“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light."
~ Brené Brown
If you find yourself obsessing over a boyfriend’s past partners it is time to take a look at the story you are telling yourself about his past.
What are you saying to yourself about this situation? “He loved them more than he loves me. They are smarter, more accomplished, more attractive. I’ll never measure up. What if he leaves…” Sound familiar?
The circumstances in our lives are not really what is causing us the pain. It is the story we are creating about those circumstances that brings us down.
You are the creator of your own thoughts. Choosing more loving thoughts is where the true power lies.
For example, I have a friend who recently told me she believes everything that happens to her is for her highest good. This is a radical belief and statement. A few days after hearing this, I had a painful experience and decided to view it as being for my highest good. It took me about 24 hours to see the situation from a completely different angle and turn it into a positive event. When I was able to do this, a huge weight was lifted and I was able to take constructive action.
How can one practice doing this?
I like the work of Byron Katie. She uses a four step process of self-inquiry in which you ask yourself four questions about your painful thought or belief.
Let’s look at the case of obsessing over your boyfriend’s past relationships. Take your most painful thought such as, “He’s going to leave me and go back to her.”
Then ask yourself these questions:
- Is it really true? Can I be 100% sure it is true?
- How do I feel and behave when I believe this thought?
- Who would I be without this thought or story?
- What is a thought that feels better or is more true than my original thought?
This is a powerful process that can transform the way we think about any “negative” event or situation in our life.
Most of the thoughts we are having about painful situations are simply not true. They are coming from our limbic brain which is full of fear and survival impulses.
By slowing down and questioning the thoughts that are causing us pain, we get to be more mindful and present to what is truly happening. We get to chose a more positive interpretation which, in turn, will create a more positive outcome.
This is how we create change from the inside out. It is the only true, lasting change that we can control. By becoming masterful over our thoughts we achieve authentic personal power.
Try it and see. Your boyfriend just may find it sexy…
Nancy Harris, LCSW, LICSW - www.nancyharriscoaching.com
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” – Cynthia Ozick
Being taken for granted happens in all areas of our lives, but none as apparent as in our romantic relationships.
We enter a relationship with our whole heart and soul. We do for others as we would like done for us. We want to feel loved, respected, and appreciated. So what happens when we are not getting those things back? What happens when we feel like we are always giving and never getting anything in return?
Long term relationships come with many challenges, but they also come with a great deal of comfort and joy.
Often when we have been with the same person for any period of time we begin to feel like we are being taken for granted. We begin focusing on everything that we are doing and notice how little recognition we are receiving for it or how little our partner is doing for us in return. Or we begin to realize that what we do has become an expectation when it was once cherished and celebrated.
There are different ways to look at this.
First, begin by looking within yourself. Are you a person who enjoys giving? I know I am and this has often caused me to fall into the trap of expecting others to behave as I would. I give and give expecting nothing in return, but suddenly my expectations change. I realize how much I have given to someone and how little I have received in return. It’s not about them, this is about me. I unconsciously am drawn to people I can help because this makes me feel good. If this is you, it is time to make a choice. You can either recognize this trait in yourself, or you can choose to consciously work to change it.
Another way is to recognize that in committed relationships we often reach a level of comfort with the other person where we no longer feel the need to show appreciation as we once did.
This can be a sign of security in a relationship. While this can be looked at as a good sign, it is also one that must be addressed if it is causing you to feel as if you are being taken for granted. As humans we have this amazing ability to communicate through words, yet so often we wait for our partners to read our minds. I promise you, this is not possible. If you are feeling like you are being taken for granted, it is up to you to say something to your significant other. Just be sure to use your “I” statements, “I feel unappreciated when I run errands for the house all day and don’t even receive a thank you.” Avoid statements like, “you never appreciate anything I do around here.”
Recognize that often we become upset with others behavior, which we have no control over, and take the focus off ourselves.
How can we show our partner more appreciation? Where can we show up better and model the way we want to be treated within our relationship? If you fall in the trap of feeling taken for granted, it is often difficult to show appreciation for all they are doing too. Each of us is contributing to the relationship in different ways. So make sure you are recognizing how your partner is showing up and be sure to show gratitude for that as well.
The final category is the one where you have entered a relationship with someone who will always take you and everyone around them for granted.
Unfortunately we are living in a world where more and more people have a sense of entitlement. They believe that others should do more for them than they would be willing to do themselves. This is not often a conscious belief, but it exists none the less. They move through life as if the world owes them something. If this is the person in your life, chances are good that you will find yourself feeling taken for granted more often than not.
The good news is that while you can’t change another, you can create your own boundaries within the relationship.
You can make the choice to stop doing the things that are being taken for granted. You can choose to keep doing them without expecting anything in return. You can choose to walk away from a relationship that is no longer serving you. The choice in all these is ultimately up to you.
Kimberly Speer, CLC, ELIMP - www.destinybydesignlifecoaching.com
Ok ladies, let’s face it… we’ve all embraced our astonishing private investigator skills at some point in a relationship, if not our current one, and well, to say we may have scrolled down too far is probably an understatement.
So you discovered that he still had a picture of his ex on Facebook. Maybe you found old text messages between him and a past fling. Or maybe you personally know someone he previously dated and awkwardly have to see this person from time to time.
Now that you’ve opened Pandora ’s Box, it might be safe to say that you’re probably feeling like all the evil is out, surrounding your every thought. Constantly obsessing over your partner’s past can be a daunting and stressful task. However you do not have to continue suffering from the constant play by play of “what ifs” and worries that consume your mind and most importantly are detrimental to your relationship. So listen up inspector gadget!
First off, you gotta STOP thinking about his past relationships!
I know, it’s easier said than done, however, thinking about it is just causing you stress and possibly even anxiety and depression, so what do you have to lose? If you find your mind wandering to thoughts of your partner’s past or ex, I highly recommend changing your thought pattern! So maybe for you, the thought of your partner’s past or ex comes into your mind and you immediately begin to ruminate on those thoughts and this tends to make you feel insecure or even depressed and not good enough.
Your new assignment is to distract yourself before you begin to ruminate.
Some ideas may be to replace the thought with images or memories from YOU and YOUR partner’s relationship. Once you can start breaking the thought pattern your brain will naturally gravitate towards the different memories that you have planted and the urge to ponder his past will slowly subside!
Ok, so I’m guessing with all that snooping you may have discovered that your partner and his ex, shared a love for a special activity possibly? Or maybe they went on a special vaycay and well, you we were the nauseous eye-rolling fly on the wall that got to see it all. Look, constantly obsessing over your beau’s past is not going to make you feel any better about yourself or your relationship.
When we obsess, it steals valuable time away from our present moment and the things that are happening in our relationships right now, such as creating new memories together and learning about one another.
Not to mention that feelings of insecurity, anger and sadness can easily spiral our rational thinking out of control and before you know it, we’re indirectly taking our anger out on our partner because WE feel so engulfed with “crazy thoughts”.
The best advice I can give, is to try and recognize when you are in this state of mind and do your best to change it.
Head to the gym and listen to some uplifting music, walk the dog, read a book, call your supportive girlfriend and give yourself some time to be distracted, especially before you wind up saying something you’re going to regret based off pure emotion. When you return, do your best to start focusing on YOUR relationship! Start your own joint hobby, plan date nights, start scrapbooks.
Focus on what really matters and that’s the relationship that you both have between each other.
Alright, so when’s the last time you looked in the mirror and truly and honestly loved and accepted who you saw? Mmm hmm….
Ladies, it’s so important to love, accept and honor who we are as a person.
If we don’t fully love and accept who we are, how can we honestly expect someone else to do the same? Good self-esteem is essential in order to slay the green eyed monster. Having a positive self-image will help stop you from comparing yourself to his ex and others. Sure his ex may have something that you don’t have, but you also have something that she no longer has, and this is why it is important for you to start embracing what you have to offer as the unique and wonderful individual that you are.
I encourage you to find a new hobby that you’re good at, connect with old friends and family, cash that yoga class Groupon in that you’ve been putting off, hire that personal trainer, and do what you need to do in order to embrace the powerful, self-sufficient woman that you are.
Your partner’s past had a place as it obviously led him on a journey to you.
So instead of being angry or saddened by the path he previously took, be glad he did, for without it he wouldn’t have found you.
Megan Harley, MS, LPCC - www.counselingandfitness.com
Can’t stop imagining the two of them together?
Do you compare yourself to her? Find her on Facebook and look at each picture to decide whether or not she’s prettier than you, funnier than you, has more friends than you or worst, better in bed than you? And of course, we can determine all of that by looking at a single picture.
Jealousy is one of the most natural emotions we can feel.
When we find someone we like, or love, we start to feel special to that person. This feeling is so great. But it can be terrifying to think about the special feelings he had for another woman before he was with you. Before we try to move away from this emotion, to distract ourselves and pretend we aren’t experiencing it, my recommendation is to take a deep breath and practice feeling. Only once we accept a feeling can we begin to move past it.
With any feeling, the fastest way over it is through it.
Jealousy is a feeling that we generally do not like and therefore we tend to run from it in very creative ways. We tell ourselves that she’s ugly, she’s old news, he’s with me now, and any other thing to defend ourselves from feeling this emotion we would rather not feel. Insecurity is like a Jack in the Box toy; it is just waiting to be cranked and BOOM! It explodes and we find ourselves in a fit of anxiety and fear. Before you know it, you’ve decided he’s still in love with her and it’s time to break up. So, let’s start with a basic exercise of feeling and then let’s talk about how to move past it.
Breathe into this feeling:
1. Sit quietly and take a few deep breaths, allowing your thoughts to slow down. I like to imagine my thoughts flowing out of me as I exhale. Another idea is to imagine your thoughts on a cloud floating away in the sky.
2. Begin to bring your awareness to this uncomfortable feeling that you are experiencing.
3. Notice where it sits in your body and describe it to yourself in your mind (for example, it feels like a sharp steel knife in my gut, or a large black pulsating ball in my heart).
4. Label the feeling: “I feel sad,” “I feel scared,” “I feel unworthy,” and again notice this feeling without judging it. Act as a curious observer to yourself, not as a critic.
5. If tears arise allow them to come out until they are ready to finish. Don’t worry, they will stop eventually.
6. When you are ready, take a journal and write any feelings that arise, don’t edit, just allow anything to come up that naturally does. Some questions you might ask yourself are: What is really bothering me? When did this feeling start? When was the first time I ever had this feeling in my life? Does this feeling remind me of other scenarios I’ve experienced?
7. Find someone you trust to share your experience with so you can talk about what’s really going on.
Now to move forward.
He’s with you now. He has broken up with a past girlfriend. It’s called a break up because it’s broken. Your obsessions over her have nothing to do with her. So, it’s best not to make it about her. In fact, feeling compassion for her is a nice way to switch your perspective and cancel out negativity. You might know terrible things about her. You can still have compassion for her. You might feel like you hate her. You can still have compassion for her. And while having compassion for her you might find that you can have compassion for yourself and the pain you might be experiencing.
A simple mantra (or repeated phrase) you could try to repeat is “I send her light and love, and I let her go. She has nothing to do with me.”
Repeat this when you find yourself “obsessing” or thinking about her more than you would like.
I like to think about the fact that I myself am someone’s ex, and all of my amazing girlfriends are someone’s ex. For each of us there may be some woman out there who is obsessing about us, wondering if he still loves us. But in the end, he’s not with us anymore. He’s with the new woman. Time marches on and so should we. At this point it’s probably a good idea to stop looking at Facebook or talking negatively about her too much to your friends.
The present moment is a powerful place to live. And in this present moment he is your boyfriend and no one else’s.
Alright, you’ve felt the crud, you let yourself cry and feel and talk and you even tried to send positive feelings to this woman who you would rather just disappear! This is difficult work!
Now it’s time to love yourself and experience self-empowerment.
If you’ve discovered your Achilles heel through this feeling process then a counteracting mantra can be greatly beneficial. For example, if you found through journaling that you feel unworthy of love then you would start saying the opposite (or close to it). You could start to say “I am lovable and worthy of a great relationship” every time you find yourself thinking about her.
Over time we begin to replace these unnecessary thoughts and bring in healing thoughts that help us feel grounded, secure and loved. Remember that the brain is an incredibly malleable organ. The brain has a natural ability to from new connections. We have learned habits, we can unlearn them as well. Eventually your concerns about her will start to melt away, but it takes some work. You will start to remember and believe that YOU ARE AMAZING AND WORTHY OF LOVE.
Julia Hofman, LPC - JuliaRoseTherapy.com
I am assuming that we are talking about jealousy over relationships that occurred before the two of you were an item.
Unless you are twelve, you also had past relationships. In fact, people with no past relationships are at a disadvantage. They have no relationship experience. They haven’t learned any of the useful things that can only come from having worked on themselves within a relationship context. In that respect they don’t bring much to the table.
If your date or partner is behaving in ways that are disrespectful there is cause for concern.
Does he ogle other women? Does he compare you to former partners or current friends? Does he fail to let you know that you are important to him? If so, you are right to worry. This has nothing to do with past relationships; disrespectful behavior is a sing of insecurity and immaturity on the part of the partner. He’s not grown-up enough to be in a relationship and that has nothing to do with you. He has probably treated all of the women in his relationships the same way.
If on the other hand, he is treating you well and you still find yourself getting jealous, this is about your own level of insecurity.
You need to ask yourself why you find it hard to believe that someone could want you. This question requires some really serious work, because until you can answer that question and then begin to value yourself, you will never have a good relationship.
Relationship insecurity usually starts in childhood.
Perhaps you had critical or neglectful parents and the result is that you never felt truly valued. Unfortunately, our families are often templates for adult relationships, so issues that haven’t been worked there end up causing problems in adult relationships. I really think the best way to address chronic insecurity is in therapy.
I don’t think there is any asset more valuable to bring to a relationship than a feeling of self-worth.
You may still meet men who don’t treat you well, but you will recognize it immediately and you will be gone. You deserve to have someone who truly cares about you, but to get that you have to learn to care about yourself.
Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
He has a past, so do you.
It’s easy for us to justify and forgive ourselves for our past, it’s quite another story to forgive him for what he did. However, the key to getting over what he did before he met you is forgiveness. Easy to say, very hard to do. If the relationships are truly in the past, it makes it just a smidge easier.
It’s another story if his past relationships creep into your present, like an ex-spouse you must see every other week when exchanging kids. This dynamic is more complicated and may require more work, but the solution is the same: eventually come to a place of complete forgiveness.
So often, it seems like what you are being asked to forgive is so monumental it is like asking to “just move Mt. Everest into the sea”. That would be easier.
Before we can truly forgive, it helps to know what forgiveness is and isn’t. Below is a list:
From the heart
Letting them off the hook
A decision to let go
Letting them go Scot Free
Being a doormat - not tolerating or allowing continued abuse
Like putting salve on your heart
Waiting until the person says, 'I'm sorry'
Being set free from bitterness and resentment
Waiting till they realize the hurt they caused
Setting yourself free
Putting them on God's hook
Pretending what happened didn't matter
Acknowledges the truth- it DID hurt
Allowing a repeat
Stuffing it down
Breaks the chain connecting me to the person
Starts the healing process
Brings physical benefits (sleep, fewer aches/pains, more energy, better concentration)
You may need help coming to a place of forgiveness.
If so, seek a counselor skilled in helping with the process. Or, it may start with a simple prayer: “Every cell in my body wants to hold onto resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness, but I know I need to forgive. Help me get to that place.”
For your sake and for the sake of a successful relationship with him, forgive. You’ll be glad you did. The one set free is you!
Charlene Benson, LPC, NCC - www.bensontherapist.com
Everybody comes into a new relationship with a past history that includes old lovers, old mistakes, old resentments and old patterns. But when you take all that baggage with you without clearing out the emotions behind them, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You are carrying with you all kinds of ammunition to fight, ridicule and suspect elicit behavior from partner.
How can you get over his past relationships and focus on the good thing you have going for you now?
1. Start living your life in the present.
Rehashing the past, reliving negative feelings, delving into long gone emotions only keeps you experiencing all those feelings that make you angry, sad, disillusioned and disappointed. Why go there if your new relationship shows good potential for something long term and permanent? Of course, you should trust your intuition and if anything or anyone makes you feel uneasy, don’t necessarily ignore it. It can be justified, but be sure the “messages” you receive make sense from a logical perspective, rather than an emotional one.
2. Be sure you are open and clear in your communication style with your partner.
If something bothers you, can you express how you feel without ridicule or fear? When you feel comfortable discussing your expectations, concerns, and desires, you are less likely to misinterpret your partner’s behaviors or be disappointed in his reactions. Let him know your unease about his ex and why, so he can adjust his behavior appropriately – if he cares to.
3. Your relationship is a work in progress, and as you continue to grow and learn together, your relationship needs to be based on trust, respect, kindness, caring and appreciation.
These elements have no room for doubt, mistrust, or suspicion. So work through your insecurity because this aspect of your character and personality will impact the success and depth of your potential relationship.
So not only do you have to forgive your past, but you have to forgive his past, as well. Otherwise, your present relationship will have many bumpy roads ahead and develop into nothing at all.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
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