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Ask Ellie: Haunted by memories of ex? Time to look inward

An experienced therapist can help you reflect on your past relationship and what each of you contributed to the good times and bad times

Dear Ellie: I’m five years out of a separation/divorce from my ex. I was together with her for 23 years. She left me without any warning, and I later found out it was with my ex-friend.

The break-up and ensuing relationship was very tense and has been verbally abusive.

Soon after, I met a wonderful woman and overall, I feel very happy with her. As time has moved on, I am still haunted by memories of my ex and have warm feelings for her (as the break-up was not my choice).

I know everyone has moved on but these feelings are conflicting my thoughts about my current relationship. I don’t wish to break up this new relationship but sometimes it doesn’t “feel” right and I question a long-term commitment to her (marriage/moving in together, etc.)

I do love her, but in a different way from my ex. Not sure if these conflicting feelings about my old and new relationship is enough to break up with this wonderful woman.

Between Two Women

Your confusion has ignored the fact that you haven’t been offered a choice. Your wife left for another man, and you mention ongoing verbal abuse between you two.

So, it seems that what’s going on in your mind and memories, is a reflection on your relationship life and choices.

That’s a good thing. You need to spend some time focusing on yourself, past and present, not on the two women you’ve loved.

Not everyone needs or works well with a therapist, but I believe it’s a route you must take and that it will benefit you, making your present and future clearer.

Your wife’s sudden departure for another man was devastating. Only now, five years later and settled with another woman, you can remember the previous good times and feel conflicted when comparing the two women.

Now, an experienced therapist can help you reflect on that first marriage and what each of you contributed to the good times and to the not-so-good times. You’ll also get insights about the kind of future you want and need.

You’ve mostly been lucky in your partners (until the break). It’s time to know yourself and your needs at this age, before you make changes for your future.

Readers’ commentary regarding the woman’s complaint about her “ranting” alcoholic husband (Jan. 4):

Reader 1: “The woman might benefit from Al-Anon. Instead of putting the focus on him, Al-Anon teaches family members and friends of an alcoholic to practice self-care and set boundaries.

“Also, he’s her third husband. Could the other two have been alcoholic as well?”

Reader 2: “As someone who recovered from a drinking problem, I wanted to point out that a 12-step program and strong will aren’t the only options for sobriety.

“I quit drinking with help from what’s called the Rapid Access Addiction Medicine clinic at a hospital in my city. The doctor whose care I’m in prescribed a couple of medications to deal with withdrawal and cravings, and counselling was available, but I found the medical intervention most helpful.

“I’d despaired for years trying to quit/cut back using willpower, and my body just wouldn’t function. However, once I was medicated, I quit the next day.

“I’d assumed any help I sought would be some variation of a 12-step program, which never worked for me, so I didn’t seek help.

“Had I known there was a medical intervention available I could have quit a lot sooner.”

Dear Ellie: Over the years we’ve become friends with people we’ve met on our travels and remained in touch by emails.

Recently, we realized that a couple living a considerable distance away, no longer respond to our emails other than a “thumbs up” or, in frequent cases, no response at all.

Should we let nature take its course and just stop communications?

Or should we bring closure to the relationship by saying that we regret that the practice of sending no response is taking place and that we wish them no hard feelings but good health and happiness?

Hurt but Realistic

If ever there was a time for realism and understanding, it’s now during the COVID pandemic.

While staying in touch and exchanging positive greetings would seem ideal, the fact is that many people have worries about themselves and their families on their minds. Forgive them, send emails only to mark occasions, wish them well in 2022!

Ellie’s tip of the day

If your relationship history repeats similar/confusing patterns, recognize your own conflicts through the help of a therapist (available online).

Send relationship questions to [email protected].