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

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    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.

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