This article was from Dr. Tasha Jackson’s book, Master Dater: The “New Normal” Dating Guide for Finding Love in the Digital Age.
Ever known someone who was hurt badly in a relationship, and never seemed to bounce back?
There could be many reasons for this (some extremely traumatic) so I want to gently exclude abuse survivors from this conversation since I could sadly write an entire book, just for them (and I may one day).
But for now, let’s talk about people who brand themselves as “victims,” after having a few sure, kind of bad, yet (in the grand scheme) fairly benign failed relationships. We’ve all probably met one of these people.
Is it too harsh to call them Trauma Queens?
Because the longer they allow themselves to live with that emotional distress (like it happened yesterday), the more it becomes part of their primary life narrative. “The S.O.B. left me. Look at me now; they took the best years of my life; I will never love again!” Oh dear.
To these poor pitiful Petunias, that one relationship became a permanent roadblock to any future happiness.
What happened to their hope?
What happened to their libidos?
We will never know what’s truly happening inside every persons’ heart — so it’s impossible to know. But I feel like there are steps we can take to get over a breakup that is much healthier than holding on to a grudge, forever. Did you know people who rebound from break-ups the best often mourn the dead relationship before it’s even over?
It’s true, these “early mourners” often find themselves dating again earlier than they thought (mainly) because they already mourned their last breakup while they were ending the relationship!
Pretty smart, isn’t it? I thought so …
As for people who jump right back into the dating game after a breakup, just because you’re having sex with an entire volleyball team on Tinder doesn’t mean you’re “over” your ex, guys! Lots of people use dating as a distraction to ease the pain of their last breakup, which (sure) may fill their empty bed with lots of warm volleyball playing bodies, but their emotional emptiness echoes inside, until they deal with that ringing void inside.
Besides the “early rebound daters,” there are other people who get so stunned by a surprise breakup, that they wallow in denial, and order up an IV drip of Wellbutrin and Gin and Tonics (not a combo I’d recommend) for as long as the can get away with it, doing anything they can to avoid being honest with themselves about their own sadness (and culpability in the breakup).
Perhaps, they were left mentally scrambling to put the pieces together. Whatever reason, I’ve noticed a ton of people will just stuff old relationships away, never mourning them at all, until years later, when some skeleton rears its ugly head to remind them, like a zombie from a horror movie.
“Not them again. I thought I was done with them?!” To quote the love-struck movie Magnolia, “You may be through with the past but the past isn’t through with you.”
If you’re now thinking you MAY have mourned a past lover a wee bit too long, I gently encourage you to take a step back, and see if you can internalize some lessons from your breakup.
Whatever was the cause, it really doesn’t matter now.
The relationship is over, so you can’t let yourself walk around with “bleeding emotional wounds,” and bleed all over any new person you might be romantically interested in, and expect them to lap it up, unless you’re into dating ER nurses, or Red Cross volunteers!
No one wants to hear about emotional wounds on a first date. NO ONE. So, a wounded person must take time to heal, and absorb what they’ve learned, before getting back out there.
But you DO have to get back out there. You can’t give up on cupid no matter how late that little bastard is!
Because I believe that you (yes, you!) deserve to have a new healthy and passionate new love in your life. Who cares if you’ve been “unlucky in love,” so far? Don’t let some past ex ruin your present and your future; they already screwed up your past, right?
So, let’s draw the line right here, because that hot freaking ghost has haunted you long enough! If it makes you feel better, I, too, have been haunted by a hot ghost. Mine had a flowing man bun, so it’s that much more embarrassing!
It began as a childhood crush then became a full-on love affair that really affected me. Probably because he was one of those dreamy Italian “futbal” players that tells you how beautiful you are over red wine at some café. Sigh. Swoon, gush.
I was head over high heels for the man bun! My handsome prince was a rare combo of kind, gentle, artistic, and fun to be around. Our youth and my naivety (we had no idea what we were doing) led to us lovingly part ways after some time.
I was an emotional mess for a while, but when I got back to dating again, it took me a while before I realized, “Oh no, I’m dating anyone that resembles my long-lost man bun!” If some random guy had long black hair with an artistic flair? Sure, let’s go out! What? You’re into soccer and making ceramic pottery?
Well, meow to you too, signore, do tell!
Obviously, I was not over him.
I was grasping for fragments of my long-lost dreamboat in other people, and when I found something that reminded me of “him,” (physically or mentally) you can bet, I sucked whatever that thing was dry like the last freaking bone marrow on earth (pun fully intended!).
I was holding on to my sexy ghost for dear life.
I was so hopelessly hooked on the memory of my Italian man bun that I couldn’t see I was projecting him on all my current lovers like Jimmy Stewart in the movie Vertigo. OK, maybe not that obsessive. But it was close!
You may think “chasing ghost lovers” is the stuff of movies, but it’s pretty common in dating.
That’s why so many people have a “specific type” they’re attracted to (like my affinity for Italian soccer players). Enchanting first loves can linger in our minds for forever, playing games with our heads, and teasing us into magnifying the positives of some Bro-Hunk with a man bun that we met in our dodgeball league who (sure) could pass for our lost love’s stunt double, but he’s not him! He plays freaking dodgeball, and look at his man bun, it’s a mess!
Sigh. Can you see what I’m saying here?
Unless you’re into dating people who look like ghosts from your past, why not leave these “replicant relationships” behind, and see if you can find a whole new type of sexy to get your engine purring?
Forget about all those late-night regrets that have haunted your past, and find a new tune to sing! Resist the urge to stir up any remaining, “What if we got back together? Would it work this time if I changed?” scenarios that can reverberate in our minds, because there is no going back to yesterday!
I know, here’s a hankie. It can be heart-wrenchingly painful. I empathize.
It can take some time to make sense of it all. So, give yourself time, and grieve a breakup properly, don’t run from the pain. My hope is every healing heart reading this learns how to play a more positive narrative in their minds about all your past relationships, so you can get back to dating again with no lingering ghosts with man buns hanging around!
Um, am I talking to myself here?… I’ll never tell (until the next chapter).
Every breakup is different. There is no timer that goes off in our heads that says, “Ding! I’m ready to bang again!”
Although, that would be an awesome timer, especially for guys.
We all strive to “get our shit” together, which is not a psychotherapist’s clinical term, but we all know what that means! So, let’s be totally honest: we’re all a little neurotic underneath (which is a generous understatement for many people). So, it’s OK to be a little fractured and flawed, that is what makes us human.
And for some heartbroken people, they will never be “ready” to date again, and for them, that is OK.
BUT my guess is you click on this article because you’re not ready to retire from the dating scene, just yet. You’re ready, perhaps more than you think, to try dating again. That is a great sign! If you feel guilty for throwing a good lover away, own that feeling, and then let it go.
Sure, you may have totally screwed up a great relationship (it happens to all of us), but you can learn from your mistakes right now, and grow from them, so you don’t end up repeating them with a new lover.
And that’s what it takes to truly get over any heartbreak: emotional growth.