Woman Who Can't Stop Thinking About Her Boyfriend's Ex
October 18, 1999 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
Dear Dr. Love, I'm a college sophomore, 19 years and have been with my current boyfriend for almost a year. Things have been fine up until about a month ago. Up until this point, I had never dated anyone, never kissed, never had strong feelings of affection or love for anyone.
So 'Tom' is my first everything (including sex a couple months ago). Tom, however, had a 2-year romance (a sexual one as well) with a girl in high school. I cannot get over this. You'd think after a year, I would realize that this boy loves me so much. I know he does, and I know he cares nothing for his high school ex (who he broke up with as soon as he got to college) but somehow I just can't stop thinking about her.
I think of what they went through, where they went on their dates, what they said to each other, how they felt about each other, their first sexual talks/experiences. It doesn't help that I don't know what its like to have an ex.
Also, I am very self-critical and hard on myself sometimes, and it has never been so much of a problem than when I started having a boyfriend. I can't accept that I'm 'pretty' and 'wonderful.' Most of the time I do accept it, but sometimes it's very hard for me, cause I see myself in totally different view.
I do see a pyschologist every couple months when I need too, due to other stuff, but I can't seem to shake these two conflicts! I have told him about this and he knows how I feel. . . He also hates his past, hates the fact that he wasted his life and virginity with the high school ex, but if you could tell me a way to deal with both these issues, i would appreciate so much. Thank you.
I understand your feelings of torment. Your obsession over your boyfriend's ex. is breaking your connection with your boyfriend. Before you can free yourself of this obsession, you must first understand what purpose it serves.
To achieve that understanding ask yourself, 'What feelings do I have when I think about my boyfriend's relationship with his ex.?' Do you feel rejected (like he loved someone more than you)?; insecure (worried that you won't measure up to his ex.)?; fearful of rejection ( that he will find someone better than you)?.
Find out exactly how you do feel when you think about his ex. Then ask yourself, 'What do I gain by obsessing over his ex.?' Realize that while you consciously hate doing this obsessing, the fact that your unconscious mind continues to do it means that on an unconscious level gains are being realized.
So, ask yourself, 'What do I gain by obsessing over his ex.? Do I feel more and more inadequate about myself? Do I feel unloved?'
I notice that you don't feel very loveable. You speak about not believing it when your boyfriend tells you that you are attractive, etc. . You are also self-critical. How does your self-criticalness relate relate to your history? Did you feel put down by your parent(s)? Did they tell you that you weren't good enough?
Realize that no human being comes out of the womb putting him or herself down. You learned to put yourself down from someone. The question is, who taught you to loathe yourself? Did your mom put you down in words or actions? Did your dad?
Then study how your having been criticized as a child relates to your current obsession. Does your unconscious mind hang on to the obsession about his ex. as a way of continuing to put yourself down? (I won't measure up to his ex. . She was a better lover?) Is is possible that obsessing about his love for his ex. enables you to continue living with the familiar feelings of self-loathing and self-doubt?
We are all creatures of habit, you know. I must also point out that this obsession boils down to your feeling wounded by his love for another. A love triangle, if you will. Never mind the fact that the ex. is no longer in the picture.
The fact is that, in your mind, she still is very much alive. The fact that he loved another still haunts you to such a point that he might as well still be with this other woman.
If you ask yourself how this 'triangle' relates to your history, you will probably become aware of having felt second classed or brushed aside by a parent (probably dad) who loved someone else (your mom?) more than you.
Whenever we find ourselves in the grips of a feeling that we can't shake, it is sure that we are grappling with unfinished business from childhood. The obsession is a way of coming back to an core issue in the hope of finally healing the wound.
So, identify your early wound (dad neglected you and paid all his attention to your mom?). Then figure out what treatment you hoped for from the parent who let you down? Did you need to be told that you were daddy's number one girl? Did you need more attention?
When you identify what you needed from the parent that let you down, then you will know what emotional medicine you need to free yourself from this obsession. I don't think that you are going to work all this through on your own.
Seeing your psychologist infrequently to talk about 'surface' issues will not help to solve this deep-seated material. Irecommend that you get weekly help, ideally with a modernpsychoanalyst.
My best to you. As long as you view this obsession as asymptom of a deeper issue, and you work to uncover and resolve the realissue, you will be fine.
"If anger and fighting are ruining your dream of a happy marriage, Dr. Turndorf’s conflict resolution program is for you."
-- John Gray,
Author of NY Times #1 bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
"This well-researched book offers a thorough, step-by-step program that provides tools for couples to heal even the most troubled relationships."
-- Dr. John Mack
Pulitzer Prize winning author and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
“This book provides a down-to-earth, easy to apply, proven method for creating relationship harmony. This book should be mandatory reading for every couple that wants to head-off or resolve the inevitable relationship conflicts and build lasting love. Buy this book and put it to use!”
-- John Bradshaw,
Author of NY Times #1 bestseller Homecoming
"Dr. Turndorf is an amazing individual who has wonderful advice to offer men and women of all ages and in all types of relationships. Ignore her counsel at your peril!"
-- Bill Hammond III,
Winner of the Best Historical Fiction Award, 2012
"You are awesome Dr. Jamie. You really are. The best part about you is the way you translate complex psychological stuff into easy to understand and actionable insights."
-- Kajay Williams,
Producer Relationship Advice Cafe
"Let me tell you why you're extremely important now. I really believe your message is there. You're spot on. More and more people should be taking advantage of what you're offering."
-- Michael Dresser,
Syndicated Radio Host
"Good stuff. Great insight. I love your approach. Who doesn't need more healing. I love your idea of using your partner as a healing agent. That's such a great way to see your partner. You give great labels and patterns to look for. I love your method. You make it sound so easy. You have a great website with lots of great information and resources. These are the tools we all need."
-- Dr. Matt Townsend,
Host, The Matt Townsend Show