I broke up with my boyfriend of four years a year ago and went right into a new relationship with someone else. Even though I don’t have contact with my ex, I still hold a grudge against him and get really angry thinking about him. It affects my current relationship because I blame my new boyfriend for issues related to my ex. My new boyfriend is a great guy — I know he doesn’t deserve this. How can I get over my ex and move on for good?
It’s not surprising that someone with whom you spent four years of your life is still on your mind a year later. He’s someone you likely confided in, shared a life with, and with whom you thought you had a future. Without knowing the specifics, I can only speculate that you moved from one relationship to the next far too quickly. When time isn’t allowed to grieve, reflect, and process between relationships, issues go unresolved and spill into the next relationship.
To get over your ex and gain closure, take responsibility for your actions in the relationship. Ask yourself: how might my behavior and attitude have impacted on us? Recognize your role in the relationship. If you could go back and do it again, what would you change about yourself? Own up to whatever these things are.
As long as you continue to view the relationship through an old lens, you’ll continue to be held hostage by the past, whether it was a year ago or twenty years. There’s an issue of control here: a grudge leads to anger and resentment that may energize you, giving you the illusion of control. This is your mind’s way of protecting you from re-experiencing the situation. The grudge may also be your way of holding your ex responsible for the downfall of the relationship. In your mind, to forgive might be to let the person off too easily. To shake this thinking ask yourself: 1.) Can I change the situation now? 2.) What’s the benefit of holding a grudge a year later? 3.) What will I gain by letting go?
Pretend you’re packing for a trip and you can only bring essential items. Would you take a healthy, positive attitude and a sense of humor or would you pack anger and resentment? The latter will surely weigh you down. Lighten the load by bringing only what’s beneficial to you and your new relationship.
Jonathan Alpert is a Manhattan psychotherapist and author. He appears on national TV commenting on sex and relationship issues as well as lifestyle, mental health, and hot-button issues. Get more of Jonathan’s great advice in his new book, Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days, on sale April 24th wherever books are sold. Follow Jonathan on Twitter at @JonathanAlpert