Q: MY EX BROKE UP WITH ME ALMOST 2 MONTHS AGO NOW. IT DIDNT END BAD WE JUST REALIZED WE WERE MORE FRIENDS THAN IN A RELATIONSHIP. HE SAID HE WASNT IN LOVE WITH ME ANYMORE SO WHY DO I STILL WANT SOMEONE THAT DOESNT WANT ME. WHY DO I WANT TO HOOK UP WITH MY EX WHEN HE DOESNT WANT ME. I FEEL GUILTY FOR THINKING ABOUT HIM AND HAVING HIM IN MY MIND. HOW CAN I GET PAST THIS?

A: This is an excellent question and is also a very common problem. Without having more details on your background or relationship, it’s difficult for me to provide too much specific insight, but it sounds like he determined that he didn’t want to be in the relationship anymore and whether you agreed with him or saw it coming, it doesn’t take away the fact that you had an attachment to him.

What you may find to be interesting is that his decision to end the relationship may have been a part of a pattern of attachment completely separate from you. The bonds we form in romantic relationships are influenced by our patterns of attachment, which stem from the bonds that we form with our primary caregiver(s) as children. Much research has been conducted on how attachments formed in early childhood affect later romantic relationships. The research findings on Attachment Theory (Bolwby, 1958) are fairly consistent. Research points to four (4) typical attachment styles in adults: (1) Secure, (2) Dismissive-Avoidant, (3) Anxious-Preoccupied, and (4) Fearful-Avoidant.

Those who have developed a Secure attachment style tend to have the most positive outcomes in their relationships. These individuals tend to view themselves in a positive manner as well. They feel confident in themselves and in their relationships.

People who present with a Dismissive-Avoidant attachment style generally have difficulty with their ability to effectively navigate stressful life events. They often pull away from others in an attempt to alleviate emotional distress. This can result in difficulty with forming meaningful and successful relationships with others.

Individuals who have an Anxious-Preoccupied attachment style frequently feel that they need someone else to complete them, which might result in unfavorable behaviors such as becoming jealous or overly dependent on others.

The final attachment style, Fearful-Avoidant, also tends to result in less successful relationships. Those who display this type of attachment may feel emotions intensely but try to avoid them. This frequently results in emotional outbursts when the emotions can no longer be contained. They feel close to their partners but fear getting hurt. This back and forth can make for instability in their relationships.

No matter what your or your previous partner’s Attachment style is, ending any relationship can be difficult! It sounds like you are experiencing a lot of conflicting emotions, which is certainly common after a break up. One way to work through these unsettling feelings is to seek support from a mental health therapist.

These professionals are trained to help people process and manage the complex thoughts and feelings that come along with challenging life events, such as a break-up. They can also help you understand yourself better, including understanding yourself in relation to others and help you to identify any patterns in your attachment style. A therapist can also help you to develop coping strategies to live a happier and healthier life!

In the meantime, focusing on yourself and engaging in self-care can be helpful. Reach out to your supports-friends, family members, people in your community- and spend time with other important people in your life. It will get better! I hope this helps!

Sincerely,

Stephanie L. Carlyle, LCPC

Licensed Therapist

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