Still in Love with Ex

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have encountered a problem which I cannot share with anyone close to me because I am afraid they will judge me. You see, I am in a very healthy, happy relationship with a great guy whom I can honestly say I fell deeply in love with when we met. He is very good at being there for me and he accepts all of my faults and loves me for who I am. To be honest, I have never felt safer or more secure before in my entire life. BUT – it so happens that I have a very surreptitious friendship that keeps on ruining my happiness.

I had a feeble romance with this friend many years ago and it ended very suddenly without further thought. We were very young. We remained friends afterwards and we still talk today, but I have often regretted this friendship because I am very attracted to him. At some point, in every relationship I have had since then, I begin to think about and fall in love with this friend all over; he evokes such extraordinary feelings in me and turns my world upside down.

I believe that I am my own worst enemy, being a romantic and all, because I begin to question whether this happens because he is “the right one for me” or because I’m in love with a dream. My head keeps telling me, that it is wrong and that I can’t risk losing my wonderful, caring boyfriend over some stupid illusion.

But I cannot control it. This time is the worst I have ever experienced. The feelings I have are torn apart by severe ambivalence and I cannot keep them abbey for very long once I manage to push them away now and then.

I am at a loss. I just want to get over him once and for all and dedicate every thought and desire to my beloved boyfriend. It hurts so much because I really don’t mean to be such a cruel person, I don’t want to neglect my boyfriend emotionally and I don’t want to desire a dream for the rest of my life.
Please help me. Is there some way for me to remain friends with this person but still be free of the unreasonable, shameful emotions?

A: The simple answer is “no.” You can’t stay friends with this guy and make a meaningful relationship with someone else. One of my teachers used to say that two relationships is fewer than one. By this he meant that as long as we keep another option open, we are not wholeheartedly committed to making a relationship work.

I don’t have enough information to venture a guess, but you do. Something has happened in your life that makes you afraid to commit. You therefore keep the embers of this old love alive to keep a part of yourself out of your relationship. It works in a sad way. You haven’t been able to make a solid partnership since.

At 23, you are very young to be hanging onto a “love” from “many years ago.” That relationship was between two teens. Chances are if you really got to know him now, you wouldn’t have much in common. The people we choose when we are teenagers are often not the people we would choose as a mature adult.

The way I see it, you have at least two choices. You could go back to the dream man and settle once and for all if he is the guy for you. Of course, that means giving up the guy you have now. It won’t work if you simply switch these guys’ roles in your life.

Or you could do some hard personal work and figure out why you are so afraid of loving the man who loves you. You might be able to do that by yourself if you can make yourself be honest. You may need a therapist to help you cut through your fear to what is really going on.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 May 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Still in Love with Ex. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/05/27/still-in-love-with-ex/