Since feeling is first: please give shape to this nebulous emotion attached to my ex getting married.
February 4, 2009 4:27 PM   Subscribe

The syntax of things: what is this emotion?

I'm a fairly logical person and therefore need to put a name to what I'm feeling in some effort to...dunno...put it somewhere emotionally and move forward.

History: I dated a really great guy for about two years; he moved away about halfway through the relationship, unfortunately to a place I didn't want to go although the door was open for me to do so. At the time, I was hurt he opted to move away because both of us expressed how good our relationship was. But he moved away for work anyway and we tried the distance thing for a while, of which I'm not a fan so my resentment grew and eventually we drifted apart.

I opted to leave the relationship and he tried to get me back for some time. I repeatedly said no, then a few months later I said yes. But by that point, he had met someone else. It was painful but I processed it and healthily made some changes to my personal and professional life which made me feel better.

I found out yesterday they got married - and fairly quickly, too, within a year of meeting. In the midst of all this, his sister actually called me months ago telling me the family wasn't keen on this woman and that they missed me. Painful. She also expressed concern that his deployment to Iraq had altered him (this happened while he was dating the woman he married.)

I'm trying to discern what I'm feeling. I didn't want to get married, nor did he. We both went our separate ways with neither of us being the bad guy. I want him to be happy. I am dating someone now with whom I am happy. I don't regret moving to his state to be with him as it'd've made me fairly miserable. I'm not jealous of his wife. What the hell am I feeling?
posted by December to Human Relations (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: edit: I don't regret NOT moving to his state as it'd've made me fairly miserable.
posted by December at 4:28 PM on February 4, 2009

"Loss," I think. Even though you made all the right choices for yourself, it's still natural to imagine "what if things had been different," and now maybe you have to grieve the fact that the door is shut on those idealized scenarios where he didn't move or he came back or it all worked out in some other way?
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:33 PM on February 4, 2009

Best answer: Wistfulness, the thoughtful regret that things are not as they could never be.

As a side note, it's ok to be jealous despite having no justification or design for the feeling, as long as you don't act on it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:34 PM on February 4, 2009 [12 favorites]

Sounds to me like you're feeling wistful.

An ex getting married is sort of the ultimate illustration of what happens when one of you goes down a road that the other one doesn't take. Even in the absence of any malice or lasting sadness or regret over the breakup, I don't think it's surprising it would trigger a little touch of bittersweet melancholy.
posted by scody at 4:38 PM on February 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I went through a similar thing when my first significant college boyfriend got married. The only way I can describe it was a bittersweet longing for "what might have been."

This is not the same as "how I wish it was now," or unrequited love. But when two people have a close loving connection, which comes to an end due to external circumstances, I don't think we benefit from the same kind of emotional closure that comes when a relationship ends because the love dries up, or because someone cheated, causing anger and hate.

So my best guess it that you're feeling a loss for the path that you didn't choose. You know enough about how that path would have ended up (good relationship with him, you can imagine what your in-laws would have been like), and you were even emotionally invested at one point in that outcome, so it's a closer and keener loss, than, say "when I was 5 I thought of being an astronaut but I chose to be a graphic designer instead."

On preview: wow, marvelling at how close the early answers are.
posted by pineapple at 4:41 PM on February 4, 2009

Oddly enough, I just saw a video that was particularly applicable to this situation, in a completely different place.

People who are given a choice about something can under the right circumstance be less happy than if they got the opposite and no choice - because we naturally ask "what if?" it diminishes our appreciation of what we do have.
posted by fearnothing at 4:41 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

The answers in this thread might help, too.
posted by juliplease at 4:46 PM on February 4, 2009

As a connoisseur of my own several unrequited love stories, I’m going to go with concern tinged with regret that he the decision that lead to the break in your relationship, colored by frustration that you can’t call him up and ask him what’s going on.

So that’s a potent blend of three emotions: concern, regret, frustration.
posted by rw at 4:52 PM on February 4, 2009

I think it's sorrow.
posted by watercarrier at 5:16 PM on February 4, 2009

another vote for wistful
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 5:20 PM on February 4, 2009

I think wistfulness is the perfect word for it. Christine Lavin calls it "The Kind of Love You Never Recover From", although I don't think that's necessarily true.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:27 PM on February 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

Spring and Fall: to a Young Child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:53 PM on February 4, 2009 [8 favorites]

I'm going to slightly disagree with everyone so far. Someone you cared for a lot got married relatively quickly to a woman his family is a bit unsure about. Also he might have made this choice because of the emotional effects of being to Iraq. And you didn't find out about it until after the fact.

1. You didn't have a chance to get used to idea. I'm always a little shell shocked when I find out someone I thought I knew well ends up married and I had no idea they were even engaged. Then I get a little mad that I found out after the fact. You broke up on good terms, so even if you are the ex-gf, it feels weird that no one shared the news with you.

2. While you would normally be happy for someone getting happily married, you don't really know the person he married or how they are fairing. While you want to assume they are happy and made a good choice, because of the circumstances you can't be sure. Without knowing, your emotions are in a state of limbo.

As you get used to the idea you'll feel fine about it.

So, I would feel Shell-shocked-->Hurt/Mad-->Limbo-->Acceptance-->Actually Fine.
posted by CoralAmber at 8:08 PM on February 4, 2009

The secondary definition of wistful at is "pensively sad; melancholy". Melancholy seems like the more apt word as I don't know that there's any yearning (first definition) on your part. Whenever I become aware that my field of possibilities has shrunk, especially as a result of time passing + the acts of other people, I get a little melancholic. Picking one option over another entails rejecting the possibility not chosen, but seeing that other world move on without me reminds me of my limitations and how vast the world is, and of my mortality as well.
posted by BigSky at 10:55 PM on February 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

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