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What Kept Me Stuck on My Ex and How I’m Breaking the Addiction

“When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch you.” ~Unknown

I might be addicted to feeling good. I’m no stranger to pleasure, and I want what I want unapologetically. But there’s a conflict that arises when one of the things I want is distracting me from having an even bigger thing I want.

My story is so common, it’s almost cliché.

Man and woman meet on Tinder. They are both vague enough about what they want that they dive in without really knowing where it will go. They develop trust, intimacy, and discover shared values and approach to life. Along the way, they get clearer about what they want.

Said man and woman decide they aren’t on the same page in terms of where their relationship is headed. They break up so each can happily pursue the thing they want. The problem is, they still really like each other. They still want to stay connected to the other.

We had been texting and talking on and off—less frequently, but still consistently in those almost three weeks. For the sake of staying connected, I went to dinner with my ex-boyfriend. Twenty days post-breakup, to be exact.

We flirted. We talked. We laughed. We were brutally honest about how hard it was to sit across the table from each other acting is if we were not boyfriend and girlfriend.

We felt like we were lying to ourselves and each other. Something about it felt less than authentic.

As each of us softened around the edges, letting our guards down about what this was “supposed” to be, we decided to just be real with one another. The desire mounted. And then it was like trying to put the brakes on a freight train—it was moving too fast to stop.

Back at his apartment, the intensity of our desire for one another was undeniable. We succumbed to the immediate gratification of how good it felt to be together. To be so familiar and connected, and yet off-limits enough to be really hot. In the moment, it felt so, so satisfying.

But in the aftermath? Nope, I was not satisfied at all. I woke up feeling like I’d lost twenty days worth of traction in creating the space in my life to allow for the relationship that I really want to become available.

Now I was back to being tangled up in my feelings about how much I really care for this man, and why can’t this work, and blah, blah, blah. I felt really torn, and like I was experiencing the feelings that led to the breakup all over again. And I was so frustrated because I should know better.

When we had been together, my ex was perfectly happy with the way our relationship was going. It was connected, extremely intimate, but still casual enough. I was the one who wanted more. I wanted to put a stake in the ground and grow something.

Given this, I knew I couldn’t expect him to be the one to cut things off. Why would he? If I really wanted the bigger relationship that I know is possible (with someone who wants to give it to me), I was going to have to put on my big-girl pants.

I was going to have to end my addiction to feeling good. I was going to have to stop indulging what would feel good now in pursuit of feeling better later.

It’s like deciding you want to get in shape. You commit to getting up early the next day to go for a run. But later that day, you decide you really want ice cream. So you indulge.

And then the next morning comes. Your body feels heavy and hungover from the sugar. The idea of running seems pretty miserable, let alone actually doing it.

Getting in shape starts to feel a whole lot less appealing, and maybe more ice cream is a good idea. The whole thing unravels. You settle for ice cream instead of having a body that functions in the way you really want it to.

But overdosing on ice cream always gets old. There comes a moment when the voice of the bigger thing creeps up again and haunts you. “Wouldn’t it be great if your body felt better? Wouldn’t you like to be able to climb stairs without the heavy breathing? How would it feel to wake up in the morning with your back not hurting?”

At some point, you have to decide which one is more important to you: feeling good in the moment or feeling better in the long run. One calls for more discipline, postponing gratification in pursuit of the bigger thing. The other feels really good right now, but a lot less so later.

Sometimes acknowledging the big thing we want is painful. Painful because we don’t really know if it exists, or if we can have it. It’s vulnerable to wonder if you’re spending energy on something that may never come to be.

Add to it the question of “Did I let something really wonderful get away because I was so attached to it being on my terms?” and it’s a wonder I’m not completely paralyzed into settling.

But in my world, settling isn’t an option. The voice of the bigger thing is really loud, and it won’t let me forget it or discard it in favor of something more readily accessible (not for long, anyways). I consider this a really inconvenient but poignant gift.

As soon as my car pulled into my driveway, I dialed the phone. “I need us to not have any contact for the next two weeks. Maybe more. I’ll let you know. I hate that this is so difficult, but I know we will find the way that is right for both of us.”

It’s time to cut the addiction. I know the withdrawals are going to suck for a while. But the days ahead will be better. The days when it is out of my system, and I can get back to the things I know for certain, instead of chasing my next fix.

About Rachel Paz

Rachel Paz is a relationship-readiness coach for independent women who want relationships without giving up lives they love. Read more of her thoughts here, and check out her free guide to Never Settle Again: 7 Everyday Behaviors Setting You Up To Fail here, and learn about her course, Love, Don’t Settle here.

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  • katie weinberg

    Wow. Talk about perfect timing… I’m going through this now, and have been for nine months. What you described above happened to me last Sunday. I think this is a sign from some higher power… thank you so much for writing this and sharing it. It means a lot!

  • Maria I. Martinez

    This is me RIGHT NOW. Thanks for sharing.

  • Chris Evans

    Ouch!!! That hit home a little harder than I thought it would. It helped to hear that I wasn’t the only one in this situation. Perfect timing for me because I have been debating about should I stay or not very seriously for the last 7 days

  • AngelaL

    What a great article! Thanks for writing this. It’s been a while since I went through this but your words still hit home and brought back a lot of memories, especially around the question of “Did I let something really wonderful get away because I was so attached to it being on my terms?”. After a lot of not-so-great relationships in my 20s and early 30s, and a lot of questioning myself and worrying that i was being too picky, I met an amazing guy – and we’ll be celebrating our 14th anniversary next week. I’ll echo your advice: don’t settle!

  • Cate

    The idea of “settling” has always made me uneasy, because it unavoidably implies some standard we expect the other person to meet, typically along the lines of our needs. In that scenario, we leave those who fall short and pursue the next person (who, we hope, will not).To me, this smacks of a romanticized ideal, not genuine love, which is co-created by two people through their behaviors — not just words or intentions — over time. Sustained loving action (including self-responsibility) undergirds a genuinely loving relationship, not romanticized ideals of love and declarations of intent. What we want — or think we want — is as likely right in front of us as somewhere else, if we choose to do the work.

  • Ay D

    This is me as well, thanks! Great article!

  • Omshanti

    No contact in next two weeks? Suggest doing what my ex fiancee did – no contact period. Easier for her but in the long run, it’s what I needed to get over her.

  • Rachel Paz

    You’re totally right. I came to find out that two weeks definitely wasn’t enough. We’re not in permanent no contact. 🙂

  • Rachel Paz

    Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Rachel Paz

    Hi Cate, thanks for sharing your thoughts. My version of settling refers to how true I’m being to myself…and how much responsibility i’m taking for me. Settling is never about the other person – who they are, or what they are doing. It’s about how I show up for me – and whether I’m willing to do the work or not.
    You’re totally right about doing the work to be able to get/have what we want…and in this particular case, there actually weren’t two participants in the relationship. In fact, he rather specifically did not want to be in a relationship. For us, that was always an issue – that we hadn’t quite landed on what we were to each other (and as a result, the commitment to solving our issues, if that makes sense.)

  • Michael Walker

    These are excellent thoughts.

  • Rachel Paz

    Hi Katie! Oh the extended break-up is rough. (Mine lasted a lot longer than this article indicates…that’s a story for another day, though.) Glad the article helped – hang in there, you can do this!

  • Rachel Paz

    You’re welcome, Maria. Do you want to say more?

  • Rachel Paz

    The debate is difficult, Chris. What do you want? And do you see a way to have it with the person you’re with?

  • Rachel Paz

    Wow, Angela! Congratulations on holding out for the relationship you wanted. I think the thing I’ve found is that we can all have exactly what we want…but we usually abandon that idea just before we get there. Kudos to you for staying the course!

  • Cate

    Thanks, Michael!

  • Cate

    This does make sense, Rachel– excellent sense. And you are of course right that there has to be a mutual commitment to resolving issues, whether or not clarity has been reached yet about exactly what two people are to each other; how well you are able to do that helps determine a couple’s possibilities, I think. Thank you for responding so thoughtfully.

  • Rachel Paz

    <3

  • Ahimsa42

    at the ancient age of 50 i have finally come to the understanding that not everyone is meant for romantic love and that we just have to accept being alone and lonely. there is only so much one can do by dealing with the hand we were dealt and after constant failure and rejection, the only rational response is to stop trying.

  • Maria I. Martinez

    Just ended a 10 month relationship with someone I still care about; we both still care about each other. It took me our entire relationship to realize we were in an anxious-dismissive trap (I learned about that through another post from Tiny Buddah) and that our pattern was not healthy. We have broken up once before and fell back to the same trap and now I am afraid of repeating the trap because there are still feelings on both sides and I know he hopes we reconnect again at some point.

  • Rachel Paz

    Thanks for sharing. I think that all relationships exist to teach us something about ourselves, so I imagine there’s a lesson in that relationship that you’re ready to learn. One of the things that has helped me recently is that instead of asking all those other questions, I’ve put my focus on asking, “What do I want?” It makes all the other questions kind of irrelevant and keeps me on the path toward the thing I want. (And, lady, don’t give up! You can definitely have the relationship and the man you want!!)

  • Rachel Paz

    I’m sorry that you feel that way, especially if romantic love is something that you want as a part of your life. I’ve definitely had quite a hand dealt to me, and failure and rejection. What I know now (that I didn’t back then), is that I walked away from myself well before anyone else ever did. Learning how to show up for me has been the single-most impactful thing in my life and my relationships. And if you want that, you can definitely have it.

  • Gena Yuvette Davis

    This article was very powerful. I am going through something similar right now and it hurts. It does feel like an addiction that I must overcome. It is not good for me nor my well-being. I feel like I have grown a lot, but I still feel stuck at the same time. For some strange reason, I keep contacting this person and putting myself into horrible emotional positions. This article was a big help. It shows me that I am not alone in my thoughts and feelings. It gives me the strength, courage and power to make another choice – for me. The Universe is speaking to me through this article! I have to think about what is best for me and to let go of what no longer serves me and to enjoy the journey I am now on. It is not the other person’s responsibility to make me whole or strong. It’s not the other person’s responsibility to accept me or take care of me or love me. I have to first do it for myself and find the person who is right for me. Settling means accepting the thing that is simply not right for YOU. That is all.

  • Gena Yuvette Davis

    Thank you for sharing this. These were my exact thoughts of my three year relationship. We broke up last October and we are still connected through calls, emails and text (mostly me doing this). It is not healthy and it is hard and I feel scared and bad about it. I ask myself the same questions…It’s time to get stronger and put the stick in the sand. I am not going into 2018 like this – no way!

  • Gena Yuvette Davis

    Thank you, Rachel. Your advice is great!!!

  • Gena Yuvette Davis

    I love that, Rachel. I felt the same as Ahimas42. I am 50 also. But I do want romantic love in my life. I want the right person, but I have to show up for myself first; I have to love myself first. This is key. On the other hand, if I am destined to be alone, that is fine too, but I am by far not only! I have so many things in my life that I enjoy.

  • Rachel Paz

    Show up for yourself, and you will have everything you want. 🙂

  • Rachel Paz

    I’m so glad you were able to hear this, Gena. It sounds like you’re ready for something different. <3

  • Lloyd Lloyd

    I relate to this a lot, but unfortunately I’m in a marriage and have two young children…I very much feel it’s not right, but it’s so complicated now, not a clear-cut path forward. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience!

  • Rachel Paz

    You’re welcome!
    It sounds like you might be scared of rocking the boat, or wondering if what you have is good enough. I’m not advocating for one way or the other, but whatever you decide to do, find a way to do it with the full force of your heart.

  • 96lotus

    This article helped me feel less ashamed of having conflicting feelings of relief and sadness about recently ending my relationship… A month ago to be more specific. It adds a whole new complexity when your ex-partner wants so badly to be a better person, loves you so deeply, but hurt you repeatedly through their behaviour. My main fear is settling. I don’t want to be ashamed that I want to go back not just for the comfort but because I love someone, even though they couldn’t be the person I needed. You can only give so much energy before you realize that you deserve more. I hope as long as I stay aware and mindful, I won’t have any regrets in the future, but I’m worried.

  • Anya Anne Light

    This is a beautiful article! I have found what you are saying to be so true, especially recently. I decided I want to cultivate more peace in my life, so I upped my meditation practice from 20 minutes a day to 2 hours a day. The first week or so was really tough, but now I’m getting used to it. The sheer willpower (and often difficulty!) of the first week has now passed, and now I’m loving my new level of peace. Starting a new regimen or making a change does require discipline at first, but it’s so worth it!

  • Mirabella

    It sounds like you really are good for each other but you’re both afraid of commitment. This will be a pattern with you. Always chasing the next best thing. The good news is many cats will find a loving home with you and you can write articles for Tiny Buddha in your 50’s about how loving yourself is the best love of all and you really prefer being single, really! Not meaning to be harsh, but this type of selfishness is how one ends up alone. You aren’t finding yourself or being true, you’re pushing away real connection in case you can one up and find better. You won’t get true love if you wont’ give it. You want this man because you have a connection. You won’t connect because you’re holding out in case someone is better, and you don’t want to commit. Don’t make this into something more complicated than it is.