Katherine, who is 24, is desperate to get her boyfriend back. He broke up with her over the summer, and although he still keeps in touch with her via text and Facebook, he’s already moved on to someone else. Katherine has spent multiple days on my coaching couch crying, while desperately trying to form a plan to reconcile their relationship. She cannot accept it is over between them. The interesting thing is, their relationship was far from perfect. In fact, Katherine complained about her ex constantly when they were together. He didn’t share her interests, he wasn’t affectionate enough, and he spent too much time playing video games. On several occasions, she was publicly embarrassed when he made comments that showed his obvious lack of understanding on current events, and he would become insensed whenever Katherine pointed it out to him. Naturally the question I posed to her was, if they didn’t get a long very well when they were together, why was she so intent on getting him back? Did she really love her boyfriend? Or did she just hate the thought of losing him to someone else?
In my younger years, I remember asking myself that very same question. When I learned my high school boyfriend, with whom I had broken up with, began dating someone else, I too began reconsidering my decision to end things. Looking back now it’s clear to me though, that I didn’t love him, I just hated losing him to another girl. A girl that I worried was prettier, smarter, or just generally better than me. The thought of them being happy together, while I was alone and miserable, made me angry. Not because I loved him, but because I saw myself as the “loser” in the situation. Although we didn’t work out, he now had someone else and was part of a couple, and for some reason, being part of a twosome said winner to me. Thankfully as I aged and matured, I realized that was just my ego talking. Unfortunately my ego, at the age, was irrational and uninterested in what was good for me. It involved me in a year long battle of back and forth with my ex, all because I wanted to beat the other girl in the fantasy game of “who’s better?”
Do you love him, really?
Maybe you’re in the same position as I was in high school. Maybe even though you and your ex didn’t get along, you are hurt, angered, and even vengeful towards him and his new relationship. Perhaps you are in the midst of a diabolical scheme to steal him back along with your dignity and self-regard . But before you put your Bat-Plan to action, let’s figure out once and for all if you truly love this guy, or you’re just being controlled by that little monster known as ego.
Your ego’s primary function is to build itself up, and protect itself from rejection. It craves adoration and fears criticism. It doesn’t care about what makes sense or what is logical, it’s only concern is boosting it’s own inflated sense of self-worth. That’s why, when you break up with someone (or worse, they break up with you) you just want the other person to be sad and lonely – so you can feel better about yourself. But that has absolutely nothing to do with love. In fact, it’s the complete opposite of love. Love is the benevolent and selfless concern for the good of another, and when you are wishing for someone to be alone and miserable, that’s not love.
In order to figure out if the feelings we have for an ex is real love reignited, or simply our ego lusting for superiority, ask yourself how well you lose in other areas of your life? If you lose a tennis match, are you a gracious opponent who finds some happiness in seeing a friend victorious, even if it is at your expense? Or can you hardly stand to play a game of Go-Fish if you know you are likely to lose? Are you able to see the beauty in another person and admire it openly? Or do you secretly envy them and attempt to put them down in order to bring yourself up? If you cannot lose, which is a part of life, without feeling angry, slighted, or victimized, then it may very well be that you are not still in love with your ex. Rather, you may just hate thinking of yourself as the underdog. Thankfully there is an easy way to stop thinking of yourself that way. And that is, to stop thinking of yourself that way! It is not the truth or reality of the situation. The only person who sees you as the loser, is you. And frankly, you have no ground to stand on. A loser does not walk away from the wrong relationship. They stay in it and take whatever crumbs their partner gives them to survive. A loser allows their boy or girlfriend to turn them into the worst version of their self because fighting with someone is better than being single. You have not done any of these things. You walked away when you knew the relationship wasn’t right. And even though it doesn’t feel that way, it makes you a winner.
When someone moves on from us, it does not indicate we weren’t worthy of them. It only indicates that the partnership wasn’t a match, or maybe that one or both parties has some growing to do. Your ego will tell you differently, but that’s just because it’s only interest is feeling superior (or protecting itself from feeling inferior.) It isn’t interested in finding you the right person, or even making you happy. Simply recognizing when your ego is taking over your good judgment will help bring you back to earth and hopefully give you the strength to move on with grace.
For free advice, follow me on Twitter @iamjessmccann, and be sure to check out my newest book, “Was It Something I Said: the answer to all your dating dilemmas” on Amazon and in book stores!