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Newsletter Dated: 6/3/2012 9:41:24 PM
Subject: Happiness Tips from Tina: The One Who Got Away
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Happiness Tip: The One Who Got Away
When I was a girl, growing up in the small township of Rockland, New York, there was a tiny post office, which was a small room with a separate entry in the house next door. Rocklandís official postmistress was Clara Weiss, who seemed very elderly even when I was a very small child. She was what we used to call a ďmaiden ladyĒ or spinster, who had dedicated her life to taking care of her mother, who was disabled, and also not quite balanced. Mrs. Weiss had one leg, and frequently escaped from the house and crawled around the yard, yelling strange things. Clara, as you might suppose, did not have much of a social life. After her mother died, and Rockland lost its tiny post office (we had to go into the slightly larger town of Roscoe, a mile away) Clara went to work in the central postoffice, about 20 miles away. There, she met a co-worker, and when she was 73 years old, I remember that we gave her a bridal lingerie shower. It really is never too late to fall in love. Clara moved away to live with her husband, and they had about 10 good years together.
A number of years ago, a friend and former student of Richardís, who was in her 70's reconnected with an ex whose marriage proposal she had rejected in her 20's, because he had a drinking problem. In the intervening years, they both married other people, had children and full lives. Fifty years after their first romance, when both were widowed, he tracked her down, she went down to San Diego to meet him for lunch, and didnít return for a week. They, too, married, and had some happy years together.
A very dear friend of mine, who lives in another city and has been divorced for many years, has been living happily for a couple of years with the man she met in college and decided not to marry. They had each married other people, had children, divorced years ago and reconnected last year. They are happy together.
In addition to these stories of reconnected love, I often see clients in my practice who get back together after breaking up or divorcing. In fact, some couples come to me after they have broken up several times because of fighting and disagreements, but something always pulls them back together. Surprisingly enough, many people do start dating again after they've divorced or split up. I believe in the power of love, and if your heart is yearning; Itís fine to reach out to a first or former love -- as long as you do it properly.
You may never have really resolved the old relationship satisfactorily, or one or both of you may have matured and become a more suitable candidate for a relationship. Lots of people find out they appreciate each other more after they've been apart for a while. Also, as I said, I've seen a number of couples re-connect joyously much later in life, after having marriages and families with other partners.
It depends on how accurate your memory is, and how good or bad the reality feels. If it's good, then you really think it was "love at first sight." If it's bad, you are left with "what was I thinking?" It's very easy to idealize someone you've never known well -- the reality never impinges on the fantasy, so the ideal person doesn't tarnish. You remember a rosy picture of perfection. That's difficult to let go of, if you never get a reality check.
Can this really work, or will it just fall apart again? Hereís how to see if you and your ex can make it work.
Dr. Romanceís Guidelines for Improving the Odds with your Ex
* Consider seeing a therapist on your own, to get expert help to decide if youíre searching for this old love for the right reasons; and to help you get some perspective on what might need to be corrected.
* Make a careful first contact: strictly "Hi, how are you doing?" For example, if you see the old love on Facebook, try sending a message and asking to be friends. Don't say anything about still having feelings. Your old love may very well be married now, or even gay. You need to find out what's going on before making a move.
* Be aware whether forgiveness is needed. Did you hurt this person's feelings way back in college? Were you hurt? Old, unresolved feelings can hang around a long time, and erupt when you least expect it.
* If you get a positive response, go very slowly. Rushing into things means youíre trying to avoid some truths. If itís going to work, it will go better if you take the time to build a better foundation than you had before.
* Treat it like a new relationship. Start from the beginning, and do it differently -- it could work this time.
* Analyze what went wrong the last time, and consciously try to fix the old problems. If you cannot talk honestly about what went wrong and what to do differently, youíll never change anything.
* Make sure your ex is as determined to improve on the old relationship as you are. If he or she is blaming you for everything that went wrong, disaster is immanent. If youíre blaming your ex, itís just as big a problem.
* Insist on couples therapy for both of you. Pre commitment therapy can help you find out the pitfalls and whether youíve solved the old problems.
After all this, you might still find itís too late to remedy the problem that led to the breakup. You may discover youíre clinging to a fantasy that is not supported by reality. If you try to re-kindle an old love, and it doesnít work, then youíre faced with letting go Ė again.
You might even have the urge to try harder because breaking up finally gets through the denial and the fantasy that behaving badly or not cooperating is OK. We also have a lot of cultural mythology about "I'll never stop loving you" which says clinging and martyring to this lost love means you are truly in love. But clinging to an impossible lost love is unrealistic.
You must understand that a relationship is a partnership, and requires work from both partners in order to succeed. The initial romance stage isn't supposed to last, the relationship is supposed to grow into a real life partnership, and that requires paying attention, learning and growth. It's not a fairy tale-- it's a real life love story, and well worth the work required. If you give nothing, you get nothing. Love is something we create by working together, and one person canít force it.
Clinging to a lost love can turn toxic: persisting in showing up at your ex's house, calling or showing up at work, threatening physical harm, calling your exís family and friends, or otherwise interfere with his or her life, will not only push your ex away, it is illegal in many states, and defined as stalking. Sometimes, clinging is encouraged, wittingly or unwittingly, by an ex who doesn't really want to be with you, but who either doesn't want to 'hurt you' or is still getting benefits (financial help, sex without commitment, you do the laundry, you're willing to take the kids more than your share) that he or she doesn't want to jeopardize. But this one-sided arrangement will not make you happy, and itís probably time to move on.
Once you're bonded with someone, it's very painful to let go. Since most of us like to avoid our feelings, we don't want to do the grieving that's necessary to let go. But, when you've had a loss, there are a certain number of tears you must cry to let go -- getting on with the crying is the fastest way. Also, the dissolution of the relationship might not have been your idea, so you're clinging to a dream -- in denial. And letting go is the path to finding the love you want.
I wish you love Ė whether it is rekindled, or you move on and create something brand new.
© 2012 Tina B. Tessina
The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) ISBN#0-02-862454-8
If you want more, here are some related articles you can download from my website at http://tinatessina.com/monthly_column.html
Apology and Forgiveness
Asking for What you Want
Aspects of Love
Couples Can Cooperate for Success
Creating Family Acceptance
Creating Unconditional Love
Dating Guidelines for Single Parents
Fair Fight Guidelines
Family Violence Q&A
Getting to Yes
Gratitude, Kindness and Happiness
Guidelines for Being Understood by Your Partner
Guidelines for Successful Dating
Handling The Green-Eyed Monster
How Not to Fight
How to be Irresistible to Your Mate
How to Keep Yourself Out of a Violent Relationship
How to Write a Love Letter
The Importance of Humor
Itís a Dirty Job
Keys to a Happy Relationship
Kindness and Happiness
Less Talk, More Action
Letting Go Takes Love
Lighten Up - Cures for Marital Boredom
Looking Backward, Looking Forward
Love and Chemistry
The Magic of Reassurance
The Nail in the Fence: Healing Wounds
No Cooperation? Solve it Yourself!
Peace Begins at Home
Relating With Love
Relationships 101: Do Opposites Attract?
The Right Way to Love
Setting Boundaries and Saying No
State of the Union Meeting
Stop Reacting and Start Relating
Surviving Loss & Thriving Again
Ten Things People Donít Know About Therapy
What Is A Dysfunctional Relationship?
When Love is Kind: Mutuality in Relationships
Your Primary Relationship
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Wishing you joy,
Tina B. Tessina, PhD
Re: The Freedom of Maturity
Thanks for writing this article. It's exactly where I am right now, and it's wonderful have your perspective on this time of my life. Sending blessings, as always, Adrian
Thank you, Adrian, I am so glad it was helpful, and Iím blessed to know you.
Re: Less Talk, More Action
Hi Tina, you are awsome. John Nemeth
Thank you, John, so are you.
Tina-your timing could NOT be more perfect. I was about to move out! Now I get this, and you've provided me with an avenue that is respectful & yet personally empowering. I am ready to give this a try!! Thanks so much. I had no idea how helpful your emails would be. Much love, and wishing you all the success in the WORLD!! I share your articles regularly with my friends. They are uniformly awesome! :) Blessings, Ashara
Thank you so much, Ashara. I'm so glad the article was helpful to you. There's more on my website at http://www.tinatessina.com/monthly_column.html Hopefully, you'll find more helpful stuff. Thanks so much for sharing it with your friends!
Richard's mother sounds like a real dynamo!! "Aunt" Carolyn
Yes, she was, Carolyn Ė we both loved her a lot. Youíre a dynamo yourself, so you recognized it.