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September 25, 2017 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Love

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Why am I attracted to the past?

Question:

I am a 25-year old female who has been married for almost six years. I love my husband dearly. However, there is a man from my past that I remain in contact with. We dated for about 6 months in high school, but I never really got "over" the relationship. We don't see each other that often but when we do all those old feelings well up and all I can think of is being with him. I hate feeling this way, because I feel like I'm lying to my husband.

What can I do to "put an end" to these feelings? Should I "explore" the feelings I have for my former boyfriend? When we were together, I thought he was "the one," and I guess I'm still wondering if he is.

Red (25 year-old woman)

Answer:

Hello,

Thank you for sending this great question.

You use the word "feelings" to describe what happens when you see your old flame. Because of this, I'm going to assume that you do not actually engage in sexual intimacy with him when you see him - no matter how much you might want to.

If that's true, if you feel compelled to do something but resist doing it, based on your commitment to yourself, your marriage and your future with your husband, then, congratulations! You are a responsible adult!

You say that you feel like you are "lying" to your husband. My guess is that, since you really love your husband, you feel like you are "lying" because you still feel attracted to this other man, and still fantasize about what life with him would be like. In other words, the "lying" is not covering up your actions or behaviors (because there are no inappropriate actions to cover up) but your thoughts, feelings and fantasies. Is this true?

If this is the case - if the indiscretions in which you've engaged have all been in your mind - then, it's interesting that you'd interpret your actions - which have taken discipline and restraint - as "lying".

You ask if you should "explore" the feelings you have for your old boyfriend. I am suggesting that you "explore" why it is that you feel bad about the feelings you have for this man, if you, in fact, act responsibly (and married) around him. My guess is that this old flame reminds you of all the potential you felt when you knew him (in high school). He connects you to an earlier you, and to some of your earliest sexual experiences. He represents a part of you and a time when you were very young, maybe uninhibited, free, even a bit wild and reckless. How do you feel about that young girl you were?

The stability, warmth, love and commitment you have in your marriage can never compete with these heady, intoxicating memories in intensity. That's why the feelings do not go away, and the reason that you (unconsciously, probably) fuel these fires from time to time. In other words, you cannot "put an end" to these feelings, since they are a part of you, and they always will be. I suspect that this man merely connects you to this part of you, when you felt so exciting and excited, so daring and dared, when everything in life was new and adventurous and very stimulating.

This is not, I suspect about him "being the one." It is about you, remembering all your potential, your hopes and dreams, as represented by him. By focusing on him, you are, I suspect, missing the fact that you were half of that relationship (with him). What's that about for you? What purpose inside your head and heart is being served by you not recognizing that you were at least half of the magic of this relationship? If it was fun and thrilling, then you were responsible for half of the fun. You are still responsible to yourself to find this thrill in life and in living, you know.

Take this new self-knowledge into your marriage and your current life and use it. You can still have a life which is new and adventurous and exciting every day; you merely have to create it. When you think of this old love (or run into him), embrace your memories and desires. Claim them. Rather than condemn your feelings for this old romance, use them to stimulate you to create passion, heat and intensity in you, your life, and in your marriage today. This old flame (in you, in your heart) can start a bonfire in your own life today, if you let it.

Sincerely,

Margaret "Peg" Burr, MA, MFT

This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr . She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.

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