Q: Hi Meredith,
I'm 35 and about 4 years ago, my fiance and I split up. We had been dating for over 2 years and had been discussing marriage, but after he proposed I began having panic attacks and did not feel that he was fully committed. We were also living out of state and I was homesick, and after many stalled talks about our future, I decided to move back home. A few months passed and he moved to my home state to try to give it another run, but eventually he left because he was unhappy. When he left I was devastated, but also felt relief because it had seemed like we were fighting a losing battle.
Fast forward four years later: I'm in a new relationship. We started seeing each other about 10 months after my previous relationship ended. Although I was trying to take it slow and keep myself open to date others, I really was only seeing him. He is someone I've known for quite some time (about 10 years) and he was a good friend and really helped me move on. Eventually we fell in love.
So, now we've been together for almost 4 years and we've been talking about marriage. I love him and can see a great future with him, but all of a sudden, I'm thinking about my ex again. I had thought about him occasionally over the past few years, and while these memories were always fond, I also felt that I had dodged a bullet. In fact, one time he tried to contact me and I didn't respond because I was with my current boyfriend. So, I don't understand why now that my current relationship is going so well I'm having thoughts and regrets about my ex. I keep thinking that maybe I shouldn't have moved back home and that I made a mistake "abandoning" him. It doesn't help that we have several mutual friends that spend a lot of time with him and I keep hearing about all the exciting things he has been doing lately, and I keep seeing pictures of him and his new girlfriend. I keep thinking how that could have been my life. It's as if the pain I felt right after we broke up is back. I'm assuming that maybe these thoughts are connected to the fact that I'm thinking about marriage again, but that doesn't make me feel any better, nor does it help relieve any of the guilt I feel about having these thoughts while in a relationship with a great guy. Why am I all of a sudden stuck in the past?
– moving on, again?, Pembroke
A: You're not stuck in the past, MOA. You're just having jealous FOMO (fear of missing out). It's a temporary feeling and it's normal.
I'm not even convinced that your obsessive thoughts about your ex have anything to do with your fear of commitment. I think that this is all about seeing those pictures of your ex and his new girlfriend. Those pictures would drive anyone crazy.
It's never fun to hear about exes through friends. You'll always be jealous when you hear that your ex is doing well. You'll always wonder if he'd be doing as well with you. That's often how it goes with big, important exes. We have doubts about leaving them and fantasies about reconnecting with them -- but then we wake up next to the person we actually chose and remember why we're there.
If you allow yourself to define these feelings as a simple reaction to news about the ex, you'll be able to write them off. And maybe focus on what's real. Because your reality sounds pretty great.
Readers? Is this about the ex or is she unhappy with the new boyfriend? Is it relevant that she got more serious with the current partner sooner than she would have liked to? Is it normal to think about an ex this much? How do you stop the pattern? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.