"Good times" With Ex
Q: How do you get the "good times tapes" out of your head or at least stop them from running over and over again? I've been separated from my son's father for three years now and divorced for a year. I have not had a relationship, though I've tried dating. Each time I recognize that the date is not "the one," all the fun I had with my ex comes hitting me in the face. I keep clicking back to those good memories, while driving, while in the grocery store, while bathing, eating, you name it.
My ex started a new relationship before we were even finished. They are moving into a new home he purchased for them to live together. He refused to do that with me, attempting to cram us into a shoe box he had owned from a previous marriage. I'm resentful that he's willing to do so much to make his new relationship work. I couldn't take his abuse, I gave it all I had, almost my life. But oh! those good times were SO good. Help! Is another relationship the cure? It seems to be for him.
Dr. Susan: The brain is a funny organ. Psychologists have found that most of us tend to remember the good times more readily than the bad ones. Depressed people, though, ruminate endlessly and pointlessly over what went wrong in the past as well as what's wrong in their lives now. That's one of the reasons they stay depressed. Sounds like you're dealing with a challenging one-two combo: you keep recalling the good moments from a bad marriage, while you focus uselessly on what's imperfect about anyone you date. Plus you still aren't over the fact that your husband left you. Sounds like you're very much still living in the past -- a past that had become mainly rotten, by all accounts.
You've only actually been divorced for a year, and it sometimes takes longer than that to fully process something as traumatic as what you've been through. Soon, though, it will really be time to move on, for your son's sake at the very least, and I'd try hard to get over those festering resentments. So what if your ex bought a house for his new wife? That doesn't mean he isn't abusive to her like he was to you. It's impossible to know what they do behind closed doors. But if he's learned his lesson and is finally being a good husband, then look at the bright side -- he's going to be a much better model for your son now. You can't go back and relive the past differently. The unique dynamic between the two of you was very very bad, no matter how hard YOU tried. You said so yourself. I believe you, so why can't you believe yourself?!
Is another relationship the answer to your distress? Probably, but not quite yet. You're still carrying a lot of baggage from the last one. What you're describing is obsessive: thinking about those few good times no matter what else you're trying to think about. You're wasting your life imagining a fantasy that was very intermittent, and what came in-between shouldn't happen to a dog. Not even a very bad dog. A good therapist might be able to help you move on.
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Advice for Her
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.