Past Relationships Sabotaging Love

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Are you haunted by an old flame? The ghosts of former relationships can interfere with your ability to find love. Terri Orbuch, author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great, explains how to get past your romantic past.

Q: Why are some people haunted by past relationships?

A: Because they can’t let the old go. They haven’t been able to resolve why it didn’t work or why it ended. Some people even long for the relationship “to be” or exist again. They may still be in love with an old partner, they may still be angry at an old partner, or they may still have wounds or hurt from the old relationship. These relationships may have ended weeks ago, or even years ago. But they have not resolved the feelings connected to the past. Whether you’re on the market for a new partner or are already in a new love partnership, when memories of an old love are triggered by everything from the corner sandwich shop to a favourite CD, you are haunted by a past relationship.

Q: Everyone thinks about previous relationships from time to time, but what are the signs that you’re too hung up?

A: Yes, we all have personal baggage from the past. But there are indications that you haven’t let go of the past or that the baggage from the past is large or too great. These are signals that you aren’t able to move on from a past relationship:

1. You regularly compare new partners or a new partner to your “old” flame.
2. You can’t let go of a gift or photo that an “old” partner gave to you.
3. Everywhere you go — from the shoe store to the coffee shop — you think you see the old partner.
4. Memories of the old love are triggered by everything, even new places, new people and new things. You are reminded of this old love no matter where you go.
5. You have built a wall to protect yourself from the pain and hurt others might inflict on you because of a betrayal or wound from a previous relationship. You aren’t able to trust others, disclose or reveal information about yourself because of what an old love said or did to you.
6. You react with anger to a new partner’s comment because of a carry-over from a former hurtful relationship.

Q: Why is it necessary to move on from a past relationship?

A: You need to be fully in the present to find a new love or to be with a new love. When you live in the past, you’re emotionally unavailable in the present. Your new partner may find him or herself in a relationship with “the old you” rather than the improved, evolved person you’ve become. When you frequently obsess about an old wound or love, you can’t give or receive the intimacy that you are capable of to a current partner. This will affect your — overall and, more specifically, with a new relationship.

If you aren’t able to let go of the anger (or negative emotions) you have for an old love, they will fester and grow and affect your own physical health and well-being. You may project the bad feelings meant for your ex onto your current relationship. And negative emotions are contagious. A new partner will begin to feel the same way toward you and/or the relationship.

Q: What are your tips for getting over an old flame?

A: 1. Get rid of the reminders. Physical things — photos, old furniture, gifts — can actually re-stimulate old wounds and continue to remind you of negative emotions associated with someone in your past. Discarding or storing these reminder objects will usually bring you some relief.
2. Purge your anger. If you don’t deal with that anger constructively, you can’t let go of the past. Exercise, or write a really honest and angry letter to that person, and then throw it away.
3. Don’t take the blame. Regardless of why you broke up, don’t blame yourself. Instead, blame the relationship or situation. Removing blame from yourself — or your ex — helps you rebound more quickly from past hurts. That doesn’t mean you can’t grow and change from the past or learn something about your relationships from an old love, but the blame still stays with the two of you (eg., you were incompatible).
4. Confirm with friends and family that it wasn’t all great. Sometimes we only remember the good aspects of an old love relationship. Be sure to contact friends and family who knew you then. They haven’t forgotten the ways the relationship wasn’t good or was unhealthy for you.
5. Ask for help. If are really feeling distressed, angry or upset, I strongly encourage you to seek help from a counsellor or therapist.

Editor’s Review:

One point at here: Texting should be outlawed for all broken-up couples. A friend of mine is constantly getting “friendly” texts from her ex, which gets her hopes up, so she texts back, and so on. She is completely unable to get past their breakup, even though it’s totally clear to everyone else he’s done with the relationship. Cut off all ties!

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