And former letter writers, you still have time to check in! Where are you now? Did we help? Email your update to [email protected] with "update" in the subject line. Tell me which letter was yours and how it all worked out.
Yup its another can’t-get-over-my-ex-boyfriend-from-high-school letter. I’m 40. My ex and I were together from 1997 to 2003. We were passionate. I mean like CRAZY in love and crazy passionate. We were on-again, off-again, on-again, obsessed, then hating each other, then inseparable. All the greatest hits. But we were so young that our lives were always changing, we were always changing, and we could never get it right.
Then one day, after a million little indignities on both sides and knowing he was in a different place than me, we broke up. I already had my eye on someone else and, surprise, 20 years later after our first date, we’re married with two wonderful kids, and he is a great guy and father. But ... the passion, sexual or otherwise, has never been there. Hubby is stable. He’s safe. But he's not my ex. He's not my soulmate. Even when we first met 20 years ago, he was just there, just someone who was cute and took my mind off my ex. I have only talked to my ex five or six times since we broke up and he always seems fine. He has a wonderful wife and family and is doing well. He’s still strikingly handsome and in great shape. He is very successful.
But each time we talk, there is something in his voice. He has, at times, admitted he still loves me. Once he told me he was thinking about me all week after we talked, and I already knew. I could feel it. I cannot explain it, but I could literally feel him in my heart. I know I can’t leave, and I don't want to. I love my life now. I know that when people write to you about this kind of thing, the answer is that instead of him, what I’m really longing for is my youth or a place or a moment in time when life was easier and we were young, etc., but its not. I have attempted for two decades to make that true. Dismissing my heartbeat-skipping feelings whenever I think about him as first love or "Longing for the freedom of my teenage years." But it's simply not. And it's not just sex either (obviously though, in keeping in line with his perfection, he was very ... ahem ... “gifted”, and the sex was amazing). I think about him in every milestone I have. Birthdays, weddings, Christenings etc. I think how much better everything would be if it was him with me. This year I went to another country for business. I looked out from my balcony when i got there and thought “I’m on the other side of the world! And if i had one wish it would be that _______ was with me.”
Again, I know how great my life is and I would never give it up. Between being with my soulmate vs. having the most wonderful children in the world, it is not even a question: I choose my children every day of the week and twice on Sunday. I love nothing more than them. But I will never be as happy with my husband as my ex would have made me. My husband is wonderful, but he isn’t The One. And its so selfish of me, it’s so First World and so obnoxious of me to complain when I have so much. But what do I do when I’m not spending my life next to the person I should have been? Where do I put the pain of my heart being incomplete ?
"I know that when people write to you about this kind of thing, the answer is that instead of him, what I’m really longing for is my youth or a place or a moment in time when life was easier and we were young, etc., but its not."
OK. I'll take your word for it that it's him and all him, and that if you both didn't have other obligations, you could get together and still feel like soul mates.
But ... does it matter? This is more about accepting (and loving) the life you chose.
My advice is to seek out therapy because there are ways to process what was lost and the roads not taken. All of us can look back at choices and wish we'd made different ones. We can imagine that our lives would have been better along other routes. But who knows? There might have been more turbulence. Also, who's to say, in your case, that there wouldn't have been some amazing other guy had you been single longer?
The thing is, there are many Ones, and they all come with different highs and lows. The fact that you believe your ex is it – the only soul mate for you – leads me to think you need to talk about the 6,000 other choose-your-own-adventure endings here, and why you've stayed true to the path you're on. Lots of people get divorced despite having wonderful kids. You've stayed because ... you're happy. You've been happy for two decades? That's a lot of time. You have no idea how long you would have lasted with your ex. You also don't know what life would have been like single. Talk this through.
A therapist might help you reframe the narrative here so that it doesn't take up so much of your brain. Your fantasy life shouldn't make you miserable about what you have. It would help to put this man in context and think about him without assuming the the two of you are some sort of spiritual pairing, pulled apart by choices and kids. I'm not sure he’d agree with that take.
Also, that feeling of love ... I believe that's real on both sides. But it’s a different kind of love when it involves memories and someone from the past. It is a much different thing to love a person you see every day, who might annoy you after many years. It’s just a more complicated (but earned) thing.
Bring this to therapy. Learn some tools to figure out what this yearning really means, and how to accept the choices you made.
Readers? How do you get over an ex who feels like the one?