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I Have a Boyfriend But I Love My Ex – 5 Relationship Experts Share Exactly What To Do

by Sarah Claus – MA, LPCC, Barbara Martin – MA, LMHC, Sally LeBoy – MS, MFT, Ananda Nelson – MSW, Juana Rincón – MA, LPC

I Have a Boyfriend But I Love My Ex

“Ten years from now, make sure you can say that you CHOSE your life, you didn’t SETTLE for it.”

~ Mandy Hale

Mandy Hale Chose Your Life and Did Not Settle For it
Sarah Claus

A dear friend of mine reflects, “Aren’t breakups so unnatural?” 

Admittedly, I see her point. We go from sharing life with a person with such intimacy and regularity and then that’s it—nada, caput, zilch. They’re supposed to be cut out of our hearts, lives, and thoughts all at once! 

Theoretically, we could replace them with new romances, with self-care, with a new haircut, or maybe even with a strong dislike for that person. Sometimes, though, that person might simply still “have a hold” on our mind or hearts. 

When it’s prolonged and impacting a later relationship, it can feel unsettling. I usually encounter this when clients 

  • feel happy in their relationship and feel confused/worried about why they’re thinking of an ex, 
  • rushed through the breakup process, 
  • worry why their present relationship’s paling by comparison, or 
  • simply love, miss, and like their ex way more than the person they’re currently seeing. 

This is normal. Those from our pasts absolutely stay with us. 

Maybe offer kind words over the miles: I care about you and release you. I wish for nothing but love, peace, and connection for you. I’m grateful for what we shared. And, I’m grateful to be where I am. 

Repeat as needed, and say it from your heart. 

This being said, if your gut nudges you that it could mean something else, just notice that. 

And let’s be kind to your heart—it’s been through a lot. Don’t judge yourself for how “rushed” the breakup was or for these feelings and thoughts. 

For now, choose actions that point towards the life you want. 

Maybe consider some closure rituals (a letter, journaling lessons learned, a good cry). Maybe gently slow down your current relationship. 

And beware the comparison trap. 

If I dwell on my friend’s hair, my partner’s income, or my coworkers’ witty comments as being better than my own, I’ll run my self-esteem into the ground. 

The same happens in relationships. 

Replace the “but”s with “and”s. So, instead of reflecting, People like my boyfriend, but my ex made people laugh, try: People like my boyfriend, and my ex made people laugh. 

Doing this highlights how both have traits we like. 

The “but,” though, lets our ex cancel out anything good about our current partner. 

And, be grateful for what your ex imparted with you. Maybe because of them, you’re able to know more about what matters to yourself moving forward. 

When all is said and done, if there’s something you’re really drawn to in that relationship, let’s honor that. 

Revisit the reasons you left that relationship and see if they still hold true. Certainly consider if it feels right to be in your current relationship. It could look great on paper, but are your heart and mind both feeling committed? 

Take some time. 

These are not your only options of relationships. Dare to imagine a life that resonates deeply to your core. And know that you are still learning and growing, and let’s give space for that to happen. 

Sarah Claus, MA, LPCC – www.sarahclaus.com

Barbara Steele Martin

Moving on from your ex can be hard to do. 

Some people go to extreme measures to extinguish their feelings for their old flame. For Valentine’s Day 2020, the El Paso Zoo held a wildly popular Quit Bugging Me campaign for people looking to move on from their ex. 

Participants were allowed to name a cockroach after their ex and have it fed to a Meerkat at the El Paso Zoo. My guess is that the Meerkats made out in this deal. 

Unfortunately for the participants, those feelings of attachment unlikely disappeared by watching a Meerkat happily crunch away on a cockroach named after your ex Jon. 

Feelings of attachment to your ex can last for a significant period of time.

Regardless of whether your relationship exploded in a fight that could have lit wildfires or died due to slow insidious distancing, letting go of your ex can be a complex and painful process. 

There are a myriad of reasons why you may be stuck on your ex even while you are navigating a new relationship. 

  • You may have moved on to a new relationship too fast, not allowing yourself to grieve the loss of your ex. 
  • You may also be idealizing your old relationship as the perfect relationship. 

These feelings can keep you stuck in the past, not allowing you to be fully open to the possibilities of new love. 

Here are some ways to shrink your ex’s emotional real estate: 

1. Allow yourself to grieve your ex even if you are navigating a new relationship.

Be mindful of the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Allow yourself to process the meaning of your loss at each stage. 

2. Actively let go of the romantic fantasy. 

It can feel comforting to indulge in memories of your ex with rose colored glasses but the reality is that there are reasons why it didn’t work. Actively choose to remember those reasons. 

3. Be open to love feeling different with your new boyfriend. 

Love feels different with every new relationship. Just because love feels different, it doesn’t mean it isn’t love.

Barbara Steele Martin, MA, LMHC – www.barbarasteelemartin.com

Ananda Nelson

This topic can go two ways. Very simple or VERY tricky. 

If tricky, this process can be emotionally consuming and draining. Yet, possibly powerful and transformational. If you are someone who is currently with a partner but still feeling really tied up with your ex, here are some things to consider.

#1. With your ex, truly ask yourself. 

Outside of the factual events that occurred…

  • Why did things end? 
  • Was this separation mutual?
  • Is this feeling you are experiencing really “love” or is it attachment or addiction?
  • Do you still seek closure from what seems like a still open wound?

In this arena its important to consider what science would call the mammalian brain. 

This is also known as the mostly subconscious brain. In the subconscious brain, it doesn’t know time and space. The mammalian brain is all about emotions and our emotional reality. It does not know facts or logic, just how we feel. 

The seat of the subconscious holds everything we already may know, while also encompassing all the things that we don’t know that we don’t know – along with situations, feelings, or events that we may not even remember. 

If you truly want to make a clear decision of what to do with your unresolved “love” with your ex.. it is time to make friends with your subconscious.

#2. Is it that your current partner is not meeting your deeper emotional needs?

  • Is the connection with your current partner not as strong, or natural?
  • What is missing in your current relationship that may have you still seeking an old love?

There can be many answers to these questions. 

However, it is important to assess what is and is not working in both your current relationship, and with your ex. 

The key to handling this type of situation with as much ease and grace as possible is to get to know yourself more deeply, so that you may be clear with those in your life.

  • While also asking, where were you at with yourself emotionally about your ex when you and this new partner got together? 
  • Did you feel clear and ready to move on into a new relationship at first? 
  • Or was this ex always taking a back seat in the mind? 

Remember you can’t hide from yourself or your feelings forever. Your subconscious will find a way to make you conscious.

#3. Is there a real possibility of you and your ex being together again?

Be open minded to this next question. 

Is it possible that your love for this ex as he may or not be “the one”, may actually be guiding you out of this relationship and into something even more extraordinary? 

Whether it is your ex you still love, or into something different? We all play roles in life even if its not the ones we initially had planned.

All things to simply consider and question within yourself with compassion and care.

You may have been wondering about the very simple part of this mentioned in the beginning. That being.. if you still love your ex.. don’t get into a relationship with someone else until you feel you can be fully invested into someone without your ex’s energy lingering. Or talk with your ex. Tell them you love them. Live like it’s your last moment with them.

Your life is yours. Follow your heart, ask it deep within. It knows what is right.

Ananda Nelson, MSW – www.anandanelson.com

Juana Rincón

Are you in a committed relationship or dating someone but find yourself having feelings for your ex-boyfriend and feel conflicted about it?

It might be the case that you didn’t have a full closure with your ex or enough time to grief the relationship before you committed to a new person. 

This might be an issue worth bringing to therapy, as it could help you understand further how loving your ex is affecting your current relationship. 

Loving your ex does not necessarily mean you are in love with him.

It might be the case that you miss him and think about him often; which again, doesn’t have to be a problem in your current relationship, but if it is, it might be worth exploring this with a professional. 

Grieving and really letting go of a relationship can take a long time.

This is because you have to find a way to love that person in a different way, and that is not always easy. 

So, ask yourself: 

Am I having a hard time letting go of my ex-boyfriend/partner/spouse because I want to be with him, or because I haven’t found a way to transform my love for him, or love him in a different way? 

These are two different things. 

Your feelings might be part of the natural grieving process, and if your current relationship started before those feelings were resolved it might be hard to navigate both things at the same time. 

I would recommend getting support around this outside of the relationship, and not with your current partner as he might not know what to do with those feelings and might cause him to withdraw. 

It might be worth giving it some time too, but in the meantime try to focus on your current partner as a way of giving your attention to your present and current reality without overlooking or suppressing your conflictive feelings for your ex. 

It is important to avoid giving meaning to what’s happening and use it to draw conclusions about your current relationship. 

Remember your ex and your current partner are two different people. And who you were with them is also different. 

  • Ask yourself, have I really grieved my ex? 
  • What is holding me back to let go of him? 
  • Can I allow myself to feel love yet have the clarity that that is not the relationship I wanted? 

Juana Rincón, MA, LPC – www.unnidocounseling.com

Sally LeBoy

If you still love your ex, it’s too soon for you to have a boyfriend.  

You really have to be out of a relationship, not just physically, but emotionally to be ready for a new relationship.  It’s not fair to anybody to be emotionally torn between two relationships.

Often when women find themselves still loving the ex, they have gotten into the new relationship as a buffer to the fear of being alone.  

Sometimes women already have someone in the wings before they are brave enough to leave a bad relationship. Other times their partner may have left them.  In the devastation of being left, a woman may grab onto a new relationship to assuage the hurt, anger and loneliness of being left.

It is very normal to feel emotionally bereft at the loss of a relationship, even if you were the one to leave.  

However, any new relationship only stands a chance when all of the emotional baggage from past relationships has been dealt with.

Scary and painful situations are an opportunity for growth.  

It is a chance to better understand what motivates you into the choices you make so that you make better choices for yourself in the future.  While you are not to blame, you still play a significant role in every relationship you enter into. 

Before you jump into the next one, get an understanding of your relationship dynamics.  This is the best way to keep from making the same mistakes over and over.

Learn to be alone. 

Then learn what history you bring to a relationship. Then you will have a better chance of making the kinds of choices that will allow you to create healthier more satisfying relationships.

Sally LeBoy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com

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