I felt guilty for thinking about my ex-partners while I was married

M. Brown

Photo byPhoto by Luis Machado on Unsplash

**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.

The idea of a person fantasizing about an ex to the degree that it impacts functioning in their current life got me thinking about how often I think about my ex-partners.

I’d be lying if I said I never thought about my exes. I even thought about a particular ex quite frequently while I was married. I felt guilty about that. However, I started approaching this from a different perspective upon further reflection.

My ex-partners inspire my self-improvement — they are muses for my own personal growth and learning. It’s not really so much about my exes themselves as it is about the lessons that I feel I can bring into my current life based on my experiences from those previous relationships.

I think about my exes even though I’m in a committed, monogamous relationship. But how much is too much? How do we know if we’re thinking about our exes too much?

When does occasional nostalgia hit the boundary line of inappropriate or even obsession in regards to an ex or exes?

Does thinking about your ex mean you’re not a faithful partner at the present time? Moreover, what if your partner is thinking about their ex at any other point during their day? How would that make you feel?

A conundrum, for sure.

I suppose the question really boils down to how much ex-nostalgia is normal. How much thinking about an ex is an understandably healthy amount and how much of it is just a case of totally not being over it?

A good measure of this could be expressed in the same way we gauge the severity of other addictions such as alcohol. Does this thing you’re consuming interfere with your day-to-day life, your relationships, or your job? Does this thing control your every action, and choice, or compromise your ability to function without it?

Being able to move on from an ex is a powerful thing. For some people, it can take years — even decades.

While it’s important to move forward, never underestimate the power of pervasive thoughts. If you’re consistently focused on an ex while in a serious relationship or even married to someone else, it’s not fair to your partner and certainly not healthy for you.

Realistically speaking, many of us do tend to choose partners who remind us of our last partner or who resemble them in some way shape or form. This is human nature. There’s nothing wrong with it.

However, there’s a difference between picking a partner simply because they remind you of an ex and picking a partner whom you find to be compatible with your energy and values and who also happens to have some similarities to an ex-partner.

While it’s totally normal to think about an ex while you’re committed to someone else, the key is really balance and perspective.

What are your thoughts really trying to tell you? Are you relatively happy with your current partner? Are you perhaps trying to escape from your current relationship by daydreaming about an ex? What kind of thoughts are you having about your ex? Are they thoughts about how you’ve learned and evolved since that relationship or are they more desirous in nature — regretful about that previous relationship ending?

In the end, there’s always a reason why our mind shows us things. Sometimes it’s because certain issues are unresolved and sometimes it’s just memories influencing our present lives in strange and mysterious ways—the pieces of the ultimate puzzle.

Thinking about an ex as a married woman or a married man isn’t a crime. It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible partner. It may mean you’ve got unresolved issues from that relationship.

Coming to terms with particular experiences in love and loss can take a lifetime for some people. A first love who betrayed us. A marriage that ended in a bitter divorce. These things are imprinted upon us for as long as we wander this Earth.

My advice is to take those experiences and use them to be a better partner in the relationship you’re in now — especially if you feel good in that relationship.

Either way, every experience has worth, and every relationship — no matter how far away in the past — also has its own intrinsic value to our current identity.


The wife of the man I was seeing showed up at my workplace in her pajamas

I went to church because I had a crush on a guy at work

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Host of The Pondering Stepmom Podcast. Writing about relationships, lifestyle, family & self-improvement.

California State

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