After a long and drawn out separation, after which we still lived together for six months, my ex and I finally called it quits. However, while he moved on with his life, I was still harboring the hope that we’d get back together and it was seriously detrimental to my life.
Our breakup was never really clear.
We’d been together for a long time, lived together, and even gotten married, so our lives were deeply entwined. Neither of us wanted to break up but our relationship was so unhealthy that we’d talked about it many times. Eventually, he called it but it wasn’t entirely clear if we were really separating or just taking a break. The lack of clarity really made it hard to sever the ties completely.
Our circumstances were pretty messy.
Financially, we were struggling and neither of us could afford to live alone at that time. We agreed that we’d continue to live together while working toward financial independence so that I could move out and he could still afford the place we’d been living in together. That made for a very messy situation emotionally and put extra pressure on what was already a strained dynamic.
Living together exacerbated the situation.
Sharing a bed with an ex is not at all conducive to a healthy breakup. By the time we separated, we were living completely different lives. Our respective sleep cycles were six hours out of sync, we no longer cooked meals together, and we had entirely different outlooks on life. Nevertheless, we still had some of our old habits and in some ways, cohabitation just felt normal. We managed to live together for another six months, every interaction strained by resentment and tension. Without a clean break, our relationship habits were drawn out for way too long after our relationship ended.
Having an open relationship made it easier to hold on.
Because we weren’t in an exclusive relationship at the time of our breakup, it was easy to blur the lines between being together and being apart. In a monogamous relationship, beginning a new connection tends to be a clear sign that the old one is finished. In our case, this wasn’t so clear. We each had other partners, but that never negated the possibility of us being together. Things weren’t quite so clear-cut and this added to the difficulties in letting go.
Even when I started seeing other people, I still planned my life around us getting back together.
Not long after I moved out, I began my first serious relationship since our separation. It was wonderful to share a deep connection with a new partner, but in the back of my mind, I was always considering the possibility of getting back with my ex. This made it difficult to fully commit to my new relationship and I remember thinking that if my ex wanted me back, I’d be willing to give up this new guy even though we had a good thing going.
We stayed friends, which meant we were still a big part of each other’s lives.
Despite all our difficulties, my ex and I still really cared about each other and we wanted to remain a part of each other’s lives. Again, this blurred the lines between relationship and friendship, especially since we never had a period of not seeing each other after we broke up. Through our friendship, we also maintained quite a lot of physical affection, which confused things even more.
It was my new partner that drew my attention to it.
Eventually, through some off-hand comments from me, my new boyfriend began to suspect that I was harboring hopes of reconciliation with my ex. When he drew my attention to it, I became really emotional and it all poured out. He was completely taken aback and urged me to deal with those emotions consciously.
It nearly destroyed my new relationship.
Until that point, I hadn’t even realized myself how much baggage I was holding onto and how much I’d put my life on hold for the chance of getting back together with my ex. My new partner was overwhelmed by this new information and he seriously questioned whether it was a good idea to continue our relationship given that I was still so hung up on someone else. We had some very difficult conversations and it became clear to me that if our relationship was going to have a future, I would need to work through these latent feelings.
I needed a lot of healing to let go.
I began working on the baggage I’d been holding onto and a lot of unexpected pain and anger came up. I journaled intensely, writing down every thought and feeling that came up around my ex to better understand how I related to him now. I realized there were a lot of things I’d never said to him and I wrote a long letter telling him everything I hadn’t said during our breakup.
I finally found the closure I never got when we broke up.
Writing that letter acted as a catharsis and allowed me to work through many of the emotions I’d been avoiding. I even met with him and expressed a lot of those feelings face to face. Even though he didn’t react the way I’d hoped, just expressing them helped me find closure and I realized I was able to let go no matter what his response was. In the end, it took me a year, but I’ve finally let go of that old relationship and my life is so much better for it.
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