I’ve written to you a few times before and look forward to your warm advice every time. I should also say that I have talked to therapists and extremely benefited from the experience. Anyway, here is the real content of my letter:
How do you escape the ghost of your lost love?
Six months ago, the man who I thought was my soulmate broke up with me, and I lost the life we built together. I lived with him, and his other partner (F), and every other weekend we would house the children each of them had from previous relationships. It was everything I ever wanted: a life living with the man I love, kids, a home, a daily routine. We had been together for two years including a three month or so break, when he broke up with me the first time. But it all came crashing down when he met someone new and wanted to replace me. After fishing for excuses and blaming being rid of me on something he forgave me for five months prior, I overheard a conversation between him and his other partner about how much he was in love with the new boy. How he never loved anyone more, besides herself, and this new relationship scared her. Time and time again he threw her concerns aside and failed to comfort her about it. He crossed many lines between all of us dating this new flame, and the fact he wanted to give this new person, who frequently lied to him, everything I ever wanted, while pushing me out of the picture was too much.
I loved that man more than anyone and everything I had ever known, but in an instant I hated him more than anyone on the face of the earth. I had already started therapy prior to the end of the relationship in an attempt to save it, and through the months since I have gone through many stages of grief. I still hold contact with his son, a child I will always consider my own. We have phone calls during the week and play games together. His mother and I are good friends, and we’ve even arranged visits to play at the park.
Just like the first time he broke up with me, I tried to date. The first time, I was completely incapable of getting him out of my head, and gave up dating. I had accepted the fact of being alone until my wish was granted and he returned to me. This time though, my hatred for him kept the thought of him away. And now six months later I find myself happy with another man. My boyfriend is amazing, he’s kind, listens to me, even remembering many off hand things I say. He’s romantic, takes initiative, and is always happy to hear me go on about the little things I adore, and does the same when I want to be enamored by his voice. I could go on about all the big or little things he does that have won me over, but I should address the issue instead.
Lately, I feel haunted by the ghost of my ex. Sometimes when I’m cuddled up to my boyfriend or when he kisses me, I pull away and expect to see my ex’s face. I almost want it. Especially when I’m intimate with my boyfriend, I get flashes of being intimate with “Him.” I thought I hated “him,” and when asked what I wanted: “to no longer be a part of his story.” But now I’m having dreams/nightmares about him coming back to me. Dreams that bring me to tears, or chill me to the bone, and I don’t know what to do.
What do you do when you love someone so deeply that you wouldn’t hesitate to die for them, and then it’s just gone? I feel trapped between the ghost of a man who hurt me deeper than anyone else, who used me and never truly loved me, and a man that does love me, and may even marry me one day. I’m afraid this haunting will continue to affect my relationship, as I am hesitant to bring it up to my boyfriend. He’s been the most understanding person in the world to talk to given his own history and hauntings of his own. But, it’s just all so intense and I feel disgusted and ashamed every time I see my ex in the tender moments I try to share with my new love. I know what he did, why do I feel this way? Why can’t I keep hating him and move on in my life with someone else?
Any advice you may be able to give is always deeply appreciated.
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When we have a powerful, deep relationship with someone, that person and all they represent will have a lasting impression on us even after they are gone from our lives. This is not a bad thing, since we learn a lot about love and ourselves through relationships--even the ones that have ended. Your first love will, thus, be in your head for a long time, if not forever.
When you kiss or hug or are intimate with your current beau, these physical interactions are sensory stimuli that can elicit powerful memories. As a for instance, it is like when you are going about your business and, suddenly, you smell apple pie and it brings back a strong memory of your mother and suddenly you can see her quite clearly in your mind's eye. In the same way, the sensation of a kiss brings back a memory of your first love. This should not make you think that you would rather be with him than your current love. It's just the way memories can work sometimes. Also, it doesn't seem like it has been very long since the first relationship ended, so your memories are still very present in your mind.
The people we meet in our lives become a part of us. I still often think of Jim, even though he has been dead for eight years now and I have my husband of four years, Michael. the good news is that Michael is not jealous about this and is very understanding. Your new love sounds like a kind person who will understand, too. Your thoughts of Love #1 do not mean that you are going to try to go back to him or anything like that. We both know that despite how he hurt you and how you say you "hate" him now, there is still a lot of love there and a lot of fondness for the life you had with him. That doesn't mean you actually want to go back to him.
The good news is that love is not a limited resource. Just because you still harbor feelings for your first man doesn't mean this will limit the amount of love you have for Love #2. In short, it's okay to still feel love for #1 despite how it ended. Treasure the fond memories you have. Permit yourself to admit there were good times and this will bring you closure and self-acceptance. Then, recognizing you are in a much better relationship now, allow yourself to enjoy it! Remember the past, learn from it, and then live in the present.
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