Unless you’re one of the lucky few who’s managed to pursue serious relationships without becoming neurotic, chances are you’ve spent some amount of time wondering about, analyzing, or Facebook stalking your partner’s ex. But why do we care so much? Why are we so fascinated and threatened by who came before us? Why does hearing their name immediately trigger our gag reflex?
The answer, perhaps, is that deep down we may be more romantic than we like to admit. There are unspoken rules we’ve made about what the perfect relationship looks like and how it unfolds. And though these trajectories aren’t based in reality as much as oversimplified plot lines of cheesy movies, there is still an element to those fantasies that feels true.
Rationally, we may know that having felt strong feelings before doesn’t preclude someone from feeling them again — that it doesn’t cheapen or change the next relationship. We may understand that people have multiple love stories, even multiple ones that really matter. But in the Hollywood version of our lives, there is often only one great love affair. When faced with the reality that the person we love has already had a great love, the formula doesn’t seem to work. Or, it makes us feel like we’re just the aftermath — the one who stepped in after “the real thing” didn’t work out.
Living through your 20’s is all about losing the fantasies of how your life should be. You learn to accept that your bachelor pad isn’t going to be some swanky dream home. You reconcile that the big change you want to make in the world may be smaller and more slowly won. But is it really necessary to give up the “perfect” love story, too?
The problem with fantasies is that they can’t be fought with facts. I offer up this advice, knowing that it may not work every day: It’s impossible to escape being in love without gaining a deeper understanding of yourself and what you need in a relationship. And in that respect, having loved before only makes loving again more meaningful.
1. Take a Facebook holiday. It’s not a crime scene. You’re not going to discover hidden clues you missed the first 15 times you Facebook stalked your partner. All you’re doing with Facebook stalking is driving yourself nuts.
2. Either you trust them or you don’t. We can drive ourselves crazy imagining that our partner might cheat or break our hearts in some way. At some point we just need to trust our partners to be honest. If your gut says not to, end it.
3. Focus on fixing it. It’s easy to blame things like exes, going out habits, or job stress for problems, but it’s more productive to see what things in the relationship can be fixed.
Need more dating and relationship help? Amber is currently taking new clients. Learn more at: www.ambermadi.com
Amber Madison is a Manhattan-based relationship expert and dating coach. She is the author of ‘Are All Guys Assholes?’ for which she traveled the country, spoke to over 1,000 men and discovered that the answer to this question is no. You can follow her on Twitter @ambermadi.