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

I literally just called him on my cell phone

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.


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.

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