Can You Be in a Healthy Relationship and Still Miss your Ex?
I had a friend call me today. ‘How can you be in a healthy relationship and still miss you ex?’ she asked.
She had just had a lovely date with her guy and, on the way home, she was compelled, by some unknown force, to find out where her ex lived and drive by his house. She thought she was past him and she was now worried that she was not. She liked her new guy and didn’t want to slip backwards.
I assured her that it is very common for people to still miss their ex when they are dating or in a healthy relationship. There are a number of reasons why and here are a few of them.
#1 – The comfort of the known.
When you are newly dating, or in a healthy relationship, one of the reasons that you still miss your ex is the comfort of the known.
I had a boyfriend once who said it would be so nice to be able to skip the dating and go right to the two year mark in a relationship, where everything was comfortable. Because that’s what new relationships are – uncomfortable – and who wants to be uncomfortable?
With your ex, you knew exactly how things were going to play out. Who eats what for breakfast, who needs space before coffee, what happens during Monday Night Football, how Thanksgiving is spent etc. You were in your relationship for some period of time and you were used to each other and that was comfortable.
With your new relationship, even if it has been going on for a while, you might still not be as comfortable as you were and that makes you think back to your ex and your routines and miss the security that you felt.
So, perhaps, it’s not your ex who you are missing as much as the comfort you felt with someone you knew very well.
#2 – Things you shared.
I have an ex who I definitely should not be with right now but, man, did we have FUN!
One July day, while out sailing on Lake Champlain in Burlington, we flipped our sailboat. We came up, sputtering, still holding our wine glasses. We sacrificed the glasses to the Lake and flipped the boat over. Our bottle of wine was still there – our flip flops and t-shirts gone.
We were laughing SO hard. We sailed home, walked to the closest outside bar with bare feet and shared Dark & Stormys. And that night at the hotel was the perfect cherry on top of a perfect day.
We had lots of memories like that, this guy and I. And I think about those days a lot and, enjoy the memories and the feelings they evoke. I LOVE my new boyfriend in a big way but there are many days that I think back on the fun we had and miss my ex. And that is ok.
#3 – What was good.
Yes, your ex is your ex for a reason but they are also someone you fell in love with. And that means there was some good.
When you miss your ex, do you remember how the two of you were when you first met, when you stayed up all night talking and then stayed in bed in the morning making love? Do you remember how good he was with your friends? Do you remember that funny way she stuck her tongue between her teeth when she laughed? Do you remember how he used to hold your hand when you were anxious going to his parent’s house?
When we break up with someone, the things about them that made us fall in love with them don’t cease to exist. There are still there, in your memory and, perhaps, in real life, and you are going to miss them. Even one of my clients, who was in the most toxic relationship I have ever heard of, misses her ex and the way he could be, even now that she is in a heathy relationship.
So, just because you have broken up, your ex does still have some of the qualities that you fell in love with and, knowing that, will lead to you missing them.
#4 – What you have forgotten.
I have an ex who I used to think of often, even as my relationship grew into the amazing thing it is today. I often found myself thinking about those things above, the good things we shared and the wonderful things he did for me. And I missed him.
And then one day I found an old journal. I had written a few pages in the midst of the turmoil building around the relationship. And, in those written words, I remembered some things that I had forgotten.
It was always all about him – rarely about me. He stopped wanting to have sex quite early on in our relationship and actually strong armed me one day when I made a move. He was insecure and jealous and very possessive.
I had forgotten all of those things. I remembered the one time he sang to me while I was in the shower, the first time we made love and how I believed that I could fix him if I just loved him enough.
This journal helped me to finally let him go – the bad definitely outweighed the good and I had forgotten all about it.
#5 – Who you used to be.
Another reason that you might still miss your ex even if you are in a healthy relationship is because you might miss the person you were in that relationship.
Relationships bring out the best and worst in us and when it’s the best it makes us feel secure and loved.
I remember my first relationship after my divorce. I was fresh meat, out in the world, exploring dating for all of its good and bad. I went into that relationship so fresh, not yet jaded by dating in middle age. I jumped in head first. We travelled, laughed, had amazing sex and fell in love. Ultimately, it didn’t work out but I think about the girl I was during that period of time and I love her. She was going through a really tough divorce but she didn’t let it bring her down. She stepped up, moved on, found love and proved to herself that she could survive anything.
I still think about that guy (and the amazing sex) and don’t wish that I was with him but I relish the person I was when I was with him. And that feels great.
Of course you can be in a healthy relationship and still miss your ex.
Life isn’t linear. I always use the ice cream analogy. Let’s say you have always loved chocolate ice cream. And then all the chocolate ice cream in the world disappears and you can only eat vanilla. And you discover that you LOVE vanilla ice cream. Would that love of vanilla ice cream take away from the love you once had for the chocolate ice cream?
No! It was something you were used to and it made you feel comfortable. You loved that you used to eat it with your kids at the beach in the summer. It tasted really good – although the chocolate didn’t go so well with butterscotch sauce. And, when we eat ice cream, we always love the child that we become – the child that we need to get in touch with more often.
So, if you still miss your ex – it’s ok!! We all do it, at one time or another. The key is to not let it sabotage your new relationship. Again, that person is your ex for a reason and unless hell has frozen over, that reason probably hasn’t changed!
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.