It's been five years. Why do I keep thinking about this girl?
January 24, 2008 10:29 PM   Subscribe

It's been five years. Why do I keep thinking about this girl?

Nearly five years ago I got out of a three year relationship with a girl. We liked each other a lot and had a real good relationship. The relationship ended amicably.

Every since, I frequently think about her. Sometimes I day dream about her or moments in our relationship. She also occasionally comes up in my dreams.

To be clear, I'm not obsessed. I have no desire to be with her. I never see her - I haven't seen her in years. She has changed physically over the past five years and I'm not even attracted to her. She has recently gotten married, but that hasn't changed my feelings (ie, I don't spend more time thinking about her). Anytime I dream about her she is the way she was when we were together.

Sometimes I kind of hope she knows how I'm doing, or I hope that I run into her so I can kind of brag and "get her back" so she knows how well I'm doing. I'm a nice person in general so I'm not trying to be mean about it or anything.

The relationship also occurred in a particularly enjoyable time in my life (late high school / early college). I sometimes wonder if this is a factor. Also, though it was hard initially, I'm not "hurting" over the breakup like I was when it first ended. Emotionally, I'm over it.

Since that relationship ended, I haven't been in another relationship. I've only "messed around" with one other girl. Though this is strange, I don't necessarily think it's related (just bad luck maybe).

I'd like to hear of any similar experiences or any advice. Is this a normal reaction? Do some of you older guys think of old relationships?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Have you thought that maybe you miss the nice feelings of being in a relationship and since you're not in one right now reminiscing about the time you were is a nice substitute? I'm thinking you're not happy with your romantic situation right now and so you keep thinking back to a time when you were.

Just my guess. I'm young however, and don't have as much perspective as I'm sure others will.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:47 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me that she represents a happy time in your life. If you think about that time period, and your current life compares unfavorably -- or even just not as well -- it may be that you want the life you had at the time back? It may sound like armchair-psychology, but the phrasing of your post made me think right off the bat that this may be the case.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 10:52 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

What Defenestrator said. You were in a relationship for three years, and then five years of nothing, with only a bit of messing around to break the drought. It's probably quite natural to think back to your most recent relationship. I do something quite similar, and it ends when I'm in a new one again.

As for thinking of old relationships, it's funny - it's almost as if every new one erases the one before for me. Before the most recent one, I was with a girl for five years, and it's almost impossible for me to conjure up any really vivid memories of it, in day-to-day terms - what we talked about, what the sex was like, even what kinds of food we preferred to eat.

That's probably a bit of an exaggeration, but these things get really fuzzy over time; more & more abstracted into specifically memorable standout incidents, and washed over by revisionist histories.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:55 PM on January 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

i have a similar thing about a guy i could have been in a relationship with, but... ah whatever. i haven't been in a relationship since that time either.

i started thinking i was going nuts because i couldn't get thoughts about him out of my head. and even consciously trying to get rid of them wasn't helping it get any better.

so i thought, let's work with it instead. i just see it as representing the kind of love i have to give, and have tried to turn it into some kind of signifier instead. even if i think about it now it kinda makes it dismisable that way.
posted by sardonicsmile at 10:57 PM on January 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

To answer the OP's last question, yes old relationships can sometimes pop up in the memory, but less so with time, and less painfully (if or when that's an issue) when in a good situation. Good memories last a very long time. The statements upthread make sense to me too.
posted by Rain Man at 10:59 PM on January 24, 2008

i just see it as representing the kind of love i have to give

That works well, too. It's a kind of expression of the personal flavour of awesomeness you're saving up to unleash upon the next lucky girl who gets properly involved with you. You just need to find a suitable object for your affections, and the feelings & behaviours transfer easily enough.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:04 PM on January 24, 2008

Two things...

I never see her - I haven't seen her in years. She has changed physically over the past five years and I'm not even attracted to her.

You haven't seen her in years, but you know how she's changed physically? Plus, in trying to convince us you're not attracted to her, I get the feeling you are.

Still, it's normal to think of happy times when you're lonely or bored. I can't remember a time when I didn't think back to positive things that happened to me in my life with other people here and there, even when I was busy and happy and fulfilled. It's just pleasant to do so sometimes. That you're doing it often enough to be concerned just tells me you're bored and unhappy.

Time to get hobbies/interests, and meet some new people...and meanwhile enjoy reminiscing about the good times. But surely there were good times other than with her, yes? Even if you'd never dated another girl, you've done happy things in your life; try to focus on a few of those.
posted by davejay at 2:19 AM on January 25, 2008

That part of your brain is recreating the past for you to experience. Here's the kicker: It isn't even the real past. If you could compare a video tape of what actually happened to what you remember, it wouldn't match. You weren't as happy as you remember, she wasn't as pretty as you remember... basically, your memory is faking you out.

If you and your memory are happy together, as it appears you are, you have no worries. If you want to have a new experience instead of the same old experience, then, hey, try a year of yes.
posted by ewkpates at 4:36 AM on January 25, 2008

I dated a girl from the time I was 17 until I was 21. We split amicably, and have had a couple rendezvous since then, but none in the last 5 years. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about her. She knows it, and I know she does the same for me. I'm fairly sure that at some point in the future we'll stop lying to ourselves and wind up together, but I don't bet on that or rely on it. I don't really like the person she's become---but I know it's a front to protect herself from her battered past.

Basically--it's normal. Seriously, every girl I date now I hold up to her in my mind, and she's even affected what I think is attractive, build type, etc.
posted by TomMelee at 5:53 AM on January 25, 2008

I still do this with a guy from high school, even though I'm long since past that relationship. I don't think it's about him, though. In those dreams, I think it's the new me going back to the old context to say "Hey, look! Everything turned out fine! I loved this time, and I wish I hadn't worried so much!" It's not that I want to reassure him that things worked out for me, it's that I want to reassure the 16-year-old Me. I want to tell her about all the crazy changes that will happen in her life, and that the things she's fearing aren't that bad after all. I want to say "In 10 years you're going to be far from this little village. You'll be living in the big city with a guy who's currently living in another little village about an hour from you—how hilarious is that?! And it's going to be awesome."

Also, since your ex is the last person you dated, she might be the last person who you talked to about your day-to-day shit, so you're still doing that to some extent.
posted by heatherann at 6:33 AM on January 25, 2008

I privately reminisce about old relationships sometimes, and I'm in a happy long term relationship, even. I'll always carry a little bit of a torch for one of my exes in particular, even though we no longer want a future together. I like having some nice memories of someone other than my SO in my head -- I was single for a long time before we met. Yeah, sometimes these people pop up in my dreams.

Don't overthink this.
posted by desuetude at 6:49 AM on January 25, 2008

Sincere love leaves a mark, especially the early ones. They feel intensely new and wonderful. They hurt like hell. They are crazy and live with us our whole life no matter what we do to shake them off.

It's just the way it is. There is nothing wrong with you. If anything, it's an indication and a reminder that you know how to love. This may feel like a sorry consolation, but have you ever met someone who couldn't love? Consider yourself blessed. Someone will come and blow your socks off soon.
posted by milarepa at 8:13 AM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

Was it your first real love? She's probably your "ur-girl," your reference point for romantic relationships. I like how sardonicsmile put it when s/he suggested that the girl has become a signifier to you.

I used to feel a similar thing a few years after a teenage love. Even though I had long since moved on to deeper, healthier, more sustainable relationships, I still would think about this person occasionally, in a wistful sort of way. Not that I actually wanted to contact her or anything. I think it's really common, especially when you're not with someone else.
posted by umbú at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2008

This is common not only for past loves, but lost friends. I still dream about two girls I was best friends with and am no longer... I dream about us getting together and me apologizing to the one, for example, and us restarting our friendship.

That subconscious fondness and occasional feeling of missing that person might never go away; however, my bet is that when you meet another special someone, you won't have these dreams or fantasies any more. If you do, they will be very few and far between.

All this means is that you had deep feelings for this girl; we all go through this, as I said, even with best friends you no longer speak with, on occasion.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:27 AM on January 25, 2008

I'm surprised no one got the part about "I'd like to brag and "get her back"". You say that she has changed and you're not even attracted to her anymore, which means you don't want to get HER back, you want to get back AT her.

You see, that tells me that although you say it ended amicably, the fact is that she ended it.

You also strike me as someone with a strong ego and this rejection may still rankle. I believe you need to come to terms with that fact. You were rejected. It happens to us all, and after 3 years that's got to hurt. Five years on to be having the kind of regular memories you talk about is not normal I believe unless you have not come to terms with the rejection.

On a more positive note it may be as Heatheann says, and you want to reassure your younger self or you want to refer to the success of your younger self to prove to yourself in this time of scarcity that you can actually be in a successful relationship.

Is it perhaps every time you reflect on what you're missing out on, when you see other people together, or you do something you both used to do and you have a nostalgic pang for when you could share all this with someone? Cos if that's the case, a new relationship will significantly alter the amount of times you think about her. So my thrup'pence worth is that you need to come to terms with her rejection of you before you will be successful in a new relationship.

Good luck!
posted by Wilder at 10:47 AM on January 25, 2008

Wow, I had to actually make sure it wasn't me who wrote this question. I am in an eerily similar situation even down to the relationship length, time frame, messing around with another person since, the whole thing really!

As for advice, I just have to reiterate that it is quite normal. However, I do have to disagree with Wilder, like I said I split from my ex in a very similar way, ie mutual and amicably. There doesn't have to be rejection involved even though he wants her to see how well he's doing. I see my ex once a month or so in social situations and I actually enjoy it. Despite not wanting to be together, it is a good feeling to have her see how well I'm doing, how I've changed for the better, etc.

When you have feelings as strong as you do in a long-term relationship, it seems crazy to think that *all* those feelings will eventually disappear. Certainly when you see that person or something that reminds you of them you'll feel nostalgic and probably enjoy reflecting on the things that made you happy at the point in your life where you were with them.
posted by bmalicoat at 2:48 PM on January 25, 2008

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