ex girlfriend past memories nostalgia
March 27, 2008 7:10 AM   Subscribe

When will I stop thinking about my ex? She's starting to pop up in my cavernous head again.

I broke up with my first long term girlfriend in January of last year after a tortuous last few months. In the end I was glad it was over and didn't care if I heard another word about her again. I started seeing my current girlfirend about nine months ago. My current relationship is going well. The only complaint I have is a lack of sex and general affection that was present in the beginning. I don't want to complain too loudly because my girlfriend has been amazingly stressed lately. We have discussed it a couple times and I'm doing my best to be patient.

My current relationship is definitely more serious in tone than the one with my ex. We have tons of fun but the ex and I had a little goofball streak going. I'm not sure if it was the age difference though. My current girlfriend and I are 28 and my ex was 24.

For the past week or so my mind wanders back to my ex. I haven't really thought about her for about eight months give or take a little and all of a sudden it's like a big wave of what I can only describe as nostalgia hits. I haven't been able to figure out if I'm missing her or just the good parts of the relationship that I don't exactly have now. I can't help but feel a little guilty when my girlfriend and I are watching a movie and the ex pops into my head for a second or two.

Is this unusual? If it's not will this lessen over time?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Very normal, I think. In my experience, she'll be popping into your head every day or two for the next five years, and it doesn't mean anything deep. This happens to me with relationships I miss, and also with relationships I am very glad to be rid of. No matter which kind, there's some period (again, about five years for me), after which she'll vanish and only return every few months. Brains are funny things.

As for "The only complaint I have is a lack of sex and general affection...", well, welcome to any long-term relationship. Something can only be new for a short time, and without new, there's no novelty, and we're all animals fascinated with novelty.

Easy fixes: find a way to add variety, or spend time apart so you can "re" connect more often.
posted by rokusan at 7:17 AM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't think this is unusual at all. I adore my current S/O, but sometimes think about The One I Left Behind. It's a bit of nostalgia. It will lessen over time, and hopefully become a sweet memory. Try not to worry about this too much, and enjoy your new relationship.
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 7:17 AM on March 27, 2008

This is not unusual. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and if you hop over it, you'll miss that verdant lawn that you left behind. I think this is a quirk of our intellect - we always want -something- else, and think, "If only I had X, I'd be happy", where X changes constantly. That constant itch is behind a significant amount of human misery, in my experience.

My advice is to differentiate your current relationship's issues, such as a lack of intimacy and a lack of affection, from your pining for something conveniently abstract. Don't discount the lack of the former - sex and affection are powerful things, and to have them be missing after nine months when you're in your 20s is concerning. Nine months isn't that long to be with someone, and the spark usually doesn't go out that quickly.

Stress can do that to a person, but is this something that is going to persist? Is your girlfriend looking for the same things you are? If you were getting laid regularly, and your girlfriend was going out of her way to make you feel loved, would it improve things?
posted by ellF at 7:22 AM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

This happens to me sometimes. I figure the ex was a part of my life, a mostly good part of my life, for quite some time and so he pops into my head the same way random people from my college or high school or old jobs will. I think if you're focussing on those thoughts in some sort of "gee my ex was like THAT and my new gf is like THIS" that's not the most useful way to move forward in your new relationship, but keeping exes tucked away somewhere in the recesses of your mind is pretty normal.

Additionally, for me, my remembrances often come up when there's some time of the year trigger. So like I may have been split up with my ex for years, he's married, we've both sort of moved on and out of each other's lives but he'll often pop into my head on or around his birthday just because I have some sort of lizard brain notion of the time of year and that's an association I make with him.
posted by jessamyn at 7:24 AM on March 27, 2008

I agree, I think this is completely normal. I think it's a mistake to read too much into something like this because it can cause you to question what you have currently, or the choices you made in the past. Sometimes that questioning is necessary, but just thinking about you ex doesn't necessarily have anything to do with your current relationship.
posted by OmieWise at 7:31 AM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was going to say pretty much what jessamyn said. I think of various exes throughout the year depending upon the season/time of the year. I have one ex that I'll think about during spring - because that's when our best time was. Another ex I think about during Christmas for the same reason.

I've been married almost 12 years. These thoughts about exes are totally benign and fleeting. But time of year seems to trigger it for me.

It's ok to think about them. Memories are good to have. You can't be expected to totally forget someone who shared an important part of your life.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:42 AM on March 27, 2008

Yep. It's usual. It'll lessen. Don't feel guilty, just don't start to put her on a pedestal or anything. You're good.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:43 AM on March 27, 2008

I agree with everyone else. When we feel unfulfilled with certain aspects of our current relationship, it's natural to think of a person from your past or present who fulfilled/fulfills that need in you now. Sex in relationships can wax and wane, but if it goes on for a really long time, it's usually a symptom that something is going on emotionally with you or your partner.

If this is too much for you to ignore, bring it up to your partner. You may just get your needs fulfilled again and your ex will be banished from your mind once again.
posted by missjamielynn at 7:53 AM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

i had an ex who made me the most amazing mixed tapes. There were 6 of them in the course of our relationship. Every time I walk into a store or pass by anything with speakers that happens to play any one of those 150 or so songs, I think of him (particularly any songs from the first tape he made which I practically wore out from listening to it during both the happiest "honeymoon" phase and the worst post break up heartache phase). it's been 7 years since and he's married now and i'm happily in a committed relationship. but there is still a warm flutter in my heart every time i unexpectedly hear one of those songs on mixed tape 1.

don't feel bad about happy thoughts of your ex popping into your head. if you're going through a rough patch with your current girlfriend, it's normal to look back on the good parts of a past relationship. But echoing what the rest of the posters said here, don't confuse a few thoughts from a happier time for a clear sign from fate saying that you're with the wrong girl.
posted by tealeaf522 at 8:09 AM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Additionally, for me, my remembrances often come up when there's some time of the year trigger. So like I may have been split up with my ex for years, he's married, we've both sort of moved on and out of each other's lives but he'll often pop into my head on or around his birthday just because I have some sort of lizard brain notion of the time of year and that's an association I make with him.
posted by jessamyn

An interesting point, since I agree with the "trigger" idea, and it's completely normal/natural, etc....but I think this is a definite difference between women and men. I couldn't tell you my ex-girlfriend's birthday or our anniversary or whatever if my life depended on it! However, there are times when, with my current fiancee, I will swear up and down that we went to a certain movie together, and she'll respond that she's never even SEEN that movie. Woops!
posted by Grither at 8:17 AM on March 27, 2008

I've been with my SO for six years, we have a house together, we consider ourselves married (except for the paperwork), I expect to celebrate my 100th birthday with him. But my ex still sometimes pops up in my head, and we broke up nine-and-a-half years ago. Don't read too much into it.
posted by desuetude at 9:29 AM on March 27, 2008

Agree with everyone else that this is both totally normal and not something to attach any great significance to.

In my experience, the longer you've been broken up with someone, the more you tend to forget the day to day annoyances and frustrating personality quirks of your ex(es) and the more the rose-tinted glasses start to come on, with your memories of your ex becoming an idealized one vs. one actually based in reality. Which is of course an impossible standard for your real-life current partner to live up to, since she is a real human being, not an altered memory.
posted by The Gooch at 9:50 AM on March 27, 2008

"But love has its grammar, even though it doesn't recognize tenses but only moods, and only one of those, actually: the present in-fin-it-ive. When you love it's forever and the rest doesn't matter. Any old love, no matter what kind. Because it's not true you get over it - you don't get over anything, which is a bit of a drawback most times; rather, you bring it along with you, like life, which in itself is nothing to shout about, except that you get over love even less than you do life. It's there like the starlight. Who cares if the stars are alive or dead? They shine and that's that, and even though you can't see them in the daytime you know they're there."

Claudio Magris, To Have Been
posted by lucia__is__dada at 12:48 PM on March 27, 2008 [22 favorites]

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