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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Relationships: What to Do When Your Ex, Who Abandoned You, Wants to "Start Over"

Being abandoned by someone you love deeply is one of the most painful experiences that anyone can go through.  It can be debilitating on every level--emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  It can cause you to feel you're "not good enough" and "not lovable."  Many people often feel ashamed about being left, especially because it can trigger earlier abandonment issues from childhood.

The Road to Emotional Recovery
When you've been abandoned by someone you loved and trusted, the road to recovery can be long and arduous, especially if you were in a long term relationship with this person.  As human beings, we're hard wired for emotional bonding and attachment, not for loss.

What often makes it worse is that well-meaning people might try to encourage you to "just get over it" and "move on," but it's just not possible to wave a magic wand to erase the emotional pain involved with this type of major loss.  You need time and space to grieve.  And, yet, life goes on.  You still need to get up every day, although it might take a lot of effort just to do that, and take care of your responsibilities.   You might wonder how you'll get through the day or even the next minute without falling apart.

Step by step, with the support of loved ones who understand you and your loss, you work to put the pieces of your shattered heart and your life back together again.  Gradually, the pain begins to lift until you begin to feel a sense of hope again.  You realize that you're now having moments when you feel lighter.  You're not completely recovered, but you're not where you were when your spouse or partner left.

Relationships:  What to Do When Your Ex, Who Abandoned You, Wants to "Start Over"
What to Do If Your Ex Wants to "Start Over"?
Over time, you're starting to feel better about yourself and the world around you.  Then, suddenly, the unthinkable happens:  Your ex, who abandoned you, returns and he or she wants to "start over" again.  Once again, your world can get turned upside down.

If your second reaction, after the initial shock, is anger, you're in good company.  This is a common and understandable reaction in this situation.  But shock and anger can't be the basis for making a decision about whether to start over with your ex.  You need to stop, think and sort out your feelings before you make any hasty decisions.

No one can tell you what's right for you.  For many people, who were left by an ex, the answer to "starting over" would be a resounding "No!" and they would send their ex packing with Donna Summer's song, "I Will Survive" playing in the background.  But for many other people, including possibly you, the answer might not be so clear.   You might feel confused by a lot of mixed feelings.    This is also a common reaction.

But there are a few questions you can ask yourself that might help you to decide if you want to open your heart and allow your ex to return:

What has changed?
Your ex's apology and just saying you're going to "start over" doesn't automatically resolve whatever issues caused your ex to abandon the relationship or whatever problems you might have had before.  Be honest with yourself. What has changed?  Even if your ex had an epiphany about his or her behavior, will this realization alone be enough to prevent your ex from abandoning you again?  Wanting to change and actually being able to change are two different things.  And if not much has changed, can you endure going through the same kind of heartbreak again if your ex walks out of the relationship again?

How do you feel about yourself when you think about getting back into a relationship with your ex?
It's important to start with this question rather than how you feel about your ex.  Whether you're angry, sad, hurt, happy or glad that your ex wants to get back together again, pay attention to your gut feelings about this.  Aside from your initial feelings about making up, which can be exciting and sexy at first, what's your sense about what the relationship will be like for you after this initial stage?  

How do you feel about him or her?
During your healing process, your feelings might have changed about your ex and, possibly, about what you want from a romantic partner or relationship in general.  Aside from the anger and hurt, if you can look at your ex objectively, what are your feelings about being back in a relationship with your ex?  If you're still in love with your ex, put those emotions aside for the time being and assess what you think is best for you.

What was your part in the breakup?
This can be one of the hardest things to consider.  But whether you take your ex back or not, this is an important question to ask yourself because you don't want to repeat the same mistakes, whether it's with your ex or someone new.

Taking responsibility for your part in the breakup, even though it was your ex who walked out, is important for your own personal development.  This doesn't mean that you blame yourself for all of your ex's problems or all the problems in the relationship--just your part.  It also doesn't mean that you allow guilt to influence your decision.  Are there things you'd like to change about yourself?  If so, how do you plan to go about making these changes?

Take Your Time
If you have mixed feelings about getting back with your ex, take your time to consider your decision carefully.  Only you know how difficult it was to go through the breakup and what it took to get to the other side of this emotional crisis.  There are emotional risks in taking back your ex, especially if he or she has abandoned the relationship more than once.  Don't allow your ex's sense of urgency to cause you to make a hasty decision.

Also, be aware that loneliness and a fear that you might not meet anyone new could cloud your decision.  This isn't about settling out of fear.   It's about making the best possible decision for yourself based on what you know in your gut.

Getting Help
Friends and family can be helpful in this process, but they might already have their own strong opinions about your ex and your former relationship.  You might find yourself either defending your ex if your loved ones try to convince you not to go back or defending your feelings about not going back if they're urging you to go back.

In this type of situation, there are usually few people who are close to you who can be truly objective.  So, it can be helpful to see a licensed mental health professional, who is objective and can help you sort through all of your feelings about whether or not to take your ex back without having to defend any particular feelings and without feeling ashamed of your feelings.  If you're unsure about what to do and you have mixed feelings about your ex, you owe this to yourself to put yourself first and get the help you need.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

I work with individual adults and couples.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

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