Why Do I Still Have Feelings For My Ex After Years?

One of the greatest myths about healing after a breakup is that feelings simply dissolve overnight (or frankly, if the relationship was a long and close-knit one, at all).

I often receive feedback from distraught readers who feel that they are somehow emotionally unstable for having feelings well past what they expected the expiry date to be (we’re talking months, years or decades).

I can’t help but feel  that this kind of introspection is harmful because it creates the unreasonable expectation that love simply ceases to exist — whether or not a connection remains. In some cases, we might even stop loving the person, but remain in love with the ideal, an aspect of their personality or even an expression.

It is not only natural to feel pangs of wistfulness or loss, but also a sign that our capacity to love has not been drowned under a sea of bitterness or cynicism.

The Reality About feelings

The first step towards re-balancing the emotional equation is removing the false expectation that feelings will always dissipate completely.

It may initially seem redundant to come to this realization. After-all, is it not a false choice? It’s one thing to realize that the enduring pain we feel is shared by many at any given moment in time, but it isn’t really going to make things easier knowing this, is it?

Due to the subjectivity of loss, or, as Alan Watts would eloquently put it:

If the mind is in pain, the mind is pain

I can’t realistically offer any lasting gimmick or anecdote to relieve separation anxiety. What I can do, is suggest that ongoing fragility is a sign that you are both emotionally healthy and normal.

We are forever plagued in a sociological sense that emotional transparency is weakness. That pain is loathsome and is a reflection of poor self-worth. In reality, pain is opportunity. Pain is growth. Rather than shelve and compartmentalize our past, allowing ourselves to consciously channel it can mean making it work for us rather than against us.

Taking The Bull By Its Horns

Once we’ve removed the redundancy (redundant because they serve no long-term purpose other than to negatively impact all the good things we have left) of ego-driven pain (guilt, remorse, self-victimization, anger) what are we left with?

I would hedge rather tentatively that what we are essentially left with is a selfless longing (and if we aren’t it should speak volumes about what we are flagellating our heart over).

If we shine a light on the pulsating core of our ongoing remorse, what we are essentially left with is a beautiful thing: the capacity for heartfelt empathy. Not a character weakness, nor pent-up spite. But strength in it’s most endearing form. The ability to love fluidly and consistently.

The fallout should be obvious. It should be a source of pride to us, that we continue to be able to feel, and resist the superficiality of becoming numb, despite the odds. We reserve the right to feel. Given the pressure towards the abnegation of the self we live today, it is no small victory — and personally (call me masochistic if you will) — I will continue to to allow this realization to positively separate me from those who would rather line the shelves of their consciousness with nihilism.

2 Comments Why Do I Still Have Feelings For My Ex After Years?

  1. Greta

    BU was almost a year ago, and we’ve been talking the last couple of months. I was still very much in love though. Well.. Now I’ve heard he have been dating in the meantime. I confronted him and he said he was ready seeing other girls, and it was a bad idea if we saw each other and I had to stop contacting him.

    So. This hurts like it was the break up. I was through all this many months ago, but his words hurt me so much and I feel like I have to start at the scratch again. It feels like an endless road and his words burn into my mind at anytime. I don’t know what to do, when I’ve already done everything to get over him …

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Hi there greta,

      And yes, this is the toughest realization when moving on. Once the door shuts on any loose ends and hopes we had.

      I can’t really offer much advice, other than to say that while it is painful, at least it will allow you to move on in a clear way, without false hope (oh well, just a little bit) and without compromise.

      You say it feels like the breakup again, and rightly so. Because both this realization and the breakup itself are traumatic events that force us to confront of our sense of insecurity. But after this hump (or mountain), once it has slowly been processed, it’s all downhill.

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