Relationships Happen: Battling the ghosts of the past

Girl meets boy. Boy falls for girl. Girl falls harder. Hearts are broken. This is a story about love; not a love story.

I have been thinking about exes, whether they really ever go away, or if we are forever haunted by their presence. One quote that comes to mind is from the show “Sex and the City,” “When a relationship dies, do we ever really give up the ghost or are we forever haunted by the spirits of relationships past?”

I was in a relationship for two and a half years and when it was officially over, it didn’t seem that way. I got phone calls, e-mails, text messages, instant messages—he would not stop trying to contact me. He wanted to try and rekindle the relationship but I wouldn’t have it.

I had been hurt in the past and did not want to relive the pain. I did not know if I could ever love again, as my heart no longer felt complete. When the relationship no longer existed, my ex and I talked on and off for the first month or so making things worse.

We kept in contact and this did not make my feelings go away. However, when we met up one last time and tried doing it all over, I knew the feelings I once had for him were no longer there. I did not feel the same. I could now move on and be free of this haunting feeling. The same was not, though, for my ex.

Now that I am in a new, happy relationship, months after ours had ended, the texts and random phone calls still continue. Not only this, but my boyfriend sees my ex around campus sometimes. Other times, friends bring up memories of the past or places I visit that remind me of my ex. Will it ever end or will the haunting of my past continue?

Dr. Bruce Derman, a licensed clinical psychologist in Woodland Hills, says, “When a relationship dies we tell ourselves a story about that and carry that story with us into the future so that it may limit us in our selection and dealing with new relationships.”

This can, however, create problems in the relationships we may have later in life, Derman says.

“We end up carrying the past into the future and the future is then not open to new possibilities,” he says.

As much as we say that we are “over” our exes and ready to move on, that is the hardest part of breaking up. Learning to let go of our past and being able to trust another person with our hearts is very difficult.

Theatre major Zack Sonnenberg, 23, said, “Each person heals and gets over that hump in life in a different amount of time, but in the end of it all, I believe we learn more about ourselves and become better people in the end.”

But sometimes the past is not so grim and you can look forward to the future. At other times, we have to forget about the past and what haunts us in order to move on. This, however, does not mean that we don’t dwell on what happened in our past relationships and how we could have fixed things.

“Like it or not, how you treated people is the best indicator of how you WILL treat people,” said Allison Kent, 21, sociology.

“My ex’s are like a resume. Some people I can use for a reference, some I don’t even want to put on paper,” she said.

We have our good relationships and we have our bad. Things don’t always go our way and we can’t always fix what is broken. This is when we have to learn to let go—to move on.

“I am neither proud or embarrassed of my past, it is what it is,” said Kent.

Our exes may come and go from our minds throughout our lives, but getting rid of the ghost entirely is never going to happen because they are a big part of your past and who you once were. I have chosen to keep my ghosts out of my life for reasons, but this does not mean that that “what if” feeling will ever go away.

“The degree that we identify and are attached to our stories will greatly impact what I have stated. The key is to realize that it is just a story,” said Derman.

The story, or “what if” feeling, that if we ran into that person from our past again, what would happen, must clear in order for us to move on completely and fall in love again.

I do not know if there is a way to get rid of the ghosts from your past. I believe it is more of a conscious thing.  We have to decide for yourself that we are over the past; that we are ready to move on and be happy again in a new relationship. It is ultimately up to us—not anyone else. Once we decide that for ourselves, we can truly be happy.

I never thought after my last relationship that I would ever find love again and was tortured by this because I had had my heart broken so many times. However, this has changed over the past six months. I have moved on and it feels wonderful.