When I talk with guys about their breakups and really absorb their situation often they relax and feel very relieved to be able to talk about it and be understood.

Something interesting happens though as we progress and we start to get to the topic of actually moving on and letting the relationship go.

There is always a shift in the attitude of the person I’m talking to. They clearly start to get uncomfortable, suspicious and they often change the subject back to why they are in pain.

Over time I realized they were all saying something to me, verbally or nonverbally. What they were all saying was…

“Hold on now… I do want relief from this excruciating pain. There is no chance of me getting back together with my ex and relationship is broken beyond repair. But you don’t actually expect me to try to let go do you? I mean, this is love we are talking about.”

This is totally cool. There are a variety of things going on here and I am going to talk to all of them, but I want you to stop and become aware of your own resistance to this idea.
In fact, I want you to say to yourself:

“I am still holding onto the idea of being with my ex.”

end of relation

Right now you have an idealized vision of what it would be like to get back with her. That is very much your own creation, and it’s very likely it won’t be like the way you think it is. Here is why:

She rejected you:

I really don’t know a more plain way of putting it. Your ex-girlfriend at some point looked at the situation she was in and thought to herself that she could do better elsewhere. She probably now has something else in mind and you no longer fit what that is. She thinks someone else out there will make her happier, whether she has met him yet or not.

For the most part she doesn’t want you anymore. The might be parts of her that still want you or love you, but they aren’t strong enough anymore to be meaningful. If they are, she is clearly trying to move on, and she clearly has a head start on you.

It may have taken her forever to realize it herself. She might still be conflicted and she is sending mixed messages. Maybe she led you on, or didn’t come clean immediately. But now it’s clear.

Do you really want to be that guy who is clinging to a girl, who in return is “sorta kinda” about you? Is that what your ideal relationship looks like? Does the idea of being in that situation make you feel like a confident, attractive man?

If it feels like defeat, it’s okay. I once heard that if you want to succeed faster you have to start failing twice as fast too. So this where you take your lump, lick your wounds, and square yourself to be single again and eventually find love elsewhere.

History is very likely to repeat itself:

You might think that if you got her back she would see things differently and fall in back in love with you and things would work themselves out.

You know what…anything is possible. I am big on optimism. Really. Even a little delusional optimism is good here and there.

But you have to stop and think about the price you are paying. Because it is much, much more likely that it won’t happen.

When you and your ex were together you developed certain ways of acting and reacting around each other. This is mainly unconscious stuff, and although it is possible to change it very hard.

Ever find that being around certain family members causes you to act in a way that you wouldn’t normally act otherwise? That’s the same principle at work.

So, if by some crazy Hollywood movie miracle you guys do get back together, after the initial excitement of being together again you are just going to fall back into those same patterns again.

If she was dissatisfied, she will more likely become dissatisfied again.

If she cheated on you, she will probably do it again. Even if she doesn’t you may never be able to trust her in the same way you did before and that in itself will screw up other parts of your relationship.

If she treated you badly, chances are once things settle in she’ll start doing it again.

relationship end photo

Then you will be back at square one. You’re going to have to go through the pain of breaking up again.

Or worse…you’ll be in long, unhealthy, stilted relationship together.

There will be a part of you that will wish you had faced the pain and pushed through with the breakup instead of hanging on.

The clock is ticking:

I have some bad news for you. Your energy isn’t limitless. Your time on this planet isn’t either. The more you guzzle your energy into fixing or getting this relationship back, some other part of your life is suffering.

The other goals, dreams, existing and potential relationships are going be at a standstill. Mentally the friction you have is keeping you from something more worthwhile in your life, even if you don’t know what that is yet.

You can’t really start to heal until you’ve really decided.

Every time you really start entertaining the possibility of getting back with her, you prolong the process of getting over her.

It’s absolutely natural to be conflicted. I don’t think you would qualify as human if you weren’t conflicted on some level.

Getting over someone you really like can really be hard. It takes a lot of willpower and above it takes the ability to subject oneself to pain. Intentionally. Really, who wants that?

When you start considering getting back together with your ex, or you start thinking of ways to get her back, you are unraveling that hard work you are doing.

There is another more insidious part of this as well.

At some point the natural process of getting over your ex will hit a kind of critical mass. A “tipping point” so to speak

You’ll know it when this happens, or more accurately you will feel different after it does. To reference the riptide metaphor, this is then you realize the current has significantly decreased.

But if you backslide before that happens, all the progress you have made will slingshot in the other direction.

Your mind will “backwards rationalize” the energy and strife you went through trying to get over her as a sign of how “real” your love for this person really is. The mind is funny that way. And there you will be again, at square one.

The Sneaky Reasons You Want Her Back

Now I am going to ask you to reflect on some other, less than obvious reason you might still have trouble letting go of your old relationship.

Do you think that somehow if you are back in this relationship all your problems will be solved?

When you are thinking about the being back with her, are you remembering all the things you were dissatisfied with?

Do you want the comfort and security that relationship provided?

Are you scared of the thought of having to go out and date all over again?

Does the thought of no more regular sex really bother you?

Are there social pressures involved? Do you think your friends will view you differently if you are no longer in this relationship?

Are you worried that you are going to lose a few friends because of this breakup?

Do you think your peers or family will look at this breakup as a failure on your part?

Is it because you just can’t stand the idea of being dumped?

That maybe if you got back with her you can show her how she was wrong?

Did you feel like you screwed up somehow and that you need to win her approval to redeem yourself?

Rosy Retrospection

After much deliberation, a year after I graduated college I moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma to New York City.

Having visited many times I was in love with NYC but I couldn’t muster up the courage to make such a big change.

What made it even harder was that, from the outside looking in I had a perfect life in Tulsa. I had a house, car, beautiful girlfriend, and pretty comfortable life.

when relation is over

It was tough leaving that all behind, and all though I wanted to move to NYC, my older brother had to do some convincing to get me to move up.

He tried to alleviate my fears by offering to let me stay with him until I got established and on my feet, which was one of the hang ups I had at the time.

What my brother didn’t tell me was that I would be staying in a cold dark basement, with uneven floors and an occasional sewage smell. So very soon after I moved out there, needless to say, I started having second thoughts.

While I was living in that basement, before I moved out, I’m sure you can imagine all I could think of was my life in Tulsa, my car, deck in my backyard, fresh air, big king size bed with my (now ex) girlfriend in it…

And now here I was, single, living underground, didn’t really know anyone. What the hell was I thinking? Why would I leave such a nice life for this?

Well, the truth is, I wasn’t happy in Tulsa. The stable life, if anything scared me, I felt at the time that I was too young for it and it was way too early to feel that “settled”. I knew that if I stayed there life would dry up for me.

But it was really hard to remember that while I was in that basement.

This is an example of another one of those brain glitches we all have, it’s called Rosy Retrospection.

If you have ever been on a vacation that was kinda sorta fun, but nothing too memorable, only to find yourself a few weeks later in a boring class or in your office fantasizing about how great it was… then you know what I am talking about.

In my case, when I moved from Tulsa to NYC things got worse before they got better, so it was easy for me to start thinking about how great Tulsa was.

Breaking up is probably the best example of this. When you first break up, things really suck. You’re heartbroken, lonely, you’re grieving, angry, you have the whole chemical withdrawal thing going on…

Even if your relationship was mediocre, or the girl clearly wasn’t that into you, she cheated on you…however it was, it is going to seem much better than those first few weeks after your break up.

After you break up, almost by definition, things really do get worse before they get better. This is why it is so easy to overestimate how good things really were.

I think this another one of the reasons why many couples can’t break out of the on and off trap.

Especially if you are the one who is getting dumped, unless you jump straight into another fully intimate relationship, it’s very easy to mistake this temporary distortion of perspective of being a sign that you must really love this person.

Oh by the way, this doesn’t necessarily go away after you have gotten over your ex girlfriend. If you are single for a long time, and even if you are having a grand old time and loving it, every now and then you will think about having a girlfriend or being in a relationship.

The desire to bond, to have a connection and a fulfilling relationship is a natural part of being human and this will come up for you every now and then while you are single. You’ll probably think about this last relationship because of that.