Reader Susan who is a fan of my Patti Knows column writes:
I wanted to ask you about a past “relationship” that I am still not over. He was the first guy I’ve experienced chemistry with. We dated for 2 months and he’s the type that is always looking for “the one” or someone “better.” Things ended because he didn’t get that “feeling” he’s seeking. He became involved with another girl, but I still always find myself trying to get back in touch with him, hoping they have broken up.
Fast forward. We do still talk here and there. And it so happens he told me that he took a break from the other girl. Last night, of course when alcohol was involved, I texted him. He replied and mentioned he was with the other girl at the moment. I was shocked and felt so emotionally out of control.
I know he is bad news but I cannot seem to shake these feelings. I’ve had periods where I do really well and then I contact him, which brings me back a million steps. I continue to date and meet other guys, but it is these emotions that are tearing me apart inside. I know time heals all wounds but it’s so hard to give myself the time I need. I would love to just forget him but I can’t.
Susan, thank you for writing. I think that everyone has felt this way at one time or another. I feel for you, because you are obviously in great pain, but I am also reassured, because it seems that you definitely know that continuing to contact your ex is the wrong decision. So why do you keep doing it?
Most psychologists agree that people are subconsciously drawn to familiar patterns. According to Harville Hendrix in Getting the Love You Want, “chemistry” really means that something about a person reminds you on a very deep subconscious level of one of your caregivers/parents. When you feel chemistry with someone who isn’t very emotionally available, like your ex, it usually means that one of your caregivers was not very emotionally available.
‘Chemistry’ really means that something about a person reminds you on a very deep subconscious level of one of your caregivers/parents
In your childhood, were you in a pattern with either caregiver where it felt like the more you tried to be close, the more they pulled away? Did either caregiver make you feel inadequate or somewhat disappointing? The idea here is not to blame your parents. They likely had a lot on their plate and were raised in the same way that they raised you. But we need to look back at your upbringing to get clues as to why you’re so upset now.
Hendrix explains that, as children, we have a fantasy of changing our caregiver into someone more responsive to our needs. But, this doesn’t usually work. So when we get romantically involved as an adult, our unconscious fantasy is to finally be able change our partner into what we need. This would compensate for not ever being able to change our parent. Here, your wish is to change your ex into a caring, attentive, invested boyfriend. So I would imagine that somewhere in your past, you have had a failed experience with trying to get a caregiver to focus on and prioritize you.
It is important to be aware of how our unconscious brain keeps us hooked into repeating unhelpful patterns. This awareness is the first step to getting out of these patterns. A good therapist could also help you explore your patterns at a deeper level, so that you don’t keep getting hooked in to disappointing relationships with emotionally unavailable men.
It is important to be aware of how our unconscious brain keeps us hooked into repeating unhelpful patterns.
Next, as you said yourself, you need the time and space to heal from this relationship. This means you have to go cold turkey on contacting your ex, and I would even recommend blocking him on your phone and all your social media accounts. Although you’re still dating, it is hard to give new guys your full attention if you’re still secretly hoping your ex texts you to say that he wants you back.
Finally, remember, you’re idealizing only two months that you were together. After that it seems that things weren’t that great at all. And he explicitly told you that he didn’t feel you were “the one.” Don’t you deserve someone who thinks you are? I certainly think so. So, Susan, good luck and block, block, block.
Till next time, I remain “The Blogapist Who Thinks You Deserve Someone Who’s Really Really Into You, To The Point That It’s Even a Little Annoying.”
Visit Dr. Rodman on her blog Dr. Psych Mom, on Twitter @DrPsychMom, and on Facebook. If you email her a question she may answer it in this column! Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.