FANTASIZING ABOUT AN EX MAY BE COMMON, BUT NOT NECESSARILY HEALTHY FOR INTIMACY.
Over the years I have had many couples reveal that they still fantasize about a past relationship, and, in some cases, relationships. This is not an uncommon scenario, especially when there is trouble afoot in your own little paradise. The thinking about an ex is not the issue. We all have memories, some better than others, and situations and circumstances may remind you about an event or scenario that took place and that is perfectly healthy. The issue is when you begin substituting your current partner for your ex, be it sexual or otherwise, and catch yourself lining them up and doing a side-by-side comparison.
Most people are challenged in the intimacy department. It is not a flaw, just an opening that needs to be closed. First of all, we confuse intimacy with sex and believe them to be one and the same. We say things like “We were intimate last night” as a way to reveal a sexual connection, yet intimacy is really about the closeness and connection we have with another person. Sex is an act or action taken that may result from an intimate connection with another person. Since we can’t touch intimacy in our hand, or see it sitting over there on a shelf, we go along with the misinformation with which we have been presented. Fact of the matter is nobody teaches intimacy to us when we are young. It is usually something we seek when we realize that everything we were taught, or assumed, doesn’t work anymore.
Getting caught up in the past
So, why the talk about intimacy? Because from my perspective when we engage in fantasy, sexual or otherwise, and focus any attention on a past relationship, we are drifting further away from an intimate connection with our partner. We are no longer current but caught up in the past, where we can interpret and misinterpret anything we want.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not to say that your current relationship is the most perfect scenario for you. Truth is it could be a sign to get out. And yet, how do you really know if you are genuinely not focused on what is happening right in front of you? Can you come to a conclusion about your current relationship without pulling out charts and graphs and comparing it with one that no longer exists … at least beyond your mind?
Here are some things to consider if you find yourself drifting back and forth between an old flame and the one currently smoldering right before your eyes.
Have I done this before? Is this a pattern for me? Has doing a cost-benefit analysis between my past and present always provided me with a great way to screw up my future?
What do I lose and gain by not being present and in the moment in my current relationship? Not being present is a great form of distraction to what may be going on for you.
How willing are you to take responsibility for your part in the challenges you experience in your relationship? If you are invested in the right-wrong, black-or-white way of thinking, you may be wasting a lot of time blaming others for your part in all of this.
Intimacy is about staying in the present
If you find yourself always comparing your significant other with one person from your past, you need to ask yourself, Is there something that needs completion within me with regard to how things ended? If there is a much larger selection to choose from, it is most likely a sign that a monogamous relationship, though on your wish list, was probably absent from most of your relationships.
Where do you rate yourself on the intimacy scale? Do you even have a frame of reference for spotting intimacy in your life? If you have been in and out of relationships, or found yourself bailing out when things started to get a little challenging, or have been the one consistently left when things heated up, chances are you are a bit clueless. Not your fault. Intimacy was never taught in high school or college. Many of us learned what it isn’t from our parents.
If you recognize yourself as challenged in the above areas, consider seeking support through a men’s or women’s group, with a relationship coach or licensed marriage and family therapist. There are also some great books out there that can shed some light. The simple fact that you are willing to take a first step is a step in a more enlightened direction.