Woman Who Won't Let Go of Her Ex
September 13, 1999 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
I have not found a similar problem in your archives and hope that you are willing to help me with this problem.
Three years ago my husband left me for another woman who is much younger than he is (43/23). After I found out about the affair he moved out. I tried to talk to him and save our marriage, but he was so consumed with her, he had no time for me or our marriage.
He was very cruel to me emotionally, when I would call him and tell him to please give our marriage a change, he would say hurtful things to me. She would also call me and leave me messages, such as 'You lost the battle and he's mine now'
We've been divorced 3 years now and I still love him as much as I did on our wedding day. I wonder if he thinks of me. . . and I just wish and pray he'd come back. I know that won't happen because they are living together now. Everyone kept telling me they would never last with that age difference. . . or that she would eventually leave him for someone her own age, but that has not happened. I have such a hard time accepting that he is gone and loving someone else - he was my soul mate.
Now I have met a nice guy, after dating many jerks and he cares very much for me. The problem is I can't help but compare him to my ex-husband. I want this new guy to make me feel like my husband did. And I know that is not fair. I just can't seem to open my heart to soemone new. I don't want to blow a potential good relationship, because I know there are plenty of idiots out there and a gem is hard to find.
What's wrong with me?? why can't I let go of my ex-husband? I think about him every day, occassionally I call their house just to hear his voice on the answeting machine. . I want our life/marriage back. I know that won't happen, he has moved on, why can't I?? I still feel so connected to him. And this new guy is catching on to my unwillingness to let go. Much of what my new man does irritates me becuase its not the way my husband used to do things.
What can I do to heal? What is wrong with me?
I am so sorry to hear what happened to you. And, letting go of someone you love is a very hard thing to do. It sounds like your husband was just right for you. In fact, he sounds like perfection personified.
Here's where my thoughts are ranging. I was wondering why you idealize him so. He did treat you miserably. In fact, the range of your feelings is so one-sided that they are lopsided. Where is the anger and the outrage? If you could find some of those negative feelings, you would find it easier to move forward.
In fact, the way you are idealizing him sounds a lot like what happens to a person whose spouse has died. Suddenly, after death, all the spouse's jerky habits, snoring, bad temper and bad breath are all forgetten. This is what you are doing. It's as though you were idolizing someone who has died. But, your ex. isn't dead. If you want to move on, your first question must be, 'What am I getting out of holding on, and even idolizing this man?' Also ask yourself, 'Why do I resist feeling angry at him?'
I would also examine the possibility that idolizing him may be a twisted form of self-protection. So long as you stay in love with your ex. you don't need to risk yourself by falling for another man. After all, the love of your life shafted you, which means that you must be scared stiff to trust another person. This idolization may provide another form of unconscious protection. As long as you love him and live in the fantasy that he may return to you, you don't have to face all the feelings that are really going on inside. There's tremendous hurt, pain, anger and fear. All these feelings will need to be felt as part of the process of letting go and moving on.
I am so sorry that you were left this way. I would like to see you talk to a therapist. Perhaps join a group. You need to build a lot of loving and safe connections, which will also help you to let go of your ex. and move forward with someone new.
Lots of love to you.
"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 is mandatory reading for every couple that wants to build lasting love.”
-- 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