Breakups are tough. Breaking up, while still having feelings for your partner is A LOT TOUGHER. The good news, though, is that you’re not alone. As a dating coach, one of the questions that keeps popping up, is “How do I get over my ex?”. The short answer to the “How to get over your ex?” question is this, it’s a process; one that requires courage and a little bit of self digging.
To help you undertake this journey, I am sharing one of my coaching episodes on Life Check Yourself, in which I coach April to move pass her fixation on her ex.
My guest for today is April.
- She got divorced two years ago.
- She keeps dating the same guy with a different face… She is what we call a “recycler”.
- She can’t let go.
- She was love-bombed by a guy that she still has feelings for.
Marni Battista: . . . . So tell me about this guy who love-bombed you… What are the thoughts that go through your head when you think of him?
April: I am thinking about all the things that he said. Things like how he never felt this way before…. Or him taking my face in his hands and telling me that he wants to make me happy and that he was going to make me a priority. Also I think about the compliments that he would give, how it was just so easy to talk to him, how he was thoughtful, attentive and interested in me, how he remembered my favorite song and remembered what brand of water I drink. Just the little things that he would do and the effort that he would make.
How It Started?
Marni Battista: So you had these amazing moments that felt like you’re in a movie…For how long did you date him when he was engaged like that?
April: We went on two vacations during this time together. So probably seven or eight weeks where he was like that.
Marni Battista: ….And did you ever have the exclusive conversation or was it just unarticulated?
April: No, he came over and showed me his phone. He deleted all of his dating apps and said “I’m not looking for anyone else. I don’t want to find anyone else”….And we had this conversation, which he initiated, before we became intimate.
How It Ended?
Marni Battista: So seven or eight weeks in and then what happened? Did he ghost you? Or was it a slow fade?
April: He seriously hurt his back. He had to go across the country for training for his work. He had issues with his ex and kids, and he just slowly faded, I guess. I went out there and visited him, and then I went on vacation after that. He was just not as communicative as he was. I would text him, and then I wouldn’t hear back from him right away. The dynamic of our relationship shifted.
Marni Battista: Did you have a direct conversation about it with him?
April: I do tend to steer away from confrontation because my marriage was emotionally abusive, but I did have a direct conversation with him. I told him, “This is what I need right now” and he responded saying, “I’m doing the best I can right now”. So we kept trying for a little bit.
Then, I asked him to do three different things over a short period of time, and he couldn’t because he is the main custodian of his kids. After that, he sent me texts saying that I needed to think about what I wanted and that I deserve someone who gives me 100% of their attention.. I felt that he wanted me to break up with him. I felt that I didn’t have any other choice. But he responded saying, “No, I’m not ending things, especially not over text. We can talk about this another time”. But I felt that there was nothing else to talk about…
In a Loop
Marni Battista: Did you end it?
April: I did end it, but it’s not over yet.
Marni Battista: Okay, and so now you’re back in it?
April: Kind of … We had another conversation like a week later. I’d had a few drinks, and I sent a text saying, “You really hurt me”. He responded saying, “That was never my intention. You know it’s not about you. I’m just going through a lot right now”. Then I said, “Well, thank you for that”, and it was done.
Then, here’s my shame. A week after that, I texted him saying, “Hey, I’ve just been thinking about you. I wanted to see how your back is doing? How are you?”. He immediately texted me back, “I’ve been thinking about you too. How are you? How are you feeling?”
Marni Battista: Did he invite you over, April?
April: He asked if he could come over.
Marni Battista: And you said yes?
April: I did…He came over and we just talked. He explained that it wasn’t me and that he wanted to make sure that I knew that…
We just casually talked and caught up. We did get a little intimate, but then I made him leave. But ever since, we’ve been talking.
Marni Battista: Okay, here’s what I think and correct me if I’m wrong. You keep dating the same guy who’s really into you, but can’t give you what you need. They tell you that but you’re like, “Never mind” and you keep taking it.
April: I will say this, I have been dating other guys like him before. But those relationships have ended and they stayed that way… There’s something about this guy.
Marni Battista: There’s always that one guy or there’s always those two guys who just have this certain thing about them. The most important thing is when I repeat that back to you, what sounds different about what I’m saying?
April: I guess in my mind I’m not giving up what I want. To hear you say that “they can’t give you what you deserve, and you just take it”. That is not who I want to be and I guess not how I let myself see it.
Marni Battista: This is huge… People do this all the time. When we are trying to figure out a way to get what we want from an unhealthy place, we rationalize, cope and intellectualize. You wouldn’t have asked me, “Should I continue this relationship?”, unless a part of you knows that something is off…. Do you ever have those little whispers in your head telling you that something is wrong that you just ignore or brush off?
April: I do, especially when I’m not getting the communication or responses that I want… There’s that constant underlying voice. Sometimes, I ask seven of my friends and I listen to the one that gives me the answer that I want to hear.
When we are trying to figure out a way to get what we want from an unhealthy place, we rationalize, cope and intellectualize.
– Marni Battista
Identifying the Root Cause
Marni Battista: Right, because we’re consensus building. So in order to understand why and what it is about this guy, we need to dig deeper. So can you remember a time in your life, when you were trying to earn somebody’s love, time and affection? It could be a parent, someone who played a parental role or even an ex- husband.
April: It was my stepmom.
Marni Battista: So how did that feel? What’d that cycle feel like for you as a kid? How old were you when it started?
April: It started early. She raised me since I was four, and my earliest memory is just her being mad at me. She ran hot and cold and to this day, I don’t like people who run hot and cold. She would be mean, which made me upset and angry. Then she would be just a little bit nice, and I would let my guard down.
Marni Battista: You’ve just described the relationship with this guy. It’s the same relationship… So here’s the thing, our neural programming experiences love when we’re young. While some do martyr love, where they sacrifice everything for their loved ones, others do withholding, where they express love by withholding it. Your flavor is “crumbs”. This means that you were programmed to get “a little bit of love” and then have it taken back from you…. So why do you have a thing for this guy, you think? Who does he remind you of?
April: He reminds me of my stepmom and my ex-husband.
Marni Battista: The answer to why do you keep doing this over and over again is because this situation is familiar. The four-year-old little girl is going to try and get love from her stepmom from other people, until she realizes that that’s impossible.
The answer to why you keep doing this over and over again is because this situation is familiar.
The Road to Recovery
Three - Step Conversation with "Your Little Who"
The conversation that we teach our clients consists of 3 steps;
Step #1: Acknowledge
Marni Battista: I want you to imagine that four-year-old little girl. If you were going to talk to her and acknowledge what it was like to be four and have this stepmom who runs hot and cold, what would say to that little girl?
April: I would tell her that she is not the issue. The issue is with the other person. They’re broken or damaged. They have their own issues that make them incapable of giving you what you need and showing you that you’re worthy and that you’re lovable.
Marni Battista: So when you say that to four-year-old little April, what does she really think? Does she believe that?
Marni Battista: That’s why nothing works. The step that most people don’t learn when they do therapy is that you get an intellectual understanding as you get older. But that doesn’t make sense to the four- year old girl whose brain still has that neural wiring.
The only way to undo this damage is to spend some serious time soothing what we call “your little who”, the four-year-old part of yourself that is just trying so desperately to be loved by her step mother. She has to understand that that is never going to happen. You’re never going to get that hole in yourself met.
So here’s the answer, this is what I think four-year-old April needs to hear:
“Honey, this is not okay. She is an adult and she’s supposed to know better. It is not okay…It makes perfect sense that you are so sad and I get it. I get that you keep trying because you’re four and she’s your stepmom who’s supposed to give you consistent love. It must be so hard for you. Tell me about it.”
Step #2: Confirm
Marni Battista: The second part of that conversation is confirming. You need to tell her that it makes perfect sense why she feels the way she does, instead of rationalizing, justifying or trying to find the bright side. You have to tell her that it makes perfect sense that she doesn’t feel important and that she is 100% right.
Step #3: Educate
Marni Battista: The “educate” part, which takes some time, involves building trust between what we call “your little who” and your adult self. “Your little who” doesn’t completely trust you right now. To build that trust, you can start telling her, “You can trust me now. I get it and I’m going to take care of you. I’m going to make sure you’re not put in that same position again. I’m going to make different choices.”…
Your adult self’s job is to be the parent to four-year-old little April that she didn’t have. Every time you go back to that guy, you put little April in the same ordeal again.
Marni Battista: So the question really is what’s at stake here if you keep doing the same thing over and over again?
April: Feeling like this; feeling upset, insecure and unworthy. Wasting my time and wasting more years of my life and being back in the same position.
Marni Battista: So I want you to think about this: a four-year-old is trying to date and have relationships, is that safe right now for her?
April: No. It’s not safe.
Marni Battista: What do you think you’re willing to do just as a baby-step to start to advocate for “your little who”?
April: I think first I’m going to try having a conversation with little April. Right now, I’m making promises to myself that I don’t keep so maybe making promises to little April will help me keep those promises…
Your Turn: How to Get Over Your Ex?
Inspired by April’s coaching session, here are a few things that you could do right now to fix the “How to Get over Your Ex?” dilemma.
- Identify your thoughts regarding your ex and question them
- If April’s problem, settling for crumbs, resonates with you, dig deep and identify a previous relationship in your life that is a lot similar to your current relationships
- Identify your “little who” and have the 3-step conversation with her
- Acknowledge her feelings
- Confirm the issue and confirm that the damage done can not be undone by dating the same type of people
- Build that trust between your adult self and your “little who”. Promise her that you’ll do things differently
- Identify “your little who” behavior. When you start missing this guy, know that this is “your little who” being needy and have a conversation with her. Know that this conversation will have to take place several times
- Find a healthy distraction, when you crave people who aren’t there for you: (Meet your needs in a healthy way)
- Call a friend
- Watch a YouTube video
- Go for a walk
Yes, getting over your ex is going to be a process. It’s going to be uncomfortable.
- To have that life that is beyond your wildest dreams, you have to be courageous and you have to solve the actual problem.
- Your problem isn’t about a guy, it’s about loving yourself enough and healing that part of you.
When you start to fill that need up yourself, when you start to feel whole again, when you’re not constantly searching for that same relationship over and over again trying to heal an old wound that can not be healed, you’re going to date from a different place and you’ll attract the right partner for you.
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