As described in my article, he is the one ex who, for whatever reason, hasn't dissipated into the mysterious beyond that all exes should eventually disappear to. Despite myself, I continue to think about and have him in my heart.
I have heard about this happening to other people plenty of times. However, most people don't remain stagnant in the stage of “never giving up on that lingering ex."
Sure, they might have a hell of a time getting over a love-filled relationship, but eventually they learn to keep that person in their heart, while still being able to move along to find the love of their life.
Most people can make peace with the fact they will never be with that one person, and they place them right where they belong: deep in the darkness of the past.
What is described above sounds like a storybook love, a dream state of being. The state of loving and appreciating a person from your past SO much you allow them to take permanent residence in your heart, while still being capable of moving on to find the love of your life.
I am not one of these people.
While being deep in the throes of my lingering ex for far, FAR too long, I have never moved on to another real relationship. Not once.
Wasted years of failed “would have” relationships later, I can't help but ask myself the question no one ever wants to ask or admit to themselves: Am I the problem?
After mustering up the courage to even ask myself that question, and taking a trip down good ole memory lane, I saw my past years filled with relationship “would haves” through completely new eyes.
When every “almost” relationship failed, I would tell myself every cliché in the book to make sense of why it went wrong. “The timing was off," “He didn't want to do distance" and "He is too focused on his career” are all things I kept telling myself.
Looking at these failed relationships with the mindset of the “maybe it is me” thinking applied forced me to view my past through a whole new lens. We all know it takes two to tango, but when relationships fail — even “almost” relationships — we all tend to blame the other party as the sole offender. We are quick to negate that we are a huge player in the game of love, including its failures.
So, dear readers who also suffer from an ever-lingering ex, what have I learned? And what was I doing to hinder myself from moving on?
1. I never really put myself out there.
When I look back on some great guys who found their way into my life, I can't say I truly put myself out there. Sure, I gave my number out, engaged in group hangs, movie nights and dinner dates.
However, I never truly opened up or gave even a small piece of my heart to anyone. Not even close.
Hell, I took a three-night trip with a guy once, and looking back now, I STILL didn't put myself out there for that poor guy. Like, at all.
Instead, I chose to be quiet, reserved and cold the entire 72 hours. Go figure that one didn't work out.
I became so stubborn with sharing my heart because I felt there was no room in it for someone new, when my lingering ex was taking up so much space in it still.
No matter how great the new guy was, he came and went because, after a number of failed attempts, any guy can tell if a girl is truly unavailable.
2. I believed in hope far more than I should have.
While I was so stuck on keeping my heart filled with an ex who was not coming back, any romance movie, love success story heard through friends, you name it, gave me hope that someday my story would end with my lingering ex waking up next to me every day.
This only kept my mind and my heart preoccupied from the rest of the world, and it further kept me stuck in a dream of the past.
3. I compared every guy to an impossible standard.
My lingering ex was my first love. So, of course, he set the bar high for how I thought I “should” feel when it comes to dating, especially early on.
When a love comes into your life so fiercely and so strong, it becomes nearly impossible for anyone to beat.
Realistically, no one else will ever come close to this standard. That doesn't mean any new loves or new ways to begin a relationship will not work or are not good enough. It simply means they're different.
Just because one guy doesn't look at you with the affection and love in his eyes you so easily saw in your ex doesn't mean those feelings aren't there or they can't get there.
The impossible standard placed on the new guys not only places sole focus in only the best qualities of the lingering ex, but it also completely ignores all of the struggles and realities that were undoubtedly present in that relationship.
No guy will ever compare; he will just be different.
4. I refused to enjoy my "single, but dating" time.
While I was irrationally hoping for a relationship that simply could not and would not succeed, I refused to enjoy my dating life at all. Any guy who would take me out was taking out a girl who was waiting to find something to complain about or critique.
If a guy wouldn't respond to my text message or hadn't asked me out yet, I was quick to throw him into the category of a fuckboy or someone who wasn't genuinely interested. I refused to even get excited if I had a crush on a guy who had actually put effort into asking me out.
I was just too busy waiting for what I thought would inevitably happen: He would somehow disappoint me by not being as “great” as I thought my ex was.
So, why do this to myself? Why get stuck here?
I would love to know, and honestly I hope no one else feels this way. But, I know all too well that it is a common trend in our dating world.
While I don't know why I am still constantly struggling to get over an ex who holds an undeserving grip on my heart, I do know that years of “would haves” with great guys are “would haves,” and not “has beens” or “still is” because of me. And those “would haves” are worth learning from.
Today is a new day and a new start on taking my heart back and away from a lingering ex.
After all, the hardest lesson anyone can learn is to ask the impossible question, “Am I the problem?” and to change their actions after the scary question of has the answer of, “Yes.”