When a relationship ends, it is never easy to extricate yourself from your former life together. You have shared time and parts of yourselves with each other and it is often difficult to figure out how your life is going to look without your ex in the picture. Add onto that the fact that you are once again “out there” and playing a dating game that is unfamiliar and lacks the security of what you have left behind. No matter how ready you felt to move out of that relationship and onto something new, there is an element of uncertainly that you are not used to.
When you are in a relationship, it is easy to see the single life as a greener pasture, promising new girls with which to experience new things. Once you get out there however, it is easy to idealize certain parts of your former relationship that you may feel you didn’t see while you were in it. Being single often highlights the positive features of a previous, if flawed, relationship that can cause some unhealthy nostalgia.
Whether this nostalgia exists on a conscious or subconscious level, everyone goes through it to some extent. You will realize soon enough that you are not the only one going through it, however. Your ex will be experiencing bouts of nostalgia that may or may not coincide with your own. If you travel in the same social circles, this nostalgia can translate into anything from the occasional bout of post-breakup sex to some bizarre behaviour on both your parts that you are going to have to face head on in order to move on.
Recognizing the signs
One thing that threatens, if not directly contradicts, the clean breakup is the attempt to “stay friends” after all the dust has settled. Although this might help ease the pain of loss by keeping your ex somewhat implicated in your life, it inevitably leads to fuzzy boundaries and uncertainly when you are trying to re-enter (or avoid re-entering) the dating world.
The reason that many people stay involved with their exes on a friendship level is that it allows people to maintain that feeling of security that having someone in their life who knows them well provides. Do not underestimate your (or your ex’s) need for that security, because if it is not kept in check, down the road, you might find yourself in the situation of having to re-break up with your ex, and this one will be messy. Have you ever tried to break off a relationship whose boundaries are not defined in the first place? Everything is unclear and it will involve long, drawn-out conversations and explorations of feelings and motives that you did not sign on for.
No matter how amicable the breakup, there are always going to be some feelings of rejection and failure on either side. Some people deal with the feelings of having failed at the relationship by trying to maintain the friendship so that it doesn’t feel like a total wash. It is the feelings of hurt and rejection that can make things even messier.
Some people deal with the personal feelings of rejection by trying to hurt the other person, or keep them in their lives to counteract feelings of worthlesness or having been cast aside. They can do this by sabotaging efforts on the part of their ex to move on and start dating other people. This can lead to many behaviours, including trying to stretch out the breakup with desperate calls and drop ins. Exes can magically appear in places and at functions to try and make your efforts to move on feel uncomfortable, inappropriate, or even as if your actions are motivated by a desire to keep hurting them.
Some people try to ease their guilt of hurting the other person by making concessions in the post-breakup phase. It is difficult to hurt someone that you still care about. Even if you didn’t work out as a couple doesn’t mean that you don’t care about your ex or even still love them. You may encourage their presence in your life by not being clear about your boundaries, or by being wishy-washy about your reasons for ending the relationship.