Have you met my new much much better than you boyfriend?
September 30, 2009 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Was in love with a friend. He is not in love with me. Haven't talked to him in 3 months, but find myself constantly having (childish) fantasies of him begging me back, going into a jealous rage when I've found someone else, and basically living with the horrible regret of throwing away his one chance at happiness. Must regain sanity and purge these thoughts.

I realize these fantasies are utterly ridiculous and they actually make me very unhappy to think about. I always imagine bumping into him at a bar one night and him demanding to know if the friend I'm with is my boyfriend or trying to get me to go home with him, and then I tell him to go to hell and that he gave up the chance to be with me and now he just has to live with the fact I'm with someone else. It's all very dramatic. I just end up working myself up and then flashing back to reality that he's the one that rejected me, not the other way around, and that he is not sitting around pining for me.

In my defense, he wasn't straight about whether he was interested in me for the better part of a year and I feel like part of him led me on because it was a bit of an ego trip for him. It ended after I told him I didn't want to see him again until we cleared everything up between us, which led to a huge drunken fight several weeks later. To say things are over between us is the understatement of the century.

Despite that I've been casually dating someone else who I have a lot of fun with for awhile now, my mind always goes back to him. I know I have a lot of anger towards him, especially because prior to this he was one of my best friends and I feel like he owed it to me to be straight with me and he was anything but.

But the real issue is that my mind just keeps going back to these scenarios. I feel like every time I'm bored and my mind wanders I go back to these ridiculous revenge fantasies. So how do I stop my mind from going there? Besides these thoughts I feel like I've largely moved on. I don't want to talk to him (and we used to email back and forth all day so this is huge), I don't want to see him, I just really want him to see me, looking really good, with someone really hot and successful who saves orphans in Africa and is even smarter than him, but better than him because he isn't obsessed with football. You get the idea.

And I should say I've thought about therapy, but besides these thoughts I'm actually ok with the way things are. I'm glad that after years of wondering I know he doesn't want me and I can move on. I'm glad he is out of my life, there is just these thoughts.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
And I should say I've thought about therapy, but besides these thoughts I'm actually ok with the way things are.

These thoughts are a symptom of something else you would rather not think about. Find out what that thing is and start thinking about it. Your mind is trying to tell you something. Therapy will help you find out what that thing is.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:48 AM on September 30, 2009

Have you thought of writing a short story just playing out exactly the kind of revenge fantasy you are documenting here? I think it would be very cathartic for you to write out this conspiracy. In fact, perhaps now you are realizing how childish this fantasy is.
posted by parmanparman at 10:04 AM on September 30, 2009

Yeah, been there. I got over it by telling myself that the guy who led me on didn't really give a shit about me to begin with, so why would he care any more about me once we'd parted ways? Of course you want him to see you looking good and healthy and happy without him. But you have to accept the possibility that you're no longer on his radar and that seeing you elicits no feelings.

I was hung up on a guy a few years ago after a long, drawn out, complicated mess that you might call dating. I stopped thinking about him in very short order when I met Mr. Future.

Time will take care of this. Sounds like you're well on your way.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:05 AM on September 30, 2009

I just died laughing there. I completely identify (and even have had some of those fantasies myself), and from experience, there is no way of getting over these fantasies until you are completely over him -- usually, by meeting someone new and fabulous.

Also, don't worry, you're completely normal.
posted by moiraine at 10:06 AM on September 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

As you get along in life and years, and have a few more heartbreaks, you'll gain the insight that what really, really hurts in a breakup is your ego. It's that feeling that "S/he didn't love me. Am I good enough? Will anyone love me?"

This explains the fact that, even though you acknowledge on a rational level that the relationship probably wasn't the greatest, you're still hurting over it and wanting him to want you. That's ego.

It's normal; you'll get over it. And you'll probably get hurt again along the line. And you'll probably do your share of (inadvertent) hurting. But somewhere, sometime, you'll meet the right person, and you'll understand why people thank God for unanswered prayers.
posted by dinger at 10:10 AM on September 30, 2009 [7 favorites]

Sounds like you didn't get closure, mostly from his uncertain actions and him leading you on. I find that being able to tell someone "you suck and you hurt me and I hate you and these are all the bad things you did" helps and is better than being stuck with your thoughts. So if you know he's out of your life for good, and you don't have mutual friends, feel free to write a letter or email like that to him (and then block his email address so he can't respond, or don't put a return address). If you have mutual friends I wouldn't do that because they'll think you're a psycho. In that case just write the letter listing all the things he did wrong and just throw it out.

I also think when you find someone to date who you like a lot and are 100% happy with the relationship instead of just casually dating, you'll get over this guy and not even want him to occupy your mind with those fantasies. I feel like you get over someone only when you truly see a future with another person, up until that it's all pretending to be over someone.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 10:15 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yet again, let me recommend How to Break Your Addiction to a Person, by Howard Halpern.

But yeah, people for whom "everything is OK" aren't people who have obsessive fantasies about this kind of stuff. Therapy might help.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:16 AM on September 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

You're not addicted to him. You're addicted to your fantasies.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:18 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're not addicted to him. You're addicted to your fantasies.

This is the very point of Halpern's book! But there is lots of other useful information there, too, so the OP should read it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:27 AM on September 30, 2009

As others have said, you sound normal. Just give it more time and it'll eventually lift.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:28 AM on September 30, 2009

You're over this jerk, you're casually dating someone fun, and you sound content with your life. You've accomplished this in three months. That's frickin' impressive. (Do you give lessons?)

Still. It's only been three months. He jerked you around for a year. It is perfectly normal and totally okay to still be angry. Do the thoughts themselves bother you? Or are you just beating yourself up for having them?

Because you shouldn't. Imagining him sitting alone in the dark crying into his whiskey is a hell of a lot healthier than drunk-dialing him, creeping his Facebook page, or throwing bricks through his windows. Think of these thoughts as catharsis. Let yourself indulge them a little. Smile a bitter little smile, and then get on with your day.

(As for how you get on with your day, I'll turn that over to this comment by mothershock: it's the best advice I've ever read on AskMe.)

You're fine. You're doing fine. And things are only going to get better from here.
posted by Zozo at 10:29 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Good, you are already in the second stage.

The five stages of grief:
Denial — "I feel fine."; "This can't be happening, not to me."
Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of situations and individuals that will be left behind after death.[1]
Anger — "Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; "Who is to blame?"
Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Any individual that symbolizes life or energy is subject to projected resentment and jealousy.[1]
Bargaining — "Just let me live to see my children graduate."; "I'll do anything for a few more years."; "I will give my life savings if..."
The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the person is saying, "I understand I will die, but if I could just have more time..."[1]
Depression — "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die . . . What's the point?"; "I miss my loved one, why go on?"
During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect oneself from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer an individual up that is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.[1]
Acceptance — "It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it."
This final stage comes with peace and understanding of the death that is approaching. Generally, the person in the fifth stage will want to be left alone. Additionally, feelings and physical pain may be non-existent. This stage has also been described as the end of the dying struggle.[1]

To get to acceptance you will probably need to think more about forgiveness than about revenge, but don't rush things.
posted by caddis at 11:11 AM on September 30, 2009

This is normal, and you can't fix normal.

It sounds like you're even amusing yourself (maybe a little bit?) with these scenarios, so I'd say try to notice and encourage that part of you that's laughing at yourself a little bit.
posted by palliser at 11:15 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Whenever I've experienced this, it's turned out that I'm not angry at him, I'm embarrassed and angry at myself for falling for it or for being resistable. And I dream up scenarios where I have no need to be embarrassed.

Eventually I learn to tell myself that it's okay and that I love me anyway.
posted by heatherann at 11:20 AM on September 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

I had a very similar thing happen to me earlier this year. So I know exactly where you are coming from. It was a three month long affair and it ended horribly, with embarrassing drunken fights and nasty mudslinging.

Believe me, it is very common to have silly fantasies! He was bad to you, I know. You will have these thoughts for a long time. The trick is to not indulge too much, when you start having them do something else: go for a walk, turn up your favorite song, watch tv, call up a friend, cook a snack for yourself, check metafilter, etc.

Like everyone has said... you'll forget about him over time, and you'll REALLY forget him when you meet a special guy(not just a casual date). Try to keep occupied until then!
posted by dragonette1 at 11:21 AM on September 30, 2009

Have the fantasies. They're fun. They'll fade eventually.
posted by granted at 11:47 AM on September 30, 2009

don't want to see him, I just really want him to see me, looking really good, with someone really hot and successful who saves orphans in Africa and is even smarter than him, but better than him because he isn't obsessed with football.

Why can't you be this really hot and really successful person? I think the best part of those fantasies is that they can motivate you to become the person you are in them. (And it may be that the only difference between Real You and Fantasy You is that Fantasy You is super-confident - because Fantasy You is always super-confident.)

Remember: living well is the best revenge.
posted by granted at 11:54 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Keep yourself busy.... volunteering, meetups, happy hours... you get the idea...You'll meet single men and you'll be too busy to fantasize.
posted by bananafish at 12:09 PM on September 30, 2009

What helped me getting over exes in the past was having fantasies of how much my future with them would have sucked. If Ex hadn't dumped me, I'd still be with him..probably supporting him, and while I may not be miserable, I certainly wouldn't have been nearly as happy as I am with Mr. Right. I would have missed out on having all the discussions my husband and I enjoy about math, philosophy, politics, music, and art....because although he was a nice enough guy, he wasn't an 'intellectual'...

So instead, of fantasizing about running into him at a bar, try thinking of yourself five years from now, if you had ended up with him...you'd be stuck coming in second to football for his attention...and stuck with someone who really isn't a very good friend.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:36 PM on September 30, 2009

This is normal. You don't need therapy, unless you're still doing this a year from now or something.

You had a strong attraction to, or were in love with, a person you were close to for a long time. Three months isn't very long to really get over that. These sort of fantasies will trickle off, but you'll probably still think of him occasionally for a long time.
posted by spaltavian at 3:48 PM on September 30, 2009

Apparently I'm not the only one who can identify and empathize with you!

In my experience, the best way to get over a fantasy is to redirect, redirect, redirect. You already have some material here. Maybe the fantasy starts with you and this impossibly wonderful new boyfriend running into this guy - great, think more about this new guy! Details - how did you meet, your first kiss, etc. Things that have nothing to do with old guy.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:57 PM on September 30, 2009

Oh yeah, been there. This is where your inner critic can be put to positive use, as long as you train it so it's only allowed to ask helpful questions.

"I'm so miserable!" - "You know you're being crazy, right?"

"Wah!" - "And how do you feel about your new boyfriend?"

And "Look, Elvis!" also seems to be a bizarre and effective key to distract myself.
posted by medea42 at 6:06 PM on September 30, 2009

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