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My ex and I still love each other, but can’t be together

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  • #386528
    RosaliaLuz
    Participant

    Hi Candice – I’m very late to your thread here, but just wanted to say that I was moved by everything you’ve written and by how quickly your relationship with M spiraled downhill.  I can only imagine how much emotional pain and turmoil you’re in right now, and how much the cheating, lying, and betrayal you’ve experienced has eaten away at your self-esteem and made you feel worthless, vulnerable, and expendable.  I think it’s completely normal, after experiencing what you have, to have those feelings, and it’s absolutely worth acknowledging that they’re there…but remember that just because a particular thought or emotion enters your reality doesn’t make it true.  You’re not worthless.  There is nothing wrong with you, and you are more than enough despite being cheated on.  You seem like a bright, resourceful and introspective woman, and sometimes it’s only when we’re pushed into situations like these that we discover an inner reserve of strength and self-confidence that we never imagined we had access to.

    It’s not your fault that you’ve been in relationships with S, M, or any other man that may have turned out to be a complete and utter a-hole.   Analyzing and reflecting why you entered those relationships or when you could have first seen the red flags has value up to a certain point, but remember that you don’t have to figure out the why now.  At a certain point,  rather lamenting past choices or blaming ourselves for what we’ve experienced, we just have to accept that a combination of different factors may have led us to be in a certain relationship with someone who wasn’t good for us, and that we NOW recognize those aren’t people that can adequately fulfill our needs or that we can have strong, stable, loving relationships with.

    In dealing with painful situations like this, I’ve sometimes found it helpful to frame the setback as a challenge of some sort, an opportunity in disguise.  Maybe–particularly since you mentioned that he lives 10 minutes from you–this is an opportunity to develop healthy boundaries and focus on yourself and all the things that drive you as a person.  To show yourself the same love, understanding, and empathy that you clearly showed him.  As much as it hurts and as it difficult as it sounds, you may want to use this as an opportunity to shift all your attention away from S or M and towards the things in your life that ARE working.  That bring you joy.  Use this as an opportunity to explore your spirituality, reconnect with old friends, develop a new exercise or morning routine (doing the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod on a consistent basis has helped me through many a breakup), accomplish a new goal (no matter how small), meditate, read books on topics you’ve always wanted to know more about–the list goes on.  Just because he’s close by doesn’t mean you have to engage with him in any meaningful way or continue to give him your energy and attention. And if he comes back, asking for your forgiveness and chalking up his shitty behavior to childhood trauma, drug addiction, [fill in the blank], take that as an opportunity to practice saying no. Go away. Even if it hurts in the moment.  The more you recognize and acknowledge your wholeness and self-worth, the easier saying no becomes.

    Also, you’re 28–you’re so young!  If you want a romantic partner, that relationship will eventually come.  You don’t have to just accept that you might never find someone (I’ve had well-meaning friends tell me similar things, by the way, and they were wrong).  You will eventually find someone amazing–even though it doesn’t feel that way now–when the timing is right and when you probably least expect it.  But sometimes the process of getting there can be winding and painful, and the more we can just relax and lean into the opportunities we’re given to learn, grow, and heal our wounds, the easier it is to be in the frame of mind that actually gives rise to the things we most desire.

    #387908
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Candice88,

    how have you been? Last time we spoke you were pretty shattered – how are you holding up now? I would love to hear from you…

    #404911
    Candice88
    Participant

    Hello,

     

    I did not respond for some time because yes, I was very shattered for some time. Then of course I was stable for some time and now I am back to feeling the chaos, which I suppose is how life goes. Thank you so so much for the thoughtful responses. I am very touched that you care enough to read about this.

     

    After leaving M and staying away from most people I know through him, I had to get a job to support myself. I work with preschoolers on the autism spectrum, offering therapy in their homes. Working with young families (while wishing for one of my own) then returning home to only my two cats, exhausted and with only time to do homework and prepare for the next day, left me as a husk of a human for some time. This fall I was also awaiting for/undergoing surgery on my uterus, another thing that made me both anxious and depressed.

     

    Later, I felt stable, and the surgery went well. I had some time of feeling grateful and a little hopeful. I joined a dating app to see what kind of men I would attract, it being 3 years since I tried to meet someone new. I still felt like I was betraying M for talking to someone new, but I had hoped this feeling would pass.

     

    This is how I met T, my current boyfriend. He is a hard worker, creative, intelligent, and takes life very seriously. We both want to have a family, raised as close to nature as possible.

     

    We are doing semi long distance, only able to see each other on the weekends. He wants to either move closer or to move in with me. I have school and am not emotionally ready. I’ve told him so, but he continues to talk about living together.

     

    He is head over heels for me, and I love him but…not in the way he loves me. I am not used to this dynamic. Usually I’m the one who is glued to the other person. It does not help that every now and then, either via current events or natural conversation, he asserts a world view that I do not agree with. This causes me strife and worries me, so I emotionally disengage from him.

     

    These periods of emotional disengagement from him have occured after current events or discoveries during more natural conversations. I disagree with him on these subjects, making me feel unstable and unsure about him. Of course I brought up important topics when we were getting to know each other, but for some reason his views have changed (or he was being a bit dishonest before). For example: he was very vocal about being pro Putin when Ukraine was invaded. When Roe v Wade was overturned he celebrated. Brad Pitt’s kilt during a movie premiere was “gay” and he said he was grateful his mom didn’t put him in gymnastics when was young because that’s for “fags”. He has also used slurs that I shoot down immediately. After talking with him about why I don’t like slurs he has used them less often, but they still slip out sometimes.

     

    When it comes to raising a family and feeling at peace with a partner, I know it’s not realistic that there be 100% accordance. However, these differences in mindsets really do worry me. I have experience with my stepdad expressing many of the same views T has, and the childhood I had with him was stifling and terrifying.

     

    That, on top of the fact that I still love M quietly, despite periods of emotionally setting him aside or saying goodbye to the idea of M so I can focus on my current relationship. I am not as attracted to T as I was to M, emotionally or physically, and this worries me. My family and friends tell me that a cooler love with T is normal, and to disagree about important subjects is normal. But sometimes it doesn’t feel right to me. I work so much that I feel like I can’t take the time to decided to either ask for a pause or to decide to be more patient for T. It’s now during vacation with my family that I’m able to reflect more, and I only feel anguish and heart ache.

     

    It’s a conundrum.

     

    I don’t want to risk losing what I have with T because I can’t get over M. With M, it has always felt like we were wonderful until his addiction took over, and I was always fighting for the real him to come out for good to tackle his addiction. I’ve realized I’m still in love with the non addict M. He sent me a couple messages this past spring to say he still loves me and has a stable job now, and is working on his sobriety. Mutual friends have confirmed this. I replied with a message similar to “do this for you, not me, or else it won’t stick. I want you to be happy”. Mutual friends have told me that M is sober (for now), working hard, and asking about me and saying he is still hoping that one day I’ll take him back.

     

    I don’t want to feel like I’m settling with T, but sometimes we don’t click. At first those periods of not clicking were isolated and I was not even thinking of M. But of course, now, I am. We are getting close to one year of my relationship with M blowing up and I am now 29, thinking of how I want to start a family once my studies are done. T knows I have baggage from M and M knows from a mural friend that I am seeing T.

     

    I know there is no real answer to fix this. But I saw that there were some old questions from you that I didn’t respond to, and with this current conflict in my heart I thought it might be a good time for an update.

     

    Thank you very much for reading this, if you are.

    I am now realizing the irony of the title of this thread.

     

    #404912
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Candice88,

    What a pleasant surprise, I am happy to hear from you!

    First of all, I am glad your surgery went well and that you have recovered completely. And that your situation has stabilized after the shock and stress that you went through with M…

    Your new boyfriend T seems a little bit of the opposite to M: he is more of a right-wing, macho guy, and he supports Putin. He is head over heals for you and wants to move in (or at least come to live closer to you), but you are reluctant and not emotionally ready yet.

    You are bothered by 2 things. One is his quite different, maybe even diametrically opposing political views, and the other is that you aren’t that much in love with him – you still love M, or at least the idea of M without addiction, cheating and lies.

    I will try to give you my thoughts on both of these issues. I don’t have a definite answer though, just points to think about and consider…

    Regarding political views, I think that diametrically opposing political views on subjects that are important to you, and that are important globally… well, I don’t think that it’s fortunate. I think it can be quite a big obstacle in the relationship. It’s like you have some core values and principles that are important to you, and he has different values… it can be a problem.

    It’s also true that you are on the same page about other important topics, such as family and raising children. Perhaps you also have other common values, such as honesty, trustworthiness, no substance abuse, no cheating and manipulating…  You said: He is a hard worker, creative, intelligent, and takes life very seriously.

    So I guess he has a steady job, works hard, and isn’t into drug abuse or anything like that. He is solid, it seems.

    I believe what makes you less keen on him, besides his political views, is the fact that he is very interested in being with you, which is something you are not used to (He is head over heels for me, and I love him but…not in the way he loves me. I am not used to this dynamic. Usually I’m the one who is glued to the other person.) The wounded child in us wants someone who reminds us of our parent… T doesn’t remind you of your mother, so he isn’t that attractive. M on the other hand gave you the experience of always chasing love, and never getting it. It was the same dynamics like with your mother. This is probably why you still feel in love with M…

    I’ve realized I’m still in love with the non addict M.

    Except you never met the non addict M, because he was lying to you all the time. The guy you felt amazing with in the first few months, he is most probably fake – a persona he wanted you to see, but not the real him. Probably even he himself doesn’t know his true self, since he has been addicted since the age of 17.

    He sent me a couple messages this past spring to say he still loves me and has a stable job now, and is working on his sobriety. Mutual friends have confirmed this.

    He is known for lying… I wouldn’t be so sure about this. In fact, he might be “working” on his sobriety, but without much success, or real willingness either.

    Mutual friends have told me that M is sober (for now), working hard, and asking about me and saying he is still hoping that one day I’ll take him back.

    Well, my view is that unless M goes to therapy and resolves his issues with his mother – he won’t be able to maintain a healthy relationship. Even if he is sober. In fact, if he doesn’t go to therapy and resolves his childhood issues, there is very little chance that he can stay sober on the long-run. So I’d be interested how exactly is he working on his sobriety and what steps has he taken. But I don’t recommend reaching out to him… not at this point in any case, when you are still confused.

    If I were you, I’d look deeper into why you can’t love T – is it really just because of his political views, or it’s that he is too available, and therefore unattractive to you?

    #404913
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Candice:

    he was very vocal about being pro Putin when Ukraine was invaded“- this shouldn’t be tucked away as a political opinion. If he supports a man who abuses his power to cause many thousands of deaths (Russian soldiers, Ukrainians, others) and to cause untold suffering- in one way or another-  for millions or billions of people around the globe, it means that if he (T) had the position of power that Putin has, he will be willing to abuse power in the same ways.

    Luckily he doesn’t have Putin’s power. But if you choose to live with him, marry him and having children with him, he will have some power over you and worse, he will have a whole lot of power over your children. How will he abuse these powers?

    anita

     

    #404924
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Candice88,

    I agree with anita that supporting Putin is quite an extreme position. Supporting the total ban of abortion is in my view also an extremist position. And the first thing that pops in my mind regarding extremist views is that people who hold them lack compassion for others (and on some level for themselves too). If T is like that, it could be a big problem, and as anita said, could have a profound impact the way he raises a family. I wonder if you’ve noticed instances in which he is lacking compassion and is very unforgiving towards people?

    If the idea of living with him causes you “anguish and heart ache”,  as you said, don’t agree to it by any means. You can even tell him that his political/ideological views are extreme in your opinion, and that they don’t match your values. See how reacts to that…

    At the same time, don’t rush to contact M, because I think you are idealizing those first few months of your relationship and forgetting the reality of what it was like to live with him. (I’ve read our previous communication and his behavior was quite appalling).

    T is not the only man in the world who will be head over heels for you. He is simply the first relationship after the debacle with S and M. I think that since then you’ve learned a lot and have become stronger. So don’t settle for T just because you are afraid there won’t be anyone else.

    #404925
    Tee
    Participant

    <div class=”bbp-reply-content”>

    I made typos in 2 sentences of the previous post. Here is the edited version:

    1) If T is like that, it could be a big problem, and as anita said, could have a profound impact on the way he raises his family.

    2) See how he reacts to that…

     

    </div>

    #404982
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Candice:

    Re-reading your thread for hours since you returned to your thread yesterday, August 2, 2022 (your last post before yesterday was on September 19, 2021), I  felt embarrassed by my July 2021 confrontational and unempathetic attitude regarding your ptsd diagnosis. I appreciate your assertive yet restrained and gracious replies to my confrontational posts. I apologize for my attitude back then.

    Re-reading, I was impressed- yet again- with Tee’s amazing analytical skills, organized presentation and kindness.

    I feel uncomfortable about adding yet another post before you answer the posts that were already submitted for you, but I am posting anyway because (1) there is very little new activity on the forums and I am in the habit or responding at this time of the day, (2) my current attitude is non-confrontational and empathetic, and (3) I am motivated by learning: the more I learn about others the more I learn about me, and the other way around, (4) maybe, just maybe the many hours of studying your thread will help just a little.

    On July 24, 2021, in your assertive reply to me, you wrote: “I would prefer it if people who replied would address the actual issue here that I’m talking about, the dilemma that I’m in, and not try to dismantle a diagnosis that isn’t so relevant to my dilemma…  my current dilemma is what to do 5 years later, now in a complicated and not fulfilling relationship with M, with my ex S confessing he wishes he could be with me but he is also in a relationship… It’s the pain of not being happy to begin with, and now with this mutual but inaccessible love with S“.

    Fast forward a year and 9 days to August 2, 2022, you presented your new dilemma: “I emotionally disengage from (T)...I don’t want to risk losing what I have with T because I can’t get over M… I’m still in love with the non-addict M. He sent me a couple messages this past spring to say he still loves me and has a stable job now, and is working on his sobriety. Mutual friends have confirmed this…  Mutual friends have told me that M is sober (for now), working hard, and asking about me and saying he is still hoping that one day I’ll take him back“.

    M is your new S: (1) Like S, M seems to have become a better partner material after the breakup, (2) Like S, following the breakup, M expressed that he cares for you, (3) You were in a new, complicated and non-fulfilling relationship then (with M),  and now (with T), (4) You longed for S then, you long for M now.

    * Interestingly, a parallel between M and T and your stepfather: “(M) got angry in a fight shortly after and punched holes in the wall – which triggered my childhood memories of my stepdad filling our house with holes“, “I have experience with my stepdad expressing many of the same views T has, and the childhood I had with him was stifling and terrifying“.

    With M, it has always felt like we were wonderful until his addiction took over…He was always late to everything. I would sit on his doorstep an hour past the time he told me he would be home from work“- M was always late for everything, from the very beginning of the relationship. Yet, looking back, you view the relationship as having been wonderful for months when in reality there was trouble right from the start. Retroactively, looking back at the relationship with S, you view the moment you found out about his cheating as the moment that altered the relationship from wonderful to troubled. Similarly, you view a time when M’s addiction took over as the altering factor: from wonderful to troubled.

    I will get straight to my current understanding of what’s been happening: like  mine, your childhood was a terrible experience, a terrible experience brought upon you primarily by your mother. She abused you (“My mom was quite harsh with me, alternating  between showing me love and then neglecting me or punishing me- eating from the floor if I was messy at the table, stabbing my hand with a fork if I reached across the table“, etc.), and she led to your parentification, that is, you took care of her emotionally as if she was your child and you were her parent (“my mother… was abused as a child.. I still feel like I have to parent her… How I parent her now is the same as when I was 16 – talking her through her depression and anxiety, helping her put things into perspective, listening“, etc.).

    But your mother repeatedly betrayed your love for her and your best efforts to help her, ex., stabbing your hand, and bringing an abusive man into your life (“I lived exclusively with my mom and my abusive stepdad from the ages 11-17“). When you sought closure with her, she betrayed you yet again (“When I tried bringing up some of the things I mentioned to you, as a way to seek closure, she denied the actions vehemently, yelled at me, told me to ‘write a book’, that I’m not perfect either, and then shut down“).

    When S cheated on you with another woman, he betrayed you and  triggered your experience of having been repeatedly betrayed by your mother.

    I’ve had depression since childhood. But as an adult I was able to be truly happy, until the cheating with S.. the cheating brought back childhood feelings of being inferior, not wanted, not worthy, etc I worry that I won’t be the whole healthy person I was before he cheatedHe ruined me.. Ruined meaning my mind was permanently redirected that at any moment, reality could become a nightmare state. Hence the anxiety and panic attacks. The breakup was very life altering… as an adult I was able to be truly happy, until the cheating with S… I was very stable and happy before“-

    – although being cheated on by a trusted man is a painful experience for any woman, and although as a child and as an adult, at times, you felt truly happy and experienced stability, you were not a truly happy, very stable and a whole healthy person before S’s cheating. No one can be these things when growing up with a mother like yours (.. or like mine), not before significant healing. Retroactively, looking back in time, you perceive yourself differently. (It is common for memory to be altered in these ways).

    It is your childhood experience with your mother that was very life altering,  it is your mother who ruined you and who introduced your mind into a nightmare state, (aka Complex ptsd).

    Both S and M presented themselves as whole and healed people, and it took time for me to realize for myself that they were anything but“- I don’t know to what extent the two of them tried to create an overly positive impression on you, but seems to me that in addition to their efforts to impress you, in the beginning of each relationship (but not for long), you focused on each man’s positives, closed your eyes to his negatives, and viewed the relationship as wonderful (“My ex, S, was a great friend at university… M.. seemed down to earth, sympathetic, calm, and generally wholesome when we first got together… T, my current boyfriend. He is a hard worker, creative, intelligent, and takes life very seriously”, “S and I had a wonderful, respectful adult-adult relationship until his cheating… my relationship with M was of course wonderful”). But months or years after each breakup, you look back at the relationships with S and with M, as if the wonderful part in each lasted much longer than it did (again, it is common for memory to be altered in these ways).

    I’m focused on emotional intelligence and communication, so I ended up having to carry the weight for both relationships in efforts to do my best by them. Despite the suffering it caused me“, ” Now, what is extremely interesting to me is that with M, my current relationship, I have heavily become the mother in our relationship”– I think that in the same way you parented your mother (see emotional parentification), you parented the two men.

    Back in July 2021, you sent me a link,  psychology today/blog/ infidelity causes ptsd: it reads: “The trauma of betrayal can also trigger memories of buried or unresolved emotional and spiritual damage from the past... For there to be any chance that the couple undergoing this situation can ever transcend the distress of broken trust, they must deal with two simultaneous challenges: The first is to understand and work through the combination of both current and re-emerging trauma responses of the betrayed partner”-

    – the unresolved and re-emerging trauma that S’s cheating triggered years ago, still gets triggered repeatedly sometimes less powerfully, at other times more powerfully, creating the chaos in your life: “Then of course I was stable for some time and now I am back to feeling the chaos, which I suppose is how life goes“, Aug 2, 2022.

    I want to quote some of Tee’s July 25, 2021 post: “Do seek someone specialized in childhood trauma, because that’s where the core problem lies.. The child always hopes that the parent would finally understand.. a glimmer of hope that (mother)  would finally understand, and that we could embrace lovingly, that I could embrace her freely without putting up a wall to protect myself from her… With S, you sought the same: that he would finally understand what he did to you…This is a dream come-true for an abused child: to have the ‘parent’ finally admit their mistake and love the child. That’s why your feelings for S are so strong – because your inner child sees him as the perfect parent, a parent who will finally give the little girl that you were all the love and care in the world, and have all of her needs met. For your inner child it’s heaven, it’s everything she has ever wanted”.

    I very much agree with the above.

    You wrote last year: “We have a better relationship now, but I still feel like I have to parent her“. You posted last year while visiting your mother. I think that this better relationship is bad for you.

    Back to the July 2021 quote with which I opened this post with: “I would prefer it if people who replied would address the actual issue here that I’m talking about, the dilemma that I’m in…  what to do…  now in a complicated and not fulfilling relationship with M, with my ex S confessing he wishes he could be with me“- 

    – the issue a year and 9 days later is (editing the italicized above): what to do… now in a complicated and not fulfilling relationship with T, with my ex M confessing he is still hoping that one day I’ll take him back.

    But the real issue is what to do about an ongoing, complicated and not fulfilling relationship with your mother, and how to stop trying to resolve it by proxy, in the context of romantic relationships with men.

    It cannot be resolved by proxy and/ or in the wrong context. This troubled relationship with your mother needs to be resolved directly and in the context of your relationship with her, ending the relationship altogether, perhaps. Resolve this core issue and your life will be so much better for it. I believe that quality therapy is the place to figure this out further.

    anita

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