[Word count: 785. Approximate read time: 4 minutes]
Whenever you come in contact with someone you were once intimately close to but now are virtual strangers, interesting reactions happen. You remember the good things and the bad things. One usually rises to the surface. Sometimes both swirl together unpredictably like iridescent colors on an oil slick.
When a goal has both positive and negative aspects that make it simultaneously appealing and unappealing, it’s called an approach-avoidance conflict. I am traditionally bad at these. Exes almost always bring them up.
Both sides now
Whatever ambivalence you feel, your ex probably does too. Both the benefits and baggage of your relationship usually stay right where you left them. It would be wise to not think you’re the only person with wounds.
“Bring me your wounds. I’ll bring mine too.
And we will heal… mend. Me and you.”
—Mary J. Blige, “Come To Me (Peace)”
You both probably think you’re owed something. If you expressed these debts in dollars, you’d be giving each other bills for about the same amount. If you both paid, you’d really only break even.
Wish I never met her
When relationships get funky, I usually want to gather all the memories, details, artifacts, affects, and offshoots… pile that stuff onto a large boat… sail it out to the middle of the Pacific… blow the mother up… and let the bad shrapnel rain down among silt on the sea floor.
The problem is… if you picked a half-decent person to be in relationship with, at some point, very good things came of it. If you are a half decent person, you also contributed good things. Wishing your relationship never happened erases both their bad and your good. Maybe you want to send a cyborg into the past to kill your ex. Doing this would also destroy some of the best things that belong to you.
We are never ever getting back together
Being civil after a breakup minimizes bitterness. But with civility, either party could mistakenly think “we’re getting back together.” Usually when I break, it stays all the way broke. I’m not given to on-again-off-again relationships, but I understand how they happen.
Without recent animosity, their face only reminds you of good times you had together. Funny inside jokes no one else knows about. And familiar comforts you felt in happier times. But if you’re smart, your thoughts won’t stop there.
What you had was good, but there’s plenty you don’t miss. I usually keep a list of reasons we weren’t a good fit… in case I forget. Make the list. Keep the list. You get forgetful? Read the damn list.
The things you loved haven’t changed. The things you hated haven’t either. Didn’t get enough the first time? The same patterns that lead to the initial break up will probably repeat themselves. Recently healed wounds may get reopened the same way you first got them.
Not to say reunions are impossible. Some couples, after they’ve had time to think, reassess failures, grow separately, and make new commitments, can successfully walk off into the sunset together. My best advice would be to consider this carefully. Make sure your thinking isn’t the wishful kind.
“Before you get married, keep both eyes open. After you marry, close one eye.” —African proverb
As for me and my house
Sorry for the misdirect, but I’m not torn about my ex-girlfriends today. It’s my old church. They’re having a 10-year-anniversary celebration and I am fraught with ambivalence. I’ll be participating in a worship leaders’ reunion even as I am waist deep in writing about the ways that ministry damaged me while I was there.
The day could be filled with any number of triggers for negative experiences, but I’m hoping only the positives come to mind.
Last night, the pastors had a high-school style dance celebrating their wedding anniversary. They even held it in a high school gym. It wasn’t a typical church function either. They had a real DJ and legitimately clubbable music for asses of all ages and sizes to shake to. Feet shuffled happily in flats or teetered in heels. Sweat rolled into eyes and loosened up tight hairstyles. They said they wanted people to have a good time and that happened.
“Hold on to the way we started, how it all should have gone.”
—Mutemath, “Lost Year”
As a card-carrying introvert, I only showed up because I promised I would. But after 30 minutes of dancing and smiling, I warmed up to people quickly. It made me remember happier times. It’s hard to recall hurts and bring up lists when you can’t finish one loving embrace for being interrupted by another. Let’s hope today turns out as pleasant as last night.
- Second Marriages: Readers Reveal How They Really Feel About Remarriage (huffingtonpost.com)
- 6 Things I Learned From Taking Back My Ex (mindbodygreen.com)
- Deuces (junkyardsalvation.com) — Why I left the church I co-founded 10 years ago.
- Cast Away (junkyardsalvation.com) — What kind of Christian would you be if there was no church to go to?
- A Prelude to Forgiveness (junkyardsalvation.com) — An even-handed look at how to deal with not being able to forgive even when you want to.
- Lay Your Weapons Down (junkyardsalvation.com) — a lengthy post on what started my distrust of church and church people… and why I’m reconsidering it.
- What Do You Do When God Disappoints? (junkyardsalvation.com) — My friend shares his story of how he’s coping with God and church after a crippling setback.