Stuck in the past

Joey Garcia

Am I obsessed with my ex? I never considered it before a friend said something, but I talk about him 24-seven and go to places he might be or places we went together. I drive home by the route he takes. I call just to hear his voice. I still have the things he gave me, and I torment myself by looking at his photo. I feel desperate. I need him to go on. What can I do to help myself?

Stop living under the illusion that the past is all that exists. If you choose to be present— i.e., without your ex—the worst thing that can happen is that you’ll have to combat your fear of rejection or abandonment. Facing these fears will help you be healthier in your next relationship. Until then, practice this mantra: I want what God wants for me. That might help you to surrender your will to God’s will (a.k.a. reality).

Two years ago, my marriage endured a terrible period and nearly ended. Both my husband and I confided in my best friend, who encouraged us not to give up. At one point, my friend and my husband spoke about my state of mind. I did not question her motives but stopped sharing my marriage problems with her. I talked more to my husband and re-established a spiritual connection with God. I told my friend about this decision and continued e-mailing her about other topics. She lashed out angrily, accusing my husband and me of being manipulative and putting her in the middle. She ended our friendship. I explained that when I realized it was unhealthy to put her in the middle, I stopped confiding in her. She fired back an insult-filled e-mail. I think she pushed me away so she could take the most painful time of our life and turn it into entertainment by writing a play about our marriage. I am knotted up with fear that my life will become gossip fodder for our mutual friends. How can I forgive without forgetting (to avoid repeating my mistake)?

In order to forgive and remember, you must be aware of the stages of healing that lead to forgiveness and reconciliation. Therapist Suzanne Simon defines those stages as: denial (blocking or minimizing what happened), self-blame (believing you caused it), victim (from self-pity to acknowledging you really are the victim of something), indignation (anger and desire for revenge), survivor (taking ownership of your life and respecting what you’ve gained) and integration (understanding that you are more than what has happened to you, and so is the person who did it to you). Forgiveness occurs at the survivor stage. Reconciliation, which literally means “coming back together,” occurs at the integration stage. Where are you?

In order to answer that question honestly, consider this: Is it irrational of you to tell yourself (repeatedly) that your friend is writing a play about your troubles? Let’s join your fantasy and say she is. Would you be willing to share your personal story if it would help others? If you knew your life might be splayed across a stage, would you have lived it differently? Remember, we are only as sick as our secrets. Revel in the release of your secrets by resolving to live in joy despite the circumstances.

Meditation of the week
The Catholic priest Henri Nouwen said, “Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The truth is that all of us love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour, unceasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.” To whom should you make amends?

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