Dear Harlan: I recently got out of a four-year relationship. There’s someone new who wants to date me. I’m still dealing with all the feelings of the past relationship. I’d like to date this girl, but it doesn’t feel right if I’m still having lingering feelings for my ex. I’m afraid that these feelings will make it hard for me to be open to meeting someone else. I have no plans or desire to get back with my ex. How long will this last? How can I get through this and not think about my ex-girlfriend?
Dear Lingering: It’s totally normal to have feelings for your ex. You can’t erase four years of memories and moments from your psyche. The easiest way to help get through these feeling is to allow yourself to feel them all. When you fight your feelings, they get stuck and increase. When you avoid feeling your emotions, you give them even more attention and energy. Appreciate that years of shared experiences will not magically disappear. Allow yourself to miss what you had without confusing this as a reason to get back together. The best way to live with the past is to give your ex a small piece of your heart. Then save the rest of your heart for someone new. Go on dates with other women. Allow yourself to be present and to connect. Expect that it will feel strange at times. If thoughts or memories of your ex-girlfriend pop up (and they will), instead of thinking that something is wrong, remember that it’s normal and natural. It also might help to talk to a therapist, friend or someone you trust. Whatever you do, don’t talk about your ex on your date. No one who is interested in you wants to hear about someone else you loved. Be patient and kind to yourself, and you’ll get through this.