My friend Bruno broke up with his fiancee two years ago.
He’s dated since then and even moved to a new city. But yesterday he told me something extremely sad.
We were having a discussion about his job and sleep problems he’d been having and he just blurted it out.
Why “I’m still in love with my ex” is the biggest lie you’ve ever told yourself
I offered Bruno support and sympathy. Of course, I did, I’m his friend…
But what I really wanted to scream at him is “no you’re not! You just think you are!”
But that would just be rude…
So I didn’t.
But I did write this article. And I have shared the link with him.
It’s now on me to explain exactly what I mean and I intend to do just that.
If you’re in a similar situation to Bruno then I hope this helps you find the answers you’re needing…
Because the truth is that in 99% of cases you’re not in love with your ex, you’re in love with the idea of your ex and the stability and validation you felt with him or her.
Let’s get scientific…
In addition to all the hearts and warm feelings, love is a bit of a drug. Romantic love releases enormous amounts of dopamine and bonding chemicals like oxytocin.
Simply put: it’s a major rush and we get hooked.
Is there more to love than just swirling chemistry equations? Of course, there is.
But it’s important to understand that when we crave to go back to someone in many cases we’re not only wanting their company, conversation, affection, body, and bewitching smile.
We’re also waiting for that epic crescendo of exhilarating feelings that they made us feel inside.
In other words, we often crave the actual state of euphoria and wellbeing we felt just as much and sometimes more as the person themselves.
The truth is we’re all addicts.
As Dr. Carder Stout writes in this excellent article:
“Addiction is inside you just as it resides in me. It is a universal presence that lives in our unconscious and rises and falls according to the personal story of our life.
It connects us in the present with a bond of human frailty and unites us with the lineage of those who came before us. Addiction has always been here and will always remain. It is nothing to fear. In fact, enduring its disquieting provocations allows us to heighten our resolve and explore what it truly means to be alive.”
So don’t hang your head in shame if you’re wanting to be back with your ex.
It’s only human to cling and try to return to pleasurable experiences, and there’s a good side and an authentic element to being the kind of person who gets swept up in life’s highs.
But sooner or later you need to come down, and if you’re really feeling the crash hit you at this moment, it doesn’t mean you need to go back to your ex. It means you need to rediscover your own inner power and embark on a life of purpose.
Let’s get spiritual…
Now that I covered the science side let me hop over to the spiritual space.
I believe love matters and I also believe that it’s relatively rare. I don’t agree with those who say we can fall in love with anyone or that it always builds over time and is just a choice.
Love is real, powerful, often unexpected, and can be overwhelming.
When it hits us, we can feel like we just found the most precious gem in the universe. We feel that we need to do anything in our power to keep this amazing connection we’ve found.
Love is special, absolutely.
Taking someone you love for granted is a huge, monumental mistake. We should value love and commit to it if possible.
But at the same time, I think it’s easy for many of us to develop an unhealthy reaction and approach to romantic love.
We try to “get” it, own it, grasp it, capture it and make it last…
Like it’s an object or a prize.
But it’s not.
It’s harmful to think of love as a gleaming city of gold in the distance, getting there isn’t a “touchdown” or “salvation.”
Love is not the end of the road: it’s just the beginning.
Let me put it another way:
Love is the way you walk and the others you help along the road, not the endpoint you reach.
It unfolds and plays out dynamically. Sometimes it ends, sometimes it lasts. Sometimes it just fades. But it’s always meaningful.
And if you want to find true love and intimacy you need to know what signs to look for along the rocky road…
What I mean is that love isn’t just about love. It’s a lot about recognizing the limits of your control and learning the balance between your own desires and somebody else’s desires.
It’s also very connected to our relationship with ourselves and will inevitably bring up unresolved trauma, blockages, doubts, and insecurities that are still lodged inside us.
If the relationship doesn’t bring them out, our subconscious will push them forward and we will literally sabotage the relationship — even though consciously we say it’s the only thing we want.
The point is that when love doesn’t last it can often be an evolutionary step in your own self-growth, not the setback or end of your dreams that you imagine. You can’t stop the pain or the disappointment: those are natural.
Whether you broke up or your partner did you’re obviously going to be hurting. But what you can do is change your perspective just a bit — as a hypothetical thought exercise — and look at the scenario from a new angle.
I want you to try a thought experiment
If you want to know whether to get back with your ex I suggest the following thought experiment:
Imagine I guarantee you beyond even the smallest shadow of a doubt that you will meet the love of your life and the one right person for you as a partner in six months.
Imagine I absolutely guarantee it: shoot me in the head if I’m lying (not actually please, this is a thought experiment to prove a point).
Picture all the feelings, conversations, amazing intimacy, and incredible times you had with your ex. Now multiply that to a dimension that’s at the limit of what you can even imagine.
A connection so strong, so mystical, so incredible that you want to dance around the hills like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. But even better.
It’s crucial that you truly, fully picture this and believe it with all your heart in this moment. That will arrive in six months. It just will, even if it’s hard to picture right now.
Now go back to thinking of your ex and the great things about him or her and your times together.
You have a choice but it’s a one-time offer right now from me, the love magician:
I’ll snap my fingers and you will be back with your ex at this exact moment.
Or I’ll wave my wand and you will go about your life and meet this special someone beyond your wildest dreams.
How do you feel?
Is your desire to be with them just as strong if you know for certain you’ll meet someone even better in six months?
If the answer is that you are a bit curious about this future person or even realize your ex was more about trying to recapture the feeling than the exact person then you have your answer.
If your desire to be back with them is genuinely just as strong (despite fully believing it is possible to meet someone amazing in six months) then there is more there to work with and resolve…
Why would someone lie to themselves?
You know what, I’m sorry for calling you a liar.
When I say that “I’m still in love with my ex” is the biggest lie you’ve ever told yourself what I mean is not that you’re a dishonest or shady person. I don’t mean you’re stupid, weak, wrong, or even intentionally lying.
The thing about lying to ourselves is that we all do it. I do it, you do it, even gurus do it.
Lying to ourselves isn’t like stealing someone’s wallet and then lying when they ask if you’ve seen it. We generally lie to ourselves through lies of omission, distortion, or displacement.
Let me explain:
You know when you are giving testimony in court (if you haven’t done this you’ve probably seen it on legal or cop shows on TV).
You are asked:
“Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”
And you say yes. And then if you lie you committed a crime (perjury).
When we lie to ourselves, especially about things like how our ex was the best thing that ever happened to us or we’re still in love with them, we tend to do so in indirect ways which are partly true.
The main way we lie to ourselves about things like being in love with an ex is omission.
Yes, those nights in the cabin by the lake were so special…
And the bond was so strong…
We were going to marry and there was so much excitement.
You don’t think about or mention to yourself the horrible fights, the times that your ex doubted and undermined you, the feelings of doubt you had about him or her but squashed down, the huge struggle with depression you were going through, and trying to repress during the whole relationship with him or her.
In other words, in many cases in remembering the past, you’re not even being honest with yourself about the relationship or your own struggles.
As psychotherapist Dr. Jacqueline Pearce writes:
“If you fail to be honest with yourself, how can you ever be honest with anyone else? If you hide the truth from yourself, how can you expect to share it with anyone else? It’s nearly impossible to be honest with anyone as long as you aren’t honest with yourself.
To have a long-lasting and a healthy relationship, you must ensure that you are offering the other person the ‘true you.’ Relationships thrive when their foundations are based on two people who are honest with themselves and each other.”
Distortion is another tool our mind often uses in idealizing the past, and not the cool kind of distortion like Jimi Hendrix.
More the kind of distortion that tells you everything was so perfect when it wasn’t.
The kind of distortion that gets you to engage in black and white thinking by convincing yourself you’ll never meet someone again, that was your one chance, or that you never get what you want.
Distortion will also crystallize ordinary things and make them seem extraordinary.
You meet beautiful guys and girls but they’re nothing compared to your ex. He or she was so much better. And your connection was so much stronger.
Are you absolutely sure?
As clinical psychologist David Susman explains:
“Displacement is a psychological defense mechanism in which a person redirects a negative emotion from its original source to a less threatening recipient. A classic example of the defense is displaced aggression.”
Often we lie to ourselves by saying we’re angry about something other than what we’re actually angry about.
For example, we may tell ourselves that we’re still in love with our ex and getting back with him or her could be the answer to our troubles when in reality we’re angry about feeling unappreciated in our job and social life.
In this case, we have displaced disquiet over our current life onto the past to try to solve it through fixation on an idealized past event.
The reality, in this case, is that we’re lying to ourselves: we don’t actually want our ex back, we just want our life to stop sucking.
Why going back to your ex (probably) isn’t the answer
I’m not Nostradamus and I can’t predict the future. Nor can I feel what you feel in your heart and soul.
What I can say is that going back to your ex (probably) isn’t the answer.
There are four main reasons:
1) You’re not the same person
We live in a dynamic and ever-changing universe and we’re subject to its same laws. We change constantly.
Just speaking physically, we have entirely new skin every seven years.
Psychologically, spiritually, emotionally, it’s even more intense and rapid.
Even if you’ve been spending a lot of time indoors during this pandemic, your inner life, emotions, thoughts, and relations to others are evolving and changing.
And so is your relationship with yourself.
You’re not static and the relationship you had with your ex can’t be recaptured like a perfect Kodak moment or replayed like a scene from your favorite movie.
Even if you do get back with your ex it’s going to be much different. So clinging to that vintage image is merely an illusion that will be better for you to let go.
2) He or she is not the same person
By the same token that you’ve changed and you can’t just press the reset button, your ex is also a different person.
Their life focus may have changed, their other relationships, their personality, and even the basic facts of their life like where they live, their career, and what they’re looking for in a relationship.
They may also be craving the old you that no longer exists. Or they may want a new you that you’re unable to give. Or they may not want you at all.
On the other hand, if you both want the old-time version of each other and get back together on this basis, the issue is that it’s not possible.
Many changes are involuntary and trying to replay your old selves and ignore the changes that have happened is only going to end in disillusionment.
3) Living in the past isn’t healthy
Living in the past is mentally unhealthy and cuts off your ability to see new potential and opportunities.
It’s also physically unhealthy.
We all know what stress does to us: insomnia, anxiety, depression, higher cholesterol, frayed tempers, low energy, and much more of all those things that none of us want.
I’ve read all the studies about stress and how living in the past brings us down, makes us stressed, and interrupts our present life. But to be honest I don’t need any more proof than Bruno himself.
He’s a top-notch guy, but his depression over the breakup with his fiancee clearly makes his daily life worse. Even when he doesn’t mention at all it’s obvious that she’s weighing on his mind.
He used to be the life of the party, now he’s like a beat-down dog. And his insomnia issues seem to be unsolvable.
It’s seriously sad.
4) You need to make room for the new
At the end of the day, it’s your choice what you do in your life.
I recommend the benefits of moving on if at all possible, because you can’t go back to live in the past or be the person you used to be, but also because you need to make room for the new.
I can’t count the times I thought life was done but it turned out it wasn’t:
In terms of romance;
In terms of work;
In terms of personal problems.
Just when I thought it was game over, it turned out I’d only been grading up to the next level.
Can anyone else relate?
Breakups can leave us feeling like we’re stumbling in the dark without a lantern to guide us. It’s natural to want to turn back and find the safety and security we felt back at the beginning of the trail.
But it doesn’t work.
Instead, you need to find that deep inner power and vitality inside you and expand it into a super-storm of momentum and alignment with the universe.
The shaman Rudá Iandê says something that really resonates with me about finding your own power and authenticity as well as hope for life:
“The nature of life cannot be interpreted by our intellect. It will never make sense to our minds. But if we observe our natural and instinctive reaction in front of our existential dilemmas, we’ll find what defines us as human beings…
Our warrior spirit, combined with our creativity and ingenuity, makes us incredible beings!
We’re miraculous creatures! We dream of the impossible and fight hard to make it achievable. We believe in perfection, peace, goodness, and eternal happiness. We have this flame that insists on being alive, despite how much we may be suffering.”
Don’t you just love Rudá! Or is it just me?
Concluding thoughts on the “ex-factor”
I hope this guide has helped you.
Remember that’s there are no mistakes in life, just lessons.
There are some situations where going back to your ex could be the answer and could lead to fulfillment and cooperative growth and partnership together. But I’ll be brutally frank with you here and say that those situations are rare.
“I’m still in love with my ex” is usually a lie we tell ourselves in order to grasp at the emotions, validation, and security we felt around someone else.
It’s usually part of a codependent attempt to stop growing and let someone else take responsibility or credit for our life.
It’s us trying to move backward instead of forwards.
The instinct of wanting to be back with your ex is good. It means you recognize and value those positive and empowering emotions and bonds you felt with them.
Now take that energy and bond and realize that it’s inside you and that it’s not really gone at all.
And use it to build a future of fulfillment, strength, and compassion.
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