Are you the type of person who second guesses your decisions? Do you go back and think about any of your ex’s and wonder what it would’ve been like if you didn’t break up? If you do, you aren’t the only one. I have many students who come into my office because they wonder if they’ve made a mistake. Or they regret breaking up with someone. Loneliness has a way of twisting your thoughts and making the past seem more idealistic than it really was. A couple of things I’ve learned are that you can’t go back and it doesn’t help to live in the past.
It is good to sometimes remember your past relationships and smile about certain moments, or remember things you definitely don’t want to repeat in the future. However, it isn’t good to fantasize about any of your ex’s and believe that somehow you missed out on the best thing that ever happened to you. When you’re single you can have those moments when you romanticize how it was to be in a relationship. You may think to yourself, even the bad times were better than being alone. I would have to disagree. Watching so many people suffer through bad relationships I can attest that it isn’t always easier than being on your own. A friend who was in a bad marriage once told me when I was single, that at least there was potential for me to still find happiness. Being single is just a different kind of pain and frustration from being in a bad relationship.
It is easy to believe that things may have turned out differently if you only stuck it out with your ex. Most of the time, this belief is false. Break ups happen for a reason. If you were the one to break up with your ex, think back to why you really made that decision at the time. It could be for a number of reasons. Maybe you didn’t feel attracted enough to your ex. Maybe they didn’t spend enough time with you or you were too busy at the time for a relationship. Maybe they were disrespectful to you or were manipulative. If your ex broke up with you, remember there was a reason they didn’t put you first. Whether it was really about them and not you, they still chose to leave, which means you do deserve better. Whatever the reason, don’t forget about those negative qualities that broke you up in the first place. So many students will tell me about what they miss. It is hard for them to remember what they really don’t miss. Sometimes you have to push yourself to be more realistic about your ex and your past relationship with them.
So many people are unhappy because they are thinking about what they don’t have or wishing they could have back what they used to have instead of being grateful for what they already have. I know this isn’t easy. It is why many Americans live beyond their means. Its always easy to focus on what we are missing in our lives and want more. With the technology today we are able to see what so many other people have. Ignorance is bliss. If you didn’t realize what you were missing, it may be easier to be content. However, we do have the ability to see other people living lives we wish we could have. This can make it harder to let go of your past relationship if you’re tempted to think about what life would be like now if you’d never broken up with your ex.
My advice is to try and stop yourself when your thoughts start to go in this direction. This takes some effort and creativity. Some people actually tell themselves to stop out loud if they are by themselves. I recommend having a note card handy in your purse or wallet that has positive statements written down that you can easily access in a bad moment. A lot of students look at me like I’m crazy when I suggest this, but it usually does work. When you are in a good mood, write down what you like about your current single life. Then when you are in a bad mood and can’t think straight it will be helpful to see those statements in black and white. It is hard to think of positive things when you are in a negative mood. However, you can’t think a negative and a positive thought at the same time. If you want to have a pity party, go right ahead. Sometimes that will help, but if you want to get out of feeling sorry for yourself sooner, I suggest changing the kinds of thoughts you are putting into that imagination of yours.
Another thing a friend once told me that helps me in a bad moment is this: If everyone put their problems in a big pile and you could see them all, you would be happy to take yours and not look back. One of the worst things and best things about my job is that I get a front row seat to people’s pain. It is the worst thing because it is hard to see people in pain. It is the best thing because it makes me feel blessed to own the few problems I do have in my own life. It puts a lot of things in perspective for me. I hope if you are living in a world of what could have been, you will stop and be thankful for what is and look forward to what could be.