A new love can be like a new start in life, but what happens when the spirit of your ex is still haunting you?
After she split from her boyfriend, Alexa (35) decided she wasn’t going to mope about, so she went online to find someone new. It wasn’t long before she met Ben (38), who gave every sign of being just what she was looking for, but she couldn’t help feeling that something wasn’t quite right. “I kept on looking for faults, though Ben was absolutely not to blame,” she recalls. For Parship psychologist Sabine Wery von Limont, this was a sign that: “Alexa hadn’t really got over her ex and still felt an emotional connection with him.” It turned out that Alexa’s flat was full of souvenirs of her previous romance … photos and so on. “At some point Ben asked me why my ex was still such a presence in my home,” recounts Alexa. She took his comment to heart and threw away everything that reminded her of her past love. She even repainted her sitting room because he had chosen the colour. “It was a very liberating experience,” she laughs.
Over and out?
If your feelings are being pulled in different directions, then you are not in the best state of mind to embark on a new relationship. But how exactly do you clear your mind of thoughts of your fomer partner? How do you ‘switch off’ what you still feel for your ex. “Many people find it hard to break away from a past relationship”, says Sabine Wery von Limont, “partly because they don’t like the thought of being left alone. Others see a split as a sign of personal failure, especially if they worked hard to keep the relationship going by denying their own needs for the other person.” There is no guaranteed way of purging thoughts of the past, but it helps to make a clean break and to adhere to the principle of ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. There will always be some memories to haunt you, but, as much as anything, it is often sheer force of habit that keeps a past relationship alive in your mind.
Tell me when
It quite often happens that people go into a new relationship on the rebound from an old one, but your past can take over if you try to compensate for the loss of a former love by replacing it with a new flame. What’s more, your new partner might well feel - and with good reason - that he or she is simply being exploited in the process. The truth is that you could need a ‘mourning period’ to get over your previous relationship, depending on its intensity and your emotional involvement. Take your time to go through the progressive phases of extricating yourself - you mustn’t feel under any pressure. Listen to your feelings and try to be honest with yourself, or things will get worse if your new relationship does not blossom. If thoughts of your ex are getting you down, make yourself feel better by spending time with people who make you happy and on things you enjoy. And if you feel you can’t manage on your own, don’t be afraid of turning to professional help to get you over the bump.
Shadows of the past
Sometimes, try as you might, it can be hard to draw a line under a past relationship, especially if it produced children. In these circumstances you need to be especially clear in the way you handle matters, with the well-being of your children as an obvious priority. They must never become pawns in a powergame, but equally you need to think about making a new life and to free yourself from pointless feelings of guilt. Just because things didn’t work out with your ex, it doesn’t mean that you have failed as a parent and that you must be consigned to a state of limbo for the rest of your life. Once you’ve got over that kind of negative thinking, you can start getting used to the idea of a new partner. Everyone has their emotional baggage, but by taking a constructive approach to your past relationships, you can learn something about yourself. That is not as simple as it sounds, but once you have got over the initial hurdles, you can start to view your past life as something that has enriched you and prepared you for new love.