The Inability to Let-Go After a Break-Up
There is a large amount of attention being paid to the area of moving-on after a break-up in the field of Psychology lately and for very good reason. Many people can’t. The fixation on the former partner becomes the primary thought, force, preoccupation, hobby, interest, reason for every bad thing in their life, every mood, purchase, conversation, therapy session and full-time focus for those afflicted with this disorder and their unwillingness or inability to simply let it go, but why?
Let’s begin with the behaviors of one who can’t say “good bye,” grieve, and get on with their life after they’ve been broken-up with. Surprisingly, little is seen of sadness, grief or loss from them. Their behavior resembles more of a denial that seems to say “This isn’t real. Everything will go back to normal again once he or she figures out how much they MUST have me.” They become very agreeable to the break-up but insist on certain things for example “keeping the door open” for reuniting. The one initiating the break-up will most likely say, “Sure. They door is open. We will see how things go,” or other false promises in order to relieve some of their guilt over the spilt and to appease the “dumped.” Bad idea.
If the initiator said in no uncertain terms, we are through and this is the end, it may help, but more often than not, the initiator just wants the deed done as painlessly as possible but the Obsessive Ex will hold on to any hope in order to maintain some form of control. These forms of control are evident in excessive phone calls, text messaging, emails or “spying” via social media sites (ie: FaceBook). “What’s his status? Profile picture? Friend list, etc..
The OE (Obsessive Ex) may “drive by” their ex’s house incessantly, their “hang outs,” their workplaces or friends’ homes to “see” where they are and who they might be with.
Their false belief of “knowing” where they are and/or who they are with, fuels their obsession with questions, rage and intent to either “get revenge” or “get them back.” This can become a dangerous situation if the OE begins to make threats, or has previously shown any signs of violent behaviors. However, there is a huge difference between stalking and OE Compulsion behaviors. The latter, being less of a physical threat to another, and more of a sad condition to be stuck in. This writing is focused on the OE, what and why they do what they do.
In my practice, I have seen this “syndrome” more with women than with men. That is not to say or suggest men don’t become OE’s, but only that my experience in treating it has been primarily with women. I have seen it manifest itself with women in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and they continue to show-up for help in their despair regularly, and unfortunately, they will stop at almost nothing to make the relationship “work again,” rather than “work” on the reasons that cause them to obsess.
It appears that there is a clear connection between OEs lack of Self-Esteem and unresolved issues with their fathers while growing-up. Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D., MFT reports that the OE wants to be the “special and favored one” by the opposite sex parent. This may be due to competition in a dysfunctional manner between siblings. This unresolved need leaves the OC in a world of confusion, disconnection from reality, and a view of life filled with loss and rejection.
They become truly petrified of love and sexuality, and BEING in love signals their emotions into a mode of debilitating, reality-distorting anxiety.
This disorder keeps the OE from developing creativity, coping skills, reality-based reasoning and the inability to see much beyond themselves in their quest to regain their former love-interest or “Daddy’s approval.” They also have the irrational idea that they may have “fixed” their partner and “been there for them” in their darkest hours, but are terrified that “some other woman” will “benefit” from all of “my hard work!” This is a huge false belief of OEs. A man is a man is a man, and if he leaves a woman, he will NOT take any lessons learned from his ex and “be a better boyfriend or husband” next time! Believe it.
One must, must, must be a fully-capable, self-standing, content, confident and well-balanced person to enter a relationship that has half a chance to survive. That also goes for the partner. If you, he or she needs “fixing,” one of you is NOT READY for a relationship. A relationship will never, ever, ever be the “cure all” for a life of loneliness or despair. Ever. This is where good self-esteem fits in.
Each and every one of us must work on ourselves first, before seeking that “soul mate” nonsense!
When we do, we are 100% content with our lives, and “allowing” another person to share it with us is the proverbial “icing on the cake,” never the cake itself! In this state of mind, if we enter a relationship, and for some reason it doesn’t work out, we may grieve it, mourn it, cry about it, etc., but we will GET OVER IT and move on. Why? Because we are fine on our own already! This also stands true for any perspective mate or partner.
If we are in a fine state of mind, content with ourselves and our lives, why in the world would we choose a mate that needs “fixing?” When we are in a good “space,” we attract others in the same “space,” and we are also more attuned to those who are not. We don’t feel any need to “make him/her better,” because that’s not the purpose of a romantic relationship.
So, for those of you afflicted with EO, look at your past.
How was your relationship with dad? What are you doing for yourself? Are you surrounded by supportive friends? Are you confident? Content with who you are? Have you “married” yourself first? If not, consider finding a competent therapist, but be determined to make change in your life! No one is worth that much to anyone, especially you!
The obsession, anxiety, depression and “checking” behavior can easily become your whole life, but is that living? You know the answer.
In Defeating Depression: The Calm and Sense Way to Find Happiness and Satisfaction, I write about the need to have a relationship with yourself first in order to have a healthy relationship with another. This is critical and all too frequently not unaccomplished by those of us “waiting for our Soul Mates” to come and “make our lives all we want and need!” Why? Because you are your Soul Mate! Are you comfortable being alone at times? Can you resist the social pressures of Christmas, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve or Halloween, and not feel as if you’re missing something if you’re not in a relationship at those times? If not, you are not ready for a true, beneficial, meaningful relationship!
Remember…there is no one, no thing, no job, no place, no car, no anything that can or will deliver you “all you need to be happy…” except for YOU! That is true happiness, the ability to be wonderful on your own, in your own space, unaffected by billboards, commercials, movies or any other pressures that cause you to feel as if you’re missing out on something!
This is extremely difficult for those with OE to grasp.
For some reason, their mantra has become a question, rather than an answer. Instead of “When is it my turn,” or “why can’t I be as happy as everyone else is…?,” perhaps it should be “Only I can create my happiness! I will love and accept myself more openly, and take back the power I have to make the exciting changes I need to make in order to love my life!”
You see, people disappoint, they leave, they change their minds, they pass away, they move on….etc.. Billy Joel sang, “Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes” and that is forever a possibility from a mate! (And should be from YOU!) There are two things in life that are absolutely guaranteed…Death and Change. As for death, it reminds us that everyday is vital! How many days do you think you have left? Who knows? Use them wisely! Change. Be prepared for it, embrace it and try to see the possibilities it brings! It is not a death sentence, actually, it is LIFE.