Is My Marriage Doomed If I Can’t Stop Thinking about My Ex?


I literally just called him on my cell phone

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

Woman in blue pants

Q: So this is taking me a lot to actually type out. But I am in serious need of advice, and I can’t be the only one to be dealing with this.

I am getting married in a couple weeks, and after a long year and a half engagement I am finally feeling the pressures weigh down on me. The other night I got extremely intoxicated and called up my ex-boyfriend. (I know, I know.) In my defense, this isn’t a normal occurrence, I haven’t spoken to my ex in over two years. Also—this is not just your ordinary ex-boyfriend. This ex and I have been on and off since high school, which puts us at about the ten-year mark. We have a crazy relationship history that I don’t need to get into, but to put it simply, I think we have been addicted to each other and also I think it was a very real, deep love. Because I needed someone stable, I allowed my relationship with my fiancé to flourish and I am extremely happy with my decision. But two weeks from the wedding—I can’t help but think about all the shoulda, woulda, couldas.

I was honest with my fiancé and told him that I called the ex-boyfriend drunkenly. I told him I have been thinking for weeks that I need to, for the closure of our ten-year chapter. He got very mad at me and I have to work to build his trust up again. What he doesn’t know was that there was no closure, and the phone call actually made everything worse because my ex cried and told me how much he doesn’t want me to marry my fiancé. And the worst part is I keep thinking about my ex as well.

Does the fact that I can’t stop thinking about my ex mean that our marriage is doomed? Or is it normal to kind of have a small freak out and wonder about all the chapters of love in your life that you are closing when choosing forever with someone else? And regardless of the answer, where do I go from here? How do I get over a ten-year explosive relationship with a person who’s been through so much with me, and is such a huge part of my life, and just “stop caring” about him? I know that I want to be with my fiancé. I know that I’ll do what I need to do to make this work, but I’m not sure where to go from here.

—Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,

It is totally normal to get freaked out by the idea of “forever” just before the wedding. It happens often enough that there’s a cute name for it and everything. I can tell you definitively that while some people are confident and without any qualms, there are others who hit a bit of a panic. I can’t tell you if that’s your situation.

You ask, “Does this mean my marriage is doomed?” and it feels a little like you’re asking, “Which guy is the one for me?” But that’s not how it works, is it? There’s no such thing as “the one.” You just sort of pick someone that makes sense with you, that fits neatly together with your awkward parts, someone who’s easy to be with and irritates you less than all the others. That leaves a lot of closed chapters, as you called it. There are other unexplored options that might have worked out in another life.

Are you okay with closing this particular chapter?

Because in this specific situation, you’re talking about a ten year, on-again-off-again relationship. That kind of thing doesn’t really have any closure, there’s no real way to succinctly end it. You’ve spent a big chunk of your life caring about this person, and so far, you guys haven’t been very good at finality.

So be introspective. Lots of us have these dozens of lives that could’ve been, ones that maybe we wonder about on a random July day. Getting married doesn’t mean that’s not the case; it doesn’t mean you turn off the valve of caring for someone. It does mean that you are choosing not to explore that path. Put bluntly, I’m asking: are you going to get drunk and call your ex whenever you have a fight or are having some feelings or watch that one episode of Grey’s Anatomy? Be honest with yourself. It’s not good for you, but it’s also really crappy to do that to your partner.

While you’re at it, sort out how you feel about him, the one right in front of you waiting to get married. Emails never give the full story, but some of the ways you talked about your relationship made me pause. “Allowed it to flourish” and “needed stability” sound like you prescribed yourself this guy to fix some sort of problem, rather than diving into things because you love him. Sure, not every relationship is a Harlequin romance, but if this one isn’t, will you eventually one day be tempted to chase down the passion and drama of your volatile relationship with your ex?

If you read through all of that above and are still feeling confused (I am), there’s nothing wrong with delaying that wedding while you sort through it all. You’ll probably lose out on a few deposits, people will talk, those things aren’t negligible, I understand. But they really are super small in light of the alternative. As hard as it would be to put on the brakes now, it’ll be even harder to try to undo it all after.

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Amy March

    I’m of the opinion gererally that you don’t get closure from other people you close it yourself. I guess my question is do you want closure? Where closure means “I’m marrying someone else and I can’t maintain this dramatic non-relationship-or-maybe-it-is with someone else”? What if closure means deleting his number, blocking him across the internet, asking your friends not to speak to you if him? Is that something you want to do because you’re over the moon excited about your marriage and will do anything to protect it? I don’t think an occasional whistful longing sigh for what might have been dooms a marriage, but I do think you need to want this to end and want your current partner more than this old guy to have any chance. And I think your fiancé deserves someone who is all in on this marriage.

    • Ashlah

      Agreed. Every time she continues to reach out, she’s opening this all back up, not seeking/achieving closure. I mean, she hadn’t spoken to him in two years! That’s pretty much a closed chapter, regardless of the mental “what-if’s” that will likely always exist. What could he possibly have said that would leave her comfortable with moving on? Life rarely gives us neat little closure talks that are entirely satisfying. It’s a conscious decision and effort by the individual to move on and quit picking the scab.

      • Violet

        Quit picking the scab. Yes. “There is no there there.”

      • Cleo

        And social media makes picking that scab SO much easier. Unfriending/following someone is seen as an extreme circumstance (well I’m not going to NOT be friends with that person on Facebook – that’s so cruel!), but it’s actually one of the kindest things you can do for yourself. Take away the option to pick the scab and it will heal MUCH sooner.

        • Violet

          Seriously. It’s already such a hard process- give yourself every option to make it easier. Don’t be a hero. Even Odysseus asked his men to tie him to the mast when he knew he wouldn’t be able to resist the Siren’s call.

          • emmers

            I enjoy this analogy.

          • Violet

            Haha, I’m glad. Just throwing in a little classic literature on a Thursday afternoon, y’all.

          • Adriana_Paula

            NICE.

          • Diverkat

            10/10 solid analogy. I think I’m going to have to staple this comment to my forehead.

    • Alli

      Yeah, I’m not sure what kind of closure she’s expecting to get by calling the ex. Clearly the ex still has some feelings for her, so she’s not about to get a “Goodbye, I wish you all the best in your future endeavors, we are #done” sort of reply.

      • Violet

        If you want closure, you gotta make it happen yourself. You can’t expect other people to do it for you, even if it would be easier.

      • idkmybffjill

        Yeah, more likely what she wants is what she’s getting…. which is “don’t marry him I still love you.” Now I don’t know if that’s because she still loves him, or because it’s nice (though cruel) to feel like you have an emergency back up love interest… but either way it’s not really about closure, IMO.

    • Angela’s Back

      “I’m of the opinion gererally that you don’t get closure from other people you close it yourself.” SO TRUE. I have a situation like this and every time I get that itch to go back for closure, I have to remind myself what happened every other time I did that, which was to reopen the whole can of worms that I then spend the next six months extricating myself from. It’s hard but I have to just remind myself that my closure exists and I provide it to myself every single day that my destructive relationship isn’t in my life any more.

      • emmers

        Yup! I had an ex send me a request on LinkedIn after I had seen him at a recent party with mutual friends. It felt petty, but I denied his LinkedIn request. We have no need to connect there, there’s really no good that can come of that. As interesting as it may be to get details, etc, know that he still wants to connect, it’s way better to keep that door firmly shut.

        • Amandalikeshummus

          The internet is terrible for closure. I let my ex-bf refriend me on Facebook because it was going to be the path of least resistance. He’s really annoying when he’s being persistent, and we have lots of mutual friends. So I was like, whatever, it’s been years. I accepted the request and hid him. But he likes EVERYTHING I do. I call it benevolent stalking because I can’t go complaining that he likes posts I’m in and whatnot. But I find it really annoying since I decided a long time ago that our friendship was over with the relationship, and I think he still hopes that’s not true.

          He’s not looking for anything on the romantic side, which is why I’m sure he thinks it’s okay; but it’s still pushing on the barriers of closure.

          • anny

            >But he likes EVERYTHING I do. I call it benevolent stalking because I can’t go complaining that he likes posts I’m in and whatnot. But I find it really annoying since I decided a long time ago that our friendship was over with the relationship, and I think he still hopes that’s not true.
            unfriend him!!!! He is harassing and bothering you. Don’t let him do that. He’s not respecting the barrier you set up. In the bin!

          • Amandalikeshummus

            I guess I should clarify that everything is like once a month. And a lot of times it’s actually posts by mutual friends. I’m not very active on facebook. It’s just that when I am, there he is.

          • MDBethann

            Or, if you can’t bring yourself to unfriend him, at least put him on your restricted list so he can’t see your posts or the things you like. There are ways to remain FB “friends” with someone but allow them to see very little of your online presence. They don’t know what they can’t see and you don’t feel bad for not friending them. I’ve had to do just that with some family members for political reasons (can’t unfriend them, but to retain some shreds of respect for them, I don’t follow them and I have them on my restricted list so they can’t see everything I post).

          • Cleo

            Ugh… Annoying.

            You can choose to share posts with All Friends except and choose his name from your list of friends to block the post. Then, he can still feel like he’s your friend, but you get away from his constant likes.

          • RNLindsay

            Yep! I do this with a “like” happy Uncle!

          • emmers

            I really struggled with whether or not to accept the LinkedIn thing. It felt rude to decline it. I don’t wish him ill or anything, and we were friendly enough at the party when we saw each other, and our breakup was 7 or 8 years ago? But I ultimately felt like it would stress me out to know he was in my LinkedIn looking at my stuff, and I honestly didn’t want to feel like I would have reason to look at his stuff too. And that outweighed the feeling rude.

            If it’s bothering you, I think there’s nothing wrong with unfriending him or blocking him. It will definitely feel awkward, but it sounds like it already feels awkward, just in a different way. Like you said, he’s not your friend. No ill to him, you just don’t want to interact with him online.

          • Jess

            I recently blocked an ex from 7 years ago on FB (we weren’t friends) because they were suddenly showing up on the “mutual friend liked this post from Ex” algorithm.

            I wish them nothing but the best, and they did me no wrongs (I was a mess at the time), and I would not ever prefer a relationship with Ex over R, but I do not want to see reminders of Ex, thank you very much.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            If you don’t want to unfriend him, you can change the security settings on your posts to exclude him.

    • Jo

      This was my main takeaway when reading the end, sure you are wondering what to do about the ex, but- what do you want to have happen with your fiance? “I do think you need to want this to end and want your current partner more than this old guy to have any chance.” If you can’t focus on the fact that you’ve hurt this person you are saying is your person, then maybe that’s your answer.

      • Engaged Chicago

        I love this point. The “idea” of an ex can be so intriguing until you think of the logistics. Hurt someone you love? Lose their family that becomes like your own? Hurt all the people who would be involved in interrupting ex’s life? If that pain doesn’t resonate, it’s a pretty good barometer..

    • LAinTexas

      Yep. I dated a guy for a couple of months in college (eight or so years ago now), and then I ended up moving across the street from him for a year (coincidence) several months after we’d broken up. But there was quite a long time where things dragged out, we’d text, and so on. It was pretty toxic for me. I fell very hard, very fast, but he made it clear that he just wanted me around for funsies and wasn’t serious about the relationship. I eventually deleted his number out of my phone, unfriended him on Facebook, and denied the one or two future Facebook friend requests I got from him. I’ve gotten into the habit in recent months of looking through my “On This Day” on Facebook and deleting posts involving him from back then – him posting on my wall, posts I made where he commented, even posts that I’m sure were references to him in my sadness after we broke up. Because it was so toxic, I just needed to cut him out of my life. Thankfully, he transferred to a different university in a different state, and that helped tremendously. However, he was somewhat creeper-stalkerish – I do know that he now lives in the Los Angeles area because he always wanted to work in TV/film. He talked about that all the time even back then. A little over a year after we broke up, I happened to get a summer job in Los Angeles…and he knew about it (still not sure why I told him)…and he sent me a friend request literally the night I got to LA. I also discovered at two different points ***last year*** (so seven years or so after we dated?!?! – why?!?!) that he was following BOTH of my Instagram accounts, one of which didn’t even have my full name associated with it, so I don’t know how he found it. I never noticed the notification when he started following me on either account (both are public – one was for a former blog I no longer keep up, and the other is my current business account), but I did happen to notice his name (which is his Insta handle) in notifications on likes on posts. That’s how I caught him both times, and I blocked him on both accounts. If LW was really serious about “closure” and finality…then it seems to me that she’d take the steps necessary to cut this guy out of her life so she can move on with the person she’s chosen. Do I still think about this ex from time to time? Sure, but not very often, and never in sappy-I-wish-we’d-worked-out thoughts. I’ve been with my current boyfriend for 5 1/2 years, and he treats me SO much better than that guy did, and I actually see a future with him. I don’t need some crazy ex causing drama, so #byefelicia. I feel like LW doesn’t really want this thing with her ex to end, since she hasn’t really done anything (as far as we can tell from her letter) to make sure the bridge is burned. I hate to sound so judgy, but…having been there and done that, ya know?

    • Jess

      I have said variations on this statement on closure in many conversations with many friends lately.

      I think I’m going to just copy-past this comment next time.

    • Staria

      I’m with @amymarch:disqus – you have to choose to close it yourself. Don’t text, don’t call, unfollow on social media if blocking feels too petty. Ask yourself why you’re chasing this form of excitement and feelings. What are you getting from this? How else could you get it in a safer way in your life?

    • wildflowerbride

      YES – “closure” as its commonly understood is a myth! There is no way to neatly tie up the end of any truly meaningful relationship.

  • Cleo

    How the LW describes her relationship with her ex as on-again-off-again in the PRESENT tense (I’m assuming that part of the letter hasn’t been edited, so if I’m wrong, please correct me). LW, if you’re still thinking about your ex as someone who you’ll be on-again with sometime or consider the relationship still open, I would implore you to delay the wedding because it’s not fair to yourself (or your partner) to have your heart still partially belong to someone else and get married because it’s what you’ve planned. This is a huge commitment.

    I would also urge you to get into counseling so you can sort through your feelings. Not couple’s counseling. And, like Liz said, not to choose between boys, but to sort through how you feel about all this. It sounds like there’s a lot to unpack here (the drama of your ex, the stability your fiance provides that – and Liz is so right – sounds like you’ve prescribed yourself) that you owe to yourself, first and foremost, to sort out, so you can feel comfortable with the decision you’ll make.

    • mousey

      Thirding counselling. Situations like this are pretty much the reason to get pre-marital counseling. (I’m not talking “learn how to split finances and what your values are” classes with your partner, I’m talking actual 1 on 1 counseling).

    • Sara

      That is exactly what jumped out at me. The present tense made me feel like the LW is considering this as the ‘off again’ part of the relationship. I don’t doubt that there is a lot of love with her fiancé and she wants to make it work with them but the lack of past tense is a little worrisome.

      • penguin

        Especially since she said she hadn’t spoken to the ex in over two years – it’s not like they just broke up, this is something that should be very firmly in the past tense.

        • Amandalikeshummus

          I wonder if she meant that it was at ten years when they were last together? I definitely noticed that too, and came up with that rationale because it made me feel better.

          • jem

            She sounds young in her letter… I’m assuming she’s mid 20’s tops and has been on/off with this dude for 10 yrs (so since mid-teens)

        • Meredith

          Yes, if she hadn’t talked to him in 2 years and has been engaged for 1.5 years that kind of made me go hmmm. She had to have seen him while still dating her fiance.

          My sister married her on-again-off-again high school boyfriend after dating someone else for several years during college. Some feelings and people just don’t go away it seems. I have no idea how I would handle this situation myself! Probably immediate counseling and or delaying is best. But oh the money!

      • jem

        It’s also worrisome that she thinks of her relationship with ex as being “at the ten year mark,” like she’s still ticking off their anniversaries? Donno why but this struck an odd note for me– it seems that she still sees this relationship as very much ongoing

      • Abby

        Yes. I think wedding rom-coms do a real disservice here, painting rosy visions of love triangles being resolved last minute at the “forever hold your peace” trigger. But “wants to make it work with” and framing engagement as a “decision” between two guys is not a frame of mind to enter a marriage. Deciding to marry someone is a very big decision. But it shouldn’t be a “who” decision. By the time you walk down that aisle in real life, all other doors need to be closed–and locked by you–forever. That’s not to say you can’t sneak a peek through the peephole in purely hypothetical what-if moments in the future, but “I do” is a “yup, you’re definitely it” statement, not an “I want you to be it” statement.

        I’m not saying LW’s engagement won’t be a successful marriage in time. But it seems like it needs some more time to be ready to be a marriage. Which is a really hard truth to face 2 weeks before the wedding.

        • Tolkien Gay

          I like what you’re saying here and think this is true to an extent, but this only applies in a monogamous relationship. Maybe if LW considers counseling this is could be something to reflect on as well? Regardless of the outcome, I think it’s so important to reflect on the nature of how you love and be intentional when thinking about what kind of partnership you’d like to have.

          • I agree that for anyone bugging over getting married exploring feelings about monogamy can be a potentially productive avenue, and one that people might not think of because monogamy is such an entrenched norm.

            At the same time, entering into a legal/social entanglement as intense as marriage with a fraught “which one” dilemma would be just as bad an idea if LW wasn’t monogamous, and I think pointing out that some of this could come from thinking about weddings as the climax to a story instead of a way-station on an ongoing journey is also a really good point.

          • Tolkien Gay

            I really appreciate your point, thanks for adding on!

          • Abby

            Great point. I was definitely speaking from a monogamous perspective, and don’t think that all doors to romance/sex/intimacy have to be closed full stop, if some form of ethical non-monogamy works for you and your partner(s).

        • anon

          “By the time you walk down that aisle in real life, all other doors need to be closed–and locked by you–forever.”
          Eh, do they? That’s a very monogamous perspective – Tolkien Gay has some really good points.
          I imagine practically, in real life, very VERY few people have closed and locked all doors “forever” because we’re human and fallible, and because sometimes people don’t want to only have romantic love with only one person forever, and because conflating marriage with happy monogamy is a falsehood. Happy monogamy is a shit ton of work that you have to choose to undergo and it’s not something that can be “done and finished’ before a wedding because it’s an ongoing task. It’s sure not a requirement for marriage. Dan Savage has some great stuff about this.
          Sure you are making a commitment, but saying that you have to ROCK SOLID in it is also overkill. We’re human, we function in greys not in blacks and whites.

          • Abby

            Non-monogamous/monogamish relationships would definitely vary the door-closing/locking/peephole metaphor– I realize that my language there was overgeneralized and could have been clearer I was speaking in the context of LW’s specific situation, which I perceived (based on LW’s fiance’s reaction to the ex conversation, among other things) is, at least at the present moment, monogamous. I could definitely be wrong here. Either way, though, I think that if you’re going to make a legal commitment to a person (which, at least under current laws, you only get to do with one person at a time), the “who” of that commitment should be resolved long before the day you’re actually signing the papers.

          • Amy March

            It’s also not something it’s acceptable to spring on your FI two weeks before the wedding cause you got drunk and called the ex you are still into. Nothing about this letter suggests this relationship is nonmonogous.

            You can both firmly close existing doors and accept that life has many unknowns in the future.

          • Violet

            I agree that if you want to not only get into but STAY in a monogamous relationship, it involves an ongoing process of watching/monitoring your feelings towards others. So it’s not one and done, and of course we’re all fallible. But LW seems pretty torn up about choosing, so my guess is she is not comfortable with an ongoing poly situation (and it’s clear that wouldn’t be the right set up for fiance, so that would mean canceling the wedding).

        • Violet

          “Deciding to marry someone is a very big decision. But it shouldn’t be a “who” decision.”
          I love this. It’s not like, “I wanna get married, just gotta pick which person.” It should be, “Found this amazing person. Now, do I want to marry them?”

    • Yes to counseling. It sounds like LW needs to work out how much this is a reaction to getting married & how much is unresolved feelings… And getting some in-depth outside guidance could be really helpful with that.

    • Good catch, it was NOT edited.

  • anonforthis

    To share my personal experience on the whole “stable person as a prescription for fixing someone’s issues…”

    An ex of mine once sat me down and told me that he had decided to be with me instead of “the hottest woman [he’s] ever met in [his] life, who [he’s] been friends with for years,” because he knew I was the sane, smart, rational choice and she was very chaotic. He somehow saw this as a compliment (I’m embarrassed to say, it took me about 5 months to break up with him after that).

    I’m not saying LW is doing this to her fiance, AT ALL, but from the opposite side of things, being the smart choice feels terrible. Everyone deserves wild, passionate love, even us well-adjusted folk.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      Marry me because you want me, period, not because you want to marry someone who isn’t this other person.

    • Anon

      I don’t know if I agree. I mean I definitely agree that your ex was a douchenozzle and nobody deserves to be made to feel like the boring, unsexy but dependable choice. But I have been in wild, passionate love. It made me feel unstable and not myself and caused me to have bad judgement. My partner is the smart choice. They’re loving, cute as hell, funny, interesting, and right for me and I had those crush feelings big time in the early days. Do I want to rip their clothes off? Not really but the sex is the best (not the most crazy/passionate, but the best) I’ve ever had. I love them! Thinking of getting to spend the rest of my life with them makes me feel like the luckiest person. Am I “in love” with them, where “in love” means crazy wild passionate lust? Not really, and I never really have been. I am specifically with them because I trust the way I feel about them in a way I never could when I had all those hormones and chemicals telling me that someone with a million red flags was my SOULMATE AND WE SHOULD ELOPE RIGHT NOW. I think it’s an each to their own type scenario. If someone feels sorry for me because I am not in wild, passionate love with my partner – don’t! I’ve been there, done that, and while it’s amazing and addictive, I don’t feel like it’s the right foundation for a forever relationship. If you disagree, great! We’re all living our own lives.

      • anonforthis

        Totally agree – stable relationships > dramatic one

        And I don’t feel sorry for you – I’m actually a bit envious of what you have. :)

        To me, wild passion is about feeling a deep connection at the outset more than intense highs or ripping each other’s clothes off right away. Probably because I’ve never felt those highs in general and the thought of all that lust makes me anxious. :)

        My point was more towards PAJAne’s – a person who doesn’t bring chaos to a relationship deserves to be loved, wanted, and desired on their own accord and because of all their facets, not primarily because they are stable.

      • ladyjanegreysanatomy

        “I have been in wild, passionate love. It made me feel unstable and not myself and caused me to have bad judgement.” This!

        Is my current partner the hottest sex I’ve ever had? honestly no. Reliably awesome and fun and I thing we both want to do a lot, definitely, but it’s nothing to write erotic fiction about, you know? The hottest, erotica-worthy encounters I can recall were nearly all with deeply unstable people whose ability to confuse and surprise me was attractive. It was also deeply destructive. Did I feel passionately? yes. Was it love? I thought so at the time.

        My previous relationship was definitely the most passionate of my life and it also left me really broken. I came to realize that a lot of the heart pounding overwhelming feelings were linked to my ex’s erratic and borderline abusive behaviour and I resolved that if that was love, it was not for me. I came to believe that the excitement of these relationships, like the excitement of crushes, is partly about the unknown: not knowing what they think, how they feel, how they will behave, or what will happen next. That’s ok for a little while, but if your long term relationship feels like that, it is actually a sign that you are insecure and unstable in it. I grew to really hate crushes because they bring back those feelings and make me feel very panicky.

        My current partner excites me every day, is always sexy and affectionate and I always want to be sexy and affectionate right back. I don’t feel that unstable storm of emotions, but I do feel utter total confidence in our relationship. Part of what allowed me to pursue it, even when we didn’t know where it was going, was her total frankness about her feelings and where she was at. I never felt insecure. Most folks will find it incomprehensible, but we don’t say I love you. We like each other A LOT. We adore each other. We are never bored when we’re together and we miss each other when we’re apart. But love has never felt like the right word in part because, for me at least, things I called love in the past were not actually good. This is. I feel incredibly lucky every day.

        To address the original letter and other comments around closure… in my case, it took nearly twice the length of that bad relationship to achieve something like closure. There were ups and downs in that but at least we never got back together. But closure was a long slow process of realizing that not only was a relationship impossible, they were not some one I could or even (eventually) wanted to have in my life. I still wish them the best and even try to remember that I did get some good things out of it, but I also still feel actual terror at the thought of running into them unexpectedly. All that is left of the heart pounding is the realization that it’s unpleasant and dangerous.

      • Diverkat

        Yes to all of this.

  • AnonForThis

    I have an ex like the one described here. We had an intense attraction, great chemistry, passion, and terrible communication, timing, and coping strategies. Incredible highs, devastating lows. In retrospect, we were both manipulative of the other. But no matter what happened it seemed like I just couldn’t stay away from him. Even after it ended for the last time, there was always the specter of getting back together, because that’s what happened every other time.

    This is a very unpopular approach, but my next serious relationship (with my now-husband) started without much chemistry, without any of the things my previous relationship had. We had some attraction to each other, but mostly we got along very well. It was really peaceful. We enjoyed each others company. We had a lot in common. The attraction grew with time. We are extremely close to each other and trust each other entirely, but our close friends have commented that to them, it seems like we have a platonic marriage. In some ways I guess we do.

    The difference between my situation and this writer’s is that I willingly chose this path because the other had been so scarring. Of course this is rather extreme and I definitely believe that you can come out of a dysfunctional relationship and have another that has excellent chemistry, excitement, etc. but I no longer craved that. I did want stability above all else. I was willing to trade a lot to get that. I let that sister ship of a life sail off. If you can’t let it go, you may be in for some problems. I agree with Liz that you need to figure out if this is a one-time freakout or if you miss what you got from your ex, if that is something you aren’t getting from your fiance.

    • anonforthis

      Totally with you. I realized I was a “bad picker” after being in multiple relationships with boys (men is too high a compliment for these guys) who had issues with clinical depression they refused to get help for, were lazy, video-game obsessed to the exclusion of most other things, etc. When I met them, I had insane butterflies in my stomach and we would text for hours daily and on and on. Lots of energy there.

      When my last relationship with one of these guys ended, I made it a point to only date people who I felt very platonic feelings for. It’s been a little boring, but I’m currently seeing a guy who I would have dismissed as “oh he’s like a brother” except then, after our first date, he kissed me and there were freaking fireworks behind my eyes. There’s none of the crazy butterfly energy and we haven’t figured out the sex yet, but he likes to do everything I do, we’re both equally chill, and this comfort is worth those butterflies 10 fold.

    • Nicole

      My relationship with my husband is a lot like yours! We met when I was in a really, really bad place (as in, coping with alcoholism and PTSD from sexual assault and recently homeless type of bad. BAD-bad).

      If you asked me to describe our relationship in the beginning I’d use words like “safe” and “stable” and “comforting” and “not abusive” – not really what romance novels are made of, huh? Also, there was no passion at all because I was still in the early stages of treatment for the PTSD thing.

      But in that place of dark desperation, real love did bloom, slowly, carefully over time. Tbh I still wouldn’t say we have a super passionate relationship – that I-want-to-rip-your-clothes-off chemistry isn’t really a thing for us. But it is a very intimate relationship, I adore him and he adores me, we communicate wonderfully, we trust each other without reservation, and he is truly my safe haven in life which means more to me than anything else. It works for us. I don’t feel like our relationship is lesser because it’s different than others. *shrug*

    • AlsoAnonForThis

      Oh man I’d love to see some essays about this. I think all the rom-coms condition us to think of a marriage like this as the one you leave for the truly exciting relationship. But my relationship also started without much chemistry, built over a couple years of friendship, and led to marriage when we reached the point of “I can’t even imagine life without this person, all my future Christmases and everything else must be with them.” There’s romance now, but it wasn’t there at the beginning. (Trauma and grief played a part in the lack of romance during those early stages too.)

      And while we were dating, my old crush (the one with fireworks, instant connection, could finish each others’ sentences, total drama, half truths, tears, dreams and heartbreak, you name it) got engaged. I’d had a crush on him for 20 years. I cried. I was that girl who’s dating one guy and crying about another. And I too let that ghost ship sail off — and I have absolutely no regrets. I have a marriage that’s happier than I ever thought possible. And I’m cool with the fact that it looks quieter than others, at least from the outside.

      • yetanotheranonforthis

        I was that girl too– 2 of my significant exes got engaged within a week of each other in the early years of me dating my now-husband. I cried, hard, in a bathroom hiding from my now-in-laws. Those tears are sometimes a necessary part of moving on. There were a million emotions in those tears (some jealousy, some nostalgia, and so much more), but where I came out on the other side of them was — these are/were important people in my life. I am sad mostly because we are no longer close enough for me to express how happy I am that you have found a person who is so much better for you than I was. I don’t think I would have found that realization inside myself if I had tried to stifle the tears.

    • suchbrightlights

      I am here with you on a lot of this. I also exited a “when it’s good it’s great, and we are greatly bad for each other” relationship and (10 years later, when I felt I had my act together) am marrying someone I love and value deeply, but I feel a sense of calmness more than passion. To me that feels like I’ve found a teammate, not a sparring partner. Serotonin, not adrenaline. It took me a long time to realize that not feeling that rush was actually a really good thing, because the rush I associated with my ex was relief after anxiety. Being in a relationship where we are good for and with each other feels like coming home.

      Sometimes I think about what the ex and I would say to each other almost 15 years later, as a “if I could write my closure scene how would it go?” I hope it would end with him being emotionally healthy and in a fulfilling career surrounded by people who love him. And it would end with me right where I am now, with my partner. I wouldn’t trade. Not for an instant.

      It sounds like the writer is still trying to decide if she would, and that seems like an unsettling way to enter a marriage. I think this is “give self ultimatum or call it off” territory. If the thought of an ultimatum provokes her to feel more strongly than calling it off, she might have her answer.

      • “Being in a relationship where we are good for and with each other feels like coming home.” That’s sweet, and that’s my barometer for knowing if I want to spend my life with someone too.

      • ladyjanegreysanatomy

        “not feeling that rush was actually a really good thing, because the rush I associated with my ex was relief after anxiety.”

        Again, this. It is so reassuring to read so many accounts of this from other people. I wish there was more out there on this because I think the narrative that says the rush = love is so pervasive and pernicious.

        • suchbrightlights

          I think it’s probably true for some people in the same way it isn’t for us! I don’t know if I would have wanted “the rush” even if I hadn’t had the experience with my ex. I’ve always been a very logical person emotionally, by which I mean I have almost always processed emotions intellectually and have always had an inclination to compartmentalize. So although “the rush” felt good at the time, I think over time I would have found it emotionally exhausting even without the complication of “oh thank goodness he didn’t kill himself today.”

          I think that if I asked my fiance if he feels passion in our relationship, he would say yes, and I would say no- for him passion is emotional, for me it’s intellectual. I think if we both processed feelings in the same way, we’d probably butt heads quite a bit, and the fact that we process differently and KNOW that we process differently helps us work in concert instead of against each other.

  • yeah delay the wedding. it’s one thing to have some “woah this is a big commitment” thoughts and even to drunkenly call the ex. but that fact that you’re still thinking about it days afterward, enough to write this letter, means that it’s not just a little thing. It’s respectful to you and your fiance not to get married when you’re feeling these emotions.

  • Anon-a-moose

    I was in an on-again off-again relationship with a person I thought was “The One” for close to 8 years. Even when we were off, we still spoke all the time and every single time we would run into each other (usually after a few beers) we would be on again. His love was deep, immediate, intoxicating. We finished each other’s thoughts. We also screamed at each other, would ghost on each other for days after a fight, cheated on each other. When I met my now husband he was a “rebound”. He’s also the most trustworthy, dependable, hilarious, kind human I know and he turned my life right-side-up. I wish I could say I easily closed the chapter with Boyfriend and moved on to Husband but I didn’t. For the first year of my marriage I would have inappropriate text messages and phone calls with Boyfriend. We would meet up when we were out. We would have these intense conversations that I desperately wanted to continue. We were not physical, but we may as well have been. It was the most messy, painful period of my life. It took a year of therapy and a cross state move on Boyfriend’s part for us to REALLY close that chapter. My husband only knows about 1/8 of the truth. Please don’t be me, please close the chapter (however you need to) BEFORE you get married.

    • NolaJael

      Thanks for the honesty. I’m glad this ended well for you eventually.

  • Abs

    My question is–is this about looking at these two people and feeling drawn to both of them for different reasons, or is about LW’s image of herself as someone who is involved with both of these people. One scary thing about getting married is that our choice of partner is a huge part of our image of ourselves, and that suddenly gets set in stone. Perhaps it could be hard for LW to let go of the image of herself as someone who has this passionate on-again-off-again relationship, or perhaps she likes to think of herself as someone who chose someone stable. Or perhaps both, but both is now no longer an option.

    I think it’s important to consider how much this is about LW’s self-image, and then try to set that aside as much as possible and look at the real human being you’re thinking of marrying.

    • Oof

      Oof, your self image point hits home. Single Me and Relationship Me have always felt like two different people. Single Me wears different clothes, walks differently, laughs differently. They’re both undoubtedly Me, but does getting engaged mean committing to Relationship Me forever? Are there ways to revive Single Me, who I really like but usually only makes post-breakup appearances and is probably fueled by the thrill of new faces and new potential relationships?

      • theteenygirl

        Same here! Single Me was fun and flirty and liked to party and is definitely more exciting than Relationship Me who plays cribbage and wears big sweaters and goes to farmers markets and thinks the music is too loud in restaurants. I love both versions of myself. Deciding to get married meant deciding to be okay with being Relationship Me forever, and mourning the loss of Single Me. (Though I can still bring back that feeling sometimes in certain scenarios!!)

        • ART

          I would be great friends with Relationship You!

          • penguin

            We could complain about the restaurant music together!

          • ladyjanegreysanatomy

            Ditto! Does Relationship You also like British murder mysteries or is that just Relationship Me?

        • Lexipedia

          Yes – occasionally when friends tell stories about our “Single Me” times together FI asks why I don’t do those things anymore – spend out all night dancing, go skinny-dipping on a dare, get sloshy on tequila with friends and sing karaoke in public, etc. Part of it is that was just a different time in my life/my friends lives and part of it is that I tried a bunch of things that I checked off a list and have no desire to do again. Also, I think “Single Me” NOW would be different than Single Me THEN, and stories about my early 20s reflect things that are different than they would be if FI and I broke up now. The stories about “Single early-20s Me” are fun, but I’m happy looking back on them and knowing that they are over.

          Not that “Married Me” won’t be up for the occasional tequila-fueled karaoke night, but maybe less often and with a few less drinks.

      • Cleo

        This is a really interesting point about Single Me and Relationship Me being two separate people.

        I’m currently single and I’m actively looking for someone who wants to be with the Single Me me (minus the promiscuity because I’m monogamous when I’m committed). Is that even possible though – to continue to be the “Single Me” even when in a relationship?

        (this sounds like the start to an unwritten Sex and the City episode)

        • topscallop

          Not to make this even more complicated, but I feel like I had multiple versions of Single Me, and when I got to the right one (like I was a cookie that had finished baking in the oven, to borrow an analogy from Buffy), was right around the time I met my fiance who, luckily enough, was the right fit for the Single Me I was most comfortable with being. Had I not met him, I would have continued on being my fab single self, just going on endless boring dates. Relationship Me doesn’t miss out on things Single Me enjoyed, and has to endure a lot less of the BS that Single Me went through in an effort to meet people.

        • Jess

          FWIW, I’m more of the parts I liked about Single Me in my marriage.

          The stuff Relationship Me let go of is the stuff that wasn’t serving Single Me anyway, like being pushy at friends to Please Like Me Now?, and telling mean-spirited jokes, and judging myself and people around me to understand my own self worth.

          With R, I became sillier, I have the room to be quieter, I can be sexier, and I can voice my own personal opinions more strongly.

          This wasn’t true for me in every relationship, but this one? I like this version of me.

          • jem

            This is so beautifully put

      • Amy March

        I think of it like Runaway Bride- you need to know what kind of eggs you like! By which I mean there’s a difference between knowing who you are as a person and holding onto that whether you are single or in a relationship versus what you do. Deciding to stay in or go out more to me isn’t about my core identity as a person, it’s about activities that suit the rest of my life at a given time.

  • Lexipedia

    Individual counseling is a must. But, putting aside the fact that you are engaged and potentially getting married soon and looking at this as an isolated problem, I also had an awful relationship that was hard to let go of and what helped me the most was writing a (never sent) breakup letter. I outlined all of the reasons it wasn’t a good relationship for me, basically a point by point list of why we shouldn’t be together and I would be better off without him. In the year after the relationship, when I would “remember the good times” and have an urge to get back in touch, I would go back and read the letter and remind myself of exactly the reasons I was so unhappy.

    • Jess

      Some days, I wish I could go back and look at all the letters I wrote but never sent. I usually tore them up/burned them/deleted the files/lost them over time. But it would be fascinating to go back and see how things worked out from that conflict.

      All this to say, I really support writing the letter you never send.

      • lamarsh

        I never wrote letters, but I used to write in a journal about a particular ex whenever he did something truly horrible. That way I could read it when I was feeling nostalgic to prevent myself from reaching out to him again. I had pretty much forgotten about it, but then when I was moving (in with my now husband) I found it under my bed and reread what I had written. It was a total mindf*ck. I had forgotten how completely destroyed I had been and for how long. And it made me even more grateful that I was in a stable relationship. But yeah, it’s amazing how your brain is capable of forgetting how awful someone made you feel.

        • Lexipedia

          No kidding. I recommended a friend who is currently mid-breakup write a similar letter, which led to me going back and reading mine out of curiousity. How did I put up with that crazy shit for so long? Like, he was actually awful but I had normalized all of his behavior over time, and because I was pretty young (19) when we started dating.

          FI would never ever say or do any of the things on that list in a million years, so it’s a nice reminder of the fact that I made the right choice.

        • Lisa

          We recently had all of the material pulled off the hard drive of my first computer so it could be recycled. I know that all of the crazy IM conversations with my abusive ex are on there, and I’m both extremely curious and scared to look back through those times. It’s so far away from the relationship I’m in now, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the sweet, caring, genuine person I have in my life.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            I broke up with someone after reading years-old IMs. Conversations with the person he dated before me, explaining how poorly he treated her, and how he ended up treating me. Conversations with him the first time he apologized and promised to change, the exact same thing he had told me recently, and countless times between. It was shocking to read about everything I’d forgotten, and see the pattern written out like that.

  • Oof

    I’m still sorting out how to say goodbye to those other lives. I think it’s hardest when it was all just a matter of timing and not actual incompatibility. A dear friend (who is also an ex) and I were having a (probably) ill-advised conversation recently where we joked about those alternate universes where the timing was right and we ended up together (and the alternate universes where we stood each other up on a blind date to play with somebody’s dog). I wish I could live in all those universes simultaneously and try them all on for size, but I can’t. Still trying to find a healthy way to mourn those possibilities without it clouding my decisions or happiness in the relationship/universe I’m actually living in.

    • Amandalikeshummus

      I weirdly did that mourning in the first year of our relationship. I was really single for a long time, and being in a true relationship was a huge adjustment. Since no commitments were made, I would reassure myself that I could leave anytime I wanted; then the other side of my mind would say, “No, this is a good thing! Don’t leave it!” I’m glad I followed the second voice and let myself grow into a new reality.

    • Anon

      Yup, I’m with you here. There was a guy, let’s call him… Tim… Tim came along right after I had ended a 7 year relationship. We saw each other casually because I was pretty fresh off a break up and wanted to date around. I was in to him. Really, really in to him. Then I left the country for a while. By a while I mean a year. When I got back, Tim was seeing someone else. That was rough. But it at least gave me some amount of ‘closure’. He’s not possible anymore so I could move on. I stopped all communication. Deleted everything. I knew that if I even saw him on the street, there’d be too many feelings.

      So I started dating again and I met someone else. I was in a relationship that was getting serious. Capital S serious. Then Tim broke up with his girlfriend. Cue Fist Shaking!!! But Nope. No, no no. I had a good thing going with Captial S serious guy. And even just seeing Tim, I knew, would fuck it all up.

      Tim and I never got a chance because of timing and life circumstances. In some alternate universe we would have at least gotten a chance. Maybe hit it off. But I don’t live in that universe. I live in this one. Where I chose to travel for a year, he chose someone else and then I chose my forever someone else.

      It took me a long time to get past that What-If. I still occasionally think about Tim, but not in a yearning way… in a sigh…I’ll never know *shrug* sort of way.

    • JenC

      I read a novel that looks at the alternate universes. It’s called ‘The Versions of Us’. It’s a story of boy meets girl, but three versions of the story depending on what the characters did in that initial meeting. I know it’s a novel but it was really interesting for me to see the highs and lows that could play out in very different universes. I enjoyed the story for the story but I also loved the idea of the different realities you can live through and what would be different in your life.

      • Abfab

        The musical If/Then is similar! It is about a woman who chooses between taking two different actions on one day, spending time with one friend at one activity vs. another, and how her life would have gone. The show was interesting in that there are so many points like this in real life, things that could change, but one life for her wasn’t necessarily better than the other. That play has really helped me have less regrets about things – I want to be reasonably confident that I am making choices that are true to who I am and what I value, but there will always be unknowns and factors that we can’t even begin to predict. It helps me be comfortable with the uncertainty of things I can’t control and place an emphasis on deciding and taking action to make my life go a certain way when I can.

  • Sarah

    I think that LW and her fiance could potentially have a good life together at some point, but if I were him I would not marry her any time soon. I’d feel like I was the consolation prize. I’d wonder if she wanted to be with ME or if she just needed to distract herself from her obsession. I’d want to give her time to figure all that out. I wouldn’t start a life with someone wondering if they still had their hooks in someone else. She might be closer to moving on than it seems in this letter, and she may be ready and excited to start her life with this guy, but I’d need convincing.

    I get baggage and messy ex-relationships – I think you can be fully committed and deeply in love with one person and still have complicated feelings about another – But if you can’t keep those feelings waaaaaaaaaay in the depths of your mind and not have any desire to indulge them, then it’s probably not the right time to get married.

    • Sarah

      I just read it again and I gotta say I’d be SO HURT if I were her fiance. He said she needs to work to build his trust again and there’s still part of the story she hasn’t shared with him! She speaks of the ex as if he is still a part of her life, or worse, still a part of HER. She seems to think of her and her ex as this inextricable unit. Um, shouldn’t she feel that way about her fiance? She doesn’t seem to want to let go of him, and clearly he hasn’t let go of her. She needs to cut him out of her life and her heart completely (delete from phone, block from social media, get rid of letters/gifts/etc., stop indulging in memories and complicated feelings) if she ever wants to truly move on. Sounds like she doesn’t want that, like she’s still addicted. I get that, and I feel for her, but if she loves and cares for her fiance (which I’m sure she actually does) she’ll do what she needs to move on from the ex THEN decide if she wants to share a life with fiance. I feel bad for all parties involved, but the poor fiance, ugh, I’d be so hurt.

  • JenC

    I had an addictive relationship with my ex. We brought out the worst in each other (it took me a while to realise I was part of the problem too and it wasn’t just him).

    When I first started dating my husband, he was the sane and sensible choice. He added stability. As our relationship was stable and my previous relationship was so volatile, I questioned if the relationship was enough, if it was too stable. I wondered if we had enough passion because sex was never when we were angry which meant my husband never punched a closet and then fucked me against it. What I actually thought was passion was actually us masking our problems with sex. Good sex but unhealthy sex. Sex based on anger and mainly driven by a need to cling onto the relationship. What I actually thought was stability just turned out to be a normal relationship with someone who doesn’t bring out the worst in you.

    Partly for me, I think it was the narrative of what love/passion is that had me questioning my relationship. I’ve heard that love is hard work so when it was easy with my husband was it really love? I’ve read that you shouldn’t settle for no passion but passion is painted as something that is fast, frantic and animalistic. Passion is never painted as finding your husband sexy while he’s doing dishes. It took me a while to realise that what is often painted as passionate can actually be really unhealthy, especially long term.

    Sure my husband is “safe” and “sensible”, sure our relationship is “stable”. What I’ve learnt is that these aren’t bad words, they’re not words that indicating you’re settling. I know that my relationship isn’t dependent on my husband’s mood, I know that having sex with my husband is about respect not just an alternative to getting physical with each other. I wonder where I’d be with my ex but I’m honest with myself, we would probably be in a relationship that involved physical violence, probably from both sides. My ex is an addiction, he’s unhealthy. I had to go cold turkey and completely cut him from my life. We can exchange a few messages throughout the year but it’s best to just go no contact. I choose my husband, I choose his stability, I choose him because he’s infitinely better than my ex and because I’m infinitely better with him. In my choice, I choose to ignore my ex, I choose to shut the door on that history, I choose to focus on my husband.

    I think the LW needs to work out if she’s experiencing these twinges because her relationship isn’t matching some romance novel or rom-com or whether it’s actually lacking. I don’t think the relationship with the ex should come into it because if the LW is honest with herself then the relationship is probably now being viewed with rose tinted glasses. So I think she needs to look at her relationship and if it matches what she wants for her life and if so, cut ties with the ex and choose her partner. If that relationship isn’t going to be enough for her, then regardless of what is happening with the ex she should look to end the relationship.

    • Amandalikeshummus

      “I’ve read that you shouldn’t settle for no passion but passion is
      painted as something that is fast, frantic and animalistic. Passion is
      never painted as finding your husband sexy while he’s doing dishes.”

      So true! Sometimes passion for a person is also a lot like passion for a career, art, or project. You want to put your all into it. Sex is a big part of that; but so is smiling because they bought your favorite toothpaste.

  • Violet

    In my opinion, closure is a process that you don’t realize is done until way after the fact. When years have gone by and you realize you barely think about the person, or when you do, it’s dispassionately, like they were part of a life of a different you. Think about a door closing- it’s not instantaneous. The doorway gets smaller and smaller as the door shuts. Yes, this can take a long time. But I think it’s complicating matters when LW conflates the messy, long-term processing of closing a door with being in an on-again, off-again relationship. I can imagine finance was hurt to hear that his relationship with LW essentially overlapped with this “10 year relationship.” I’d argue that LW and her ex have no relationship, and haven’t for a very long time. They just have a protracted and messy closure. It’s time to stop romanticizing this as a relationship. It’s just not.

    Overall, I kinda think the ex is a red herring. Like Liz says, this is not between the fiancé and the ex. LW, you say you want to be with your fiancé. If you hadn’t had this ex and you felt the “pressures” mounting, what would you have done instead? I think that’s the real question. The ex is being used as an escape hatch (even if only in fantasy thinking). What pressures are you even talking about? Why get drunk when feeling these pressures? What’s this about? If you want to be with your fiancé, what was happening that made it increasingly harder to do so? I think you owe it to yourself and your fiance to put the wedding on hold, get yourself to individual therapy, and figure out why what you say you want is causing you so much mental anguish.

  • Thriftypenny

    Yeah. Back up.
    Way way up. Put the marriage on hold until you get your head in order.

    I had a similar type of situation with my (admittedly worst) ex.

    In my current relationship I have chemistry/great sex and a good relationship…and I have no interest in talking to my ex at all.

    In previous relationships where one or all of the above needs were not being met I was still interested in reaching out and what-ifs. But it doesn’t really hold any appeal for me anymore.

    You need to be more than lukewarm on someone you are agreeing to spend the rest of your life with

    Your fiance deserves someone who has their head in order and who is “all in” to this marriage
    Toxic people (and their drama) should have no place in your life.

  • Anon

    I have a weird addictive-love type “relationship” with someone I’ve known for over ten years. We go long periods with no contact and then suddenly we’re talking 24/7 on the phone, Skype, texts… (usually right after they go through a breakup.) I don’t like feeling the way I do about them, and the fact that it seems to impact the way I feel in my great, stable, loving relationship. What’s helped me is – as trite as this may sound – having an actual list of all the ways this person has shown that they have no interest in being my Forever Partner. Every time my brain chemicals try to tell me they’re my soulmate? I just remind myself of the time they didn’t visit me in hospital, or the time, blah blah blah. I also have gotten a lot out of identifying the feelings as limerence (look it up on Wikipedia) and reaching out to limerence support forums.

    • Anon

      Also worth noting: in real life, nobody should EVER choose a Mr Big type figure over an Aidan or a Steve Brady. We glamourise these types of figures, these types of heated romances where you’re both with other people longingly looking at each other with secret glances across a room at a party. In reality, idk…I just don’t think there’s any long-term happiness there. If you were meant to be together, you wouldn’t keep breaking up.

      • lamarsh

        My therapist always blamed Jane Austen/Mr. Darcy for making women think that a man with a bunch of flaws would change for the right person. I definitely had to unlearn that lesson the hard way.

        • Violet

          Mr. Darcy is the ultimate good girl’s bad boy, this is true. But the whole point of why Elizabeth is regarded as a decent role model is that she *turns him down* (and his 10K pounds, lawd) because of his poor behavior. She only accepts him after he realizes he can do better and actually changes. She doesn’t marry him hoping he’ll change down the line, which is where the real error would have been.

        • Abfab

          Mr. Darcy always gets flak for being flawed BUT he was actually good and kind and generous, and the people who knew him best and longest (Bingley, his sister, his housekeeper) fully believed in him and vouched for him. He was prideful but ultimately a good man who was able to realize his shortcomings. And agreed, Elizabeth doesn’t try to change him! He changes himself by his own choice and proves it to her by his actions rather than just promising to change and never following through. He changed because she wouldn’t have accepted him if he didn’t, and he didn’t even know if she would accept him if he did.

          Don’t blame my girl Jane ;)

          • lamarsh

            Haha, I don’t disagree with any of this (P&P is one of my favorite books), but I think the pop culture interpretation of Mr. Darcy is that a person who is a jerk will stop being a jerk for the right woman. I don’t think Jane Austen intended this to be the takeaway at all, but it’s been internalized this way by many, many people (myself, at one point, included).

          • rg223

            Late on this, but completely agree! To me, Darcy is a shy introvert guy who was forced to interact with people on their terms because of his position in society (and being male, possibly – his sister is also super-shy but it seems more socially acceptable), and developed this jerk exterior to deal with it.

      • tilbury

        Aidan! <3

  • wildflowerbride

    My ex was also 10 years on-and-off again. My good friend coined it “crazy love”. The emotional highs are incredible and impossible to achieve in a functioning relationship. The highs are so high BECAUSE of the dysfunction. In our case, my ex wanted me to convert to his religion and I didn’t want to, his mother hated me, I questioned his intelligence, we had different interests…it was a train wreck. But the love was….it’s hard to even describe the power that relationship had over me.

    Current fiance popped up at the tail end of the 10 years. Me and finace’s relationship is stable, loving, and there is great chemistry and compatibility. But it’s not crazy love. And it never will be. And it took time to be okay with that.

    You know what helped? Cutting off contact with the ex. Friends always said that but I didn’t want to believe it.

    But my memories of crazy love and what it felt like…they’ve gotten foggier. And I’m just plain happier overall.

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  • I think some people crave drama and incredible intensity in their relationships. Perhaps it’s a fast falling-into-love experience, or big fights and passionate make-ups, or the drama of not knowing if you’re going to break up or stay together. I am not one of those people. My ex seemed to enjoy more drama, and in the end, he found a dramatic way to exit our relationship. After that, I saw some unhealthy emotional patterns in our relationship that I hadn’t realized before (how we negotiated disagreements, etc. I used to joke that I was the HR person in our relationship). My boyfriend and I have what I consider a much more stable and healthy relationship where we can both communicate our emotions in a way that works really well for us. We’re on the same page with how to fight and work through things and he has great skills at dealing with his emotions, and we are on the same page about what we want our lives to feel like emotionally. We don’t crave drama and ups and downs…and it is amazing. (I also find him very attractive and likable, but more than that he’s truly kind and others-focused, which are the key things for me.) With my ex, I thought true love began with the dramatic intense infatuation experience, and I felt grateful I had been lucky enough to experience that movie-type kind of passionate love and discover that it really did exist. After my ex, I had a whole different perspective and realized that that is not a kind of love I have any more interest in. The roots went in fast but they were shallow. That kind of love was not compatible with lifelong fidelity, and it wasn’t the type of love relationship I want to be in. Dating my boyfriend was a complete revelation in what is possible, and I remember so many talks with my best friend about things like our first disagreement and how blown away I was about how my boyfriend handled it and our working it all out. The roots in this relationship took more time to build, but I truly believe my boyfriend is much more committed for the long-term than my ex-husband ever really was, despite what he promised at the altar. I’ll take a calm, stable emotional relationship with a partner than a dramatic up and down one any day…

  • Becky

    I’ve called my ex drunkenly. And I was super happily married at that point. I just happened to be in the little college town were my then-partner and I had met and spent most of our relationship years together (four in total), and I was nostalgic, and thought I’d just call him to say Hi! … at four o’clock in the morning, and more than seven years after we had broken up. (We had been in contact in the meantime.)
    I definitely don’t think that every phone call to your ex is significant, mine wasn’t!, but it is weird that it even happens.

  • Jan

    Listen, sometimes you don’t get closure. At least, not the closure you hope for. It sucks, but it’s reality. I never got closure from my ex-husband. The last time I saw him we were still married and I had no idea it would be the last time. We later stopped communication about six months into my (at the time very casual) relationship with my now-fiance; I cut off contact because he’d gotten abusive and threatening, and every time we spoke it just tore me up inside how much of my life I’d lost when we split, and how disappointed in him I was.

    We never got to a place of understanding. I did not then, do not now, and never will find the way we broke up acceptable. And in the first year or so after it happened I struggled HARD with how to move forward from this big, eight-year relationship that I’d wrapped my whole self around. Eventually I had to accept that the only path to closing the book on that relationship was for me to just decide it was over, and then do some hard work. I had to start to compartmentalize the pieces of our past together, so that when my mind wandered I could remember some of the happy parts and honor the growth that I (we) went through, while also remembering that the real relationship pieces– the pieces where he was a part of my life– were over forever. Five years later, I’m able to say that I truly don’t miss that motherfucker.

    LW, you need to ask yourself some questions. Is this *really* about closure? Getting over your past relationship? Because if so, there is no magic solution. You just have to decide that it’s over, and move forward. Reframe how you think about the period of your life when you were with him. It’s no longer “The [Boyfriend’s Name] Period”, it’s “The Time I learned How to Be an Adult” or “The Period I Learned X About Myself”. If you’re not willing to do that– if the constant thinking about him and drunken phone calls are really about finding out whether there’s a path toward being with him again– then you need to seriously consider whether it’s kind or fair of you to marry your fiance.

    • ladyjanegreysanatomy

      This work is so hard and so important!

      I learned a while ago that one thing about memories is that the more you replay them the more vividly you remember them. This seems common sense but I realized that I had accidentally (on purpose) effectively made my memories of terrible ex fade from incredibly vivid (like reliving the moment, complete with all of the emotions dialled up to 11) to more distant and detached, simply by forcing myself to turn away from them instead of sinking into the full sensory replay. I definitely credit my therapist for leading me there and making suggestions like limiting the time I allowed myself to ruminate (e.g. 10 min then move on…), but it was still hard work that only I could do over a long period.

  • Another Meg

    “If you read through all of that above and are still feeling confused (I am), there’s nothing wrong with delaying that wedding while you sort through it all. ”

    Please please take this to heart and consider it. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that ending a marriage costs so much more than cancelling a wedding. It costs more in money, time, heartache, and self-esteem. If you aren’t all in, take a break from the wedding sprint and evaluate your feelings.

  • You use the word “addicted” to describe your relationship with your ex. Although you are not together at the moment, it seems from your letter like you are both still addicted to each other.

    Ever heard of the phrase “dry drunk?” It’s an alcoholic who has quit drinking, but hasn’t done the work to heal and move into a healthy way of operating in the world. Dry drunks are at particular risk of relapsing, because all they’ve done is remove the substance. Your next fix happens to be only a phone call away.

    You’ve demonstrated that you are at minimum emotionally susceptible to your ex. You said you were honest with your fiance, but go on to tell us there’s more to it. You withheld information from him. You’re trying to minimize pain felt by both you and your partner. This is pretty normal behavior in addiction.

    My two cents? Now is not the optimal time for you to be tying the knot. Get yourself into individual counseling, stat. Do the work. Read this book on Love Addiction: https://www.amazon.com/Facing-Love-Addiction-Giving-Yourself/dp/0062506048. Consider postponing the wedding. If you decide to go through with it, I would also encourage you to do a ceremony with yourself where you commit to doing the work to heal your love addiction.

    Also, rhetorically speaking I noticed that you used active language when speaking about your ex (eg: “we have been addicted to each other,” “which puts us at the 10 year mark,” etc) while referring to your fiance quite passively at times (“I allowed my relationship with my fiance to flourish”). You also refer to a “ten year chapter” with your ex multiple times. If you broke up several years ago, it’s telling that you are counting years since breaking up as a part of how you conceptualize your relationship with this ex. It’s almost like you are thinking of this moment in your life as your ten year anniversary.

    The fact that you were willing to write in and ask for help shows that you know you need help. I hope that you continue to seek it.

  • tilbury

    Ok, so last year my best friend got married. She dated SHITTY, TERRIBLE men until she found her husband. Do I love her husband? Nah, he’s pretty dull. Is he the best guy she’s ever dated? Yes! Is she truly herself with him (compared to changing her interests depending on the guy she dated)? Mostly. Did she tell us her WORST ex messaged her about a month after she got married and she was not offended/considered accepting his apology? Yes. Did we immediately tell her she was being ridiculous and selfish and needed to unfriend Bad Ex pronto? Yes! I would have never considered defending her hubby before (I cannot express how dull this guy is, seriously), but in this situation I am #teamhusband. She owes it to him and to herself not to indulge Bad Ex within even a text that only says “K.”

    I feel your pain LW. We all have “that ex.” And you’ve made the first step into looking for help by writing to APW! Yay! Now, postpone your wedding, schedule individual therapy, and schedule couples therapy. Put yourself in your fiance’s shoes. You are being incredibly selfish and unkind. Your fiance does not deserve this. Your ex does not deserve being dragged into your drama (maybe he’s writing a similar letter to Bro-help. com or something!). And you also do not deserve this self-torture. Based on this letter alone it does not sound like you’re ready to get married. You owe it to all 3 of you to take your time and figure this out. And ya, as the lady we usually get stuck with this emotional labor. And that’s not fair either. But just do it! Block his number. Unfriend on all socials. Maybe even unfollow “mutual” friends that are really his friends. Disengage! You got this. You’re going to figure it out. But please, postpone your wedding first. Make up a lie to tell everyone else if you need to. Remember, divorce is a lot more expensive and traumatizing than losing a few wedding deposits.

  • Anon

    I know I’m late to the conversation, but I skimmed a good portion of the comments and one thing I didn’t see mentioned is grieving. You probably need to let yourself grieve the lose of this ex, who may have also been a close friend. I would second that counseling may help with that.
    I also had a 10 year on and off relationship that started in high school and moved into my twenties. We loved each other dearly, and by the time I was 25, he was one of my oldest friends. When we got the chance to date as adults, not high school or college students, we knew we loved each other, but we also knew that we were incompatible in the long term. We set ourselves up for heartbreak, but decided to go for it until something else happened.
    The something else is that I met my husband while we were dating. I know instantly that I had found the person I wanted to marry and have a family with, but it didn’t change the fact that it was painful to break up with the ex that I had known and loved for years upon years. My husband and I had a 15 month meeting to marriage timeline, and I’ll be honest: it took me longer than that to grieve the loss of the relationship and friendship with my ex. Only you can know if you’re ready to get married, but give yourself permission to grieve.