When you go through a break-up, it can be an intense process filled with a bunch of emotions. There’s undoubtedly going to be a bit of hurt from whoever was dumped. At least one of the partners could still be emotionally attached to their ex, whether consciously or subconsciously, and the truth is this may come up for years, even if you think you’re completely over her.
The first few things will obviously hurt a lot – but as you go on, you can learn to accept these things as necessary steps in the process. Be honest with yourself (and any partners you may have during this recovery period) in order to ensure that there are no unnecessary hurt feelings.
Time #1: The first full day without her.
If you and your ex lived together, it can be a bit rough the first full day you spend by yourself. You’re used to her sleeping in your bed, and now you have the whole bed to yourself. Even if ending the relationship was your idea, there’s still likely to be a great deal of attachment to the ex at this point, and you shouldn’t rush yourself through it. Instead of focusing on the empty space, you should focus on the extra room. Now you can stretch out and take all the pillows!
Time #2: The first time you hear “your song”.
If you and your ex had “a song” that perfectly summed up your relationship, it can be a little tough to listen to that song on your own. However, if possible, try to think of the last time you heard that song before getting with your ex. Think about the memories that were associated with it before she came into the picture, instead of the associations to her. Don’t avoid the song, just put a different emphasis on it.
Time #3: The first time you run across one of her old things.
In a perfect world, your ex will take all of her stuff with her when she exits your life. This doesn’t always happen, though, as people are human and we tend to forget things. Try to be mature about it; resist the urge to rip it to shreds, and instead see if a mutual contact will pass it along to her. Don’t try and deliver it yourself, and don’t hang onto it – it’s not healthy to hold on tightly to a part of your life that no longer holds relevance.
Time #4: The first time you come across pictures of her.
If you guys were together for awhile, you might have tons of pictures together. If it’s too painful for you to look at them, you may be tempted to burn or delete them (depending on whether they were printed or digital). I am actually big on throwing things away, and I find it difficult to hang on to painful memories. (I’ve had probably a hundred journals in my life, and when the memories in them are too painful, I enjoy setting fire to them – literally. I’ll admit this isn’t a healthy reaction, but it can be pretty cathartic.)
Instead of blindly ruining all these things, you should set aside some time to evaluate them individually. For example, pictures that hold deep personal significance for you that aren’t strictly related to the ex should be kept – but maybe out of sight until the pain subsides. If there were any naked pictures, don’t post them on the internet… Just delete them. Think of how you’d feel if she did the same to you, and try to act with dignity.
Time #5: The first time you see her in public.
If you guys live far apart, this probably won’t be a problem – but if she lives nearby or you have mutual friends, it can be a bit tough when you run into each other in public. Don’t make snide comments toward her; this won’t make anything better. Try to be cordial. You don’t have to be friendly if you’re hurting, but you should be adult enough to be civil toward her.
Time #6: The first time you want sex.
Many of us have fallen into the trap of going back to an ex for a strictly-sexual relationship. The truth is, it can be very difficult to maintain a no-strings-attached relationship with someone you once felt (or still feel) a deep, personal connection with. Instead of going back to your ex to satisfy your needs, or reaching out to someone new when you’re not fully healed, it’s a much better idea to simply “do the job yourself”. Some ladies aren’t really into doing the deed themselves, and this is fine too; but if you’re not desperate enough to take things into your own hands, you certainly shouldn’t be desperate enough to crawl back to your ex.
Time #7: Your first date with someone new.
Assuming you have already healed (you have already taken the time to heal, right?) you might be set back when you begin dating someone new. No matter how “over it” you think you are, the reality is that we can’t simply forget and move on. All the things you did wrong with your ex should be on your mind – but the things your ex did wrong shouldn’t be held against your new lady. Unless she is actually committing the same indiscretions that your ex did, make sure you don’t punish her for mistakes she had nothing to do with.
Time #8: The first fight with your new lady.
Chances are, when you have your first big fight with your new love interest, your mind will be reeling with comparisons to your exes. Sometimes these past fights are good to remember – for example, if you’re fighting about something now that you’ve fought with an ex about, and both women feel that it’s your fault… Well, you might want to take this to heart. Examine whether their complaints are reasonable, and whether it’s something you can fix. Likewise, if your new lady shares some of the “bad” traits that your ex had, it may be helpful to determine whether it’s something you can learn to live with or if it’s truly a fault you’ll need to avoid in your future relationships. No one can truly answer these questions for you.
Time #9: The first time your ex tries to get between you and your new lady.
Obviously, this doesn’t always happen – but it happens often enough that it should be considered. Sometimes, time teaches us that we’ve made a hasty decision in moving on, and the person from our past was truly perfect for us. In other cases, the ex may be trying to stir up drama and nothing has changed. It’s up to you to decide whether or not to take this risk. People can change, but it’s not automatic – it has to be an effort from both parties.
Time #10: Your wedding day.
Not everyone gets married, but for those who do, there’s often a lot of debate on whether or not to invite your ex. If you’re still friends with your ex (or if you’re friends again, after a period of rest), you might be considering whether they should be invited.
Personally, I feel that the answer is no, but I’ve had a series of horrible break-ups, and I do understand that there are some cases where the decision to split was mutual. It’s up to you and your future wife to decide if your ex will be welcome at your wedding – you should never hide the fact that you had a former romantic and/or sexual history with this woman in order to secure her an invite.
If you don’t have anything to hide, there’s probably no problem with it – but be aware that there’s a chance it could lead to #9 (if it hasn’t already happened yet). If you aren’t confident that your ex will be civil, or that your future wife will be secure with your ex there, it’s best to leave the invitation out.
There are a million other times when your ex may come back into your mind, but it’s important to evaluate each of these times and determine the appropriate, mature response to the situation. Everyone has different circumstances and this guide isn’t the be-all and end-all to everything.
It’s merely a reference tool to be used to help you navigate through the unfamiliar territory.