How do I keep a realistic view of the past?
April 27, 2016 11:39 AM   Subscribe

Given tendencies towards nostalgia and overly optimistic views of the past, how do you stay grounded in reality and move on from unhealthy situations without constant regret? Details inside.

In December I ended a four year relationship. Things hadn’t been good (though they had been comfortable) for two, possibly even three years before that - I was miserable and anxious most of the time. It ended very painfully with her cheating on me for a few months and the relationship quickly deteriorating during that time.

Fast forward to now. I got involved with a new person and we had our first major disagreement. I’m now struggling with keeping a realistic view of the past - when we fought, I immediately missed my ex. Though when I sit down and think through it, I realize that I don’t miss her but rather the idea of her that I had built up in my head, who I hoped or thought she was. I feel that I’ve jumped into this current relationship far too quickly, and I feel that I’m falling into that same pattern again, where I’m starting to focus more on the idea of my partner than the reality of her.

I have a tendency to spend much of my time thinking about the past, often with nostalgic rose-colored glasses. What’s helped me is keeping a journal of my exact feelings when things happened, then rereading it later when I started to miss the past (as a reminder that things weren’t as I remembered). Lately that hasn’t been working - either I can’t make myself write, or when I read previous entries it hurts too much that I can’t get to that place of peace, or most often it calms me for maybe an hour before I’m back to yearning/missing my past life or ex.

I was in therapy for a couple of months following the breakup, and it helped to some degree. Currently I’m not, though I’m trying to get it sorted out again.

In the meantime, people with similar nostalgic tendencies: what’s helped you move on without regret and stay that way? What’s helped you focus on the present instead of constantly living in the past and thinking about what was/could have been? And what helps you keep a realistic view of people in your life?
posted by AnonymousPuppet to Human Relations (2 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I bookmarked this response by cuban link flooded jesus to another Ask years ago, and maybe you might find it helpful; it helped me be gentler with myself with respect to my own nostalgia and habit of looking backward. Please read the entire 3 paragraphs, but here's a sample: ... I am that way as well. I find even though I have a healthy, full life, I have a deep connection to people that have left my life. I profoundly miss people I haven't seen for 15 years. I think about them and they are witnesses to my life even if they are not here. I would gladly reconnect with many, but the trick is to just realize other people are not wired the same.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:37 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Part of this is that even though I assume ending the previous relationship was the right choice, you are still deep, deep into getting over that relationship. The union lasted years and here you are four months later dating someone else. I'm all for "moving on" but very few people can move on in the time frame you're allowing.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:12 AM on April 28, 2016

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