Struggling with ‘left-over’ feelings for an ex-lover? Here’s what you need to know

The woman may love her current husband but there may be some deeply entrenched emotional attachment with the ex

The woman may love her current husband but there may be some deeply entrenched emotional attachment with the ex

What you need to know:

  • You may be highly likely to stay emotionally stuck on your partner if you started a fresh relationship right after your previous one ended, worse if you got married before healing from your breakup.
  • Women who still feel a level of emotional attachment to their exes despite being married do not necessarily hate their current husbands.

It is simplistic to assume that once you break up and start a fresh relationship, the ex-factor will no longer matter. Dr. Jane Greer, a marriage and family therapist and the author of What about Me? Stop Selfishness from Ruining Your Relationship, says there are instances where an ex is hard to get out of your life. One of these is if there are children involved. “You may not be able to simply cross of your former partner from the list of people in your life. What you need to do is to change how you interact with them,” says Dr. Greer. You may be highly likely to stay emotionally stuck on your partner if you started a fresh relationship right after your previous one ended, worse, if you got married before healing from your breakup. This is because your quickly set up new relationship or marriage might have been a rebound ploy to get over your ex.

The ex vs the husband

According to Nairobi-based psychologist, Ken Munyua, there are many women who find themselves stuck with the unfinished business of the ex! “In such cases, the woman never let her ex go. She replaced him with another man,” he says. “It could also be that the ex was so good or that he hurt her so much for instance by breaking up with her days to their wedding or turning up for dowry negotiations drunk, or abandoning her days to delivery, that she cannot let it go.” In addition, Susan Krauss, the author of the Search for Fulfillment, says it will not be unusual for you to romanticise your ex over your husband. “The ex is not there anymore, and even though your past relationship may have ended due to very valid reasons, your memory will tend to soften the harsh edges of those difficulties, casting the ex as pretty desirable over your current partner,” she says.

But this should be nothing more than a form of fantasy. According to Dr. Greer, it is important to keep in mind the issues that caused your break up, and why you weren’t a good fit for each other in the first place, instead of romanticising. “In case there are kids involved, your communication must be limited to only the necessary subjects regarding the logistics of their caretaking,” she says.

The attachment vs love

Women who still feel a level of emotional attachment to their exes’ despite being married do not necessarily hate their current husbands. “Love is an emotional choice. In this case, the woman may love her current husband but there may be some deeply entrenched emotional attachment with the ex,” he says. “This unfinished business may not be truly love, but an emotional tag which the woman feels that she wasn’t really appreciated or given reciprocation of love by her ex.”

Although these kinds of attachments to the ex may not look harmful, there is always the risk of a potential affair or discreet post-break up affair germinating. “She may be happy and committed. The fear would be on whether she can leave her current relationship if the ex-lover popped up, apologised and started luring her back. It is in such a scenario that an event of infidelity can take place, especially if there is no absolute resolve that the past with the ex will never reoccur,” says Munyua.

Getting over it

According to Jill Weber, a psychologist and author of Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy – Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships, women in these situations must stop romanticising their ex partners. They must also cautiously avoid vilifying them.

“Taking the cold hard look at the reality of the relationship with your ex without vilification or romanticising will allow you to see the facts and risks of your prolonged attachment to them,” she says.

In the same vein, even if you married someone you liked but didn’t love because you were still in love with your ex, it may be possible to turn your liking into love. “If he ticks the right boxes for a long term partner, you should make a choice to love him. Love grows with time while feelings thrive and wane,” she says. Your commitment to your spouse must not be measured by what you felt for you ex. “You had the feelings for your ex, but they didn’t give you a lasting relationship. This is because successful and happy relationships are not built on feelings alone,” he says. “You can develop fondness for your spouse by committing to see and appreciate their brighter side, and to jealously but maturely guard your relationship. This is what will keep your relationship intact whenever your feelings appear to wander off,” he says.

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