Talking to my ex, I kept trying to remind myself that he was the same person he had always been.
For over a year I’ve been giving other people advice about love and dating. I’m not trained to do this; I just happen to write about it a bunch on the internet, and I was raised with a modicum of common sense, making me a pretty good objective third party.
When enough people tell you that you’re an expert, you start to believe it. I’m not saying I have a big head about it or anything but I am saying that being someone’s expert has, from time to time, made me forget that I don’t have the key to solving every problem out there, particularly when it’s one of my own and when it comes to how to break bad habits.
This was never more true than when my ex-boyfriend started texting me again three weeks ago.
To make a long, brutally boring story short, for a handful of months I had a passionate affair with a man who was living with his girlfriend of 10 years. I was his thirty-something crisis, and unsurprisingly after he finally broke up with his live-in girlfriend, he called me and said something like, “I haven’t seen you in a week and I thought I would miss you more,” effectively ending our dalliance.
Before that phone call, I spent sunny stolen afternoons in my bedroom making elaborate plans for the future. While he was living in a fantasy that couldn’t last, I thought I had met my husband. I was wrong. He wanted to be friends and because I was so sure he was my soulmate, I said: “Sure, okay.” Guess how that went? Yeah, badly.
Eventually, I decided to cut all ties with him and it was the smart choice. I healed my heart. I met new loves. I moved on. That’s why it seemed like such a safe thing when he messaged out of the blue years later.
Those initial messages were lovely — here was a person with whom I’m shared a real connection and I was no longer hurting. I reveled in proving to him what a smart, worldly, emotionally mature person I had become.
He, on the other hand, was exactly the same. Soon we were texting non-stop, and though I couldn’t explain why exactly, I started to feel guilty about it. I told my boyfriend, and he was worried.
He wasn’t worried because he thought I was going to fool around, he was worried because I had made a decision to let a person who hurt me very badly back into my life without even having a conversation with that person about the damage they had caused me.
When I was younger I used to think that people could change. Now that I’m older, I know that real change takes a lot, and it isn’t something a lot of people actively seek out for themselves.
Talking to my ex, I kept trying to remind myself that he was the same person he had always been. Nothing was different. I kept trying to remind myself that this was a person who hurt me deeply and that by casually chatting with them everyday like this, I wasn’t proving how grown up I was, I was proving that just like anyone else, I was just as capable as falling back into old patterns.
Sure enough, soon my ex was ripping apart my writing. Then my plans for the future. Then he was belittling me under the guise of “teasing.” Then he was trying to convince me that I was so ugly I should consider myself lucky that he still thought I was f***able.
I felt the familiarity of our messed-up dynamic pulling me back to him. It was just as awful as it was intoxicating, and I was mortified to find that there was a part of myself that was excited by the drama of it all, that was getting a rush from being treated like crap.
This time there was a difference. This time, I liked myself more, and this time, I was already in a relationship with a person who loves me so unconditionally that the notion of letting someone treat me like trash seemed like an insult to his taste.
I ended my relationship with my ex after realizing and understanding how to break bad habits. This time it was me pulling the plug. This time, however, I didn’t just shut up and run away and hide, this time I told him exactly why I was doing what I was doing.
He didn’t understand, not that I expected him to but I wasn’t doing this to impress him or make some point. I was doing it for myself. My ex might not ever be able to change, but I can, and I am. It’s just happening slowly, carefully, and not without a lot of mess-ups on the way.
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