (Trust me: I’ve experienced enough of that to know the difference.)

On numerous occasions I have tried to understand why something so great went so wrong—and also why I haven’t been able to be in a healthy relationship since. A few years ago, I would have never written any of these feelings down. But I have learned that personal power lies in owning your emotions, even if all you want to do is swallow them into invisibility.

Here are four realizations I had about myself and my struggles with intimacy that helped me to own this hard truth:


1. I realized that my own issues of guilt sabotaged the relationship above all.

On some level, I left my boyfriend of four plus years because I was afraid. In particular, I felt enormous guilt, preemptively, that we would get married and have children...and that I would have to move away from my parents.

I guess I never fully digested the fact that in my family's culture, it’s expected that you move away for college, but also that you'll come home when you get married and have children. Everyone comes back and if you don’t it’s considered disrespectful to your family. I couldn't bear the thought of deviating from this, and I ended the relationship in order to deny these deeper uncomfortable feelings.

2. Shame caused me to get into unhealthy relationships.

I felt enormous shame after ending my relationship. Feelings of unworthiness consumed me. I realized that the end of the relationship was leading to way more than just sadness about an isolated situation: I felt, instead, doubtful about my capacity for love and commitment generally. I worried that if I couldn’t make it work with someone I loved so much, I would never be able to make it work with anyone.

This limiting belief caused me to try to rush into one unhealthy relationship after another so I didn’t have to face the shame and fear around these questions. It was easier to chase the excitement of a new relationship than deal with the negative emotions that were simmering under the surface.


3. Anxiety and depression kept me from tapping into my self-worth.

The sadness, shame and guilt I felt masqueraded as free-floating anxiety and generalized depression. I suppressed my emotions so much that every time I had a slight crush on someone, I would get so anxious that I would throw up if I thought too intensely about my feelings. The anxiety and depression caused me to lose my confidence, belief and self-worth.

4. It's okay that I still love my ex, and I am going to love again.

Once I gave myself the space to process these feelings of shame, guilt and sadness, all my emotions pointed back to love for my ex. Recently, I saw him for the first time in five years and what most people call the "spark" was still there. You know, it's that thing you just can’t properly put into words.

When I took the time to listen to my inner emotions and not my head, I realized a significant truth: he brought out the best in me, really. I knew because of how he made me feel: Excited. Safe. Supported. Inspired. Joyful. Worthy. Loved. He showed me a glimpse of my full potential, as he was just reflecting back to me the best parts of me.

I also knew that I still loved him. And that loving him still felt painful. But that was okay. Allowing myself to accept where I am at the present, and the love I still feel, is what is going to allow me to find that kind of love again.

If I hadn't done the work to let go of the guilt and shame, this meeting may have knocked me off my feet. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I was able to see it as a sign I was headed in the right direction. That I was capable of creating a relationship and life with someone like this again.

So that is my truth. It’s been a journey to find it but to be able to say it out loud has allowed me to finally love myself and the true feelings I have. And that is personal power.

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